Fancy Up some store-bought dresses for Christmas (or any occasion)


Some of you email me sometimes, asking me if I make everything.  Like every last thing in my house, in my clothing closets, linen closets, wall hangings, etc.  But I don’t.  Even though it may seem like I do…..haha!  It’s just when I get an itch to try something out……I do it.  And then other times it’s because I want something in particular but don’t like the price tag at the store.  However, I would say most of the stuff we own is just store bought.  Does that make you feel better? ;)


So, for Christmas…….I really wanted some fancy Christmas outfits for the kiddos.  (Because I like fancy Christmas clothes for some reason.  It’s like getting new Easter clothes.  They just go hand in hand.  Though, the clothing has nothing to do with the actual relevance and importance of those two beautiful and-new-clothes-aren’t-really-necessary holidays.  But you get me, right?)  And I didn’t have time to make any, so I was all ready to just buy a few things for the kiddos to wear for Christmas.  No big deal.  I’m not an anti-purchased clothing person, remember? ;)


However, I looked in a few stores…..and just didn’t find anything I liked.  Okay, I did see some gorgeous dresses at Janie and Jack while in CA 2 weeks ago but over $100 for a fancy holiday dress was just way too much.  So I bought a couple plain dresses at Carter’s (about $10 on some extra sale) but they just weren’t Christmas-y enough for me. 





So I added red.  And a red tie for my little guy. 




Then we were set.  Thank you Carter’s…………and some red fabric.




So, if you’re scrambing for a little last minute Christmas outfit……..just fancy up a simple dress.  Or add a homemade tie.

Turn plain into holiday fantastic.




And this goes for anything you see in the store.  Use plain items as your canvas……and then go from there.  Change things up, add sashes, shorten hem lines, remove accessories, add your own, turn shirts into dresses, pants into shorts, blah, blah, blah. 

You know the drill.  ;)


It sure helped me after not finding the Christmas dresses that I wanted.





And if we were actually sending out Christmas cards this year, they would probably look like this (minus Steve and I….darn).  And to all of you dear friends and family who have sent cards……I wish I would have planned further ahead so that I could get these out to you too.  But I didn’t.  I took these pictures this morning.  And edited during nap time.  Eeeek!  Christmas is in 6 days so I’m not sure these would get printed, labeled, stamped, and in the mail this week…..even if I tried really hard.



So choose one, and accept it as a Very Merry Christmas card to you.  (I couldn’t decide on which background I liked best.  Haha.) 

And if you look really close……you’ll see the real names of my children who I generally call monkey, turkey, munchkins, stinker pants, or whatever other name I’m in the mood to call them.







And if you’re interested as to how I changed up these

little dresses (and made the tie), read on:




First up……..the baby dress.  (And I realize not all of you will have the same dress with the exact sewing construction.  So just use these alterations as a guide.)



For this little dress, I wanted the belt to be red, not pink like the original.  I was going to pick the belt out and replace it with a red one……but the construction of the dress was more complicated.  The belt wasn’t placed on top… was sewn into the dress.  So I sewed together a tube of fabric that was almost twice as wide as the original one……because I wanted to give it that little gathered look in different sections.  The belt on the dress was about 1.5 inches wide but the new belt was about 2.5 inches wide.  I also made it nice and long so that the bow would be full and long in the back.  Once the tube was turned right side out, pressed flat, and ready to go……..I placed the very center of the belt at the center front of the dress.  (Need help sewing fabric into a tube?  Click here.)  Now, you can sew a basting stitch and gather in each vertical line of gathers (more on gathering here) and then just sew over the basting stitch to attach the belt to the dress.  Or, you can do it the way that I did………and just pinch it and gather it with your fingers as you sew.  I made 3 vertical gathers along the front and then one at each side.



Then I flipped the dress to the back and made two more on each side of the back of the dress.  How many gathers you do will depend on the size of your dress.  Just do what looks best to you.  And then once you tie the bow in the back, the pink is hidden.  (But if you peek under the belt…..the pink is still there.  So be sure to keep the belt nice and smooth as you’re sewing your gathered sections.  you don’t want it to droop or your belt underneath will show.  But this only concerns you if you’re working with a similar dress with belt.)



