Follow along and see how I sewed a linen split-side skirt, the perfect customizable skirt for everyday, cottagecore, historybounding, and more!
I have a confession to share with you: I am terrified of sewing with knit fabrics. To this day I still haven’t tried it. All of the clothing I have sewn for myself has been made of woven fabrics without any stretch. While this makes the construction process a lot easier, it often means the fit isn’t adjustable.
Enter the split side skirt. This type of skirt construction was popular in the 18th century for petticoats. I don’t know why they went out of fashion! They have a simple construction, adjustable waistband, can be made into any number of styles and lengths, and you can add pockets. Giant pockets.
These types of skirts are starting to make a comeback. I’ve been inspired to make my own split-side skirt after watching some videos by Ash L G and The Stitchery on YouTube. You should go watch them too! Not only are they super entertaining, but informative and helpful.
So follow along as I sew my own linen split-side skirt, and I bet I’ll inspire you to make one of your own!
What exactly is a split-side skirt?
A split-side skirt, unsurprisingly, is a skirt with slits on the sides.
This may sound like a bad idea if you don’t want anyone to see what underwear you are wearing that day, but the sides split so they can overlap. This provides not only modesty but also adjustability without using elastic or stretch fabrics. You can tie the skirt tighter one day, or looser another and it will still look great.
The main construction pieces you need are a front skirt panel, a back skirt panel, a waistband for each, and a way to close each half.
What’s so great about a split-side skirt anyway?
Split-side skirts are extremely versatile – basically, they are the choose-your-own-adventure of skirts. They can be adapted to just about any shape, size, length, pattern, or material you can think of.
And you can add pockets. Not just any pockets, but truly enormous pockets. Pockets within pockets even!
This style of skirt doesn’t need much in the way of materials. You can make one using only fabric and thread. How much fabric you need depends on your size, how full you want your skirt, and how long you want your skirt.
For my skirt, I will also be using a bit of one-inch twill tape, but it isn’t a requirement.
I chose blue-grey linen from my stash that I had several yards of, but you can use just about any fabric you want. Different fabric textures will yield different results. Since my skirt is linen, it has great drape and is very breathable.
You can sew this skirt together with a sewing machine or by hand with a needle and thread. With the simple construction of these styles of skirts, they make ideal hand-sewing projects, although it may take a while to sew by hand if you have a particularly long or full skirt.
In the interest of saving time, I opted to machine sew mine.
You’ll also want some other basic sewing supplies: pins, scissors, something to mark the fabric with, measuring tape, and an iron and ironing board.
Cutting out the pieces
There are so many options when designing a split-side skirt. I wanted to keep construction fairly basic, so I opted for straight skirt panels that would gather down at the waist. I cut straight across the fabric, from selvage to selvage, for maximum fullness. This will make finishing easier later.
I did not have enough room to lay out my fabric to cut out the skirt panels evenly. To get a straight line I pulled a thread out of the weave all the way across.
This made a mark I knew was straight and I could follow to cut out my panels even in my cramped work space.
You can use whatever shape of skirt panel you like as long as you have a seam on each side for the opening.
You’ll also want two waistband pieces. These should be a bit longer than half of your waist circumference so that they will overlap when they are done.
Note: if you are adding pockets, read ahead before cutting out your waistbands to learn from my mistakes.
How wide the waistband is really depends on your preference. For this skirt, I went with a two-inch waistband.
I also wanted pockets, so I cut out four layers of giant pockets to add to this skirt. These are shaped sort of like a right triangle with the top corner cut off.
The straight edge will be the side that attaches to the side of the back skirt panel where there will be a gap for a hand to slide in. The curved edge will be loose inside the skirt and the top edge will be incorporated into the waistband of the back panel.
In some of The Stitchery’s videos, she sometimes adds an extra pocket inside her pockets. She calls these “purse pockets” and I think these are a fantastic idea!
I had enough fabric left over to cut out a piece to cover about half of the bottom of one pocket to make my own “purse pocket.”
A couple more things
The last thing you will need is some way to close the front panels and the back panels. The simplest option is some sort of tie, which is what I’ll be using. You can also use buttons, hook and eyes, or even lacing.
I cut out long strips of my linen to make decorative ties for the front panel, and I will use the one-inch twill tape to make simple ties for the back panel. This will reduce a bit of bulk and is easier than sewing more ties.
