Ball gown skirts are formal wear for social occasions, and are traditionally full-skirted and floor-length. They are normally made from luxurious fabrics including velvet, satin, silk, taffeta and chiffon, and can be trimmed with lace, embroidery, sequins, pearls, ruffles and frills. There are plenty of ball gown skirts for sale but they tend to be quite expensive. If you have access to a sewing machine you can make your own from fabric of your choice using these instructions for a floor length circle skirt.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Things you need
- 5.5 metres of 115-cm wide fabric (or 6 metres of 150-cm wide fabric if very tall or wearing killer heels)
- Tape measure
- Tailors chalk
- 18-centimetre zipper
- Hook-and-eye or Velcro for waist closure
- Sewing machine
Measure around your waist and write the measurement down. Divide this measurement by 3.14 (pi) to get the diameter of your waist. For instance if your waist is 75 centimetres the diameter would be 24 centimetres. Write the waist diameter down. Measure the distance from your waist to the floor – you may need someone else to help do this – and add eight centimetres to the measurement and write it down as length. If it is more than one metre you will need the larger fabric size.
Cut a 10-centimetre strip of fabric and set it aside for the waistband. Cut the fabric in half do that you have two 115-centimetre wide pieces nearly a metre each. Take one piece of fabric and fold in half so that it is approximately a square. Divide the diameter of your waist by two to get the radius – if your diameter was 24 centimetres the radius is 12 centimetres.
Place a pin in the folded edge the distance of the radius from one corner. Place another pin the same distance from that same corner to the edge of the doubled fabric. Place a mark on the string and use it set pins to form a quarter-circle between those two pins and mark it with tailors chalk. This is the waist edge of the skirt.
Take your length from step 1 and add the radius to it. Measure down from the same corner you used in step 3 and mark that distance with a pin Draw a large curve at that distance parallel to the waist using tailors chalk. This is the bottom of the skirt.
Cut along the two marked lines through both layers of fabric. When you open it you will have a half circle. Repeat with the other half of the fabric.
Place the right sides of the fabric together and pin them together along the sides. Sew a seam along one side. Leave 20 centimetres at the top of the other side and sew the rest of that seam together.
Insert the zipper by following the directions on the package. Try the skirt on for size. If it seems large place two small darts in the back panel.
Take your 10-centimetre wide strip and cut it so it is five centimetres longer than your waist measurement. Cut interfacing to the same size and baste it to the wrong side of the waistband. Trim the corners of the interfacing. Fold the strip in half lengthwise with the fabric side on the outside and press the fold to make a crease.
Pin one edge of the waistband to the waist, with the right sides of the material facing each other. Sew the waistband in place and at one end near the zipper sew a seam across the end of the waistband that lines up with the edge of the zipper. Trim it and turn the corner out.
Allow the other end of the waistband to go about an inch past the zipper so that it overlaps the other end. Make a seam, turn the corner out and press it.
Fold the waistband along the crease and pin the unattached edge to the inside of the waist, turning in a seam allowance as you pin. Sew this edge in place
Sew the hook-and-eye or Velcro fastening to the overlap of the waistband and try the skirt on to check it sits comfortably.
Put on the shoes you are planning to wear with the skirt and get somebody to help you with the hem length. Stand on a chair and get them to pin the hem up so that it is level all around when you are wearing it. Trim excess material if necessary and press the hem line. Use hand stitching round the hem so that the stitches show as little as possible.
Use spare fabrics to make frills, ruffles or sew-on bows if required.
Tips and warnings
- If your fabric is washable you should wash and iron it before you start cutting and sewing
- If you choose a fabric that frays easily then use zigzag stitch on the seams or use French seams.
- Woven fabrics are easier to sew than slippery fabrics or chiffon.
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