Butterick 7720: A Skirt too Small

Hello again!  As you may or may not remember, I found this pattern a while ago devoid of instructions, and wonderful We Sew Retro community member Twisted Poppy came to my rescue with the pattern for a very similar skirt.  So, I forged ahead.

I was using a lime green wool remnant I’d picked up for free somewhere.  I believe I have several skiens of matching yarn lying around at home (yes, really) that I suppose was intended to make an outer shell or a matching sweater.  Anyway, laying out the skirt took all the fabric I had.  It was good that I wanted to shorten it a little , as I was having some trouble getting everything to fit without doing so!  I was using the novelty-print 50s skirt in the back as my length reference.  I made up a good bit of the construction, attempting to follow the order given on the pattern pieces.  I also improvised my interfacings–I ended up using interfacing for the waistband, button tab, and pocket welt.  I tried a few different buttons on the decorative tab, but ended up going for a fabric covered one to match the skirt fabric.

Totally cute, right? (the white balance is a bit off, it’s really a little yellower than this)   I even managed to successfully create a kick pleat:

And I used some old hem tape I got from my grandma’s sewing room for the bottom hem, another first for me.

Still have to get the hang of finishing edges cleanly.  But I LOVE the little pop of black contrast!  But, as I am sure you have noticed, there is a problem with this skirt.  The pattern envelope says “Waist 24″… and this girl here, she does not have a 24″ waist.

That’s about as far as it will go!  And unfortunately, the vintage zip I’m using isn’t quite the right color.  So, what to do?  I’m currently in the process of losing some weight, so maybe it’ll fit properly by springtime.   On the other hand, I could also try to find a fabric I liked that went well enough, unpick the side seams, take off the waistband, and insert two slim fabric panels on the sides.  Or I suppose I could give it to a tiny woman who likes lime green.  I’m leaning towards option 1, keep working on the weight loss and hope to shrink into it!  In the meantime, I might grade the pattern up just a smidge and make myself another one.

Edited to add:  I am working on losing weight, for myself, because I want to be healthier and would really like to have less fat on my lower belly, rear, and thighs.  It is an ongoing project, I’m not just starting it because this skirt is too small.  It is also not up for debate.  I understand the desire to make supportive comments, but in this case, “don’t lose weight!” is not a supportive comment.   Thank you for understanding.

• Meet the Author • Frances


A recent college graduate, Frances is pursuing a career in music (preferably opera) while nursing a strong passion for sparkles, sewing, and all things vintage.


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28 comments… add one

  • that skirt is beatiful! so bad it is smaller, you should have fixed the pattern BEFORE you cut it :(, OR perhaps you can wear it with a longer blouse :)

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    • I cut it the way I did because I don’t think I could have actually gotten a bigger skirt out of the fabric! the pieces were packed in pretty snugly.

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  • Skirt is super cute but so are you. I don’t see a reason for you to be worrying about losing weight. Give it to the “tiny” woman and make a new one! :)

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  • You could wear a wide belt, and then no one would see it :o

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  • I echo the comments of the first commenter; you could have adjusted the pattern to fit your waistline before you cut your fabric :( I think you did a beautiful job sewing it though and I love the color.

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    • I couldn’t really get a bigger skirt from the tiny piece of fabric I had. I also wasn’t sure (despite measuring) how much too small it would be.

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  • You look fantastic!! So please don’t try to lose weight, looks like you have a great figure as it is!! You could just add a side panel (white or something with lime green polkadots would be cute! You could use any pieces of your wool left, you could make little belt things to go across the new panel at the waist, upper hips, and full hips to make it look intentional!) and maybe move the zipper to the center back where it’s more forgiving?

    …I might be that “tiny woman” as I do have a 24″ waist though -I would buy this skirt off you in a heartbeat if I could afford it!

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  • There’s always vintage shapewear! I often wear a girdle or short “waspie” waistline corset. It’s not for everyone, but I love the snugness of shapewear — it’s like a little hip hug!

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    • Oddly, I was wearing shapewear (although not vintage) under this for these pictures in hopes of a better fit, and I tried it on today without and was able to zip it up all the way! Huh?

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  • Too bad it doesn’t fit, as it is a very pretty skirt. You would be skin and bone if you lost enough weight to fit into it, though – please don’t do that to yourself! Just find a petite green-skirt-lover and make her day with a pretty new addition to her teeny tiny wardrobe. If you don’t have any sufficiently petite friends then put it on etsy :-)

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  • Looking at the picture of the hem you seem to have quite a reasonable amount of fabric in the seam allowance. Between the two side seams and the back seam could you recover enough fabric to make it fit? Most modern garments that are overlocked have only about 1/4″ seam so maybe you could recover anything from 1″ to 2″. You wouldn’t need an overlocker as long as you oversew the edges thoroughly. If you then lowered the waistline a little that would give a little extra there I think. You could remake the waistband by adding some extra fabric into it (if you have enough) or by cutting it in half lengthwise sewing two short ends together and then make a facing for the reverse side (the short seam would come at the right hand side). It is such a nice skirt that I am sure it would be worth the effort.

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    • The seam allowances at the bottom are much larger than those at the top, I did at least let those out as far as I could manage. I’m leery of going too close to the edges, as the weave on the fabric is rather loose and ravel-y.

