Home » Featured » Re-purposing: Women’s Skirt into a Girl’s Shirred Dress

Re-purposing: Women’s Skirt into a Girl’s Shirred Dress


You thought I was holed up & packing boxes already, didn’t you?  Nope, not yet.  We have a few weeks until moving day…….and most of our stuff is still in boxes, waiting for us in a storage unit.  (We didn’t need all of our stuff during this temporary basement stay.)  So not much to pack up, really.  So yay, I’m still around.  (It’s funny, even when my life becomes chaotic, I tend to take a break from the crazy stuff and make a project or two.  Something about it, tends to make me happy.  Some people get pedicures to relax, I shop at the fabric/craft store.)


I have a few projects that I have been working on, that are only part-way finished.  That may drive some people completely batty.  But when I’m feeling un-inspired……….I leave them alone.  And get out of the house.  And leave those lonely projects sitting right there on my craft table.  One of the places that I go to, looking for inspiration, is the thrift store.  I know, I know………some may only see junk.  But I see some junk and then a ton of supplies.  I start browsing and hear my inner little crafting voice saying, “oooh, I could use that.” and “ha….broken? I’ll fix that!” and “oh my word, that is the ugliest dress ever……but that fabric!  Ooh, that’s perfect!”   It’s crazy, but sometimes heading to the thrift store gets me out of my funk.  Anyone the same way? 


About 2 months ago, I was at the thrift store and was walking by the lady’s skirt rack, on my way to the sweaters.  I stopped and pulled out a few outdated skirts…….and stopped at an all white skirt.  It was about mid-January at this time and my heart was craving warmer weather.  And I knew this white skirt could be transformed into the perfect summery dress for my little girl.  So I snatched it up, washed it clean, and stored it away.


Last week I pulled that white skirt out and decided that this warm weather meant that the white skirt needed a re-purpose.  Pronto.


So I turned that skirt into the perfect (and seriously simple) dress for my little 5 year old.





The skirt already had all the lace and other details around the bottom.  I just chopped a bit off the top and added some shirring around the top and some quick little ties.  That’s it.  (Full directions on how to shirr your fabric with a regular ‘ol sewing machine included below.)




She resisted to put it on at first but then agreed to give it a try.  Now, I can’t get it off her.  She has been happily twirling/spinning/swishing in it all day long.  (Ha…….don’t doubt your momma!)




It helps that the dress is nice and full……..and really twirly.  Success.




Not so bad. 


A few bucks on a thrift store skirt, about 30 minutes of alterations, and SURPRISE…………..a new favorite dress!




Is it still a bit chilly where you’re at?


  Add a sweater.  Just as cute.

  **If using a sheer white fabric, consider adding a lining or wearing dress with a slip.  This dress is a little bit sheer because of the color… I’ll be adding lining on later.  But you shouldn’t have any problems with a darker color or print.




Ready to transform your own skirt into a dress?


Have you been to the thrift store lately?  Or have you raided your own closet lately?  Look for a skirt that has a bit of fullness to it……but it doesn’t need a ton.  Your child (depending on their age), will most likely be smaller than you and you can gather it in even more, giving the dress more fullness.  And keep in mind, an ugly skirt can likely become a really cute summery dress.  Here’s the one I found.


First, decide how long you want the dress to be (measure from the child’s upper chest down to the knee or mid-calf or wherever you want it).  Measure up from the bottom of the skirt, and cut off any remaining skirt at the top.  (If you are making this for a tiny baby or little toddler…….or you have an extra big skirt that you’re working with, consider turning the dress inside out and cutting off several inches off the width and then sewing up a new side seam.  You don’t want an insane amount of fabric or the dress will just look too bulky.)


If the skirt has a zipper, turn the skirt inside side out and lay the skirt flat, with the zipper along one side.  Sew a seam along the edge of the zipper, creating a new seam that excludes the zipper.  Then gradually move your seam over, meeting up with the old side seam of the skirt.  (My new seam was only 5-6 inches long.  I didn’t go down the entire length of the skirt because I didn’t need to.)  Now cut the zipper away, and any other extra fabric.  Then zig-zag (or serge) your raw edges of the new seam.  Once you turn the skirt right side out, this new section of the side seam will taper inwards a bit but it won’t matter after you gather it all in.


Now, with some of the extra fabric that I cut off the top, I made some thin strips of fabric.  (I actually folded it just like I do when making bias tape and sewed it closed.  I can get a more narrow piece of fabric this way.  Because the more narrow the fabric strip gets, the harder it is to do it the other way and turn a fabric tube right side out.)


