Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!

Makeover Monday: A Tale of Two Skirts


It was the best of skirts:

Just-below-knee-length pencil silhouette, charcoal grey, substantial-weight stretch woven fabric, invisible zipper, back vent. Goes with everything.

Pencil skirt

Pencil skirt (before). Serviceable, but…

It was the worst of skirts:


This poor pencil skirt needs to be rescued, lest it fall further into the clutches of the enemy: wardrobe boredom. My strategy is to add a peplum, short in front, longer in back.

Goal: Create a skirt that’s exciting and versatile.

Key to battle plan: Deploy secret weapon at crucial moment.

Oh. That would be now.

1. Choose your secret weapon, a.k.a. a second skirt: ideally, this will be lightweight, full rather than straight, colorful, maybe even printed; must also complement original skirt color. My choice meets all these criteria, and even exceeds them with a fun border print!

Secret weapon skirt

Print skirt (before). It’s lightweight, full, colorful— it’s my secret weapon!

2. Cut off the part of your secret weapon skirt you want to use for the peplum.

Tip: As you’re cutting your skirt, when you get to the zipper, don’t cut through it! (Don’t ask why I mention this. Just trust me.) You’ll have to remove the zipper before you can finish cutting the skirt away from the waistband. You can do this before cutting your skirt, if you like. I like to leave the zipper in until later, simply because it helps to keep the side seam aligned. After the zipper is out of the way, finish cutting the skirt away from the waistband.

Removing usable part of skirt

Removing usable part of skirt. 1. With side seams at sides, pin hem edges together. 2. This skirt has pleats that are stitched down below the waistband; I’m going to cut the skirt off below the pleats (3). 4. After cutting away the waistband.

RED ALERT! The originally-zippered side seam of my secret weapon skirt will be lined up later with the center back (also zippered) seam of the grey skirt. Make sure before you mark and cut how your seams will match up; with a hi-low hemline like this peplum is going to have, you risk that the longest part will end up at the side of your skirt, instead of the back. I just had a brief panic-stricken moment about this issue myself, but thankfully, all is well.

Remains of the skirt

Remains of the skirt. These are the potentially reusable parts, left after removing the skirt that will become the peplum.

Tip: Salvage zippers, buttons, even hooks and eyes whenever you can. I’m keeping the white invisible zipper from the print skirt, and also the white cotton batiste lining, which may be useable as an underlining. Even this wide waistband, with its contrasting bow trim, could be used; because I cut the skirt off below the lower waistband seam, it might be possible to add a new skirt to it!

3. Now it’s time to mark the new cutting line, and then cut it, creating the hi-low peplum hemline.

Cutting the new seam line

Cutting the new seam line. 1. Fold down the top edge of the print skirt, laying it below the pencil skirt waistband, to approximate the angle you’d like. (Note: This photo shows the skirt from the side; center back is on the left, center front on the right.) 2. Pin-mark across the top of the fold to mark the new seamline. (This doesn’t have to be perfect.) 3. Lay your tape measure above the pins, creating a straight line, and use a fabric pencil to mark the cutting line above the tape measure. The space where the tape measure is in the photo will be the new seam allowance. 4. My peplum after cutting. The seam where the zipper used to be will align with the center back of the pencil skirt; the shortest part of the peplum (on the right in the photo) will be the center front.

Tip: If your secret weapon skirt is lined, as mine is, get the lining out of the way, if possible, before pinning and cutting, especially if you might want to repurpose that lining.

Tip: The fabric marking pencil I’m using is a water-soluble one, meaning it will wash out of the fabric. Since the cutting line I’m marking will be contained in the seam allowance, there’s not an issue with the pencil marks showing. This is especially true since this pencil is light grey, which shows just enough on the green of the print to guide me while cutting.

Also, you can use a rigid yardstick as a marking guide; the reason I’m using a tape measure here is that it’s .5″ wide, perfect for marking a seam allowance.

