Thrifting Chronicles: $3 DIY Polka Dot Bow Blouse

*Nordstrom's Half-Yearly sale starts today! I haven't looked yet, so please let me know any good finds : )*diydot5
I showed this blouse a while back and received several requests for a tutorial. Unfortunately, I didn't document the process very well as I was just experimenting around. I'm not a professional sewer, so these steps are just to show what I did and are not intended as instructions!

Earlier this year, I couldn't get enough of feminine tie-neck blouses. I wasn't in love with the options out on the market due to either fit, quality, or price points, thus ventured out to Savers thrift store. I zoomed through the racks looking for items that were:

- either in nice fabrics (silk, wool, etc) or interesting prints
- had a collar
- affordable enough to experiment with

I like shopping thrift stores for "fabric" versus going to regular fabric stores, because you can find nice, unique materials for cheap, plus, you can take advantage of existing features like button plackets or collars. It's all about seeing the potential. The collar feature was key for me, as it makes a piece so much more versatile (see last photo in post). After a dizzying spin through the store, I ended up with this monster of a dowdy shirt for $2.99:
diydot4
Using a loosely-cut sleeveless blouse from H&M as a template, I dissected the shirt into five pieces: 1 torso, 2 pieces from sleeves to join together as the necktie, and 2 pieces from sleeves to finish raw edges on the armholes...

After snipping off the sleeves and slimming the sides of the torso, I noticed a fit issue. There was an unsightly gap, almost like an air bubble, near the armpit. Professional sewers would've known better to insert bust darts ahead of time, but I learned my lesson afterwards. The purpose of bust darts are simple - the front of your body is not flat as a sheet, so darts are necessary for allowing the fabric to contour against the curved portion of your chest and arms. 
diydot
Again, I used my H&M shell as a guide for dart size and placement:
diydot7
Next, you may have noticed that the edges of the armholes were raw and unsightly after the sleeves got snipped off. I'm sure there are a few ways to take care of this, but I ended up using some material from the sleeves to wrap around the raw edges.
diydot1
Finished armholes:
diydot2
Finally, I joined together the long sleeve strips to make the neck tie. The two strips were not long enough to tie a blow, so I had to salvage more scraps here and there to add a third joint. Definitely making use of every last bit of the $2.99!
diydot3 I've also worn this blouse with a solid black sash as the tie and it worked nicely. If you have existing collared blouses - try looping a long, thin sash (or fabric belts from other garments) around the neck to add some bow-tie flavor. Just make sure the material is lightweight or else it will droop heavily and not retain a perky bow shape.

Finished product once again, and another outfit showing the versatility of a pretty collar:
diydot6 On a last note, many of you have asked for sewing machine recommendations. I've used the same old Brother machine for over 10 years. The model is no longer made, but it has just the basic few stitches and has served me well as a beginner's machine. It looks very similar to this lightweight 10-stitch Brother machine which is more affordable than most options.

Readers - Do you like to re-purpose items from the thrift store?

I won't be able to answer any comments, questions or emails until June. Thank you for your patience!

130 comments:

  1. What a chic transformation! I'm finally going to be taking sewing lessons soon so I look forward to being able to repurpose thrift store finds.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The finished blouse looks great! Very nice job.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't have the skills to do this, but I love what you've done!

    xoxo
    ~Natasha Fatah~
    ~Natasha Fatah~

    ReplyDelete
  4. You did such an amazing job! My mom would be proud, she's also a great petite seamstress. I unfortunately can't sew ;( I know I should take the time to learn. Any tips on where to start?

    ReplyDelete
  5. You never cease to amaze me!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Amazing job Jean what a great tutorial everything looks kind of easy for those who can sew can't wait to try it out.

    xoxo
    Cari
    myfashionarchive.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow Jean, you did a good job. I wish I have the talent.
    keep posting more tutorials.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is so fabulous! Thanks for having such a great blog for petites!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love the yellow skirt, could you tell me where it's from?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just fyi - the skirt is from modcloth but has been out of the size small for so long...sadly..

