7 Tips on How to Tailor a Skirt for the Fit and Look You Want

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in Sewing | Comments


Tailoring garments to fit your own unique shape and size can seem like a daunting process, but this important skill is definitely within your reach. With a little bit of easy math and a few tools you can learn how to tailor a skirt. A simple skirt is a great place to begin, as there are usually only a few pattern pieces that need to be adjusted. Soon, you will have a skirt pattern customized just for you!

A-Line Skirt With Button Front Placket - Craftsy.com

A-line skirt with button front placket via Craftsy member Emmeley

Focus on these 7 key points in order to perfectly tailor a skirt to your body!

1. Pattern

Start by selecting a pattern that is appropriate to your body shape and level of sewing experience. A basic A-line skirt looks good on many body shapes, and it is an easy skirt to fit and construct. Skirts with yokes and pleats require a little more fitting experience as well as construction skills.

Custom Fit Navy Pencil Skirt

Custom fit pencil skirt via Craftsy member Deby Coles

2. Fabric

For your first foray into skirt fitting, stick with a solid or all-over print fabric. Plaid matching requires extra effort, as do horizontal stripes, so if you are new to sewing and fitting, you might want to avoid these fabric designs. It is also easier to tailor a fabric that does not contain Lycra or spandex, as the fit of those fabrics changes with wearing.

3. Lining

Lining helps skirts to hang properly, avoids the need for wearing a slip and also improves the durability of garments. Adding a lining is not that much extra work, and the benefits often outweigh the effort. Be sure that any changes you make to the skirt pattern pieces are also made to the lining patterns.

A-Line Musline

A-line muslin via Craftsy member Claire MacKenzie-Neville

4. Test fit your skirt

Make a “muslin” or a test fit garment using inexpensive fabric that is a similar weight and drape to the fabric you plan to use for the final garment. This step is important, and will save you money and frustration in the end. Pin out the amount of change you want to make to your skirt, and then take it off and measure the change so you can apply it to your pattern pieces.

Remember that most skirt patterns are “half” pieces; the front is often cut with the fabric fold down the skirt center front, and the skirt back is usually two pieces of fabric with a zipper in the center back seam. So, what this means is if you want to take 2″ total from the hip circumference, you will need to only remove 1/2″ from the skirt front and another 1/2″ from the skirt back pattern piece, since the effect of each change will be “doubled” in the fabric.

5. Adjusting a skirt waist

To give yourself a little more room at the waistline, you can either decrease the seam allowances or the width of the darts marked on the skirt front and/or skirt back pattern pieces. In some cases, instead of reducing the dart size, you can completely remove darts and get a better fit. Often, it is a good idea to spread the necessary change across several areas (e.g. both front and back darts, or front darts and side seams) rather than making a single large change.

If the skirt has a straight waistband, you can just lengthen it to get the additional inches needed. If the pattern has a shaped waistband, then you will need to add to the side seams, or possibly slash and spread the pattern to get the length needed. Skirt facings will need to be redrafted to match any adjustment you make to the front and back skirt pieces.

Should you need to reduce the waist circumference on a skirt, basically you do the opposite of the suggestions for enlarging the waist above. Either increase the size of the darts or the seam allowances, and then apply the same change amount to the waistband or facing. Just as above, it is likely the skirt facings will need to be redrafted to match your adjustments.

Miss Cara's Naughty Secretary Skirt

Naughty Secretary Skirt via Craftsy member Miss Cara

6. Adjusting the hip

If your skirt muslin is snug only across the hips, one easy change is to redraw the side-seam curve to add what you need. If you need more room through your waist, hips and thighs, you can also draw a line parallel to center front (or back, or both!), split the pattern piece on this line and insert the amount of new tissue you need.

Conversely, you can reduce the entire width of the skirt front or skirt back pattern piece by folding out half the change you need to make, or just the hip area you can redraw the side seam-line curve if the change is needed only through the hip. 

7. Changing the skirt length

Instead of adjusting the skirt length at the bottom of the pattern piece, you will preserve the skirt hem shapingif you shorten (fold out) or lengthen (add tissue) your skirt at least several inches above the bottom.

If you want more tips on tailoring skirts, be sure to try Kathleen Cheetham’s online Craftsy class Custom Fitting: Waist & Hips or Suzy Furrer’s class Patternmaking Basics: The Skirt Sloper.

Have you ever adjusted a skirt pattern to get a better fit?