Thrift Flip: Tea Party Dress (DIY Midi Dress)

  • 5-min read
  • 15 Tools
  • Intermediate


I am so excited to bring you another upcycle, because I think this one is one of my favorites.

In a world where fast fashion is contributing to environmental issues, upcycling is more than just a fun DIY project. It’s a practical and actionable way to reduce waste and make the most out of what we already have. It’s about questioning the conventional wisdom of consumerism and trying new things.

I’m going to show you how I turned the below dated dress into a gorgeous midi length dress with contrasting trim. If you love a cute tea party dress, then this project is for you.

So, how do we start this magical transformation process? Let’s dive in!

Tools & Materials

Just a reminder that my original video is in the middle of the page. You can watch the entire process and read the entire transcript there if you’re interested .

Getting Started

The first step is to find your material.

I’ve made everything from dresses from men’s suits to two piece summer sets out of silk pants. There is life in everything, so whatever sparks your interest seems like a great place to start to me.

With this dress I fell in love with the embroidery. It added a unique touch to my upcycle.

Once you’ve found your piece to upcycle, it’s time to deconstruct it. Seam rip the entire dress apart to see exactly what you’re working with.

Creating a New Design

Now that you have your fabric, it’s time to draft your pattern.

Use a standard fitted bodice pattern as a base (you can get the Mood pattern I used below):

Adjust the pattern to include a deep V neckline and straps.

Remember to add seam allowances. Once your pattern is ready, cut out the fabric according to your pattern.

Sew the darts and the center front of the bodice.

For the back bodice (get the original pattern I based off of here), cut a rectangular piece and sew it to the front bodice at the side seams.

For the skirt, I used the entire skirt section of the original dress (but, you could borrow from my Agua Bendita dupe if you wanted). If you feel it’s too short, don’t worry. We’ll add a lace trim for additional length and a touch of style.

THRIFT FLIP | I Made The PERFECT Tea Party Outfit 💗 DIY Midi Dress | Sewing Tutorial

Hello! My name is Tiffany and welcome or welcome back to my channel. I am back with another upcycle by Little Toh where I take old forgotten items and give them a new life. If you like sewing and DIY videos, make sure to give this video a thumbs up and subscribe to my channel. I am so excited about today’s Thrift flip because I think it turned out so so good. So in today’s video, I’m going to show you how I turned this dated dress into this midi length dress with contrasting trim. So let’s get started.

Here is a closer look at the dress. I wasn’t going to buy it because it was very dingy and faded, but it was only a dollar and there was just something about the embroidery that I really liked, and I especially loved the ones on the sleeves. At this point, I have absolutely no idea what I’m gonna make yet, so I’m gonna go ahead and start by seam ripping the entire dress apart so I can see exactly what I’m working with and then come up with a design.

I’ve gone ahead and taken apart the dress completely, and I’ve been playing around with the sleeves, and I really want to feature this embroidered section somewhere on the bodice, and I think it might look nice in this V-shape. So I’m going to go ahead and start drafting the pattern. I’m going to be using this free pattern for mood Fabrics as a base. The reason I chose this pattern is because it has a pretty standard fitted bodice which makes a great base to start with. You can see that this pattern has a drop waist, but I’m going to crop the pattern at the waist and trace it out in a size 4. The original pattern is meant to be cut unfold, but mine is going to have a center Front seam, so the first thing I do is add a half-inch seam allowance to the center Front.

I definitely want my dress to have a deep V neckline, so I’m going to go ahead and measure from my waist to the lowest point of that V, and for me, that’s just under 7 inches. Using that measurement, I mark it eight inches from the waist to account for a seam allowance. I’m also going to adjust the shoulder seam and bring that down because I’m going to add straps. So from the middle part of my shoulder, I’m going to measure down to where I want the strap to start, and for me, that’s four and a half inches. From the middle of the shoulder seam, I measure down and Mark at four and a half inches. I want my strap opening to be three quarters of an inch wide, so I Mark that on my pattern as well. Now using a pencil, I draft a V-shaped neckline, and once I was happy, I went over that with a pen.

Next is to draft a new armhole, and at this point, I realize that I typically find the armhole on ready-made patterns to be too high, and I personally find that a little bit uncomfortable, so I decided to lower it by about an inch. Then I went ahead and added seam allowance to the areas that I just drafted and then cut out my new pattern. Because of the placement of the embroidery, I’m going to have to remove the bust start from this pattern and shift it to the waist art, but I’m going to show you exactly how I do that. To do that, I’m drawing a line in the middle of both darts so that they meet. Now I’m going to cut along the lines I just drew, making sure not to cut all the way through so I can pivot this piece until the widest points of the bus start meet. I’ll tape this in place and trim off this extra bit here for a clean side seam. I’m also trimming this extra bit off just to accurately show you how wide the way start is now.

