Transforming Perestroika Basic Patterns into Wrap Skirts

Sabrina Summers, DollCouture Newsletter (

I.  Basic Steps to Transform a Pattern

So, you’ve got a great idea for one of Carol’s basic patterns--you’d like to create a wrap skirt…Now how would you do that?  The process of creating a particular style from a basic pattern is called pattern transformation.  It takes some time and practice to get the knack of but it is worth the effort if you desire to become a dolly fashion stylist!  In order to familiarize you with the process and terms I’ve given you a concise outline below.  Please take the time to read this carefully as the proceeding sections will be easier to understand once you do.

*      Select and study a basic shape pattern.

*      Sketch variations of the basic shape envisioning details that will add interest to the design and make best use of your trimmings and the natural drape of the fabric. For example, you may choose to add a yoke to a basic sheath skirt.

*      Finalize and select the specific design elements that will give you the style you desire and draw style lines on the basic pattern pieces.  Style lines are the lines drawn for the neck, bodice, waist, pockets and other details that will create the design vision you want.  Take time to make sure the style lines make best use of the fabric and size of the doll.  For 1/6 scale dolls you will want to keep excess seams to a minimum and use the lines in economical ways.

*      Determine how many pattern pieces you will need and print them out.

*      Mark stitching lines if necessary because this will give you a better idea of what the actual dimensions of the garment will be. 

*      Cut the pattern along the style lines.  Tape pieces to a clean piece of paper and add necessary seam allowances.  Also cut and spread adequately for pleats, gathers, tucks, etc.

*      When cutting out the pattern fold along pleat, tucks, and dart lines and trim at cutting line.  When pattern is opened there will be adequate room in the pattern to accommodate the needs of the detail.  If you were to cut it straight the length of a  dart, tuck or pleat may be too short.

*      Use a lightweight muslin or cotton, preferably in white so as to see the grain lines, and sew up a fitting sample based on your transformed pattern.

*      Fit the doll with your sample taking time to evaluate the fit and make sure the details are in proper proportion to the overall scale.

*      It is sometimes good to put the doll and sample away for a day or two and then go back and check all the details again.  You may find that you will have better ideas to add or make to the sample.  Mark any adjustments right on the muslin and then remove from the doll.

*      Make adjustments to the pattern.  If necessary create a clean copy of the pattern after correcting so that only the essential stitching and cutting lines and style lines are marked.

If you had to make extensive alterations to the first sample take the time to make a second one to ensure that the pattern is ready for use.  This extra step will ensure that the results will be neat and accurate and you can use the pattern again without reservation.


II. Real Clothes Patterns Vol. 1 A-Line Skirt 140B

Transformation to A-Line Front Wrap with side ties, completely lined.

What You will need:  Two complete skirt front, 1 skirt back pattern; sharpened pencils, clear plastic ruler, extra white paper, invisible tape.

1. Preliminary Steps:

*      Mark the style lines and add additional cutting and sewing lines as needed.  Also mark where snaps and ties will be sewn, as well as hem line and grain lines.

Tip:  For the best possible shape keep the grain lines at center front and center back on the straight grain of the fabric.

*      Please note:  Style lines are drawn in red marker so they will be easier for you to see.  If this were an actual pattern I’d recommend drawing them in pencil.  The excess color from a marker could stain your fabric when the pattern is placed on it.

*      A basic guideline to determine the creation of panels for wrap skirts is derived by dividing each pattern piece into quarters.  This will help you better determine where to cut the pattern.  For the sample I’ve decided that the front wrap panels can be 3/4 the total width of the front skirt. 

*      Frequently the under panel of a wrap skirt (here the left side) will have the hemline angled up so that it will not be visible from the bottom of the skirt.  This will eliminate extra bulk from the hemline and keep it even.

Tip to create a pleasing flare and shape on an A-Line wrap skirt:  Make your style lines for the over and under skirts wider at the hem and smaller at the waist.  Here I made the lines 1” wide at the hem and 1/2” at the waist.  This will keep the pieces in harmony with the width at waist and hem and preserve the A-Line shape.



