Though this skirt needs some finishing off, it’s done enough that I can show you my process. It was a little tricky to figure out how to make it given that it needed to flare out at the same angle as my petticoats. With a normal pleated skirt you can just fold a long rectangle and then join the ends, or cut out lots of rectangles, but I had to cut out trapeziums so the skirt would be wider at the bottom than the top.
Something that helped me figure out how to make this was a brief tutorial here. It showed in paper how the pieces fit, so I also made a small paper version of a couple of panels to figure out the shape.
Firstly, this is the fabric I found. It’s very thick and heavy, and a little bit shiny, so it looks just like the typical fabric used for school skirts and trousers. It also doesn’t wrinkle easily, so once the pleats are ironed in it will maintain its shape and stay looking smart. I had to be careful while working with it as the difference between the right and wrong sides was very subtle!
These are the patterns I used. Each one is for half a panel, so the material they’re pinned to is folded once. ‘Skirt back’ is for the panels that will go between the pleats, and ‘skirt front’ is for the pleated panels that go on top. I figured out the size of these patterns by measuring my waist and the circumference of the petticoats at their puffiest point and deciding how many pleats I wanted. It was basically lots of dividing numbers, and trial and error… (Edit: see the end of this post for a diagram of my measurements.)
With what I calculated I needed eight of each panel, so I diligently cut them all out, pinning the patterns along the fold of the fabric each time…
Next I ironed the pleats into the front pieces. I had left 4cm for pleats and hems, so I measured each bit before I ironed it into place. Below shows the wrong side of the fabric, first with the folds open, and then closed to show the new shape.
I then took one of the back panels and pinned it — wrong side facing up, so effectively looking at the inside of the skirt — along a folded edge. I put the pins down the middle of the 4cm flap. If the panels were sewn too close to the fold the pleats would look too stuck-down, so the gap allows for some movement when the skirt is worn.
When flipped over, it looked like this:
This process was just repeated over and over. I only made half of the skirt at first just to check the fit (this picture is missing one back panel).
This is what it looked like on the back:
You can see below how the edge zig-zags because of how the panels are connected.
I pinned my half-skirt to the mannequin, and it looked better than I expected!
I decided it didn’t flare enough though and might still squish the petticoats underneath, so I adjusted where I ironed the pleats by angling the line more.
With the whole skirt pinned together I tried it on myself with the petticoats. I know the pleats don’t look as defined as on the previous version, but I’m hoping that once the other part of my skirt goes underneath — the one that will have blue ruffles on the bottom — the pleated skirt will not have so many curves to lie across and fall into. Right now it just follows where the petticoats fall, and they have much more material!
This was it laid out flat without a waistband:
Next I pinned on a waistband. I didn’t do with the skirt lying flat after all as the fabric didn’t really curve that way. But I managed in the end! It’s pinned right side to right side with the skirt so that once it’s sewn it can be turned up the other way to hide the stitching…
…Like so! It was quite difficult to get all the fabric in the right place through the machine, so it’s a bit dodgy on the back, but the front looks decent!
Below you can see that the fabric got a bit scrunched up in places… Haha.
Before flipping the waistband over and sewing it on the other side, I made the ends into neat, square corners. With the skirt the right way up again I folded the waistband over (opposite to the way it would be in the end) and pinned it down, including a seam allowance.
I sewed a straight line down where I wanted the waistband to end…
…Cut off the excess…
And turned the whole waistband inside-out. Now it has nice edges! On one end I made the waistband stick out past the skirt a little to allow me to put any buttons or hooks wherever I needed them to fasten it.
I ironed the waistband into place ready for sewing the other side, which I have yet to do. I’m so pleased with this, though! Once I’ve done the hems it will be all nice and finished off and look extra smart.
I won’t be posting now for a couple of weeks since I’m away; I’m a little scared I still have a fair amount to do! Still, I’m glad I’ve got the main parts of the costume together in some form. Fingers crossed it finishes up okay!
Edit: Since somebody asked, I’m now including the measurements of my pattern pieces. 🙂 I found a diagram I drew when I was making the skirt and neatened it up digitally. The ‘front’ and ‘back’ skirt panels were measured so that I would fit eight of each around the skirt, i.e. eight box pleated sections.
Left: A rough image of what the whole skirt would look like laid out flat when it was finished. The inner edge corresponds to my waist size – so this will obviously change from person to person if you want to use this as a guide – and the outer edge corresponds to the circumference of my petticoats at the lowest point I wanted this pleated skirt to reach. That was a bit of guesswork, since there is only so accurately you can measure how poofy a skirt is… (I had it on a mannequin, but a friend would do!) This is why there may be some discrepancies in the maths…
Middle: The ‘front’ panel of the skirt. The dotted lines show where the folds for the pleats would be. The top edge (the 9.25cm bit) is my waist measurement approximately divided by eight; I say approximately because a) you can’t really do complicated decimals with a measuring tape, and b) I didn’t want to risk the sections overlapping, so this would allow for slight gaps. The bottom edge (the 15cm bit) is just a width I chose. It is not 256 divided by 8, as this would mean there were no gaps between the pleats! Finally, the length (the 29cm bit) is completely dependent on exactly how long I wanted the skirt to be.
Right: The ‘back’ panel of the skirt. The dotted lines here simply represent where the front panels would overlap – therefore the triangle with the 10cm base would be the only part actually visible on the finished skirt. I worked out the 10cm by finding out how large the circumference of the bottom edge of the skirt would have to be (this is the 256cm measurement on the first diagram), then dividing it by eight and working from there. I must have changed my mind a bit since the first diagram, though, as this doesn’t add up, haha! Sorry. It was mainly trial and error anyway.