Category Archives: Patterns

How to draft a 16th century gored skirt

I’ve always loved the Juan Alcega gored draft for creating a period skirt. Over the years, I have tried to figure out a way to create a pattern draft. The modern drafting methods never really had the same drape as what I was seeing in the period depictions. Then one day, it hit me…a gore is really just a part of a circle. So, I fished out a protractor that had been buried in my drawer of rulers and I started measuring the skirt angles I was seeing in the period drafts. After some experimentation, I found I really like as skirt with a hem sweep based on 30 degree waist angle. The following draft is my simplified version of how to create a period gored skirt using simplified geometry.

Step 1: You will need to take two measurements:

1. Waist circumference

2. Skirt Length

Step 2: Use those measurements to do some simple calculations:

  • Decide on the amount of fullness you would like at the waist. If you would like a skirt without any pleating, you would add nothing.I would recommend using either 1.5, 2, 3 or 5 times the waist for your fullness. For my middle class “german” skirts, I like to use 2 times my waist for fullness.
  • Take your waist measurement, and multiply it by the amount of fullness. So, I take my waist of 7.5 and multiply it by 2 to get 14.5
  • Take the final waist measurement and divide that by the number of panels in your skirt. This draft is based on using 4 panels, so I take the 14.5 from the previous step and divide by 4 to get 3 5/8. Now, Add .5 to this measurement. This is going to be your drafting waist measurement.

Step 3: Begin the draft: Get out a large sheet of paper. The length of the paper will need to be long enough for your skirt length plus double your drafting waist, plus another 5 inches. On the paper, draw a vertical line down the left side of the paper, then square out a line from the top of that line, the width of your paper.

Step 4: Draw your skirt sweep angle:Get out your protractor, and place it on the two lines you have just drawn and mark out 30 degrees from the length line we drew on the left side of the paper. Draw a line representing that angle.

Step 5: Find your waist placement: Place your ruler on the length line running down the right side of the paper and slide it down until the distance between that line and the diagonal is equal to your drafting waist measurement.

Step 6: Draw your waist curve: take a cord or ribbon and pin it to the point of your angle. Tie a pen or pencil at the length that corresponds to the point you just marked, and draw a curve, stopping at the other line.

Step 7; Mark your hem length: starting at the waist mark on the line to the left of your paper, measure down the length of your skirt and mark.

Step 8: Draw your hem arc. With the ribbon still pinned at the point of the angle, tie your pen or pencil at a length that corresponds to the mark you just made. Make sure to hold your pen straight up and down, and draw your hem arc.

Step 8: Add your seam allowance if you wish, and then cut out the pattern. You will need at least four of these for your skirt. The line at the left can be either a seam or a fold. So, you can cut 2 on the fold, or one on a fold, then two more on a seam, or 4 on a seam.

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Dress Diary: Building a German Working Class Dress 1580-1600

Nurmeburg 1586 Large  Adelheit German Working Class 1580

Adelheit German Working Class 1580 2   Adelheit German Working Class 1580 3

The Bodice:

The bodice was drafted using the shapes of my current pair of bodies because it fits well and is from the correct time frame.  I made a few changes to make it more appropriate: removed the tabs, raised the neckline and changed the angles of the straps.

Once that was done, I cut out one layer of linen canvas for the interlining, one layer of linen canvas for the lining, one layer of the orange medium weight linen for the fashion fabric, green linen for the guards and yellow linen for the guard piping.

I have been wanting to try out padstitching the layers of the bodice to see what effect they have in regards to stiffening the bodice.

Bodice Back: Padstitching on half only, see how it changes the drape of the fabric.

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Bodice Front Half: The padstitching is smaller and tighter as it rounds closer to the front area in order to give more stiffness.

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The bodice pieces are basted together and sewn on to see how the padstitching is working out.  In the following pictures, the left side is padded and the right side is not.  It seems that it is helping to smooth out the wrinkles at least a bit.  The waist is still a bit long in these pictures as well, so shortening it to my natural waist will help remove more wrinkles.

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Once the bodice was finished being padstiched, I sewed the lacing rings to the interlining layer and finished the edge by catch stitching the edge back to the layer.

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I added a small strip of the canvas to the inside of the outer fabric to add additional stiffening and to alleviate some of the pulling that happens with the tension of the lacing rings.  The strip was first basted to the  edge of the fabric, then folded back and sewn into place.

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The interlining/lining layer was then placed within the lines of the fashion fabric and the edges of the outer layer were double folded over the inner layer and stitched down with a fell stitch.  I attached the side and shoulder seams by placing the right sides together and using a flat fell seam finish.  Finally I attached the guards.

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The Skirt:

The skirt was drafted using a gored method based on the Alcega Tailoring book drafts.  I used a two to one ratio for the waist as I have found that it allows enough to do knife pleats without adding too much fullness. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures…but I do plan on doing a post all about patterning skirts in the near future.  I did not line it because I wanted to keep this lightweight and cool.  It was stitched together by placing the right sides together, and sewn using a smallish running stitch.  The seam allowances were finished by folding over and secured with a whip stitch.  The hem was then done using my padded hem method detailed Here.

The guards were cut out as bias strips.  The green was cut as a four inch strip and the yellow was a 1.5 inch strip.  The yellow was folded in half, pressed and then sewn to each edge of the green.  Then I pressed it into a curve before applying it to the skirt.  I stitched it down in the seam line using a small fell stitch. Finally, the skirt top edge was finished by double folding and then attached to the bodice with a whip stitch.

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