Pep talk

Peplums are so hot right now – even Vogue says so. A peplum is a ruffle or flounce around the waist of a piece, be it a skirt, dress or even jacket. In this post I’m going to show you how I brought a vintage dress up to date by adding a peplum.

The dress itself came from Beyond Retro several years ago and due to the original unflattering length, it had been in the refashioning ‘to do’ pile ever since. Unfortunately I can’t remember how much I paid for it, but my shopping partner H concurs it was around £20.

Firstly the unflattering length had to go, as did the in-seam pockets. I ended up cutting several inches off the bottom which was easily enough for the new peplum. Incidentally the label you can just see in the bottom right is one of these:

After some research, I found out that this American Union label dates this garment to between 1974 and 1995. Not terribly helpful, but you can read about these labels here.

I cut the excess material up the centre back and made a tiny hem along the cut edge. I kept the original garment hem along the bottom, cutting a 2cm strip off the top to be used as a sort of binding for the top edge.

Measured around my waist with the garment on to work out the length of the finished peplum: 75cm.

I was going to gather the peplum like a ruffle, but there wasn’t really enough material, so I opted for groups of small pleats, three at front left and front right, and the same at the back. Using a pencil and the back of an envelope, I had to work out how big to make each pleat so the finished length was 75cm, and after a bit of head-scratching, marked it on the peplum with chalk.

Next step was to pin the pleats and baste them….

…then sew the binding along the top edge. I basically joined one edge with the right sides together, then folded the other side over to the back and stitched in the ditch, a bit like you’d do with bias binding.

The finished peplum looked super after adding a hook and eye to keep it closed. The good thing about the hook and eye is that the whole thing is detachable, so I can just wear the dress with a belt if I want to.

Ta-da! This red dress is great for cocktails and is already on regular rotation in my wardrobe.



  1. Tracy

    An amazing refashion – it’s gone from a real frump of a dress to high fashion. I really like the idea of a detachable peplum too.

  2. Joyce

    Oh, lovely! It’s wonderful how much such a simple refashion has changed the dress, it looks much nicer and less sack-like than before.

  3. agy

    Gorgeous! That colour looks wonderful on you too. I was just thinking about peplums last night and was wondering how to do a refashion. Your tute is timely! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Barbara J

    I rarely (ok, never) comment but had to come out of lurkdom to compliment you on the refashion. It’s simple yet elegant and so very clever. The red suits you beautifully.

  5. m3isme

    You did a fabulous job…seriously! That dress looks beautiful on you. (As for your ILGWU tag, I vaguely remember advertisements that included looking for that label, when I was a girl…too funny that your dress has the tag.)

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks, I’m blushing!
      I love peplums so I hope they hang around for a bit longer. I tend to imagine them on dresses but of course they can be just as flattering on a blouse, jacket or even skirt.
      Roland Mouret… I WISH! ;-)

  6. Christianne

    I like that the peblum lies kind of flat instead of being gathered…it’s much more flattering, and I think I might try sewing one using your technique

  7. Kim Cohen

    i just wanted to say that after looking at your entire site, you are just charming, talented, and pure genius!!!! I am SO inspired by what you have done here, and can’t wait to start making my own thrift-store saves!!! Thank you for sharing your knowledge….

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Kim and thank you for your kind message. I am glad you have enjoyed reading my ramblings and that you found some of it useful. Reinventing charity shop finds has been a very creative and inexpensive hobby which I can highly recommend! You are welcome to check back every now and then as I share new projects around once a week. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s