A fantasy fairy outfit – part two skirt fail but then a pretty great result

Per my usual, the last post was in January about an outfit I worked on in September/October to wear in November. Par for the course around here, I’d rather spend time sewing than blogging about sewing, sorry loyal readers.

A glittery sparkly gathered rectangle skirt to go under a corset. How hard could this be?

Anyways, I spent a couple days on AliExpress looking for a not-too-expesnive silver and black glittery lace before I realized I already had one in my stash. Very pleased to have figured this out before buying something new at least!

Shown here under fabric samples. This lace was a gift from my dad years ago when he went on a trip to Australia. He would not tell me how much it cost, but given that all these sequins are sewn on and not glued, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know. Thanks dad!

At first I planned on a circle skirt to have maximum floof at the bottom and reduce bulk at the waist, but I finally did some math and realized that with only 2 meters of lace (which absolutely had to be a gathered rectangle) a circle skirt would be impossible if I wanted the bottom circumference of the lace to be greater than the bottom circumference of the skirt underneath.

I had some silver/gold satin (I think a silk/rayon blend, but never did a burn test to be sure) that I bought off someone ages ago intended to be a Tudor forepart and sleeves, but this was a fine repurposing since I kindof want a patterned damask for when I eventually make that gown.

I planed to make the underskirt be A-line with the gathered lace over it (once again, for maximum width at the bottom while minimizing waist bulk).

Can I draft an a-line skirt? Yes. Do I like drafting skirts? Hell no. Skirts are a PITA to draft, especially long ones, since even for this shorty I need the side seams to be longer than my yardstick. So I went into my stash and pulled out Simplicity 5561 which I bought ages ago figuring the lines were good for some kind of fantasy gown.

Clearly intended as both a bridesmaid AND mother of the bride pattern, and my god do the fabrics make that obvious…

At this point I could either do the narrower full length skirt and make it shorter and wider, or use the shorter poofier skirt and make it longer and less-poofy. For whatever reason I elected to go with the second option, and did some math to make sure that the bottom would be narrower than my 2m of lace.

Normally I’m a tracer not a cutter, but when a pattern has been in my stash for 15+ years and is readily draftable, I said fuck it and started cutting.

This was not a pleasant fabric to work with. It wrinkled and frayed as soon as you looked at it, and I didn’t use a press cloth which accidentally turned it into diy-moire. Hey, at least that wouldn’t be visible under lace, so I didn’t take too much care on future pieces.

We’re gonna call this a feature

Cut it out, sewed it together with french seams because part of the reason I sew is to make higher quality things than what you find in stores.


Covid + having a kid + french seams making it easy to be off a couple millimeters times 6 seams equaled it was about an inch too small for my waist. I threw the skirt into the naughty corner while pondering my options:

  • try and let out the french seams enough to get more space (have I mentioned that this fabric definitely showed every stitch and liked to fray?)
  • Re-cut the back panels to be wider and replace them
  • Add a gusset (which would have been basically a triangle to just add width in the waist, because I didn’t have extra room at the hem without messing up the lace to underskirt width ratio)
  • Throw the whole damn thing away and start over with the rest of my silver fabric as just a gathered rectangle, because honestly that would be faster than fixing what I had

So I ended up going with option 4 of starting over, but not with the same fabric?!? That’s right, I remembered I had a silver/lavender dupioni petticoat I used for a costume back in 2011. Old enough that it predates this blog, and I’ve already started taking the overdress apart for the fabrics and trim.

Baby Molly! This was a vaguely 17th century inspired dress and I really want to make a real one some day…

The petticoat was both a little too wide at the bottom, and also didn’t fit at the waist. Luckily it was pleated, so this was an easy fix to take off the waistband and cut off a chunk at the back.

Looks like I had previously made the waistband on the cross grain? It wasn’t visible, so I guess it didn’t matter.

Looking back on old sewing it’s wild to see how much I’ve improved. Why did I line the waistband with linen making it super thick? Sure a waistband needs to be sturdy, but there are ways to do that while avoiding bulk.

Removing that promptly.

Conquering my fears and put in an invisible zipper for the back closure! I found a new tutorial which makes the process way easier than my previous methods.

