Lady Macbeth Beetlewing Gown, Part VIII: Skirt

More progress! These posts are getting farther apart due to the complexity of each step, but I promise that we’re nearing the light at the end of the tunnel!

As I mentioned in my patterning/mockup post, the underskirt was a simple A-line, but the overskirt was drafted differently for the front and back. The front was an A-line, while the back was a half-circle, both with gathers at the waistline for extra fullness.

I’d originally planned on attaching the skirt directly to a separate waistband at the natural waist, to let the weight of the skirt rest there rather than dragging down the bodice. However, because the bodice had a dropped waistline and was fitted to the hips there wasn’t room for all those fabric gathers between the natural waist and the dropped waistline. Instead, I made a fitted yoke out of cotton sateen (dyed in the same bath as my cotton gauze) that was set on a waistband.

I tried the yoke on and zipped the bodice up over it, and traced the bottom edge of the bodice onto the yoke with pencil to mark the length I had to work with.

I put the yoke on my dress form and pinned my underskirt to the yoke, pinning about 2″ up from the pencil line and then hand-basting it in place. I machine-stitched the underskirt to the yoke and trimmed the upper edge away to minimize bulk.

Then I put my overskirt on the dress form over the yoked underskirt, pinning in pleats/gathers to bring it down to size. I hand-basted the overskirt to the yoke while it was still on the dress form, then tried it on just to be sure I had the placement right before machine-stitching it in place. I left the excess fabric there, though, just in case things went wrong.

Once I had a usable skirt, I put it on along with the bodice and pinned them together above the hip line with safety pins. This ensured that they would sit the same way on my dress form as they did on my body (which doesn’t always happen due to shape differences). Then I put the whole thing on the dress form and hand-stitched the bottom edge of the bodice (raw edge folded under) to the skirt. Since the (considerable) weight of the skirt is held up by the waistband at the natural waist, there’s very little tension on that stitching, so there’s nothing to pull the bodice down. Once I was sure that it was properly placed, I trimmed away the excess skirt fabric from the inside, again to minimize bulk.

I will note that due to some miscalculation about the actual width of my fabric (I smoothed it out flat on the carpet to cut, which actually stretched it out and made it appear longer than it was when hanging) I inadvertently cut the skirt shorter than I’d intended to. This made things a bit tight when it came to keeping the skirt full-length while still stitching it high enough on the hip to be covered by the bodice, so in a few spots I was forced to hand-stitch some extra scraps of crochet lace in place to fill in short spots at the hem. Luckily it’s barely noticeable due to the texture of the fabric and the location of the piecing.

I know this wasn’t how the original was made– the photos of the dress don’t show anything like this kind of inner structure, though you can see here that they did gather the skirt along a straight edge and then stitch the bodice to it lower down to get the shaping, rather than gathering the top edge of the skirt directly to the shaped waistline.

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Then again, I think the crochet fabric they used in the original was most likely lighter than the stuff I’m using, so an extra support for the weight of the skirt wouldn’t have been as important for them as it was for me.

Anyway, once I had the skirt and bodice attached and supported, I made a skirt facing out of bias-cut strips of the green gauze, and attached it to the bottom of the overskirt to finish the hem and give some extra structure.

It really helped the skirt to hang beautifully both front and back, and provided some protection for the hem where it dragged on the ground in back. (not quite as much of a train as the original, but it at least gave the impression of a slight train)

You can see that I haven’t completed sewing all of the beetlewings on the entire skirt– I was being careful about staying away from seam and hemlines to make construction easier– but I’m going to leave that until the end since I’ll have several hours in the car on the way down to Costume College, which will be perfect for tedious hand-work!

2 thoughts on “Lady Macbeth Beetlewing Gown, Part VIII: Skirt

  1. Pingback: Lady Macbeth Beetlewing Gown, Part XV: Final Thoughts | It's All Frosting...

  2. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying reading this, especially the very clever construction methods you’ve engineered. This dress has inspired me for years, and it’s on my bucket list to at least make an “inspired by ” dress if not a replica.

    Yours is so lovely, thank you so much for sharing such detailed notes on the process.

    Like

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