The curse of the elastic waist

elastic waisted skirt front waist

Dear Friends, have you ever made something that deep down you knew wasn’t ideal but secretly you hoped would work out?  Like, for example, an elastic waisted skirt?

I made myself an elastic waisted skirt to wear last summer; I wore it only once.  It was a foolish notion for someone who doesn’t really have a waist to go ahead and bulk it up with elastic gathers.

Trying to think back, I haven’t worn an elastic waisted skirt for about 35 years.

I made the skirt from a length of 90cm wide op-shop fabric, and there was just enough to cut a rectangle for the back and front.  I added in-seam pockets (in another fabric), white broderie anglaise lace at the hem, and a white ribbon bow at the front.  I planned to wear it with a fresh white blouse.  The skirt is one of the prettiest I’ve made.  The bouquets and swirling ribbons made me think “French countryside”…..the magazine version, that is -you know, picnics in flower-filled meadows, boating on rural canals, rustic farmhouses with cobbled courtyards, that sort of thing.

The waist on this skirt has gone through four incarnations.

Originally I made it a drawstring waist with white grosgrain ribbon, which was annoying to pull up the gathers each time I put it on.

Then I changed the drawstring for elastic which made my waist look more non-existant than it already was if that was possible.

Then I changed the drawstring for elastic which made my waist look more non-existant than it was already if that was possible.


elastic waisted skirt side view of elastic

Third try, I re-distributed the elastic gathers to the centre front and back, leaving six inches of flat waist at each side and machined through the elastic to hold it in place. An improvement and I wore it this way, but I disliked the slack feeling around my waist and how the skirt sank down when I put things in the pockets.


Most people would have given up by now, but I really liked the skirt so I pushed on and did what I should have done at the start: a waistband.

There were two problems…

elastic waisted skirt back waistband

I had no more skirt fabric and couldn’t get a matching plain, so used black.



elastic waisted skirt back placket

The second problem was that I couldn’t install a side zip because of the pockets, so when I unpicked the elastic waist I trimmed one inch off the top and used it for a narrow placket at the centre back.  It was just wide enough to sew a press stud on.


elastic waisted skirt front buttonholes and ribbon

I threaded the white ribbon through the front buttonholes left from the drawstring attempt.


elastic waisted skirt doing a twirl

It’s great to wear now!


elastic waisted skirt showing two buttons at back

As an after-thought, I sewed two buttons on the back; one for wearing before dinner and the other for after!



  1. Val F on April 7, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Had to laugh at the button! Covering all your bases.

    • lizhaywood on April 11, 2016 at 7:22 am

      Hi Val, Isn’t it a good idea? I might do it on all my skirts!
      Thanks for your comment,

  2. Lilian Hague on April 12, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    You certainly worked your way through and it was worth it – a lovely summer skirt. What a pity we are heading into Autumn/winter.

    • lizhaywood on April 13, 2016 at 9:20 am

      Thanks Lilian, I did get there in the end. Yes, I think I have missed my chance to wear it now, but I will be ready for spring. I might find some other tops to put with it before then -pale lemon? mint? pink?
      Cheers, Liz

  3. Sarah on April 15, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Since I do have a waist I can mostly get away with an elastic waist skirt. Something I’ve done in the past is make the elastic top as usual then add 2 or 3 belt loops and make a sash to go through them. This covers the elastic part and adds a nice tied part to wear on the side or slightly off centre.

    • lizhaywood on April 18, 2016 at 11:06 am

      Hi Sarah, thanks for mentioning this -sounds like an easy way to make an elastic waist not look like an elastic waist.

  4. Phyl on February 28, 2023 at 11:49 am

    Love your skirt Liz, so glad you persevered it looks great on you . I used to wear skirts like that in the 50s & loved them a gathered skirt with a patch pocket was the first garment I made by my self ,I was about 12 at the time .Alas I’m too old round & short to wear them nowadays. I do enjoy reading about your sewing adventures.

    • lizhaywood on March 1, 2023 at 11:36 am

      Thanks Phyl. In the end I didn’t wear it much, because I didn’t have many tops that went with it, but one of my daughters took it over and wears it.
      Many thanks for reading.

  5. Lenkrd on March 1, 2023 at 6:47 am

    Great evolution of your skirt. I agree, gorgeous fabric. I love the two button idea. ❤️

    • lizhaywood on March 1, 2023 at 11:38 am

      Cheers, Lenkrd. Gorgeous fabric always makes you try harder, doesn’t it?

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