For the bottom of the dress, I gathered long sections of tulle and attached them to the lining of the dress.  I did this in 4 sections along the bottom of the lining and gathered in the tulle nice and tight so it would be pretty full.  I didn’t sew the strips of tulle together to get long pieces to gather in.  I just overlapped pieces of gathered tulle in the 4 sections because you’ll never see the overlap.  If your dress doesn’t have a piece of lining, you could attach it right to the bottom of the dress….but be sure you sew nice and straight since you’ll see the seam from the outside.


And that’s it.




Next up……the little tie.



The tie is made using my Little Guy Tie Pattern, found here.  That’s it.  :)




And lastly…….the bigger girl asymmetrical dress.  (And I realize not all of you will have the same dress with the exact sewing construction.  So just use these alterations as a guide.  If your dress doesn’t have a lining, I wouldn’t recommend this alteration because the ruffles won’t be able to attach to the lining and then hang nicely behind the asymmetrical hem.  But it’s up to you.)



Okay, and I didn’t get any pictures of this process because I thought it would be easy to explain…….but it wasn’t.  So here’s a crude drawing below instead.  Forgive my shaky free-hand in photoshop with the “pen” tool.  :)


First of all, unpick the bottom hem of the dress.  Iron flat.  Then line up the bottom edges of the dress (front and back) and get the inside lining out of the way.  Then start at one bottom corner (I started at the bottom left) and then cut a diagonal line upwards towards the other side of the dress.  (Marking with chalk first would be best…..because you want to get it right on the first cut.) Leave enough room below that first cut, so that you have about an inch of fabric below it.  On the second cut, cut about 3/4 of an inch below the first cut, following along the same curve of the first cut.  The extra scrap fabric below can be thrown away.



Now, grab that little strip of fabric that is 3/4 of an inch wide.  Zig-zag (or serge) all along the bottom edge.  Then turn it that piece inside out and slip it over the bottom edge of the dress, matching it up exactly with the edge that it was cut from, but with “right sides” together.  So, match up the side seams of the dress together and the front with the front, and the back with the back…….but just with the right sides together.  It’s like you just flipped that little strip up and over onto the bottom of the dress.  Then sew the strip to the dress, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Then flip that strip down and back under the dress.  Start at the side seams of the dress then ease it around the dress, pinning as you go, making it lay flat against the dress.  Iron flat.  Then sew that flap in place.


Edited to Add:  Okay, I know that last step seemed weird.  And pointless to cut off a strip of fabric to then sew it back on.  (I have had some questions about it…..sorry for leaving off an explanation.)  But the reason I did that was because it’s near impossible to just do a regular hem on an angled hemline like that.  Each side seam would be especially hard because on one side seam it’s almost a point and then the other side seam it’s an inverted point.  To try and turn that under and get it to lay right would be really hard.  And may make you want to throw your project in the trash.  But if you sew that strip back on  and then turn it under…… can ease the bottom edge (the zig-zagged edge) of that strip up and around the entire bottom of the dress, allowing the hemline to lay flat.  It’s a bit hard to explain without showing you in person..  But trust me, just trying to hem under that diagonal hemline would be really hard.  And would pucker.  And bubble.  And make you mad.  :)


Next, cut a strip of red fabric that is 3 times the length of the entire bottom edge of your dress lining.   So if the bottom edge of your dress lining is 30 inches……cut a strip of fabric that is 90 inches wide.  (If you have to sew 2 pieces together to get 90 inches, or however many inches you need, that’s just fine.)  As for the height, cut it tall enough so that this gathered section can tuck under the dress at the top of the diagonal side and also long enough to make a hem along the bottom.  This gathered strip will not be angled…….it will be the same height all the way around but will just look angled because it’s tucked under the asymmetrical hem of the dress.  Now, fold the long strip of fabric in half (width-wise) so that your two short ends are together.  Sew along the two short ends so that you now have a giant circle of fabric.  Now, hem the bottom of this circular section by folding it under a 1/4 inch, another 1/4 inch, and then sew it in place.  Then zig-zag (or serge) the top edge and then make a basting stitch about 1/4 inch from the top.  Gather it in and sew it right to the lining of the dress, right on top of the basting stitch.  (Need help with gathering?  Click here.)  (Need another gathered skirt demonstration?  Click here.)



