I really like this method of figuring out the top cut line for a skirt; I first figured it out around 2003 or 2004 - it’s easier that draping and pinning, and won’t ‘waterfall’ a patterned fabric down the center front.
DISCLAIMER: This tutorial was written specifically for Italian “V” bodices, though the theory remains the same for other bodice types.
1. The bodice should be finished, at least structurally….trimming and bodice closures can wait until after the skirt is attached. It will look something like this:
2. Fold the bodice in half at center back
3. Draw a line (imaginary is OK!) perpendicular to the center back fold – starting at the bottom edge of the center back line. This line should more or less be parallel to the floor when the bodice is worn.
4. Mark even intervals between center back and the furthest point in front. (I usually find half, then half again on either side – quartered, basically. You can add more if you need too!)
5. The most important piece of information from this whole exercise are the height of each one of these lines, from the bottom edge of the bodice to your horizontal line. This is what you’re going to use to calculate your skirt length.
6. Cut skirts to be 3-5” (for seam allowances & hemming) or so longer than the longest measurement you need. (On me, this usually the center back waist-to-floor measurement.). Seam your skirt panels (I usually use 2-3 panels for my skirts.) as usual for all but one – this will be your center front.
Fold the entire width of your skirts in half. (Ed note: Since I originally wrote this tutorial, I’ve used the same method for side-back lacing bodices. You would still fold the skirt at the center back, the only difference is your openings would be somewhere in the back half of the folded fabric, rather than in the front.)
9. Now we need to transpose those vertical measurements we got from the bodice to the skirts. (TIP: mark these increments on both sides of your skirt – you can use these to match up the pleated skirt to the corresponding marks on the bodice when attaching)
10. After the skirt height has been transferred to the top edge of the skirts, you will need to draft a new cut line for the top edge. This curve will be the same curve as the bodice bottom edge, only stretched out over the width of the skirt.
11. Now cut that top line….
11a. A quick visual…..if you were to physically stretch out the bodice to be as wide as the skirts, the lines should match up!
For most of my Italian gowns, I leave them unlined, and cartridge pleat them to the bodice, with felt wool padding in the pleats to make them puff out a bit more.
Some completed gowns using this method:
ETA: Apparently a lot of people come to my blog looking for cartridge pleating information. I don't have a tutorial specifically on attaching cartridge pleats, but here is a post that shows some of the steps. I'll try to get a full-blown tutorial on here soon! :)