Changing Your Clothes

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

Makeover Monday: Ballroom Dress to Tango Skirt!


Previously on Makeover Monday, I cut up a stretch-velvet dress I had made several years ago for ballroom dancing; so far, this has netted me an asymmetrically-hemmed top. Today, I’m taking the remainder of the erstwhile dress, adding some contrasting velvet, and turning it into a tango skirt!

Here’s my ballroom dress, before I went a little scissors-happy:

Velvet dress

Velvet dress, pre-makeover.

After cutting this dress diagonally into 2 pieces, here’s what the skirt portion looks like; I’ve laid it over a pencil skirt to get an idea of what I’d have to add to turn this oddly-shaped thing into a useable garment.

Mockup 1

Skirt mock-up 1. Since the original dress was quite close-fitting, I thought this slim pencil skirt would give me some idea how to add on to the remaining velvet piece, to create a new skirt.

My next step was to decide what kind of fabric to add on to the top, so I started digging through my fabric scraps.

Tip: There are 2 ways to go with the contrast fabric. 1. Since the dress is made with a very stretchy velvet, the easiest thing to do is to pair it with an equally stretchy contrast piece, in which case I’d finish it with an elastic waist. 2. I could also use a non-stretch fabric, which would give the upper part of the new skirt more stability; if I do this, I’ll have to add a zipper, probably to the center back seam. Decisions, decisions…

When I ran across a piece of stretch velvet in a beautiful deep coral color that looks amazing with the wine color, I knew I’d found a winner:

Skirt mock-up 2

Skirt mock-up 2. Here, I’ve laid the skirt portion over the coral stretch velvet I’m thinking about adding on to it; the coral velvet is folded and shaped to approximate the contrast part. I love it!

Going back to the silver pencil skirt for a moment, this is featured in my post about creating a custom muslin to make this skirt. So it makes sense to use the same muslin to cut the coral velvet into the right size to make the top of my skirt:

Using muslin pattern

Using my skirt muslin as a pattern. In this image, I used 2 copies of the same photo, and mirrored them so you could see the entire asymmetrical cutting line; the muslin piece is only one-half of the skirt back. The part above the cutting line is what I’ll be adding to the wine-colored part, after sizing it down a little to account for the stretch in the fabric.

Tip: This muslin was created for non-stretch fabrics, so I cut my new pieces slightly smaller than the muslin to compensate for the additional ease in the fabric itself, and also so that the coral part would fit easily into the original skirt when I sew them together.

Pieces before sewing

Pieces before sewing. Here, you can see the seam allowances I’ve planned for on both sides of the coral piece; once these side seams are sewn and pressed, I can sew the coral piece to the skirt. (The points sticking up at the top of the coral piece are where the darts would go, based on the muslin pattern, but I decided not to make darts, but to put in an elasticized waistband.)

Tip: In order to keep side-seam bulk to a minimum, I decided to press the side seams open, rather than serge them and press to one side; this results in a much flatter finish.

After sewing the side seams of the coral part, and making sure that this new piece will smoothly fit on top of the original skirt, I pinned the parts together, sewed the seam all the way around the skirt, then serged the raw edges of the seam and around the top (waist):

Piecing it together

Piecing it together. 1. With wrong sides together, I’ve pinned the coral piece to the wine piece. 2. On the inside, here’s what the seam looks like, after stitching and serging the raw edges together. 3. The new seam on the right side, with the top of the coral part serged.

Tip: As you can see in 2 (above), I like to use a wide, shallow zigzag stitch for sewing most stretch fabrics; it gives a smooth, strong, and flexible seam.

Now all that’s left to do is finishing the waist! I’m using a piece of 1″ wide non-roll waistband elastic, cut to 2″ shorter than my waist measurement, with ends overlapped and sewn together to form a continuous loop; I’m going to zigzag-stitch this to the top of the coral part:

Adding elastic

Adding elastic to the waist. 1. Finish the waist edge, either by serging (shown) or zigzag-stitching close to the raw edge. 2. With the right side of the skirt facing you, lap the elastic over the finished waist edge, and make your first row of zigzag stitching, stretching the elastic to fit as you go. 3. Make a second row of zigzag stitching, enclosing the edge of the elastic. 4. Fold elastic to the wrong side, and tack in place at side seams.

Voila! This type of elastic waist results in a smooth fit and finish on the outside, which is particularly desirable in body-hugging dance clothes. It’s also a great choice when using a slightly bulky fabric like velvet; if I had made the typical elastic waistband, by folding over the velvet to create a casing, the waistband would be twice as thick. (No, thank you.)

My finished skirt:

Velvet skirt

Velvet skirt, post-makeover. The elastic folded over at top creates a smooth-fitting waistband; light steaming (through a press cloth to avoid flattening the velvet) gives a nice finish to the seams.

Now, instead of a dress that was beautiful but basically unworn for at least a few years, I have a top that can be worn many different ways (including for tango), and a skirt that is admittedly pretty tango-specific, but trust me, it’s not possible to have too many tango skirts! And in case you were wondering about the 2 different garments this dress turned into, here they are together:

Top and skirt together

Top and skirt together, post-makeover. Yes, it’s much the same effect as the original dress, but I also really like the diagonal contrast that’s showing, and I think I’ll get much more use out of the 2 separate pieces.

I could think of many variations on this theme of cutting a dress to make a top and skirt. For example, if the dress in need of a makeover is way too long on you, it shouldn’t be too difficult to cut it so that you wouldn’t even need to add contrast fabric, as I did here; you could either finish it with an elastic waist treatment like the one I used on my skirt today, or create a fitted waistband (this could be done with contrast fabric, if you like).

Not sure if you have a candidate for this type of project? Go in your closet and see if you can find a dress that you used to wear and love, but which has been hanging back in a lonely corner for a while now. Got one? Good. Now ask yourself why you haven’t given it to a thrift shop yet. If your answer is anything like, “Because I loooooove it”, get out your scissors and sewing machine, and get creative!

And then go out dancing.

Makeover Mondays are posted on the second Monday of each month, right here on Changing Your Clothes!

Author: Colormusing

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

4 thoughts on “Makeover Monday: Ballroom Dress to Tango Skirt!

  1. Love the top and skirt together with the hint of color – Bravo!

  2. great, detailed post!

    here is my glamping fashion post today:!


  3. WOW! It looks better now! Nice job! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you for the follow and bonne journee!

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