the sequin skirt

The subject of today’s post is not practical. It’s not an afternoon project, and it’s not really a project for beginner sewers.  It’s not something that will be worn more than a handful of times in its lifetime, and the cost-per-wear value is almost nonexistent. This skirt is not a lot of things but none of that matters, because this skirt is magnificent. It’s the every-once-in-a-while “treat” project, where we indulge ourselves a little and buy the pricey fabric and really invest the time into crafting and building a quality item of clothing. A special item, to be worn when you want to look and feel like a million bucks.

There’s a history behind this skirt. I designed the original, which I named ‘Charlotte’, a few years ago after seeing a truly special sequin fabric and envisioning a floor length skirt for myself out of it. A few months later, I included it in a spring collection as a test to see how customers would respond to it, and it was a hit. It was the single most expensive garment in the line to produce so eventually we had to stop selling it, but I’ve carried a torch for that skirt for years.

Late last year, I decided it was finally time to make one for myself, only it wouldn’t be floor length. I thought a lot about the length for this skirt. Floor length is obviously more elegant and showstopping, but it’s completely impractical. I mean, let’s all consider for a moment just how ridiculously impractical it really is. Where on earth would I ever wear a floor length sequin skirt? Even the semi-formal events that pop up on the calendar every once in a while certainly don’t call for a floor length skirt like this. Plus, it’s kind of a pain to wear, as skirts like this sometimes are. You’re constantly picking it up to walk up and down stairs or get in and out of a car, and it has an annoying way of trapping all the heat on earth underneath the skirt, surrounding your legs in suffocating temperatures more unbearable than Texas in July. But boy is it pretty.

Letting go of that design broke my heart just a little bit, because the shorter length doesn’t quite have that wow factor that the maxi has, but it still packs a punch. For me, the midi length is more versatile. I can style it for parties or formal events, but it also works for a special date night. It’s also appropriate year round in Texas, which is an important thing to consider when you invest so much time into making your clothes.

I wanted a skirt with some volume to it, but nothing too enormous. I drafted a half circle and that, the simple yet chic half circle, is the pattern for this skirt. (For more information on drafting this pattern, see this post from January.) The fabric is a sequin “cracked iced” design on white mesh, which I got from Fabrics World in NYC. I treated the sequin fabric like an eyelet or lace and underlined it in a bottomweight white twill, to help with support and give the skirt some body. The hem is finished with a facing, which is fully interfaced. The skirt is lined in bemberg rayon and I put an exposed zipper in the back. I did this for two reasons: there’s no chance of the fabric catching on the zipper, and it was the easiest zipper application for this skirt. Also, it matches and looks pretty great. I originally thought about using horsehair braid in the hem (which is why my facing is 6″ wide), but in the end decided there was no need. The skirt has just the right amount of volume in it.

Now, I apologize for these ugly nighttime photos, but I can’t do all my sewing during the day. I work well into the night sometimes, and these icky pictures are the proof.

First, I cut out all my pieces, and then I placed the sequin fabric on top of the twill and basted the two together at the side seams.

This step is very important. When you do this, be very careful not to stretch the sequin fabric too much, but also don’t allow any excess fabric to sit on top of the underlining. The idea behind using an underling is negated if the sequin fabric isn’t smoothed out, because that will show up in the skirt. When the skirt hangs up to let the bias fall, your side seams can become a mess if there’s too much sequin fabric there. The underlining and sequins should match perfectly.

This is also why I chose the simple half circle for my pattern. Anything with more fullness would have been a challenge to get right. Pro tip for choosing a pattern for sequin fabric: keep it simple. The fewer seams, the better.

Basting:

Then, all the pieces get sewn together and the waistband attached. Pro tip for sewing sequin fabrics: use a leather needle. It’s designed to pierce through skin, so it’s the toughest I’ve found when it comes to sewing with sequin fabrics. You still may lose a needle or two, but they hold up the best. Sew slowly and be very, very careful.

Next, I inserted the exposed zipper. (I will post a tutorial for that later on. We’d be here all day if I included it now!)

Once the zipper was in, I attached the waistband lining and let the skirt hang on the dress form for a few days. This was an important step to allow the bias to fall so I could even it out before attaching the hem facing.

The hem facing is sewn together and ready to be attached to the now leveled hem of the skirt.

I sewed the hem facing in sections, just to be extra careful and precise. I sew one half of the back, for example, then pin the other half, making my way around the sweep of the hem. It’s also important here to make sure the edge of the sequin fabric is even with the underlining and hem facing. Sometimes, the fabric sandwiched in the middle can shift around.

Then, the hem facing gets understitched, pressed, and catch stitched in place. I like catch stitches because there’s flexibility in the stitch which allows for movement, but it still holds everything in place. Plus, it’s so neat and pretty.

Lining is dropped in and hemmed, and just like that we have a skirt. And by “just like that” I mean “a long period of time.”

Pro tips for sewing sequin fabrics:

Always use a press cloth, and press your seams open where you can to eliminate bulk.

Never, ever run sequin fabric through the serger.

Expect a lot of sparkly bits to fly around when you cut, so wear safety glasses during this part of the process.

Plan to spend double or triple the sewing time for sequin projects, and do not rush or cut corners.

Sequin garments are best stored flat, with minimal folding. I like to keep them in a tissue paper lined plastic storage tote. Hanging garment like this can be stressful to the fabric, and we want happy, stress free garments in the closet.

I really like the idea of styling this skirt lots of different ways. I think it would be bananas with a gingham button up blouse, and trendy-hipster-cool-girl with a graphic tee and sneakers. So many options!

I have just enough of this fabric left to make a dress, so that might be a summer project. For now, this skirt is so much fun to wear, and I’m thrilled with the results. It was worth the time and energy, but that’s always the case. 🙂

Happy Sewing!

6 COMMENTS

  1. Brittany Jones | 12th Mar 17

    Gorgeous!!! I love it and your photos are beautiful!!! Thanks for the pro tips!!

  2. La Vonda C | 9th Mar 17

    How great is THAT?? What a beautiful piece, I love it. The tips about a leather needle & storing in a paper-lined tote were fabulous. I am looking for some sequined fabrics for an upcoming project & will keep this article in mind, thank you muchley! 🙂

  3. Alison | 8th Mar 17

    Gorgeous!

  4. Vava | 8th Mar 17

    Truly amazing. It’s well beyond my patience level though. I could see buying a skirt like this though, it would be great fun to wear with t-shirts and jean jackets! Beautifully done!!

  5. Jess | 8th Mar 17

    So pretty. Sometimes impractical wins the day! Gotta have some fun, right? With sequins, I’ve always heard to remove sequins at and within the seam allowance, but I see you just powered on through with your leather needle. Thoughts on the former?

    • Emily | 8th Mar 17

      Hey! Yes, you’re right about removing them from the seam allowances. I do that with the type of sequin fabric where each sequin is sewn on individually, like paillettes. With an all over design like my fabric, I just powered through and graded the seams. My sequins weren’t coming off–they were sewn on for good! 🙂

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