Then I always steam/lightly iron the ruffles on a project like this.  I like them to be flatted out a bit….and not so fluffy.  Don’t make actual creases in the fabric…..just lightly brush the iron over the top of the ruffled section, flattening them out a bit.


And then for the flower, I made it just like the one here……then hand sewed it onto the dress.



And that’s it.  A little asymmetrical dress.




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Filed under Baby, Children, Clothing, Family, Featured, Re-purposing, Sewing


86 Responses to “Fancy Up some store-bought dresses for Christmas (or any occasion)”
  1. 1
    Meghan says:

    Absolutely fabulous! Gorgeous!!! I so wish I could sew.

  2. 2
    Rachel says:

    Nicely done! What a great job you did making them fancy. And I love how all three kid coordinate so nicely!

  3. 3

    This is absolutely stunning. You should have your own show on HGTV or so.. I LOVE your work!!!

  4. 4
    Wani says:

    Love it! So cute!

  5. 5
    Leigh Ann says:

    This is truly fantastic! You’re very talented!

  6. 6
    Kristina says:

    I’ve wanted to do this with women’s dresses for so long but never got up the nerve / motivation. Now it’s nice to know about an easy tutorial to follow. These dresses are so so so so cute! I just can’t stop looking at that baby dress and imagining it for my little girl :D Thanks for another amazing tutorial!

    • 6.1
      Ashley Stuart says:

      I’ve wanted to do an adult version of the asymetrical look too! And now I have a “pattern” to draw from! Fabulous job and, as always, thanks for sharing!

  7. 7
    Emily says:

    What a great idea! Love your Christmas cards. :)

  8. 8
    Tricia says:

    Bravo! These are awesome!

    BTW, I’m also married to a Steve and my youngest is named Conner! lol

  9. 9
    Lisa says:

    That’s beautiful. Love it.

  10. 10
    Erin says:

    You are so good. I just bought that same dress from the Carter’s outlet near us, in purple (on clearance). I am definitely not confident enough in my sewing skills to cut up a store-bought dress, though…I could just see the emergency run to the store on Saturday night if I were to do that! But I love seeing what you create…you must have excellent spacial skills–remember that part on the ACT/SAT? The fact that you can imagine the end product from your own imagination and how it needs to be engineered tells me that.

    Your kids are just darling, as are their names. Chloe is just a cute name, and although all the older names are coming back, I haven’t heard of many Chloes yet!

    Merry Christmas to you! I am using your wearable-blanket tutorial right now for a Christmas present, including using your zipper tutorial…I really appreciate those tutorials of basic techniques. Thanks so much!

  11. 11
    Amy says:

    Those are absolutely adorable! I love your new dresses! You’re amazing.

  12. 12
    Liz Farnsworth says:

    I LOVE the dresses and your children are darling!!

  13. 13
    British American says:

    What great matching outfits. Love it!

    To make my three kids match, I made two bow-ties for my two boys and then I covered a headband with the same fabric and added a bow to it for my daughter. :)

    Merry Christmas!

  14. 14

    YOU, my dear, are AMAZING!!!!!! With grandbabies now I am SO going to be following you closely!!
    Thank you so very much!
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!
    Linda Chapman

  15. 15
    H.Cook says:

    You are a genius. So cute! Merry Christmas :)

  16. 16
    Heather says:

    wow that is awesome! great job!

  17. 17
    Amy M. says:

    Those turned out absolutely adorable! What a great idea! Thanks for sharing

  18. 18

    Gorgeous! I love fancy holiday clothes, too, but I know just what you mean about it not being necessary. I just think it’s fun to have any reason to dress up really pretty, and since I’m “old” now (ha ha) my daughter looks SO much cuter in everything than I do, it is much more fun to dress *her* up than me! We lucked out though because her aunt (my sis-in-law) loves to buy her really fancy dresses, so we actually have two to choose from for Christmas Eve service. I can’t wait to see my girl all fancied up! Thanks for this tutorial, too, because it could be used for anytime, wedding, birthday, whatever.