      Delete
  10. oh wow, that is amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Exactly what I've been looking for! Thanks for this tutorial! I am going to try it on my boyfriend's shirt. LOVE your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I admire how you are so able to do. My grandmother would love you! I should mention that my grandmother was a seamstress her entire life and I can't sew! :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. For not being a 'professional sewer' you sure had me fooled :)

    <3

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amazing Jean! Man, I need to take more sewing lessons. Perhaps a summer goal? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is truly amazing and it really makes me want to learn how to sew! You did a great job - love the polka dots! :)


    http://www.pennypincherfashion.com

    ReplyDelete
  16. You are amazing!!! I wouldn't buy that original blouse cause I don't have any re-purpose ideas!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love this DIY blouse! I didn't think to thrift something and make a bow tie from the sleeves! Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have not touched my sewing machine in years, but your inspiring post just gave me courage! Today I found a darling linen skirt at Goodwill for 6 bucks - the fabric is great, the cut is not. I'm going to see what I can whip up. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. I absolutely love what you did with your shirt! I, too, am going to dust off my old sewing machine. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  20. WOW! I admire your skills and good eye/taste

    ReplyDelete
  21. After reading your post I want to learn how to sew. I love the transformation of your blouse. Just looking after the before image the blouse itself looks "ehh" and the after image looks amazing!! The blouse itself looks like a $30- $40 blouse. Love it! you inspire me all the time Jean =)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Very nice job! You have a good eye for seeing the potential in the BEFORE version of the shirt. hehe

    Huge armholes are a problem for me too. I usually pay attention to the fit on the model form if they have a picture from the size view of an item I want to purchase it. Another problem is really long straps (ahem, Theory, even in sz P or 0) so I find that I have to get the straps taken up for things I love but don't want to pass up.

    I love polka dot blouses and just bought one on Piperlime (Trinity Polka Dot tank) with no collar.

    I wish I knew how to sew or had a friend that sewed (and my mom is out of state). I usually take my alternations to Best Fit on Newbury St (and I've tried Michael's Alterations for the easier stuff since he's cheaper) but maybe I'll try yours (Hemmingway Tailors) from your previous reviews one of these days. :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Wow. I love that you took a meh blouse and make it into an amazing blouse.

    ReplyDelete
  24. That is amazing! Love how it looks when paired with the mustard shirt.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Wow! That looks really well done! Super creative too. =]

    ReplyDelete
  26. So cool! Great job, I seriously thought that you spent a fortune on the top, I'm going to try and do the same with some of the blouses that I haven't worn in a while, thanks!

    xoxo,
    Genie


    www.uniqueandchicstyle.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  27. Holy moly! Gorgeous transformation, Jean! You're getting REALLY good at this stuff. When is your petite clothing line coming out? ;)

    I don't think I have the patience for a project like that. I bought a skirt on super sale that had loose threads in the embroidery, and after a few sad attempts to fix them myself, I just handed it to my tailor to fix. I think I'm more of a "throw money at the problem" kind of person than a DIY'er. =(

    ReplyDelete
  28. Wow! You did an amazing job altering that top!! I agree with Kelly...you're getting good!!

    You are making me want to bring my sewing machine to my house(stored at parents...like a lot of things!)

    ReplyDelete
  29. This is so cool! You're such an inspiration :)
    Love the polkadots too...

    www.theyoungertwingirl.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  30. Wow, really nice transformation. You're a talented seamstress!

    ReplyDelete
  31. What an awesome change! You are such an inspiration for altering clothes you already have!

    http://fiveminutefashions.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  32. Inspiring! This post encouraged me to pull out my sewing machine I bought years ago. I'm sure the skills acquired in my one semester of beginning sewing will come back to me once I keep at it. =)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Wow, love this transformation! Only if my sewing machine isn't broken... haha

    Ayumi

    www.chibi-chic.com

    ReplyDelete
  34. Always making everything look so good... and so easy! If it were me, I'd probably have sewn my finger... that's actually happened to me once :X Love your DIY posts as usual!
    aneyeforfashion.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  35. Aww..cool!
    I wanna make something like this from my old blouse ^.^

    ReplyDelete
  36. I love this post Jean - I think you did a fabulous job on this shirt...professional sewer or not! I've never thought to repurpose a dowdy blouse like this, but now you have my cogwheels spinning. I love to get treasures at the thrift store and fix them up. I just finished drafting a blog post for tomorrow with a red skirt I found at Goodwill for $5. All I had to do was hem it. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  37. Very nice, Jean! I'm glad you decided to make this DIY into a full post because it turned out so beautifully and looks like you sewed it from scratch rather than a refashioned garment.

    If you're interested in other sleeve finishing options, here are 2 that I've used in the past: 1. Sew bias tape (purchased for under $2 or self-made) to the edge, fold in, and secure fold with a line of stitching. This allows you to have a narrower look like the H&M top. 2. If you have additional fabric, create a facing for each armhole. This allows you a finished look without a visible sewn edge. For example, would look like the armholes of a lined sleeveless top without having to line the entire top. Eek, this makes more sense in my head than typed out. Let me know if you have questions :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The armhole part looks the most complicated, thanks for the tip on the bias tape. I still don't think I could get even stitching all the way around the hole since its such a narrow place to work with.

