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Godet Rules of Thumb?

user-312421 | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hello!  I am making a dress from Butterick 3195.  It’s a beautiful (I think, anyway!) dress with a cowl-style neck.  But I’m planning a few variations.  (This will be the third dress I make from this pattern, so I have some familiarity with it and I know it makes up perfectly for me.)

First, I’m going to use stretch fabric.  I’ve lost weight during the past few years and I want to show off a few curves before I get too old!  The fabric is quite slinky and I can hardly wait to sew with it, and to wear the results.

The big thing is that I want to insert godets into the hem of the skirt.  This is a bias dress, so I’m not sure whether I should use bias-cut godets, straight grain godets, or whether it even matters with stretch fabric.  It has a subtle stripe–you have to look closely to see it–so my initial preference is to cut bias godets with the stripe running on the angle opposite to the fabric they’re sewn into.

Does anybody know of any “rules of thumb” for godets inserted into hemlines?  I’m thinking they should start halfway between hip and knee for a knee-length dress.  This will make the dress fit around the hips but flare out in a beguiling way (hopefully!) for dancing.  But how wide should the base of the triangle be?  If I want to use diamonds instead (for a handkerchief hem), does that change the optimum width of the godet?  If I want a straight hem, are there any other things I should watch out for (i.e. is a straight triangle base all there is to it)?

Also, how many godets should be used?  I think one at the front of each leg would look nice.  I’m assuming that they must be balanced by godets at the back of each leg.  Would it look weird if there is only one godet in back, at the centre back seam?  The side seams must also each have one, right?  Here’s another question–all of the godets should have the same dimensions, right?  (I want to look “sexy”–well, sexy for me–not avant garde.)

I’m thinking of serging a “lettuce edge” hem after all of this godet work.  Would that be too much?

You’re probably thinking, “This woman has too many questions!”  Yep–I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should just follow the pattern and be done with it.  But then I’ll always wonder what could have been….  I have a few sewing books but they are curiously silent on the topic of godets.

Thanks in advance for any advice/tips you may have on this.




  1. rjf | | #1

    Wow! You've really thought about this dress, haven't you?  You mention so many possibilities that I'm not sure if I can remember them all so I'll tell that the first thing I thought of was the ratio of top part of skirt to godet portion of the skirt.  If it's a knee-length dress and you start half way between hip and knee, that sounds like a pretty good proportion to me.  I think the grain you cut it on depends on how it hangs compared to how the skirt hangs but that's personal preference for me.  And I like six godets, all the same dimension with a gently curved bottom to match the skirt's hemline.  Serging the hem sounds flirtatious! But I've never done serging, so maybe someone else will speak to that.  Pictures when you're done???     rjf

  2. sanderson | | #2

    I searched on Threads for godets and Taunton has a book for sale called Linen and Cotton by Susan Khalje;  it has a chapter on godets and angled seams.  http://www.taunton.com/store/pages/070374_tcpg.asp

    1. user-312421 | | #6

      Thanks, sanderson.  I found it on the website.  I'll look for it in my local bookstore.

  3. carolfresia | | #3

    Rosalynn, you can cheat a tiny bit and look through some of the pattern catalogues for ideas. Vogue, I think, has a few skirts (I don't recall dresses but there might have been some) with various types of godets. Decide what you like, and then adapt yours to that look. If you don't know what dimensions, you could also buy the pattern and just steal its godet (hint: wait for a good sale on patterns!;-)

    The dress sounds wonderful--I think a lettuce hem on that full skirt would be dynamite. If your fabric is a slinky, really stretchy knit, no need to cut it on the bias, I don't think? You'll usually get a more economical layout if you cut it on the straight of the grain.


    1. rjf | | #4

      Cutting on the grain is a good idea and since I've recently been to the slide show, I'm going to suggest Rosalynn check it out because there were a number of handerchief hems and godets in it.  (See Threads home page?)  rjf

      1. user-312421 | | #7

        Sorry, rjf, I can't find the slide show you mention.  Is it the independent pattern thing?  Thanks, R

        1. rjf | | #9

          If you look at the top of this page, you'll see "Gatherings" and right above it, "Threads".  Click on Threads and it takes you to the home page.  In the center of the page are some articles; the first is a report on the convention the editors went to and the third or fourth article down is an article on the contest with the slide show.  I think you click on the article first and then get to the slide show.    rjf

          Edited 4/10/2003 7:56:39 AM ET by rjf

          1. user-312421 | | #12

            Found the slide show--thanks.  Wow, some of those clothes are fantastic.--R

      2. stitchmd | | #8

        Since a godet is triangular it's really a question of which part is on grain and which is bias. If the center is on grain the diagonal edges are bias, if the center is bias the diagonals are closer to straight of grain. One will be close to straight of grain, one will be close to cross grain. It would seem best to place the piece on the grain to have it symmetrical in drape. The trick then is to seam the godet diagonals to the cuts in the skirt, which presumably are on grain.

        1. rjf | | #10

          I agree with you about the grain lines but I wonder if it's always possible to do.  If it's a flared skirt and you want the godets over your knee and the straight of the goods is down the middle of the front, I think you wouldn't be able to put the godet on a straight of the goods.  But don't you think it might be close enough?     rjf

          1. stitchmd | | #11

            I think a godet is more dramatic in a skirt that is straight or only slightly flared, that way the flaring out from the godets is more in contrast with the line above them.

    2. user-312421 | | #5

      Thanks, Carolfresia.  The Vogue catalogue and straight grain ideas are both good ones!--R

  4. Crafty_Manx | | #13

    I saw a tv commercial the other night in which this woman was wearing a slightly flared, knee-length skirt with godets.  The godets started 3/8- to 1/2-way up her thigh (measuring from the knee).  The skirt looked great in the commercial.  I hope this helps.


    1. user-312421 | | #14

      Thanks, Crafty.  Good to know that what I imagine will work actually does!  We don't get tv, so I wouldn't have known about the ad if you hadn't told me.

      1. Crafty_Manx | | #15

        No problem.  The skirt I saw looked something like the one in this picture, it was very flowy and classy and kind of flirty-looking, without saying "Hi, I'm a tramp".  Make sure you take pictues when you finish your creation!


        1. user-312421 | | #16

          That's a nice length in the picture.  I like it!  Thanks again, R.

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