late historic skirt guides

Skirts from approximately 1810-1890 generally follow a very simple basic pattern. This gored and straight panel mix seems to have started and persisted in the very early 1800s and were readily adapted to the changing shapes of the entire century.

There were indeed several styles however the guides below can be adapted to nearly every decade. As with the late 16thC pattern books the aim was to make maximum use of the fabric and so the angles of the sides of each panel make the greatest difference to the shape of the skirt.

These skirts are all based on a full width of fabric of 150cm (60″) which is folded in half to give a more average historic width of 75cm (30″). For fabrics of other widths an explanation will follow.


Pattern A:

Regency (1810s): waist; flat in front panel, lightly pleated/eased at side panels, gathered or pleated at CB panel. Gore angles steep. Cut waist and hem curves after trying on. The deeper the dip at the CF waist the straighter the side seams will fall.


Romantic (1820s-30s): lower waist slightly for 1820s and add ease to CF and side gores. Lower waist further for 1830s and gather/pleat from CF through all side panels while directing CB panel gathers/pleats towards the back.


No pattern, straight widths:

Mid century (1840s-50s): waist; increasingly gathered all around evenly. Panels become straight with little or no shaping. Gauging is most common though pleats and reverse pleats can be found.


Pattern B: Heavily gored skirts:

First Bustle (early 1870s): waist is flat at CF panel, eased at side panels, gathered/pleated in CB panel.


Crinoline (1860s): widen tops of each skirt panel to allow for more ease at the front and sides, this will straighten the side gores somewhat. Allow for some ease towards the sides and front, or create inverse pleats at each seam.

End of century (1890s): narrow tops as much as possible and replace straight CB panel with a panel cut like the CF panel and either slashed for the CB closure or cut straight down the CB. Towards 1900 cut the diagonals in curves (this will create a narrow ellipse shaped scrap on each diagonal) to create a trumpet hem.


Pattern C: Natural Form

Natural form (late 1870s-early 1880s): waist; flat all around front and sides, narrow gathered section at the very centre back. Front can be cut as a complete tube, back gores cut in steep angles.


Second bustle (mid to late 1880s): cut the side gores wider in general with similar angles, this may mean cutting only two gores where there are four above and using the blue area for the other side gores. make note which sides have been cut.


To use the patterns in general:

Use a tape measure to get your waist to hem measurement (of the garment, which may sit anywhere from natural to high waist.

Use pins/chalk to mark each drop of fabric across the width.

Cut the first drop of fabric which will create all the side gores.

Fold this fabric in half from top of length to bottom (selvage to selvage) and cut along the fold.

Use a tape measure to find the width of the top of the side panels. I usually use 12-20cm (6″-8″) for a heavily gored skirt or 20-25cm (8″-10″) for straighter panels.

Mark this width on opposite corners of the first drop of fabric.

Use a tape measure to line up the diagonal seams.

Cut along this diagonal through all layers.

Fold second drop of fabric (selvage to selvage) and cut down the fold.

Cut the front panel from one width (matching side angles to the angles of the side panels where possible.

The back panel will just need the hem cut across or with a scoop to extend in to a train.

Pin straight of side panels to diagonal,