18th century skirts are made in much the same way as the petticoats, which I’ve explained how to make here. The only major difference is that generally skirts are placed on one waistband for simplicity and also shape, but petticoats are placed on two. This does cause problems though because you still have to leave slits in the sides of the skirt to access the pockets. Regardless, a skirt is simpler to make than a bodice and much simpler than a pair of stays!
- fabric that can be formed into a piece at least 3 meters long by your longest waist to floor measurement + 5 cm. This can be a piece of fabric 150cm wide by twice your length measurement or any other way of getting this material. ( I would recommend buying 3 meters of fabric for the skirt)
- Extra fabric for the waistband, you can use taffeta but you’ll have to reinforce it with a layer of tight weave fabric like cotton, or medium weight interfacing.
- Some form of closure. Technically you should sew two eyelets and run some ribbon between them, but you could also use buttons or hook and bar closures.
Now how to make it;
Before you do anything IRON YOUR FABRIC, not doing so can throw of your measurements and it’ll really annoy you trying to do it later. Taffeta needs to be ironed on a medium-low temperature, use a pressing cloth (any piece of cotton will do, even a clean tea towel). It’ll take a while but stay with it and do not turn up the temperature, you can use steam if you really need to but I’d advise against it.
- Cut your fabric into two pieces using the same pattern as I described in this petticoat tutorial. Make sure to include a large hem (around 2″) in your measurements because a large hem helps the skirt to hang correctly.
- Roll hem the top 10″ of the sides of the panels, these will be the openings to allow access to the pockets.
- Sew up the side seams (make sure to leave the top 10″ unsewn- where you’ve already hemmed)
- Cut out the pieces of your waistband. You’ll need two pieces 2″ wide by your waist measurement. If you’re doing a button or hook and loop closure add at least 2″ to your waist measurement. If you’re using eyelets make it about 1″ less. Remember it should be your waist measurement with your foundation garments on otherwise your waist is different and the skirt is too big/small.
- You’ll need to strengthen one side of the waistband, do this and sew three sides together with a .5″ seam allowance.
- You need to make some marks on your waistband to help you line up the pleats, use tailors chalk, tacks or pins.
- Put the waistband on your waist and mark how much overlaps
- Fold the waistband in half (ignoring the overlap section you’ve just identified)
- Then fold each of these halves into quarters.
- Attach your closure method to the waistband (unless you’re doing eyelets, then do these after attaching the skirt) and press.
- Line up the two side seams,the center front and center back of the skirt piece with the waistband as described below;
- Place the waistband right side up with the rough edge at the top of your work space
- Match the right side seam with the very end of the waistband (the area that will overlap later)
- Match the center front of the skirt to the quarter mark immediately next to the place you’ve just pinned.
- Take the last front seam and pin it 1″ beyond the quarter mark
- Take the other left side seam and match it with the center front of the waistband.
- Match the center back with the last quarter mark
- Finally pin the other part of the right side seam to the very end of the waistband.
- Measure 2.5″ either side of the center front of the skirt, this area will not be pleated to allow for the bodice to sit properly. Also measure and mark 0.5″ either side of the back center for the same purpose.
- Pleat by eye, be aware Peggy has quite large boxy pleats whilst Eliza has very small pleats with Angelica somewhere in between. Make sure your center front and back pleats form an inverted box pleat. I would advise pressing your pleats from the inside before the next step.
- Sew the skirt to the front of the waistband as shown below, making sure to catch your reinforcing layer. Now press all seam allowances towards the waistband.
- Close the seam in the waistband, this can be done by hand sewing or top sewing with a machine as long as all the raw edges are inside.
- Hem the entire skirt. Do this by sewing a small hem first then hand sewing a larger hem (it should be around 2″). Make sure to pin it so it’s level on you (you’ll probably need someone else to help), not necessarily equal all the way round. This will take a while but this is the best way to do it and make it look professional. Make sure you iron your hem really well, also if you want it to hang better you can hem with crinoline braid or bias cut facing, there’s a tutorial on these here.
Here’s the finished skirt with the customary back, side and front views. The pleats in the back aren’t sitting quite right and I think this is because I made them too small. Hopefully the bodice will cover them up and this will be something I’ll aim not to repeat with the other skirts.