mad for plaid

DIY: how to shorten a pleated vintage plaid tartan skirt

School uniforms, holiday tablecloths, the wool blanket that has been in the family for a couple of generations:  No one can argue the timeless appeal that plaid/tartan has.  Wholesome enough for June Cleaver but sultry enough for Marilyn Monroe, traditional and ‘homey’ as wallpaper in Madmen, and surprisingly sophisticated on an IPhone4 hard case.

plaid tartan collage

Which is why when I accidentally stumbled on this vintage Highland Queen skirt (at Nova in Hudson), it was love at first site.  The quality, craftsmanship of this skirt is unbelievable and even though the skirt was too long (dowdy) and no where near my size (sz 2), it was in perfect, like new condition, reversible, and at $20 I had to have it.

Highland Queen wool tartan plaid skirt

I can sew but I’m no seamstress extraordinaire! (more like self taught hacker) but since I knew I would never wear anything tucked into it, I felt confident that I could get away with an elastic waist rather than a proper zipper.  Problem is, an A-line skirt with pleats is tricky: you can’t simply fold the fabric over and jam an elastic in there like you might with any other plain skirt.  If the fabric bunches (think; ‘hair scrunchy’) the skirt won’t look right.

scrunchiLucky for me the pleats to the skirt didn’t start at the waist.  The waist and stomach part of the skirt was flat which would allow for cutting and shortening it without destroying the skirts construction.


reversible red plaid / tartan skirt

To keep the pleats in-tact with no scrunching I first tried on the skirt and hiked it up to where I felt it fit me perfectly around the waist and marked the spot with a pin (you could also use chalk).  Lucky for me this was right above where the pleats began (remember to never cut into the pleats, otherwise the skirt is dead!) and the skirt length fell right below the knee (I would have preferred an inch or two higher but again, this would mean cutting into where the pleats start).


I cut the fabric with the same slight curve as the original waist, rather than straight across, in order to maintain the skirts construction and have the skirt and pleats ‘fall’ nicely.  Next I took my elastic (purchase a wide elastic, since the wool is heavy you will need a fat elastic to keep it up around your body!) and sewed it in place.

DIY tartan plaid skirt

Nothing special or fancy: just sew the fabric straight on to the elastic without folding over the fabric, no pulling or stretching, only straight sewing.  Done!  Sure, it looked ugly and ‘unfinished’.  But again, I knew I would always wear something over the waist band.  Still, my mother in law (the avid sewer) said I could have used the leftover cut fabric to cover the elastic and finish it off nicely. Duh, of course -why didn’t I think of that?  Unfortunately I had already thrown it out, and before I could come up with a different idea (or take pics of my half finished sewing job) she whisked the skirt away and gave it back to me a few days later all nicely finished off with black fabric to cover up the elastic (thanks mil!).

finished plaid tartand skirt

Finished plaid/tartan skirt

red plaid skirt close up

Julie Cadieux: plaid tartan red skirt

Rocking the skirt: my daughter (who took these photos of me -thank you Clo!), says I look like a mix between a young Mrs. Claus and one of those mom’s in Christmas movies!! LOL! I’m OK with that, because the plan was to wear this outfit on Christmas day!! Happy Holidays! -Julie

Check out my latest plaid purchase: a new house key!plaid/tartan key– For more on the textured surface this key is laying on, click HERE!

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