I went ahead and made a mock-up, and I’m pretty happy with this General shape, so I’m going to go ahead and start cutting the fabric. Here is my final pattern, and here it is cut out of the fabric. I wanted to quickly talk about the reality of thrift flipping and how you have to be so creative with your use of fabric since it is pretty limited. For me, the sleeve ended up being a little bit too small for the pattern, but luckily this missing section is in the dart, so it’s not a big deal. Next is to sew the dart, and you should have something that looks like this. Following the same steps, I went ahead and made my Merit piece. I’m going to lay these pieces right sides facing, and I’ll sew together along the center front, and here is the completed front bodice. Doesn’t this embroidery look so beautiful along the neckline?

Moving on to the back bodice, I’m going to be using this pattern as a base. The back bodice for this dress just so happens to work out perfectly with my front bodice pattern, but I’m going to be adding elastic to the back of my dress, which makes everything super forgiving, so you could also get away with just cutting a rectangular piece. I traced out the largest size because I wanted my panel to be wider than my actual size, and then I cut out the fabric. Again, I’ll be adding elastic later, so I won’t be sewing the darts. Next, I’m placing my front and back pieces right sides facing, and I’ll sew together along the side seams, and here is the completed bodice.

Moving on to the skirt, I’m going to be using the entire skirt section of the original dress, but because it was a drop waist dress, the length is not quite as long as I would like, so I’m going to use a little bit of this trim to add a little bit of additional length. Here is the entire skirt panel from the original dress. These are the back panels, and I’ve seam ripped the center back. Here is the front, and I’ve left the side seams sewn together. Initially, my plan was to add the lace along the edge of the bottom of the skirt. But ultimately, I decided that I liked it placed here, creating a peekaboo section close to the Hem, so I’m going to go ahead and make a cut across the skirt here.

As you can see here, I’m measuring and marking a straight line seven inches from the Hem and then cutting with my rotary cutter and then working my way across the length of the skirt. Here is the strip I just cut off, and I’ve gone ahead and folded this raw Edge over twice and pressed it in place. Here is a close-up of that. Now I’m placing the lace along the top, and I’ll sew together along the edge here. This is what the lace looks like sewn on, and the next step is to sew on the rest of the skirt. Here is a close-up of the right side of the skirt, and here is the wrong side, and you can see that I used pink thread in my bobbin so that everything looks really nice and neat.

Next step is to sew a basting stitch along the top to create these Gathers. Now I’m going to place my bodice right sides facing, and I’ll start to pin these together, making sure to line up the side seams and then continue to pin, making sure to spread the gathers as evenly as I can. I’ll sew these together, and you should have something that looks like this, and it’s really starting to come together.

Next, I’m going to sew up the center back and also normally from the Hem to this point but from this point also with a basting stitch to the top. The reason I’m sewing up the center back this way is because I’m going to be reusing the zipper from the original dress, and it’s just a regular zipper as opposed to an invisible zipper, which is what I normally use. Here is what the dress should look like now, and I’ve gone ahead and pressed the seam open. Now I’m just taking my zipper and placing it right sides down. I’ll sew along one side, across the bottom, and up along the other side, making sure that the zipper tape is laying perfectly centered along the center back seam. This is what it should look like with the zipper sewn in, and now I can cut the basting stitch from earlier, making sure that I’m being very careful not to accidentally cut the fabric to reveal the finished zipper.

Next step is to sew on the straps, and I’ve decided to use black ribbon for this. I’m placing the ribbon about three inches from the side seam and pinning it in place, and then I repeat this for the other side as well. I’ll sew these on with a straight Stitch, and you should have something that looks like this. I’ve gone ahead and made a lining which I’m placing right side pacing, starting from this point also until this point, leaving this section open, continuing to sew the neckline again, leaving this section open, finally I’ll sew from here until this point, and you should have something that looks like this with these two sections left unsewn for the straps.

I’ve gone ahead and attached a safety pin to the end of my strap so I can feed it through this opening. I’ll repeat this for the other strap, and I’ll sew these in place. This is what the finished straps should look like sewn on, and Nyx just to finish sewing the bodice lining. I’m going to turn the dress to the wrong side so it’s a little bit easier to see, and I’ll start with this side. I’m taking the side seam, and I’ll fold the seam allowance under and match it to the side seam of the shell. Now I’m just carefully pulling the fabric through so I can pin this in place. I’ll continue to pull the fabric through so I can line up the shell and lining bodice right sides facing with the skirt layer pinned in between them. Once I have everything pinned securely, I’ll go ahead and sew these together here.

This is what it should look like sewn together. This is the lining, and this is the shell, and now I’m just turning it back to the right side, and this is what the lining looks like sewn, and here is a quick look at the other side. Next is to finish the section of the lining. You can see here that I’ve pinned the seam allowance under neatly, and I’ll go ahead and give this a good press. Here is what it should look like now, and again, this is the lining side, and this is the shell. Here is the section that I’ve pressed, creating a crease, but it is still left unsewn.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to be adding elastic to the back, and I’m going to be doing a faux shearing effect, so essentially, I’m going to be making a bunch of channels to insert my elastic. I’m starting by drawing a vertical line an inch away from the edge, then I draw another vertical line right next to where my strap is sewn in. This section measures six inches tall for me, so dividing this into even sections was pretty simple, and I decided to draw horizontal lines every half inch apart, creating these channels. Now I’m going to sew a straight stitch on each of these lines, and here is a close-up of what that should look like.

