Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud

HelenGilbert Hacks, Gilbert Top, Guest Bloggers23 Comments

Gilbert Dress Hack #2

Hello everyone! Today we have Samantha from @purplesewingcloud and the Purple Sewing Cloud blog! Sam is here to show us how she made this gorgeous Gilbert dress hack with a gathered skirt and, of course, POCKETS! We have been admirers of Sam for quite some time and we are thrilled to have her join us on the blog!

Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud
Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud

Hi, I’m Samantha from @purplesewingcloud. I’m a maker with disabilities and chronic health conditions living in the North East of England. I recently hacked a version of the Gilbert top to make a dress and Helen has asked me to write a blog post all about how I did it. So strap in and here we go!

For reference, I’m using a size 16 with the D-cup. My measurements at the time of sewing were bust 40’ full bust 44’ waist 38’ hip 49’ but these can fluctuate dramatically due to my health conditions. For the top version I grade out to an 18 at the waist to accommodate my hips.

I’m using a cotton sateen from Nerida Hansen Fabrics. This hack needs around 2.75 metres, but you may require more if you are sewing a different size, pattern matching or using a directional print. I think any light to medium weight cottons, linens or double gauze would be perfect.

How to Make this Gilbert Dress Hack

Bodice pattern – To start, I’ve traced the front and back bodice pieces. I’ve used a purple pen to trace the pattern lines then a blue marker for anything additional. I have a neurological condition and doing this helps my brain to process the changes that I’m making.

I’ve marked my waistline on the front bodice. Then marked 1 5/8″ (the seam allowance) below the waistline. I’ve then measured how much was below the 2nd line to the hem and removed this using the shortening lines on the pieces. You can have your bodice on the waistline if you prefer but as this is a loose fit my personal preference is to drop the waist slightly. You just need to remember to include seam allowances.

Mark a notch on the centre line of the button placket.

Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Repeat this to shorten the back lower bodice. Add a notch near the fold at the bottom to help you attach your skirt. 

Gilbert Top Dress Hack

For the facing, I’ve marked where the front bodice finishes rather than trace a whole new piece. I will instead fold this up when I’m cutting out the fabric.

Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Pocket pattern – I have left the pocket off the bodice and I’m just doing pockets on the skirt. Even though you can never have enough in my opinion.

You will need to draft a pocket piece with a right angle at the top. You can always trace around an existing pocket piece and then extend the height and width across the top, which is what I have done here.

Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Cut 2 copies of this pocket and draw a scooped section on one of them. Make this scoop big enough for your hand, phone, or most importantly snacks to fit in. The scoop I have done is 5’ across and 5.5’ down. At the top of the scoop on the pocket facing, make a 5/8’ notch (for your seam allowance) and transfer this onto your other pocket piece. Align the pocket piece with the bodice and mark the notch again. Hay presto, you now have pockets to forage snacks from!

Gilbert Top Dress Hack
Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Skirt pattern – The back skirt should be 1/3 wider than the hem of your back bodice. Cue the math!

Example – my hem on the fold of the back bodice is 13 5/8″. If we remove the seam allowance (which is 5/8″) and then multiply by 3, it gives us 39″. We then re-add the seam allowance, remembering to multiply it by 2 (for each side seam). This gives us a width for the skirt, which in this example is 40.2″.

For the length, I want mine just above the knee so I’ve gone with 22″ + a seam allowance of 5/8″ + hem allowance of 2″. This gives a total length of 24 5/8″.

Therefore, my back skirt is 40.2″ by 24 5/8″ (if you’re cutting this on the fold, cut the width measurement in half.)

Phew! Now onto the front skirt.

The front skirt is slightly different, as there are no gathers across the pockets. We will need some measurements to draft it first. Measure between the pocket notch and the centre notch on the bodice and then between the pocket notch and the side.   

The measurement between the pocket notch and the side is multiplied by 2, and the measurement between the pocket notch and the centre is multiplied by 3. We then add both of these measurements together. You don’t need to remove and re-add the seam allowance for this bit.

