Today’s sewing tutorial is easy. Really easy. If you read blogs much you’ve probably seen it before: just sew some cute gathered fabric onto the bottom of a cute shirt to make an even cuter dress. Done. Mind-blowingly simple. But many of the tutorials I’ve seen for this type of dress skip one simple step that really adds to the professional look of a gathered skirt dress.
If you look at commercial dresses that have a gathered skirt attached to a tee or tank top, you’ll always see elastic sewn right into the seam allowance between the skirt and top.
Adding elastic at the waist ensures that the gathered skirt won’t stretch out the top, leaving you with a shapeless dress. Also, it just makes the dress look a bit more professional.
This is a great way to save tops that still fit but have gotten too short, or just an easy method to beef up your little girl’s Sunday wardrobe. Seriously, this will be the easiest dress you’ve ever made.
Here’s what you’ll do. Start with a tee or tank, and cut off enough of the bottom so it just reaches to your girl’s natural waist. Fold a piece of fabric in half (I used just over 1/2 yard of 44 inch wide chambray) and sew down one side to create a skirt.
You’ll want to mark the center front, center back, and each side of both the top and the skirt piece – I just use pins. Marking these locations makes it easier to get your gathers even.
To gather the skirt, sew two rows of basting stitches along the top edge, about 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch away from the edge. Basting stitches are made with a long stitch length and a low stitch tension (upper photo below). Then you can grab the bobbin threads and pull to start gathering up the skirt (lower photo below).
You want to gather the top of the skirt until it is the same size as the bottom of the tee you’re using. You also want to distribute the gathers evenly, so that the marks at the center front, center back, and sides of the skirt match up with the same marks on the shirt (as seen below).
At this point you’ll keep you shirt right side out, but turn the skirt inside out. Slide the shirt inside the skirt (neckline of shirt is down) and match up the bottom of the shirt with the gathered edge of the skirt. Pin together, being sure to match the places you marked before, and evenly distributing the gathers between those spots. Sew to attach skirt to top, using a stitch that has some stretch (narrow zig zag, stretch stitch, serged stitch).
Now, to make the dress look more professional, you’re going to sew some elastic right into the seam you just sewed. Grab a piece of narrow (3/8 inch) elastic that’s about the length of your girl’s waist. Place it on top of the seam allowance and sew around again, giving the elastic a good stretch as you sew. I like to use a wide zig zag or serge stitch here to encase the elastic as I sew.
When you get all the way around, just overlap the elastic a bit and trim off any excess. Here’s what it looks like when you’re done (I used a serger, but again, you could just zig zag the elastic onto the seam allowance):
This will pull the waistline in a little more and ensure that the gathered skirt doesn’t stretch out the waist of the dress over time.
Your final steps are to pull out your gathering stitches and hem the dress. Easy!
PS – I sized down the top from a clearance find at Target, and the skirt is made from this adorable polka chambray from Jo-Ann.