If you’ve been reading sewing blogs for a while now, no doubt you will have come across tutorials for easy maxi skirts. Basically, sew a tube of fabric, add in some elastic and you’re good to go. I’ve read some really funny reviews recently of ladies who did just that and then had to hobble around with tiny little steps because these skirts didn’t have enough room to actually walk properly!
Most of us take a stride which is much greater than the width of our hips. Making a tight fitted ‘wiggle’ skirt might be OK for knee length, but make it longer and it will be like a permanent sack race.photo credit: Steve Bowbrick via photopin cc
There are basically two types of maxi skirt I think – a low volume skirt that is not gathered and basically looks like a long nearly straight skirt when worn, and a gathered maxi skirt, which has a lot more volume to it and gathers either at the waist or hips. For my body size and shape, the low volume skirt gives a much more flattering and sleeker look than one with gathers and lots of fabric.
I experimented with a few variations and came up with the perfect formula for a flattering low-volume maxi skirt that is fitted through the waist and hips but still allows you room to move, run after the kids and walk up stairs. Here’s how to do it.
What makes a perfect maxi skirt?
The perfect skirt should:
- fit at the waist without lots of gathered fabric.
- skim over the hips without being skin tight, nor too loose.
- allow you to take a normal full stride with ease.
- have a fold over waist to adjust the length for wearing flats or heels.
- be quick and easy to sew without a pattern.
Let’s draw the perfect maxi skirt pattern
Start by taking some simple measurements.
- your waist at your narrowest part (or where you want the skirt to sit)
- your hips at your widest part (about 8 or 9 inches down from your waist, depending on height)
- total length of skirt from waist to top of foot.
- your stride. The length of your stride generally depends on how tall you are, and how fast you are walking. Plant both feet on the ground, then step forward a generous step. Measure all the way round your ankles with a tape measure.
Get yourself a piece of fabric. Fold it with the right sides facing in and with the stretch going across, so that it will go around your body. We can draw the design right onto the reverse of the fabric. But we need to check it first.
Sketch yourself this design on some paper and add in your own measurements. The top line is your waist divided by 4. The right hand line is the length from waist to foot, the bottom line is your stride length divided by 4 and the left line basically joins them all together.
When I sketched out my design roughly to scale and checked the measurements, I could see that the point where my hips would fall was too narrow and it would be too tight around my behind. (See the picture left where the red line for my hips falls outside the side seam.)
So I adjusted by making the waist a little bigger. We are adding on a band later which will gather in any slight excess. I also increased the width at the bottom of the skirt to make a steeper angle. This had the effect of making it wider at the point where my hips would fall.
So now I was confident it would be both wide enough at the hips and at the bottom, but without adding in too much volume. It was only a small adjustment needed but avoided a ‘skin tight behind’ problem later on.
I folded my fabric in just enough to be able to mark the widest part at the bottom of the skirt, and sketched my design right onto the fabric. Remember that our measurements don’t include a seam allowance so remember to add it at this stage. We don’t want to make it completely square across the bottom or the seams will stick out like points, so make your side seam 1 inch shorter than the center length and draw a curved line from the center up to the side seam.
Double check ALL the measurements before you cut!
Then repeat to make another piece exactly the same. That’s all the hard stuff done. The rest is easy. Sew your side seams together, trim, neaten and press.
Making the fold-over waist
Having a waist that folds over means we can make the skirt longer or shorter so it can always be the right length if you are wearing heels or flats. And it’s comfortable too.
Decide how deep you want this fold over part to be, double it and add on an inch for the seam allowance. Cut yourself a strip of fabric that deep, and as wide as your waist measurement. Now, how long this piece needs to be depends entirely on how stretchy your fabric is and how heavy it is. If you fabric is pretty heavy, the weight of the skirt will pull it down when you wear it, so you’ll need to make the waist a bit tighter to stop the skirt slipping. If your fabric is very loose and stretchy, then you’ll also need to make it a little tighter because it will give a little as you wear it.
Fold the waist piece in half and try it on. Pull it in close until it feels ‘right’. Snug but you could still eat a big meal if you had to! Mark with some pins and then cut it to length. Sew the two short ends together to make a tube.
Fold the tube length-ways wrong sides together and match the raw edges to the raw edge of your skirt waist. You’ll probably need to stretch the band as you sew it on, because it will be shorter than the skirt waist measurement.
Try your skirt on with various shoes and see where the hemline needs to be. Turn it up once or twice and stitch. Your perfect maxi skirt is done.
How did this work out for you? Were you able to get a good fit? Do you agree with my essentials above for a perfect maxi skirt or do you prefer something different? Do you have any favorite maxi skirt tutorials to share?