Refashion: Scrubs to Dress
These old scrubs did not fit me (they were my ex-husband’s), were a bit worn down, and I don’t think thrift stores need any more scrubs donated. So I decided to try my hand at turning them into a dress wasting a little fabric as I could.
Step 1: Design
If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I was a bit concerned about the gaps in the front of my Hackney Cardigan. So when I designed this dress in my mind, I wanted to have something to stick out of those gaps and make them worthwhile. Enter stage-left a large ruffle down the front. And if you’re going to have a ruffle down the middle, you better have a button-up design and some bell-sleeves to go with it.
Step 2: Measuring & Drawing
I measured my bust, upper bust, waist, and hips (I took a sitting hip measurement so the dress wouldn’t be snug when I sat down). Then I took vertical measurements from my shoulder to natural waist, waist to just above my knees (where I wanted the hem), bicep circumference, arm length, and armpit depth. The armpit depth is something I really struggle to fit correctly when I knit and sew. I tend to make my sleeves too big and my bodice’s too small in the shoulder and armpit. Knowing this, I took a shirt with something close to the fit I wanted and used that as a guide. This isn’t Project Runway after all.
With these numbers, I calculated how much larger the clothing would have to be to fit correctly. I added an inch to two inches to the circumferences for ease. Then I added 3/4” for seam allowance on the right, left, top, and bottom as necessary.
For the front panels, I added another 3 inches in the center to accommodate a 1.5” button band folded over.
It was important to me that I be able to easily hold the sleeves in my fingers while putting on a coat or sweater, so I measured to about an inch past my wrists.
Once I had all these measurements, I started drawing lines on the scrub top of where the dress's bodice would end up.
Step 3: Dismantling
Dismantling garments for refashioning is fun buy scary; it’s exciting to have some many possibilities open up, but I’m always worried I’m going to regret cutting the clothes up. For the top of the scrubs, I cut off the sleeves and up the sides where I had drawn in new sides and armholes for the front and back (I left the front and back attached at the top of the shoulder). I also cut out the reinforced v-neck. After that, it was time to work on the bottoms.
I knew I wanted to keep the bottoms in tact as much as I could, because I wanted there to be hints that the dress used to be scrubs. These particular scrubs were reversible so I had to remove pockets from the side I claimed as the inside. Pockets were also removed from the scrub top. I cut the pants off at the desired length and then ripped open the inseam and cut up the middle of the front.
The pants were far larger around than necessary, so I cut the front down on each side to fit my measurements. I was careful not to cut the drawstring of the pants when I cut out the center front of the pants.
For the sleeves, I took the bottom 6 inches of the pants as they were, and kept both of these tubes for the end of my sleeves. The remaining middle portion of the pant-legs were seam-ripped open. Onto these I drew the remaining portion of the sleeve and cut it out.
Since the bodice of my dress ends at my natural waist, I cut off the bottom 7 inches of the scrub shirt. This fabric was what I used to make the long ruffle that runs around the neckline and down the front of the dress. The scrubs short sleeves were also used for this ruffle.
The sides of the scrub top were used to make a binding that I used almost like a bias tape to cover up the seam allowance around the neckline and down the front of the dress.
Finally, the reinforced collar I cut out was used as a reinforcement for the button holds on the front of the dress.
Step 4: Assembling the Dress
Once the pieces were cut out, I pinned, basted, and sewed them together. The first step was to sew up the sides of the dress bodice and then sew the bodice to the skirt. I wanted to keep in the tie from the pants, so I stitched them together right below the tie casing.
When I was sewing up the sleeves, I went a bit too quickly and accidentally folded the fabric under as I was finishing the seam with a decorative stitch. I love decorative stitches, but if you make a mistake with them, they are not fun to pick out. I did the best I could, but the fabric had quite a few pockmarks from this. I reinforced this spot with some hand embroidery after the dress was done.
After sewing the sleeves into tubes, I attached the cuffs of the pants to make the bells. This took some careful pinning to distribute the fabric evenly.
Once the sleeves were attached it was time to deal with the ruffle. I measure the length around my neck and down one side of the dress at 65”. To get a decent ruffle effect, I doubled this length and created a 110” long 5” wide strip of fabric. To save some time, I used the hem of the scrub shirt where I could so I didn’t have to finish the entire length of the ruffle.
Pinning the ruffle on took an entire evening to distribute the fabric evenly and I had to open up my backup supply of pins because I didn’t have enough in my usual set.
Step 5: Finishing
I sewed on the back pocket which was removed from the inside of the dress. Finished the hem. And put binding where the ruffle attached to the dress. On the left front of the dress, I took a 1” wide flat cord (upcycled from packaging for pillow shams), and sewed that on as reinforcement for the button band.
The very last touch to this dress after adding the buttons, was extra button holes on the ruffle. These holes line up with the clasps on my Hackney Cardigan so that when I close the cardigan, the ruffle of the sweater still shows through. I feel awfully clever for this trick and I really love the way these two look together.
This was my first major refashion project and it was a tremendous amount of fun. Of course, I told myself I would go very slow with this dress and not have any mistakes, but that didn’t happen. I gave this project a passing grade on my rules for clothes. Although it lost a few points on comfort.
Ethical: All supplies were upcycled from materials I already had which is a big plus. Unfortunately, the fabric of the scrubs is mostly polyester. This has affected the comfort and unfortunately it won’t biodegrade when it’s past mending.
Affordable: Total cost: $0 (Although the buttons were from my button jar, I’m not sure where they came from…)
Comfortable: Although I can’t exactly do yoga in this woven fabric (it’s a tad tight around the shoulders, I still have to work on perfecting armhole depth), it wore very well for a day at the office. I’d rather be wearing 100"% cotton than a polyester blend, but it certainly didn’t both me in February. We’ll have to see how it wears in summer. Also, this dress is meant to be worn with leggings since it’s front opening is just a tad short for comfortable wear with bare legs.
Beautiful: Ruffles. Embroidery. Fits my shape. Pretty blue. You bet I felt good in this dress; it fits my style and gets compliments on the street.