Many times I have been asked this question and I always give the same reply. Now we don’t make puffy sleeves and waists with sashes and floppy bows at the back unless of course they are for a formal occasion like a wedding. There are also classic styles for christenings/baptisms which still follow traditional lines. Instead we are using both smocked and commercial patterns to design modern styles. Sleeves can have the gathering taken out of the top (header) and may then be short, cap, angel/wing or a short frill or pleated edge or even sleeveless. Dresses can also be made into long tops which can be worn with leggings which are very fashionable right now. Commercial patterns can have extra width added to the centre front and/or back to include smocking. You can add or delete a collar or change it’s size. Changing fabric will also give you a modern look. Try using 2 or 3 co-ordinating fabrics too.
Have a look at these cute photos before you pack away your pleater! Both have been adapted from commercial patterns. The red one is Butterick B5742 while the green one is Tadah’s All Seasons dress. I think you will agree both look very modern.