With the summer truly upon us, there's never been a better time to jazz up your wardrobe with some funky summer dresses. What greater way to prepare for the festival season than by turning a plain oversized skirt into a pretty floaty frock? Designer Vicky Taylor shows you how...
- Skirt, from charity shop, as large as possible
- Fabric: strips in a complementary colour, 10cm x 60cm, plus off-cuts to create bias binding
- Fusible interfacing, 1m
- Dressmaker’s chalk
- This is a custom sized project. Our guide refers to sizes 8-16.
Convert an oversized skirt into a stylish dress
Assess the fit. Turn the skirt inside out. Use a pair of dressmaker’s scissors to snip 15cm downwards from the top of each side seam to open it up. This will allow you, when trying the skirt on (pulling it up around you as if it were a dress), to hold your arms into the position where the armholes will be formed.
Pinch the fabric up, pinning it together on each side at the top where the waistband of the skirt is and leaving an open gap for your head. These pinched sections will later form the shoulder seams. Make sure the side seam cuts are equal on both sides, keeping the dress on to estimate the rest of the garment shaping.
Pin, chalk and cut the shoulder seams. These should slope gently downward from the neckline. The best fit will be achieved by pinning together at the neckline, then working down towards the shoulders. Once satisfied, take the dress off. Mark a 1.5cm seam allowance along both shoulders then cut along the chalk line, leaving the pins in place.
Neaten the armholes. Note that, due to being finished with bias binding, there is no need to add a seam allowance to these edges. If the shoulders now stick out slightly, trim them down to neaten. To do this, try the dress on again, inside out. With wrong sides facing outwards, mark the cutting line with dressmaker’s chalk.
Trim the front side of both arm hole edges, then take the dress off. Lay it on a flat surface with the front facing uppermost. Trim the back armhole carefully, following the curve of the front armhole as a template.
Create the neckline. As with the armhole construction, try the dress on and chalk out the neckline. Once satisfied, cut it out - again, there is no need to add a seam allowance. Sew the shoulder seams with right sides together using a straight machine stitch.
Prepare to strengthen the fabric. If the dress is lighter in weight than the material chosen for the lengthening panels, it will need to be reinforced using fusible interfacing.This will prevent the panel from billowing out once attached to the dress. Note: only the lower portion of the garment, from the waistline to the hem, needs strengthening.
Cut out the interfacing using the dress as a template. Fold the interfacing in half (to ensure that two identical pieces are cut) and place the dress on top of it, laid flat. Pin the two together then carefully cut around the garment, trimming it down by 1.5cm on each side so that it fits snugly onto the skirt of the dress, without extending into the seam allowance.
Pin the interfacing into position on the wrong side of the dress, checking that it lines up well with the hem. Trim it down if it is too large and affix into place.
Make box pleat darts to shape the dress. With wrong sides facing outwards, insert a pin at the centre of each bust point to mark where the top of each pleat will begin. Keeping the lines as straight as possible, pinch down from each pin to the waistline, nipping the fabric in until each dart tapers in approximately 3cm at the waistline.
Repeat step 10 to shape the back of the dress, working down from the shoulder blade to the back waistline. The shaping of the darts may have to be adjusted to get the desired shape and ensure that all waistline reductions are equal and level. Check that the dress is still easy to take on and off and adjust accordingly.
Machine stitch the darts into place, working on the wrong side. Starting at the bust point and setting the machine to a small straight stitch, work the darts, then use an iron to lightly press the dart open and flat. Take care not to extend the box pleat down the length of the dress yet – this will be completed later.
Add a panel for length
Create your strips. First, measure the hem of the dress – the first strip needs to be 3cm wider than this amount. As the dress is A-line, each strip needs to increase in width by 4cm, to accommodate the shape. Add a 1.5cm seam allowance – this calculation (hem width + 4cm extra per layer + 3cm seam allowance) will give the width of the panels.
Using the amount calculated from above, chalk the width of each strip onto your chosen fabrics, then cut to 10cm deep. Our sample uses eight pieces: four each for the front and back. Decide on the arrangement of the strips.
Sew the strips together. Working on the front section first, place the pieces together horizontally, strictly adhering to the 1.5cm seam allowance. With right sides together, pin the first two pieces, then sew with a straight machine stitch. Repeat for the rest of the strips, then press the seams open.
Repeat step 3 for the back pieces of the skirt panel to join the strips together neatly. If they appear blocky, trim the jagged corners from each so that the sides of the pieces are smooth and straight. Pin the front and back panels together with right sides facing. Sew with a straight machine stitch down both sides. Press the seams open, and turn the work right sides out.
Pin the panel to the hem of the dress, with right sides together. Work a straight machine stitch all around the edge, starting and ending with a length of backstitch to secure. Turn right sides out and press.
Finish the box pleats. Continue the pressed line of the box pleat darts created in step 10 of the dress down to the hemline. Lay the dress flat and continue the crease line to the bottom of the dress, closing in the fabric by as much as 10cm at the hem. Repeat for each of the box pleats, then press with a damp cloth to fix them in place.
Finish with pretty bias binding
Gather up all of the fabric off-cuts left over from creating the hem panels. Cut the fabrics into 45° bias strips, with a width of 4cm. Continue until the strips measure around 1.5m in length when laid end-to-end.
Join the bias strips together. With right sides together, stitch each piece together. Trim the excess seam allowance and press it flat. Press both long edges to the centre. Refold the strip along the centre line concealing the raw edges.
Attach the binding to the armholes and neckline. With right sides out and the front of the dress facing upwards, place the binding around theraw edges of the neckline. Begin at one of the shoulder seams and leave 2cm of binding loose at the beginning before attaching, to allow it to join up with the opposite end.
Pin the bias binding into position so that the raw edges are secured inside the strip. Machine stitch into place, leaving a 1cm seam allowance. Once sewn all the way round pin the excess at the beginning and end together, with right sides facing. Turn the binding to the right side and handstitch the gap closed. Trim the seam to 1cm. Repeat for both arm holes. For added neatness, add an extra length of bias binding to the hem of the skirt.