An attempt at a 1880's Wild West saloon madame skirt
After scouring the internet for instructions on how to make a Victorian-style bustle skirt I ended up putting together different instructions I found to make this skirt. (The steps are to make the red skirt.) I thought I would share it to maybe save someone else time doing a similar search. I’m a procrastinator and actually made this last year so hopefully my steps are clear, but please leave a comment if something needs more explanation or if it seems like I left out a step.
Also, I used this great tutorial as a guide for the mini hat: http://www.cutoutandkeep.net/projects/mini-top-hats-3 (I ended up using a foam cone and sewed the felt around the top and brim).
For the black skirt underneath I used the same concept I explain here and just made the ruffles much longer (about 6 inches) and added lace to the bottom of the ruffles. The black skirt has two layers and I put in the rouching in the top layer straight down the back. (I was trying to copy a skirt I saw online.) I love sewing but still consider myself a novice so hopefully these instructions make some sense.
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I started with a basic pencil skirt pattern I already had. I increased the width at the bottom so it made more of a circle skirt to allowed for the added material needed for the bustle and the rouching (gathering - on the sides). I wanted the front shorter than the back so I brought the front panel down to about my knees and I made the back panel floor length. I wanted the finished length in the back to be a little lower than my knees (since I was going to put another skirt underneath for a layered look) and bustling needs a lot of material. I slightly rounded the bottom of both the front and the back panel so after all the rouching (gathering) I wasn’t left with a straight edge.
For the ruffle on the bottom, start by deciding how wide you want the ruffle and then times that by two since you will fold it in half. It needs to be at least twice the length of your skirt bottom to make the ruffling effect and even longer if you want more defined ruffles. I wanted my finished ruffle to be about 2 inches/5cm and I needed my 2cm seam allowance so I cut two pieces of material 12cm by 90cm long because I wanted it to be 180cm long when sewn together. (I needed one 180cm long piece for the front and one 180cm long piece for the back.)
An easy way to do ruffles is to fold the material in half lengthwise, iron it, then sew it together close to the top edge to hold the material together. Then, increase your stitch length and sew basting stitches below your first seam. Do not tack or secure the thread at the start or finish of the seam and leave plenty of thread at the start and finish. Be very careful not to touch your long basting stitches to your first seam line or the ruffling will not work, and also be sure you get through the entire ruffle length in one go (ie. your thread doesn’t run out or get snagged)! Then, you take the top thread at each end of the ruffle and start to push the material towards the middle to create the ruffles. You can ruffle it as little or much as you want. (Search for "HoneyBliss Ruffles Tutorial!" on YouTube for a great video on making ruffles)
Next you can sew the front and back panels together and create the channel– be sure to keep that extra wide seam allowance (approx. 1.5cm or 1 inch) when you sew the front and back together. Once you sew the seam, iron the seam open. Sew close to the edge of each seam to create channels that you can run a needle and string through.
For the waist - I just turned down the top of the skirt to make a very thin waistband. I didn’t need to put in any buttons or zippers because I was wearing it over another skirt that kept it in place, but this is when you would put in any closures such as buttons, elastic or a zipper.
Tie your string (that should be cut to over twice the length of your side seam) to a blunt needle (or a small safety pin if you don’t have a blunt needle - it is much easier to use a blunt needle! I tried both.). Start at the bottom of one seam opening and pull the string through the channel you just created. When you get to the top near the waistband just poke the blunt needle up through the material, cross over the seam and poke it back in to continue down the other side of the seam (see photo in next step). When you get to the bottom make sure there is plenty of string hanging out on either side so it doesn’t go back up into the seam and make it hard to get out.
(Photo of threading the string when you get to the top and need to go back down the other side)
Now the fun part of pulling the string and seeing how the skirt looks with the rouching. You can adjust the rouching by how tight you pull the string - just tie the string once you get desired bunching.
The final steps are to create the bustling in the back. There are several ways I found to create bustling using hook and eyes, simply sewing the material together in places, gathering, etc. but I chose to use two strips of extra material that I sewed into the waistband. Then I gathered the back of the skirt into folds and pinned it to the strips in sections. I tried several different sizes of folds, number of places it was pinned, and spaces between the pins until I got the look I wanted (6cm apart). Then I sewed the skirt to the strips only where it was pinned.