Then, I serged the top edge of fabric (you can zig-zag if you’d like……….or fold the top edge over a 1/4 inch, another 1/4 inch, then sew it in place) and then began sewing rows of shirring along the top of the soon-to-be dress.  I started at a side seam, backstitched a few times, then sewed my first row of shirring about 1/4 inch from the top edge of the dress.  Once I made my way all the way around the entire top edge, I backstitched again, lifted my needle, then dropped it back down into the dress, about a 1/4 inch (maybe a 1/5) from the top row of shirring.  I kept that same distance all the way around, as I sewed my second row of shirring.  And then I repeated until I sewed about 10 rows of shirring.





**Need help with shirring?  Click here



If you can see, I never cut my thread until all rows were sewn.  You can see a little thread that connects each row together.  And that’s okay.  No one will never see…….and it keeps things a little more secure without cutting your elastic thread each time. 


In the directions to shirr (that I linked to above), I mention that to get your fabric to shrink up after shirring, you must steam it and then watch it shrivel.  If you have a ton of fabric that is just too much to shrink in tight enough to be snug around your child’s chest, you may try doing what I did below.  


This skirt had a lot of width to it, so instead of taking some of it away (like I mentioned at the the beginning of this tutorial), I decided to add a little elastic to the top of the dress to help cinch it in.  I already had everything sewn and didn’t want to pick anything out and create a casing at the top of the dress, so I just placed a narrow piece of cord elastic at the top of the WRONG side of the dress, switched my machine to the widest zig-zag stitch, and let my needle straddle the elastic as I sewed right over it with my sewing machine.  (I lined it up directly over the top of the first row of shirring.)  Make sure to backstitch a few times right at the beginning.  Also, I made sure to NEVER pierce through the elastic……..or it won’t be able to cinch up and pull through this little make-shift casing of zig-zags.  And while sewing your zig-zag, make sure to pull your fabric flat, so that your not creating weird puckers or pleats in your fabric that may look weird from the front.


Once you make it all the way around, stop about an inch before the end and then back stitch a few times again.  Then pull your two ends of elastic (it should slide through the casing of zig-zags) and cinch in the top of your dress.  Then knot the ends together (after measuring how tight to make it on your subject) and cut the loose ends off.


Then, cut your long strip into 4 should strap strips.  Zig-zag each end of your strips (or fold under and sew into place) and then attach each strip to the inside of the dress.  I always sew straps into place with 2 seams, for added support.





Then, make sure your dress is all pressed and then let your little girl slip right inside.  


And enjoy her new little summery dress.






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This post is sponsored by:
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Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. Korey says:

    It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I am happy that you shared this useful information with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Lovaine Niblock says:

    Thanks again for a great tutorial, I have never tried shirring as I’ve only started sewing. You make it look so easy, I can’t wait to get out and buy some elastic thread. Pity it’s 10pm and all the shops are closed:(

  3. Photosarah Crafts says:

    Thanks for sharing this tutorial! It was a great way to repurpose a skirt I really liked, but wasn’t my style.

  4. Lindsay says:

    Great tutorial! I’m hoping maybe you can help me with something— I shirred a skirt for my daughter and it’s just about an inch too big around the waist. I did about 10 lines of shirring and I’m wondering if you have advice on the best way to take it in? Should I do a few more lines of shirring or try the elastic casing method as you used above?

    Thank you!

    1. Ashley says:

      I would do the elastic casing technique. It makes up for shirring that doesn’t quite cinch in enough. If you add more rows, that’s going to make the waistband longer and longer and it may start to look funny. Also, once you wash/dry your shirring, you’ll notice even more shrinking. Good luck!


    2. Lindsay says:

      Thanks! Will give it a try.

    3. mami45 says:

      I am having a similar problem. How much of the cord elastic do you use? Do you have to pull the elastic while you sew? Can I use regular narrow elastic (1/8″) instead?

  5. lydia says:

    i love this idea but how do you make a long skirt for girls like that would kind of drag beacause thats what i am looking for and who ever lives in apple vally ut. i am a room designer and i am only 10 years old and my family said that i am a pro at an desigh i do mostly zebera!!!!!!!!

    1. triana says:

      hay i love zebra can you paint my room that!!

