Waterdress, the skirt (part 2)

This post is second on a series of three and it focuses on the skirt of my Waterdress. Part one discussed the making of the bodice and can be read here. Shortly put, the aim of this project was to mimic tropical waters in the form of a knee-length dress.


Welcome back my dear readers! Today I’ll (finally) continue the story of my sister’s graduation dress that got named the Waterdress. In the previous post I was left with an almost-ready bodice that was missing only grommets. Unfortunately the perfect grommets were kind of difficult to find at the time, so I put the bodice aside and focused all my attention to the skirt that was going to have basic skirt of polyester satin, an overlay of organza and interesting flowy appliqués for waves.

The last time I sewed a full skirt was at the beginning of 2016 when I made my Cinderella 2015 -inspired skirt (tutorial is coming later this year). What I learned from that and wanted to improve in this project was the fullness of the skirt: for my Cinderella skirt I cut only a 360° circle but was disappointed with its draping on the hips. At the time I decided if I ever were to sew another full skirt, I would cut a circle over 360° to get a more beautifully draping end result.

So this time I wanted to cut a circle and a half for the base of my skirt. The base was of course going to be the same polyester satin as the bodice. In the picture below you can see the three half-circles of the skirt cut out. The mathematics I had to do for this was to divide the waist measurement I had into three, then multiply it by two and divide the number I got by 2π. Doing this I got the radius of my skirt piece’s inner circle, and the radius of the outer one was that plus the length of the skirt (58 centimeters). I also added seam allowances to all edges before cutting.


The polyester satin was really, really prone to fraying, as you can see:


Because it frayed so much, I decided to sew French seams between the three skirt pieces. However, I went to cut the seam allowances on the first seam too short, so when I was sewing the second seam, the first began to unravel… 😦 Honestly, I should have seen this was a prelude to the catastrophe that followed with the bodice’s seam, but what can you do?

I sewed an extra zigzag to the outer edge of my raveling French seams to keep them in place.


In the next awfully-bad photo you’ll see the base nearly done. I also finished the sides with a row of zigzag. I was really pleased with the draping!


Then I sewed an invisible zipper that matched the color of the skirt to the open sides and sewed the rest of the seam shut.

It may not have been quite professional, but at the time I was annoyed by the fraying of the hem, so I folded a centimeter inward and secured it with a row of machine stitching. Better would have been if I had used zigzag instead, because when it came the time to actually finish the hem, I wasn’t able to cut it even first… The seam allowances on the hem are really uneven because of it, but luckily my sister didn’t mind (and it can’t be seen on the outside, so who really cares?)

It was starting to look like a skirt already!


After all that was done with the base, I moved on to the organza overlay. For it I cut two rectangles by the size of 135 cm x 61 cm (includes seam allowances). One rectangle of the two was cut still in two halves, so I wouldn’t have any seams at the center front (the zipper is at the center back on the base and the overlay was going to be attached accordingly). I sewed the shorter pieces to the sides of the longer one with French seams and ironed the whole thing.


Ah, so perfect!


As for the back seam, I left the length of the zipper unsewn and sewed the rest of the seam shut. I ironed the seam allowances flat, and tadah! The overlay was ready to be attached to the base.


Now you might wonder what I was going to do with the excess fabric on the overlay, as there was plenty of it (the length of the piece was over 2,5 meters in total). The answer is, I created pleats! First I measured the center back, center front, and midpoints on the sides on both the base and the overlay, and then pinned those markings together. With the excess overlay fabric I made irregular and asymmetric pleats everywhere around the waistline (box and double-box pleats, inverted pleats and smaller knife pleats). I chose to do irregular pleats to achieve a relaxed look and to mimic waves, which I think are quite irregular too.

I secured the pleats by sewing a row of stitching over them.


The zipper opening on the overlay was stitched down to the base by hand.


I wanted to leave the hem of the overlay unfinished until the skirt was attached to the bodice, so next I started to work on the flowy wave appliqués. I cut five long strips of turquoise polyester from the leftovers, and luckily managed to have an already-finished edge on two of them. My granny had finished few edges of the fabric when it was still in her possession and I was able to use them for something useful! For the rest of the strips, I finished the other long edge like it had been done with the two ready-mades. The unfinished long edge got a zigzag on it, and like you can see, there really aren’t any short edges I as cut them to curve to the zigzagged long ones. I did this because I was going to sew the strips to the base of the skirt from that side and didn’t want any weird hard corners to it.


Then I pinned the strips randomly to the base of the skirt and sewed them on right sides facing each other. I made the strips overlap each other and curve, once again to mimic waves. I made the pinning with some help from Lola the mannequin (as it was impossible to know the end result otherwise).


Speaking of Lola, here she is! She is wearing the petticoat under the skirt to see what the pleats and appliqués were going to look like in real life. The appliqués looked good, but I hated the way pleats puffed at the waist. I thought it stole the spotlight from the fullness of hem and so it needed something to fix it.


Solution: ironing down the pleats to reduce puffiness! Before ironing I pinned the pleats down just a little further down so that I wouldn’t have to iron over the pins.

And I probably didn’t mention it yet, but I sewed a piece of lace over the waistline to keep the seam allowances from fraying. Even though the lace covers the whole waistline, it won’t be seen at the back, because there will be a gap at the back of the bodice and I didn’t want the lace on the skirt to show there. Instead I folded the finished seam allowance inward at the center back and stitched it down with invisible hand-sewn stitches. If you don’t understand what I mean here, don’t worry because in the next part I have better pictures of it.


That funny photo of the skirt waiting for ironing will end today’s post (because the next photos I have are from the phase where the bodice is already attached to the waistline). In the next part I will be speaking of the details and how I attached the skirt to the bodice. One more post to go with this dress and then I’ll move on to something new!

Thank you for reading!


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