Monday, 23 August 2010

I finished the skirt-to-dress… and a tutorial!

I’ve surprised myself, I’ve only gone and finished a WIP!
finished front
Here’s how I did it…
You will need one oversize skirt - for reference, I’m a UK size 10-12(ish) and the skirt I used was size 22 and ankle length. You will also need a dressform, sorry but unless you’ve got a really patient friend who’s good with pins, a dressform is essential. There are plenty of tutorials on the interweb on how to make a duct-tape dressform from your own body if you don’t have one. You will also need a zip and a button.
As I mentioned in my last post, I removed the decorative hem and the elasticated waistband. I reused the hem as a contrasting fabric to form the band round the top and the sash belt.
pin seams to waist
I then pinned the skirt to the form (just pins round the top at this stage) making sure the neckline was sitting in the right spot. You can try on a dress you like and measure from shoulder to neckline and then transfer this measurement to the form. You don’t want it too low!
bodice pinned close up
Now it’s time to get your pins out! With this much fabric you will need to make princess seams following the curve of the bust. It is much easier if you pull and pin the top of the skirt tight to the form, then find the centre front, back and sides and pin them down to the dressform. Then all you have to do is gather the excess fabric between them and pin like crazy! You will need two seams in the front and two in the back. You can make them straight and fitted like I did, or you could get creative! The bottom of these seams will become pleats in the skirt part of the dress so you’ll need to take this into account – one big pleat in the front and one in the centre back will not be attractive. Only pin to the waist and try to conceal any existing seams while you’re at it!
Mark your waistline at every new seam.
sew seams bodice
This part’s a bit scary! Sew your new seams, taking care to stop when you reach your waistline mark. Once you’ve done this it’s a good idea to try the dress for fit. It can be a bit tricky getting those princess seams right first time, but it’s better to get them right now rather than find out they’re wrong later!
trim seams bodice 1
Now slash the fabric at the waistline stopping 1cm short of your new seam.
trim seams bodice
Now remove the excess fabric from the bodice seams.
after trimming seams
Your dress should now look like this (on the inside!)   
flatten pleats
Now press your seams flat and pin the loose folds of fabric below the waist to form soft box pleats.
sew down pleats
Sew ‘em down!
pin back seam
Now pin the back ready for your zip and trim away the excess fabric. Sew up the back seam and press.
sew band
Now measure around the neckline and cut a length of your contrasting fabric, double the width plus 1cm you want your band to be, and slightly longer than your measurement. Fold over lengthwise leaving one side 1cm wider and sew. This extra 1cm will reduce some of the bulk in the seam later. Honest.
At this point I also cut facings for the neckline because this is a thin cotton - if your have a stiffer fabric you might not need any facings. I used the strip of fabric I cut from the back, pinned it to the neckline and cut a 2” band all round. I can do that because I have no boobs – If you are anything above an a-cup you’ll need some shaping. Pin your strip to the form and pleat under the arms until it lays flat. Sew those pleats.
sandwich better
Now to attach your band and facings. Pin the band right side up on the right side of the dress and make a sandwich with the facing on the top, wrong side up. Got it? Good, now sew ‘em all together. If you didn’t make a facing, don’t worry – pin the right side of the band to the wrong side of your dress and sew. Use the extra cm on the band to sew it to the dress, it should help cut down on bulk in the seams.
Flip the band to the front and iron the bajingers out of it. When you insert the zip, you will need to turn the ends of the band and facing to the back and sew them to the inside of the dress.
topstitch band
Topstitch the band and insert your zip. I sewed the zip to stop below the band, made a button loop from one of the old hanging loops and sewed a button to the band of the dress.
Measure for your straps and cut two from your contrasting fabric. Sorry no photos of this step but if you want 1” straps cut two lengths 2 1/2” wide, fold them face to face lengthwise, sew a 1/4” seam, use a knitting needle to invert them and press. Pin them to you dress, sew them down and you’re done bar the hemming!
finished frontfinished back
I used a long length of the contrasting hem as a sash belt. Because the cotton is so thin the print has bled through and it’s hard to tell which is the right side. This is great because it meant I only needed to hem the raw edge of the sash rather than fold it in half to sew it, and I could keep it wide.
The hem of your dress should be longer at the back than the front, and you could choose to trim it all the same length but I chose to hem it as it was. I’m not lazy or anything (OK, I am) but I like it slightly asymmetrical.
I hope my ramblings make sense!


  1. Hooray! Congrats on an awesome WIP finished.

  2. I love the dress. You make me want to make one just like it!

  3. It looks fabulous - congratulations!!!!

  4. Wow, impressed with the cute dress that came out !

  5. That is a really nice dress.

  6. Your dress is fabulous!! I linked to your refashion tutorial over at Craft Gossip Sewing:


  7. this is a lovely dress! thank you for the tutorial!
    all the best!

  8. Wow! Beautiful and VERY impressive work!

  9. I have a thrifted skirt in my cupboard that was just waiting for a tutorial like this!

  10. This is just what I needed today. I've got a great big skirt from the thrift store that I wanted to make into a dress and this would be perfect! Thanks!

  11. Great tutorial! Fun and witty writing, great pacing, and the directions are extremely clear. {Insert virtual applause here!}
    I'll be sending friends to this site!