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The 15 MINUTE “Thrift Store Skirt” to “Girl’s Dress” Refashion

Elli’s growing like a stinkin’ weed.  Most of her dresses are getting awkwardly short on her.  Her skirts, well, those can always sit a little lower on the hips and can last a little longer. ;)  But the dresses……I keep telling her she can’t wear the awkward-short ones any more.  Yeah, sad day for Elli.  (Remember how she’s obsessed with skirts and dresses??)  I have been telling her for several months now, that I would buy or make her some new dresses.  But at the store…….the dresses in her size are either super teeny-bop (high school musical, hannah montana, etc.) or super blah. 


So…….off to the thrift store for some inspiration. :)


Sometimes, I have an “unlucky thrift store” day and can’t find a thing.  But I can almost always find something for something else.  Let me tell you a secret, I usually find the best stuff when I’m not even looking for it.  Because last week when I was at the thrift store, looking for some knit shirts for a different project……..I found a swishy lady’s skirt with a funky print.  And I immediately thought of Elli’s dress dilemma.  See?  Lucky. ;)


One more thing……I’m going to share with you the best types of skirts to use to turn this project into a 15 MINUTE project.  Simple.




Cute skirt.  But even cuter dress for Elli.  (And all it took was a little adjusting of the width and adding straps.  Done.)




And you know, we never would have found this print OR texture at the fabric store.  So it’s completely unique……and she LOVES it! :)




It moves nicely and the color gives it a nice punch.  So she’s happy as a clam!  (Especially because it’s a little longer and will last a while before becoming awkward-short like her current dresses.)





But I dare ya…..head to the Thrift Store (or your closet) and start looking at those old skirts a little differently.  Those weird length skirts or funky-cut ones may look terrible on you…….but they may be just what you need to create a darling little dress!




The best ones to find??  Ones with an elastic waistband.  They make this whole process a lot quicker.  And easier.  (But you can transform a fitted-waistband too.  No worries!)




And because you’ll most likely need to make the skirt a bit more narrow so it will fit around your subject’s chest, you’ll have leftover fabric to create some straps.  Perfect.




Oh, and if you’d like to add a little something to the front…….add a Shirred Fabric Flower to the strap.  I experimented with Elli’s hair clip and LOOK!!  Cute, right? :)



Whew.  Glad I finally kept my word and made this little nut a dress that fits.  And for $2.50 (the cost of the skirt at the thrift store)…..I’m just as happy! :)



Would you like the Simple Skirt into Dress Instructions??


First of all, head to the Thrift Store.  Or your closet.  And look for a skirt that has a little (or a lot) of fullness to it.


Now, finding an elastic waistband will make this project the easiest…..but you don’t have to use an elastic waistband.  However, this tutorial isn’t going to go into detail of how to make alterations to a skirt that DOESN’T have an elastic waistband.  (Another day??)


First, measure the skirt around your subject’s chest (up high, even with the arm pits) and place a pin at the spot where you need to take it in.  Then, turn the skirt inside out and create a line of pins all the way down the skirt where you need to take it in.  (Keep in mind, you’ll need to angle your line outward to keep both sides symmetrical.)  Then sew a line down the skirt, right where you placed your pins.


Then, cut the extra fabric away, about a 1/4-1/2 inch away from the seam.  Then zig-zag or serge the raw edge.



Now, you can make straps with completely fabric or use the scraps from the extra skirt fabric that you cut away.  The width of your straps can be and size you’d like…..but I cut strips that were about 1.5 inches wide and then sewed them into tubes (1/4 inch seam allowance), and then turned them right side out.  (Just be sure that they are long enough to fit over the shoulders and have room to be sewn to the dress.)  If you want to keep it even simpler, use wide ribbon as your straps.



**Something I forgot to do and had to go back and do after, was to zig-zag (or serge) the raw edges of each strap end.  So, you won’t see them finished in my photo below.  But do that now, before going on.**


Now, try the dress on your subject to find the best strap placement and pin the straps in place.  Then take it off and sew each strap end in place with two lines of stitches (to keep it secure).




And there you have it………a 15 Minute Dress.  Easy and cute!



Now, you’ll never look at an ill-fitting skirt the same way again.  Ever! :)



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 my 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!
The 15 minute “thrift store skirt” to “girl’s dress” refashion
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  1. Deb Pool says:


  2. Gowri Buvan says:

    gr8 work.. am gonna try this now..

  3. Wanda McGhee says:

    Great idea and a beautiful little girl. It is amazing what you can do with thrift store things. LOVE IT!!!! Keep up the good work. It is nice to see some teens making comments on your blog. I have been sewing since i was five. I am sixty three yo now. I make my own patterns for most things or do re=do’s like yours. My mother never used a pattern, so that is where i learned that from. I love your work and ideas. I have two daughters. One is 44yo and never had any interest in sewing. I have a daughter that is 14yo and she is showing interest. She can knit but i can’t. What’s wrong with that picture? HA! Thanks again for all of your great things. Miss Wanda in NC.

  4. Linda G. says:

    I just LOVE THIS tutorial! I do not know why I have not thought to do this very thing for my very tall and skinny 4 year old, she is the height of many 7 year olds and dresses that fit her at the top are way too short unless they are a tea length dress. Even better is the fact that you can still use this “dress” as a skirt if your daughter is still pretty slim after gaining a few more inches.

