Sewing and hemming gored skirts is a skill needed for almost all periods of western fashion since the late 1400s. This demo shows how to make a gored skirt with a simple side-seam pocket, mounted on a waistband. We’re going to gather the fullness of this skirt to the back, making it very suitable as an underskirt to be worn over a support skirt (hoops or farthingale).
This demo assumes you’ve got a pattern for a gored skirt. You can draft your own pattern, or use a commercial pattern for a full-length gored skirt. Personally, I like to draft my own, because it gives me better control over the silhouette of the finished project. For this demo, I’m using the same gore pattern I used to make the gored spanish farthingale. (I drafted the pattern using the instructions in my ebook.)
I’m using the same pattern because I want to create a finished skirt that falls smoothly over my support skirt. The easiest way to do that is to make sure both the support skirt and the skirt covering it are drafted with the same side angle, and a comparable amount of fabric over the front. To achieve this, we’re going to cut three panels from the same pattern, but concentrate the fullness of two in the back of the skirt. This leaves the front panel pretty tight to the farthingale below it. Ready?During this demo, I use the following skills:
You could. But, really, if you’re going to go to all the trouble to sew a costume in the first place, why start underachieving now? Do this instead:
Yes, wrong side to wrong side. We’re making a french (or, in my dolly’s case, hairline) seam. It’s nicer. I’m even showing you how to work it around a pocket…
Once the seam is in, trim the seam allowance to 1/8″ from your line of stitch. (Doll sizes with 1/4″ seam allowance, your stitches are at 1/8″, so you’re trimming at 1/16″. I believe that is technically “a hair”…)
Why are we only sewing part-way up the pocket seam? Well, this pocket is going to double as a placket, hiding the opening of the skirt. If we don’t leave it partly open, you won’t be able to get in to your skirt. This gives us a small pocket perfect for holding tissue, lip gloss, etc. We’re putting it in the underskirt so that no one can see it, and also because modern people have a terrible habit of reflexively sticking their hands in pockets whenever possible. That’s harder to do when your pockets are safely out of reach!
Can you tell which seam is hiding the pocket? Erm, neither can I, at the moment, but I’m pretty sure it’s on the left in the photo. Neat, huh?
Now we have to put this onto a waist band. Waist bands aren’t really period before the mid 1800s (around the time of the sewing machine and heavily waisted corsets), but it’s a technique a lot of people are familiar with. We could also attach the skirt directly to a bodice, but that’s a whole different construction. We’ll talk about it later on this week, when we work through a kirtle. (I’m so excited! Between you, me, and the interweb, I’m getting a little bored of making dolly skirts on dolly waistbands…)
For the waistband:
If you’re new to sewing, gathering stitches are simple a line of long stitches (usually a 4 on your machine) sewn in without back-tacking either end. Leave long tails. You’ll be pulling on one of the two threads at each end and gently squishing the stitches together.
We’ve just placed 2/3rds of the skirt on the back half of the body. Neat. Now it’s time to pull those gathers in…
We want the pocket to face front, so at the front side of the skirt the top of the pocket should be folded back against the gathers. At the back side, pleat it down a little so the top edge sits in a little clump right at the edge of the skirt. (This isn’t a modern technique, which would use a waistband extension for an overlap. This weird pleated version lets us make a pocket that can be used in side-lacing kirtles as well. Kirtles lace edge-to-edge.)
No, really, hand sew it. It’s much neater that way and, unless you’re a borderline zen sewing master, it’s going to be faster because you won’t miss places or have to rip out the stitches that show. (Oddly, I find that more and more, I choose to do this by hand even though I can do it on the machine. It really doesn’t take long, and I know it will work every time.)
Try the skirt on, and mark the position of a hook and eye. Add. (Or don’t – you’d be surprised just how many skirts at a faire are held together by safety pins!)
Hem with a turned hem, following the directions in the skills section.
Now, here’s a fine point. I said that this skirt was made to be worn over a farthingale, and that I used my farthingale pattern for the skirt pattern. If you use *exactly* the same pattern, this is what happens:
Yipes! Perspective really is everything. Now, all logic dictates that two skirts that are exactly the same length should cover each other exactly. Skirts are not logical beasties.
Thank you so much for this tutorial! I’m trying to make a 7 gored skirt, but i’m just a little confused about a part that envolves math and I was wondering if you could help me. :)
Well, I measured my waist (81 cm) and divided by 7 (gores), but in the center I want to leave more space of fabric, I want the gore wider than the rest. How can I achieve the this having my waist measure correct in the end? Thank you!
i hope I don’t sound too confusing
Decide with size you want the front gore to be. Subtract that amount from the total of your waist, then divide into the remaining six gores.
For example, say I have a 30″ waist. (Please?) I would like a front gore that goes from princess line to princess line – 6″. I subtract that six inches I have assigned to my front gore from the 30″ total for a remaining 24″. Divide that over the six remaining gores, and they end up at 4″ each.
You might want to add in a titch of wearing ease – a half inch (or a centimeter or so) should be sufficient. Or you might not. ;) it sort of depends on your era.
Clear as mud?
Thank you so much! It was so helpful and how simple it sounds! :’) You’re very kind in helping me out! You don’t mind if I ask you some more questions in the further future? I love sewing and I’m practising my math and patterns! I’ll do my best to put everything inside my head! :’D
Once again, thank you!
I’m sorry for bothering you so soon again, but I remembered the waistband for the skirt. :’D To draft a perfect match size pattern I just have to divide my hips by 2? I did it, but the waistband seems shorter and doesn’t fit my hips. :’
Thank you so much for your help in math!