Revamp Your Evening Wear

‘Tis the season for end of year office parties – and if your budget is anything like mine you’re thinking, “I wonder if anyone will notice if I turn up in the same dress as last year…”

The good news is you can redesign your evening dresses for next to nothing, and even the most competitive fashinista would struggle to point you out as a recycler. 

Your options range from doing as little as tucking and tacking a sheer fabric over the top, to unpicking and using the fabric to make a new dress.

There are five important things to remember when trying to fool others into believing you’re wearing an outfit they’ve never seen before:

1. Colour

Black can wear again very easily, as can dark shades of blue, green, and burgundy, but if your dress is a bolder colour like red or pink observers are more likely to store that colour in their memories.

This funky printed mesh tones down the shine of these fabrics and looks different against red and green.

Tone the colour down with a chiffon drape in a more muted shade, or in black which will give a shimmery effect to the colour. I like to have a variety of sheer dresses in chiffon and organza specifically to slip over another outfit to dress it up or tone it down. Get even more wear out of it by using a lace-up effect or dozens of tiny buttons and making it wearable back to front. (Note, if you’re going to be sitting most of the evening, wear the buttons on the front.)

2. Shine

Sparkly fabrics are eye-catching. If you’ve worn it before and run the risk of meeting the same people, tone the sparkles down with a chiffon or organza drape.

3. Details

Specific details such as a daring neckline, unusual straps, or a stunning back will be remembered. Sew a new section to cover the detail, which can be either temporarily or permanently attached to the dress. If you make permanent changes, consider removing the detail and swapping it with a different dress, top, or jacket. 

4. Length

Very short or very long dresses, and the position and length of the slits are also features that people remember. Consider cutting a long dress in half, and turning the excess fabric into a top or skirt. 

Add a different fabric into a shorter dress. This is also a great idea if you're pregnant or you’ve gained weight and want to make the dress a size bigger. Cut the dress vertically in a number of panels and add in a fabric that compliments or contrasts. Satin and velvet make an alluring combination in evening wear, because they are such opposites in feel and look, but are both luxurious fabrics.

5. The top of your dress

Most people look at your face when they talk to you (note I said “most”). The top of your dress is therefore the area they are most likely to remember. If your dress is one of those that makes a feature out of using a different fabric for the bodice and skirt, you could get away with re-doing the top in the same fabric as the skirt.

Add some great jewellery, but not if you wore those same gems last year.

Copyright © Elsa Neal 2005