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).
If you’re looking for a way to draft gored skirts for your costumes, this is the eBook for you. The method shown is one I’ve worked out over the years, in an attempt to find a possibly period way to create a gored skirt. The instructions can be easily adapted to create a pattern using nothing more than a straight edge and notched tape.
A lot of people seem to really like circle skirts. They look all cute and romantic on tiny elf-looking girls, and multi-circle skirts are popular with some dance troups. To me, for historical work, they always scream “sock hop!” and I avoid them even though circular hems are demonstrably correct for sixteenth century surcoats and capes. (They also eat fabric like you wouldn’t believe.) This is about the second easiest skirt pattern I can think of, though, and it’s a good trick to know.
The drawstring skirt is about the easiest thing in the world to make, so it’s a great starting point for building up your “sewing without a pattern” confidence. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least flattering skirts to wear. It will pass for an underskirt, and it’s good if you’re in a hurry or sewing for children. (You might, however, have to explain the idea of drawstrings to the child repeatedly, as I found out during Oliver! – children have grown up in some sort of “all elastic, all the time” universe and are confounded by clothing that needs periodic adjustments. “My skirt fit yesterday and today it falls off.” “Did you tie the drawstring?” “Yes.” “Tight?” “Yes!” “Really?” “Um….”)
How much is there, really, to say about skirts? They’re pretty basic. I’ve never really been one to make patterns for skirts, because, well, I’m lazy, and it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to whack out a rectangle. Somewhere back in the primordial fog of my early costuming experience, someone told me, “Gored skirts aren’t period. They waste fabric.” And I believed her, because it was easier than doing my own research or making with the thinkies. And shame on me, because it turns out that you can get through most of your costuming life if you know how to draft three basic skirt patterns. Ready?
Measuring the Waist to Ground Length correctly is crucial for several things. Most obviously, it’s used for making skirts that fall fully to the ground. It’s also the measurement I rely on for estimating fabric use in historical work, as the vast majority of the fabric is in the skirts.
The Waist to Full Hip measurement is used to fit pants, fitted skirts/dresses, and very long line corsets. It’s the secret measurement that lets you make patterns that keep skirt hems and prints level on figures with a pronounced tum or bum. (For historical purposes, making patterns up using a modified Waist to Full Hip measurement taken over hip pads/skirt supports can be used to keep hems and fabric patterns level.)
The Waist to High Hip measurement tells us how long the curve between the waist and the curve of the hip is. It’s used in making pants and fitted styles of skirts and dresses that fit properly, and is extremely important in creating long line corsets that are comfortable to wear.
The Full Hip measurement is, as advertized, the measurement of the fullest part of the hips. For some of us, this sits down on the thigh, and causes us to flee in horror from any pair of jeans that boasts of being “cut slim through the thigh”. Beyond being crucial to making sure that a pant or a fitted skirt fit well, the Full hip measurement is important in extreme long line corsets of the Edwardian period.
If your background is like mine, your mother taught you to take a hip measurement – but only one. In pattern making, women’s hips are generally measured in two places. There’s a High Hip measurement, which represents the top of the hip curve, and the Full Hip measurement, which is the actual widest part of the hip line. Given the amazing variety of of feminine shapes, it makes sense to take the extra measurement. The high hip measurement is used for fitting both skirts and pants that are meant to skim the body between the waist and hip, and for longer line corsets.