How to Lengthen a Skirt – Add Contrasting Stripe: Sewing Instructions to Modify or Update a Skirt or Dress

Stretching wardrobe dollars is so important right now and re-using and recycling are the rage! Sometimes the life of an aging garment can be extended with just a little special touch. Many times, a contrasting stripe can be sewn into a skirt. This can add a few inches in length and add extra color and style. Here is the information needed to accomplish this.

Straight and Gathered Styles of Skirts are Appropriate for a Contrasting Stripe

First, examine the skirt to determine how it is made. The addition of a contrasting stripe works best for straight or gathered skirts. Other styles of skirts – A-line skirts, gored skirts, pleated skirts, circle or swirl skirts – are very attractive but these styles would not work well for adding a contrasting stripe.

Instructions: Determine How Much Length to Add to the Skirt—the Width of the Stripe

The width of the stripe is up to the designer. Use a little imagination! The stripe must be cut wide enough to add the desired length plus a little additional for the seam allowance. A common amount for a seam allowance is 5/8 inch, but 1/2 inch would work and is easy to figure. Remember that the seam allowance will come off of the original garment as well. So, if the skirt needs to be three inches longer, the stripe must be

  • Three inches for desired additional length
  • Plus one inch for seam allowance for stripe fabric
  • Plus one inch for seam allowance for original garment.

Thus, the stripe is cut five inches wide and will be four inches wide when sewn.

Instructions: Determine How Long the Stripe Should Be—the Distance Around the Skirt

The stripe should be long enough to match the circumference of the skirt at the point it is to be sewn in. Measure carefully to see if the skirt is slightly wider at the bottom than at the point where the stripe is to be added. Remember to add seam allowances.

In order to figure how much fabric to buy there is another piece of information needed.

Sewing Tips: How Fabric is Sold

Most woven (non-stretchy) fabrics are sold in bolts that are 45 inches wide. Denim is the most common exception; denim is sold very often in a 60 inch width. Most knits are sold in 60 inch width. But pay attention. It is discouraging, and can be expensive, to buy the wrong amount of fabric.

If the circumference of the skirt is greater than the width of the chosen fabric, a two-piece stripe will be necessary. The amount of fabric to buy will be twice the width of the strip (plus seam allowances).

Also worth mentioning – if the stripe fabric can be obtained from some source rather than new fabric, that’s terrific! It’s both economical and green!

Tips: How to Choose Fabric for the Contrasting Stripe

The best advice is to choose a stretchy fabric for a contrasting stripe if the original garment is stretchy, and to choose a woven fabric if the original garment is made from a woven fabric. Choose fabrics for stripes that need similar care to the fabric for the original garment.

Sewing Instructions: Cutting the Skirt

Remember, once the skirt is cut, there’s no going back!

  1. Lay the skirt out flat on a table.
  2. Determine where the stripe is wanted (remember to allow for seam allowance).
  3. Measure the distance to the bottom of the skirt.
  4. Use tailor’s chalk to mark this same distance all the way around the skirt.
  5. Measure carefully, being sure the measuring tape or ruler is perpendicular to the skirt bottom.
  6. Get out the scissors, take a deep breath and cut carefully, one layer at a time.

Sewing Instructions: How to Cut and Sew the Stripe

If the skirt to be altered is a straight skirt, it is quite possible that one stripe can be

  1. Cut in one piece,
  2. Sewn together at the ends,
  3. Pinned right side to right side with the skirt (matching stripe seam with left side seam of skirt),
  4. Sewn.

If the skirt is gathered, it is likely that the stripe will need to be

  1. Cut in two pieces (add seam allowance)
  2. Sewn together at the sides,
  3. Pinned, right side to right side with the skirt, matching the seams in the stripe to the seams in the garment,
  4. Sewn.

Sewing Instructions: Topstitching the Stripe

For those with a little experience, topstitching adds a professional look to an added stripe. Press the seam allowances, and stitch close to the seam. The stitching can be on the stripe or on the garment. Contrasting or matching thread can be used.

Other Ideas for the Creative

A creative person might wish to make a two-pieces stripe of two different fabrics, and perhaps place the stripe seams in the center front and center back.The stripe could have a patchwork look, pieced together of many fabrics. Why stop at one stripe? The only limit is one’s imagination!

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