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Updating an “Ugly” Vintage Dress

Ugly Vintage dress transformation

Have you ever been vintage shopping and come across a dress that’s just so hideously awful but you just can’t help but pick it up rather than leave it in its ugliness behind? I definitely have. I’ve been to several vintage festivals, fairs and shops and come across items that are garishly colourful but have a fabulous shape or are made out of a gorgeous fabric but are the most horrendous shape, and many of those have made their way home with me, oops!

So when Revival Vintage offered me the opportunity to transform an ugly vintage dress into something better, I jumped at the chance! This glorious number arrived in the post a few weeks later and I’ve got to say, this one stumped me a little bit as to what to do with it! I had a number of ideas, but I really wanted to make use of various different features that this dress has: the original matching belt, buttons on the sleeve cuffs, the lace on the collar and the gorgeous fabric. But sadly, I can’t possibly get all of these into one updated garment without it looking much too over the top or just keep it just the same!

But there are a few things I wanted to get rid of: the puff sleeves for one. I know, I know, many of you will love this dress exactly for its massive shoulders, but personally, I’ve never been a fan. They make my head look weirdly small and overshadow the rest of my body, so they’ve had to go. Also the white filler bit at the collar was just…odd – it just didn’t work! So that’s…gone!

I’m not actually going to reveal the finished piece (or pieces?!) to you today because first of all, I want to know – what would you do to this dress if you were transform it? If you’re a sewist, what would you remove or add to it? If you’re not a sewist, but a cunning fashionsta, how would you style it so that the “ugliness” was transformed?

Now keep an eye out for my transformation, coming soon! In the meantime, make sure to check out Revival Vintage on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Ugly Vintage dress transformation


  1. Gill Nicholl
    February 2, 2017 / 8:46 am

    Hmm. I’d loose the puff sleeves your right. I like the fabric and think it would be a lovely Tilly Tulip skirt. Otherwise it might be a nice Faux Wrap dress with a less full skirt and fitted three quarter length sleeves.

    • Sian Thomas
      February 2, 2017 / 1:01 pm

      The fabric is lovely, isn’t it? Ooh, a tulip skirt is a great idea, and I really like the idea of making the sleeves more fitted too 🙂

  2. February 2, 2017 / 2:57 pm

    What a super way of presenting this challenge Sian.
    I would lose the white insert and lace collar, remove the sleeves, add triangle pocket flaps from the sleeve fabric. Would then keep the skirt and belt as it is so would be a sleeveless rock n roll style dress.
    Can’t wait to see what you have come up with,

    • Sian Thomas
      February 4, 2017 / 9:37 am

      The white insert is definitely gone 😀 I love the idea of the sleeveless rock n roll dress – sounds really fun!

  3. February 2, 2017 / 6:29 pm

    I would turn it into a sundress by getting rid of the sleeves, reworking the shoulder line, and removing the modesty panel. I might update the length as well. It’s pretty fun to see how everyone would do it differently.

    • Sian Thomas
      February 4, 2017 / 9:37 am

      Sundress was one of my most likely options – I think the fabric would do so well as that! It’s really fun seeing everyone’s different visions for it 😀

  4. Lynsey
    February 2, 2017 / 10:48 pm

    I love seeing transformations but I’m not great at it myself. Maybe the By Hand London Flora faux wrap (minus sleeves and collar) but it isn’t that far away, a random thought for something completely different – a shorts playsuit

    • Sian Thomas
      February 4, 2017 / 9:40 am

      I really did strongly consider a playsuit with it – I think it would look very vintage inspired, although not sure what era! I love the By Hand Flora pattern but have never made one myself actually!

  5. February 3, 2017 / 1:06 am

    If I were a seamstress, I’d say transform it into some kind of a pinafore dress. Take off the sleeves and cut it all the way down the the waistband, and maybe remove the lace. With a really crisp white blouse underneath it, it could end up looking really cute!

    • Sian Thomas
      February 4, 2017 / 9:40 am

      Ooh nice idea with the pinafore and white blouse underneath – that sounds SO cute!

  6. Claire
    February 3, 2017 / 10:54 am

    I think I’d maybe turn it into a sort of culottes playsuit/pinafore. Remove the sleeves, the lace and the white panel and make the top more fitted and streamline. Would be cute with and oversized hat pumps for the summer.

    • Sian Thomas
      February 4, 2017 / 9:41 am

      I was very close to going with a playsuit actually, and a playsuit combined with pinafore is a great idea! The top definitely needs more streamlining in some way, I agree 😀

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