Dawn's Costume Guide



A Simple Gathered Skirt

This is a versatile pattern that will go just about anywhere, covering most of Europe at some point or another, requiring little modification to fit to a particular style. It also makes up into a nice dressy skirt for the office or everyday wear.

You could put one of these together in a day. If you are planning the RenFaire "wench" look, consider making several of these to layer over each other and tuck up each one into the waistband to show the one underneath. (With a large safety pin to hold it in place)

Take two measurements:

  1. Your waistline (no cheating!) ____ x3 = ____.
  2. Your waistline ____ +4" = ____.
  3. Your waist to the floor (or knee, calf, whatever) ____ +4" = ____.

For medieval-type skirts most of you will probably be able to use the 54" or 56" width of the fabric as the length (C). If it is a few inches too long, just plan a generous hem instead of cutting it.

You will need 3 times your waist measurement in yardage (A). If you have a 30" waistline, you need to get 90", or more, of fabric. You could stuff as much fabric into the waistband as you think you can handle: the absolute minimum you need for it to look right is measurement (A). You will also need a 1/4 yard strip of length (B) for the waistband and some interfacing (iron-on is fine).

To hold the skirt closed you can use large hooks and eyes (size 14 or larger), snaps, or a diaper-sized safety pin (Which I favor because then I can adjust the waist as I need to).

Wash and iron your fabric. You want it to shrink and bleed and do whatever it is going to do before you put work into it.

We begin with the waistband. Fold the quarter yard in half, right sides together the long way and mark your waist measurement (B) on it. (If your waist is larger than the length of fabric, you will need to piece it until it is long enough to go around your waist, plus 4 inches overlap. ) Figure out how wide the waistband is going to be. If you are comfortable with a narrow waistband, it can be marked at 2 inches. If you prefer a wider band, make it 4 inches. Add 1/2 inch seam allowance on the three not-folded sides.


Cut out the waistband piece, being careful to be accurate. It helps to pin the folded fabric so it stays in the right place.

From a single layer of interfacing cut a rectangle that is the same size as the waistband.

Layer the pieces with the folded waistband on the bottom and the interfacing on top. If you are using iron-on interfacing, make sure the iron-on side is face down on the fabric. Sew the seams on either end of the waistband. Do not sew up the long side!

Turn the whole thing inside out, so the right sides of the fabric are on the outside, and the interfacing is inside. Carefully position the interfacing so it is in the right place. Smooth the fold on the top of the band. If you have not used an iron-on interfacing, go ahead and iron it flat. Otherwise, do your best to flatten it with your fingers. Tuck up the long raw edge a half inch, so the two open edges can be hemmed. You will be stuffing the skirt yardage into this band.

Iron the hem flat. If you are using iron-on interfacing, be very very careful to only iron the half inch that the hem folds over onto. Otherwise you will ruin the waistband by fusing it shut forever.

You should now have a strip of interfaced fabric with a long fold on top, two sewn ends, and an open bottom with the raw edges tucked up as if it was going to be hemmed. Make sure it still fits your waist with several inches to spare.

Make the following marks:

From one end mark your actual waist measurement. The rest will be overlap with hooks or snaps. Disregarding the overlap, mark the middle and quarter points on the waistband. You will use these to align the skirt fabric. Make a note of the distance between 1/4 marks.


Now for the skirt:

Lay out the length of fabric and fold it in half. Mark the center point of the top edge. Fold in half again and mark the two quarter points. Make these marks easy to find (saftey pins are good markers).

Match the two ends of the skirt length, the raw edges, and sew them from the bottom hem to about 12 inches from the top.

Using a long thread take gathering stitches in the top 1/2 inch of fabric until you have gathered that piece of skirt to approximately the same measurement as the 1/4 mark you took off the waistband. Gather all four sections of your skirt separately so you can adjust them more easily later.

Start with the two center marks, and align the center back of the waistband with the center mark on the skirt. Pin.

Match up the 1/4 marks and pin.


Match up the end of the waistband with one end of the skirt, and the other end of the skirt with the mark that measures your actual waistline. Be sure to leave the overlap without any fabric gathered into it!

Work with each section to fit it into the waistband, pull in or let out the gathers as needed to fit all the fabric in more or less equally. Use lots of pins to hold everything in place.

When you are satisfied with the arrangement you can sew the skirt into the botton hem of the waistband. If you do this by machine take it slowly, watch for pins, and make sure you are getting all the layers. If you have stuffed a lot of fabric into the waistband it is going to be pretty thick and may try to slide out of place. If you miss any sections of the waistband, you can go back and sew them up by hand. Generally, I sew with the outside on top, so the nice stitching is where I can see it. The inside I fix later.

If you have used an iron-on interfacing, you can iron it now.

Hem the bottom of the skirt if desired. If it is the selvedge edge, I usually don't bother. Nobody is looking at it anyway. You can add decorative trim at this stage, too.

Looking for the "hoop skirt" effect? Here's a little something called a "bum roll" which will give you fuller skirts.


All text and artwork copyright 1990 - 2001 D. Duperault. NOTHING on this site may be reproduced or distributed by any means without my written permission. This information offered in good faith, and worth only what you paid for it.
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