How to change a dress into a skirt

Updated July 19, 2017

Give life to old garments by altering them. Say you found a vintage dress in a wonderful fabric, but the top doesn't fit, or you have a closet full of dresses you never wear anymore. You can separate the skirt from the dress, giving yourself fresh wardrobe options and setting aside the tops for other projects. Look for unlined dresses and ones that have relatively simple patterns for this project. The less you have to alter the dress to convert it into a skirt, the easier your project will be.

Turn the dress inside out and iron it, flattening all of the seams to expose the stitching. The easiest dress to convert is one that already has an elastic waistband. The more difficult will have zippers that cross the body of the dress, from the bodice down to the skirt, or buttons that continue across the waistline.

Remove buttons and zippers using the seam ripper. Set aside. Separate the bodice from the dress by cutting about 2 or 3 inches above the waistline. Be sure to give yourself a good amount of fabric above the waist in order to create a hemmed waistband.

Fold the extra fabric around the waistline down about 1 inch, then fold again so that you have a smooth, double-thick, 1-inch band going around either at or just above the waistline. Tack the waistband down with stick pins. If your dress has an elastic waist, then fold the extra fabric below the elastic, so that the elastic is at the top of the waistband. You want to use the extra fabric to create a band around the elastic without sewing over the elastic.

Iron your pinned waistband to make a smooth band. Load matching thread into your sewing machine for both the topstitch and the bobbin. With the skirt still inside out, begin sewing around the waistband, using an even straight stitch. Sew about 3/4 or 3/5 of the way down the band, close to the waistline and use your machine guides to keep the stitching straight.

Finish your skirt by replacing the fastenings. If your dress had an elastic waist, you're done. If you want a button closure or zipper, then you need to replace these fasteners from where you previously removed them. Measure the length of the opening and find a zipper that is the appropriate length, then insert it. A hook-and-eye closure is a relatively easy way to close the gap above a zipper or button closure at the top of the waist. Simply insert the hook on one side of the opening and the eye on the other, sewing through the holes at the base of each to attach them.

Things You'll Need

  • Iron
  • Seam Ripper
  • Measuring Tape
  • Scissors
  • Stick Pins
  • Thread
  • Sewing Machine
  • Hook and Eye
  • Zipper
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About the Author

Karen Browning is a freelancer who provides content writing, grant writing, editing and research services to a variety of clients. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in American Studies. She loves to research and write about history, yoga, education, travel, technology and food. She has been writing for more than 15 years.