How to Sew a Skirt With an Elastic Waistband – With Pockets!

wearing the elastic waist skirt with pockets looking down

One of my favorite, and easiest, type of clothing to make is this two tiered skirt with an elastic waistband – and pockets! This is a great beginner sewing project since it consists of only rectangles and doesn’t require a pattern. In this step-by-step tutorial I’ll walk through how to sew this gathered skirt and even if you’re not a beginner sewist, hopefully you’ll gain some inspiration!

I love how easy and comfortable this skirt is to wear! I had fun mixing the different check patterns with my square neck tank and in the photos below, you can see other ways I’ve worn this skirt.

I’ve made this skirt in 3 different types of fabrics, rayon, cotton lawn and a gingham seersucker, and I think they all work well! Your fabric choice can definitely affect the final result – the cotton lawn and linen create more structure and volume and the rayon is so soft and flowy.

For a super simple version, you could leave off the lower tier or even the pockets to make a gathered skirt at whatever length you want. It’s also easy to customize the tier lengths or you can even add a third! I’ll walk you through how I made my version starting with the tools you’ll need for this project.

supplies needed for the elastic waist skirt laid out on a table

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Some things you’ll need

  • Elastic – I’m using 1.5″ elastic in my example but any size will work with a few simple adjustments
  • Pins
  • Marking Tool – chalk or washable fabric marker
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Quilting rule or even a yardstick would be really helpful
  • Measuring tape
  • 2 or more yards of fabric – If you want to make a skirt with just one panel, then you’ll need less. For this two-tiered skirt I made I used pretty much all of the 2 yards I had

The fabric I used in my example is a seersucker gingham check linen from The Linen Lab and it has a gorgeous texture. There’s a tiny bit of nylon mixed in with this linen but still feels like 100% linen. It does have a little bit of a crisp or rough feel but It doesn’t bother me at all and it’s honestly a beautiful fabric that was easy to work with. It would be a great fabric to use for other crafts as well and I used some of the leftover fabric to make a super cute fabric pumpkin!

If you’re curious to check out what other fabric The Linen Lab has, you can use my code BETHANYLYNNE_MAKES for 10% off your order (there’s also a selection at Amazon, but the code won’t work there, just fyi).

Take Some Measurements

closeup of wearing elastic waist skirt and square neck top

Top skirt tier

Start by taking your waist measurement – this is how you will figure out how full you want the skirt. Then multiply that measurement by the amount you want to gather. The fullness of your skirt is totally up to you. I would say 1.5 times is a good place to start and go up from there if you want a fuller skirt. I multiplied by waist circumference by 1.75 for the skirt in my example.

Note: Sometimes it can depend on the fabric you’re working with as well. When I made the rayon version of this skirt, the overall fabric width was narrower so (I think) I used the whole width of the fabric to keep things simple.

Then take that measurement and divide it by two to get the skirt panel width. For example (and for reference): my waist measurement fluctuates around 29.5″ so I multiplied that by 1.75″ to get 51.6.” I then divided 51.6 in half to find out the width of each skirt panel which was 25.8.”

You will need two skirt panels the same width, and cut them whatever length you want. You can place a tape measure at your waist, let it hang down and see about where you want the skirt to hit. My top skirt tier is 20.5″ long (including all seam allowances).

the finished elastic waist skirt laying on a table

Lower Skirt Tier

For the second tier, the same thing applies – make your tier 1.5x (or more) the width of the bottom of the top skirt. I usually do the same amount that I did for the top skirt. So if I made my top skirt 1.75x the width of my bodice, then I make the second tier 1.75x the width of the top tier.

Ultimately, it’s up to you! If you want a little less gathering on the second tier, then go for it. No one’s going to know the math behind it except for you 🙂

You will need two skirt panels for the lower tier as well at the length you want them. My lower skirt tiers are 17″ long (including seam all seam allowances).

Seam allowances

Don’t forget to add seam allowance! I’m using a 3/8″ seam allowance for the side seams, so I added 3/4″ to the total skirt panel width (3/8″ on each side). So my final top tier skirt panel width ended up 26.5″ including seam allowance.

Remember to account for seam allowance for the casing at the waist and for the seam where you will add the second tier. I added 2.5″ at the top for my 1.5″ wide elastic. If you’re using a different size elastic, figure out how much you will need to fold over at the top and account for that in your measurements.

