Revamping Vintage and Preloved Clothing

Have you ever seen the perfect dress in an Op Shop that's an awful colour? Have you ever spotted a scrap of the best fabric peeking out from a crowded clothes rack only to discover that it's been made into an 1980s disaster? This post is all about how to revamp those almost perfect vintage finds that you're probably leaving behind in the shop for someone else to discover.


If you're a confident sewer there are endless ways to make a vintage garment fit your body type. You can take it in, let it out, add sleeves, remove or change sleeves, or cut off the skirt and add it to another top. If you're not that keen on doing it yourself don't discount an alteration service. It may cost you more than the vintage piece but you will end up with something that you'll enjoy wearing, and the price is still likely to be less purchasing new. Think outside the box and have fun - a dress doesn't have to be a dress.

This is a 1980s dress I bought for $2.50 at a thrift store the other day. Nice shoulder pads!

The first thing I did was remove the shoulder pads then cut the skirt from the top just above the elastic line. Then I cut the top straight up the middle  to make a little jacket.

Then I used the skirt to make a summer dress. The existing sash went through the old belt loops, crossed over at the back, then came over the shoulders to make straps. The old waist elastic worked to hold the dress up.

For more inspiration see New Dress a Day, where you'll see a vintage remake for every day of the year.


The next thing we're going to look at is colour. Wearing the best colour palette for your hair, eyes, and skin tone is the easiest way to look healthier and prettier. To discover what colours work best for you have a look at my Style Guide to Second Hand.

It's always great to know what colours look the best on you, but what happens if you spot a real bargain in completely the wrong colour?

Last week I bought a Metalicus dress on ebay for $10.95. It was described as "burnt orange" which I thought I could work with, but when it arrived it could only be described as peach. Which won't do at all. Here's the eBay photograph:

But really it was more like this:

Which is a really lovely colour on people with a warm skin tone and lighter hair, just not on me.
When buying online this happens sometimes, and it's always a little disappointing. Thankfully there's an easy and fun fix!

Off to a craft store I trotted this morning with my four year old in tow. He calls this particular craft shop "The most BORING shop ever". So as you can see, it was going to be a good trip!

I bought some iDye for fabrics with a polyester content for $12.95. Before buying any dye make sure you know the fabric content of the garment you want to dye and buy the appropriate product.

You can dye in a washing machine or on the stove top. I've used this product before when I dyed a merino wool jumper of my daughter's and it worked really well in the machine. For this one I decided to use the stove top as it promised the "best results" and I thought the polyester blend might take a bit more effort to get a good result.  I used a large stock pot on the gas range.

This is what I ended up with, an orange dress a lot closer to the photo on eBay.

It's still quite a "warm" colour for me, but I think it'll work in summer when my skin tone changes.

For a small amount of money you can change the colour of a garment really quickly. It works wonders on stained kids clothing, or pieces that you might otherwise throw out because they don't suit you. Try it!

Rules for using clothing dye:
  • use the appropriate dye for your fabric fibre content
  • don't overfill the pot - enough water to cover and allow the garment to move freely is enough
  • don't be too ambitious - a dark green garment is never going to end up baby pink. Try going a few shades darker to get a good result. 
  • if you're wanting to lighten a garment look using a colour remover first


The easiest vintage fix! As a rule, you don't want any garment whether it be a skirt, dress, or pants ending at the widest part of your legs. If you have wider calves a mid calf boot or skirt isn't going to look that hot on you. Go for knee length instead. Taking up a hem on a vintage garment is a quick way to give it a new look and to tailor it for your body type. Non sewers out there can even trim the excess then use hemming tape.


Adding buttons, lace, ribbon, a brooch, or a piece of linen to a garment can completely transform it in minutes. One of my favourite tricks is to use a vintage doily as little capped sleeves on a dress or t-shirt. You can see how to do this on my post about  remaking kids clothing and here on my Sound of Music dress. Vintage linen also works well as pockets, just cut an oval or rectangle shaped piece in half and stitch on.

The next time you're op shopping and you see something that's not quite right I hope you'll grab it and have a go at some of these revamp ideas.

Enjoy your Sunday night and don't forget to check back in the morning for Make it Monday!


  1. SO proud of you putting yourself out there xxx

  2. I love the dress you made, so clever!!

    1. Thanks :) The sun was going down and it was about 10 degrees out there last night when I took the pic!

  3. What a brilliant post! You're so clever (and totally inspiring!).

    Have a fab week.

  4. That was a good solution. I agree with you about the right colors making the wearer of a garment look prettier. However I hadn't thought much about the effect it has on the appearance of health. You're quite right though, the right shades make us look healthier, not just more handsome of beautiful.

  5. Hello dude, really like this concept. I did not know much more about revamping vintage and preloved cothing but the allocation you did here makes me knowable about this issue. Thanks for in such input. :)

  6. I am very thankful that you have done beautiful social shopping like this. I hope that these fashions styles are likes all youth generations and I like this type of posts very much. Thanks a lot.


Thanks for your comments, I love to hear from you!


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