Couture Sewing: The Couture Skirt by Claire Shaeffer

Claire Shaeffer’s method of making a couture skirt is one of those projects that has you wondering what you got yourself into, and then it all comes together and all is right in the world. I don’t mind spending a lot on time on one project, as I have enough clothes to do me for a while, and I sew to try and do something useful with all the piles of fabric around here.  In this case I saw an opportunity to use two pieces of great material – a silk and cashmere blend plaid, and a silk print in a similar colorway.

All of the books in Claire’s couture series come with a dvd that shows the how-to step by step.  I’m a very visual learner, and so the dvds are essential for me.  It helps actually seeing her work through the steps.

She suggests that the maker of this skirt start with any straight skirt pattern.  I actually had a vintage pattern that has a front wrap.  She gives the directions on how to add the wrap, but this saved me a step.  In this skirt, there are no side seams, so I had to place the front and back pieces together at the side to make one large combination piece.  The only two actual seams in the skirt are the center back and the waist band.

Straight skirts have  darts at the waist to allow for the proper fit, but in this skirt the fullness is steamed out rather than darted.  I did have to end up doing a dart at each side as there was just too much fullness to steam out.

Here you can see where I eased in the fullness at the waist.  The diagonal basting is to secure where the quilting lines went.  Yes, the lining and the fabric are quilted, just as in a Chanel jacket.  You can’t tell in my photograph, but I had to overcast the edges to cut down on fraying.

Because of the easing, the plaid lines don’t match up on the waistband.  I’m not so picky that this bothers me, and I don’t like tops to be tucked into a waistband, so it will never show.

The waistband is interfaced with petersham.  After sewing the band to the skirt, it is lined with the silk.

Here you can see the inside of the waistband.  You can also see the top of the zipper closure.  The zipper is put in by hand, and then the lining is slip-stitched to the zipper tape.  The band closes with two hook and eyes.  Even though this looks like a wrap skirt, it is actually a faux wrap, with the overlapping fronts both being attached to the same section of waistband.

To reduce bulk over the stomach, the wool plaid is actually cut away on the under-wrap.  To me, this was the hardest thing, because I was terrified I’d cut too much.  But it is an excellent technique, and really does remove fabric where most women don’t want that extra layer.  I finished the edges where the plaid was cut using a blanket stitch.

You also get a good look at the quilting which is seen on the lining, but is masked by the lines of the plaid of the fashion fabric.

This is the lower edge of the skirt, showing the wrap at the hem.  All the edges of the skirt were slip-stitched.  It you do not like hand stitching, this is not the project for you.

And finally, after more than a month of slip-stitching, the skirt was completed.  I’m sorry that the model is missing her head, but that is the fault of the photographer.



Filed under Vintage Clothing

17 responses to “Couture Sewing: The Couture Skirt by Claire Shaeffer

  1. Beautiful! Your patience is amazing!


  2. Well I’m impressed. Love the fabrics. Now must Google “petersham” which I only know as the name of a town in north-central Massachusetts. I expect to discover that whatever this fiber is, it was first made there…


  3. You’ve done a wonderful job here Lizzie. The fabric is gorgeous but I know it frays if not finished properly, and you’ve managed that problem brilliantly. Congratulations! 🙂


  4. susan snow

    I’m so glad you posted this article. I have the book/dvd, but just couldn’t get my head around the bit where you cut out on the underlayer. Now it makes perfect sense! I may get brave and tackle this after all. Thank you!


  5. Well, having made a Chanel-esque jacket using Claire’s techniques, I know just how much work went into that skirt! May you wear it forever. (And that Scottie pin is the perfect accessory.)


  6. Really lovely, Lizzie. I do not have that book, and I would never have thought of quilting the fashion fabric and the lining together as in a classic French jacket. How did you do the hem?


  7. Ruth

    Very nice work!


  8. Andrea

    What a great post! I recently attended a workshop and got to meet Claire and came home and searched for blog posts about her, that’s how I found your great blog. Loved seeing your skirt process! What pattern did you use for the skirt?


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