how to: add flare to a pattern

To know me is to know all about my undying love for fit and flare dresses and skirts. There’s something about a ladylike skirt that I can appreciate not only because it’s pretty, but because it’s comfortable and flattering. A trifecta, if you will. There are any number of ways to create fullness in a skirt, and this tutorial will cover two of them: adding fullness while maintaining the waistline (or other original seam; it could be a sleeve, a flounce, or lots of other things), and adding an equal amount of fullness from top to bottom.

I’m covering these two methods because I’ve put both into practice for myself recently, and some of you have asked me how I did it. Last fall, I made Butterick 5030, and I added fullness to the skirt while maintaining the original waistline. Then, for Christmas, I made Vogue 9197 and added fullness to the skirt which added to the sweep of the hem and also to the amount that was gathered into the waistline.

For this project you’ll need a ruler, yard, stick, tape, pencil, paper scissors, pattern paper, and a marker. For each method, I’musing a half circle skirt pattern to demonstrate the added fullness. The changes I make can be seen in grey paper.

Side note before we begin: the big hole at the top of my pattern is the hole I punch when I hang them up. Just wanted to clear that up, in case anyone was wondering what on earth was going on there. Anyway, here we go. The first method I’m going to show you is how to add fullness while maintaining the original waist or seam line. It adds the most fullness around the hem, so be mindful of that when it comes to pattern placement and the width of your fabric. For most fuller skirts, I cut them on the cross grain.

Mark lines on the waistline, more or less and equal distance from each other. You never want to add all of your fullness in one spot, especially if you’re adding a lot of fullness. This time, I’m adding fullness in two spots, which really means I’m adding it in four spots because the front skirt is cut on the fold. You can measure the distance from the side seam to center front and draw your lines an exact distance apart, but there’s no need to do that. As long as you’re adding fullness equally and evenly, you’re in good shape.

Here, I’ve marked two lines on my waistline where I will add fullness:

Using your yard stick, draw a line connecting the lines you just made on the waistline to the hem.

Repeat for all the other areas where fullness will be added.

Starting with one line, cut to but not through to the top of your pattern piece.

On one leg of the split, tape paper underneath your pattern. You want the other leg free to move. It will be taped down after we measure the amount of fullness to be added at the hem. (This will make more sense in a moment.)

Notice how the top of pattern is still connected but free enough to swing open.

At the hem, mark the amount of fullness to be added. In this tutorial, I added 5″.

Tape down the second leg of the original pattern.

Cut off excess paper from behind the original.

Repeat for all areas where fullness is added.

Using a French curve, redraw the original seam at the waistline and hem. This is called truing the pattern.

In this case, my waistline wasn’t too affected when I added flare but there are times when it becomes almost unrecognizable because of all the changes made to the pattern. Always, always true your pattern.

Now, to true the hem measure from the waistline to the hem in the areas where flare was added. For longer skirt, I like to use a yard stick.

Trim off excess paper and label your pattern. The end result will look something like this:

Now, to add flare an equal distance top to bottom, we repeat the steps outlined above except we completely split the pattern in order to add the fullness. The rules are the same for this method: add fullness evenly and true your pattern.

After the pattern has been adjusted and the waistline trued, it will look like this:

Last thing: if you’re adding flare to a skirt, remember to add the same amount to the front and back pieces, so that everything is balanced and hangs correctly. If you have any questions, let me know!

Have a great week!


  1. Margo Penn-Taylor | 22nd May 17

    Attempting to make b5030 with flare. Question, should I do the same flare on front and back pieces? Loving how you did this major tip!

    • Emily | 22nd May 17

      Hello Margo! I’m so glad the tip is helpful! Yes, absolutely add the same amount of flare to the back piece as you did the front. That way, the skirt will be nice and balanced. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. Teni | 27th Feb 17

    Thanks Emily…was just getting ready to attempt this on the V9197. Just in the nick of time 🙂 Really helpful tutorial

    • Emily | 1st Mar 17

      Hey, Teni! I’m so glad! 🙂

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