      Delete
  38. Oh and sewing machines - I recommend this Singer from Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/SINGER-4411-Heavy-Sewing-Machine/dp/B003VWXZKG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1337760466&sr=8-2

    It's well-priced ($127 + free ship, can sew heavier duty fabrics and stitches so much more consistently than my cheapie Brother from Wal-Mart (Mom used to have an older Brother that worked marvelously but it seems like the newer, economy line has suffered in quality).

    ReplyDelete
  39. wow great DIY!
    http://silviainvenice.blogspot.it/

    ReplyDelete
  40. That looks like a professional job to me! Very inspiring, Jean! Thank you so much for sharing this, and all your other posts, I find them so so helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  41. That's pretty amazing! It looks absolutely wonderful! You are so talented :-)

    Maria

    www.daintyanddecadent.com

    ReplyDelete
  42. i wish i knew how to sew.. great work doll =]

    ReplyDelete
  43. magical!~!~ i wish i had an "eye" for seeing a thrift pieces and their potential. may have to look twice before i throw something away next time. great post x

    ReplyDelete
  44. that is such an amazing transformation!! sooooo pretty Jean! love how you paired the polka dot top with the nude/pink dress!

    Laura x

    demure-porcelain.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  45. You did a really good job Jean, and thanks for the tutorial.I love sewing, but haven't done any since I moved to the US. Planning to buy a machine soon and get back to it :)

    ReplyDelete
  46. Wow! Thrift shopping score! Great $3 blouse and amazing tutorial! I don't know if I have what it takes to completely turn around a shirt.

    My DIY is limited to pillow covers or seat covers.

    Helen

    ReplyDelete
  47. Oh wow, this is amazing. The finished blouse looks like you bought it at the store, you did such a great job! I need to learn how to sew!

    xo, Yi-chia

    ReplyDelete
  48. you are so creative! i wouldn't have thought to do that but now it's a lesson to always think of the possibilities!! you did a great job on this! xox P

    ReplyDelete
  49. Super cute! Where did you get the peach dress?

    ReplyDelete
  50. Well done renovating the blouse.

    Haven't bought anything from a thrift store, so I can't say.

    ReplyDelete
  51. This is awesome! Beautiful shirt! Hope studying is going well, Jean!

    ReplyDelete
  52. Wow. I enjoy your future daughters ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  53. Wow! You did a great job on this!

    I love thrifting :)

    ReplyDelete
  54. wooow such a easy change n huge difference! i love it www.alefazka.blogspot.com visit me when u have a min

    ReplyDelete
  55. This is amazing Jean!! You're so creative, and I LOVE how cheap it was!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  56. this is INCREDIBLE! I just thrifted a very similiar maternity top that is black with white polka dots...and am going to try to follow your steps! (for a big belly, though)
    Adorable transformation - love the photos.

    ReplyDelete
  57. * Bows down to the amazing Jean * I wish I had those kinds of skills! I'm sure I'd end up with some sort of patched mess if I were to do it myself. Love the finished look :)

    ReplyDelete
  58. finishing the armholes look sooooo tough! gosh, you musta had a lotta patience. add this to the list of another great DIY project!

    ReplyDelete
  59. Adorei... Visite o meu blog http://tucafashion.blogspot.com.br/

    ReplyDelete
  60. I have always known how to sew as my mom taught me (she made her own wedding dress!) and have made a lot of quilts and done basic hemming. But after reading more and more about fit and especially on petites, I've realized I need to get comfortable with sewing. This is a great idea for finding cheap items and practicing! I will def be doing this over the long weekend. :)

    ReplyDelete
  61. Seeing the potential is a skill that is innate. Even though I have none in me, I am slowly learning from bloggers like you and SPG. Great post. And love the end product.

    ReplyDelete
  62. The top is absolutely adorable and looks much better then the original.

    www.lenasblend.com

    ReplyDelete
  63. hi jean,
    i'm by no means petite, but i just wanted to comment on how awesome this post is. also, this blog is so widely applicable to so many people, not just petites. thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  64. Love! Have been enjoying the refashion/alterations posts that you've been putting up --- I've been doing it on and off for awhile now, but I always learn neat tricks when you post about it. I agree, collared shirts are really versatile, especially when the collar peeks out a bit, creates a whole new look. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  65. wow! the finished blouse is amazing! love in what you transformed it and specially the tie/bow detail on the neck line...

    xoxo
    Mady

    thegirlfromthemirror.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  66. That's a fantastic product; awesome that you intentionally hunted for something that suited what you had in mind - i'm too lazy to do that. BUt I really love how thrifty you are - it really equips one with an eye to see the potential in everything and honestly, your blog is so much more helpful than fantastic ones with amazing bloggers modelling top-to-toe designer because 90% of us can't afford that anyway. Yay, great job!

