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Bishop Method: The Skirt

DONNAKAYE | Posted in General Discussion on

This information was taught in the Professional Beginnings course under “Cutting to Fit.”  I’m ad-libbing here from notes from one of the PB classes Audrey taught.  Again, I know this may be elementary to some of you, but Mrs. Bishop stressed that regardless of the student’s skill level, these basic teachings were required.  She never assumed that the student knew or understood some of the basic teachings.

All of these teachings assume that you the sewer will verify on the flat pattern the measurements shown on the pattern envelope, that is, to verify that what you’re getting in the pattern envelope is correct.  Patterns can be wrong.

Measurements for the skirt are taken for waist, hip, and length.  Length is determined prior to cutting.  Once the skirt is cut, the hems are turned and pressed while the skirt is still flat on the cutting unit.  (I have never turned and pressed a hem after a garment is constructed.)

The waistline measurement is taken at the most comfortable part of the waistline.  Someone else should take this measurement while the student is standing, allowing two fingers under the tape measure for sitting ease.  I see no problem with taking the method wherein the waistline measurement is taken both sitting and standing and dividing the difference, but the two-finger method is very reliable.

The hipline measurement is taken at the fullest part of the hips between the waist and the knees.  On me that’s 11″ below the waist.  I’ve seen it as high as 7″.  You must determine how far below the waistline that falls on you.  That measurement is taken at the side seam, from the waist to the fullest part of the hips, and is measured out on the flat pattern in the same way.

To take the hip measurement, the tape measure is brought around the fullest part of the buttocks and/or hips and dipped down slightly in front.  This means, first, standing in a full-length mirror sideways and determining the fullest part of the buttocks; then turning face-front to the mirror and bringing the tape measure down to or around the fullest part of the hips between waist and knees; then meeting in the front in a slightly downward direction.  This will give a true determination of ease.

The length  measurement is taken at the halfway mark of the body.  This is an imaginary line drawn from approximately the center of the shoulder seam, falling over the fullest part of the bustline, to the floor.  For the skirt, begin this measurement at your natural waistline, i.e., the horizontal line where your waistline measurement was taken.  Stand in front of a full-length mirror while stepping on the tail of the tape measure with your foot.  If your vision is poor or impaired, a friend can help you with this.

It is suggested that you purchase skirt patterns as close as possible to your waist measurement as taken above.  If you fall in between two sizes, buy the smaller size and adjust upwards.  In a straight or A-line skirt this distinction is not as critical, but in a more complicated design, such as gored or pleats extending into the waistline area, the larger waistline size may also mean too much fullness in the hipline.  The objective is to try as much as possible to stick with making hipline measurements as opposed to waistline measurements.  Do whatever works best for you.  You know your own body best.  There is no wrong way to buy — up or down — only the easiest for you.

Waistline:  The pattern and you.  The waistline measurement on the pattern envelope is a “true” measurement.  That is, if the pattern envelope states that the waistline of the skirt is 30″, then the waistline of the skirt pattern has been drafted to fit a 30″ waistline.  There is actually more skirt at the waistline than the amount required to fit a waistband.  The extra allowance is ease sufficient for you to live comfortably in the garment.  If your waistline measurement differs from the measurement shown on the pattern envelope, you must alter the pattern accordingly.

Hipline:  The pattern.  The hip measurement on the pattern envelope is not a “true” measurement.  The pattern company adds a certain amount of wearing ease, depending upon the design.  To know exactly how much design ease was built into the pattern, flat pattern measurements are required.  Definitions of “fitted,” “loose fitting,” etc., can be found on the web which describe generally how much wearing ease the style of the pattern dictates, but that is still only the intended ease for the model, not the amount of ease for the style you may actually have in the final product.  Again, accurate measurements should be taken on the flat pattern to get a true picture of final styling ease.

If it is determined that, say, an A-line skirt has 2-1/2 inches of styling ease, then you must have a minimum of 2-1/2 inches of styling ease after any necessary alterations.  You may also personally prefer a little more, but as a general rule, never less, particularly in more fitted garments.


Edited 9/10/2007 10:08 am ET by DonnaKaye


  1. solosmocker | | #1

    Great info, Donna, particularly regarding ease. This confuses many sewists.


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