Refashion - My Sisters' Prom Dress

Refashioning involves taking an item and changing it to a garment you are more likely to wear. Refashioning gives garments a new lease of life and keeps it in circulation for longer. By increasing the life span of a garment, it reduces fabric in landfill, the carbon footprint of the garment and prevents you from buying more clothes.

For my sisters prom dress I did exactly that! I took 2 unwanted dresses and made them into a wanted and wearable garment. My sister saw a dress online but she couldn't be sure of the colour, whether it would fit and if it would arrive in time as it was coming from the US and we live in the UK. After I made a denim dress for a wedding, she asked me if I would make her prom dress.

Front of the original dress


To make the dress it took a lot of planning! I have never made a formal dress before so there were lots of techniques I had to learn. The first step was to decide what my sister wanted. She said she wanted an open, lace up back with a double strap and a full skirt with some volume. After searching through endless patterns, we found Simplicity 8635.

To make the dress she wanted, I used the jumpsuit bodice (view C), with the dress's skirt (view A). After finding the pattern, I was in my local fabric when I saw some floral cotton on clearance (just to be clear, my sister hated this fabric!) but it was perfect for a toile and I quite liked the fabric so I might make something out of it in the future.

On to the toile

(a first version of a garment used for testing the fit)

I made the toile using the floral cotton fabric. I cut out all the fabric pieces in a size 10 and sewed up the bodice, and skirt. I didn't put a zip in or line the garment. My sister tried on the toile and the following adjustments were made and why:

  • Straps were lengthened by 10 cm to accommodate my sisters broad shoulders.

  • 1 strap was removed to leave a single strap on each side instead of a double strap. The double strap made my sister look a lot broader up top than she liked. By removing 1 set of straps this was no longer a problem.

  • Skirt taken in by 10 cm as there was a lot of excess fabric at the back of the skirt.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of this as my sister did not want any taking!

Finding the fabric for the main garment

For the dress I required the following fabric:


  • Underlining fabric to make the bodice opaque

  • Lining fabric

  • Self fabric (the main fabric which will be visible)

  • Lace overlay fabric


  • Lining fabric

  • Self fabric for 2 layers

This was the trickiest part of the whole dress. My sister was very particular about what she wanted. We contacted numerous fabric shops, visited our local fabric shops and ordered samples but the fabric wasn't what my sister had in mind.

We were just about to give up when my mum found 2 unwanted bridesmaids dresses from a cancelled wedding. The fabric was exactly what my sister wanted but she didn't like the style of dress. The dress consisted of lining fabric, a lace overlay fabric and a chiffon main fabric. The only fabric that was brought separately was a plain 100% cotton underlining fabric.

Back of the original dress

Sewing the dress

The first thing I did was de-construct the original dresses. I removed the skirt from the bodice and separated all the layers to give large pieces of fabric. I removed the zip, straps and bra cups carefully so that they could be re-used in the main dress.

I started with the bodice as this is the most fiddly and time consuming. I sewed the lining first and then the main bodice. I did not sew on the lace overlay as I was saving this until last. I checked the fit on my sister and then sewed the skirt. The skirt was a gathered with 2 layers of self fabric and 1 layer of lining fabric. After sewing the bodice and skirt together, I inserted the invisible zip (re-used from the original garment).

After the dress was complete and I was happy with the fit, I used my dress form to piece together the lace overlay on the dress. Because this had been removed from the original dress, there wasn't one big piece to work with. I also wanted to make sure the placement was correct. After pinning the overlay, I hand stitched it to the main dress. This took ages and was done in my pyjamas for maximum comfort!

And the dress was complete!

Back of the refashioned garment


There were many challenges I faced when making this dress, cutting out the pattern pieces was my first challenge. I wanted to get them all on grain which was hard as I was using the original dress's skirts for the fabric. In order to get the pattern piece I required, I had to leave 1 seam of the original dress in per front skirt pieces. I had to ensure this seam was at the centre front of the skirt. On top of that, I was using chiffon which is known for being tricky!

Sewing with chiffon was another challenge as I have never sewn this fabric before. It was very slippery and required french seams (another thing I had to learn).

The biggest challenge for me was making this dress in a confined space! But I managed to overcome these challenges, learnt a lot of techniques and produce a formal and very wearable dress.



- Pale yellow chiffon, lace overlay and lining

- 100% cotton pale yellow underlining


Refashioned another garment and reused all the notions


- Sewing with chiffon

- Sewing my first formal garment

Summary of refashion details

Refashioning is one way to be more Circular. It keeps garments in circulation for longer, reducing the carbon footprint of a garment. This is one way to refashion a garment by adapting the original garment to make a completely new garment but there are other ways to refashion something. Next time you no longer wear a garment try changing it to make something you will wear.

I plan to refashion more clothes as using the clothes you already own is the most sustainable thing you can do!

Follow @Circular.Sewing to see my sustainable wardrobe evolve

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