I spent some time collecting and reading contemporary dressmaking and tailoring manuals of the 19thC and made a few updates to my quick start guide. The beauty of authentic dressmaking techniques in in the use of the grain of fabric to create elegant lines but to also be very easy and fast to cut. Once cut time is spent in fitting to the waist and any trimmings.
Most fancy fabric of the era was 20-30″ (50-75cm) and we can replicate this using fabric 115cm wide careful cutting
A survey of the dress in Patterns of Fashion supports this method. The wools and linens could be up to 50″ wide but the panels that make up each gore of a skirt rarely go over 20″ (50cm)
I have used this method very freehand before but have created 1/10 scale diagrams that each fit on an A4 piece of paper. However it is not necessary to print at any size as the measurements are indicated on each diagram below.
1) Lay your fabric face up on your cutting surface. This will ensure any stray fibres from the surface will stick to the reverse rather than the face of the fabric. I have simply limited my diagrams to fit an A4 piece of paper and so my length is fairly arbitrary. However it produces a very neat and not overly conservative skirt.
2) Once laid flat and smooth bring the selvages together to lie across the side furthest from you.
3) Mark the front gore by measuring 120cm from the far right of the fold. Then mark a line 15cm perpendicularly. This forms the waist edge. Measure 50cm from the fold up the far right cut end to indiceate the hem of the front gore. Next mark a line between these two points.
4) Now cut this front gore out.
5) To cut the side front gores, start from the upper right corner of the selvage layers and measure approximates 30cm. This will be where the distance from the selvages to cut diagonal is 15cm. Mark this line.
8) Cut the smaller pieces out and then cut along the perpendicular line. This forms the side front gores.
9) The remaining material will be very simply a folded length of fabric. As I started with 290cm I am left with 139cm
11) To mark the diagonal line simply measure from the waist mark to the far right corner of the fold.
12) Cut along the diagonal and waist lines to form the side back gores. The remaining piece (patterned background) is thus left on the fold making it useful for cutting bodice elements.
13) To form the train cut a length of fabric 150cm long. Once all pieces are cut they will form the following shapes and dimensions.
14) From here 19thC dressmaking manuals once again differ from modern advice as we now join each panel from the hem up.
15) It is best to start from the back and so use the straight cut sides of each gore as support for the diagonally cut. It is best to gently smooth the fabric up towards the waist on the diagonal cuts.
I recommend basting these seams from hem to just below hip height. All shaping to fit over the hips is done on the form or the figure. This is a subject deserving a separate guide dedicated to discussing it.