DIY: vintage party dress into awesome skirt

At a weigh and pay sale before Christmas I picked up this amazing 80’s party dress.  The top was black velvet, with amazing puffed sleeves and high neck, with a cut-away portion at the back.  The skirt was cream mesh with polka dots, over a satin lining with a net layer for volume.  I couldn’t leave it behind.

I tried it on at the sale, over a long sleeve top, and couldn’t do up the back zip, but figured that was just because I could only have done it if I had dislocated my shoulder – of course it would go up fully – why wouldn’t it?!

Alas, when I got home and tried it on over just my undies, it did not zip up.  Undeterred, I figured I could “make it work”.  To be honest, I think I forgot how far up the zip actually went, so in my mind it wasn’t that bad.

Fast forward a few weeks and I wanted to wear if for New Year’s Eve, as I was going to a party.  I carefully soaked it in handwashing liquid, rinsed and dried it, then painstakingly ironed the satin layer so it looked presentable.  I dashed upstairs, slithered my way into some ultra-glossy tights and popped on the dress – to find it did up considerably less than I remembered.  My friend grabbed some safety pins, pinned the zip closed, and then pinned a strip of ribbon between the two ends of the zip to stop them flapping about too much – and instructed me to wear a cardigan over it all night.

This Saturday I decided enough was enough – I wasn’t going to be losing several inches off my ribcage any time soon (if ever!) and I’m not really into backless dresses.  This meant my only real option was to preserve that beautiful skirt.  So…

Having looked at how the dress was constructed, I realised this was going to be a very easy fix.  I couldn’t unpick the top from the skirt, but I could snip it off and carefully hem off the velvet beneath the satin band – thereby giving the illusion it was a skirt all along.

With some careful pinning, and some hand sewing (as I couldn’t risk sewing the velvet onto the satin band) I had an awesome new skirt in an hour.  Behold!

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Above: on the right – the dress, as was, from the front, and on the left, from the back.  As you can see, it didn’t exactly do up as intended!  Such a shame given those amazing sleeves.

Below: bottom left, the inside edges: bottom right, the skirt separated from the top: top right, trying the skirt on for fit now that there’s no top; top left, the velvet folded down to create a new hidden hem under the satin waistband.

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What I would like to do next is buy either a long piece of satin ribbon, or a cream satin scarf, and attach that to the whole waistband, which can then be tied in a bow and hide the zip in the back, but it’s not essential.

I wore the skirt out on Saturday night – alas, there’s no pictures – with a black slash neck top, glossy tights and some cute suede booties from Office.  80’s party chic!

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