What Is A Gathered Skirt And How To Draft It?

Different gather ratios on gathered skirts.
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A gathered skirt is the simplest type of skirt that you can draft and sew by yourself. A typical example of a gathered skirt is a dirndl, a traditional peasant women’s dress worn in alpine regions, part of which is a long gathered skirt with a gathered apron.

Dirndl with gathered skirt and gathered apron.
Source: commons.wikimedia.org license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

In this tutorial you will learn:

What is a gathered skirt?

A gathered skirt is a skirt cut out from a rectangular piece of fabric that is gathered at the waist. The width of the fabric has to be wide enough to accommodate the hips and provide ease and room when sitting down. The length of the rectangle depends on the desired skirt length.

Simple gathered skirt pattern scheme.

How to draft a gathered skirt pattern?

Drafting the skirt pattern is easy. Measure the circumference of your hips and waist, also decide the length and the look of the skirt. The more gathered skirt you wish, the less you have to worry about its ease at the hips. In the images below, you can see both long and short gathered skirts of different widths.

Various long gathered skirt designs. Simple skirt design.
Long gathered skirt designs.
Various short gathered skirt designs. Simple skirt design.
Short gathered skirt designs.

The hip circumference measurement is really important for very narrow gathered skirts. Also keep in mind, that with minimal measurements there will have to be an opening (vent, kick pleat) at the back of the skirt. Otherwise the skirt will prevent you from walking comfortably.

If you decide to sew a wider gathered skirt, the ease will be included in the skirt width.

There is no need to draw the gathered skirt pattern first. A simple scheme and measurements on a piece of paper will do. Write down the desired width and length of your skirt and add seam allowances at the sides, waist and hem.

Examples of long and short gathered skirts

The minimal ease for the hips is 5 cm (2 inch).

skirt width = hip circumference + ease

Long gathered skirt with minimum hips circumference.
skirt width = hip circumference + ease

skirt width = 1.5* hip circumference

Long gathered skirt with one and half hips circumference.
skirt width = 1.5* hip circumference

skirt width = 2 * hip circumference

Long gathered skirt with double hips circumference.
skirt width = 2 * hip circumference

skirt width = 2.5 * hip circumference

Long gathered skirt with two and half hips circumference.
skirt width = 2.5 * hip circumference

skirt width = 3 * hip circumference

Long gathered skirt with triple hips circumference.
skirt width = 3 * hip circumference

skirt width = hip circumference + ease

Short gathered skirt with minimum hips circumference.
skirt width = hip circumference + ease

skirt width = 1.5* hip circumference

Short gathered skirt with one and half hips circumference.
skirt width = 1.5* hip circumference

skirt width = 2 * hip circumference

Short gathered skirt with double hips circumference.
skirt width = 2 * hip circumference

skirt width = 2.5 * hip circumference

Short gathered skirt with two and half hips circumference.
skirt width = 2.5 * hip circumference

skirt width = 3 * hip circumference

Short gathered skirt with triple hips circumference.
skirt width = 3 * hip circumference

How to cut fabric for the gathered skirt?

Depending on the fabric you have picked for your skirt as well as the skirt width, you can cut the fabric in two ways:

1) Skirt length along the lengthwise grain:

If your skirt has stripes or other pattern running along the lengthwise grain (as in the samples below), you will cut the skirt along this grain (as you do for most patterns). You also cut it this way when the width of the fabric cannot not accommodate the whole width of the skirt and you have to divide the fabric into several panels (pieces) and sew them together to get the final width. The final number of seams will depend on the number of panels (1 panel – 1 seam, 2 panels – 2 seams, 3 panels – 3 seams, etc.).

You can also sew the skirt from several pieces of different fabrics if you like it that way. Or as many panels as you wish. There are no boundaries to your design intentions :).

Stripes running along the lengthwise grain.
Stripes running along the lengthwise grain.
Chiffon fabric with slight stripes along the lengthwise grain.
Chiffon fabric with slight stripes along the lengthwise grain.
Knit cotton fabric with lengthwise grain.
Knit cotton fabric with lengthwise grain.
Example in cm:Example in inches:
Desired skirt width = 200 cmDesired skirt width = 78 inch
Fabric width = 120 cm (WITHOUT SELVAGE LINE)Fabric width = 48 inch (WITHOUT SELVAGE LINE)
Seam allowance = 1,5 cmSeam allowance = 5/8 inch

As the fabric width cannot not accommodate the skirt width and seam allowances on both sides, it has to be divided into more parts (two in this case). Do not forget that also two extra seam allowances have to be added.

Scheme of fabric and skirt width.
Scheme of cutting fabric for gathered skirts.

2) Skirt length along the crosswise grain:

With fabric that does not have a prominent lengthwise pattern (single colour fabric, flower patterns, or abstract pattern with no significant lengthwise direction) can be cut from a single piece and the skirt will have only one seam. The usual fabric width is 120 cm (48 inch) or 140 cm (54 inch). Even a long skirt (from waist to ankles) could be cut with skirt width along the lengthwise grain.

Abstract pattern with no significant direction.
Abstrac pattern with no significant direction.
Flower pattern that can be cut both along the lengthwise and crosswise grain.
Flower pattern that can be cut both along the lengthwise and crosswise grain.
Single color fabric that can be cut along the lengthwise and crosswise grain
Single color fabric that can be cut along the lengthwise and crosswise grain
Scheme of cutting fabric for gathered skirts, pattern.

How to decorate hem of gathered skirt?

There are many possibilities how to decorate the hem. Add gathers, flounces, simple lettuce hem or permanent knife pleats, classic knife pleats, inverted pleats or box pleats. For the hems you can use different colors, different fabrics or both. There are no design limitations.

Conclusion: What Is A Gathered Skirt And How To Draft It?

So simple to make, yet, extremely chic. You just alter fabrics, width or length and your wardrobe can be an impressive display of great gathered skirts designs.

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