How-To: Rainskirt

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How-To: Rainskirt
Take an old raincoat and make it into the perfect garment to slip on over pants or skirts.
By Diane Baker

When I moved to Seattle I spent a considerable amount of time looking for rain wear for my lifestyle. The only gear that covered my legs were rain pants, which were not only hard to get on and off, but ugly, and incompatible with skirts. The solution turned out to be cutting up an old raincoat and making what I call, the Rainskirt.


Old raincoat preferably the nylon style, but any one will do
Dressmaker pins
Sewing machine
Thread to match

Dressmaker’s model
This is good to have, or else a same-sized friend will help, but you can manage without.
Tape measure
Snaps or hooks
velcro also works
Note: Since raincoats vary so much, you may have to make small improvisations to style your own Rainskirt.
Choosing the raincoat: You can make it smaller, but not any larger. Go thrift shopping for a coat long enough to provide protection, and at that length, wide enough to go around your waist. Way too big for your waist is fine — you can incorporate simple pleats, or just run up seams to reduce the size.


Step 1: Sew sleeves shut.
Sleeves are set in all different ways. Turn the coat inside out. Pin the sleeves shut following a line from the inside of the underarm straight up. Sew this seam, then cut off the sleeves, leaving 1″ of fabric by the seam. You will refine this seam later, but this will give you the most latitude.
Step 2: Cut off the coat top.
Measure from your waist to the length you want your skirt. Now add 2″, which will be your waistband. Spread the coat out on a table or floor, and starting at the middle back, place the measuring tape at that number, at the bottom of the hem, and place a pin in the coat, at the top of the tape measure. (For example, if it’s 25″, put the tape measure at the bottom of the coat at 27″, then put the pin at the top of the tape.)
Move over a couple of inches and place another pin. Keep the curve of the coat as you place the pins. Cut just above this pin line.
Step 3: Adjust the Rainskirt.
This is when you start making the skirt fit you. Evaluate how much you need to reduce the coat to fit your waist. Use pins to try out what will look good. You can either sew seams or make pleats (just make a fold and pin it down, keeping the raw top even with the waist’s arc). I usually use pleats to keep the fullness in the skirt for easy striding.
My preference is to start at the side seams and make a pleat or seam that will cover the sewn-up sleeve seam. If the coat has pockets you want to save, make a pleat towards the back of the skirt. You can also run a dart from the top of the pocket up to the waist, removing most or all of the sleeve seam, and cut the fabric to reduce. By reducing the fullness at the side seams, you get to conceal that funky area.
Reduce symmetrically. If you’re using seams, sew them up and trim. For pleats, pin into place. Sew down your adjustments, being sure that pleats are secured at the point where your waistband goes.
Step 4: Make the waistband.
You can create a waist by making the top of the skirt into a template for facing and use that to make your skirt’s waistband. Another option is to take a coat’s belt, remove the stitching from one side, and slip it over the raw skirt waist. This is adding a flat strip rather than the contour of a waist band, but it works; it’s already finished, and it’s nice to use as much of the coat as you can.
My choice is making a contoured waistband by turning under the top edge about 2″. Working from the center out, turn down and pin. You may have to open some seams to make a smooth line. Topstitch this into place about ¼” to ½” from the edge. Turn the lower edge under and pin. Then machine-sew or hand-stitch into place.
Step 5: Make the closure.
If there is a button at the top, you’re done. Otherwise, apply a snap or hook and eye to fasten the top of your Rainskirt, and wait for rain!
Sometimes there will be unwanted flaring in the finished Rainskirt. Tuck the flare into a pleat and stitch it down with a small tacking stitch.
It’s hard to work with a lined coat. Your choices are to removing it by just cutting it out near the seam lines or to leave it in place and work with it. I have left it in while making a Rainskirt, basting it to the coat so I could cut easily, but it adds thickness to the waistband.
You can turn the sleeves into gaiters by adding elastic on the top and bottom. Slip this over the bottom of your pants or over boots to get extra protection.
About the Author:
Diane lives, works, repurposes, and crafts with her family and dog in the rain, in Seattle. She also co-invented a nifty product to protect brushes called the Brush Defender.

12 thoughts on “How-To: Rainskirt

  1. JoAnn says:

    That is such a clever idea. It doesn’t rain much where I live, but I still want one of these. Thanks for sharing this idea.

  2. Brookelynn says:

    I LOVE this! I would wear it even not in the rain!

  3. alice says:

    This would have made my years in Portland so much more… dry! Fetching and clever both. Rain pants should only be seen on postal workers or serious trekkers (trekkies?).

  4. Liz says:

    I live on Mackinac Island – where cars are illegal so we do evverything with bikes and horses. Walking and biking in the rain, with a skirt doesn’t work well – unless you want to arrive at work a wrinkled mess. I’ve thought about making something like this for a long time. Now I know how to do it. Thanks!

  5. Anonymous says:


  6. Karen says:

    Love this! I was going to make one from scratch but this is way better to thrift an existing raincoat and go from there.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

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