  19. 19
    Charlene says:

    Great post. On the larger dress, you said to sew the strip (red fabric) “into a tube”. I’m not sure what means. Will you please explain? Thanks.

  20. 20
    Annastacia says:

    Love it! You are amazing and you have such cute kiddos. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  21. 21
    Kim says:

    Amazing! I don’t think I’ve commented at all this year on your blog, but I love every post! Thank you for sharing your awesomeness! :)

  22. 22
    Kati says:

    Seriously Amazing! So cute! Great job!

  23. 23
    Sarah says:

    You are amazing! I love your creations!

  24. 24
    Rachel says:

    Those dresses are beautiful! I love the bows the girls are wearing…is there any chance you might do a tutorial for that bow size someday?

  25. 25
    Jo says:

    I love these!

    I just want to clear up a couple of things with the older girl’s dress though… You said, “Next, cut a strip of red fabric that is 3 times the length of the entire bottom edge of your dress lining. So if the bottom edge of your dress lining is 30 inches……cut a strip of fabric that is 60 inches wide.” By my calculations, 3 x 30 = 90, not 60 ;) so just wondering if that’s meant to say 2 times the length, or 20 inches.

    Also, I don’t quite understand the point of cutting off the 3/4 inch strip and sewing it back on…?

    • 25.1
      Carolyn says:

      I was also wondering why you’d cut it off? I don’t sew clothes except for Barbie’s, so I don’t have a lot of clothes experience…. Would it be the same result if it was hemmed?

    • 25.2
      Ashley says:

      Oh my……yep, I wrote the numbers wrong. The example should have said 90 inches. Multiplying it by 3 times will make it nice and full. But you could also do 2 times as wide. I changed that in the tutorial…..thanks for letting me know!

      As for cutting off the strip, I added a better explanation in the tutorial (in red) so hopefully that will help.

      Good luck!

  26. 26
    shaheen says:

    u have done it again. happy holidays

  27. 27
    Janeen Getz says:

    Super cute. Ashley. What a gorgeous bunch!

  28. 28
    Laura Lane says:

    Woo hoo!

  29. 29
    gelinyolu says:

    They’re soooo cute :)

  30. 30
    Reklamegaver says:

    This is really a Nice sharing & collection.

  31. 31
    magda says:

    better than the original , you are very talented . I really like your ideas .Happy Christmas

  32. 32
    missy says:

    Oh my goodness! As if your kids weren’t cute enough, those outfits are adorable! I love your style and vision. I would be all over this if my babies were still babies. I’m afraid my 14-year old would be horrified if she had to wear anything I attempted to alter or (gasp!) make from scratch. There still may be hope for my 6-year old… :)

  33. 33

    Wowzers! These look great! I liked the original dresses but you really added the extra 10% to them! And I also really like your Christmas cards! How did you make them? Not snapfish or one of those other websites right? Don’t tell me you used a MAC…?

  34. 34
    Justine says:

    Well good gracious your children are cute! And so well dressed ;)

  35. 35
    Katie says:

    Ash- your kids are so stinkin cute! Merry Christmas to you and your family! – Katie Dalling

  36. 36
    Lynette says:

    I absolutely love those. Love the big girl dress, love the tie, love it all! Thanks so much for sharing.

  37. 37
    Sarah says:

    LOVE them!!! You are always SO fabulous!!

  38. 38
    Maria says:

    Ashley, you have so cute kids! My 6 year old daughter already fell in love with your son, she was saying “Oh, how handsome he is!!”.

    I found you blog about a week ago, and have been studying it every day… my house chores are not getting done. But my baby girl has now a cute dress made from my old sweater, my son’s jeans are fixed with a UK flag patch, my oldest girl has about 10 new hairclips! I’m lucky to have kids about your kids ages. So a can copycat whatever you are making for you kiddos. I especially love your re-purposing projects.

    Thank you very much! I will be your blog follower as long you blog! Please don’t stop. :)

    Have a very Merry Christmas!

  39. 39
    Maggie says:

    Wow. You are so talented. Those refashioned dresses are TOO TOO cute!! I want to copy. And your kiddos – absolutely adorable. And I LOVE all of their names. It’s fun to finally have names with their darling faces. You do such a good job.

