Grit Blogs > The Texas Pioneer Woman

Recycle an Old Dress into a Skirt

A skill that pioneer women and their daughters had to develop was the ability to sew. Since store bought clothes were rare all of the family’s clothes were sewn by hand. Clothing was kept simple and practical with each family member having only a few outfits to last all year.

Today we have so many articles of clothing that it piles up and we have to continually organize and make our closets bigger. Many people treat clothes as a disposable article. I try to buy my clothing from second hand stores or sew my own clothes. I feel industrious and self-sufficient for my own family when I sew. Also when I can no longer use an article of clothing I find ways to repurpose the article so that it can be reused.

I have an old dress that does not fit me well, but I would like to use it to make a simple skirt. The easiest way to make a dress into a skirt is to attach it to a wide elastic waistband.

Old Dress 

Step 1: Cut Dress at or below Existing Waist 

Wherever you end up cutting your dress make sure that it provides an ample amount of material to easily pull on and up to your waist as a simple skirt.

Cut Dress 

Step 2: Iron 

It is easier to work with material that is freshly ironed to insure that your measurements are as accurate as possible. Also if you iron your folded material you usually will not have to pin it down when it comes time to sew it.

Fold Waistband 

Step 3: Make the Waistband 

I made a case to house the elastic waistband. To do this I turned the material inside out, folded and ironed the material at the top of the skirt ¾ inch down and then folded it another 1 ½ down. Your folds at the waist depends on how wide your elastic is; the wider elastic needs a wider case as well as a skinnier piece of elastic needs a skinnier case to house the elastic. You basically want the casing wide enough so that the elastic is easy to push through.

Once I folded and ironed the material, I stitched the top near the edge with a simple straight stitch. I then stitched the bottom edge with another simple straight stitch making sure to leave ample space to insert the elastic.

Sew Waistband 

Measure the length of elastic by wrapping it around your waist and pulling slightly. Also add about ¾ inch for seam allowance. To help me insert the elastic I attached a safety pin to one end because it is easier to hold onto as you pull it through the material.

Insert Elastic 

Once you have all of the elastic pulled through the waistband, sew the two elastic ends together. Then stitch the opening of the case closed. Turn skirt back to the right side.

 Sew Elastic 

I ended up keeping the original hem the dress came with, but you could have certainly have cut it and made it shorter.

New Skirt 

I hope you learned how to salvage an out-of- style or ill-fitting dress into a beautiful skirt!

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