Most ladies out there have a bridesmaid dress or two (or three… or twelve!) tucked away in a closet. You can’t really wear them again, but you can’t quite throw them out either, so what do you do with them? Well, I had an idea years ago after my sister’s wedding, in which I wore a dark green bridesmaid dress. Wouldn’t that lovely green fabric make a beautiful tree skirt? The bottom of the dress already had a skirt shape, so it wouldn’t take much work to turn it into something to wrap around the bottom of my Christmas tree. I stored the idea in the back of my mind until this year, when I finally decided to make a tree skirt out of an old dress.
The first thing I did was to change my mind about using the green dress. Over the last couple of years, my tree decorations have taken a turn for the silver, so I wanted a skirt that would match. Jo stepped up and gave me the bridesmaid dress she wore for my wedding, which was a soft gray/silver satin. Perfect!
Cut fabric from the dress
The best type of dress to use for this project is obviously one with a very full skirt. Because we’re going to end up with nearly a circle when we’re done, the fuller the skirt is, the better.
To start, measure the width of the dress along the bottom hem. Just lay the dress flat on the table and use your measuring tape to determine how wide the skirt is all the way around (mine was 116 inches). This measurement is the circumference of the circle, and we want to find out the radius. If that sounds like we’re delving into high school geometry, we are — but don’t be scared, because I’ve figured out the formula for you. Just divide your circumference by 6.28 (that’s 2 times Pi), and the number you’re left with is the radius. In other words, it’s the measurement for how much fabric to cut off the dress. Mine was 18.5″ (116/6.28=18.47), so that’s how high I cut the skirt off the dress. I was left with a tube of fabric that was 18.5″ high from the cut edge to bottom hem.
P.S. How many times have you heard a bride say “You can just shorten your bridesmaid dress and wear it again!” Well, by the time you cut the bottom off your dress for this project, you’ll find that what’s left of your long, formal gown is an un-hemmed party dress. Here’s your chance to make good on the bride’s idea!
Gather up the skirt
Remember that a tree skirt is basically a flat circle with a slit in it (think PacMan). We have a lot more fabric than we need here, so we need to start gathering it up. In essence, we want to reduce the width of the top of the skirt to basically nothing, while keeping the full width at the bottom.
Turn the fabric inside out and look at the cut edge of your fabric. Most likely, your dress’ skirt was sewn in panels, so you’ll see where those panels were sewn together. For each panel (mine had seven), use a pen to mark the middle of the fabric between both seams.
Now use a yardstick and a pen to draw a line from your mark down to the end of the seam on the left. Pin through both layers of fabric, along the line. Repeat with every seam on the dress until you are left with nearly a semi-circle of fabric (folded in half). Before you do any sewing, let’s make sure it’s pinned properly — turn the fabric right side out and lay it flat on the table to be sure that you have a nice shape and it’s almost flat (it doesn’t have to be exactly flat, but it needs to be close). If it doesn’t look right, you may need to adjust your gathering. If it looks good, flip it back inside out and continue.
Now select any one of your seams and trim the fabric about 1/2″ from the pins. This seam is going to be the slit that allows you to put the skirt around the base of the tree. Once you’ve trimmed it, remove the pins and hem along the edges, making them nice and finished. Do NOT sew these two ends together, just hem them individually.
At this point, you may optionally add some bits of soft and flexible sew-on Velcro along both sides of the slit, so that you can hold the skirt closed once it’s around the tree. I chose to leave mine open so that I could wrap it around various sized trees, and that seemed to work very well for me. I can always add a safety pin later if I need to.
Sew the seams
Now sew along the remaining pinned seams, then trim off the excess fabric. You’ll be left with a nice, folded circle of fabric. Notice how the bottom edge of the skirt is already hemmed, because you took advantage of the bottom hem on the dress. Nice!
Finish the center of the skirt
Now because we gathered the top of the skirt up to almost nothing, we need to cut a little of it off, since your tree will have some width to it, and you need a hole in the middle of your skirt so that it will fit around the tree trunk. Fold the skirt in half, then in half again, and then again, until you get a nice triangle of fabric. Use your scissors to cut off a couple inches from the point (center) of the skirt. Take the skirt to your sewing machine and hem the edges of the hole you just made. Iron the fabric flat and you’ve got a simple, finished tree skirt!
Oh, but you know I couldn’t stop there. I had to embellish it!
Embellish the skirt
I found some beautiful, almost transparent, Christmas ribbon at the store with a shiny silver trim. It was adorned with hundreds of tiny silver and blue glittery snowflakes, and was a perfect match for my fabric. I found some coordinating glitter from Martha Stewart’s line of glitter, which is just incredibly fantastic (I used “Blue Topaz”). I already had a small snowflake rubber stamp, so I just had to get some fabric glue that could handle glitter and I was set.
To start, I pinned the ribbon along the outer edge of the skirt, and then sewed it in place (along both sides of the ribbon) with the machine. I did the same for the hole in the middle of the skirt, and the result was almost pretty enough on its own, but I really wanted to expand on the snowflake theme, so I kept going.
To apply the glue, I started by brushing a very thin layer of it into a disposable tray. I then dabbed the stamp into the glue, taking care not to get too much glue on it, or else I would lose the detail of the design. I grabbed some scrap fabric and stamped it with the glue-covered stamp, then sprinkled glitter on top. I practiced on that scrap fabric a few times until I was comfortable with the technique, and then I moved to my skirt and dotted it with snowflakes all around.
I am so pleased with the finished skirt. The snowflakes I added match the ribbon perfectly and the skirt looks so pretty around a tree. It’s almost a shame that I’ll have to cover it up with presents!