    ReplyDelete
  67. you make it look so easy!! i wish i had sewing skills like you! love the transformation!

    ReplyDelete
  68. Amazing transformation! Could never expect such a chic result from a simple, much unflattering shirt!

    ReplyDelete
  69. Hi!! I'm a new fashion blogger and i stumbled upon yours for inspiration! i'm in love! you execute everything perfectly :) I will be back :):)

    www.richlittle-poorgirl.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  70. So pretty!!
    xoxo From JPN

    http://momoko-hasegawa.blogspot.jp/

    ReplyDelete
  71. Wow! what an amazing transformation. How long did it take you to achieve the end product

    octoberchic.com

    ReplyDelete
  72. I love this post! You should do more DIY updates. It's easy for people like Really Petite to run out and buy all the outfits that you've put together but you can't buy talents and good eyes for fashion. :)

    ReplyDelete
  73. Jean, your skills are impeccable. What a wonderful result!

    ReplyDelete
  74. great transformation. you're so talented :D

    ReplyDelete
  75. you are very inspiring. you make DIY alterations seem so easy! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  76. You are truly amazing Jean! The huge blouse turned into such a lovely and versatile top! Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  77. Very nice blog.
    The posts are interesting. I found many ideas.
    Well done!
    If you'd like to see changes in my blog or my facebook fanpage.
    Kisses from Italy! :-*

    Habanero Handmade

    BLOG: http://habanerohandmade.blogspot.it

    FANPAGE FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Habanero-Handmade-Fanpage/119842804790054

    ReplyDelete
  78. I looove the result!

    http://inelegancewetrust.blogspot.de/

    ReplyDelete
  79. Great DIY!

    http://natcosmetics.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  80. Wow! I wish I was this talented then I'd have better fitting clothes. How do you add a bust dart?

    ReplyDelete
  81. Hi Jean!

    I went to Goodwill today and found the exact same blouse, new with tag for $3.99! I have never used a sewing machine before (LOL) but I'm hoping to turn it into a beauty like yours with my mother inlaw's help.

    Thanks for the DIY and keep up the great work!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Omigoodness - what are the chances? Please email or tweet/FB me a photo of it as I'd love to share the long lost sister of my thrifted shirt : )

      Delete
  82. Polkadot skirt is perfect in today's generation. You did a good job in recovering your skirt. At last, it is look like a high class clothes.

    ReplyDelete
  83. what?! so smart!!!! thanks for sharing!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  84. Wow, that's a terrific alteration! Beautifully done.

    ReplyDelete
  85. HERMOSO CAMBIO :) QUEDO LINDISIMA. MUCHA SUERTEE CON TU BLOG :)
    XOXO

    http://livelovelaugh10.blogspot.com.ar/

    ReplyDelete
  86. Love this idea! I have been looking for a long sleeveless shirt to layer over tanks and dresses this summer but haven't been able to find what I am looking for. Will be hitting the thrift stores soon to try this.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Fantastic job! By the way, do you have additional information around how you finished armhole edge? I removed couple of my long sleeved shirts, but not sure how to finished the armhole edges.

    ReplyDelete
  88. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  89. Jeannie-pooh I'm always impressed by your unique ways of making something ill-fitting and turning it into something cute, chic and stylish! The bow tie from the sleeves is a PLUS! I also love your tutorials because they are so easy to follow and what's best is even though you have a hundred+ messages per blog post, you're still very responsive to your readers! :) Keep up the excellent job on your blog!

    P.S. In regards to your comment on my vacation diaries, I think when it comes to cruising the best way to explore the islands is get off the ship no later then 9/10AM and plan in advance. I really enjoy cruising, but definitely would love to visit one of these islands for 3-4 days next time... Hope you two have fun wherever you go and I'd love to see your vacation diaries too! :)

    www.KTRstyle.com

    ReplyDelete
  90. Uniform supplier
    Prudential Service programs include uniform rental, uniform lease, uniform purchase for industrial uniform programs and related services.

    http://www.prudentialonlinestore.com/

    ReplyDelete
  91. This inspires me to do more thrifting!

