Repurposing Clothing: Girls Skirts, three ways

12 Jul

three skirts hanging

The fine folks over at Simple Simon & Company are sponsoring “Skirting the Issue,” a five week event encouraging sewers at large to make and donate girls’ skirts and other items. I’ll be following their suggestion and donating these skirts to a local foster care agency.

I started off at the fabric store where I picked out a bold floral print and coordinating polka dot fabric to make a few skirts. But when I realized that the fabric had been mis-labeled and would cost about twice as much as I thought, I reevaluated. I’m on a pretty limited budget these days, and after all, the point of this is to be able to donate my skills and abilities to create something useful. I do after all have boxes and boxes of fabric- surely there is something that would make for a cute skirt.

An increasing amount of my fabric stash is in the form of previously worn clothing found in thrift stores and occasionally my own closet. Here are three skirts I made, from three different items. The key to successfully repurposing (or upcycling) clothing items is to make something smaller than the original item. For this reason, making children’s clothing is an obvious choice, but you could certainly use some of these techniques to make larger women’s skirts, you might just need a larger item to start with.

Skirt #1: Man’s Dress Shirt

Before: Man's dress shirt, size XL

Before: Man’s dress shirt, size XL

After: Girl's skirt, size 6/7

After: Girl’s skirt, size 6/7

The advantage of using a man’s shirt instead of a woman’s, is that there is typically less shaping, and fewer seams. The boxier cut of this shirt makes the transition to a skirt much simpler. I used the existing side seams as the seams of the skirt, and added a separate elastic waistband. In the interest of modesty, I ran a quick seam up the button placard so that the skirt cannot be unbuttoned. A rolled hem later, and Voila!, a sweet skirt for a six year old. Though I think those tan buttons may need to go though, don’t you?

If you want to try this, you’ll want to find a shirt whose circumference is at least 1 1/2 times that of the waist of the future skirt wearer. As with all reclaimed clothing, make sure the shirt is free of stains (check the armpits!), and look for a shirt without pockets if possible. The placement of shirt pockets is often less than ideal, and may limit the length of your skirt. In my experience, removing the shirt pocket rarely goes well as it often leaves glaring stitch lines.

Skirt #2: Pillowcase Skirt 

Before: Cotton Pillowcase

Before: Cotton Pillowcase

After: Girl's skirt, size 10

After: Girl’s skirt, size 10

I snagged this IKEA pillowcase at a thrift store last summer. I’m not usually one for floral prints, but leave it to the Swedes to persuade me. Pillowcases, of course, have long been used to make dresses, shirts, and skirts, usually for tiny pigtailed tots. The advantage of using a pillowcase for an article of children’s clothing means that most likely you can use the existing seams and hems, and only refashion the top of the pillowcase into a neckline or waistband. If making a larger item, you could potentially reorient the pillowcase sideways to have more width to work with, depending on the print and the weave of the fabric. In this case, the pillowcase opening had an extra flap so reusing the hem was out of the question. Instead, I slit open the folded end of the pillowcase and then cut the pillowcase to the skirt length desired. Just like the shirt skirt above, I sewed a separate elastic waistband from contrasting fabric and attached it to the skirt. I added a wide hem to the bottom. Super simple. Except that the finished product looks a little plain to me, so I’m thinking about some applique.

Wanna give this one a go? Lightweight pillowcases can make for cool, airy summer wear, but the thinner pillowcases can also be a little transparent. Keep an eye out for vintage pillowcases with lace or embroidered edges that will not only save you the trouble of a hem, but make for a unique hemline.

Skirt #3: Adapting an Adult Skirt 

Before: Woman's Skirt, size medium (has already been shortened in this photo)

Before: Woman’s Skirt, size medium (has already been shortened in this photo)

After: Girl's Skirt, size 8

After: Girl’s Skirt, size 8

I realize that these before and after photos may possibly be the least interesting, least dramatic before and after photos. Frankly, this skirt took so little effort it felt like cheating. When I found this on thrift store rack, this skirt was a few sizes too small for me, not to mention the elastic was shot and the ties were coming apart, but I’ve always been a fan of India cotton- I love the softness of this lightweight cotton, and the soft bleed of the (usually) vegetable based dyes. I recently raided the lower portion of this skirt for another applique project so I started by trimming the skirt to leave me with a straight hem. The original casing for the waistband was a little too narrow, and the stitching was a little worse for wear. So I ripped out the original casing and refolding the top edge to create a slightly larger casing. I stitched in a new hem, and this skirt has been given new life for a slightly smaller owner.

I’m hoping to tackle a few more skirt projects in the coming weeks, using a combination of reclaimed garments and stash fabric. If you’re interested in checking out what other skirts folks are making for Skirting the Issue, you can check out the flickr page here.

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