5 Questions for Determining Whether to Sew a Circle Skirt or Gathered Rectangle Skirt?

Designer: Mary Stanley

Instagram: @whatmommamakesig



Tools and Supplies Needed:


Have you ever had a pattern than included both options for a circle skirt and a gathered rectangle skirt and you just weren’t sure which skirt option to choose? No worries, I have been there too! 


Let's take these two Goodwill finds and decide which skirt option will be best for them together!



We will be using just one pattern – the Catherine pattern from Violette Field Threads – but by the end of this article it may be hard to recognize them as the same pattern.  Isn’t that a great thing about a super versatile pattern?


  1. So the very first thing I look at when trying to decide between a rectangle or circle skirt is how much fabric I have to work with. Circle skirts require more fabric than a rectangle skirt – so if you are very limited with your fabric, the rectangle may be the only option. Circle skirts also do not work well for a fabric with a directional print, as some of it will end up being upside down – so that is something else to consider in your initial decision.


  1. Once you’ve determined if you have enough fabric for either the rectangle or the circle skirt option, the next thing I like to look at is the edge of my fabric (or repurposed items like in this case). Is there a border print? Lace along the bottom?  A nice already hemmed straight edge you would like to use for the bottom of your skirt so that the sewing process is quicker? In all of these instances, you’ll want to go with a rectangle skirt, as you can see here, if we used the circle skirt we would be missing out on most of that decorated edge.



We can see for this white sheet set I found at the Goodwill, it would work best with a rectangle skirt.  This allows me to make the most of that embroidery along the edge while also saving myself some time by not having to hem the edge of the skirt.



  1. I also knew I wanted to create some exterior pockets for this skirt, and attaching pockets to a rectangle skirt is much easier for alignment than figuring out where to place them for a circle skirt. Using your OLFA Frosted Ruler and 45mm rotary cutter is such a quick way to cut out some big rectangle pockets! Of course you can add pockets to any dress but the rectangle skirt is very easy to do!



Now for this vintage tablecloth that I found, there is enough fabric to do either the circle skirt, or the rectangle skirt.  There isn’t an edge I’m particularly wanting to use for the bottom of the skirt, as it is an oblong shape.



I will definitely pull off that black bias tape and use it in the dress (for sleeve ties and for detail on the skirt), but it will not be the bottom edge of my skirt.  TIP: Your rotary cutters are the quickest way to accurately cut out your circle skirts, and using your 5 inch precision scissors works the BEST for removing heavy embroidery thread along edges like this!



  1. But this tablecloth brings up another thing to consider though when trying to decide between the rectangle or circle skirt – and that is weight of your fabric. This fabric is a tad on the heavy side – not like a canvas or something super heavy, just a heavy weighted cotton. It’s probably something I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards for a garment due to the weight, however the print on it just screamed a 1950’s inspired vintage Christmas dress, so we will make it work! Thankfully the tablecloth provided enough fabric to create the circle skirt, meaning: NO GATHERING!  Gathering stiff/heavyweight fabric can be a pain, and also can cause extra bulkiness or discomfort at the waist of your garment. 



And finally, once you’ve checked:

  1. Sufficient Fabric?
  2. Border print or detailed edge?
  3. Pockets?
  4. Weight of Fabric for gathering


Then it truly comes down to:


  1. WHO/WHAT you are sewing the garment for! My daughter absolutely loves to have the twirliest of dresses – meaning I try and sew her lots of dresses with circle skirts, as they pack the most twirl factor. But if I am sewing a dress for myself, I usually go with something with a rectangle skirt for everyday wear (so I can have some easy/deep exterior pockets for easy access to all of my sewing supplies), or something with a circle skirt for a little fancier of an event.


So what do you think of these two thrifted looks?  Which style would you choose to sew for yourself? The gathered rectangle skirt or the circle skirt?