Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part V: Bustled Overskirt


So I finished the white underskirt, which I figured would provide the necessary structure to let me drape the overskirt and eyeball how to do the bustling. But first I had to make the basic skirt.

Some experimentation showed that the best length for the purple skirt was about 29″– enough to allow for some nice bustling, short enough to show off the lace underskirt but long enough to let down for more length later on. However, if I were to cut the skirt to 29″ measuring up from the hem (and I really wanted to keep the finished hem just so I wouldn’t have to hem it myself), it wouldn’t leave much fabric at all at the top for me to cut sleeves out of. After I measured the hem circumference again, though, I realized that it was plenty full enough to remove two of the A-line skirt panels and use them for spare fabric, then sew the raw edges together to make a narrower skirt, which I could then cut as planned.


I used one of the extra skirt panels to cut a long strip of fabric to use as a waistband– I made the length just about 1.3 times the circumference of her waist, and made it into a flat-front, elastic-back waistband. I gathered the top of the skirt in two sections– front and back– and stitched the front section to the flat front (which was half her waist measurement), and the back section to the elastic back (which was half her waist measurement unstretched, but could stretch out much longer).

Once the basic skirt was done, I decided that in order to get the bustling to look right I would need to cut away a bit of the center front, so I spread it out and started cutting. I admit, I had a few moments of panic, remembering The Great Ursula Disaster of Anime Boston 2015, but I started small and eventually got something that worked.

Once draped over the white skirt, I started gathering it at various points with my fingers, using binder clips to hold the gathers in place to get a feel for how it would look.


I marked the start and end points of the gathers with pins, then took down the binder clips and ironed everything smooth again. Luckily for me, most of the gathering points (all but the center) were on seam lines, which made the seams I was adding less obtrusive when seen from the outside and gave me nice straight lines to work out from when installing drawstring channels.

I took 7/8″ wide satin ribbon and stitched it to the inside of the skirt along the gathering lines, encasing a 3/8″ satin ribbon (folded in half) in two separate casings. That way, once I pulled on the drawstring ribbons they would gather the skirt up to the desired height. Once I hit the right point, I just tied the ribbons together and the knot kept them from falling back down. I oriented the ribbons so the halfway points were at the hem with the loose ends up towards the waist– just to  keep the ends out of the way as much as possible, since they were pretty long once bustled up.



The great thing abut this technique is that the skirt length is adjustable, and it doesn’t rely on easily-breakable gathering threads to hold things in place.


  1. I really love this drawstring technique for bustling, though be aware that it’s not perfect– fabric can only gather so tightly, as opposed to pleats, which can compress the fabric more. So the gathered section was longer after gathering than I would’ve liked. Luckily I have plans to cover it up, but for a thicker fabric like satin you should keep this in mind. (It probably wouldn’t matter for cotton or chiffon)
  2. Next time I would make sure to get 1″ wide ribbon rather than 7/8″. I had to be so, SO careful to stitch right along the very edges of the ribbon so as not to accidentally catch the drawstring in the seam. Basically I had 1/8″ to work with, total, for three separate seams– not much margin for error.
  3. Make sure you use satin ribbon, since grosgrain will make the channel too bulky to gather easily.
  4. I was surprised by how little my stitching showed on the right side of the fabric. From a distance it was basically invisible–the benefit of getting the right color thread. It won’t matter now, since the gathering covers it all, but in the future when I let the skirt down it’ll be nice to have the seams not show.

One thought on “Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part V: Bustled Overskirt

  1. Pingback: Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part IX: Done! | It's All Frosting...

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