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Take a Tour Inside a Chic Couture Skirt

Oct 20, 2014
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I take a group to Paris every year, and near the end of our stay we visit the Clignancourt Flea Market. As you might imagine, it’s full of anything and everything. Some of the items were by turns breathtaking, bizarre, desirable, horrifying, inspiring, and fun – you get the idea.

My friend Sharon Wixen’s attention was caught by an adorable Giambattista Valli skirt in a consignment shop. The store was full of treasures, including this one. It’s a pretty basic skirt, but a few little additions lift it from the ordinary to the charming. Here, I’ll give you a tour inside this lovely skirt taking a close look at its construction details.

couture waistband techniqueGet more couture techniques by Susan Khalje:

Couture Techniques for a Better Fitting Waistband
How to Finish Seams on Chantilly Lace
Combine Topstitching and Binding for an Elegant Seam Finish
• How to Make a Hidden Button Placket

inside skirt 1

As you can see, it’s a princess-seamed tweed skirt. However, there are a few things that set it apart.

A chiffon band has been sewn to the hem, and its raw edges have been delicately machine-finished. It’s a pretty print and the colors match the skirt perfectly.

The double row of machine stitching that attaches the strip of fringe and chiffon band adds a nice bit of integrity to the lower edge of the skirt.

While it’s not pictured, a 1 inch wide strip of grosgrain ribbon faces the hemline.


We’re used to seeing fringe along the hemline of a skirt.

However, this skirt features fringe along the top edge, at the base of the waistband.

In addition to the fringe, there’s a wide grosgrain waistband.

It appears to be some kind of woolen grosgrain (something new to me.)

I didn’t test it, but it did have a sort of slightly furry feel to it, and it was sturdy enough to stay in place and not crumple, unlike many built-up waistbands.

I didn’t dismantle the skirt, but my guess is the fringe was inserted between the skirt and the grosgrain, then held in place when the lower edge of the grosgrain was machine-stitched to the waistline of the skirt.

The skirt was lined with silk chiffon. The grosgrain waistband was covered with chiffon as well.

I think one of my favorite touches was the tiny strip of ribbon that covered most of the metal of the hooks that closed the skirt. I’m always telling my students that metal findings are covered as much as possible in couture garments – and this is a wonderful case in point. While a bit roughly sewn, it does the trick.

Rather than metal eyes, little thread bars were created.

One final note, the skirt’s been pegged along its side seams. You can tell if you follow the vertical lines in the fabric.

While subtle, it adds a gracefulness to the silhouette.

My thanks to Sharon for sharing her charming find! If you should ever find yourself roaming the streets of Paris, here is a list of my favorite fabric shops.

Have you ever come across a skirt similar to this? What do you think about the fringe found at the waistband? As a couture touch, do you ever cover bottom half of metal hooks with ribbon or other fabric? If you could recreate one detail shown on this skirt what would it be and why?

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  1. gattini October 21st

    Hello Susan, I love this post - it's always fascinating to get a sneak peek at couture secrets...

    Would you kindly explain what you mean by "pegged":
    "One final note, the skirt's been pegged along its side seams. You can tell if you follow the vertical lines in the fabric."


  2. marijkapaprika October 21st

    A pegged skirt's side seams angle in from the hip to knee, rather than stay straight. See

  3. User avater gladrags October 21st

    I sometimes get to do alterations on vintage or couture garments and I love to see how things have been put together and how problems have been solved in times gone by. I usually handsew thread bars for a neat finish, but hadn't thought of covering the base of the hooks. Silk Chiffon lining would be luxurious!
    Thanks for sharing


  4. SusanKhalje October 21st

    I think the person above answered that - and of course, the "pegging" can be modest or exaggerated. It's sort of an optical illusion, but sometimes when the side seams of a straight skirt go right down, the skirt almost appears to widen - so this just slims things a bit and somehow lengthens the whole silhouette.

  5. SanMarGnd October 21st

    Just looking at the close up of the band/fringe area, it appears to me that the skirt was sewn onto the band about 1/2 to 3/4 inch below the top edge of the skirt with two rows of stitching, then the raw edge of the skirt was fringed afterward. Similar to fringing a wool scarf, or other loosely woven fabric, such as a linen napkin.

  6. Pepper60 October 21st

    Hi Susan,you were wondering which detail I would recreate?
    Definitely the covering of the hooks! When something so simple makes you feel high end - well for me it just doesn't get any better than that.

  7. User avater sewold October 22nd

    I think I would like the appearance more if the waistband would be concealed. It would show off the fringe a little better. I wonder if the chiffon was added to lengthen it just a bit.

  8. User avater sewold October 22nd

    Maybe that waistband would look more attractive "in person". It does seem to have a soft appearance on the outside.

