Suspender Skirt Tutorial

I just spent the most amazing weekend up in Portland at Quilt Market hanging out with talented, fun and inspirational seamstresses, fabric designers and shop owners from all over the country!  I really want to tell you more about my experiences soon, but since I’m still recovering from my busy weekend, I thought I’d repost this tutorial I did a year ago for the fabulous series, Vintage May, which is running again right now!  The hosts, Jessica of Craftiness is Not Optional and Kristin of skirt as top, have rounded up some fabulous guests to showcase some vintage and vintage inspired looks, so be sure to check it out!  I was part of the fun last year and I never reposted the tutorial here, so in honor of Vintage May II, here ya go!

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Hello vintage lovers!  It’s amazing what Kristin and Jess have put together here and I’m so honored to be a part of it!  I must have run through 50 ideas for what vintage-inspired creation I wanted to share with you before deciding on something – the possibilities are endless!  I decided to go through some old family photos to see if I could find some inspiration there and I saw a particular style pop up a few times in my mom’s childhood photos.

(Left photo: My mom, standing in front, with her two brothers and mother
Right photo: My mom, center, my grandmother, upper left and their neighbors)

(My mom, lower right, with her brothers and uncle)

I loved the simple and classic style of the jumpers my mom and her neighbor are wearing in these pictures.  So I created a suspender skirt for my daughter and I’ve got a tutorial so you can make one too!

(Did I mention this was from a year ago?  Check out these old pics of Yuki!!)

It’s got a bit of a school uniform vibe, but it’s still cute enough to be worn anywhere.  It’s a simple high waisted pleated skirt with a flat front and elastic in the back.  The buttons in the front are just for fun and completely optional.  The suspender straps are sewn in the front and adjustable in the back for longer wear.  You could easily use this technique to attach straps to any style skirt, pair of shorts or pants.  If you want to make the straps completely removable, you can follow the directions for the back of the skirt in the front, and then the skirt can be worn alone or with the suspenders.  So many options!

Ok, let’s get started.  You’ll need:

Fabric (about a yard, depending on the size)
Contrasting fabric for pockets (optional)
Buttons 2-4
1″ wide elastic and safety pin
Sewing essentials

*I used a 1/2 seam allowance, unless stated otherwise.

Measure your kid’s “waist.”  I say “waist” because it depends on where you want the skirt to sit.  My skirt is so high up it’s practically her chest measurement!  Your skirt pieces will be the “waist” measurement by the desired length of the skirt and you’ll need two.  So I cut 2 rectangles that were 18 x 12 inches.

You’ll also need 4 pocket pieces.  I just drew a pattern freehand in what I thought was a “pocket-like” shape.  Make sure to cut two and then flip the pattern over for the other two.

For the waistband, cut a long rectangle that is the “waist” measurement times 1.5, then add a few inches for good measure.  So I multiplied 18 x 1.5 = 27, plus a few inches – I probably cut mine at 32 inches (I always cut waaay more than I need then trim later).  The height is 4 inches.

For the suspenders, you’ll need to measure your child from the “waist,” up over the shoulder across the back (remember the straps will criss-cross in the back) and then add about 6 inches to this measurement.  The height is 3 inches and you’ll need 2.  So I had two strips that were 3 x 20.

I hope I haven’t lost you already!  Here are my cut pieces, note that the waistband and straps are folded up in this picture.

Working on the right side of one of your skirt pieces, we’ll make some pleats.  We basically want to get this piece of fabric to be half of the waist measurement, plus one inch.  So I need my 18 inch wide fabric down to 10 inches.  The size and amount of pleats will depend on the size of your skirt and how you want it to look.  Mark the center of the fabric and then two equidistant marks on either side of the center.

Fold the fabric on the marks toward the center and pin.

Add more pleats on either side, playing around with the size until your skirt piece the right size.  Press your pleats, pin, sew them down using a 1/4 inch seam allowance and press again.

Place your pocket pieces right sides together on your skirt front and back.  Sew down the straight edge of the pocket.

Press the pocket pieces open.  Lay the skirt pieces down right sides together lining up one side and pocket piece.  The back skirt piece will be much larger than the front still, so just do one side at a time.  Sew them together using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, then trim and finish the edges by serging or zig zag stitching.

Flip the skirt right side out and press.

