Hot! The “Picked-a-Pocket” Dress

The Facts

Fabric: Cotton (RTW dress), African batik cotton (pockets, belt)
Pattern: Butterick 5638 (belt)
Year: Contemporary
Notions: Interfacing
Time to complete: 8 hours
First worn: For photoshoot
Wear again? Yes
Total Price: $0

A shapeless brown shift dress from Target made of a horrendously mediocre cotton fabric better suited for a UPS uniform. My mission: To transform this sad, bland mumu into something cute and wearable.

It had some redeeming qualities worth keeping. The basic bones of the garment, such as the neckline and hemline were fine. But, the three-quarter length sleeves with elastic hems had to go and the waistline needed…well, to exist.

Since this was my first real refashion, no heroics were allowed. I did want to bring on a bit of challenge though, to make it interesting — the dress was pretty fugly and uninspiring on its own. This week’s construction challenge: INSEAM POCKETS. Somehow, I’d never sewn them before.

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Pockets for Najah to sew for the first time. How wonderful! And with no matching brown fabric in my stash, Mr. Piper kindly handed me a yard of African batik print cotton to assemble my pockets and a make coordinating belt.


You may recognize the belt style from last week’s “American Geisha” Kimono. I reprised it for this challenge by scaling down the pattern from its original, kimono-friendly width. The downsized belt is my new, go-to accessory and its about to have brothers and sisters made up in more African prints. I’m certain my obi belt addiction will be rehabilitated once I make just a few more.

INSEAM POCKETS RICKETY ROCK, Y’ALL! How did I go this long without recognizing their simple genius and magical construction? I WILL NEVER GO POCKET-LESS AGAIN. Until now, I’d had this ridiculous fear of inseam pockets – as if they’d be a hassle or require geometry. But they are harmless. Just like when I realized that Freddy Kruger couldn’t really get me in my dreams. He was just a burn victim who liked to wear sharp gloves and haze neighborhood teenagers. Inseam pockets are equally unscary. Sewing the side seam without catching the pocket facing fold was a little whoa, but me and The Machine triumphed in the end.

Even drafting the pockets was all easy button. Draw big bubble around hand. Cut out. A cave man could do it.

Full disclosure: The 3-inch pumps were worn strictly for the photo shoot. Everyone’s got a pair of “30-minute” shoes in their closet. Ones suitable for only a brief wearing (like from the car to the building), because any longer would cripple you. Well, these are my “10-minutes” shoes. This week’s photoshoot lasted nine minutes.

Boring, shapeless, store-bought dress + elastic waistline casing + elbow-length sleeve bands + African print obi belt + PETER PIPER POCKETS = refashion success. Thanks for looking.

P.S. In case there was confusion. Peter Piper does not hang out in my sewing room. I made him up merely for the alliteration ;-).



Najah Carroll is a project manager by day and seamstress by night. Once it became clear that ready-to-wear was never gonna support her five feet of curves, she taught herself to sew and make pattern alterations. In January, she lost her mind by signing up for this 52-week garment sewing challenge.


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  1. Darling! I love your refashion. I own Butterick 5612, which looks a lot like your update. Now I know how to make it!

    • You weren’t kidding, Sandy…B5612 is practically a twin of this refashioned dress! Those folks at Butterick must’ve have a spy cam ;-)

  2. Oh gosh. I own that dress in black, and yeah, it was so unflattering right off the hanger. I also shortened the sleeves, but haven’t done much else with it. But I bet new side-seam pockets and an actual waist will help. Thanks, and you look great!

    • I knew someone else around here would’ve bought that same style of Target Merona dress…it looks like an innocent enough basic for every body type, but it’s a bit too meh on its own to to be a keeper. Glad to hear you dealt with the whack sleeves too. Elastic at the hem of a sleeve always looks cheap and unimagintive unless done skillfully…this original dress was no exception. Thanks for the compliment. Let me know if you re-re-fashion your black number, I’d love to see it.

  3. Really cute! Your remake is so, so much better than the original. And the pockets are fab.

  4. You made something uncute into something super cute. Very nice!

  5. Great save. Love the contrasting fabric and your sleeve fix.

    • Thanks, Erin. Miraculously, there was just enough extra fabric to cut off the sleeves and make cuffs to reattach.

  6. Adorable and classy, as per usual!! The hair and the RuPaul worthy poses are on point again, too! I love this look, but I will have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of Mr. Kruger. He STILL scares the crap out of me!

    • Ha! I didn’t realize I was posing like Ru Paul…haven’t seen much of him/her since the 90’s…it would be cool to have that kind bold, glamorous sass in real life! I’d be all, “Talk to the hand!” or “Your standing in my light!”

      It took me years to get over my fears of Freddy. I am a big fan of horror movies, but for some reason Nightmare on Elm Street and the original American Werewolf in London had me grabbing my pillow or volunteering to get popcorn refills.

  7. Blimey you have vision. I think I might have passed that dress over as without hope. You’ve made it really cute, and I adore the pockets and belt.

    I also have visions of the Mission Impossible music playing on loop counting down to 9 minutes 59 seconds at which point you grab the shoes and throw them into the air before they hurt your feet beyond foot rub recovery possibility.

    • Hilarious vision, Tempest! I just love how your mind works. It was kind of that dramatic, too. Mr. Carroll came out to help me with the close-up shots of the pocket and he goes, “Don’t you wanna get some more shots like this and like this?” And I say, “Only if YOU are willing to put on this dress and these Weapons of Mass Destruction for the rest of the photoshoot. Otherwise, my feet have started the 30 second countdown to mutiny.”

  8. A very pleasing refashion. I’d wear that any day. It’s unbelievable how you changed the look of that garment. I’m impressed as usual with your vision and skill.

  9. You took a seriously sad little dress and made it seriously fab : ) I’m thinking I may have to borrow your belt idea for next week…

  10. Hi Najah, I love the way you redid the sleeve, great finish and the belt is beautiful. I think th sprockets really add a bit of fun and how handy are pockets right? I love the color combination of the chocolate brown with blue.

    • I appreciate the love, Krista. The true, invaluable handiness of pockets was lost to me until I made my own. Now I am a convert for life. Instead of cake, LET THEM WEAR POCKETS!

  11. Brilliant refashion Najah, Love how you think, perfect inseam pockets nothing to be afraid of ever again. Loved your link to your drawing too. You have a wicked stash of African prints, Yumbo!

    • I love African prints and wish I had time to hunt down more. Thanks for the shout-out, Kazz. After seeing your refashion, I am itching to plan my second.

  12. I totally love this post! I am really loving the obi belt, I have one planned for my next project. Talking about 10 minute shoes, I have far too many og them and they only seem to come out for outfit shots!

    • Fashion photography is probably the ONLY event for which these 10-minutes shoes of ours were meant to be worn. Get cute. Smile. Pose. Snap. Snap. Swap WMDs for Birkenstocks. Go home. They get their minutes in the spotlight and get to live out their days comfortably in a shoe box. No hikes through the airport, no walking the dog, no running for the bus. Just the pampered life of a fashion prop.

      Thanks for the comments. That makes TWO obi belts hinted at for next week. I can’t wait.

  13. simple yet effective. Inseam pockets are fabulous.

  14. Love that contrasting fabric! Now to put pockets in all my skirts!!!!! :)

  15. What can brown do for you? Apparently, everything! Awesome save, and did you say this was your first refashion?! Kick off those heels and celebrate :)

  16. What a lovely first refashion! It’s stunning with the belt – definitely a fantastic ensemble!