Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

Mumu dress--How to take apart and reuse a garment tutorial!

I do this a lot.  I cut apart garments and remake them into new things, which I see as a very eco-friendly and thrifty way to get new clothes!  I keep things out of the landfill, pay $1.19/lb for the pieces at Goodwill Outlet most of the time, and get to be creative and play around with patterns I might not otherwise use if I weren't a little constrained by the amount of fabric I have.  Some examples are my pants-dress and my men's shirt-dress, as well as the mumu I turned into a dress yesterday.

If you read my post yesterday, I told you about how I remade this mumu into a sundress.   There's the before, process, and after, although I also wanted to show you a little tutorial on how to do this yourself with a garment.

How about a tutorial?
  • The first step in reusing a garment is disassembling it as much as possible.  This isn't always true, and if you're making over a tee into a tank top or something, you probably don't need to undo the side seams.  But for something like a mumu into a dress, or parachute pants into a skirt, you'll want to get the busy details of the original garment out of your way.  I started by cutting off the yoke and pockets, and the sleeves along the sleeve seam.
  • Now, you'll take apart the big seams.  On vintage stuff, I've found often the thread is worn-out and old (and cotton), and will easily rip without hurting the fabric.  Test first, but you can probably snip the first few stitches, then tear!  Or, if you're not comfortable, use a seam ripper or small scissors.
  • Press, press, press!  This is very important.  Make your pieces nice and flat, as if they were simply oddly-shaped brand new pieces of fabric.
  • Lay the pieces out together, lining them up (you should have at least two symmetrical pieces, and I had four--two from the front, two from the back, that had been sew together at the centers).  Make sure to put them right sides together (or wrong sides together, whatever).  If you lay them on top of each other in sequence and cut out a pattern, you'll have two left or two right sides, rather than mirror images of each other.
  • Lay out your pattern (all the pieces, making sure you have enough to do it all) and cut as you normally would.  You may have to get creative to make it all fit on the limited pieces you have!
  • Hopefully you have enough for everything.  I laid it all out, then cut my big pieces first and my small ones after, thinking it wouldn't be the end of the world if I had to have some contrast pieces somewhere in there (although I didn't).  I did piece the waistband.
Oh, by the way, I used Butterick 3168 with some modifications.  I made the bodice and skirt one piece, rather than separated with a thin band of elastic in a casing at the waist, and instead added five rows of elastic thread shirring to cinch it in.

Here's what the dress looks like now!

There you go!  Hope you feel a little better cutting into thrifted pieces to make something new =).  It's really a satisfying feeling, when you get done!


  1. Fantastic, thanks for the tips. This reaaaally makes me want to go check out the mumu section of the thrift store on my lunch break!

  2. Thank you for that tutorial. I also am a big fan of the goodwill outlet, its a great place to find yards of material too. You are amazing, love your dress making abilities!

  3. That's amazing!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Just popping in to say that I LOVE your blog! It inspired me to go through my closet and turn a few old things into something new. Thanks!

  5. I do this a lot. I buy skirts from Goodwill with cute prints/interesting hems, take them apart and make little girls' A-line dresses with them. They've turned out really cute!

  6. Cool! I like this tutorial. I plan to make a few items from stuff I bought at thrift stores.

    Great inspirations! Keep up the good work!

  7. carol myers7/15/2010

    LOVE IT!!!

  8. ficou muito bom
    trabalho com consertos
    e as vezes faço estas transformações

  9. So cute!! I totally just scored a BUNCH of vintage mumu'ish looking vintage clothes for only a buck for the whole bag the other day! Now I can us this fabulous tutorial to prove to my husband that,yes,I really did need to buy them all...LOL:) Thanks for sharing!

  10. The dress turned out very cute. Good job

  11. Hi Suzannah, Great job! I love your blog. I tried looking for this patterns online, but couldn't find any. What would be a similar pattern to this Butterick 3164 that you could requment to me. Thanks. >

  12. Hi Kimi,
    Thanks! Unfortunately I've never seen a modern pattern of a similar style, that I can think of. My main recommendation is to keep checking back by Googling it and looking at Shopping results, or checking Etsy and Ebay. It also wouldn't be that hard to do without a pattern, since there are no darts, just using your measurements and maybe starting with a muslin! Sorry about that, good luck!

  13. This is the MOST HELPFUL advice that I've come across online about cutting into vintage clothing and re-fashioning/re-using them. :D Thank you so much!!!! This was very helpful. I always get a little scared before I cut into my thrift store finds. This tutorial is just the thing I needed to read! THANK YOU! Love the photos included too. I learn so much from your blog. High-five! :)

  14. I just took apart a linen dress that was immacuately tailored. Sort of hated that but I'll never wear it as it was. However, I wanted the plain linen for embroidery. I have another dress through, black and white gingham, that I intend to alter only slightly, adding some red contrast to zing it up. I love the challenge of it - tho you look a whole lot better in your clothes than I do. LOL!

  15. You did an awesome job. :) I'm impressed with how well the finished dress fits.

  16. What a great change! You did a great job!

  17. What a great change! I love your new dress out of that...inspired!

  18. That's really nice. Completely different, mood,style.Great idea/design!



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