Retro Gathered Wrap Skirt (+ Tutorial!)

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I made a few elastic waist skirts a few years ago, but I never feel all that "me" in them like I do in fuller skirts. That's why when Skillshare asked me to make a fashion sewing class, I chose a 50s style skirt with a zipper and and hook and eye closure. It's not that much more difficult than an elastic skirt and it's much more polished.

But also sometimes I want to eat a whole pizza, you know? Full 50s-style skirts are not super amenable to gorging yourself--there's a reason they wore girdles back in the day.

If your weight fluctuates, or you feel restricted by an inelastic waistband, but you love that tiny waist, full skirt silhouette, today's tutorial is for you! (Or if you just want to try something new, it's for you too!)

We'll be making a gathered skirt with a wrap waistband, rather than a zipper and button/hook and eye or an elastic waistband. It's basically a really wide apron, one that wraps allll the way around your body--if you've ever made a ruffly 50s apron, this will feel familiar (but huge). Hop down below the jump for the tutorial!

Step 1: Start your waistband! Mine will be 1" when complete so it is 3" total including 1/2" seam allowances. Tear across your fabric three times.

Step 2: Sew the three waistband strips together, end to end. Longest waistband ever!

Step 3: Measure your skirt--finished length plus 1/2 SA (at the waistband) plus everything you need for your hem. For me, my best skirt length is about 24", so I snipped at 28 and then tore across--three times!

Step 4: Sew your three skirt panels together, end to end, to make a large panel. We'll gather this into the waistband in a couple steps.

Step 5: On each end of your skirt panel (short ends) fold twice to conceal the selvedge edges.

Step 6: Sew three machine basting stitches across the top of your skirt panels.

Step 7: Okay! this is the only math involved: multiply your waist measurement by 1.5 to get the length you will be gathering the skirt to--that will take the gathers once around your waist and enough to wrap around, half again.

Step 8: Put a pin in the center of your waistband, then divide the number you got in the last step in half, and measure from the center to that point (for me, 20") out either way from the center.

Step 9: Pin the center of skirt panels, then pin the center of the skirt panel and the center of the waistband together (right sides together if your fabric has right sides) (I'm the worst tutorial maker ever, sorry).

Step 10: Pin the ends of your skirt panel to the outside pins (the ones from Step 8), and start gathering! We want the whole skirt to be the width that was calculated in Step 7.

(Step 10 1/2: To gather the skirt, grab the top three threads--i.e. the needle thread, not the bobbin thread, and pull them as one).

 Step 11: Sew at 5/8" at your regular stitch length.

Step 12: Then, turn your waistband right sides together and match the raw edges. Without sewing over your skirt panels, sew the remainder of the waistband. You'll have two inside out tubes on either side of your skirt proper.

 Step 13: Turn your waistband tubes right side out.

Step 14: Pin from the front, picking up the other side of the waistband. Stitch in the ditch from the front.

 Step 15: Your waistband is complete!

Step 16: Hem your skirt, and give it a final press.

You are done! Nice work. If you make one, tag me (@helloalliej) on instagram--I want to see!


ps: don't forget about the social sew! we have three participants signed up now and their creations are looking lovely... go check it out and join us!

allie J.

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  1. This outfit is adorable on you! The coral pink gingham is so fresh and springtime. Thanks for the how to.

  2. Such a pretty skirt! And very clever, I definitely couldn't make this. I have a black and white skirt similar to this. I need to get it out for Summer.


  3. What a beautiful skirt! Continue the great work.
    Best, MODENOVA I

  4. I've never thought to make a full skirt as a wrap. Very cute and I love it with that top!

    1. Thank you! It's basically just a really wide apron that wraps all the way around, but it means you have a wrap skirt with a bit of flexibility in the waist size :)

  5. So you used about 3 yards of fabric? Does The width of the fabric matter? Thank you!

    1. Mine was 55/60"... that makes a really full skirt!

  6. Is this about 3 yards of fabric? Does width matter? Thanks!

    1. Yes, about 3 yards of 55"/60" fabric for this fullness, but you could use less or more depending on length of skirt and size of hips.

  7. I thought the SA for the waistband was 1/2", so why: "Step 11: Sew at 5/8" at your regular stitch length."?

    1. You're right, it should be 1/2". Good catch!

  8. This is a really helpful tutorial. Do you have any idea how I could add inseam pockets? Gotta have pockets.

    1. I'm not sure, because the seams don't necessarily end up perfectly on either side... I'm sure there is a way to figure out the math!



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