Rescued red dress

This little recycling mission arose out of the hunt for a suitable "rose red" dress for a friend of mine to wear as a bridesmaid.

The high street seems to be full of pink and tangerine hues at the moment, but nothing in a good classic rose/wine shade. We had a dress tucked away at my parents that my sister abandoned after it got badly damaged. What a sad thing to happen to special occasion wear! Unfortunately, satin doesn't tolerate maltreatment very well...

Rescued recycled thrifted dress sewing project
First we tried it on for basic fit, and it needed a couple of inches of ease through the bodice. I though we could change the back to lace-up, hopefully a good fit all round. 

After a wash and press it was already looking a lot better, and it was easier to make out where the damaged fabric was. A good look determined which bits we could save, which bits need to go, and which bits might be salvaged for another use e.g. straps, binding etc.

I picked up this amazing notepad of design templates recently, (lacking the necessary artistic flare for illustrating ideas from scratch!). Once we had decided that the dress was salvageable all the way down the skirt to the start of the panels (about knee-height), it was just a case of dreaming up the different things we could do to turn it into a whole new garment in its own right.
There were a few really fiddly but rewarding couture techniques required for this rescue. 

TECHNIQUE 1: Roll that rouleau.

I used all the good pieces of excess fabric I cut away from the skirt to make strips for rouleau and binding. I generally hate the task of having to pull those tiny thin strips through from one end to the other. Two really useful tips I finally learnt a couple of years ago are:

ONE: Cut the end of the strip off at 45 degrees once you have stitched all the way down the side. Then attached your cord / turner / safety pin just below the point tip. 

TWO: Don't press your strips while they are wrong side out - wait until you've turned them.

The combination of these will allow you to get the roll-through started off more easily. After that it is usually plain sailing. If it gets bunched up and tight at the rolling end, remember to stop, take a deep breath and pull yourself in the reverse direction a few millimetres to ease the bunching, then start again.

DIY sewing corset back closure loops

DIY sewing corset back closure loops

TECHNIQUE 2: Corset back alteration.

After turning and pressing the tubes I cut them into 4cm lengths. I then attached them evenly to the underside of some 1cm bias I also made from the scrap fabric; first with tacking stitches (you can see below in a contrasting colour) and then with a line of machine stitching through just the inside layer of bias. 

You can see in this photo just how horrendously this fabric frayed with even the slightest handling of the raw edges!

DIY sewing corset back closure loops

DIY sewing corset back closure loops DIY sewing corset back closure loops
MY HACK 1: Elongate with semi-sheers.

Chopped off just above the damaged end of the skirt, this left a dress with a rather flirty hemline a few inches above the knees. Not exactly bridesmaid style... I did think about simply using a band of the same fabric to length the skirt, but in the end this was a chance to embellish the dress a bit. 

I found a beautiful wide lace at VV Rouleaux and added four layers of soft tulle behind it, to elongate the skirt and add detail. I was really pleased with the end result! Add a few wide straps made from the remnant fabric, et voilà!

Rescued altered upcycled repurposed dress sewing

Rescued altered upcycled repurposed dress sewing Rescued altered upcycled repurposed dress sewing


  1. Looks great! what a rescue! looks better than the original :)

    From middle sis.