    ReplyDelete
  92. This is truly an amazing transformation! You should be proud of your sewing skills! =]

    ReplyDelete
  93. I would buy that in a store! Such a cute transformation!

    ReplyDelete
  94. Wow, I love it! The top definitely looks very expensive and chic after the transformation. I'm not sure I have the sewing prowess to pull this project off but I'm really impressed by what you did with it!

    xo Gillie

    ReplyDelete
  95. I wish I had the talent to sew things...

    victoireannie.com

    ReplyDelete
  96. Great transformation! I wish I could sew!

    ReplyDelete
  97. Wow! That's an amazing makeover. I wish I had sewing talent and ability. You make it look easy and I know that's not the case.

    ReplyDelete
  98. I am halfway through this DIY and am having trouble with the bust darts. Do you put them in before sewing the side seam? If so, won't the front piece be shorter than the back? I can't seem to get it right and would appreciate help from anyone who has tried this tutorial.

    Thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jessica - they have to be added before sewing the side seam. Experienced sewers probably plan ahead with the pattern and adjust so that the front piece is longer, and therefore can have a bust dart allowance and still be the same length as the back...unfortunately for me, I was learning as I go and it was an afterthought.

      Delete
  99. so cute! I love bow-tie tops!!

    ~Amy
    www.LadyMockinbird.com

    ReplyDelete
  100. Thanks for this tutorial - it looks fab!

    ReplyDelete
  101. I love these refashion tutorials! I'm too cheap to buy clothes full price,;) so I usually buy from thrift stores. The clothes don't always fit right, so I end up making adjustments, so any tutorials are always helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  102. I purchased several badly out-of-style Good Will dresses last year, and easily and quickly made them into wonderful skirts -- but your tutorial suggests that I should alter the upper dress areas and keep them as dresses. Thanks so much for this eye-opener!

    ReplyDelete
  103. Such a wonderful post!
    Come check out my website please please!

    ReplyDelete
  104. Thought you might like to know that someone has taken all of your pictures and spliced them together to make a pinterest tutorial which doesn't link back to you in any way. http://pinterest.com/pin/96053404523376088/
    Not that I'm aware of any way to combat this ignorant behaviour, I know of other bloggers who have their projects similarly treated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait, there's a report pin button which has an option for "this is my intellectual property". It's got to be worth a try

      Delete
  105. Wow this is amazing!! I love seeing amazing transformations :)
    http://lilmsadventures.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  106. I havn't before, but know that I've seen this, I going to try to start to! This is amazing! I would love if you looked at my cooking blog,
    www.1cupofsugar.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  107. Oh I love it! I have to go run to a thrift shop now :P
    Thank you for the tutorial!

    ReplyDelete
  108. You are so skilled! Excellent execution. Saw this on Carly's Chic Steals and had to come over to check it out. Love the added bow. So cute!
    xx
    maya
    http://byebyesoccermom.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  109. Such a pretty job! I love what you did with that shirt. I need to sew better!

    ReplyDelete
  110. Yes indeed. Thrifting is so much cheaper and more interesting than buying fabric. (Although I tend to be a bit of a hacker.)

    ReplyDelete
  111. A simple process of sewing and stitching has transformed the shirt into a chic element!
    Quite impressive styling too.

    check us out?
    www.headtilt.in

    ReplyDelete
  112. I recently discovered your blog and I absolutely love it! Your DIY posts are great and have inspired me to start my own sewing adventures and blog. I bought a beginner's Brother machine and am having a blast with it. Inspired by this post particularly, I just completed my first DIY alteration!

    ReplyDelete
  113. Hi Jean- what type of thread and setting did you use on this project? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  114. Service Uniform delivers to several locations surrounding Denver, including Aurora. Uniform rentals offer clean and customized solutions for any work environment. Service Uniform provides uniforms for any type of company whether it is corporate, blue collar, industrial, manufacturing, repair or service. Other products are also offered at Service Uniform, such as mats, towels, fender covers, and dust mops.

    ReplyDelete
  115. Beautiful but I'd like to know how you did the finishing of the armholes. I don't quite understand how to do that.

    ReplyDelete
  116. Hi, I was wondering if you knew how to make a sleeve narrower? I bought a huge blazer from a thrift store (size 6, I'm a 00 like you) and the sleeves are far too wide (not to mention everything else). Any pointers?

    ReplyDelete
  117. In regards to present day fashion, the fitness world has created a craze of certain items such as gym tank tops and yoga pants that are worn as casual wear by many people on a daily basis, whether they attend a gym or not.
    sleeveless shirts

    ReplyDelete

 
Pin It button on image hover