Turn Several Adult Button-Down Shirts into One Comfy Adult Skirt

Adult skirt from button-down shirt

After sewing what seems like several thousand skirts for my small daughter, I finally sat down and sewed a skirt for myself.

Perhaps my upcoming birthday was the inspiration that I needed, or perhaps it was the large stack of button-down shirts sitting in front of me, waiting for our upcoming garage sale.
If you, too, have a large stack of old button-down shirts in front of you (or maybe they’re hanging in the closet of someone you know and love. Go sneak in and steal a few–I won’t tell!), then you, too, can make yourself a comfortable, easy, perfectly-fitted skirt. We’ll use the existing button-front of one of the shirts to give you the correct fit without sewing your own buttonholes, and your skirt will have lots of pockets.
Here’s how to begin:
You will need:
  • several button-down shirts. You’ll figure out exactly how many in a minute.
  • cloth tape measure
  • pattern paper. You can use newspaper, brown paper bags, tracing paper–anything that you have on hand.
  • large gridded self-healing cutting mat, rotary cutter for fabric, large plastic gridded ruler
  • sewing machine with universal needle and matching thread installed

1. Measure yourself around the waist exactly where you want the waist of your skirt to sit, and measure from that point to where you want the bottom hem of your skirt to fall.

2. Count the number of button-down shirts that you have, and multiply that number by two. Is that the number of panels that you’d like your skirt to have? If so, great! If not, just note that each shirt will make two panels for your skirt–add or subtract accordingly.

3. Now figure out what sort of seam finish you want to use on your side seams. I’m fondest of a French seam for skirts, but if you’re a newbie seamster, for instance, a pinked seam is just fine. Make a mental note of the seam allowance that you’ll have to add to your pattern on each side of your panels (not the top or bottom!).

4. Divide your waist measurement by the number of total panels that you want on your skirt. Add in the seam allowance for both sides of each panel. Your skirt panels will be trapezoids, and the number that you just arrived at is the width of the top of each trapezoid.

5. Using your ruler, gridded mat, and pattern paper, draw this trapezoid. The Step Four measurement is its top width. Your Step One measurement of waist to bottom hem is its length. The width of the bottom of the trapezoid depends on how wide you want the bottom of your skirt to flair, and how wide your button-down shirts are. Connect the ends of the top and bottom widths of the trapezoid with slanting lines, cut it out, and there’s your pattern!

6. Decide which shirt front you want to be the front panel of your skirt. You’ll be using the buttons on that shirt to button up your actual skirt, so feel free to make it a fancy shirt.

7. Each button-down shirt will make two skirt panels–one from the front of the shirt, and one from the back. Button your shirt and iron it flat. Center your pattern on the buttons at the shirts front, and cut through both the front and back of the shirt at the same time.

The only shirt on which it’s important how you cut is the shirt that’s going to be the front panel of your skirt. On that shirt, cut it so that the top hem is about 1/4″ higher than a buttonhole.

8. Lay out your skirt panels in the order that you decide. You’ll likely want all the shirt fronts somewhere in front, so that you don’t have to sit on any buttons.

9. Using the seam finish that you decided on in Step Three, sew all of your skirt panels together.

10. Completely unbutton the shirt that’s going to be the very front panel of your skirt.

11. Sew on your bias tape from end to end at the top and bottom of your skirt.

You’re finished! Button on your skirt, find an awesome top, and go out to the farmer’s market!

3 thoughts on “Turn Several Adult Button-Down Shirts into One Comfy Adult Skirt”

    1. Ruffles!!! You can never have too many ruffles!

      Now I’m playing with the idea of making a skirt with only one panel from a button-down shirt in the front–it does my pocket and my skirt fastener for me, but I don’t have to be all patchwork-y.

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