I’m trying to use fabrics from my stash, but some weeks ago it occurred to me that my fabric stash had a shortage of summer-weight plaids. Of course, I could have just waited until autumn and pulled out my plaid suitings because plaid in autumn is as inevitable as floral prints in spring. I got impatient though and decided to take a look for some summer-worthy plaid. I found that fashionfabricsclub.com was selling off a 4 yard piece of this rayon faille for less than 20 dollars, so of course I had to get it.
In the world of tartans, there are those that inevitably invite a preppy vibe, those that don’t look like proper tartans, and then there are those that will be snatched up by chain-store designers in those seasons when “punk is in” and predictably paired with faux leather vests, a variety of denims, and the occasional oddly-placed safety pin. For the catalog spread, they might even throw in a Ramones t-shirt. God Save the Queen! No self-respecting punk-rocker is going to buy their look from the nearest Kohl’s curated collection of separates. I’m pretty sure that this particular tartan is of the wanna-be punk variety. So in keeping with the rebellious vibe it gives off, I did the most unexpected thing I could think of with it and made a very, very ladylike dress.
The bodice is the By Hand London Anna Dress (yes, again, but the first one I’ve made with the v-neckline. It runs a bit low on me, so I’ve paired it with a black camisole here). The skirt is a very large gathered rectangle.
How large a rectangle did I use for my skirt? I’m glad you asked. I don’t foray into math often (it doesn’t like me), but the 4 yard piece of fabric I’d acquired lent me an opportunity to try something out that’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve noticed with the gathered skirts I’ve made in the past few years that the gathers at the waistline don’t pull up as tightly as I remember them doing when I was younger/smaller. So I started looking on the backs of the pattern envelopes for waist measurements vs. finished bottom of skirt measurements. Sure enough, a pattern might be for a 27″ waist and have a 102″ hem measurement whereas the same pattern in a larger size might be for a 40″ waist, but have a 114″ hem measurement. That makes the ratio for the first one 1 : 3.7, but for the larger size 1 : 2.85. Of course this only applies to gathered/pleated skirts. Circle skirts, by their very nature get much longer along the hem-line as the waist size increases.
I’ve never taken any classes on grading patterns, so I can only theorize about why skirt proportions would be drafted/graded that way. 1) because fabric comes in standard widths so with very full skirts the entire pattern would at some point need to be re-drafted, perhaps with additional seams, so that the pattern pieces aren’t wider than the fabric. 2) plus-size women might complain about the massively different amounts of fabric yardage needed for their dresses compared to smaller sizes. 3) the idea that if a woman has a larger waist size, she must want as little bulk on her waist seam as possible, so less fabric is put there compared to smaller sizes.
Ever since noticing the waist : hemline ratio differences, I’ve wanted to play around with making a plus-size (my current size) dress with a super-full skirt. The plaid fabric was really wide, so I barely needed any yardage to get the bodice pieces cut out. I ended up with enough fabric to easily get 4 panels to use for my gathered rectangle skirt. That makes my proportion of bodice : skirt gathering more like a 1 : 6 ratio. I didn’t measure the end hemline width, but if the fabric was 60″ wide and I used standard seam allowances of 5/8″, it’s still close enough to 240″ around to call it that. 240″ didn’t necessarily sound excessive to me until my brother pointed out that it is equal to 20′. So, yeah, my dress is 20′ around the hemline. A crinoline barely puffs out the fullness because there’s just so much of it.
I put side-seam pockets in it, and I have to search to find them. The twirl-factor is epic though.
I’ve found Pettiskirtstyle.com to be a wonderful crinoline
enabler supplier since I loath making them myself. Lots and lots of colors, sizes, and lengths. (I’m not getting anything in return for mentioning/linking to them, just really like what they have). That red crinoline I have on in these photos is my latest acquisition from them.
A word of warning if you’ve been inspired to try a super-full skirt experiment yourself. Choose your fabric very carefully. The rayon faille I used has the perfect body/drape combo to be full rather than limp, but without being too stiff or bulky to gather up into the waistline. If you do make or have already made a dress with an over-the-top, super-full skirt like this, please send me a link or picture. I’d really like to see. I have this idea that having extra hemline fullness more than compensates visually for the slight additional bulk at the waistline, but that might just be my brain trying to justify my love of twirly dresses.