Skirts come in an almost endless variety of styles: A-Line, Fitted, Dirndl, Mini, Layered, Circle, Wrap… the list goes on. For those new to sewing, the difference between each type can be confusing. What exactly, for example, is a gathered skirt (sometimes referred to a Dirndl), and what makes it different to, say, a circle skirt? And is the one better than the other?
The answer to the second question is simple: no. One skirt doesn’t have any intrinsic qualities that make it better than another- it’s simply a question of personal preference.
The answer to the first question is slightly trickier.
Gathered skirts are basically cylinders, with the width of the cylinder determining the overall fullness of the skirt. Think of it as being something akin to a cupcake, with a “puff” at the waist and a subtle flare at the hem.
Gathered skirts tend to have a lot more fabric at the waist than circle skirts and have to be “pulled” in to fit. The look this creates is almost vintage (think 1950s era at its best) while its ability to cinch in the waist and disguise the parts we want to cover can create a gorgeous silhouette.
As equally appealing as the aesthetic of the finished article is how easy it is to make one... as we’ll soon find out.
Unless you want a rough canvas brushing up against your legs (or a flimsy one clinging to them) you might want to consider lining your skirt. When it comes to choosing the lining, opt for something lightweight and smooth to the touch – some shops make it easy for you by marketing certain types of material as “lining fabric” – if you can’t find one of these, silks, silky polyesters or even a very lightweight cotton should do the job just as well.
For an easy way of incorporating a lining, try this step-by-step guide to making a lined gathered skirt:
Fold and iron the hem in place before sewing.
Layer the lining fabric over the inside of the skirt fabric. Ensure that all the sides bar the hem are aligned.
Using a zig-zag stitch, sew the lining to the skirt fabric. Sew two straight seams measuring about 0.5cm apart along the waistband of the skirt.
Gather in the waistband of the skirt by pulling the upper 2 threads of the seams (be careful to make sure you can still slide the skirt past your hips). Evenly pin the elastic waistband to your skirt.
Using a zig-zag or straight stitch, sew the pinned waistband to the skirt, pulling as you go.
Sew the back seam and raw edge using a zig-zag stitch.
Making, and lining, a dress with a gathered skirt can sound tricky, but follow a few simple steps and it’ll be easier than you imagined. Case in point- this simple pattern.
For the bodice
Cut out the front of the lining in the correct size.
Cut out the front and back piece of the bodice, adding a few extra inches of material in the middle of the front piece to allow for gathering.
Using pins, mark out where you’d like the gathers to start and finish.
Use a gathering stitch, then sew over the gathering stitch with regular stitches to hold them in place. Continue the same method along the bottom of the bodice.
Pin the front, back and lining together along the neckline and sew together.
For the skirt
For the waistband, cut out a panel of around 5 inches thick that’s long enough to go around your waist. Add gathering stitches every 4 inches or so, before topping them with a zig-zag stitch.
Sew the waistband to the band to the bodice.
Use steps 1-3 of our previous method for lining a skirt to construct the lined skirt of the dress.
Sew the skirt to the waistband, add a zip, and hem.
Your waist and hips measurements should be your go-to when it comes to calculating the amount of fabric you need for a gathered skirt. At a bare minimum, the skirt should be 1.5 x the width of your hips, but for a fuller look, use 2.5-3x your waist measurement. The length will be determined by you, and exactly how long you want your skirt to be.
As we’ve seen, creating a gathered skirt is simple, and a great way for novices to get to grips with the art of making a skirt from scratch. If you like any of the suggestions, please feel free to share the post with others.