Upcycling and Customizing Cool Clothes

White linen dress before refashioning.

Front of dress with ribbon embellishments.

Finished front and back (inset) of dress with ribbon embellishments.








Last month, I took a week off and had a relaxing “staycation” at home to spend some quality time sewing. During that week, I also decided to do a major spring cleaning of my clothes closet. Anything I hadn’t worn in a year I packed up to give to charity. But a handful of items, while outdated or impractical in some way, still had promise. These were put in the “sewing hospital” marked for refashioning.

A simple (yet boring) white linen maxi-dress was an early target for a makeover.

I bought this dress on a trip to Key West several years ago as the perfect beach cover-up that could easily be worn to go dining out at a patio café. Marking it for refashioning was a no-brainer-it’s a blank canvas ready for some creative inspiration. I thought of so many possibilities, from simple dyeing to color-blocking with another linen or cotton fabric, but in the end, I decided that the white linen was just so fresh and summery that all it needed was some fun embellishment to make it interesting.

I began by changing the silhouette to make it more modern. I cut off the bottom of the dress so it fell just above the knee, then cut out the neckline to make it a lower scoop. Looks better already!

Next I took the plain weave fabric that I cut off the bottom of the dress and used it to make my own bias tape to finish off the new neckline. I then reattached the textured linen border fabric to the hemline.


Now for the fun part! I pulled out some fabulous ribbons made from the selvedges of silk handwoven textiles by Wallace + Sewell, a wonderful handweaving design group. I love the random patterning and frayed edges! I knew the ribbons would be the subtle yet arty embellishment the dress needed.

I topstitched the ribbons down the front of the dress, leaving those lovely frayed edges. Then I stitched one ribbon to the inside of the neckline for a little extra design interest. I had one ribbon left over, so I stitched it down the center back seam-now my dress looks fun coming and going!

I love my new one-of-a-kind refashioned dress, and it was an easy sewing project! Refashioning projects are a great way to use up bits and pieces in your stash, try a new embellishment technique, and upcycle a garment that just needs a few tweaks to be fresh and modern. And the best part is, when you refashion something you make it totally unique to you!

Refashioning clothes makes for great beginner sewing projects. Discover some creative ideas in our sale items and whip up something fun this weekend!

Happy sewing,


Other sewing topics you may enjoy: