Tablecloth Upcycle: Peasant Overskirt in 15″

I love peasant/villager outfits . . . there are so many variations and combinations, and it is fun to mix and match to make different looks, time periods and social standing.  What I really like are LAYERS, and VOLUME . . both of which can take some time and money to achieve.   We have a beginning supply of villager/peasant outfits from our past production of “Beauty and the Beast”.  I want to upgrade some of our costumes for “Cinderella”, and this seemed like a good project to work on while I am waiting for auditions and the cast list to come out.

The nice thing about Villager outfits is that they are not show-specific, and many of the pieces can go across shows, genres and time periods.  If you are doing “real” theater, you probably care a whole lot more about the specific “look” of a corset or sleeve . . . not so much for high school on a shoestring budget and a cast of 70  (a friend of mine recently had 126!).

My Director wants our “Cinderella” production to be “less dark” than the Broadway version, but not “Disney”.  I am trying to go with the forest-themed colors, but add in some somewhat brighter shades.

One day when I was browsing through my local thrift store, I noticed some nice round tablecloths, and I wondered . . . hmmm . . .  could you make overskirts out of those?  Lots of fabric, narrow hems, already a circle (or oval), and best of all, CHEAP.  I picked up a few  and they have been sitting in my “to do” pile.  When I saw a few more, I knew I needed to see what I could make happen before I added to my pile.

With this project in mind, I ordered a 50  yard roll of 2″ wide black elastic from Cheep Trims.   You could also use a wide elastic  belt from a thrift store–just cut off the buckle (or leave it, depending on the style–wide enough and it could have a corset look).  I wanted my waistband to be flexible, and didn’t want to mess with making a casing or a traditional waist band  I like the way the wide elastic sits, and also the way it will hold things together.

I started by folding the tablecloth in quarters.  This one I did pretty on-center.  After this I did them off-center.  It really doesn’t matter much where the hole is (within reason, lol).  An assymentrical look adds to the hitched-up look, without actually pulling the skirt up.  It also adds some length, and visual interest, and makes it look less like you are wearing two skirts.

tablecloth folded in quarters for overskirt

In order to figure out the amount to cut off I took a waist measurement and divided it by 4 (for the four quarters) and then added a few inches for gathers.  8-12″ worked for the ones I made.  If you accidentally cut the hole too big, just add a few pleats here and there as you sew it on.

I sort of draped the tape measure on the fabric to give me an idea of where to cut . . again, it doesn’t make that much difference.  An uneven hem is unimportant.

To help get the skirt on and off, I cut a slit down one of the fold through a single layer of fabric, about 5-6″.  This is more in deference to hair and makeup than actual funtional need unless you cut a hole too small to get over the hips or shoulders, in which case you need the slit.

slit cut on one fold, peasant skirt

The elastic was cut just a bit smaller than the desired waist size.  I would rather take a tuck in the back to make it smaller, than wish I had a bigger overskirt.

I folded both ends of the elastic over about 1/2″ and zig-zagged down to give it some stability for the clousure.  Then I zig-zagged the edges of the slit to keep them from raveling.

The elastic is sewn to the fabric using the quarter method.  Divide the fabric into quarters and mark with pins or a small mark.  Divide the elastic into quarters.  Pin the quarter marks together, then stretch the elastic to match  the size of the elasic as it is sewn on.

There are a couple of tricks to doing this.  Pull from the back and the front at the same time.  When you stop, make sure your needle is down to give a little resistance to pull against (but don’t pull too hard or you will break your needle).  After the first skirt, I didn’t pin them together, I just matched up the quarter marks as I went.  I couldn’t take a picture while I was doing this as the elastic took a fair amount of effort to pull . . . no way to hold a camera!

When I was done, I added a couple snaps for the closure.  On the later ones I used velcro.  (The first one I only folded the elastic over on the top, but I think it adds stability to fold both ends under).  You can see that the zig-zag stitching is not real even.  It doesn’t show, and I don’t care if the overskirt hem is a little uneven.

snaps closure

I tried this on the dress form and didn’t like the even hem, so I tucked one side up and stitched it down.

sewing the raised side


tablecloth peasant overskirt--green, w/raised side

These were super fast and super fun.

This one had a ruffle around the bottom.  You can see how “approximately” the table cloth is folded:

tablelcoth before cutting

I added a corset to give it more of an effect:

tablecloth peasant overskirt blue w/ruffles

I think these will work well for the layered effect I am after, as well as having the volume I was hoping for.  I am anxious to see these layered over a longer skirt.  I think you could get away with just layering them over a petticoat if needed.  I also think you could “cheat” and use a fairly straight skirt underneath, if that is what you had.

Time:  literally, after the first one, they took 15″ top to finish.

Cost:  elastic is $0.55/yd, and most used about that.  The tablecloths were donated, but typically thrift stores in my area sell from for around $2.

Addendum:  The corset top was made by another volunteer.  We are using pillow shams as a source of fabric.  Sometimes she can only get the front out, and uses a coordinating fabric for the back pieces.  This works fine as typically on stage, the cast members face forward as much as possible.  These corests have decorative lacing on the front.  We are using fabric loops for lacing.  The corset will be adjusted and the lacing tied off.  The garment actually closes in the back with velcro.  We vacillated between using boning and not, and in the end decided not to use it.  For our general Villager cast members, the extra time and expense to add boning didn’t seem to pay off.  These have wide side seams so that they can also be altered there.  We are using fabric loops as we have not had good luck with grommets.  When my daughter tried them on, she was pleased even with one that was quite loose fitting–and usually she is picky about fit.

4 thoughts on “Tablecloth Upcycle: Peasant Overskirt in 15″

  1. I love the way you did these. I doubt I could find a tablecloth at our Goodwill but what I do use is tablecloth fabric which is 60 inches wide and comes in a million colors and is so super cheap that I use it for fabric whenever I can. It is polyester and doesn’t wrinkle and has enough strength that it hangs nicely. Usually ebay is my best source for it. It is good for when you need lots of fabric in the same color for ensemble costumes.

    I never thought about offsetting the circle. I would have spent time rehemming to make the off balance look. Good idea.


  2. Thanks! I live in a rural area that has a lot of elderly people who are downsizing as they move to assisted living/nursing homes. Things like tablecloths are usually available. That is a really good tip on looking for tablecloth fabric on ebay. I never thought to look for that as a source–or type it in to search that way. Have you seen the website: ? They are another good source of inexpensive fabric. If you sign up for their emails, they periodically send out codes for $3/yd and shipping has been free with an order over $100. Everything I have ordered has been really nice. One piece has a tiny flaw running through it. Could be “fixed” with a black sharpie, and for my purposes I am not complaining.


  3. Pingback: Shower Curtain to Peasant Overskirt: Upcycle | costumecrazed

  4. Pingback: Villager overskirt with self-fabric waistband | costumecrazed

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