Troubleshooting: Vertical Skirt Crease

So, I made this dress for Aislinn last year:
(Aislinn, Meave saw this dress on the dummy and asked if I could please make her a special dress just like it…and then she had to get a picture “in it”…so that is what this is!)

When I sent it off, it looked like this:

Can you see the difference? Yes, it is on a hanger in the above pic, but the issue I have to deal with has nothing to do with whether or not it is on a hanger or a dress dummy. Here’s the problem:


Looks like a belling issue caused by faulty connection between the bodice and the skirt…but is it?


No, it is belling caused by a vertical crease…


The creases that have been danced into this center front panel are faintly visible above.  Below I have drawn colors over the fault lines.  Pink are auxiliary lines to the main weak lines in red.


When I fold the CFP, you can see the fold lines a different way.


I can even feel them…which is what the gratuitous pic is below…I just love this lining fabric!


So…what happened, why, and how do I fix it?

What happened?  Why?  Well, let me “free form think” this out:

One of the problems that Susan and I were seeing and trying to avoid, at the time, were the horizontal creases (hip to hip) that appear on single panel, flat front dresses…there was talk of it on the boards and evidence in pics everywhere.  I likened them to sandwich boards.  (Notice that trend seems to have died out…thank the dance costuming gods!)  That horizontal crease was happening because unless there were HUGE pleats behind the front side panels AND the dancer was flat as a board, the crease was going to happen in response to the stress caused by kicking and even sitting.  The weight of these dresses means that the creation of the crease was a faster and easier answer for the skirt to the power of the fast kicks…the crease could happen easier than lifting the whole front panel.  The swoop dresses had the same problem to deal with.

Our journey here: Swoop dress center front panel

According to the dancers, and according to the evidence, with this swoop dress construction, we eliminated the horizontal crease…there are none in these pics.  But, because the CFP is a separately moving entity UNDER the FSPs, there is stress being placed vertically, directly center on the CFP.  The FSPs are like walls that the CFP is trying to squeeze through…hence the vertical creases.  Does that make sense?

For me, now, this is big Duh.

How do I fix it?  I fix it with good old steel boning.


I need two strips to stabilize the CFP horizontally: one near the top so the CFP can no longer be pushed through the FSPs, and one near the bottom to prevent any vertical folding when Aislinn kicks.  I am not going to put the bottom boning on the back side of the the CFP, however.


I am going to put it on the front, underneath the pleated fabric.

First I have to prep these pieces of boning so that they are as unobtrusive as possible when they are on the skirt.


First, I sew the pieces to strips of Firmflex.


I apply wonder-under to pieces of the skirt lining, and the pleat underlining.


Cut the fabric around the wonder-under and place the strips.


Fuse the fabric to the front sides of the strips.




Finish fusing.


After I have carefully steamed the creases out of the CFP…


…this is where I place the boning strips.

These will be hand sewn.  Every few stitches, I will go all the way through the Firmflex to make sure these strips do their duty well!

I have a few quick alterations to complete on this dress, and then I will post pics of the dress with its corrected skirt hang.  You can see that here: Troubleshooting: Vertical Skirt Crease, Part II

(Suzanne pointed out that the ends of the boning should be finished off so there is no poking through at all.  I had forgotten in the pics, remembered at 3 am, so went back and added my usual which is either cloth bandaid tape or a bit of gauze and tape.  No pics though.  You just want to cover the sharp steel ends.)

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lymabean
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 10:48:33

    Tell Maeve, she has to get back to Irish dancing, then one day she can have the dress! (Hmmmm, I guess you’d really have some alterations on your hands then.)
    Aislinn is looking at this (school cancelled today — storms last night, schools without power)& wondering how it will feel to kick into that bottom boning….

  2. spudsnsalsa
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 12:04:12

    My clients would look at the pictures and say, “Oh, the re-bar trick!” Since there are quite a few building contractors in this area it was the one way I could described my planned “fix” for the folds. It is also a quick way to ‘restiffen’ smaller panels when it’s not worth the time or materials to try and do a proper reconstruction. Fantastic for the ‘night before the O” panic of having a too limp dress 🙂 Many a hotel room hanger went under the wirecutters blades and was then slid into a microscopic hole in the hem(or made in a lining) and whipstiched from the backside to hold it in place….ah the memories…goodtimes when Mom’s were grateful for your last minute ingenuity!
    Two comments:
    Might you want to emphasize to newer dressmakers that not only is the layered covering process a camoflage technique but also needed to keep the metal boning from ‘cutting’ the lining as the dancer moves the panel while dancing?
    I have also taken to treating the two ends of the metal boning with either a generous bead of hot glue or dipping into the rubberized latex (that my DH uses on his tool’s hand grips) before wrapping to reduce the incidence of the boning cutting it’s way out the end of the sleeve.
    Lymabean: I’ve done this countless times and have never had anyone comment on even feeling the bar let alone finding it a hinderence to their kicks. Suzanne

  3. taoknitter
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 12:45:16

    Lynette, that’s part of the reason I put it in the front. She shouldn’t feel a thing!

  4. irishdancingrosie
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 19:46:01

    how clever! I just wanted to say that the embroidery on that dress is sooo beautiful, as is the underskirt fabric…is it batik?

  5. carrie13
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 09:19:06

    I have always put steel boning into my skirts and thought I was a real weirdo. It always made them look and perform so much better. I also treat the ends with glue, so that they don’t tear the sheaths. Brilliant minds…

  6. lymabean
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 09:46:41

    Irishdancingrosie, yes, it’s a batik I found at After hours of fabric shopping, I just wasn’t thrilled with any of the underskirt fabrics that Aislinn, Ann, Susan & I had come across. We even bought one, but I went home knowing it wasn’t right, so I launched a huge local store & internet search. When I saw this, I knew it was the thing.
    They no longer carry that specific one (I bought the last of it then!), but they have many that are fantastic. Lynette

  7. hsiehmom
    Mar 07, 2008 @ 20:08:26

    I had to do that to my daughter’s swoop skirt. I hid the boning with in the lining fabric and embroidered a saying across it, then attached a flower on each side for decoration. It appears as though it was planned to look that way.

  8. alex22152
    Mar 09, 2008 @ 04:46:26

    As mentioned above, I love the heavy embroidery on the bodice. Frankly, I prefer to see the center panel pulled up just a tad above the 2 side swoops to avoid the “heavy diaper” look, but a beautiful dress, nonetheless.

  9. lymabean
    Mar 14, 2008 @ 08:30:28

    alex22152: Just thought I’d mention the center panel IS a tinch shorter than the 2 side panels. It’s the angle at which Ann took the photos that makes it look otherwise. Looking at the dress in person on my daughter, you don’t get the “diaper” at all. (I really dislike that look too!)

  10. Trackback: Swoop dress center front panel « Taoknitter

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