How to turn an old dress into a new skirt

Have an old dress you love but simply isn’t in style anymore? Turn it into a stylish new skirt with these simple instructions.

Before and after


  • An old dress
  • 3/4-inch thick elastic
  • Matching thread
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine



Find your dress

This guide works best with dresses that are flowy and have a lot of fabric. Converting a tight dress into a skirt requires more complicated steps, such as inserting darts and putting in a zipper. So for a simple conversion, go with a billowy dress such as one with an empire waist. Stretchy fabric like jersey is best because it ensures the new skirt will be easy to put on.


Cut the dress

Cutting up a dress you love can be upsetting, but take a deep breath, and remind yourself it will all be worth it in the long run. Hold the dress up to you to determine where you want it to sit. Take the opportunity to ensure it will drop to a comfortable length once complete. For an empire dress, this will likely be just under the current seam line. Mark what you wish to be the waistline with chalk or a temporary fabric marker. Once you’ve found the line you want, cut the fabric an inch higher than that to allow for future steps. If you are working with more than one layer of fabric, baste them together before cutting.


Close the ends

If you’re working with a fabric that may fray, zigzag stitch the ends to make for a cleaner look on the inside of the dress. If you’re working with fabric such as jersey, you can forgo this step.


Fold over and pin

Fold the top of the dress toward the inside, and pin in place at 1-1/4 inches all the way around.


Stitch in place

Sew the folded fabric in place, leaving just under an inch of space on the top side for the elastic to go through. Leave a gap in the back or side of about 2 inches to insert the elastic.


Insert elastic

Hold the elastic around your waist so it sits comfortably. Cut. Make sure you don’t pull it too tightly when measuring, as you will be overlapping the ends later, which will make it fit snuggly. Place a safety pin through one end of the elastic; this will make it easier to pull it through. Insert the elastic through one hole, and continue feeding it through until it comes out the other end.


Sew the elastic

Ensure the elastic is lying flat throughout. Pin the two ends together, overlapping by about 1 inch. Use a zigzag stitch to sew a square around the edge of the overlapping elastics.


Sew up the gap

Pull the fabric around the elastic so it is evenly distributed. Sew up the gap in the stitching.

Congrats! You’re done! And now that dress that was gathering dust in your closet has a new life. Enjoy!

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