Sunday, June 2, 2013

Red & Black Day 1: Turn a Dress into a Skirt


For day 1 of Red & Black Week, a tutorial on turning a shapeless dress into a skirt.

Sack-shaped dresses (with big shoulder pads, of course!) were fashionable in the 1980's. (Remember Andi's prom dress from "Pretty in Pink"?) I see lots of these dresses in thrift stores. One such find was this red and black dress. The top half looks like a baggy t-shirt, but the bottom half has tiered ruffles and would make a cute skirt.

Oversized dresses can also be rescued by making them into skirts. If you find a size 16 dress but you're a size 6, turning it into a skirt may be easier than altering the entire dress. The technique described below will work on most loose-fitting, pullover-style (no zipper) dresses. The only notion you'll need is a piece of 3/4" wide elastic cut to your waist size.

First, determine where you want to cut the dress. Measure and mark a line. Typically, you'd measure up from the hem. Because my dress had tiers, I measured up (7") from the top of the top ruffle.

Next, measure and mark a piece of fabric from which you will make the waistband. This piece should be 4" wide and the same length as the waist opening. It's easiest to take it from right above the waist cutline.
lines marked at 7" and 11" from the ruffle (11 - 7 = 4" for the waistband)

Cut along the lines.
middle piece will become the waistband
The next step is to make the waistband and create an opening for the 3/4" elastic to run through. The waistband should be a loop the same size as the waist opening of the skirt; one end of the loop will have an intermittent seam, allowing an opening for the elastic. To create this, place the pieces of the waistband with right sides together and stitch a seam 2.5" long, then skip 1", and then stitch the remaining .5" These measurements don't have to be exact as long as your longer seam crosses over the center line of the waistband and your opening is large enough for the elastic to run through.

If you took the waistband piece from right above the waist cutline, it will already be sewn together into a loop. Stitch over the original stitching line for the 2.5" and .5" seams, then snip out the original stitches to form the 1" opening.
black thread shows my new stitches; original red stitches were then snipped to create the 1" opening
Fold the waistband in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Pin it to the skirt, matching side seams, center front and center back (shown by pins in the picture below). To ensure the opening in the waistband will be on the inside of the skirt, be sure the non-opening side of the waistband is against the outside of the skirt.


Stitch the waistband to the skirt with a sewing machine or serger (overlock).
stitched waistband
serged waistband
The final step is to run the elastic through the waistband. There are various tricks for accomplishing this task. I pin a large safety pin to one end of the elastic and use it to guide the elastic through.

Guide the elastic all the way around and back out through the opening so that both ends are sticking out of the waistband opening. Remove the safety pin and stitch the two ends of the elastic together. The elastic can then disappear into the waistband.
make sure the elastic hasn't twisted inside the waistband before stitching ends together

Done!

35 comments:

  1. Ooh, cute skirt! I think I have a similar dress that would work...

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    1. Thanks! I have a couple more in my closet awaiting the transformation. :)

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks! I like the ruffles. :)

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  3. That turned out nicely!

    I also use the safety pin method for inserting elastic/ribbon/drawstring. I like to fold over the end of the elastic by about 3/4 in and then insert the pin through both layers. I do this because when yanking on the pin, I have (more than once) had the elastic ravel and the safety pin pull out. I've had no problems since I started folding the end over.

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    1. Thanks!

      Yes, that's a good point. It's annoying when the pin pulls out and gets stranded in the casing. :P I didn't fold over here because non-roll elastic has never given me problems, and it had a roomy waistband to travel through.

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  4. a sudden turn into skirts fan..love it! :D

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  5. That's a really good idea! :) I might do the same with some of my old dresses.

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  6. It looks much better as a skirt :)

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    1. Definitely. The dress was a little scary. :P

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  7. Replies
    1. Indeed. I guess one could think of a needle as a teeny-tiny magic wand. ;)

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  8. Wonderful! Thank you for the instructions, I've turned a top into a skirt...reminding me I need to wear it ;)

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    1. I hope they made some kind of sense. The process of making a waistband is simple, but trying to describe that process was quite a challenge!

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  9. Nice and simple. And such a cute skirt :)
    I made two of my skirts from dresses, but more because the dresses didn´t fit :D

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    1. Thanks! Fit issues are usually why I make dresses into skirts as well. :)

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  10. That is a gorgeous skirt! I love it!

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  11. So simple, and what a transformation. The Before is kinda ridiculous, and the After is totally adorable!! I've made one skirt-from-dress because the dress was too large for me... Now I want to do more!!

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    1. Yes, the Before was ridiculous. The color is a very bright red, so it was just TOO MUCH. It's much better served 50/50 with black. :)

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  12. I may have had a dress exactly like that in the 80's. **cough**

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    1. Fashion has an interesting life cycle. A style is desirable for a limited amount of time, then it enters the dim land of Hopelessly Passe for a few decades, only to emerge in 30 or 50 years as marvelously retro. 2013's bright jeans and padded high-tops look an awful lot like the ones I wore in school. :)

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  13. what a great post! I don't know how many times I hit the sales rack and there's only xxxl sizes left.

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    1. Indeed! I wear a common size that always sells out fast. It's nice to have the option of using the larger sizes. :)

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  14. Adorable! Thank you for the tutorial!

    I love thrifting so much more now I have a sewing machine and some basic knowledge under my belt.

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    1. Thank you!

      Absolutely! Having basic sewing skills doubles or even triples one's thrifting options. :D

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  15. Very important piece of information right here! I'm sure I'll be saving my "dresses that don't fit" for this project :D

    It turned out so pretty!

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    1. Thank you! I have another "doesn't fit" dress in the queue. It has a zipper, so I'll have to use a different technique. Maybe another tutorial in the future!

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    2. You are welcome. :)

      I'm looking forward to it
      :)

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  16. Oh Bane, you just saved me from giving away or completely altering a dress that is way too big on me! WAHOO! Thank you!

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  17. That's a very cute skirt from a slightly less cute dress. :)

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