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Tips & Techniques > Fitting a Pencil Skirt

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Posted by: Nancywin
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Posted on: 6/14/09 5:17 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 7 people   Very Helpful by 32 people   
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Pencil skirts seam to always be in style, but seem to be coming back with a vengeance right now. I have never been able to buy pencil skirts because of my "curvy" figure. Thank goodness I can sew!!

A pencil skirt should be fitted in the waist, but also in the hips, with enough room that you can still walk, sit, and move! This can be a challenge, so a little fitting work should be done ahead of time. You may or may not want to make a muslin, but lately I've been finding much success with tissue fitting.

In any matter, the most important thing is to start with the right size pattern. I use my actual hip measurement (measurement with the tape measure fitted snugly, but not cinched in.) For me this is a size 16. It seems ridiculous for me to make a size 16 pattern when I wear an 8-10 in RTW, but the tape measure does not lie! If you are between sizes, go up a size.

THen, when I make the muslin, or the skirt the first time (I didn't really need a muslin with the linked skirt since there are no design features such as yokes, pleats, pockets, etc), I cut 1" side seams and BASTE them together and try on the skirt. At this point, you can make any adjutments you need to. On my first version of this skirt I had to really take in the waist and adjust the curve from hip to thigh. Baste it again after you think you have the changes right and try it on again. If it looks good stitch it.
Now, make those exact changes on your pattern pieces. You will only have to do this ONCE. This is the fourth time I have made this skirt, and now it is a breeze to whip up. If I make it out of a different fabric with more/less give, a different drape or thickness, I make it with the wide seam allowances and baste first. My machine makes a long basting stitch that is quick and easy to rip out. It only takes a few seconds to baste it and try it on compared the the many minutes it takes to rip out a perfectly sewn seam!

Another tip, if you are hippy (as I am) it is usually more flattering to slightly peg (taper in to the bottom) your skirts. Straight skirts tend to make you just look hippy all the way down. A tapered line draws the eye inward.

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KathleenNW said... (10/10/13 2:19 PM) Reply
trishapatk, your post made me smile. I'm in the process right now of making a shealth dress and I thought I would tapper it a bit but I didn't know how much. I'm only going with 1/4" on the sides, with equals a total of an 1", but I'm also installing a vent in the back.
karen n said... (1/19/11 7:50 PM) Reply
Question - how do you taper a pencil skirt with 6 panels? 3 on front and 3 on back (center and two sides)? The posts I read seem like people just taper in the side seams at the outer edges. But should you taper all 6 pieces a little? Same question with expanding the waist. The center panel is such a straight up and down design line that I wonder if you're not supposed to change it when taking in or letting out and only adjust the sides.
trishapatk said... (6/8/10 12:38 PM) Reply
Don't forget this when you determine how much to taper towards the hem ... you will probably want to be able to simply slide the skirt up over your hips when you're in the ladies room. My experience has been that a a skirt that is truly cut straight looks tapered when it's on a body. A slight A-line looks straight. Good thing that Nancy says to experiment and suggests basting first. Excellent advice.
99 said... (8/19/09 9:31 PM) Reply
I liked your comment on tapering a bit from hip to bottom edge of pencil skirt. It helps to keep the eye near the body and flaring out to add width.
solosmocker said... (6/17/09 6:40 PM) Reply
Thanks for the pegging idea. I have wide hips and this has really helped me.
Nancywin said... (6/16/09 2:18 AM) Reply
Yes, if you were to take 1" off of each side seam, you would minimize the hem by 4". I would start with 1/2" off each side seam and see how you like the look. You can always take it in a little more. Pin fitting is a huge help here!
Elaine Dougan said... (6/15/09 10:49 AM) Reply
I think I read somewhere that when you taper to the bottom, the bottom of the skirt should be four inches less than the hip measurement. Does that sound about right?
kellymailinglist said... (6/15/09 8:42 AM) Reply
Great tips... I agree about pegging skirts. I'm *really* hippy, and I've done the tapering like that on some vintage A-line dress patterns, and it's definitely more flattering that way.
Diane333 said... (6/15/09 8:24 AM) Reply
I will try to make a pencil skirt. I thought I would be too hippy.
nonnasgift said... (6/15/09 8:03 AM) Reply
It never would have occurred to me that I might be able to wear a pencil skirt until I read this. Thanks so much for broadening my horizons!
leanmeansewingmachine said... (6/15/09 7:24 AM) Reply
Thanks for the advice. I keep forgetting about basting, thanks for reminding me!
pt6356 said... (6/15/09 7:23 AM) Reply
Thanks for posting such great info!
EleanorSews said... (6/14/09 8:22 PM) Reply
Nice succinct step-by-step tips to sewing a pencil skirt.
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