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  • I second Jenny’s idea, maybe there’s room to widen it in the side-seams? Lets also not forget the waistdarts! If you’re so and so about the fabric, then I wouldn’t bother, but sell/donate it to someone it fits. However, if you love the colour and the feel of the fabric, then I’d sit myself down with a seamripper. Just remove the waistband, let out the sides and the darts (test-fit it!) and sew the waistband back on. If there’s not eunough fabric to lengthen the waistband, it might work to have a waistband that closes edge-to-edge with a button+loop or a hook and eye on the inside.
    It looks great on you, I really hope you’ll take on the challenge of altering it! Good luck =)

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  • Not sure if you’ll like this idea, but maybe inserting a little black elastic on the opposite side and changing the zipper to black also? Great job on the skirt and thanks for sharing! ;)

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  • Oooh, it’s so beautiful…what a crying shame! I did exactly the same with a circle skirt I made. I had to give it away and make a new one. I hope you find a way of saving it, or that you at least make a new one for yourself as it’s gorgeous and suits you so well!

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  • Great skirt! I’ve done this a couple of times too. I would try letting the seam allowance out some. (I’m also quite guilty of buying highly restrictive underwear just so I can fit into things that I made too small). However, I agree with those affirming that you have no reason to lose weight. You’ve got a great figure!

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  • I have a skirt like this (not handmade, it’s RTW) – where it zips but the waistband doesn’t meet. I sewed a length of ribbon on each end of the waistband, and it ties into a rather large bow when I wear it. You can’t see the gap underneath :) Maybe something like that would work for you?

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  • Wow! What a wonderful job! You look AMAzing in this! I vote make yourself a new one that will close at the top and send this off as a Christmas gift.

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  • been there, done that. it’s not over until it’s over.

    take the waistband off. remove the zip. let out the side seams as much as you can even if you have to topstitch from the top to keep them from fraying. call it a design feature. get every smidgin out of them. if there are back darts, see if you really need them. if not, lose them. if you need them, keep them. cut a facing for the top of the skirt without the waistband. it doesn’t have to match. if you don’t want to do a lapped zipper, then put the zipper in the center back seam. that’s the place for the zipper application you’re using. i’d personally opt for a matching zip while you have the chance
    because if the skirt still pulls a bit, it won’t show up as much. camoflauge is a good thing.

    the good news is that it’s a great skirt and you look great in it. the second good news is that you did a bang-up job. and the last good news is that you’ll either fit into it now or have to lose a lot less weight. win-win-win.

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  • Someone has probably said this. But it looks like you almost have enough in the waistband to get it to close with a hook & bar rather than an overlap, so let out seams & darts as much as possible & you might just be ok.

    Or cut off a few centimetres/inches at the top, as the skirt get wider in the hips.
    It just means your skirt is a bit shorter.
    If the waistband won’t stretch that little extra, remove it altogether & have a bound edge. You could use a contrast bias tape folded to the inside & hand caught down, for a very pretty finish, like your hem.

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  • BTW I LOVE the pocket detail. So adorable! It’s little things like that that really make a garment special.
    Good luck with the alterations.

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  • What if you added a bit to the waistband, enough to make it close, then inserted a “modesty” panel on the side of the zip. Sort of like the back of a corset. Then over the waistband have a snap on flat bow that could cover some of the adjustments?

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  • For future reference, I never ever ever make up a vintage pattern in the real fabric to start. Like many sewers, I first cut the tricky pieces from muslin (or $1 thrift store sheets, or whatever) and quickly sew up the main seams to test the fit. It feels like extra work when you first start doing it, but it is soooooo worth it. It really doesn’t take long – you’re not making a whole skirt, just cutting out the main pieces and sewing up the darts and main seams. You can then make any corrections before you cut into your fashion fabric.

    Although you keep saying you used all the fabric and could not have cut a bigger skirt, I must respectfully disagree. All you needed to do was make the waist taper in less at the sides, which it’s pretty clear there was room for. Also, remember that you don’t have to cut every piece from fashion fabric. For example, you can always cut inner pockets from a different material (in fact they often lay better if you use something thinner and smoother than the fashion fabric); also, you can cut the waistband down to a little more than half the width and face it with alternate material – again, this will often help it be less bulky anyway, and with a wool skirt can be a blessing because you can use something less itchy.

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    • Good points, all! We are so lucky to have people willing to share their knowledge on this site. I have learned so much from the posts and the comments.

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  • That skirt is darling! I second the idea of attempting to let out the side seams and change the fastener to a hook and bar. I think you might be able to rescue it.

    I also agree with Jessamyn about the “always do a muslin” rule. I have never been able to get a great fit without making up a sample and tweaking it. Just make a copy of the original pattern (I use drafting paper from the craft store), then you can slash and tape and pin and mark it up to your hearts content. It takes more time on the front end, but in the end you have a perfectly fitted pattern that you can use over and over. I definitely think you should make a second one. It’s a perfect skirt, and I love the pocket detail!

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  • I have to add as a seamstress and a parttime fitness instructor – I do understand the words that you speak. However losing weight and losing fat are two very different things. You want to lose body fat because losing weight can ultimately longterm make you fatter. I say that because losing weight involves losing water, muscle and fat. Anytime you lose muscle, you affect your metabolism negatively – not good to slow down metabolism. When you lose body fat – that is exactly what you focus on the fat on your body. So do your research and focus on losing body fat.

    Note to all – there are plenty of people in the world who are skinny (yes thin) but fat. They carry a disproportionate amount of bodyfat and little muscle – so in clothing they look really good. Remember it about health and about our numbers – cholesterol, blood pressure, BMI. So take the time to do research to learn the things that you need to do to lose the fat.

    Best of luck in your endeavors and wishing everyone success on the road to health.

    Sew Together As Friends

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  • PS I know this is not a fitness blog but I just had to add my “fitness” 2 cents. Thanks for listening.

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  • PSS I lost track of what I ultimately came here for – nice skirt – love the color and love the fit (ok with the exception of the waistband) – but who has not made that mistake?

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