Hot! The “Favorite Polka Dot” Dress

Fabric: Polka Dot Cotton
Pattern: Refashioned
Year: 1980’s
Notions: none
Time to Complete: 3 hrs
First Worn: May 2012
Wear Again: Yep, part of Me-Made-May  :)
Total Price: $0

Growing up I never thought too much about clothes (until Jr. High and High School of course) so it never occurred to me to think even more about the clothing that other people wore.  It’s only when I look back do I recall certain pieces of clothing that marks one of my loved ones.  For my mom, I can honestly say that one of the most memorable outfits that she wore was her favorite polka dot dress.

Sadly, I couldn’t find many images of her in this dress, but she wore it to church on Sundays, to baby showers like in the image above, to weddings, etc.

So you can imagine how happy I was to receive this dress from her last year as she was cleaning out her closet.  I’m totally surprised that it had stayed in her possession for so long, after many garage sales and prior spring cleanings of her closet.  It really speaks to how much she must have loved this dress.

What was even more surprising was when I tried it on it kinda sorta fit me in the waist and hips… but the shoulders are another story.

Being a dress from the 80’s there was ample room in the chest/shoulder area; it would need an overhaul in order to be worn my myself.  My mom had given me this dress along with another one, in hopes that I could pull it to pieces and make something better.

I’ve never refashioned clothing before…. I thought about making a skirt with it, but it’s such a sweet dress that I wanted to save as much of it as possible.  Intent on saving the dress, I removed the sleeves, unpicked all of the neckline stitching (4 rows of various stitching) along with the serger threads.  It took me longer to remove all of the stitching than it did for me to re-fit it!

I raised the shoulders by a fat one and 1/4 inches but the armscye was still too low for me to adequately attach the sleeves back onto for my body, I had to make it a sleeveless dress instead.  To help moderate the additional fabric in the chest, I changed the front waistline darts to be princess seams which end at the middle of the armscye.  I re-cut the front neckline for a classic look (instead of the 80’s v-neck) and lowered the back neckline by 2 inches to make it a bit more feminine.  Being shorter than my mom, I had to raise the hem by 1.5 inches or so.  And to try to keep to the original as much as possible, I reused the same white bias binding all around the neckline even though it had a tiny stain on it.  (Perhaps it will come out in the next washing…)

Besides a love of sewing, my mother passed down her love of polka dots to me which I couldn’t be more thrilled about.  To properly thank her, I’m officially giving a shout-out to my mother, Julie…. Happy pre-mother’s day mom, I love you lots & thanks for the dress!



By day Liz Holder works as a research analyst where she plays with data and charts, but by night she becomes a create-a-holic. She loves creating and learning new things which is why her favorite craft is sewing, which she’s been doing in full force after taking her first sewing class a year and a half ago. There is an endless array of skills, tricks, and techniques for her to research on any given project and at the end she's ecstatic o have created a unique garment that she can then celebrate by sharing it with the blogosphere after which she wears it to work where she crunches more numbers and starts the cycle all over again.


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  1. This is so brilliant! I love how you’ve preserved so much of the dress but really brought it into the 2010s! I’m sure your mom will be thrilled with the results.

    • Thanks Shannon! I just sent my mom the link to this post in hopes that she approves. :) I’m debating wearing it for fun on Mother’s day.

  2. Excellent work refashioning a blast from the past into a darling, modern dress!

    I remember those 80s polkdot dresses. My mother had a couple herself. And, in the late 80’s, I spent half of my junior high days in polkdadotted fashions…so glad I bypassed the poofy sleeve/mutant shoulder pad trend of the time.

  3. Love. It. LOVE IT! I want to remake both the original version, AND your updated look!! The bow belt kills me with cuteness. Fabulous job!

    • The bow belt is permanently attached to this dress at the center front. Kinda glad it is or else I fear it would have gotten lost over the years…

  4. This is AMAZING. It’s like Andie’s Pretty in Pink refashioning of Iona’s prom dress BUT ACTUALLY MAKING SOMETHING PRETTY FROM IT! (sorry for all the exuberant shouting). Really special.

  5. OMG, I’m LOVING your “Pretty in Pink” discussion! I actually almost cried when Andi hacked up that gorgeous prom dress to make that…so not my taste dress. I also LOVE what you did to your mom’s dress. You’ve taken something she loved and made it yours in a really fabulous way. I hope she likes it as much as we do!!

    • I’m loving it too Loran, I watched it again for the 1 millionth time last Friday night it’s one of my all time favourites. I agree! Iona’s dress should never of been touched and it should never of ended the way it did. I’ve always had a crush on Duckie.

      • Oh Duckie…. I hate to ask but did you know that the ORIGINAL ending had Andi with Duckie not that pretty guy. Duckie had a cold when they were shooting that last scene so they rewrote the ending at the last minute.

  6. Gorgeous! I love refashioning. Your dress turned out super!

  7. You look amazing and did such a great job on the dress!
    My Mum was always stylish and she really **really really** embraced the Eighties. I often look at pictures from the era and I am amazed at how she pulled that fashion off, but so did your Mum, she looks great in that dress, as do you!

  8. I love your refashion! The dress looks terrific – what a fun garment and it’s great that you can now carry on wearing it yourself.

  9. First time refashioning a dress?! Wow. You’ve done a wonderful job with it. The new version looks amazing and so flattering!

  10. That is fantastic! How lucky and fabulous to have your mother’s actual dress to work with! Her dress was great, and your refashion is such a beautiful update of it!

  11. I adore a great refashion and this one is adorable! I love polka dots too.

  12. WOW, I would never pick it was a refashioned garment, how wonderful that your mum kept it, and that you can make it work for 2012 (um, when did the 80s get so far away!?)! xoxo

  13. How wonderful that your mom kept the dress, and that you got to refashion it.. Looks great on you and also looked great on your mom..[very pretty mom]

  14. Hey Liz, great dress, I’m sure you put a smile on your moms face.

  15. AMAZING!!!!! I love refashioning 80’s clothing. You did a fabulous job, Liz!

  16. Awesome job Liz. Love love l o v e.

  17. That is beautiful – I love the polka dots! You have stayed really true to the original.

  18. Inspirational! I love anything in polka dots – this is great. Dreaming of a full length 70’s dress of my Mum’s – it’s calling my name for a makeover! New challenge category! Think she’s still got it. Duckie was robbed.