4. Remove waistband from pencil skirt. On my grey skirt, the zipper goes all the way to the top of the waistband, so I’ll have to partially remove the zipper (to about 1.5″ below the waistband seam) in order to take off the waistband:

Pencil skirt zipper

Pencil skirt zipper, before removing waistband. Note that the zipper goes to the top of the waistband (there’s also a hook and eye at the very top); I’ll have to undo the zipper stitching to around 2″ below the waistband before taking off the waistband.

Tip: Since you’ll be replacing this waistband back onto the skirt after adding your peplum, be very careful not to damage it while snipping at the stitches. Also, you may need to remove hooks and eyes or other auxiliary fasteners; keep a small box or zip-top bag handy to kepp them in, and don’t forget to replace them later!

Removing the waistband

Removing the waistband. Undo the zipper stitching (on both sides) down to about 2″ below the waistband seam, then rip out the waistband seam itself.

Press the top edge of the grey skirt flat, and do the same with the folded edge of the removed waistband.

After waistband removal

After waistband removal, press the edges so they’re ready to reattach later.

Tip: Once your waistband is removed, this is a great time to make alterations, if desired. In my skirt, which I confess is a tiny bit snug in the waist, I could let out a couple of the darts (there are a total of 8); the only issue with that is that the old waistband would then not be long enough. However, since the waistband of my secret-weapon skirt is larger, I could actually use that to replace the original grey one (it would go with the peplum, after all). Or I could just put the grey one back on and lose 5 pounds.

5. Gather the top edge of your secret-weapon peplum, and pin to grey skirt.

Gathering the peplum

Gathering the peplum. 1. Using a long stitch length, sew around the edge, inside the seamline, on the right side. 2. Pin the peplum to the grey skirt as shown, folding under the peplum edge and pinning slightly outside the zipper stitching line. 3. Pin the center fronts of the peplum and grey skirt together to adjust gathers (photo shows skirt from the side). 4. If desired, mark a section of center front to stay flat (not gathered).

Tip: The easiest way to create gathers is to simply sew around the top edge, slightly inside the seam allowance, using a very long stitch length (I usually use 4 to 4.5); leave thread tails on both ends of stitching. Grab a thread tail from the underside (the side where the bobbin thread is), and pull gently to gather. Repeat from the other thread end, and continue to adjust the amount of gathering until it’s the right size to fit around your pencil skirt.

In my case, I’m making my gathered piece slightly larger than the grey skirt, because the grey skirt is a stretch-woven fabric; this will allow me to stretch the grey skirt very slightly as I attach the gathered piece, so that the fit will have more ease.

While I was gathering and pinning, it occurred to me that I might not want a lot of pouf going on in the center front, so I’ve now decided to have a small section in front with no gathers at all; I’m using the front darts that are closest to the center-front line as starting points for my gathers (see 4 in the above photo), and I’m also trying to gradually increase the gathers towards the back of the skirt. This will concentrate most of the fullness of the peplum from the side seams to the center back. Here’s what it looks like:

Peplum pinned in place

Peplum pinned in place. I do think my decision to not gather the center front was a good one; there’s still plenty of fullness, but a lot less pouf.

And here’s one final look for today, with the grey waistband laying above the peplum, just so I can visualize the finished skirt. I find this is helpful, especially in the middle of a long project; it motivates me when I can at least get a glimpse of what it will become!

Skirt ready to sew!

My newly-peplumed skirt is ready to sew! The previously-removed waistband from the grey skirt is placed on top to simulate what the finished skirt will look like.

Next week, I’ll take you through the process of finishing this peplumed project, from restitching the partially-removed zipper to reattaching the grey waistband. Don’t miss this thrilling conclusion of Makeover Monday: A Tale of Two Skirts!

Author: Colormusing

I'm a writer, color palette creator, and designer of fashion, lingerie, graphics, knitwear patterns, and yarn.

2 thoughts on “Makeover Monday: A Tale of Two Skirts

  1. Pingback: Makeover Monday: A Tale of Two Skirts, Part Two | Changing Your Clothes

  2. Pingback: Thrift-Shop Thursday: Top Off a Dress Tutorial | Changing Your Clothes

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