Upcycling From 6 Dollar Disaster to This

Posted In: Design | Fashion | My Designs

Lately, I’ve been really into upcycling. It’s cheap, fun, and the possibilities are endless. Plus, it’s a GREAT way to cut back on waste and reuse old materials! If you’re looking for an environmentally-friendly project to try, look no further.

So that’s why, on a recent trip to Goodwill with my mom, I decided to pick up this $6 beauty.

Here’s the dress BEFORE my upcycling project:

6 dollar goodwill dress before upcycling
goodwill upcycling photo

I guess it’s not awful, but it’s definitely far from special. Which makes it perfect for an upcycling project! Well that, and the fact that there was plenty of material to work with. 

So, I got to brainstorming. My process always starts the same way:

1. Make a rough sketch

Sketch of dress for upcycling project

I’m hoping my sketch examples will show you that you don’t have to be good at drawing to make sketches of your own. These sketches clearly aren’t perfectly-drawn, but they help me get a clearer idea of what my final design will look like and how to get there.

2. Start chopping it up

This is the part of the process that I should probably generally put more effort into. Most of my designs have worked out the way I’d envisioned them (thought not always–check out my design fails here), but I could’ve gotten to the end products with a little less seam-ripping. 

Here’s how parts of this step looked like for this project. I started with the cups for the top and worked with whatever material was left for the bottom from there.

6 dollar goodwill dress cutting process
Cutting dress for upcycling project
Upcycling top of goodwill dress

3. Sew it all together

Sadly, I have no pictures to show for this part of the process because this is normally the point where I just want to get things done. The planning and measuring and cutting all take so long that I like to speed through the actual sewing part. 

4. Add the finishing touches

Back of goodwill dress after upcycling project

In this case, I added buttons to the back of the dress because they seemed like a better fit for the material than a zipper.

And, lastly, I cut off any extra material and threads. When creating an outfit, I also generally leave a bit of extra room to make sure the garment will fit. So at this point in the project I made the dress a little more fitted at the waist.

Now here’s the final project and the final step…


5. Wear it on my travels

Upcycling 6 dollar goodwill dress

As a frequent traveler, I thought it’d be fun to model my creations all around the world. So I’ve started taking them with me and doing photo shoots while abroad. Extra bonus: whenever people compliment your clothes, you get to say, “Thanks. I actually made this.” And then watch their expression change to one of amazement. It’s one of the best feelings in the world!

This particular photo was taken in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, make sure to check out this guide with travel tips from locals.


Have you done any upcycling clothing projects? I’d love to see!

Let me know what you thought of this one and comment with other designs you’d like me to make. And as always, don’t forget to share!

Upcycling 6 dollar goodwill dress
  • Anton
    October 5, 2018

    Oh my gosh! That dress is marvelous. Can you make me a dress too? Nakita Flaming is definitely in need of a new outfit 😉

    • emilystuebing
      October 6, 2018

      Thank you so much!! I’ve got you covered 😉

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