How to Make a Tattered Dress

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You don't need to run into barbed wire to tatter your dress.
You don't need to run into barbed wire to tatter your dress. (Image: Martin Poole/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Occasionally, rather than heading out to the Halloween party dressed as Queen Elizabeth, you might decide to attend as a zombie or a prom queen in a horror movie. In that case, you will want to tear and rough up your dress for that authentic tattered look. Used clothing can be purchased at thrift stores if you prefer not to tear up your own clothes. A gauze skirt and a tank top sewn together can form a perfect tattered dress look for any costume party.

Things You'll Need

  • Razor and scissors
  • Pliers
  • Cheese grater
  • Sandpaper
  • 2 gauze skirts (preferably the same color) with elastic waistband
  • Close-fitting tank top

Find a gauzy skirt or two (the second is for extra material) and a tank top at a thrift store. Most thrift stores will have these items.

Pin the skirt right under the waistband to the bottom of the tank top. Using a zigzag stitch on a sewing machine to sew the skirt to the tank top. Then cut off the waistband from the skirt and iron the seam flat.

Rip one of the seams on the skirt all the way up to the waist. Cut two triangles from the hems of the skirt. These triangles will serve as sleeve flounces. Cut triangles out of the second skirt if you want longer or fuller sleeves for the dress.

Distress the skirt by rolling it up and ripping away at the bottom with scissors or the razor blade. Tatter the cut away parts so the tattering is consistent. Use the pliers to tear at the bottom of the skirt. Practice the ripping and tearing technique on an old T-shirt before going at the dress.

Tatter the sleeve triangles that you took off the skirt using the same techniques. Sew the non-tattered part of the triangle to the armholes of the tank top. Let the tattered sleeves hang -- it won’t matter if they’re even or not.

For longer sleeves, cut the second skirt in half right up through the elastic waistband. Sew up the seam of the half-skirt to form a sleeve. Sew the sleeve to the armhole of the tank top on each side. Tatter the “sleeves” appropriately to match the rest of the dress.

Rub parts of the material with the cheese grater for smaller rips and tears. Finish up with the sandpaper to age and distress the dress further.

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