When a young mom found a frumpy vintage wedding dress at a thrift store, she knew she simply had to have it. But while the gown might have once made a bride feel like a princess on her wedding day, the high neckline, puffy sleeves and acres of lace hadn’t aged well. Still, its new owner saw beyond the drab dress before grabbing a pair of scissors and her sewing machine to make a stunning transformation.
Sarah Tyau is something of a social media sensation. The 33-year-old mom-of-three from Salt Lake City, Utah, has more than 90,000 Instagram followers and is a YouTube star as well. A devoted wife and mother, she loves sewing and home decorating.
And Tyau began a new chapter in her life when, in May 2007, she married Jay. Together, they now have two daughters – nine-year-old Adi and eight-year-old Ana – and a three-year-old son called Aiden. It was when their first daughter arrived that Tyau’s husband started a blog to document their life as new parents.
The blog, however, took on a new dimension seven years ago. With a growing family, money was tight, and Tyau’s wardrobe was in need of pepping up. But rather than throwing out her old clothes, she instead began transforming her existing garments with the help of a sewing machine .
Thanks to the new direction of her blog, Tyau started to gain an audience. And as her followers and subscribers grew in number, so did the ambition of her sewing projects. In fact, the young mom developed quite the talent for refashioning clothing, and so she began turning her old garments into outfits for her children.
Over the years, Tyau’s refashioning has included basic alterations to oversized outfits. But as her sewing skills improved, her redesigns gradually became more elaborate. For example, the mom has transformed old shirts into two-piece outfits for her girls, while she has also remodeled a dowdy pant suit into a sophisticated, figure-hugging dress.
And although Tyau often works to refashion her own clothing, she also goes on thrift-store hunts. She will pick out oversized or unloved garments and transform them into more stylish items. It was during one such shopping spree that she came across a vintage wedding dress.
As Tyau wrote on her blog, “I found this gorgeous wedding dress at a thrift store. Sure, it’s outdated and not within the time of what’s in style right now, but I can see why a certain lovely bride fell in love with this dress and wore it to her wedding!”
Respectful of the history of the dress, Tyau chose her words carefully. The style was outdated, while the colors of the fabrics were mismatched. It could really only be described as “frumpy.” But Tyau had immediately seen beyond all of that, as she has with all thrift-store finds.
After Tyau brought the dress home, she got to work. Firstly, she cut away the excess fabric. Endless bows, tulle, lace, frills, shoulder pads and more tulle were nipped and discarded – but not without a little bit of guilt from the seamstress as she set about her transformation.
Tyau wrote, “As I was cutting… I thought of the lady that wore this dress to her wedding. I wish I could meet her so I could see pictures of her in this dress on her wedding day!” She wondered what happened to the bride, what her life was like and even whether she was still alive.
The next step was to dye the fabrics a matching shade of cream. After stirring the dress in the dye mixture for around 20 minutes, Tyau realized the tulle was too yellow. Altering her plans slightly, she set aside the fabric – but she didn’t throw it away; she had another plan for it.
As described by Tyau on her blog, “I did A LOT to this dress, I dyed it to cream so the whole dress would be the same color, I raised the waistline so it wouldn’t be like a V-shape waistline, cut off all the tulle [and] cut the length of the dress to right below the knee.”
Tyau continued, “[I] took off the lace collar, lace bib, cut off the lace cuffs and cut off the sleeves and made it smaller and shorter length, took in an inch from each side of the dress, cut off the train and the giant bow in the back and gathered the extra lace from the sides to add to the back.”
After several hours of cutting and snipping, stitching and sewing, a remarkable transformation occurred. The result was a smart cocktail dress with a wide neck, fitted bodice and sleeves and a flared skirt. Indeed, the modifications made it unrecognizable from the original wedding dress.
But Tyau has admitted that she hadn’t made all of the alterations she had imagined. Originally, pearl and diamond embellishments had been part of the plan. Not wanting to waste any of the fabric, however, she made a matching headband from the discarded lace.
As well as the satisfaction of completing a project, avoiding fabric waste is high on Tyau’s list of reasons for refashioning clothes. She explained, “We throw away an average of $90 of clothes per person annually. About 85 percent of textiles go to waste where it occupies 5 percent of landfill space.”
Meanwhile, Tyau’s sewing output has increased recently; so much so, in fact, that she aims to post a new video update on her YouTube channel every week. And in a segment titled “Come Sew With Us,” she teams up with her daughter to teach viewers basic sewing tips.
One day, in fact, Tyau would like to start her own clothing line. Through her fashion brand, she would eventually donate all profits from sales of her garments to children’s charities. For now, though, she simply hopes to inspire others to follow their passions, whatever they may be.
“I enjoy saving money, saving the environment, making something unique that nobody else has and seeing my vision become a reality,” Tyau explained. “If you have a passion, a talent, or a dream, [don’t] push it away until [you] have more money, more time, more resources. Do it now with the resources [you] have. Doing it little by little with what you’ve got, even if it’s not perfect, is better than nothing.”