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Embellishing a dress and clothes

Transform your dresses with stunning embellishments! Learn the art of embellishing a dress in my step-by-step guide. Elevate your style with applique!

There are so many different ways to embellish a dress, types of embellishment range from brooches to ribbons, to fabric paint, to applique. Today I am going to share with you how to create a different look simply by adding fabric applique.

Are you tired of your old dresses sitting in the back of your closet, waiting for their turn to shine again? Well, it’s time to breathe new life into them with a touch of creativity and flair. One great way to transform a plain dress into a work of art is by using the technique of appliqué. Appliqué involves sewing decorative pieces of fabric onto your dress, adding texture, color, and personality.


I am going to embellish a plain dress I picked up on a second-hand clothing website. With tasteful embellishment this dress is going to become unique, a splash of my style. My first step was to remove the bottom panel of the dress and sew a new panel a couple of inches longer (I’m mentioning this in case you are slightly confused by the pictures!).

YouTube how-to video

Fabric Choice for Applique

When thinking about your choice of different fabric types I suggest using a woven fabric over a stretchy fabric, you will find it much easier to work with.

Read through the tutorial before you start. If you would like to try a different applique method check out my post How to applique, 5 easy techniques for beginners.

Materials You’ll Need for Embellishing a Dress

  1. A Dress: Start with a simple, plain dress as your canvas. Choose a fabric that will complement the appliqué design you have in mind.
  2. Appliqué Fabric: Pick a fabric for your appliqué design. This can be contrasting or matching, depending on your style and preferences.
  3. Fabric Scissors: Good quality fabric scissors are essential for precision cutting.
  4. Needles and Thread: Ensure you have a variety of needle sizes and thread colors that match your dress and appliqué fabric.
  5. Pins: These will help you secure the appliqué pieces in place before sewing.
  6. Freezer Paper and Pencil: Sketch out your design and make templates.
  7. An Iron: This is essential for folding in the raw edges of the appliqué pieces.

Plan your Applique Design

Choose Your Design
: Begin by selecting a design or motif for your appliqué. This can be anything from flowers and animals to abstract shapes or letters. Be sure to choose a design that complements the style of your dress and your personal taste.

Create Templates: Once you have your design in mind, sketch it onto your freezer paper to create templates.

Preparing Your Dress

Clean and Iron: Make sure your dress is clean and wrinkle-free. Iron it to create a smooth, even surface for your appliqué.

Prepare your applique shapes

Place the shiny side of your freezer paper shape to face the wrong side of your applique fabric and iron to adhere.

Cut out the fabric applique pieces with a small seam allowance of 3/8″.

Press the raw edges in towards the freezer paper. You may need to snip into the seam allowance, particularly on curved shapes.

Lay out your dress on a flat surface and position your appliqué shapes to the right sides of the dress to determine their placement. Peel off the freezer paper and pin the applique pieces in place to secure them temporarily.

Attaching the Appliqué

After placing the appliqué pieces with pins, secure them with hand stitching. Use a needle and thread that matches the color of your appliqué fabric. Stitch around the edges of each piece.

If you are not familiar with slip stitch (ladder stitch) bring your needle up through the pressed folded edge and insert into the base fabric creating a tiny stitch. Repeat bring the needle back up along the folded edge and straight back down into the base fabric.

Review your design

Put on your dress and review the design and composition. I decided to remove one applique shape and replace with a different color. I also added quite a few more applique shapes working up the side seam of the dress.

Embellishing a dress with applique

If you are looking for other ways to jazz up your wardrobe I have various DIY statement necklaces you might like.

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