Experimenting with a reversible skirt

In preparation for the SWAP I have been experimenting with a reversible skirt. You might ask – what’s the point?

  • an interesting challenge
  • two skirts in one (good to take on holiday if you have a tiny suitcase)
  • the pleasure of combining fabrics or using cloth that is just so nice on the reverse that it is too good to cover up
  • the opportunity to make something as nice on the inside as the outside
  • could add warmth

The simplest idea is to use a (tried and tested) “TNT” pattern such as my Curvy Pencil skirt (which has facings rather than a waist band). With a full length, open ended zip at the centre back seam it could be reversed quite simply. And perhaps instead of facings I could finish the waist and hem with bias binding, wide decorative facing, or perhaps a fancy trim. The more obvious approach  is to create a wrap round skirt. This removes the need for a zip and allows the alternative face, or fabric, to show itself occasionally as the skirt flips open in wear.

One common approach to the wrap-round reversible skirt is to sew two complementary fabrics together, as if one was a bagged out lining. There are loads of tutorials showing how to do this on the internet, but as our American sisters say on Artisan’s Square “too granola”.

Dutch RTW reversible skirt

These skirts are somewhat crafty and hippyish. I have to admit I have one (see top picture)I bought in Amsterdam. It is a four way skirt, and the “pocket” is detachable and can be used as a bag.

Reversible skirt
Dutch skirt

The belt portion unzips and can be switched too. The reverse side is shown below.

reversible, wrap round skirt
Dutch skirt – reverse side

I really love this skirt which I usually wear over trousers as it is a both too short and too thin. The reverse side is pretty dull, and the skulls are upside down. I bought it partly in order to make something similar, but in wool, and knee length. But it would require a very long, non-standard zip, and lots of press studs, and it may just be too much work in this time frame. So I am inclined to use a simpler option for the reversible skirt.

I plan to use a “two-faced” woven fabric. Hilarious – the idea of the cloth chatting negatively about you behind your back.

Have you seen her hems? She rarely bastes them. And she doesn’t always change the colours in her overlocker either! Oh hello, dear! What marvellous design are you going to wizz up today?

Fabric choice

At the Oxfam shop I bought two old Ikea linen curtains, made in Russia. I unpicked the seams and used one for my toile. Clearly not the right fabric either in terms of composition or reversibility but I wanted to test the pattern and practice the necessary finishes. It has faded unevenly in someone’s window but it has a drawn thread detail on it. I thought I might work this into the skirt but the grain placement prevented it. (Even your toiles are pretty, dear! She is so slapdash when trimming her facings, you know.)

Recycled linen curtain in beige.
Linen curtain from Ikea

Obviously with a reversible item there can be no rough edges. All the seams and finishes must look good on both sides.

Pattern choice

Vogue 8961

I found I had a suitable (1977) vintage pattern. I took out the darts because these would be unsightly on the finished garment, and as it is a flared skirt this was a simple matter (don’t tell the cloth but I pinched them out). I also shortened the skirt.

Vogue 8961 1970s suit
Vogue 8961

Here is the toile. I don’t feel very strongly about conventions on which side you button things up on, so I am happy with reversing the wrap. It is not a wearable item, but I like it, and think in a quality cloth it may be quite nice.

Construction tips: How to make a reversible, wrap round skirt with double faced cloth