Example – the side seam to pocket notch is 5.5″ multiple by 2, gives us 11″. The pocket notch and centre notch is 7 ¾” multiple by 3 gives us 23 ¼”. These added together give us 34 ¼”

Then use the same length you calculated for the back skirt.

So my front skirt is 34.¼”  by 24.⅝” (if you’re cutting this on the fold, half the width measurement.)

Take your pocket facing pattern piece and trace the pocket opening curve onto the skirt top corners, then cut this out. 

At this point, you might like to make a toile to check the fit of your garment. It will be a looser fit as the shirt is designed this way. If it is your preference for it to be more fitted you could add some ties to the sides to bring in the waist.

Sewing the bodice – Sew the bodice according to the instructions but leave the hem and the bottom of the facing open. I have used 3 buttons on this dress, using the guide for view A. Once you have completed your button holes and buttons, the next stage is to baste the button plackets together at the bottom. I like to use 2 lines of basting, one at around an 1″ and one at 0.5″. This will stop it moving around. I also prefer to use a contrast colour for my basting and gathers as I have issues with my vision and this makes them more visible to me.

Gilbert Top Dress Hack
Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Sewing the pockets – Stay stitch or use some seam tape around the curve for your pocket on the skirt.

Place the pocket facing right sides together onto the skirt matching the curve and stitch with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Then trim, grade and notch.

Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Flip the pocket over, press and topstitch 1/4″.

Sew the back pocket piece on and finish the seam. Baste the side of the pocket but leave the top open.

Gilbert Top Dress Hack
Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Sewing the Skirt – Sew side seams, press toward the back and finish the seams.

Sew gathers along the back of the skirt and on the front between the pockets. You can pin the pockets out of the way to stop them getting caught. The pins I am using are by Prym and are really excellent if you have problems gripping small objects. The heads are extra large and ergonomic, and particularly good if – like me – you sometimes lose dexterity in your hands. 

Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Pin the gathers along the back. If you prefer you can sew the back now or complete the front and then sew the whole thing in one go.

Whilst pinning the front, ensure the pocket tops are smooth and the seam lines match up, then pin the gathers matching the notches for the pocket. Once you’ve pinned all the gathers you can pin the pockets over the top, ensuring they are smooth.

Gilbert Top Dress Hack

Sew the skirt to the bodice, then finish the seam and press towards the bodice.

Then all that’s left to do is hem the skirt and you’re done! You have a beautiful dress to wear, complete with snack pockets!

Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud
Gilbert Top Dress Hack
Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud

I love the loose relaxed fit and know this will be a staple in my wardrobe. This is an easy throw on dress for the summer and I think it will look very cute through the colder months with a chunky cardigan and some wooly tights.

Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud
Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud
Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud

I can’t wait to see all your lovely makes, so please feel free to tag me on Instagram (@purplesewingcloud) so I can see them.

Stay safe and happy sewing,

Gilbert Top Dress Hack by Samantha from Purple Sewing Cloud

About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

23 Comments on “Gilbert Dress Hack #2”

  1. I have been imagining this hack for a while and this is soooo helpful seeing all these details. Thank you!!

  2. This is my favorite Gilbert hack, it is stunning and I’m inspired to give it a try!! Wonderful post Samantha!

  3. 100% adorable-cute, great fabric, fit is superb, love that you’re sharing with ‘us’ (Vermont , USA) Thank you!

    1. Double yay! We’re so excited to hear that you enjoyed this guest blog post from Samantha 🙂

  4. When I was reading it, I was having a lot of fun with it. Even I’ve enjoyed reading a few more posts. I appreciate your time and effort in putting this article together. I noticed you can spend a lot of time reading comments and replying to comments. You care a lot more. I have seen all your posts so far. It was as successful as the previous posts.

  5. Pingback: #MakeNine2021 – My Plans – Drama Seam

  6. So glad I found this hack– I’m trying to make a dress that’s good for late pregnancy and postpartum and I think the button top with gathered skirt is perfect! And I love the Gilbert Tops I’ve already made–the tie front is already a great maternity/non-maternity pattern to wear with high waisted skirts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *