I love wearing pretty cotton dresses in summer. Especially if they are floral or covered in polka dots! Our summer temperatures get quite high here in Australia, it’s not uncommon to have heat waves of over 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit) so I stick with breathable cotton and try to avoid synthetic fabrics, including dresses with sticky synthetic linings. (Check out these posts for my nerdy rants on the properties of cotton and synthetic fabrics.) This is great for keeping cool and comfortable in the hot weather, but sometimes I want my summer dresses to transition to the cooler weather too. The difficulty of layering unlined cotton dresses with stockings, tights or leggings is that the fabric tends to cling to the stockings and can slowly ride up around your hips as you walk. An easy way to overcome this problem (while also adding an extra layer of warmth) is to wear a silky slip underneath your dress. A full slip hangs from the shoulders and a half slip hangs from the waist. Half slips are super easy to DIY so that’s what I’m going to show you how to make!
To make a half slip you will need some silky fabric. You can use a lining weight silk such as habutai (which is what I’m using – it’s left over from my wedding dress lining), but if you use silk, keep in mind that you will need to either hand wash it or have it dry cleaned. Silk is very delicate and shouldn’t be thrown in the washing machine. A cheaper alternative is using a lining fabric. These fabrics are usually acetate or polyester and feel smooth and silky, even though they are not actually silk. They are very lightweight so they won’t add bulk under your outfit. If you are confused about lining fabrics just ask at your local fabric shop – the staff are usually very knowledgable and helpful.
The amount of fabric you need will depend on your size and how long you want your slip to be. Try on a few of your dresses and be sure to choose a length for your slip that’s a little higher than the hem of your dresses so it won’t peek out at the bottom. Measure the length from your waist to the point you want the hem to finish. I am making mine 39 cm (15 1/2”) long. To determine the width, measure around the widest part of your hips. In my case the measurement is 97 cm (38 1/4”). Add an extra 10 cm (4”) to the width to allow for ease. If you plan on wearing your slip only under very full skirts, you may like to add more ease to make the slip more gathered. The slip is going to be made out of two rectangles – a front and a back, so divide the width (hips plus ease) by two. For example, 107 cm divided by 2 equals 53.5 cm (21”) So now we have the measurements for the rectangle measuring 39 cm (15 1/2”) long by 53.5 cm wide, but don’t cut it out yet! First we need to add some seam allowance. Add 3 cm (1 1/4”) to the length (1 cm (3/8”) will be for the hem and 2 cm (3/4”) will be for the elastic casing at the waist) and add 2 cm (3/4”) to the width. So now my measurements look like this 42 cm (16 5/8”) long by 55.5 cm (22”) wide. I need to cut two rectangles using these measurements. Fabric can come in different widths, so depending on the size of your rectangles, you might be able to cut them both next to each other on the fabric. If the fabric is narrow, you may need to cut one beneath the other, in which case you’ll need to buy fabric twice the length of your slip. If you’re in doubt, always buy a little extra. It’s very frustrating when you’re about to start a project and realise you don’t have enough fabric. You will also need to buy enough 6 mm (1/4”) wide elastic to go around your waist with a 1 cm (3/8”) overlap.
Now you have your fabric and measurements you can cut out your two rectangles. Pin the rectangles together along the two shorter edges, these will be the side seams. Sew them on your sewing machine with 1 cm (3/8”) seam allowance and then overlock the raw edges. If you don’t have an overlocker, don’t fret, you can use your normal sewing machine to sew a zig-zag stitch over the raw edges. (For more on how to do this, check out this post.)
Along the bottom edge, fold up 5 mm (a bit less than 1/4”) towards the inside of the skirt and iron it flat.
Fold the edge up again by a further 5 mm (a bit less than 1/4”), iron flat again and pin the folded edge in place.
Sew close to the pinned up edge and then iron it again.
Along the top edge, fold down 1 cm (3/8”) and iron it flat. Fold down a further 1 cm (3/8”) and iron it flat again pinning the folded edge in place. Starting at one of the side seams, sew close to the folded edge, but don’t sew all the way around. Leave a gap of about 2.5 cm (1”). Iron it flat again.
Wrap the elastic around your waist so it feels firm, but comfortable. Cut it to the right length, adding a 1 cm (3/8”) overlap. Attach a small safety pin to one end of the elastic. Insert the safety pin and elastic into the casing through the gap you left open, using the safety pin to gently push the elastic all the way around the casing. Be careful that the other end of the elastic doesn’t disappear into the casing.
When you get all the way around, pin the two ends of the elastic together with the safety pin and try on your slip to make sure it fits around the waist.
Tighten the elastic if necessary and then sew the two ends of the elastic together, holding the slip clear.
Ease the elastic back into the casing by gently stretching then releasing the skirt at the waist. Pin closed the gap in the casing and sew it closed. Now your half slip is finished and ready to be worn!
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