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How to turn an empire-waist shirt into a skirt

How about a little refashioning to start off your week?

This shirt came in a hand-me-down bag a while back.

It’s a Children’s Place shirt, and it’s in good shape. The problem is, it’s fairly wide and by the time any of my girls are wide enough to wear it, the shirt will be too short.

I think it might be one of those shirts that didn’t used to be this wide, but has ended up this shape after a number of trips through the washer and dryer. Or maybe it was produced when shorter shirts were fashionable.

Regardless, I didn’t think it would sell very well at Goodwill, so I wanted to repurpose it instead of donating it.

I’ve considered turning it into a dress for one of the younger girls, but could never quite figure out how to make that happen. I was looking at it the other day, though, and I suddenly realized that it could be made into a skirt with very little effort.

First, I decided how tall I wanted the waistband to be, and I carefully cut across the bodice of the shirt, using one of the lines of elastic as my guide.

Since the shirt is made of knit fabric, it won’t fray, so there’s no need to finish the top edge. Schweet.

After cutting all the way around the bodice, I ended up with something in the shape a skirt, but it was waaay too wide. That’s an easy problem to fix with two new side seams, though.

I had Zoe try it on inside out, and I used pins to mark the placement for the two new seams.

Then I just sewed down the edge of each side of the skirt, following the basic shape of the previous seam (for this skirt, I ended up staying about 3 inches away from the original seam.)

I’m sorry if that’s hard to see…the sun had gone down, so I lost my natural light!

After sewing both sides, I cut off the extra fabric on each seam. Again, since this is knit fabric, you don’t have to worry about it fraying.

Aaaand here’s the finished product. Isn’t it cute?

It’s past Zoe’s knees right now, so I think she’ll be able to wear it for another summer. And after that, it can go live with one of my many nieces.

Now, if you don’t have an unusually wide empire waist shirt hanging around your house, you might be thinking that this post is completely useless for you.

But here’s the take-away for you: When you look at a piece of less-than-perfect clothing, consider whether you can cut something off to improve it. You’d be surprised how often a pair of scissors (and maybe a little bit of sewing) can rescue an item.

For example, this hand-me-down shirt had impossible stains on the sleeves, so I just cut them off to make a stain-free short-sleeved shirt.

Incidentally, that tip is one that I shared in my ebook, Reuse, Refresh, Repurpose, which is all about breathing new life into old clothes. There are 19 other ideas in that book that will help you turn your old clothes into something new and useful, so if you’re into that sort of thing, go check it out! It’s just $3.99, and you don’t need an e-reader device to read it…you can read the whole thing right on your computer.

Ooh, and the red sweater you see on the cover of the book? That was another item I saved with a pair of scissors. I hated the sweater before and totally adore it now.

You probably get the point by now…go be brave with your scissors. If you’re dealing with an item of clothing you don’t like anyway, you haven’t got a lot to lose, and you might turn out something you really love.


Here’s an image for all you pinners out there. 😉


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Tuesday 11th of September 2012

I remember last winter refinishing a sweater I had with your simple steps. It had old, dingy cuffs and collar. The kind that looks like you're wearing a collared shirt under a sweater. All I needed was a seam ripper and voila! I posted the picture on your Facebook page. :) Thank for the idea!


Tuesday 4th of September 2012

What an accessible way to reduce and reuse. I love it!


Tuesday 4th of September 2012

I have never learned to sew, but have recently became interested. Where do you suggest I start? What type of machine do you suggest? Thanks!


Tuesday 4th of September 2012

When my boys were young they wore sweatpants with elastic at the bottom of the leg. After they put holes in the knees I would cut off the leg into shorts. The bottom half of the leg became rags for cleaning and the electic around the bottom became a scrunchy for my hair. Of course, this was 20 years ago when scrunched were in style.


Monday 3rd of September 2012

Adorable skirt and what a great way to repurpose a shirt that is too big. I was wondering if you made anything out of the left over bodice? I was thinking what cute headbands the fabric would make, especially with the little rosettes. :)

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