Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Turning a Button Down Shirt into a Button Down Skirt

In my first two days home from Uganda, I completed a sewing project, from start to finish, each day. I think I may have missed my sewing machine while I was gone, so now I must make up for it.

On Instagram lately I've noticed an awful lot of gathered, button-fronted, skirts. I think like three different PDF pattern companies have recently released such a skirt pattern. The more I've seen of these skirts, the more the style has grown on me. 

A couple weeks ago I wore this dress I made out of men's button down shirts during The Refashioners series a few years back. A day or two after that I wore this tunic I made from a button down shirt at the same time. These garments got me thinking about how much fun refashioning shirts had been, and how I really ought to do more refashioning. 

Then I remembered a very large men's cambric button down which I had in my fabric stash, obtained from a thrift store by my mother, who thought I might like the fabric, over a year ago. Suddenly, I knew what that shirt was going to become - a gathered button up skirt like all those I'd been seeing on Instagram!

I have no idea what I'm doing with my hand here, but the picture shows off the skirt beautifully!

Thus, after letting the idea stew in the back of my mind for over two weeks, I decided to actually make it happen this past Sunday afternoon.

Out came the 4XL, long sleeve, blue cambric, button down from my refashion bin.

To begin, I carefully seam ripped the back yoke, and only the yoke, off of the rest of the shirt. The remainder of the back of the shirt would be the back of my skirt.

Next, I used the back of the shirt, newly freed from the yoke, as a guide to figure out where I would need to cut the front of the shirt to be the same length as the back of the shirt.

I then cut the front of the shirt straight across from button placket to sleeve seam, on either side, but I was careful not to cut into the sleeve. I seam ripped the sleeve off of the shoulder section I'd just cut off the shirt.

This more or less gave me a large rectangle of fabric with sleeves attached. 

I pushed the sleeves to the inside (wrong side?) of the rectangle-ish thing. They would become my skirt pockets.

I cut the sleeves off at what I considered a respectable pocket depth. (Though in hindsight, I could have made them a few inches longer.)

Then I sewed up the bottom of the newly cut sleeves turned pockets with french seams.

Pockets finished, I gathered up the top edge of the front and back of the skirt. I did not gather the top of the pocket section, as I figured the pockets themselves would add enough volume at the hips. I did not need to add more by gathering it.

Finally, I cut the yoke and yoke lining into the widest possible strips I could, and pieced those together, end to end, to make a strip of cloth long enough for a waistband.

I cut the waistband to the right length, interfaced it, then attached it to the skirt.

I sewed two button holes in the waistband, and used the buttons I'd pulled off the sleeve cuffs to finish it off. 

The skirt was done! And it was everything I'd wanted!

Moderately full and gathered for easy movement.

Tea length so I don't have to worry about any wardrobe malfunctions while chasing after children or animals.

Fabulously large pockets for storing all manner of things! Plus an extra pocket in the form of the original shirt pocket I didn't bother to remove. 

The only issue I found with the skirt upon completion was I'd apparently over estimated the length for the waistband. It was a tad loose. I fixed this by inserting a length of elastic into the back of the waistband only.

The elastic isn't tight enough to really gather up the back of the waistband and make it noticeable when worn, just tight enough to hold the waistband snug against the body, keeping the skirt from slipping down.

Now the skirt fits perfectly! I wore it yesterday, my first day back to work after my trip to Uganda, and the longer I wore it the more I liked it.

This is a super-duper comfortable skirt. 

Since I started with a shirt, the "hard parts" of the construction, the curved hem and button placket, were already done, so this skirt only took about two and a half hours to make. (Future versions could probably be made quicker, since I now know exactly how to make this skirt!)

The denim-like color is extremely versatile and will go with a large variety of the shirts in my closet.

For these pictures that I had my sister snap Sunday evening, I paired it with a scoop-neck t-shirt I made a couple weeks ago using the Winter Wear Designs Banded Tee Pattern

I hacked the pattern to have short, slightly puffed, sleeves, and I think the resulting top is a wonderful addition to my wardrobe. As is this button front, gathered skirt.

I really should play with refashioning more regularly - it often leads to excellent results!


  1. Using the sleeves for pockets is so clever! I love t he oversized look it gives to, and having THREE pockets on a skirt has got to be enormously useful!!
    I like the sleeves on your shirt as well. So cute!

    1. Thank you! The sleeves as pockets worked out even better than I'd hoped!