Monday, July 6, 2009

Make a Vintage-Inspired Half Slip: No Pattern Required!

Right now I'm working on the "slim, supple skirt" from Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing (VoNBSS). I noticed right away that the skirt is not intended to be lined, so my first instinct was to add a lining myself. But then I thought, "What would a home seamstress of 1952 do?" Why, she'd probably wear a slip under her slim, supple skirt! So, by golly, I will too. You don't even need a pattern to sew a simple half slip. Here's how you can make one too.

You'll need:
-a yard of fabric. I'm using a silk jacquard, but you can use any fabric that you'd normally use for lingerie (nylon, rayon, cotton, etc.)
-a yard of picot edge lingerie elastic (You can order this online at Sew Sassy Fabrics.)
-a yard of lace trim
-a bit of velvet ribbon trim for a bow (optional)
-a gridded cardboard mat or cutting mat (not completely necessary, but will be very helpful)
-tracing paper (I'm using Swedish tracing paper)
-clear plastic ruler
-measuring tape

Your pattern will be a simple rectangle. You just need to get 2 easy measurements: the width and height of the slip.

Measure the widest part of your lower body, keeping the tape measure relaxed. Your widest part might be your hip measurement, but for some women, your derriere will be the largest measurement. Add 3 inches of ease to this number. So, if your measurement is 41, you'll get 44. Divide this number in half. Your first measurement is 22".

Figure out how long you want your slip to be. Make sure it's about three inches shorter than the skirt you plan to wear it with. My desired length is 22 inches. Now, add one inch to this number to account for the waistband and the lace application at the bottom. Your second measurement is therefore 23".

So, to make your pattern, draw a 22 x 23 inch rectangle.

I use tracing paper on top of my gridded cardboard cutting mat to make the rectangle. Add a 5/8" seam allowance to the sides only. This is your pattern!

Lay out your fabric and cut two of the pattern. (You might be able to do this with the fabric folded, but because of my measurement and the width of my fabric, I needed to do a single-layer layout.)

Pin the two pieces along the side edges with right sides together, forming a tube. Stitch with a 5/8" seam allowance. Press the seams open, and finish the raw edges in your preferred method (serging, zigzagging, overcasting, pinking, binding, etc.)

Now you'll need to cut your elastic to the right length. To do this, wrap the elastic snugly around your natural waist, or the smallest part of your torso. (You'll want it to stretch a bit. Your cut length of elastic should end up being an inch or two smaller than your waist measurement.) Mark this length. Add 1/2", and then cut the elastic.

With right sides of the elastic together, stitch the ends together with a 1/4" seam allowance. Stitch back and forth a few times to make sure it's secure.

Trim very close to the stitching.

Divide the elastic into quarters and mark with pins. The seam will be the first quarter spot to mark.

With right sides together and the picot edge of the elastic pointing down, pin the quarter marks of the elastic to one raw end of the fabric tube. Start by pinning the elastic seam to the center back of the slip. Then pin the other quarter marks of the elastic to the side seams and the center front seam.
Your elastic will be pinned to your slip in four places, and you'll have a lot of loose fabric.

Now you're going to zig zag the elastic to the slip.

Starting at the back seam of the elastic, use a zig zag stitch to stitch the elastic to the slip. Stitch close to the picot edge of the elastic. You need to stretch out the elastic to fit the slip as you go. Pull with both hands, from the front and back of the fabric.

Trim the excess fabric from the top of the elastic to neaten.

Next, turn the elastic to the inside of the slip. Now use a zig zag stitch again to stitch the elastic onto the slip, having the your needle first catch the slip, and then the edge of the elastic.

Here's how it will look as it's coming out of the sewing machine:

And from the right side:

When you're done stitching, you'll see that the elastic has stretched out. You need to steam it to shrink it back to its original size. (This is my favorite part!) Hold your iron an inch over the elastic and steam the heck out of it. It will shrink up right before your eyes. Amazing!

Now stitch the lace to the bottom of the slip using a very narrow zig zag stitch. Use a thread to coordinate with the lace, not your fabric. The scalloped edge of the lace will meet the raw edge of the fabric.

From the back side, trim away the excess hem fabric, close to the zig zag.

If you'd like to add a bow, stitch it by hand to the center front.

Voila! Your slip is done. Wasn't that easy?

Let me know in the comments if you have questions!


  1. Very cute slip!

    Thanks for the tutorial.
    It’s very difficult to find slips here in Switzerland especially in other colours than black and white. I think I will try this.

