How to Alter a Prom Dress (Cheap Bridesmaid Dress!) ~ Bonus: Easy Fairy Tu-Tu!


This used to be a full length strapless dress..with no bow in the back or shawl.
Rebekah was going to her first homeschool prom with Daddy as her ‘date’.
She didn’t want to go with a ‘boy’. :o)

One of the things I’ve gotten really good at, due to sheer lack of funds, over the years is altering prom dresses so that they are either more modest..or more stylish..or both. We’ve done this to make inexpensive bridesmaid's dresses and to make more modest dresses for proms, cotillions or father-daughter dances. Wow..what a help that was!  Considering that the normal bridesmaid or prom dress costs a good $200.00 minimum, this is an essential skill for cutting costs.

skirt from altered prom dress
Rebekah altered an old prom dress to make her first square dance skirt.
Like mother..like daughter!


We have altered prom dresses for bridesmaid’s dresses (tea length) and square dances, or just took a thrift store ballroom gown and altered it for a party dress. My friends are all into this idea of saving money but still being able to come up with great party dresses. The average cost of a gown from a thrift store is around $20-30.  


Rebekah's dress


Most of the time, the dress doesn’t fit..or it shows a little too much skin for a pre-teen..hence the need to alter the gown.  Why alter a thrifted purchased ballgown rather than sewing it yourself? It’s a huge savings of time and energy, plus you can get yards and yards of gorgeous designer fabric for only a few dollars a yard! Why not? 


Getting Ready for the Dance


The most common tricks I have for altering a prom dress are to cut off the length (making it tea length) and using the excess fabric to
  • Cover the chest just a little bit more. (You can also tuck in a bit of organza.)
  • Make wider straps instead of strapless or spaghetti straps
  • To add a big bow in the back or front
  • To make a shawl to cover their shoulders ~ Looks elegant and shows a bit less skin. :o)
  • Make an inset panel to hide their back when all the dress has is criss-crossed spaghetti straps.

Now, Rebekah and I aren’t the only brainy mom-daughter teams to come up with such a great idea.  The Velardes and Rayberns have been doing the same thing for years. The girls all attended the prom mentioned above together. :o)


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Just click on the photos to go to the Etsy shops by Glamtastik and Tirastutus. Gorgeous dresses!


So when Jeannie and her daughter Jessie asked to come over, I happened..to have just one evening available and hubby wasn’t home from Seattle yet, so I was lonely. In fact all the kids were off having a great time..so I squeezed in two hours with Jeannie, her daughter, and friend. :o)  They are so smart!  

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Jessie and her friend and mom all got on ETSY and started looking at ideas for cute cotillion dresses.  They purchased a lovely black prom dress that was SUPER short but absolutely stunning!  Jessie wanted the bodice or corset look of the first dress and the multi-layered colors of tulle for a tutu.
DSC04901


First, they told me the dress needed to be longer and gave me some purple fabric for an ‘underskirt’. I suggested that we fold the purple rectangle into a triangle (twice) and cut out a waist, just like I demonstrate in my tutorial, “How to make a circle skirt without sewing.” We skipped the last step. Instead of cutting off the bottom edge into a curve, we left the points. 


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All she has to do now is add a wee bit of elastic to tighten up the waist. It is knit fabric and slipped right over her head. We decided not to even bother hemming as it will be topped with so much tulle.

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cutting fabric DSC04911
Then we cut the different colors of tulle into long strips. We draped the strips in the color order we wanted over a wide band of satin ribbon and then tied them in knots (so as not to make the waist to bulky).

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Now, Jessie has a tie-on tulle multicolored tu-tu. It took only a very few minutes to do this! Super EASY!
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The last part was altering the prom dress. We cut it off at hip length to give the ‘effect’ of a corset. It has a strong knit under fabric which I will hem with a tiny narrow hem. We decided to just have Mom hand tack the bottom edge of the sturdy black under shirt to the tulle skirt so it will stay down while dancing. No doubt a more permanent solution could be done, but they wanted the option to remove the tulle tu-tu and just use the purple skirt on occasion.

prom dress


   hem blouse

First we cut off about a 5” wide strip of both layers of the dress.  I made a 1/2” wide hem on the lower edge of the sheer fabric of the blouse/dress so that  it will just drape loosely. It didn’t look quite right tucked in or poofed (like a puff skirt) over the edge of the tu-tu.  

add strap

From the excess fabric that we cut off, I fashioned a ‘gathered’ shoulder strap to hand sew to the dress, just inside the original shoulder strap. Normally, I would remove the original straps, but they didn’t feel it was necessary. This is a lot quicker. I gather the lower edge of the fabric for the shoulder strap on both ends and then stitch it in place. You can baste it right in the middle of the strap to keep it bunched up or spread it out over the shoulders like Rebekah did at the top of this post.

bow
Gather folded tulle strip bow with pin


Then we made a tulle flower of gold. I just cut a strip about five or six inches wide, folded it in half lengthwise,  and gathered it into a ruffle flower to put at Jesse’s shoulder. We added a center flower of pink just for a little added pizzaz.  While we were in the ‘designing phase’, I just gathered the ruffle with two safety pins. In a pinch this would work just fine. :o)

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Well, I hope I’ve covered everything for those of you ladies out there who are brave and want to try this. Frankly, there wasn’t much sewing to it. Other than hemming the blouse, and hand stitching the straps on, that was about it. Mom tucked a little leftover purple in the front…which I thing is just fine.  Doesn’t Jesse look great? I know she is thrilled and I’m so glad I could help them out. I hope to do a lot more of this sort of thing for friends at church when I get caught up around here. 