  1. Chose a nice woven fabric that is either a true double cloth (effectively two fabrics attached to each other, or bonded), or is simply a woven that has a distinctive front and back. As you will not be using a lining make sure it is the sort of cloth that can be used unlined. You may have to wear a petticoat with it.
  2. Design, adapt or choose a simple pattern, ideally without darts. A slightly flared design will work well. Consider adding a greater seam allowance, say 7/8″ so you have plenty to play with when making the flat fell seams.
  3. The flat fell seam is the one to use on all your main seams. Make them very nice and even, measuring carefully and basting first (as advised by your opinionated, two-faced cloth)
  4. Hem by machine, creating a shallow hem that looks like your flat fell seams. Alternatively consider using bias binding although I don’t think visually this has any advantage over the machined hem. Measure very carefully when hemming so that the wrap over extension sits exactly on top of the skirt otherwise it will look shabby.
  5. The wide front facing, important if you are creating button holes, can be a design feature that matches the waist band (in the alternate faced fabric). Making it wider may help to balance your design.
  6. Consider the closure carefully as this will show on the wrong side. I went with two sets of buttons and one set of button holes, but a kilt pin might be much nicer on a woven, with two discrete hooks and eyes at the waist band. With sufficient wrap over you won’t have to worry about showing your underwear.
  7. On my toile the buttons were on the left (as on the Vogue 8961 pattern) on one side, and on the right on the reverse. This meant I did not need two sets of button holes. The buttons also sit in the same place but need to be attached to each other through the cloth. It is advisable to use flattish buttons on a reversible skirt.

I am not sure at the moment where I am going to go with this one, and would welcome your views please.

13 Responses

  1. I think that works really well Kate and am quite fond of a wrap around skirt. I have one from Fat Face – a summer holiday skirt. It uses press studs – quite large ornate ones that look lovely. Good luck with the challenge. I will look forward to seeing what you come up with!

  2. I remember making a wrap skirt from thick wooly fabric years ago. One problem with it was the double thickness at the front which you could feel when sitting down. So if you are going for a double faced fabric, choose something very lightweight.
    The pattern is looking interesting with reversible buttons. I think I prefer the second picture where the skirt shows more flare, so maybe you could add more flare for a more distinct A-line look? Unless you want to go for the pencil skirt, of course:)

  3. You could replace the uninspiring black fabric on the back with something a bit more exciting; up-cycling and reversible all in one!

    • I would rather start from scratch to get a warmer fabric and a longer skirt. And there will plenty of opportunities to up-cycle etc as we go along.

  4. Absolutely fascinating that it has a zipper along the waistband…does it actually unzip and flip or something? I could use something like this in my sewing room over leggings. Thank you for making such a good muslin and tips on the buttons etc! Looking forward to the next version…closures…there must be hundreds of types to choose from…my head spins….

    • The Dutch skirt is a hipster style, and the waistband/belt/yoke is slightly shaped, and the skirt slightly flared. You can unzip the belt and wear it separately (but I wouldn’t), and you can reverse it so you can have the red belt with black skirt and vice versa. In fact when you buy they will let you choose the skirt and belt separately. They are interchangeable across the range. The website shows their range.

  5. […] this as two garments I have not chosen the skirt pattern yet. This is where I may feature the wrap around skirt I have already toiled. However squiggle trousers have not yet been ruled […]

  6. […] have already got a skirt cut out of this cloth (the wrap around skirt that I toiled earlier) so I was keen to see if I might make a jacket in the same material. Unfortunately I only […]

  7. […] this year’s SWAP challenge put the idea back into my brain and I rushed to make a reversible skirt. I haven’t included it in my 11 garment set, but I can’t stop thinking about the idea. […]

  8. I have a drafting question – how did you eliminate the darts?
    And because of you, I now have to eye all of my two face fabrics suspiciously since yours are rather snarky!

    • Well the proper method is to slash through the centre of the dart to the hem of the skirt, overlapping the arms to create a slightly wider flare on the skirt. The cheat, which works fine with smaller darts, say less than 1″ wide, is to just pinch the darts together, pin, and smooth out the wrinkle created in the pattern. This is what I did in this case and it worked fine.

      • Thanks much- I can now picture the technique. I have been fighting with a skirt that I made in a fabric which didn’t accept darts very well – a heavy and slightly textured knit. I may try the skirt again with the need for darts eliminated. I solved my skirt problem with heavy elastic applied after construction – not pretty on the inside and I’ll need to press etc after laundering it last night before I know if its wearable. Tnx again!

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