This is the second post in a series about making my sister’s wedding separates, which were completed in mid-June. The next posts will cover bodice construction, lace, the final dress and resources. The next few posts on construction won’t be strictly chronological; I bounced back and forth between bodice and skirt, depending on which piece had hit the skids. The bodice was generally more labor-intensive and complex, so I tended to work on the skirt when I needed some time away from it.
Hi folks! I’m back to talk about constructing my sister’s wedding skirt. (We made the decision to do separates instead of a dress somewhere in the transition from muslin to final pieces.) Since my sister wanted a flowing chiffon skirt above all else, I decided to use the fitted-through-the-hips Gabriola pattern for the underskirt, with the gathered chiffon layered on top.
We chose an off-white silk charmeuse for the underskirt, with the satin side facing towards the body (sister hates shiny) and the same color of chiffon for the overskirt. Pattern-wise, I combined the two yoke pieces into one, and took off approximately 1″ per panel piece at the skirt hem so the skirt could fit in 2.5 yards of 55″-wide fabric. I underlined the new yoke pieces with stashed silk habotai, and stabilized the seam where the yoke met the panels with silk organza selvedge since the seams were no longer on the straight grain.
Then, I made a decision I lived to RUE – I sewed the gored panels without underlining.
Looks fine here, right? The bodice shows through, but one would think it looks good enough to be covered in chiffon.
Once I began playing around with the chiffon overlay, however, the yoke revealed itself to look like big weird reverse undies.
I sulked and stomped around for a couple of days, cursing myself for french-seaming the panels. Then I bucked up and ordered more habotai to underline the panels. I grumpily cut the habotai, finished all the seams with a serger, opened the side seams of the finished skirt, stitched it in along the yoke seams, and sewed the side seams all together.
Blegh, blegh, blegh. This was the absolute nadir of the entire project for me.
It was over within a couple of days, however, and I got to sooth myself with catch-stitching the yoke and side seams down. I also got to move on to the chiffon overlay (again). I used two pieces of 52″ wide chiffon, essentially making a gathered tube over the underskirt. Believe it or not, the 100″+ tube was narrower than the Gabriola underneath it! Both hems were so wide and fell so nicely that I don’t believe it made a difference.
Instead of positioning the chiffon selvedges at the side seams, one was at center front and the other was at center back. This allowed me to avoid cutting a seam in the back for the opening. I sewed the back closed up until the zipper and folded the selvedges under, floating freely on top of the underskirt. I applied an invisible zipper on the underskirt only.
As I mentioned in my post on Gabriola, the straight waistband didn’t work on me and I assumed it wouldn’t work on my sister/body double. Since the waistband needed to be fitted enough to support a 10-lb skirt, however, I didn’t reuse my pattern pieces. Instead, I sewed a rectangle of very firm canvas to test the fit. I took the waistband top in at the side seams only so I could still harness the straight grain; my waistband pieces looked like trapezoids.
I chose a piece of the duchesse silk satin from the bodice and fortified it with two layers of muslin for the outer waistband, and two layers of lightly crisp sew-in interfacing on the inner waistband.
The waistband closures were hooks/eyes and buttons, but I added a very special glass button from my grandmother’s collection for looks.
I held off on hemming until the bodice was mostly finished. I hemmed the underskirt by measuring 1″ from the floor, and then adding a tiny bit of length to the chiffon overskirt hem. (I love how that looks.) I did find a rather ugly but ultimately not very visible mistake on the underskirt – there was one spot where the charmeuse was 1/2″ shorter than the desired hem length! Luckily the habotai lining/underlining was long enough, so I sewed down the raw charmeuse edge to prevent it from unraveling. The chiffon layer obscured the mistake. I was all out of patience for the skirt so I didn’t even entertain the notion of hemming it by hand – underskirt and overskirt alike got relatively speedy machine baby hems.
Here’s my order of skirt operations, with faults included:
- Combine the Gabriola/underskirt yoke pieces for both front and back
- Cut out Gabriola/underskirt skirt pieces in charmeuse
- Cut out Gabriola/underskirt yoke pieces in habotai and underline charmeuse yoke pieces
- Sew Gabriola/underskirt together
- Hand-baste zip at CB to test fit
- Baste on rectangle test waistband
- Pin chiffon over underskirt
- Realize error of not underlining underskirt panels
- Sew underskirt panels in habotai
- Open finished skirt side seams
- Sew habotai panels to charmeuse panels at the yoke seam and side seams
- Close side seams again
- Remove basted zip
- Machine-sew invisible zip
- Measure chiffon yardage length needed
- Tear chiffon
- Sew chiffon tube, with an opening left at CB to match zipper length
- Gather chiffon
- Distribute and baste chiffon to underskirt
- Baste test waistband to skirt
- Fit waistband
- Construct waistband
- Add hook closures to back waistband
- Add decorative button to back waistband
- Measure and pin underskirt hem
- Machine-sew baby hem on underskirt
- Measure and pin chiffon hem
- Machine-sew baby hem on chiffon
Ultimately, I think the pattern was beautiful but not the best choice. My sister never liked the look of the yoke, which was the element that caused all the problems. I think a gored, flared skirt like Simplicity 4401 would have been better and easier, but that pattern art would have been a tough sell.
Anyway, the finished skirt looked spectacular and deceptively effortless. When I look at it, I can almost forget the pain of sewing it… almost…
Back soon with a post on the bodice!