Upcycled Victorian/Steam-Punk Inspired Dress from Thrifted Denim and Curtains

Updated: Sep 11, 2020


Upcycle Inspiration


Magazines Before Pinterest

Not Freezing in the Winter


The Riff On The Riff?

The Before

The Process

The Final Pictures

Next Upcycle

Links to Similar Projects


Upcycle Inspiration

My inspiration for Upcycles come from many places.

No shocker that I get a lot of ideas from Pinterest.

I am very active on Pinterest as a browser and a creator of Pins. I have my boards organized and collect pins that excite me on an artistic level.

Pinterest also sends me emails with 'ideas I might like'. Pinterest gets it wrong maybe 30% of the time, but the other 70%? are spot on, right up my alley of interest.

My preferred Pins are for Runway Fashion or the fabulous "It" women in amazing outfits walking the cobbled roads and Italian gravel pathways to the seasonal shows in Paris, Milan, London or New York.

me, 2014, Paris--of course!--not the styling 'it' girl, but the practical tourist in sneakers


I enjoy the Avant-Garde, high fashion styling of these well-put together, seemingly effortlessly, mostly wealthy ladies. Who else can afford designer clothes? or even more so Haute-Couture?.

Their lifestyle is quite the contrast from my more practical way of life with daily drudgery of the mundane. Okay, it's not as bad as descriptions of the Victorian sweat shops of the Dicken's novel. But my life is not-so-exciting (cooking for the family, gardening, some shopping, occasional dinner party--but that's about it), and my humdrum life has gotten even more repetitious by the 'stay at home' mandates of Covid. I am not complaining. I just want some excitement.

me, morning computer work

For some people, their guilty pleasure is "90-day Fiance" TV reality show, and my escape?...it's high-fashion. OK, I admit. I am addicted to watching "90-day Fiance". My husband and I thought there was NO WAY we could get sucked in, but we did!

High-Fashion is a dream world for me where I can pretend to be somewhere else: sitting outside drinking a coffee at a French corner bistro, eating pasta out in the country in Provence, or looking at art in one of London's museums.

me, shoving a baguette sandwich in my face sitting outside the Louvre

...that sandwich tasted so good

Magazines Before Pinterest

Pinterest has also been instrumental in introducing me to new designers! Before computers, there were fashion magazines, and then I only knew about the designers that could afford to buy the advertisements.

Yes, I knew about Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace, etc. But I would have never found designers like Joanna Ortiz, Ulla Johnson, and Silvia Tcherassi if it weren't for Pinterest.

I mean

IN-L O V E !

These three designers are fabulously similar in their aesthetics: flowy fabrics, layers of skirts, meringue like sleeves, elegant yet not formal, unique silhouettes, surprising fabric print combinations....and I could go on.

Where you can find ALL 3 of these women designers is on a website called Moda Operandi , an online retailer of not only my favorite 3 designers, but many others who are similar in charming designs----NONE I can afford. Or maybe I could, but I'd been living on rice & beans for long stretches at a time and couldn't afford Air Conditioning in the Summer or Heat in the Winter.

(FYI: I am not sponsored by any of these designers or Moda Operandi--just wanted to throw that out there! So the links aren't click bait. Just a quick way for you to see what I am referring to.)

Not Freezing In the Winter

Let's get back to the the prices of these designers' pieces--like me freezing in the Winter...

No, I will never buy one of these $600 dresses. It will never happen. Even if I won the lottery. It just doesn't make sense to me to spend that kind of money. I am too fickle in what I wear and get bored, so I would not get $600 worth of wear--ever!

Thrifting, more so the act of Upcycling thrifted textiles, is the only way to sustain my passion for high fashion......which gets me to the point of today's blog post.

I had seen this lovely Johanna Ortiz combination of a denim jacket and lace skirt tied with a burgundy colored oversized bow. If you google "Nuevo Mexicana Denim Trench Coat by Johanna Ortiz | Moda Operandi" you'll see the dress I've wanted! This is what came up when I did the search:

You know I wanted to make this outfit.

But I don't make copy-cats....only because my Upcycles depend 100% from the thrifted textiles....there's never guarantees whether I will have enough of a particular thrifted item to make into the desired end result.

As a result, my outfits are riffs. Sometimes my Upcycles are riffs on riffs.


Recently I was asked by a fellow blogger Shelbee from Shelbee On The Edge to participate in a fun Steam-Punk collaboration. Unfortunately due to timing issues and production and publication deadlines, the collaboration could not work for me : (

But I could not get Steam-Punk out of my head. If you don't know what Steam-Punk Fashion is, here is Wikipedia's definition:

Steampunk fashion is a subgenre of the steampunk movement in science fiction. It is a mixture of the Victorian era's romantic view of science in literature and elements from the Industrial Revolution in Europe during the 1800s. The fashion is designed with a post-apocalyptic era in mind.

Simplistically, my definition of Steam-Punk style is, and only pertaining to fashion, a punk version of Victorian era fashion. The other stuff, well, um, I don't get.... I mean, I understand the true definition, but don't look at Steam-Punk that technically or seriously. It's a costume.

SteamPunk accessories for sale on Facebook Marketplace

For a woman's costume, I would chose a corset, a shrunken jacket, and ruche a ruffled skirt up the front to expose some legs. It's a standard look. And of course accessorize with gears--yep, the kind that were used in Victorian clock mechanics.

great SteamPunk style clock for sale on Craigslist

The Riff On The Riff?

With Steam-Punk and Johanna Ortiz's Neuvo Mexicano Trench Coat ideas swirling in my mind and THEN colliding in a manner similar to nuclear fusion---boom! the riff on the riff idea happened!

