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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  I stopped and pulled out a few outdated skirts…….and stopped at an all white skirt.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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Ashley Johnston

Administrator 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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Hi, I'm Ashley

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

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