After figuring out how long you want your skirt, add seam allowances on the lower tier for the sides, the seam where it’s attached to the top tier, and the hem.

Cut out your pieces

Skirt Panels

Honestly I wish I had some amazing advice for cutting out the skirt panels, but really I just think do what works for you. When I was cutting out my rectangles I thought to myself that a yard stick would be really helpful since my quilting ruler is only 24″ long.

I started by squaring up the raw edge at the top of my fabric (folded in half). I then marked out the measurements of my rectangles and used my ruler to connect them (working in sections since I was working with the shorter length of my ruler). I had the benefit using this gingham fabric and was able to cut along the pattern to get straight lines.

You should have 4 skirt panels cut (two for the top tier and two for the lower tier) and 4 pockets. If you’re using a fabric with a definite right and wrong side, make sure you cut a mirrored pair.

the pocket pieces cut out and laying on top of the pattern piece

Pocket Pieces

One of my favorite things about sewing is having the choice to add in things that you want – like pockets! I’m using the pocket piece from the Orchards Dress by Vivian Shao Chen (so I can’t share this specific pocket piece with you) which I use all the time as my pocket template. I even use it with other patterns even when pockets are included 🙂

I’ve found a free pocket pattern template from Soften Studio that has a similar shape to the one I’m using. You could also try drawing your own and even make it bigger or smaller depending on your preference.

time to sew!

a stack of the folded skirt tiers cut out with the pocket pieces on top

Once you have all your panels and pockets cut out then it’s time to sew everything together!

Sew Inseam Pockets

pointing to the pin that shows how far down the top of the inseam pocket is going to be

Actually, before you start sewing the pockets in, figure out about how far down you want your pockets. I went ahead and pre-pressed the casing for the elastic to give me a better idea of where to place the pockets. Since I used 1.5″ wide elastic, I folded the top down 1/2″ then 2″ (I actually could have done a little less, like 1/2″ then 1.75″).

I then held the skirt up to my body where the waistband was going to sit and marked where the pocket would be comfortable on me. The top of the pocket ended up starting 2.5″ from the bottom of the folded casing (or 7″ down from the unfolded waistband casing).

showing the pockets pinned to the top tier of the skirt panel

I will be be briefly going through the steps of sewing the inseam pockets but if you need more in-depth instructions then head over to my tutorial How to Sew Inseam Pockets.

Pin your pockets right sides together, aligning the edges to the sides of the top skirt panel. Finish the edges with a serger or zigzag stitch starting and stopping a couple of inches past the pocket. Repeat for all 4 pockets.

showing the understitching on a pocket

Press the pocket and seams away from the skirt panel and understitch close to the edge through all fabric layers, making sure to catch the seam allowance underneath that you just pressed. Repeat for all 4 pockets.

Sew the Side Seams

Once the pockets are in, it’s time to sew the side seams. Place the skirt panels with pockets attached right sides together and pin. Make sure that the top and bottom of the pockets are aligned with the pocket underneath.

showing the finished serged edges of the pockets and skirt side seams

Sew with a 3/8″ allowance starting at the top then around the pockets, and down to the bottom of the skirt panel. Repeat for the other side seam. You can turn the skirt inside out at this point to double check that everything looks ok and check the pocket placement before finishing the edges (I don’t know about you, but I really dislike taking out serger stitches!). Finish the edges on both sides and press seams towards the same skirt panel – this will be the front of the skirt.

If you’re only sewing a single tier skirt then you can move onto the hem! If you’re adding a second tier, then keep on reading.

Sew the casing for the elastic

I chose to sew the casing after finishing the top tier of the skirt so I wouldn’t have to deal with the bulk of both skirt tiers.

If you pre-pressed the casing from an earlier step, then re-fold and press the casing down, 1/2″ then another 2″ and pin. Leave an opening at the back to insert the elastic (I like to place two pins close together to remind me).

Edgestitch 1/4″ away from the folded edge. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. You can lay your elastic on top to double check that it’s going to fit well in the casing and adjust where to sew if needed.

Insert the elastic

Cut a length of elastic that is your waist measurement. I don’t like my elastic waistbands too tight, so I always cut the elastic a few inches longer than my waist circumference in order to have more to work with. You will have a chance to test the elastic at a later step and can always cut the elastic shorter if needed.

