Lace-up Skirt Tutorial

My good friend from college, Tina, surprised me the other day by showing off her crafty side. She shared this tutorial on a cute and quick alteration she makes to her skirts when they’re either a wee bit too snug or too loose. She’s kindly agreed to let me repost and share with you! I hope you enjoy it!

I get a lot of my clothes secondhand, partially because I like thrifting and trawling the vintage section on Etsy, and because I like fashion, but I especially like not spending rivers of money. But whereas buying something in-store or from the actual manufacturer’s website means I can debate over which size to buy and return something if I need the next size up, if I fall in love with some random vintage something and the measurements are off by a couple of inches, it’s just not gonna work.

Unless it’s a skirt and the only real problem is the waist measurement. Like a lot of other women, my weight tends to fluctuate, and I don’t like super-tight uncomfortable clothing anyway. So if it’s a skirt that I like, that works right everywhere except the waist — or let’s be honest, if it’s a skirt I fit into just fine three years ago that’s just not as comfortable on me now — as long as there’s a back zipper, magic can be made, my friends.


  • A skirt, obviously. I found this skirt, which was pretty much exactly what I wanted, on sale for $16 and it was just perfect except for being, you know, 24″ around the waist. I could always zip it up halfway, set a safety pin across the zipper track right under the pull so it wouldn’t fall down, and wear a longer top or a blazer or a waist belt over it, but the fix will make it quite a bit more versatile.
  • Some kind of coordinating lace or cord or your choice, the longer the better.

  • Loopy trim the same colour as the tape of the zipper — the woven cloth part on either side of the tracks. You can Google “loop trim” or “looped braid trim”, though I’ve also seen it referred to as “gimp trim”, which makes me giggle immaturely. What you want is a sort of strip or “lip” that runs alongside the bottom of the row of loops, because that’s how you’re going to attach it on. Err on the side of sturdiness, because the flimsier the thread that connects the loops to the strip, the more likely one of the loops is going to pop free while you’re wearing the skirt, which will make you want to hulk smash everything considering the work you did to put the trim in.
  • Finally: matchy thread and an averagely thick needle. I went with ivory thread in this case instead of plain white because I didn’t want my crooked stitches to show. This is going to be my first time doing a skirt that needs light-coloured trim; in the past I’ve only used black.

Okay, first thing you’re going to do is take a good look at what you’re working with. This skirt has a strip of material on the left side that is meant to hide the zipper; hence, the zipper tape is much wider on this side than it is on the right, which barely has any leeway to stitch something onto at all. I try to make a point to only sew the trim onto the zipper tape, because I don’t want to make little holes in the skirt fabric in case I eventually want to take the trim off, or in case I mess up while I’m sewing it and have to rip my stitches out, or if my weight fluctuates enough that I can zip the damn thing up properly one day.

I don’t want to remove the zipper itself or damage it, just in case, so sewing horizontally over the teeth or actually removing the metal pull are things I don’t do, either. Besides, the seam where the zipper tape connects to skirt fabric creates a natural line that makes it easy to follow while hand-sewing.

Next, pull the zipper pull upward just the tiniest little bit so you can shove the tab (the thing you actually pull on) down into the vee where the skirt fabric is sewn to the lowest point of the zipper.  You just want to nestle it in to get it out of the way, so it can blend in and no one will be able to tell it’s still there.

I don’t pre-cut lengths of trim, because it’s hard to predict exactly where that last loop is going to fall once it’s all sewed on. So I just go right from the roll and cut where I need to cut at the end. Starting from the bottom of the zipper tape, I’ve gone up the left side, the one with the wider strip of zipper tape, first. Make small stitches, make sure you don’t snag that little ridge of skirt fabric, and go slowly! The good thing about that little ridge of fabric is that it’ll hide any mistakes.

You stitch right up to the top, and ascertain which loop on the trim will be your last complete loop before you don’t have any more zipper strip to use as a base to stitch on. Cut your excess trim after that point.

This is how it’s going to look when you’re done with the left side.

This is the right side, in progress. If you squint, you can see where a couple of my stitches are — in that teeny tiny ridge of tape between the calico and the zipper teeth. Just delicately make your stitches, making carefully sure not to actually snag that little fold of fabric between your tiny ridge of tape and the skirt’s seam. The underside of this stitching looks pretty much like what you’ve already done right-side-up on the left side.

When you finish that off, take a deep breath, because you just done did it! After a break, in which you will look down at what you just made with as much affection as you had loathing while you were actually sewing the thing, you can try it on and start lacing up. Because all this really is is a pseudo-corset panel, only without really obvious metal latches or grommets or something that will make the panel blend in less than you probably want. My own preference is when it looks like this was just the design of the skirt, so I try to match the trims to the fabrics and make them subtle.

I like to use thicker ribbon to do the lacing because (as pictured) it creates almost like a little fabric panel of its own, in case you don’t want whatever shirt you may be tucking into the skirt, or skin, or anything, to show underneath the laces.

So this is what it would look like at the end! And what makes the corseting especially versatile is that you can lace it tighter or looser depending on if you’re tucking your top in or leaving it out, or if you’ve fluctuated a few pounds depending on the time of the month (god knows I do that) or whether you’re just in the mood to wear it looser rather than tighter that day. Super cute. AND THERE YOU HAVE IT.

There we have it, indeed! Many thanks to Tina for letting me use her words and pictures. I’ve also been interviewed by blog friend Underground Crafter as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. You can read that over here.

  1. What a cool tutorial! Thanks to you and Tina for sharing.


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