Drafting the “Flippy Skirt”

What is the style that you’re calling “flippy skirt”?

The “flippy skirt” style has grown in popularity over the last couple years, mainly due to its use by Eire Designs/Gavin Doherty*.  I was asked to draft one last month, so I thought I’d create a little tutorial so you can draft your own at home.

This style is similar to a circle skirt, but with the fullness concentrated into little wedges, like springy box pleats.  Extra fullness at the bottom, but not at the top of the skirt.  On some of these dresses, the wedges are done in a contrasting color, but the skirt panel is all one piece regardless of color.

So how do we draft one?  Let’s dig in!

Planning and Preparation

The first thing to do is to decide how many “wedges” you want on both the front and back.  All three of the dresses shown above have 6 across the front, but you could do however many you want.  I’ll do 6.  The back skirt panel is actually the back and side of the skirt combined, so there really isn’t a reason to place them all the way across the back panel; leave some room at the side for the dancer’s arms, as shown in the photo of the neon yellow dress.

I’m going to be doing this draft digitally, but I’ll assume most people are using a pencil and paper.  Here are the tools you’ll need:

–Your single-panel skirt front and back pattern pieces; save the originals!  (View I in our 4th Ed. patterns.  Use Skirt Blocks for older editions)
–Large paper (newsprint, craft paper, butcher paper, printer sheets taped together, etc)
–Ruler, preferably a grid ruler
–French curve (recommended)

The Draft

  1. Trace your skirt front pattern piece onto a new sheet of paper.  Add 1 inch of seam allowance along the top edge.  Don’t add seam allowance elsewhere, and don’t erase the top edge of the pattern, which is the dropped waist seam line.  See my two lines up top?  Some of the older editions of the pattern have seam allowance built in.  Ignore it by tracing the dropped waist seam line, then drawing your own inch of seam allowance above that.
  2. Now that we have our skirt ready to go, we need to determine the placement of the wedges.  We’ll start by drawing a line representing the center of each wedge.  An easy way to get them evenly spaced, is to divide the top and bottom edges of the pattern by twice the amount of wedges you want (top = dropped waist line, not added seam allowance line).  I’m doing 6, which is 3 each side of the front panel, so I divided my front into 6 pieces.  Then we’ll erase every other line, as shown.  See how I have 3 dark lines remaining (2 light ones erased)?  3 lines = 3 wedges.
  3. Next we’ll draw the outlines of the wedge.  These can be a bit tricky to visualize, because they won’t be quite as wide when they’re springy and 3D; you have to imagine them pressed flat.  A good rule of thumb is to take the distance between lines, and divide evenly in 3, so 1/3 goes to one wedge, 1/3 to the other, with 1/3 in the middle.  You can definitely make them larger, but I wouldn’t go much smaller.  The wider the blue angle, the bigger and fuller the wedges will be.
    Notice that I’m taking the angled lines all the way to the seam allowance line.  This is important.
  4. Number your wedges to help keep things straight later.  On each half, write an A or B as shown below.  Number the spaces between the wedges as well, with another system.  Perhaps 101, 102, 103, etc.
  5. Now we have all our “information” and we can make pattern pieces from the lines we just drew.  For each wedge, we will want 1 piece the full width of the wedge (blue line to blue line, in the image above).  This is the red in the illustration below, and I’m going to call it the “front”.  The “red front” of each wedge.  Trace those lines onto fresh paper to create 3 (or your amount) of red fronts, labeled 1, 2, and 3.Then we’ll also create pieces for each half of the wedge (blue to black line).  Let’s call them the “yellow sides”.  These need to be labeled with the A or B, since each piece is a little different.  When you’re finished you’ll have twice as many yellows as reds, and they’ll be labeled 1A, 1B, 2A, etc.Lastly, we’ll trace the sections in-between the wedges.  Pay attention here:  this is NOT blue line to blue line, but black center line to black center line.  Instead of tracing, you *could* just cut apart your template to create these last shapes, but I suggest leaving it intact in case you need to refer to it later.  These will be the “greens” below.  When tracing, mark the seam line near the top.  It’s not necessary to mark the seam line on the top of the others.See below, how I’ve created and labeled my three types of shapes
  6. Well now putting them together is really quite easy.  The main thing to remember is that ALL the yellow wedges need to be placed upside down (underside of the paper facing upwards).  I have notated this with a stripy coloring.  Each wedge will follow the same pattern and we’ll work from center-front outwards.
    Step 1:  Green skirt piece
    Step 2:  Yellow piece A upside down
    Step 3:  Red piece
    Step 4:  Yellow piece B upside down
    Repeat until the last green panel is attached.
  7. So we’ve created our shape, and now it’s time to simplify it a bit.  It will likely be easier to look at if you trace it onto a fresh piece of paper (or not, hey it’s up to you).  Each yellow-red-yellow section represents the complete wedge.  If you wanted to make the wedges in a contrasting color, that would be where you’d seam the two fabrics.  Go ahead and outline the wedges, as shown below.  I also like to trace the interior lines for a short bit near the top (lines between yellow and red).  That just helps remind me how this is going to get tucked into the dropped waist seam.
  8. Now let me draw your attention back to the original image.  See how the hem is higher in the middle of the wedge?  We need to do that.  Decide how much higher you want it to be, and draw a line up from the hem that distance.  Then we’ll redraw our hemline, so that it curves up at the center of each wedge.  Don’t alter the hemline outside of the wedge.

  9. And that’s our piece drafted really!  The back will work the same way.

One thing to note on the fronts, is that we’d normally cut it on the fold, but can’t because it curves so much.  That means we need to be a bit creative with our cutting.  I suggest cutting it out in 2-3 pieces and seaming together.  Do it at a different spot for each layer of material, so that  you don’t end up wit a real bulky seam anywhere.  Here are a few suggestions:

Sewing the Skirt

Like I said before, the “wedges” are indicated as a pie-shaped piece between solid lines. When completed, the solid lines should meet behind the bubble. I would start by assembling the skirt panel as usual, with the outer, base, and lining layers.

Once each panel is complete, fold with lining sides together so that the solid lines are lined up (like you’re sewing a dart). Stitch along the lines, from the top edge, just a little past the dropped waist seam (1.5 inches total?), to create the wedge.

Center the bubble on short “seam” you just sewed. The little lines on the pattern inside each wedge show where the bubble will get folded as it’s pressed down at the top of the skirt. They don’t need to be marked, I just thought they may help to visualize it.


If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments.  This is a funky skirt to draft, but so much fun!  Happy sewing!


*All dress photos in this post are copyright of Eire Designs/Gavin Doherty.

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