Now that my channels are sewn, I can insert the elastic. I’m using a quarter-inch wide elastic, and I have attached safety pins on both ends. I’m going in between the shell and lining layers and feeding the elastic through the channel and pinning one end in place. I’ll repeat this with all of my elastic pieces, and you should have something that looks like this. Now I’ll sew a straight stitch on this vertical line, securing this end of the elastic in place. You can see that I’ve removed the safety pins on this side, and I’ll hand sew the section of the lining closed. Here is a close-up, and you can see that all of the raw edges are neatly hidden.

To finish my faux shirring, I’m using the safety pin that is attached to the other end of the elastic and then pulling it to the right side of this vertical line by the strap and pinning it in place. I’ll repeat this with every row, and you should have something that looks like this. Also, a straight stitch on this vertical line, securing the elastic in place, and here is with the completed faux showing should look like. I personally love adding adjustable elements to my makes because I love to eat, and sometimes I get bloated. I’ll repeat the same steps on the other side, and this is what the dress should look like at this point.

Next step is to hand sew this opening closed, and you can’t tell me that this doesn’t look good. You already know I’m so happy because everything looks so nice and neat. This dress is so close to being done, and I’ve already gone ahead and hemmed the skirt by folding the bottom over twice and sewing, but I feel like it’s still a little bit too short on me. I personally like a midi length that stops right above the ankle, and I still have some of this lace left over, so I’m just going to go ahead and add this to the Hem. I did this the exact same way as before, just lining up the lace with the Hem and then sewing everything in place.

So technically, I am done with the dress, but unfortunately, there are two issues that I need to fix. First is this rust stain that I notice on the side of the skirt, and second is that while I was working on the dress, I realized that there were large portions of the fabric that had been bleached by the sun because of the age of the original dress, and it is pretty subtle, and the camera doesn’t really pick it up, but it really bothers me, so I’m gonna have to fix that as well.

I’m gonna tackle the stain first, and the internet told me that lemon juice is meant to get rust stains out, so I’m gonna go ahead and try that. I mixed lemon juice, Dawn dish soap, and salt together and then worked that solution into the stain with a stiff brush and let that sit for a few hours. I’ve gone ahead and washed the solution off, and I am so shocked with how well it worked. The stain is gone, there is no stain left, and now that this problem is fixed, I’m going to fix the sun bleach Problem by dyeing the dress. I’m dyeing this in my sink because I want the dress to be able to move freely in the dye bath, and I went with a really light pink just to try to even the color out.

This Thrift flip was definitely pretty drastic, so here is a reminder of how we started out, and here is the dress now. I’m so glad I bought this to flip because this turned out so much better than I was expecting. I love the contrasting black trim, and I think that this embroidery looks so pretty along the neckline. The faux shirring in the back makes this so comfortable, and I think this color turned out to be the perfect pink. I hope you all enjoyed this video. I am so happy with how this dress turned out, so I hope you all like it too. I’ll be posting more photos of this dress on my Instagram, so make sure you’re following me there as well at Little Toh. If you liked this video, make sure to give it a thumbs up and subscribe to my channel. Let me know in the comments what you thought about this Thrift flip, and as always, thank you so much for watching.”

Bringing It All Together

Now that we have our pieces, it’s time to assemble the dress. Sew a basting stitch along the top of the skirt to create gathers. Pin the skirt to the bodice, spreading the gathers evenly, and sew them together.

Next, we’ll tackle the zipper. Reuse the zipper from the original dress. Sew it in place, then cut the basting stitch to reveal the finished zipper.

Adding the Finishing Touches

For the straps, use ribbon. Place them about three inches from the side seam and sew them in place.

Next, sew the bodice lining, leaving sections unsewn for the straps. Feed the straps through the openings and sew them in place.

To make the dress more comfortable and adjustable, create a faux shirring effect in the back by making channels and sewing in elastic.

Finally, hand sew any remaining openings closed for a neat finish. If necessary, dye the dress to even out any sun-bleached areas. Fold the bottom of the skirt over twice and sew to create a neat hem.

And voila! You have successfully transformed an old dress into a beautiful, modern piece.


There’s something incredibly satisfying about creating something with your own hands. It’s not just about the end product, but the journey of transformation. It’s about taking control of your style, setting high goals, and working hard to achieve them. So why not give it a try? You might just surprise yourself with what you can create.

If you liked this article or projects like this, please follow me on Instagram and YouTube for more images and videos of my work. It means the world to me and is free!

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As always, thank you so much for reading, and happy sewing!

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