I undid the previous double-folded hem and used some of the cut off excess to make a facing which some crinoline stuffed in there to make a much stiffer hem.

With the skirt basically done, it was time for the terrifying part – cutting the lace to size.

I did a truly immense amount of math to figure out how long the lace should be, taking into account that I wanted it just slightly longer than the solid underskirt, seam allowance at the top, and the 2″ heels I planned to wear. Then I thread-traced the cutting line since it’s not possible to see a marking on black net.

orange thread on the 18″ line. I now have a bunch of pretty silver flowers on an edge which will hopefully be corset decoration some day.

Due to paranoia, I basted the lace onto the dupioni skirt, popped it on the dress form, pinned it to simulate gathers, and HOUSTON WE HAVE ANOTHER PROBLEM

So the lace ended up a couple inches longer than the underskirt. This meant you couldn’t see the details at the bottom because of black-on-black floral pattern; it needs some kind of lighter backing. But I didn’t have extra dupioni since this petticoat is a decade old.

See how you can’t pick out details at the bottom, that’s not just the photograph

But this actually had a very happy ending! A friend mentioned that it looked a little bulky at the waist (which it did, because I was just planning on gathering to a narrow tcowaistband) and I figured I could fix that by having a yoke at the top, or a shaped wide waistband (at 3″ it’s debatable which it is). This would also let the underskirt be longer since it got to start 3″ below my natural waist.

After careful measuring, it also turned out that I hadn’t been as off measuring the lace vs petticoat length – while it measured the correct length on the table, the beaded motifs actually dragged lower when dealing with gravity – a full two inch difference!

So after very very very carefully checking my math again, I cut another two inches of netting off the top of the skirt, and cut the last of the dupioni excess to be a shaped waistband (funnily enough on the cross grain again, but since it has black netting over it from the cut off lace you can’t tell).

Aaand after sewing it together it still ended up too big – I once again forgot that you can’t have ease in a waistband that is supposed to sit at the natural waist because it will fall down. Your waist is also generally different sizes depending on whether you are sitting or standing, how much you’ve eaten, hormonal bloating… There’s a reason corsets and shapewear can be awesome and it’s not just for appearance; it makes sizing more consistent.

So seam ripped open some of the waistband, pulled the gathers more closely together at the side seams, took the waistband in, and popped it back on. The size is still a little bigger than I prefer, but at least for the first planned outing it was always going to have a corset over it to hold it up.

The yoke closes with two large snaps (part of the notions I inherited from my grandmother). This pulls a bit showing the waistband lining, but I had installed the zipper before planning on a wide waistband. Maybe one day I’ll replace this with a zipper that goes up all the way in addition to making the skirt slightly smaller, but eh who knows.

basically impossible to tell that the waist and main skirt are cut on different grains!
Lace closeup. It really needs the light background to pop.

Skirt done! And hey technically everything about it was from the stash or repurposed. Feels great to start making inroads on my fabric bins.

Then a couple (reasonably) quick accessories to bring the whole dark goth fae thing together:

The cape, aka the piece I designed the whole rest of the garment around. Made the exact same way as previous fantasy cape.

Tulle is a great option to avoid having to hem drapey sheer fabrics!

And conveniently a friend posted a tutorial video they found for wire-wrapped elf ears which both spawned A Mighty Need, and the beginnings of a jewelry stash as I decided I needed them in nearly every color…

The fun part of this outfit is it can move from “normal” to “costume” by progressively adding accessories. So by starting with bodycon dress from ThredUp + skirt:

adding midbust victorian corset

Then it was wedding time!

Thank you to my friend who made me this bustle era hair piece in exchange for homemade kumquat jam – I do not do hair and this is my new go-to formal hair piece.

wheee I’m a dramatic cape
The Cooks is a tradition among this lovely group of friends

Despite all the sewing shenanigans, I love love love how this outfit turned out. Dear friends, please more themed weddings for me to attend!

This entry was posted in clothing from this century?, Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A fantasy fairy outfit – part two skirt fail but then a pretty great result

  1. Carol Weiss says:

    I can testify that you Don’t want to know how much that fabric costs. Glad it came out well.

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