Monday, April 22, 2013

Gibson Girl Skirt

I finished the basic construction of the skirt for my Gibson Girl gown about two weeks ago, but I didn't get around to photographing it until today. Here it is in its un-trimmed state:




Laid flat — this shows how simple the shape of the skirt is. The only seam is at center back (top straight edge in this photo). Additional shaping is provided by one small dart on each side of the waist. 

Construction details:

First I made the foundation skirt, a free-hanging lining attached to the outside skirt only at the placket and waistband. It serves as a petticoat, providing shape and structure for the fullness of the skirt. I cut the foundation on the same pattern as my skirt, but made it about 1-1/2" shorter. As seen above, it is a partial circle skirt, cut so that the majority of the fullness falls in the back. Since the hemline is very curved, I used a 4" bias facing as a hem. I followed period examples and interlined the hem with a bias strip of tarlatan, a lightweight, open-weave cotton that is heavily sized. It is light but firm, and when cut on the bias, behaves much like modern horsehair braid, providing structure and body without stiffness or weight. I added a dust ruffle inside the skirt, to help the bottom stand out from the legs while wearing it. The ruffle is about 6" deep, pinked on both edges, and gathered over a thin cotton cord.

The outside skirt is cut to "dancing length", just skimming the tops of my feet. It is hemmed the same way as the foundation skirt, with a 3" bias facing (without interlining, however).

Here are detail shots of the hems:

Lining dust ruffle

Lining hem

Skirt hem

The skirt and foundation are joined at the placket, which consists of a 1" underlap of the outside fabric. The placket closes with snaps, which began to be used during this period. Since there is no pleating or fullness in the skirt where the placket is, I thought snaps would be best for keeping the opening concealed. Both skirt layers are attached to a 3/4" wide waistband made from the blue silk. The waistband closes with two hooks and eyes.

Skirt placket and waistband

Now the skirt just needs trimming! I will be adding a deep chiffon flounce, a band of beaded trimming, and some accents made from a deep pink silk.

The bodice for the dress is nearly finished as well. More details on that coming up soon!


  1. The shape is just perfect! Out of curiosity, how do you cut a partial circle skirt so that the fullness falls mostly in the back? My brain doesn't seem to be able to figure it out.

    1. Its exactly the same as a gored skirt with the fullness in the back, only without all those seams! In the circular cut, it has all to do with the placement of the waistline. In a normal circle skirt, where you want the fullness evenly distributed, you make your waistline by cutting an even circular shape out of one corner of the folded circle. In my skirt, the waistline was not made with an even circular cut, but with a shallow sloping cut taken out of the top edge. In the flat picture above, the fold at the right side is my center front, and the fold at the top is my center back. The piece I cut out for my waistline was only about 2" deep along the front, but about 12" deep along the back (it looks more even and rounded than that in the finished skirt because of the darts on the sides). Cutting the waistline this way effectively tips the entire skirt backwards, allowing it to fall straight and smooth in the front, and into graceful folds in the back.

      Did that make sense, or I'm I just making it worse with too many words? Look at some of the skirts diagrammed in Patterns of Fashion 2, if you have it handy, and you might be able to see what I mean.

    2. Thanks! It does make sense. I figured it had something to do with the cut of the waistline, but my brain was futzing on HOW you cut the waistline to move fullness. Looking at similar gored skirts is a brilliant idea, as so many of us are visual learners :)