Put the skirt aside while we prepare the suspenders.  Fold the strips in half lengthwise with right sides together and press.  Sew down the length of the strip and down one end.  This will give you one closed end, but leave the other open.  Trim the corner.

Turn the strip right side out using a pointy object to poke the corners out.  Press the strap flat and top stitch around 3 sides, leave one end open still.  Repeat with the other strap.

Now for the waistband.  You’ll want it to be the same measurement around as your skirt.  Lay your skirt down (the front and back will not line up, but that’s ok), and lay your waistband down folded in half (right sides together) with one side lined up and mark the other edge of the skirt.  Add 1/2 an inch to that and mark again.

Cut the extra fabric off, pin and sew along the line to create a loop.

Press the seam open and fold the bottom of the band to meet the top.  One edge of the loop should be raw and the other folded.  Press the fold.

Open up the waistband and pin one raw edge to the top of the skirt, lining up the seam with the one of the side seams of the skirt.  Sew the skirt and waistband together all the way around with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Make sure the pleats are laying nice and flat.

Flip the waistband up and press.  Fold the top of the waistband down towards the wrong side 1/2 inch.  When the waistband is folded down it should just barely cover the stitching at the bottom of the waistband.

Fold the waistband down and pin in place.  We’re going to make the casing for the back of the skirt first, so starting at one side seam top stitch along the back of the skirt just above the seam.  Make sure the inside of the waistband is being caught in your stitching.  Stop at the other side seam.

Cut a piece of elastic that is half of the “waist” measurement.  My waist measurement was 18, so I cut a piece of elastic 9 inches long.  I don’t add more for seam allowance because I like my elastic to have a bit of pull.

Using a safety pin, thread your elastic through the casing.  Before the end of the elastic is about to be pulled completely into the casing, sew up the waistband along the same line as the skirt’s side seam catching about a 1/2 inch of the elastic.  Continue pulling the elastic through until it’s about 1/2 an inch past the other side seam.  Top stitch the waist band vertically along the skirt side seam.

Flip your skirt inside out and slide your suspenders into the waistband by about 1/2 an inch.  Pin in place.

Carefully turn the skirt right-side out.  Top stitch just above the seam where the skirt meets the waistband.  Flip the suspenders up and top stitch along the front of the waistband just below the top.

Almost done!  Hand sew buttons into the back of the skirt catching only the inside of the waist band (not the elastic or the outside of the skirt).

Mark on the straps where you want the button holes to be.  I made a few on each strap so I could adjust the length of the suspenders.

Hem the bottom, sew buttons on the front if you want and you’re done!

I played around with two different lengths in these pictures.  High waisted and HIGHER waisted.

Maybe too high?

Thank you so much for letting me share this tutorial with you today!  If you have any questions or think a part needs some clarification, please let me know – I’d be happy to help!  If you’re interested in the pink top my daughter is wearing, stop by my blog for a little how-to on this remix of Oliver + S’s Jump Rope Dress.

If you make a suspender skirt using this tutorial, please add it to the you & mie flickr group!  I LOVE seeing your creations!

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I’ll be back with some fun photos from Quilt Market later this week.  Seriously, it was SO. MUCH. FUN.  Can’t wait to share it with you 🙂

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18 thoughts on “Suspender Skirt Tutorial

  1. OH my Cherie… I just wanna squeeze her, she’s so cute! The jumper is perfect for the Vintage May series and I like how high the skirt rests on her. It adds to the whole vibe. LOVE it!

  2. So cute Cherie! What a wonderful way to get inspiration. You really look a lot like your mum when she was young – recognise you in the second picture, talk about spitting image! 🙂

  3. Pingback: vintage may guest: you & mie | skirt as top

  4. Fantastic! My 6-year-old wants to cosplay as Satsuki Kusakabe (as opposed to the OTHER Satsuki that would be waaaaaaay inappropriate for a 6-year-old, LOL) when we go to our nerd convention at the end of the summer. I’m thinking I’ll use this tutorial but stick a circle skirt on instead of the pleated skirt you use. Now to find a bloomer pattern…

  5. Pingback: retro, vintage, antique – what’s the difference? | skirt as top

  6. Pingback: tutorial: bias tape on a shirt

  7. Pingback: How To Make Pop Mie | My Blog

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