  9. SusanKhalje October 22nd

    I think, in fact, the grosgrain is pretty essential - it provides a nice backdrop for the waist fringe. Without it, the fringe would sort of disappear - nothing would support it, so it's kind of a clever way to both give a bit of a built-up waistband, but in a decorative way.

  10. User avater Sewista October 23rd

    Fascinating skirt anatomy! Personally, I would have preferred a matching waistband. Something about the black and the fringe just jolts me. Thanks for the lesson, Susan. I really enjoy seeing the inside construction of these garments.

  11. SharonPicone October 23rd

    Hi Susan,
    Thanks for sharing this information. I have a question: You mention that the skirt has been pegged along the side seams. Please could you clarify what this means? I've never heard of this term in sewing before. Thanks!

  12. SusanKhalje October 23rd

    To Sharon -
    of course - it's such an odd name for this, but "pegging" means narrowing the skirt as it goes down from the widest part (the full hip) to the hem. It can be subtle or pronounced....ending up an inch narrower per side, per seam is a good place to start (you'd want to check when the skirt is in its muslin stage - it all depends on your particular proportions), losing 4 inches of width by the time you get the to the hem, in total.

  13. User avater DesignRewindFashions October 23rd

    For such a modest looking skirt I did learn a few things! I never thought to cover metal hooks and a little bit of ribbon can look so lovely. I too didn't know the term "pegged" as I always called that something else. Thank you for sharing these little details!


  14. ladydi October 24th

    Like the waistband a lot but can't see how the hem treatment adds anything to the garment

  15. SharonPicone October 24th

    Thank you Susan! I've learned something new :) It seems like a great technique to use when wanting to incorporate some subtle shaping into a skirt.

  16. User avater BJ_sews_on October 29th

    The waistband of this lovely skirt looks like PETERSHAM. I learned about this finish used in couture clothes from Sandra Bedzina and other Threads articles that suggest it as a stablizer for waistbands of skirts and slacks. I began looking in local fabric stores for it but no one ever knew what I was talking about. I plan to order some petersham online since it looks like a great feature on its own as well as supporting the structure at the waist.

    I love the fringing and want to try that feature too.
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful garment.

  17. SusanKhalje November 1st

    The petersham (or grosgrain) used on this particular skirt was unusual, in that it felt as if it was made from wool, and was quite sturdy (study enough to keep it shape). Regular petersham (which comes in a variety of thicknesses and fiber contents) probably wouldn't be thick enough (on its own) for this treatment. But - you could use a couple of layers to firm things up, and if you really wanted a built-up waistband, you could put boning in it - little vertical pieces, placed every 3-4", sandwiched between two layers of grosgrain (or even grosgrain on the outside and something else on the inside).

  18. gailete November 9th

    Thanks for this interesting article. I think if I would do one of the things mentioned it would e covering up the hooks and eyes as mentioned.

    Was the chiffon piece on the hem being used as an 'ruffle' type thing? I wasn't sure what I was seeing as it looked to me as if the lining had fallen loose.

  19. User avater decorchick June 9th

    Chiffon for lining! Brilliant! I am making a dress using lawn which needs a skirt lining just for added privacy purposes. I want to maintain the very lightweight sheer feeling of the lawn. Perfect solution. And covering the metal...very interesting. OK will do!

  20. Mahbub June 30th

    That is very nice. Have a fabric for women style?

  21. JulienOrmidal August 3rd

    Hello Susan, thats a really lovely skirt, love the style and the way u sewed it.

  22. User avater Quincyblake September 9th

    Its really Amazing skirt.I am impressed with your work

  23. User avater Antonsantiago September 10th

    Good creativity to this lovely skirt

  24. User avater Antonsantiago September 10th

    Good creativity to this lovely skirt

  25. User avater PPGirault123 October 28th

    your creativity is amazing
    I want your hands (a copy if you prefer keep yours ;-))

  26. User avater Albertdesuja October 30th

    Very creative work. Love yours amazing skirt design..........

  27. User avater juliahaley November 20th


  28. User avater emilyswan December 21st

    I just want to tell you that you have done a very amazing work. The skirt is very nice, pretty. Love your design.....

  29. ernesto50 October 17th

    good afternoon,
    I liked it a lot. A lot of creativity and good taste.

  30. ernesto50 October 17th

    good afternoon,
    I liked it a lot. A lot of creativity and good [URL=]taste[/URL].

  31. jumptoit January 2nd

    Love the waist treatment as a way to add some pizzazz to a tailored pencil skirt! I am also filing the chiffon hem treatment as an option to add length to a skirt as needed. Thank you for sharing this find.

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