  2. So easy and very pretty! Thanks for the tutorial.

  3. I've had the fabric to make two slips but kept putting it off since I didn't really want to do elastic in a casing (added bulk). Thanks for this really easy way with the lingerie elastic. Now I just have to order it, why don't fabric stores carry this anymore?!

  4. Oh, I hate casings too! Sew Sassy ships very quickly if you can't find lingerie elastic in your fabric store.

  5. Great tutorial, very clear and easy to understand. Thanks! Eithne

  6. Hello Gertie, Hurrah! I found you! If you'd like an "old-fashioned" way of neatening elastic joins, try this: Cut a length of (1/2" to 1" wide) satin ribbon 2-1/2 times the width* of the elastic; set it aside. Join the elastic and trim excess. Center the ribbon on the underside of the elastic on the join; baste in place; then wrap the ribbon all the way around the elastic to the starting place. Fold under 1/8" and sew in place. This method of reinforcing elastic joins on panties and slips was used by RWT for years. Cordially, Nehmah *Say the elastic is 3/8" wide; you need enough ribbon to cover the top, the underside and 1/8" to fold under. N

  7. Thanks ever so much for the tutorial. I needed to make a half slip without a pattern and there you were!

  8. I just bought the most beautiful dusky coral hem lace at Hancocks to go on my pale pink and aqua blue slips. Now I just have to go back to Jo-Anns and get the lingerie elastic.

  9. This was a great little sewing lesson and I used some of your suggestions in making a great ruched hem half slip. You can see it on my blog A Few Threads Loose

  10. Thanks for the slip tutorial! It turned out so cute! However, I did have one problem....when I steamed the elastic, it didn't shrink up very much. I tried doing it several times, and it still is too stretched! Will it correct itself once I wash it, or is there something else I can try?


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  12. Wow, thanks a bunch for this, I figured sewing a half-slip would be pretty simple. Now to go do this so I can wear my wonderful retro inspired skirt that I sewed as a class project. We (my class) didn't have time to sew a lining into the skirt if we needed one so our instructor said it waa alright, as long as you were willing to wear the skirt with a slip.

  13. It's been years since you've posted this but I just made mine tonight after buying 2 very sheer summer dresses. Cut yesterday and sewn up this evening while my husband was at the grocery! He did not believe I made it, with lace edging, picot elastic, and a little contrast bound slit and matching bow. How cute and lovely. Thank you!

  14. You are so creative that things in your hands can be more beautiful and useful.

  15. Thanks for tutorial. I will try to do this.

  16. Thanks for these instructions! I just made a slip to go under a great vintage wool skirt I have, which is sadly very itchy.

    I was going fine until the turning-over of the elastic. I think my elastic differs to yours, it was far too narrow. But I had heaps of it, so I straight stitched another layer to the outside, and it looks adorable, especially with the bow!

  17. Thank you for this tutorial, I will try my hand at my first slip!

  18. oh! thanks about this tutorial! Last month my mom gave me 3 slip she wear ehen she was young, one is from my granny :) those were made by hand as bridal gift

  19. Thanks so much Gertie ! Now I look like a pin-up girl and my english is much better !(I'm French)
    Kind regards from Paris,

  20. Very good and interesting site with very good look and perfect information I like it chat sohbet chat sohbet

  21. Thank you for this tutorial. I tried to find a pattern in JoAnn's but no one makes one anymore. Now I can make my own.

  22. Thank you so much for sharing this information.
    It is very informative and interesting.

  23. So happy to find this. I should be able to do this, and then my skirts won't ride up when I walk. Genius!

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  25. Thanks for the tutorial, Gertie! (I'm sorry that I'm more than four years late to the party.)

    I've already measured and cut my fabric. The two pieces are now pinned together and awaiting being sewn together tomorrow:)

    Is there a pattern for a full slip that's readily available?

  26. I'm a late-comer too - but glad that I found your site. Why is the encased elastic waistband not popular? Is it really a lot bulkier than directly sewing on the elastic? Can any elastic be used to sew straight onto the waist? Thanks Gertie. Meels

  27. Thanks for the tip about steaming the elastic. I just made a cotton batiste slip, and I thought I had stretched the elastic too much, because it stayed sort of stretched out. I can still wear the slip, but was thinking of re-doing the waistband with a more heavy-duty elastic. I'm going to try steaming it first, as I do like the delicate look of the 3/8" picot elastic.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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