At the opening in the back, insert the elastic with a safety pin attached. Once the elastic is through the casing about half way, I like to place a pin at the other end to make sure it doesn’t get pulled into the casing.

Guide the elastic through the casing with the safety pin. Hold on to the safety pin with one hand, and with the other distribute the gathers evenly to help pull the rest of the elastic through.

showing the elastic pinned together at the other end

Pin the ends of the elastic together with a safety pin so you can try on the skirt. Loosen or tighten the elastic until it’s comfortable. In my experience, sometimes the elastic will tighten more when washing and drying, so I tend to make the elastic looser than I think to account for any shrinkage.

Overlap the ends of the elastic at least a 1/2″ (it can be more if you think you’ll need to adjust it later) and secure with a zig-zag stitch. Stretch out the waistband a few times by giving it a few good pulls to help distribute the gathers.

showing the tag at the back of the skirt and the finished sewn waistband casing

Place a tag at the back if you want and sew up the opening in the casing.

If you want topstitch your elastic waistband like I did, keep reading onto the next step, or skip to attaching the lower skirt tier – you can always choose to topstitch it later! If you’re only doing one skirt tier, then all you have left to do is the hem, yay!

Topstitch the waistband

placing pins in the waistband to hold the elastic in place before topstitching

After making sure the waistband fits comfortably, place pins spaced out around the waistband to hold the elastic in place.

Starting at the top of the waistband at the back of the skirt, topstitch from the right side 3/8″ away from the edge (I forgot to topstitch from the right side, but honestly it doesn’t matter too much). With the needle in the down position, stretch the elastic out and sew slowly. Work in small sections at a time to make sure the gathers are sitting straight.

From the right side, repeat topstitching at the bottom of the waistband 3/8″ up from the casing stitch line.

Sew the Lower Skirt tier side seams

showing the finished sewn side seams of the bottom skirt tier

Take the lower tier skirt panels and place them right sides together. Sew both side seams with a 3/8″ seam allowance. Finish the edges and press seams towards the same panel.

Gather the Lower Skirt tier

I’m using the same techniques from my tutorial How to Sew a Gathered Skirt to a Bodice to gather the lower skirt tier to fit the top skirt tier so check out that article if you need more detailed instructions.

On the right side, sew two lines of basting stitches with your machine’s longest stitch length (or around a 4-5 stitch length) from side seam to side seam – one at 1/4″ and the other at 1/2″ from the raw edge. Stop and start at the side seams but do not backstitch and leave a tail of thread.

Mark the middle front and middle back of the skirt with a pin or washable marker. Place the lower skirt tier inside the top skirt tier with right sides together and line up the side seams. Pull on the bobbin stitches (the stitches on the wrong side) and gather to fit the circumference of the top tier and adjust the gathers until they look evenly spaced between the side seams.

Pin the skirt in place as you go to hold everything in place. Then sew all around the skirt with a 3/8″ seam allowance. I like to sew with the gathering facing up so that I can smooth them down and adjust the gathers as needed.

showing the inside of the finished serged gathered skirt

Try on the skirt again to see how everything looks! Then finish the edges with a serger or zigzag stitch and press seams up.

sewing the hem on the elastic waist skirt

The last thing to do is hem the skirt! Hem at your desired length – I did a double 3/8″ fold on mine – and give a final press.

Your skirt is now done!

wearing the elastic waist skirt and looking down at the ground

This is one of my favorite skirts to wear year round! It would be cute with clogs or ankle boots in the fall or with sandals like shown above (if you’re curious, they are the Maude Slides from Wilder Shop and you can use code BETHANYBOOTS20 for a discount 🙂 ).

If you tried making this skirt let me know how it turned out! Thanks for following along and happy sewing!

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4 thoughts on “How to Sew a Skirt With an Elastic Waistband – With Pockets!”

    1. Bethany Lynne

      Hi Christine,
      The tank is a hack of a tank pattern and I have a tutorial for it here 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  1. Hi! Thanks for this cool tutorial! I am just beginning to learn garment sewing- does this fabric/skirt need a liner sewn in at all?

    1. Hi Nicole! Sewing in a lining is totally up to you and the type of fabric you’re using. The fabric I’m using in my example is slightly see-through and only noticeable when wearing dark colored undergarments…so I just avoid that and it’s all good! If you did add a lining just know that it will probably make the skirt fuller/heavier so I would use a very lightweight fabric as a lining. Hope that helps!
      – Bethany

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