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Upcycle Dress To A Denim Vest

Upcycle Dress To A Denim Vest

denim vest pattern

This is the first tutorial to start off with the outgrown denim dress recycling series – splitting the denim dress and sew the top part into a denim vest with a ruffled edge; one of the upcycle tutorials among the 4-piece of garments + accessories sewing projects.

There were a few options in my mind before I decided to make it to a denim vest with a ruffled edge. One of them and the simplest way is by just adding ruffles to the hem and make it an open front button jacket. Then, I found out that the sleeves and collar are annoying and restricting my daughter’s movement, so I took them off and add the ruffles to the entire vest except for the sleeves.

My 8-year-old daughter is so happy that she is able to wear her once outgrown garment but in a stylish way again. With the different cut and design, it is whole new clothes for her now.

ruffles vest

Upcycle Dress To A Denim Vest

1. Denim/jeans dress, drop waist type
2. Seam ripper
3. Strong thread for denim sewing, find the closest thread color to the existing jeans
4. Matching color thread for the new fabric
5. A strong thread of any color for ruffles making
6. 1/2 yard cotton fabric (including ruffles for the skirts and another side of the reversible belt, post to follow soon)
7. Scrap fabric for the hem facing

1. Sewing machine
2. Denim sewing needle #16 or #18
3. Sewing kits and pins
4. Scissors
5. Rotary cutter, quilter’s ruler & rubber mat (optional)


Tips: If you find sewing a thick pile of fabric especially those near the edges is difficult, use thick cardboard to level the presser foot might do the magic. Refer to the denim skirt tutorial for more photos and explanation.

Drop waist Denim Dress

The original drop waist jeans dress for 4 years old. The material is stretchy denim.

Refashion Drop Waist Denim Dress

Split the dress into 2 parts, top & skirt, by unpicking the waist seams.
Set the skirt aside for making it into a ruffled edge skirt and a reversible belt.

Remove collar & sleeve

Remove the stitches from the sleeves, collar, facings of the collar and button bands/plackets too.
If you need to unpick the stitches at the corners of the collar band from the button placket in order to get the facing out, do remember to stitch them back denim to denim and facing to facing.
Keep the sleeves and collar, don’t throw them away. I will use a sleeve to make a rosette brooch. Not sure what am I going to do with the collar.


Remove the facings from the back of the snap buttons if possible. The socket side is easy to remove but the stud side is not, you can skip the stud as they are not as obstructive as the socket buttons. Stud is smaller and flatter than socket snap button.

denim hem

Draw curve lines below the button plackets, extend the curve lines to the hems. You can use a french curve ruler to draw if you have one, otherwise, you can use a plate, bowl, compass even free hand to draw, just have to make sure they are identical.

new hem facing

Trim the end of the original facings of the button plackets horizontally just above the curve.
Prepare a new facing for the curve and the hem.
Join with the button placket’s facing on both sides.
Measure the total length around the vest: collar, the button lines, curve, and hem.
Set aside.

Cut with rotary cutter

To get the length of the ruffle, multiply the measured length by 2 to 2.5.
Cut 2″ width on the chosen fabric with a rotary cutter or scissors. I cut around 3 strips on a 1/2 yard fabric crosswise.
The 1/2 yard cotton fabric is enough to make ruffles for this vest, ruffles for the skirt and another side for the reversible belt too (post coming soon).

ruffles making

Sew to join the ends to make a long circle strip.
Fold and press the strip to half with 1″ wide.

frill making

Set your sewing machine stitch length to the maximum, and tighten the upper tension of the stitch. By tightening the upper tension, it will make your strip gathers a little as you sew.
Use strong sewing thread, sew 3/16″ for the raw edge and a parallel line 5/16″ apart.
Leave long tail for gatherings.
I purposely straighten the one I photographed so that you can see the stitching lines.

Make ruffle

Slowly pull both threads on the top side together (the side that has tighter tension) to further create gathers or ruffles.
Since it is a long strip to make ruffles, pull the thread carefully to prevent breakage.
After a distance, do the same on the other ends until you reach the length around the vest.

adjust ruffles

Spread the gathers evenly. Fold the ruffles into halve to get the center points for the ruffles circles.
Mark with pins.

sew ruffles denim vest

Pin the marking to the top and bottom center on the denim vest, ie. center of the collar and center of the hem.

sew ruffles in jeans

Slowly pin the rest of the ruffles to the right side of the facings, facings only and not to the denim.
Adjust the ruffle’s length accordingly if it is too short or too long.

sew ruffles with facing

Carefully bring the hem facing and the ruffles to the right side of the denim vest. The ruffles are now between the vest and facing, with the hem facing the wrong side up.
Pin them to the denim vest and sew from curve to curve with a 1/4″ seam.
Sew the rest of the ruffles to the button and collar’s facings. Go as near to the hem facing.

sew ruffles denim vest

Trim a notch to cater for the snap buttons so that the seam of the ruffles fit well inside the placket.
Turn the hem facing to the wrong side of the denim vest.
Flip the button and collar facings together with the ruffles to the wrong side too.
All the ruffles are now lined along the edge of the denim vest.

sew ruffles denim vest

Press the seam of the facing if needed to flatten it from the ruffles.
Pin ruffles to the vest without exposing the sewing line of the facing.

refashioned ruffles vest

Set the sewing length similar to the original stitch of the dress, topstitch near the edge and go round the vest.

sew ruffles

Fold the raw edges into the facing, slip stitch around.

ruffles denim vest

Topstitch the armhole if you haven’t done so.

ruffles denim vest - back

Back of the denim vest.

ruffles vest


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