As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions.


Laura's Royal Wedding Wednesday What To Wear Linky Party

Linking with My Romantic Home's Show and Tell Friday. 
and...


23 comments:

Laura said...

Dear Donna,
What a terrific idea...and so frugal! When you think of the money wasted on dresses that are only worn once (or maybe twice)...this is such a thrifty solution! Thanks for sharing this idea...you made it seem simple enough that other moms won't be too scared to try it!

Have a blessed evening,
Laura

Maria said...

wonderful idea!

http://design-elements-blog.com/

Terri said...

What a great idea! Do you just lay awake at night and think, or what????

Donna said...

Too funny Terri! I don't have to think..life just happens..and I take pictures of it. The scary thing is I have tons of other projects and stuff that got done in the last month..and just don't have time to post it. Trying to pick and choose. :o)

Getting this stuff out of my head and onto 'paper' is a relief for me. :o)

classic • casual • home said...

Brilliant and beautiful!!
Mary Ann

Babbs said...

Great job Donna!!! The girls look BEAUTIFUL!!!! Isn't that SO fun? One of my favorite things to do is alter a dress to give it a whole new life!!! I have done this sooo many times for costumes and the like. You seriously almost cannot mess it up and usually totally upgrade the dress!! You did FABULOUS!!!!!!!

Kerrie said...

That came out great! Just adding another tip, we got my granddaughters prom dress last year when she was a senior, at Penny's on sale for 13.00! It was lovely and on sale after winter there! Your dress for this girl came out beautiful!!

Donna said...

Kerri, You are right, Penny's is great. We bought ALL the bridesmaids' prom dresses for $20.00 a piece on sale at Penny's five years ago and then altered them. Rebekah has bought prom dresses for years from them when they put them on sale. I forgot to mention that. Thanks for bringing it up. :o)

Pam said...

Terrific and frugal idea! The tu-tu is a cute idea.

Caroline said...

I loooove the red square dance skirt. How fun it must have been to dance in!!

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

I am a big advocate for green design. both interior and fashion. Did you know that this is an up and coming area of fashion? Oscar winner Colin Firth's wife wore such a design to this years Oscar's.
I so appreciate the demure look as well.
My husband, Ret. Msgt. Gunn and myself thank your son for his service.

Be blessed and thank you for linking up!

laxsupermom said...

Wow! Amazing makeover! What fun taking parts from separate dresses! She looks terrific! Thanks for sharing.

Angele Smith said...

The Internet is one of the best sources to turn to when you need to find a cheap prom dress. Virtually every online merchant selling formal gowns has a section for "affordable" or "cheap" options.
cheap prom dresses

Grace said...

Wow, I was looking for suggestions on how to bring in the sides of a dress I just bought for prom... A tight fitting, hot pink, strapless sequined dress which comes at least 4 inches above my knee.. & I stumbled upon this, it wasn't quite the type of altering I was looking for (considering I was trying to figure out how to make my dress even tighter, since its a tad looser than I would prefer.. But I just found the whole thing very interesting, considering the major difference in style of dresses & how you seemed very cautious about length & making sure the dress had thick straps & came a good bit below the knee.

Interesting take.

blissfulsewing said...

This is such a great idea, thanks for sharing!
www.blissfulsewing.blogspot.com

sultanaosk said...


I like totally and agree. And I think that in order to be comfortable with your style is to wear it more often. So wear your style to the lab on days that you don't have to do anything bloody, muddy or otherwise gross!
club dresses

Donna said...

Well the idea of altering the dress works either way you want to go of course. :)

If you are wanting it to fit snugger, I've done that too. My daughter is 22 now and we've altered dresses that were too loose as well.

I put the dress on inside out (on her) pin it in smoothly along the back and sides.. and then take it off and sew. Sometimes I have to add darts but not always. Glad you all enjoyed this post.

Lizz Mckim said...

Im trying to remodel my shaw into straps for my strapless homecoming dress because i dont like strapless dresses...i was hoping you could give me some pointers so i dont have to spend a whole bunch of money to get it fixed..

Charles said...
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Charles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Donna said...

Lizz, If you will send me a picture of what you are trying to alter, I'll give you some ideas. :)

Donna said...

Grace said...

Wow, I was looking for suggestions on how to bring in the sides of a dress I just bought for prom... A tight fitting, hot pink, strapless sequined dress which comes at least 4 inches above my knee.. & I stumbled upon this, it wasn't quite the type of altering I was looking for (considering I was trying to figure out how to make my dress even tighter, since its a tad looser than I would prefer.. But I just found the whole thing very interesting, considering the major difference in style of dresses & how you seemed very cautious about length & making sure the dress had thick straps & came a good bit below the knee.

Interesting take.

Grace, I wrote this post for moms who have daughters who don't feel comfortable in tighter more revealing clothes. A dress appropriate for a young girl, who prefers more modest clothing will need different altering. Just trying to fill a need here. :) As I mentioned, my daughter is now grown and has different tastes at 22 than at 14. Altering is a great tool whatever your goals might be. :)

James Clark said...

Thanks for sharing this suggestion is a nice idea.. You also looks beautiful..

Lavina Louis