No-Sew Refashion – Painted Dress (with Tutorial)

Today I'm really excited to share a no-sew refashion with you. You might get a little messy but it will be a lot of fun in the process. All you need is a dress and a few basic supplies. Of course if you want to change the fit of your dress, you'll need to do a little stitching but otherwise you don't need a sewing machine at all. So, get your rubber gloves on and read on to see how I transformed this dress from drab to fab.

I bought this bright purple 80s-era dress way back in 2009. I did a partial refashion removing the sleeves and an extra layer of fabric that covered the bodice. (Yes, sewing was required for that part. :) I didn't think I'd wear the purple color very often, so I attempted to dye it navy. I used acid dyes that I thought would work on the synthetic material but the dye only took in a few spots, namely, the underarms and some areas on the skirt. (The horror!) I really didn't want to wear a dress with black pit stains so I tossed it in the closet and only thought of it once every year or so when I went to clean out the closet. I really couldn't tell you now why I thought I should keep it but I guess I figured that it had good bones and one day I'd eventually figure out how to make it wearable.

Then last week, I was invited to a party and instructed to wear purple. The only purple thing I could find in my closet was a slightly ratty t-shirt and that would not do for a party. Then I remembered this dress, so I dug it out of the closet and set to work. I recently dyed some old leather bags using leather dye and the leather dye stained my rubber gloves so I thought it would probably work on this dress. I know, I know, I'm not using it as advised but I did a little test and it worked! If your dress takes dye better then by all means use a dye intended for fabric. The other change was I added suede epaulette-like patches to the shoulders. I think it gives it a cool futuristic kind of edge.

Painted Dress No-Sew Refashion


Black Leather Dye (or dye of your choice)

Suede Elbow Patches (the pack comes with two put you only need one)

Permanent Double Stick Fusible (such as Steam-a-Seam)

Rotary Cutter and Self-Healing Mat or Scissors


Synthrapol soap and/or white vinegar


Step 1: Paint your dress. Cover your surface and wear rubber gloves to keep from getting dye everywhere. I used the little dauber that came with the leather dye to create very soft brush strokes and dots, randomly sprinkled all over the dress. Don't worry too much about making it perfect. Hang up the dress and let it dry. (If you do get dye on your hands, try scrubbing them with baking soda and water.)

Step 2: Wash the dress in Synthrapol soap and/or vinegar to discharge any extra dye. Rinse until dye no longer discharges from the dress. Allow the dress to dry.

Step 3: Add suede patches to the shoulders. Using your rotary cutter, cut one suede patch in half. Trace 2 half circle shapes onto a sheet of double stick fusible and cut out. Peel off one side of the fusible and stick to the wrong side of each patch. Trim any excess double stick.

Step 4: Remove remaining paper from fusible and, with the straight side of the patch aligned to the top of the armhole, adhere patch to shoulder. Check placement and reposition if needed. Using a press cloth, iron the patch to permanently bond it to the dress. To be safe, iron both sides. 

So, what do you think? Will you try painting your clothes? If you're looking for more inspiration, check out my Brushstroke Moodboard and my Painted Stripe Dress.