ReFashioning a Formal Dress into Maxi Skirt

Silk Chiffon GownDuring the wardrobe architect process I found myself gravitating toward airy maxi or just-below-the-knee skirts. For the past 30-odd years I have generally shied away from delicate fabrics in my everyday wardrobe. I am too too prone to spills and clumsiness.

However, airy skirts fit the silhouettes I liked: fitted waists and flowing or flared skirts. I felt compelled to make a chiffon maxi skirt.

I was prepared to use one of the many DIY maxi skirt tutorials online. This one by Cation Designs was particularly inspiring.

Then I found this dress ———-> at Goodwill and decided to refashion it into a maxi skirt. Why fight with thin, slippery fabric during the pattern cutting process? This skirt was already hemmed and the side seams were already serged (something I would not have been able to do). Even better, the light rose/salmon pink coordinated with the core colors I had identified during my Wardrobe Architect adventure. (More on this in a later post.)

Step 1: get rid of the bodice by ripping out the waist seams and the back zipper seam. And voila! A skirt with all the raw edges sewn down and serged.

However this was where I encountered my first error in judgement. The zipper should have been my first clue, but I was too wrapped up in smugness about my “genius” refashion hack that I wasn’t thinking about the dress’s original structure. The inner lining was fitted with darts and the outer chiffon was gathered and sewn to the lining. I incorrectly assumed both layers were gathered. (Had I bothered to REALLY look at the dress before I cut into it, I would have seen this.) I couldn’t just slap on the elastic band as I had planned because the lining wouldn’t stretch over my hips.

Ripping out seams along waistline.

Step 2: get your hubris in check and do some math.
I knew I wanted this to be a elastic-waist pull-on skirt. That open back seam where the zipper had been needed to be sewn together. Now I just needed to let out the inner lining enough to get this fabric tube over my hips.

Removing Darts
Cat looks on while I remove the darts from the skirt’s inner lining.

I took out the front and back darts first. Then I added some triangle-shaped  inserts at the side seams to widen the waist and hips just 3 or 4cm wider than my hips. I readjusted the chiffon gathering and basted the raw edges together.

By cannibalizing a stretchy belt (size L/XL), I gave the skirt a wide elastic band that can be worn over tucked-in shirts or hidden under a blouse. (Ironically I want a brown stretchy belt to wear as a belt, but haven’t found one in my size yet.)

Elastic Belt


The skirt still puckers around the waist more than the original dress did, but that is acceptable. The goal of this refashion was to end up with an inexpensive trendy airy maxi dress for the summer.

As for where it fits within my wardrobe architecture? This shade of pink pairs well with the colors I want to build my wardrobe around: deep reds, navy, celadon, and the light neutrals (gray, cream, taupe). I think it looks smashing with my new (thrifted) navy blazer, which of course I am not wearing in this photo.


Walking Seattle's Historic Ship Wharf in my new skirt.
Walking Seattle’s Historic Ship Wharf in my new skirt.

2 thoughts on “ReFashioning a Formal Dress into Maxi Skirt

  1. Ooh, this looks like a much easier way to get the floaty skirt look than struggling with cutting and finishing chiffon! I really like that color on you…makes me want to look for old prom dresses at the thrift store.

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