31 Days · DIY · Thrifts

31 Days: The Thrift Project – Day 2: Vintage Skirt Refashion

I love vintage.  (I promise I’m not going to start every post with “I love ________.” But these things I really do love.) I bought my first vintage garment at an antique store. I was home from college for Christmas, and my grandmother and I headed downtown to where all the “haggle” shops and fine antique malls are. I found the skirt mixed in among oak dining tables and embroidered linens.  It was a cream-colored homemade skirt with simple black embroidery. And it didn’t fit (still doesn’t – I’m going to tackle it this month, too), but it’s hung in my closet since then. There is something special about a handmade, hand-embroidered piece – that attention to detail, those sewing skills that I have clearly not mastered. I have a hard time passing up vintage.

Today’s project is a prime example. It called to me with it’s big old-fashioned silver zipper, it’s French seams, its snap fasteners, its Girl Scout shade of green.  Forget the fact that it was WAY too big. It was mine.

It’s been in my “To-Sew” pile for over a year.  I’ve been afraid to take it apart, to make a new waistband that actually fits. But the pull to wear it finally outweighed my fear.

And then, lightbulb moment: elastic waist!  I can stitch an elastic band on top of the existing waistband, leaving the original intact, and create something that’s wearable now.

Materials Needed:

  • skirt
  • 3-inch elastic band, the circumference of your waist plus 2 inches
  • coordinating thread (I used black to go with the elastic band)
  • straight pins
  • measuring tape
  • scissors
  • chalk (not pictured)
  • sewing machine

1. Measure your waist.  Add 2 inches (for overlap) to that number, then cut elastic that length.

2. Overlap edges of elastic by 2 inches and pin together.

3. Sew elastic together by sewing a rectangle that covers the entire overlap. Then sew an X inside the rectangle. (See photo below for more details.) This will keep the elastic secured.

4. This step is optional, but it makes the elastic edge look neater and more finished. Using a zigzag stitch, stitch down the loose outside edge of the elastic.

5. Laying elastic band down on work surface with overlap centered in the back, measure the center and make a chalk mark.

This next part is a shortcut – instead of measuring the sides, I just lined up the back overlap with the front chalk mark, pinched the sides down, and marked them. Combined with the center of the overlap, there should now be 4 marks. Think of it like a compass, with the back overlap at North, the front center is South, and the two sides are East and West. Do the same thing on the skirt, making 4 marks. Note the skirt is larger than the elastic, so the measurements will be different.

6. Putting the skirt’s waistband inside the elastic, line up the chalk marks on the elastic with the marks on the skirt and pin.

Extra fabric in the skirt will hang loose in between pins – this is okay – this is where the skirt will gather after you attach the elastic band.

7. This is where it gets a little tricky.  You will slide skirt and elastic under presser foot and prepare to sew. Do a few stitches to get started.  Then, holding skirt and elastic behind the machine, pull the skirt and elastic in front of the machine until the elastic stretches and skirt is pulled taut. You will be attaching the skirt to elastic that is stretched out in order to cover the entire waist; when it is finished being sewn, the elastic will pull back to its original size and create a gathered look. Sew from the first pin until you reach the next pin. Pull the next section taut as you did the first time and continue sewing. Repeat until you have returned to where you started.

And it’s finished! (Disregard the wrinkles.  I have a 3-year-old and a very mobile 9-month-old.  The iron is rarely seen these days!)

What I love about using elastic like this is that it’s a quick way to alter a skirt that isn’t necessarily permanent, and it also gives a nice waistband that’s pretty enough to be seen. I have another project coming up in which I’ll use this technique in a slightly different way to makeover another skirt. (Can you tell I got a good deal on a roll of 3 inch elastic?)


Click here to see all the other posts in this series.


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4 thoughts on “31 Days: The Thrift Project – Day 2: Vintage Skirt Refashion

  1. Perfect! Seriously, how can I look like you after two babies? I can’t believe you keep things as long as you do..lol. Good thing you are doing this challenge to force you to do these fabulous re-do’s!

  2. Nicole… I have been meaning to check out your bog. I am so glad I did. I am a fellow thrifter and have a garage full of half finished projects. I love seeing what you are accomplishing. Fantastic!


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