Hot! The ‘Not Actually a Circle Skirt’

I know that some people say circle skirts are flattering on everyone, but it’s not true.  I look decent in a circle skirt, but they aren’t my best shape by a long shot.  So when the circle skirt challenge came up I thought I’d skip it.  Why make something that you aren’t ever going to love?

Then I remembered that I did have a reason to make a circle skirt – or, more accurately, a circle petticoat.  You see, I had a moment of holiday brain (way worse than virus brain) when I was in Australia last Antipodean autumn, and bought a dress that 1) didn’t fit me properly, 2) wasn’t at all a good shape for me and 3) is way shorter than anything I would ever wear to swing dance in.  And really, swing dancing is the only thing the dress is good for!

My solution to the problems was to 1) adjust the heck out of the bodice until it did fit 2) suck it up and enjoy the dress for a bit anyway, and 3) add a petticoat/underskirt layer to bring the dress to a length I am comfortable with.

So, this is the dress as it started with:

The picture is taken from that angle to show all the problems with it – the wrinkling up my back, and the gaping around the arms and across the back neck.  And the short skirt.  The dress is very interesting: the construction is beautifully done, but the cut is incredibly amateur.  I think the factory knew what they were doing, but the designer didn’t.

Anyway, to fix the bodice, I adjusted the waistline, took in the sides, and took in the back neck with darts and pleats that mirror the front of the dress.  Much better!

To fix the skirt length, I cut a circular underskirt/petticoat a few inches longer than the skirt of the dress.  After trying lots of fabrics, I ended up going with the most boring possible option – an ivory poly-cotton.  I like the crispness below the busy floral print.

And yay!  It’s now long enough for me to feel comfortable wearing it.

And I’m going to have lots of fun swing dancing in it!  It spins rather spectacularly though, so I will need tap pants to wear under it (ooooh…spoilers!).

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 1 metre of ivory poly-cotton, which I probably bought at an op shop as toile fabric.  I don’t normally own/sew with synthetics.

Pattern: Uh.  It’s a circle?

Year: 2012

Notions: none

Hours: 2ish to assemble the petticoat, alter the dress, and sew the petticoat to the dress.

Techniques used: French seams for the inside of the petticoat.

Wear again?: I’ll probably wear it to dance in 3 or 4 times, and then find a swing dancing friend who does look awesome in circle skirts to love it for me.  .

Total cost: AU$80 for the dress, $1 for the petticoat fabric.

So yeah, not my most exciting effort!  Basically I made a boring ivory circle, but I did manage to rescue a wardrobe item I might never otherwise have worn.  So Yay!



Leimomi Oakes - The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes learned to sew as a child in Hawaii, and hasn't spent a day without doing it in the-more-years-than-she-would-like-to-admit-to since. When she was 18 she was nicknamed 'The Dreamstress' and bought the domain name, and now she's stuck with it. After getting degrees in Art History, Costume Design and International Relations she worked in a number of fabulous museums before going freelance as a textile and fashion historian and historical seamstress. She lives in Wellington New Zealand with a lovely husband and a world-famous cat.


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  1. Very Pretty! I really like the peek a boo underskirt and the print of the fabric.

  2. I’ve got a rack full of refashion possibilities I haven’t gotten around to yet. Great work on tackling this dress. Inspires me to do the same with some of my not-quite-right RTW dresses. The underskirt is a lovely touch.