  40. 40
    Amanda says:

    It’s a Christmas miracle!! Seriously though, do you have any idea just how ah-may-zing you are! I wish I could fly you to my house so you could help me fix all me clothes.

  41. 41
    Anna says:

    ohhh I love this! sooo fun ;) And dresses like that would’ve cost a fortune, and wouldn’t have been in the color you wanted right? haha… yeah… I’ve been sewing since I got my first machine when I was 5… and haven’t stopped since… and I came across your blog and was so excited to see such fun, cute ideas… Im pretty sure I’ll be checkin it out all afternoon. My latest is a simple mary jane style baby shoe pattern but adding cute little flowers and ruffles to them and making them looks ridiculously adorable and they literally only take scraps of fabric, a decent amount of patience and some time figuring out how to maneuver such small pieces through the sewing machine. But so fun and much cuter than expensive baby shoes you buy! Check out my blog… I hope to have them posted in the next week or 2 once i finish some more!

  42. 42
    Jo says:

    I love your website for everytime I get the newsletter I enjoy ALL of the things you present to your readers. I’m amazed at all of the different ways to do things you present to your readers and that is why I will continue to visit you.

    Thank you for sharing with us!

    To you and your family I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

  43. 43
    Anonymous says:

    You are amazing!! I see so many posts your fabulous blog that I want to try, but first I really need to learn to sew! I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

    Kari :)

  44. 44
    Jennifer says:

    Those dresses are so adorable Ashley!! I love the asymmetrical one for your oldest daughter. You would never know that you embellished them yourself. They look like something you would buy at a high end boutique!! You are so talent! Hope you guys have a very Merry Christmas :0)

  45. 45
    yulie says:

    Amazing!!! Merry Christmas!

  46. 46
    Paula says:

    You are a whiz!! I love what you did with the dresses, absolutely fabulous and the red tie is the cutest. Your children look so sweet in your Christmas cards….well actually, they look sweet in every picture. You have a beautiful little family and best to to all of you for a wonderful and happy Christmas. Continued success with all your creative work and your blog in the New Year.

  47. 47

    Awesome post. I have never commented before but had to on this one. Very impressed. Great that you explained it so well. Love your blog.

  48. 48
    Pam Pike says:

    Great job! These look so festive now.

  49. 49
    Edna says:

    Maravilhosos! Você está de parabéns!!!


  50. 50
    Rocio Estrada says:

    Just when I think you’ve amazed me with a project/inspiration….you take it to the next level! Your husband must ADORE you for being so creative and easy on the pocket!!!! I love all of your projects and love the kid’s names!!!! Somehow the names sound so unfamiliar since I’m used to reading about them referred to as your girl, boy and baby girl.

    Happy Holidays!!!!

  51. 51
    Kristin says:

    Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. ;) Amazing!! This gave me the motivation to attempt some upgrades to our wardrobes!

  52. 52
    Jill says:

    Ok, so please do not take this the wrong way BUT……………. you make me sick!

    I have been considering these dresses at Carters for a month now, like them but not in love with them…. AND now I am IN LOVE with them. I see pink accents to these dresses in my future.

    You always amaze me.

  53. 53
    Kristina says:

    The last time I sent out Christmas cards was two years ago, and guess when I actually mailed them out? December 26th. Lol.Most were emailed or even posted on my Facebook wall. On Christmas Day. Haha. :)
    Every year I think we should, and I just can’t stand the stress of trying to get pictures taken (seems like any friend who takes a decent one charges way more than I can afford…), getting envelopes addressed, etc…I tell myself I’ll do it next year, when we have two kids. Because that somehow justifies it. Lol. Great job on the kids’ clothes!

  54. 54
    Valerie Nelson says:

    Merry Christmas Ashley!! Love this tutorial! I like the Christmas card with the dots best! :) And don’t feel bad about not sending them out. I used to do one every year, but the last two I have sent out was when Audrey (2) was born and this year when Avery (3 mo) was born. I kinda smudge the birth announcement/Christmas/end of the year update/greeting into one package!

  55. 55
    Louisa says:

    What a fabulous idea! Thanks so much for sharing. I really love this idea.