    2. lydia says:

      okay nana hahaha i know you do couz i will tell your mom if you type me agian got it …………

  6. mukadder says:


    Ben istanbul da yaşıyorum. İki kızım var. Çalışıyorum ama aynı zamanda dikiş dikmekten ve pasta yapmaktan hoşlanıyorum. Sayfanızda ki herşey harika. çok beğendim. Benim fazla dikiş bilgim yok. Sadece bakarak birşeyler yapmaya çalışıyorum. Maalesef ingilizce bilmiyoruö :( Google translate ile yazdıklarınızı okuyorum.


    1. lydia says:

      what are you saying i speak english

    2. Anonymous says:

      Try using Google translate.

  7. louise says:

    This is so pretty!! Great job recycling!

    1. lydia says:

      iknow it is a great job i wish i was that creative

  8. darci says:

    here’s an extra tip- when setting the straps be sure to place the back straps slightly narrower than the front straps. this will help to keep ;them from slipping off the shoulder

  9. Maricris @ SittingAround says:

    I love it! Very nice. I won’t event notice that it was a skirt, if I didn’t read your post.

    1. lydia says:

      that happens to me alot

  10. Kim says:

    SO cute! All your pictures turn out so beautifully, too. I love the eyelet detail on the dress, too. And I really need to give elastic thread a try.

  11. Mindy says:

    I just made my daughter a cinderella dress from a skirt of mine! Great idea to repurpose skirts!

  12. cucicucicoo says:

    very cute idea! i will have to see what skirts i have hanging around that i don’t need anymore for myself! :) lisa

  13. Allison A says:

    Oooh, perfect timing. I’ve got big plans to try shirring out this week for my sweet girl. I was excited to read about shirring again so I can attempt it.

    Your re-purposed skirt looks darling.

  14. Tricia says:

    Fabulous idea! Reminds me of The Maddy Dress…so cute! I purchased your pattern awhile back when they were on sale. I recently made my niece the dress and couldn’t understand why my elastic would pop and break when I was done shirring. I was SO frustrated. So I read over your helpful hints (again) and FINALLY realized I have a drop in bobbin. Duh! Turned my tension to 2 and my shirring is now flawless! I also shirred a diaper cover to match which turned out to be so much easier. Thanks so much for ALL your wonderful and awesome tutorials.

  15. Carolyn Hall says:

    I love it! What would be an easy way to make bloomers for underneath? I have 2 girls ages 5 and 6, that love dresses. Thanks!!

  16. abbie says:

    Awesome way to repurpose a skirt! I can feel spring coming now. Great tutorial.

  17. nebuchudnessar says:

    What a fabulous idea, must do this for my daughter and nieces

  18. Paige says:

    I, too, wonder the craft stores and thrift stores to relax and see what I get get inspired by!! LOVE this dress! But, I always love what you make!!! :)

  19. Victoria says:

    Love the cardigan/sweater with the dress! Really stands out :)

  20. dannyscotland says:

    This is a beautiful dress! There is something so sweet about a little girl in a frilly white dress.

  21. sherry says:

    WoW I did something very similar with almost an identical skirt. Check out this link:
    The pictures pick up the sheerness of the fabric more than you can see in real life but I was also thinking, like you, of adding in a lining.
    Love your blog btw ♥

  22. Elise says:

    Awesome! I have a white skirt almost exactly like that. But, I just got it last summer, so probably shouldn’t chop it into a dress for my girl. She’s only two and it’s an ankle length skirt anyway. Maybe in a few years. :-) Might rummage through my old clothes and see what else I can find.

  23. Jenny says:

    I have a couple of questions.

    1) How tall is your daughter?
    2) How tall are you and would the skirt have come all the way to your ankies?

    I love this idea, but I fear my 8 year old is getting a bit too tall ( sob). We like her dresses to come past her knee when sitting, so…..we still have lots of little girl babies at church I can try it for!

  24. Jenna says:

    This is perfect! I have a really flowy skirt I made for myself a few years ago that I just don’t like, and I want to turn it into a dress for my daughter for this summer. Now you have saved me the trouble of figuring out how! Thanks!

  25. Leigh Ann says:

    I LOVE repurposing! I haven’t attempted shirring yet but there have been so many tutorials online lately that I know I need to get down to it! Love your stuff!

  26. Renata says:

    Ashley, this so cute dress. My little princess loves the dresses. This would be the next project on my to do list, thanks for sharing your idea. Hugs. Renata

  27. dina says:

    i want to know the model of your camera and how can use it for this beautiful images ? thank u

  28. dina says:

    wow…beautiful dress

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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