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How to modernise a prairie dress

28th February, 2019   |   How To...Guides

I adore prairie dresses but for me they need a contemporary edge. Find out how to convert a prairie dress, change the skirt into a modern shape and style up the neck and cuffs. 

I bought this vintage Laura Ashley dress from my local charity shop for £20. I loved the neckline and the colour but I knew I wouldn’t wear it in its original form – far too frou-frou for me.

Converting the skirt

I wanted to do something a bit different with the skirt and decided to experiment with boning which is fantastic for holding structure and creating interesting silhouettes.

With Nana from Splendid Stitches, we planned a way of drawing in the bottom of the skirt and creating a tulip shape which made the dress instantly more modern and wearable. She took up the skirt and created a new hemline. Then she threaded the boning through the new hemline tube so we could gather the skirt to retain the volume but draw it in at the bottom. It’s so much more wearable like this and adds a contemporary look to a 1980s dress originally styled on Victoriana. Multiple eras in one item of clothing!

Adding ribbons

The lace around the neck and cuffs was a little bit raggedy so we removed it and replaced it with some new, really original pleated ribbon I found in VV Rouleaux. This instantly added interest and lifted the whole look. We used a wider version around the neck and a thinner version around the cuffs.

Tips for doing it yourself

Ribbon is a converter’s dream. For a few pounds you can turn an average item of clothing into something really special and unique, just by sewing on some beautiful ribbon or trim.

Don’t be tempted to go overboard though, I normally choose tonal colours to match the clothing and restrain myself on where I put it. Less is more and will always look more stylish.

Changing the shape of the skirt on a dress can create a whole new look. Working with boning can give fabulous structure but it can be a bit tricky if you’re not used to it so I’d recommend getting a machinist or tailor to do that bit for you.

Add ribbons, change up a skirt and send me photos – I’d love to see your conversions!

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