Repurposing a Dress – Turning a Dress into a Child’s Skirt

Repurposing A Dess -

A sewing DIY for you today in the form of repurposing a dress into a skirt for my little niece. Keep reading to see how I did this.

So, before my recent holiday to Corfu, (I know, ages ago now!) I got out my sewing machine and set myself a challenge. The challenge being repurposing a dress into a skirt for my niece. Now, I am not a full novice when it comes to sewing, but I am no expert either, so making the skirt was a little bit trial and error. This was quite a simple DIY, and I was lucky with the dress of choice, which made making the skirt so much easier. There is just something magical about making something for someone else too, don’t you think? This post is a semi-tutorial and a look back on how I achieved making the skirt.

Blue and white elephant print dress hanging from a clothes hanger

What is Repurposing?

Repurposing –
adapt for use in a different purpose.

Oxford Dictionary

So, as the definition states above, repurposing is simply changing something into something else. In this case, it is changing a dress that was no longer fit for purpose and making it into something else wearable. Now, repurposing any item is great, as it can greatly reduce the amount you put out there into landfill. If repurposing clothing, you also get to have new clothing items in your wardrobe at practically no extra cost, so a win-win situation! It also can unleash your creative side, as the possibilities and creations are limitless.
Check out Dainty Dress Diaries and The Sorry Girls as they have a tonne of blogs and videos on repurposing items, as well as being totally creative goddesses! 👸

Repurposing a Dress:

Getting onto the project. My dress of choice was a beautiful white and blue elephant print fit and flare type of dress with a bow tie at the back. Unfortunately, the dress no longer fit me and the zip was bust; but I just couldn’t fully part with it. I didn’t want to go through attempting to re-place the zip; as I thought that would just be too fiddly, and as the dress didn’t really fit anymore, a waste of time. So, I got my creative brain working and thought I would change the dress into something that my 5-year old niece could wear, and repurposing a dress into a child’s skirt was born.
Skip down to the bottom of this page if you want to see the video version of this DIY!

Woman standing witha glass in hand in Parga, Greece wearing a blue and white print dress
Blue and white elephant print dress hanging from a clothes hanger

Step 1 – Preparing the dress:

To start I needed to cut down the back seam of the dress, cutting this up until I was past the waistband. If you are attempting a similar DIY, check the style of your dress; as some skirts of dresses do not have a back seam. That isn’t to say you can’t make this though; as not having the back seam may make the repurposing even easier!

Scissor cutting the back seam of a dress

Once I was past the waistband, I set about removing the skirt part of the dress from it. I found that parts of the skirt had been folded/pleated into the waistband. This meant that I actually got a bit more material than I was expecting. I repeated the same process with the dress lining, as the skirt material is quite thin, it needs the added lining.

Then it was time to iron both materials and lay them out ready for the next step.

Dress material spread out

Step 2 – Cutting to size

Prior to all of this, I had made several attempts at measuring my niece’s waist, however, this part was probably the most difficult out of the whole project. I guess that is the prerogative of a 5-year old! So once I had the rough measurement, i multiplied it by two. This will fit around the waist as well as give the skirt some body and flare. Now, I think this is where it went a bit wrong; as I was able to fit into the skirt; and I am definitely not the same waist size as my niece! However, it could have been the elastic measurement was wrong or the elastic was super stretchy. I just don’t know.

With the elastic, it was the measurement of the waist plus 2cm to account for the overlap when sewing the elastic together.

Step 3 – Sewing together

To start the sewing process I placed the skirt and lining together. The skirt needs to be placed right side up, with the lining right side down. Then it was time to sew the side seam together, finishing the seam with an overlock or zig-zag stitch.

Side seam sewn and overlocked

Then it was time to make the channel for the elastic to sit in the waistband. To do this you need to fold over the top edge that you want the waistband to be, refolding over itself to a slightly larger size. The channel should be wide enough to fit the elastic in, but not too wide so that the elastic has the opportunity to twist and flip once inside. When making the channel, leave a small gap unsewn so that you are able to thread your elastic in.

Pins leaving a gap in a waistband

This part was quite fiddly, and I think that was more down to the material of the skirt rather than the actual difficulty of this part. Using an iron to press the shape of the channel is advisable too, as this helps keep it more in place. Again, this is dependent on your material. If it is light material then it may be harder to press into shape, like my dress material.

Step 4- Inserting the elastic

Now it is time to insert the elastic. To do this, you fold one end of the elastic slightly and secure with a safety pin. You then use the safety pin to thread through. This was a little fiddly. I marked one side to try and ensure that it hadn’t twisted inside when threading through. I used a similar method when making my drawstring bags.

Safety pin through the end of an elastic waistband piece

When the elastic is fully through, pull enough out so that you can sew the two ends together. Then place back into the gap in the channel. Head back over to the machine and sew the gap closed. You then should have your repurposed skirt. However, I had a few adjustments to make with the skirt.

Two ends of an elastic waistband sewn together
Waistband sewn together

Repurposing a Dress – issues:

So I did have a few issues with repurposing this dress into the skirt. As I mentioned above, the skirt seemed quite universal in size. To resolve this I used the straps from the waistband bow tie to create an option to tighten the skirt if it was too big for my niece. Luckily these did not need much sewing, except unpicking two side seams of the original skirt to place them in. Once the straps were in place it was time to sew them back up. I think the bow adds a lovely effect, don’t you?

The other issue I had was the mismeasurement of the lining, resulting in it hanging lower than the actual skirt. This was easily solved by trimming it and doing an overlock type stitch on the cut piece. This was a form of hem, which allowed the lining to lie flat, as well as protect from unravelling. So I guess the moral of this is to always measure twice and cut once!

Bow tied on the back of a skirt, close up shot
Finished skirt - repurposing a dress

And that is how I and you can complete a project of repurposing a dress into a child’s skirt. Not too hard is it? Would you have done anything differently? Let me know in the comments below.

Repurposing a Dress Video:

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21 thoughts on “Repurposing a Dress – Turning a Dress into a Child’s Skirt

    1. I loved seeing how it was going to turn out. I didn’t want it just going in the bin, the print is far too pretty for that!
      Once you learn, it is so easy!

      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

      Aimsy xoxo

    1. It is such a good way to recycle your clothes, especially the ones you love. It’s so easy to re-make it into something for yourself or others.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Aimsy xoxo

    1. This will be a great project to do as a beginner sewer! Hope the tutorial helps!

      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

      Aimsy xoxo

    1. Definitely! And a lot of the hard work is already done for you, especially if you are keeping it similar.
      Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

      Aimsy xoxo

    1. Glad you liked it and it’s inspired you to get your machine out again. There’s nothing better than bringing back an old piece of clothing to life again is there? There are endless possibilities when you DIY it yourself too!

      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

      Aimsy xoxo

    1. It’s such pretty material, isn’t it? I couldn’t part with it, so why not make it into something else!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Aimsy xoxo

    1. Aww, thank you! It is a great way to be more eco-friendly with your clothes; especially if they are damaged in someway so can’t be sent to the charity shop.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Aimsy xoxo

    2. Aww, thank you! It is a great way to be more eco-friendly with your clothes; especially if they are damaged in some way so can’t be sent to the charity shop.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Aimsy xoxo

  1. Cool DIY! Really you are so talented. I am totally impressed with your work. It would be so easy to make this dress by following your steps. I am going to try this. Thanks and keep sharing.

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