I would create a hybrid Joanna Ortiz dress with Victorian styled fr-ustle (a front bustle--Ok, I just made up that word!--in the spirit of Steam-Punk! but in a modern day style/non-costume aesthetic.

Whack-A-Doo? Right?



I think it's time to:



I had my eye on this denim dress for a couple of weeks at the local thrift store. It was out of my price range at $6.99!! Yeah, not joking! If I am going to cut into something and risk it all, I want to spend only a couple of dollars...and finally, it was marked down!

Why this dress? Because the dark denim that was reminiscent of Johanna Ortiz's dress. However, when I brought it home, I looked at the gorgeous buttons and realized Johanna's dress, would just not happen for this Upcycle.

The sweet-heart neckline was so beautifully done, and the buttons!! The buttons are incredibly detailed and made with quality metal. And the hand work to sew them on? So much work. I could tell this dress was handmade and I needed to honor the previous creator's work!

So I still decided to cut and sew a 'swoop', curtain-style silhouette of the dress. However the sleeves were going to be short pouf style sleeves made from the excess fabric of the skirt.

And let's not forget the lace curtains!! I found a great, quality set of curtains for clearance at the thrift store. Not all lace curtains are quality---some are so cheaply made---but these? these were quality. I was going to capitalize on the ruffles and make tiered layers under the dress.

Let's Get Started!


Part One:

Refashioning the Denim Dress


1st Step--Remove the Sleeves

  • 1.1. Remove sleeves with seam ripper.

  • 1.2. Remove other sleeve.

  • 1.3. Locate internal stitches.

  • 1.4. Open up entire sleeve.

Armholes are Just Way Too Big,

as is the entire dress...now we need to resize

2nd Step--Resize Dress Sides

  • 2.1. Pin the extra volume of dress sides.

  • 2.2. Sew down sides.

  • 2.3. Cut off excess and save for later use.

Armholes are Perfect Now! As well as the resized dress.

3rd Step--Take-In Neck Seam

  • 3.1. Determine how far to go down back seam.

  • 3.2. Un-do neck interface.

  • 3.3. Open back seam.

  • 3.4. Sew up back and neck seam, and press with hot iron.

4th Step--Hemming & Curving

  • 4.1. Chalk in new hemline. I chose midi, behind the calves.

  • 4.2. Chalk in front curve. Fru-stle (a front bustle) will peek out from under curves.

5th Step--Hemming & Curving

  • 5.1. Hope your cutting will be successful.

  • 5.2. Realize there's no turning back.

  • 5.3. Save extra denim.

  • 5.4. Make sure curving is even on both sides.

6th Step--Hemming & Curving

  • 6.1. Serge edge of dress.

  • 6.2. Take serged hem and fold over once. Anymore, it would be too thick, stiffening the edge.

  • 6.3. Iron narrow edge.

  • 6.4. Sew down folded edge. `

  • 6.5. Admire your work!

7th Step--Expand Sleeves

I really wanted a more puffy sleeve--a more vintage look. So I had to widen the sleeves with scraps from the hem I cut off previously.

  • 7.1. Iron open the sleeves.

  • 7.2. Match up sleeve to center of scrap denim. Cut off excess length.

  • 7.3. Cut sleeve in half.

  • 7.4. Sew in the extra denim.

8th Step--Gather & Attach Sleeves

  • 8.1. Gather sleeves at shoulder and cuff.

  • 8.2. Invert dress, invert sleeve and sew.

  • 8.3. Check your work.

9th Step--Add Sleeve Cuffs

  • 9.1. Prepare 2 strips for cuffs.

  • 9.2. Sew on outside cuff.

  • 9.3. Insert other side of cuff in the sleeve and sew down.

  • 9.4. Press cuffs.


Part Two:

Creating the Under-Skirt...aka "Fr-ustle"

(Bustle, but in the front!)


Instead of making a full underskirt with a waistband--which I did NOT want to do because I did not want to add to my waistline-- I decided to make an underskirt which attaches mid-thigh. Also, attachable means detachable. Because the denim is so dark, if I launder, the blue will bleed onto the underskirt.

1st Step--Make Skirt Base

  • 1.1. Find a sheet.

  • 1.2. Measure fabric, sew into a tube and serge edges.

  • 1.3. Gather stitch the top of the skirt.

  • 1.4. Locate great spot to attach skirt.

2nd Step--Attach Snaps to Dress & Skirt

  • 2.1. Stabilize skirt waistband with fusion tape and bias tape.

  • 2.2. Reinforce stabilized waist by sewing.

  • 2.3. Find 8 of the same snaps.

  • 2.4. Sew on snaps, painfully & tediously.

3rd Step--Create Base Lace Layer For Skirt

  • 3.1. Lay out lace curtain.

  • 3.2. Pin lace to base skirt and sew down.

  • 3.3. Cut off excess lace.

  • 3.4. Check hem length.

4th Step--Build 5 Lace Layers

  • 4.1. Cut 2nd layer of lace that surrounds entire skirt.

  • 4.2. Sew on 2nd layer of lace.

  • 4.3. Sew on 3rd front partial layer--just enough for under curved hem.

  • 4.4. Sew on 4th partial layer--slightly shorter in length than layer below.

  • 4.5. Sew on top 5th partial layer--slightly shorter in length than layer below.

  • 4.6 Bleach the lace skirt to even out color.


My Upcycle & Refashion Project is Finished!


Ready To See How I Styled It?


So Happy With How My Riff on Joanna Ortiz Meets Steam-Punk Turned Out!


Below is a sneak peak of SMT's next

Upcycle & Refashion!



Links To Other "Vintage Inspired" Upcycles:

Upcycle 'Great Gatsby' Garden Party Dress

from Long Sleeve Dress

Refashioned 1950's Dress

from Modern Zara Dress


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