Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down, Day Four: Pencil Skirt

I’m not going to lie, I borrowed this idea from someone else, Adventures in Dressmaking. However, while she made a classy lil’ straight skirt, today we’re going to be learning how to make something a wee bit sexier–a high-waisted pencil skirt. This is another easy project, and it has very few steps. Sorry for the few photos; my camera was on the fritz and only got fixed toward the end of the process.


  • Torso of a button-down shirt
  • Extra fabric for facing (not very much; if you have a sleeve left over from another project, that should be plenty)
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine or needle and thread
  • Pins
  • Measuring tape


  1. Lay your button-down shirt torso out flat. If the shirt still has shoulders, cut those off so that the body of your shirt is a straight line across the top.
  2. Take the measurement of your waist and divide it by two. Then, measure the top of your shirt, which is going to become the waistline for your skirt. Mark off the 1/2 of your waistline on the top of the skirt (centering it, of course) with pins.
  3. Now, unbutton the skirt and try it on, inside out. Use pins to mark on the skirt the contour of your hips.
  4. Take off the skirt and lay flat, inside out. From the hip, make a line of pins that slopes gently inward. This is the “pencil” part of your pencil skirt.
  5. Following the pins with a tiny bit of ease (i.e., sewing toward the outside of the lines), sew a gently sloping line from the narrowest point of the waist to the widest point of the hips, and then follow the pins as they narrow toward the hem of the skirt. Repeat on the opposite side of the skirt. Try on the skirt to make sure it fits, and then trim the excess.
  6. Zigzag stitch your seams. No sense in having your shirt fray.
  7. Now, using your spare material, make a long piece of fabric that is equal to the circumference of your skirt’s waistline. You’ll notice that I sewed three smaller pieces of fabric together to achieve this. You’ll also notice that I greatly overestimated how wide this band of fabric needed to be. Yours should be about 3″ wide at the maximum, 2″ minimum.
  8. With wrong sides together, sew this band of fabric to the top of your skirt, careful not to cover any buttons or buttonholes.
  9. Roll this band of fabric down to make a tidy facing for the waist of your skirt. Pin into place and sew. This WILL end up covering a buttonhole. This is okay, and you’ll see why in a minute.
  10. stick your pair of scissors into the buttonhole that now is covered at the back by the hem facing, and cut a matching buttonhole into the hem facing. Sew along its edge with a needle and thread, or with your sewing machine if you’re feeling bold, to keep the new buttonhole from fraying badly.

Congratulations! You just made a pencil skirt.

This tutorial works best with darker shirts, and with shirts that already have a classy print like pinstripes. It would also work well with other kinds of shirting stripes. You can also add extra pockets, tidy up the hemline to make it less shirttail-like, or make the skirt sideways so that it buttons up the side and has an appealing side-slit.


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