Since I did not think this experiment would succeed, I did not take pictures of the whole process, but I will give you some descriptions of what I did. Hopefully, those will spark your imagination and send you off on your own experimental project. Remember, sewing should be relaxing and fun... let slippery fabrics and lace that looks slightly crooked be part of the design!
The only parts of this dress that are not part of the original skirt are the red lace, the casing for the elastic at the top, and the elastic. All of these components, I had left over in drawers. I also had the thread, so this dress uses no newly bought parts.
I began by cutting off the waistband two inches down the skirt. I sewed together the layers of skirt that were attached to the waistband so that there would be a tiny fraying on the ruffle.
Second, I pinned the two layers of skirt and basted them together. Afterwards, I narrow-hemmed them.
Third, I measured down one inch from the top of the dress. I chalked a straight line across the front of the skirt, from side seam to side seam. I pinned together the two layers, then pinned on a casing that I repurposed from a scrap that was either once a ribbon or some kind of casing.
I sewed the top of the casing on the inside of the dress, sewing the two layers together. I sewed the casing in the same way you would sew an elastic waist casing.
After inserting the elastic that I found in a drawer and thankfully fit the casing size, I tried on the dress. The elastic was a little too loose for a strapless dress, but I did not want to rip out my work. This was a fun experiment, and ripping out difficult seams is not fun. I decided to use the too loose elastic as part of my design and started thinking of what to use as straps. At this point, I thought that the waistband would be too bulky or wide or otherwise just not look good as shoulder straps.
Now that the basic dress was made, I sewed the lace on the outside of the dress, sewing on the same seam lines as I used for the casing, being careful not to catch the elastic. I found it helpful to pin the two layers of dress together during this step, but had to be careful not to sew in pins!
Fifth, I measured from the top of my bust to the bottom, where I wanted the second row of lace to be. I wanted a mock empire waist. I measured from the bottom of the first row of lace and chalked where I thought the second row should go.
When I tried on the dress, I realized that measuring first was a needless step. I could chalk the dress while I was wearing it. When I took the dress off, I measured across my body-chalked line, took the most common measurements (they only varied by a quarter of an inch), rubbed out the previous chalk marks, and drew a dashed chalk line an even measurement from the bottom of the first row of lace.
Sixth, I measured across my body from side seam to side seam, to determine how long a piece of lace I needed. I added ½ inch to this for a ¼ inch fold-over on each end to hide the raw edges.
Because the dress had so much volume, I ran a basting line across my chalk line and gathered the waist to the correct size. All this time, I pinned the two layers together to help prevent slipping, but it was still difficult to work with. Patience and not trying to make the gathers perfect aided in preventing too much frustration.
After the waist was gathered, I pinned on the lace and sewed it. After it was sewn in, I thought it looked crooked, so I measured it from the bottom of the top lace. It was level within 1/8 inch, so I did not bother to take it out and let the slanted look be part of the design.
I tried on the dress, and the bottom lace landed in close to the correct spot. It was a little high, but not enough to prompt me to rip out the seams and re-sew them.
I spent several days thinking about whether I wanted to tighten the elastic. (No! Too much seam ripping involved.) I thought about what to use for straps. I looked at my supply of ribbons and laces and seam bindings and nothing struck my eye. I kept looking at the waist band and wondering, so eventually, I decided to try it.
I wanted to prevent raveling, but did not want to hem the ends because the elastic was too thick. So, I found the middle of the waistband on both sides (because it was still a circle) and sewed on each side two seams ¼ apart with the center mark between them. Then I cut between the two seams on each side and had two pieces of elastic waistband.
After that, I found the center front of the dress and put the edges of the straps next to each other on the center front. I sewed these on.
I tried on the dress and played with where I wanted the straps to go in the back. I do not like my straps to fall down, so I wanted them high on the shoulder. Also, I was hoping for a more interesting neckline than the typical tank-strap look. Determining the placement of the straps would have been easier if I had sewed the straps to the back of the dress first. Then I could play with the placement at the front easier than I could reach around to my own back. After I decided where I wanted the straps, I pinned them while I had the dress on. Once the dress was off, I measured and made sure the straps were evenly placed. I sewed them on the front, tried on the dress, and found that it fit. My new dress was finished!