With everything cut out, I started sewing together the pockets first.
I only had enough fabric to add one extra internal pocket, so I wanted this to be on the right side pocket since I am right-handed.
After a bit of mental gymnastics, I made sure I had all the pieces laid out so I would have a left and a right side pocket.
I started with the left pocket since it was the easier one without the extra inner pocket.
The basic steps to sew the pocket are as follows:
- Double fold and sew down the straight edge of the top of the pocket (this is where your hand will slide in)
- Lay the two fabric pieces right sides together and sew along the bottom and curved side.
- Turn this seam inside out and iron down.
- Sew another seam around the same edge to encase the first
Seems simple right?
As soon as I sewed the first seam I realized I already made a mistake. The layers of the pocket weren’t lined up properly and I sewed too close to the edge. This meant I didn’t actually sew both layers all the way around the pocket and there was a huge hole in the bottom. Not ideal for a pocket.
Luckily, this was easily fixed by sewing over the seam again, a bit further in.
The rest of the pocket assembly went smoothly. I even layered the fabric correctly so the extra pocket ended up inside the big pocket.
Sewing the pockets to the back skirt panel
With the pockets complete they were ready to add to the back skirt panel.
Because the sides of the panel still had their selvage edges I just went for it and sewed on the fight side pocket on.
After adding the first pocket I realized I should have folded back the selvage edge and sewn it down before adding the pocket for a nicer finish, but since this edge won’t show anywhere I went ahead and sewed the left side pocket on as well.
Remember when I said to be careful how you cut your waistband when you are adding pockets?
It was at this point that I realized I hadn’t made the back panel waistband long enough to have the tops of the pockets incorporated into the waistband.
Fortunately, there was a big enough scrap in the leftover fabric to extend the waistband I already had enough to cover the pockets as well.
Having the extra seams actually made lining up the skirt panels easier a bit later.
Before adding the skirt panel to the waistband I needed to do a bit of ironing to get the waistband ready.
First I ironed in half the long way, then ironed up a half-inch of seam allowance all around the waistband. Having the creases makes it easier to line everything up.
Gather it up
Originally I had planned to pleat the extra fabric into the waistband, but at the last minute, I changed my mind and gathered it down instead. This was mostly because gathering seemed easier and I couldn’t be bothered to try to make even pleats.
I ran the top edge of the back skirt panel under the sewing machine with a long basting stitch, then pulled on the threads to make the gathers.
Like my corded petticoat, I only did one row of stitches before gathering down. This is very risky. You can snap the thread and have to start all over again. Once again, I got lucky and have still not learned my lesson.
Using an excessive amount of pins, I got the skirt top into the waistband and sewed them together.
Before sewing down the other half of the waistband I made sure to add a length of twill tape to each side so there would be something to hold up the back of the skirt in the end.
Then I sewed the rest of the waistband down by hand, sewed down the ends of the twill tape, and the back skirt panel was done.
Ties for the front skirt panel
Before sewing the front skirt panel I sewed the two ties. Since these will show when I wear the skirt I wanted them to look nice.
They are essentially two long strips of fabric, sewn into a tube, then flipped inside out to hide the raw edges. I tapered one end to make a nice finish to the ties.
The flipping inside-out process was fiddly and took longer than I had anticipated. Having a few different-sized drop spindles ended up being helpful for poking the fabric through.
Front skirt panel
The front skirt panel was easier than the back since it didn’t have pockets.
I remembered to sew down each selvage edge for a nice edge on this panel. It was more important on the front panel since it would show when the skirt was worn.
Then I gathered down the top and added a waistband, just like the back panel. The two matching ties were added to the waistband instead of twill tape.
Finishing the skirt
With the front and back panel finished the two side seams were sewn shut, leaving a big enough gap at the top so I can actually get in the skirt. This was about 10 inches.
Then all that was left was evening out and finishing the hem and the skirt was done!
I love how this skirt turned out. It is easy to wear and style. And I can fit so much in the pockets!
My skirt is long, full, and dramatic for maximum swooshy-ness. I plan on incorporating it in my everyday wardrobe, but a skirt like this would be perfect for a Renaisance faire outfit, a cottagecore look, or just general historybounding.
Even though my skirt has a very traditional feel, you can easily give it a more modern look by playing with the length and panel shape.
If you want to see more sewing projects, click here.
What is your favorite style of skirt? Let me know in the comments below!