2. Correcting the Preliminary Pattern

*        Tip to create a pleasing flare and shape on an A-Line wrap skirt:  Make your style lines for the over and under skirts wider at the hem and smaller at the waist.  Here I made the lines 1” wide at the hem and 1/2” at the waist.  This will keep the pieces in harmony with the width at waist and hem and preserve the A-Line shape.

*      The muslin sample showed that some adjustments were needed to the pattern:  1/16” had to be added to each side seam.  Also, the left under panel of the skirt was not wide enough.  The extra width needed was added to the pattern as shown above. 

*      After making all corrections a new, clean pattern was created by tracing over the revised pieces. 

*           Sewing tip for A-Line Front Wrap Skirts:  Thread trace the center front lines for the over and under front skirt panels.  After sewing snaps to the waist line, sew a small hook to the over panel and a thread loop to the underpanel at center front.  This will keep Barbie’s skirt in place should you pose her sitting down.



Barbie is ready for a Spring weekend in the country in this neat, comfortable A-Line wrap skirt.  To give the skirt some body it was lined using the same pattern pieces.  The lining was stitched along the waist, hem, and right panel seam.  The left panel seam was kept open and the skirt pulled through there.  The openings were slip stitched together.



Note from Carol:  Sabrina's work is wonderful!  Here are photos of the skirt, outside and inside, so you can admire her craft!




III.  Real Clothes Vol. 1 Sheath Skirt 140A

From sheath skirt to front wrap straight skirt with yoke and pleats with side front closure.

You will need:  1 back skirt pattern (half as pieces will be placed on fold); 1 complete skirt front pattern, white paper, pencils, clear plastic ruler, invisible tape.

1. Preliminary Steps:

*     Mark style lines in pencil (again, the red marker was used for illustrative purposes only) after determining the length of yoke and placement of pleats and where skirt will wrap.

*     Cut the pattern pieces out.  The left side will have an underlap so add 3/8” for the underlap, and then another 3/8” extension to fold under that. 

*  On the right overlap add 3/8” so that a fold can be created for that section.


2. Correcting the Preliminary Pattern

* Construction tip for front wrap sheath skirts:  An underlap of 3/8” will provide the right amount of space needed to sew your snaps and keep them from appearing outside the skirt.  I found this out after making the underlap only 1/4” and sewing the snaps on the final version of the skirt!  Always observe your results and make notes on improvements needed for the next time.

*        Cut along lines 1 and 2 and spread open 3/4”.  Mark the openings in half and mark as pleats.  The pleats can be sewn as if they were tucks, about 1 - 1 1/4” long.  After hemming and pressing the pleats can be stitched along their fold lines (on the very edge of the fold) from top to hem.  This will hold the shape nicely and keep the shape fixed. 

*     Mark additional seam allowances and cutting lines for all pattern pieces and make a muslin sample.


*     The muslin sample fit perfectly and no adjustments were needed (which does happen sometimes!).  A copy of the pattern was made and used for the final garment.  I always take this step because often the original pattern is full of tape, pencil marks and erasures.  I find pinning a pattern that has tape on it results in your straight pins getting dull and/or gummy.  This in turn can lead to snagging or damaging of your fabrics if the pins are used again.

*     I lined the yoke of the skirt to create a neater finish.


Barbie is ready for a day at work or an afternoon luncheon appointment in this smart, flattering wrap skirt based on a style from the 1950s.  The top is Pattern 118C from Real Clothes Vol. 2.


Note from Carol:  

Again, photos of the skirt, outside and inside - so beautifully done!


In Conclusion

I hope this brief look into the exciting world of pattern transformation will get you started on creating some unique styles of your own using Carol’s patterns as the starting point.  Just remember that as with any process the principal of what I call “The Three Ps” will lead to greater skill and creativity in your designing.  Patience, Perseverance and Practice will give you the experience and sense needed in learning where to apply style lines. 

If you are interested in learning a little more about the process of pattern transformation for bodices and skirts I have some material that I could send you by email.  The source is an old classroom handout used in the 1950s.  Although the styles are very retro, the process of using style lines and pattern transformations is well illustrated and will deepen your knowledge on the subject.  You may contact me at for the scans.  Please put “Pattern Transformation Scans” in the subject line.


See Sabrina's other article, My Experiences with Real Clothes Patterns!