  5. Diane says:

    My daughter purchased a couple spaghetti strap summer tops(on clearance for a few bucks each) and i made them into skirts for my granddaughter. Shes real skinny, and have a hard time finding skirts that are long enought. Those tops were a few sizes bigger than she wore. They were a tope with rows of 4 in ruffles all around and i just cut off the top and made a yoga top on it. 8 inches of good interlock that has lycra in it. Worked like a charm and i have other ladies doing it too.

  6. Abi Jones says:

    I am always looking for a great bargain. This is the cutest and most creative idea when it comes to creating little girl dresses. I find some great ideas from and some other sites. But this has to take it all. Thank you for sharing now I need to go thrift shopping and find me some skirts.

  7. debbie says:

    I love this.. now I want to go thrift store shoppihng for some skirts to make for the grandgirls..

    (reposted – email was wrong in my first comment )

  8. debbie says:

    I love this,, now I want to go thrift store shopping for some skirts to make for the grandgirls.

  9. Kristin says:

    Easy way to do this with a non-elastic skirt that has a zipper on one side: follow Ashley’s institutions exactly, taking in the side opposite the zipper. Zipper is already in, so need to to adjust anything!

  10. Jennifer says:

    I just made my daughter a dress from an old skirt in my closet. She LOVES it! And the skirt was about to be donated to the local thrift shop, so it was perfect timing. I am not an experienced sewer, so the while thing took me about an hour, but still totally worth it. Thanks for the idea!

  11. Melissa says:

    so cute!!! I have to say, she looks pretty grown up in her trendy dress.

  12. katie says:

    eeeeeeeeee! :) I just made one of these for my daughter (mine took about half an hour, but I also made a flower embelishment from the extra skirt lining) It is so so super adorable, thanks for the easy peasy tutorial!
    Can’t beat an adorable, original dress for $2!

  13. Kristina Calkins says:

    I love it! I can not wait to make one for ma daughters.

  14. Susie Lovelace says:

    I thought maybe I could make me a top to wear. For myself , except I guess I might have to hem it .Thanks again for sharing your great ideas. I plan on making this a soon as I find a nice skirt.

  15. Linda Chapman says:

    Cute! CUTE! CUTE!!!! I can’t wait to try some of your great ideas this summer for my granddaughter!

  16. Jennifer C. says:

    Good idea! I hate how all the size 7 dresses seem to be for much older girls. My six year old doesn’t need a sweetheart dress top, something slim fitting, and short. I’m planning on making her an Easter dress because I haven’t liked the other options I’ve seen so far.

  17. Jenn says:

    Oh my gosh, I just did something really similar to this the other day! I was at the thrift shop and I found a really cute peasant-style junior girls’ top, and I immediately though “dress!!” for my 3-year-old daughter! It had beautiful gathering and stretchy elastic under the bust, and then it poufed out with billowy purple fabric, which was embroidered with gorgeous peasant-style embellishments and little eyelets….all ending in a beautiful scalloped hem!! And it was $1.50!! I snatched it up.

    I’ve already removed the top part that covers the bust (which was essentially two triangles with floppy little bra cups sewn inside…ick), and I’m keeping the neck-ties, which are made of braided fabric, to re-attach to the dress I’m making for my 3-year-old. I’m going to probably do a halter-style neck-tie dress, and then she can wear it as she gets a little taller, too.

    The funny thing was, she saw the little peasant shirt on top of my sewing pile, picked it up and said, “Mommy, you made me a dress!!!” And then she picked up the top and proceeded to try and wear it as a dress. I had to convince her it wasn’t a dress YET, but that it soon would be. She’s counting the days.

    Like you said with your dress, I’d NEVER have found fabric with this unique pattern of eyelets and peasant-style embroidery (with a scalloped bottom, too) at the fabric shop! This is going to be a totally unique dress! (Not like the stuff I buy all the time at Target, which everyone else is always wearing too….but come on, you gotta love Target and their clearance sales!)

    I’ve already sized it and pinned it…now all I need to do is get around to actually sewing it! LOL

    I just joined your Flickr group, so I’ll be sure to upload a pic of my little Clara in her thrift shop shirt-to-dress outfit! Which is very similar to your skirt-to-dress, because the shirt I’m using has elastic around the top and gathering, so it’s sort of like a skirt…only smaller. Hehee!!

    Clara is super-excited about the summer dress I’m making for her. And I like your idea of putting a little top underneath. I’ll probably do that until the really hot weather comes.

    Thanks for another great tutorial!!

    Smiles, Jenn

  18. Tara Johnson says:

    Ash that lil girl of yours is all grown up! I cannot believe it! Cannot wait to see you guys!!!

  19. Ellie says:


  20. Torrie says:

    This is just what I needed. My 10 year old is getting to tall for all her dresses and skirts. I would love a tute on the non-elastic waisted skirts I have in my closet.

  21. Kimberly T. says:

    Wow, I love this idea!!! I’m hitting the thrift store asap!

  22. domestic bliss squared says:

    Really cute! I have done this before, it’s so cute! Your dress is freaking adorable!

  23. Jessica says:

    Very cute! I love this! Now I want to head to the thrift shop. Thanks for sharing this.

  24. Angie says:

    Adorable photos of Elli in her new repurposed dress!!!! what a great idea!. If you are still looking for cute girls, inexpensive dresses, I was in line at K-Mart the other day buying cleaning supplies, and the lady in front of me purchased three of the cutest girls dresses for inexpensive prices. I look forward to seeing more of Elli’s new dresses!

  25. Roxy says:

    Ok I have been trying to figure out a simple way to make my older skirts into dresses for my girls and this is genius! Thanks for the tip on a simple fit of a strap dress with t-shirt under it…DUH why didn’t I think of that?!?!?!

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

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