  56. 56
    Kami says:

    Absolutely darling! Love all your stuff. I am having a ‘ruffled fabric linky party’ on my blog and noticed you have made tons of darling stuff with that fabric. Come on over and link up if you wish! :)

  57. 57
    Danesa says:

    OMG!!! Super cute! You always do such a good job with whatever you have or find. I need to be better at that, only if had more time. Working full-time doesn’t alway allow for much time to do things.

  58. 58
    Maggie says:

    LOVE the dresses but my main comment is on your babies name! I LOVE IT! All three of them look like their names :) such a precious little family! I love following your blog and watching them grow! especially since my two are the same age as your older two :)

  59. 59
    Melissa says:

    You are amazing. Wonderful job. I have a question. Will you be making a Larger Boy Tie pattern in the future. I noticed your “little guy” is now Bigger : ) and the Tie pattern only goes up to 3T and I am not so talented at extending patterns. LOL!

  60. 60
    Savanna says:

    I. Love. Them! You’re so inspirational! I can’t wait till I have little ones to sew for one day! You’ll definitely be a go-to for ideas!

  61. 61
    Koree says:

    I have never commented, nor made one thing from your website in the past couple of years, but I love you! Those photos are so sweet of your children, and your positivity is inspiring to me. Thanks! You have a great eye and creative talent. Merry Christmas, and again, thank you for sharing. I will keep reading, and maybe one day make something myself! :)

  62. 62
    Carrie says:

    I love this idea! I am shocked at how well they turned out, 100% cuter. Makes me wonder what I’ve passed up which could have been turned into my dream item. Gonna have to remember this!

  63. 63
    Chelsea says:

    Your kids are already such great models!

  64. 64
    rachel says:

    that is awesome! i love it!

  65. 65
    Rhonad says:

    You MAKE beautiful BABIES!!! Those outfits are darling!! Merry Christmas Ashley!! Looks like lots of Love in your house this year!!

  66. 66
    Joyce says:

    I just love reading all of the wonderful creative ideas you have! Keep them coming! Furthermore, your Christmas cards look great!

  67. 67
    stef says:

    great job again! :)

  68. 68
    Christine says:

    I saw a girl in the “before” dress at Mass on Christmas Eve and thought of you. Your “after” dresses are so cute! One question, I see the explanation for the cut off/sew back on strip…but, why do you have to unpick the hem if the bottom strip is going to get thrown away? I just hate unpicking things, so I am curious if it is necessary.

  69. 69
    Sue says:

    Oh these are so cute. I know I have seen them before but it must have been on FB. I didn’t have time to really look then but love getting to look at them today. So cute and will be stuck in my mind next time I think of doing something for my granddaughter.

  70. 70
    Shelley says:

    You are brilliant! I have used 2 of these ideas so far. I added a white satin belt/bow to a store bought dress, that I didn’t like that much, but now love. I also went back and added a lining to a skirt I had already made just so I could add the cute tulle to the bottom of it. This is great. Now I am looking at all the store bought baby clothes that people have given to me (not gifts from showers, just people getting rid of things) to see how I can revamp them to make them a little more special (is that bad haha). Thanks for posting this.

  71. 71
    Tana Steward says:

    If no lining the dress could be a top and the red a skirt. That would work nicely, I think. Tana

  72. 72
    Miriam says:

    Absolutely brilliant!!

  73. 73
    ali says:

    nice cloth and comment

  74. 74
    Blanca says:

    Beautiful dresses. For me before you customized them they were ugly I wouldn’t buy them but then how you made them I would buy them they look gorgeous.

  75. 75
    Lynn says:

    beautiful. i’m doing this! ur kids are also very gorgeous<3!!

  76. 76
    Ana says:

    Those dresses are so beautiful now!! How do you make such perfect bows?

  77. 77
    Linda G. says:

    I love what you did to revamp the clothing and to coordinate your children’s outfits! Fabulous work and tutorials, as always! Thank you, thank you…..

  78. 78
    Debra says:


    Just found your site and am amazed, to say the least, seeing your beautiful patterns. I am looking forward to making EVERYTHING! Thank you…you now have another admirer. :) Keep up the great work!