1860s Embroidered Ballgown, Part III: Skirt

ivory-skirt.jpg

Once I had my underpinnings set I decided to make the skirt, so I could be sure that when my bodice was constructed it would fit over all of the skirt layers and still be able to close at the waist. I found a nice tutorial online for making a basic pleated skirt from a rectangular length of fabric, so I took a few pointers from that, but mostly I just winged it.

I stitched my skirt panels together, carefully matching the embroidery at the seams, then turned up a hem all around the bottom of the skirt and ironed and pinned it in place. I did this before mounting the skirt to the waistband because the hem decoration was the most important part, so I measured the skirt length up from the hem rather than down from the waist. That being said, I pinned things (instead of sewing) just in case I needed to do some last-minute adjustments after attaching the waistband. Accounting for the hoop skirt and the extra 1/2″ or so for the waistband seam allowance, I needed a skirt length of about 43″.

Once I’d cut my skirt to the correct length I cut a slit in the center back and added a placket– usually I prefer to do this on a seam so I can work with the seam allowance, but with four skirt panels it just didn’t work out that way. I suppose I could’ve made the closure on the side rather than the center back, but I feel like that’s just more visible and I don’t like the look.

After measuring my waist over my corset, I cut the waistband out of my fabric (along the selvedge so I had one finished edge), leaving a few extra inches at the back overlap to allow for letting the skirt out a bit if necessary in the future. I carefully pleated and pinned the skirt to fit the waistband, putting inverted double box pleats at the front and back, double box pleats at each side, and knife pleats in between.

ivory pleats

Since I wanted to be extra careful to keep everything in place, I hand-basted the pleats in place before machine-stitching them to the waistband. I tried it on one last time to check the length… and promptly realized that even though I had a nice dome shape to my hoop skirt, the sides still needed slightly more fabric to look level all the way around. As it was they were visibly shorter than the front and back. Luckily I had allowed a little extra room in my skirt measurement, and was able to let down about an inch of the skirt fabric at the sides of the waistband to allow the skirt to fall more evenly. Still not perfect, but close enough! Whew!

Anyway, after that I did the final stitching, graded the seam allowances, pressed the waistband over, and whip-stitched it down.

I fastened the waist with two heavy-duty hooks and bars, put two snaps in the back placket to keep it closed, and I was done!

ivory-skirt-waist hooks

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