I'm really happy with how the guard turned out and how it affects the skirt. There are no visible machine stitches on the guard which is my first time doing it this way, and I know I'll never do it any other way. It's sewn onto the bottom of the skirt about 6 inches up inside out, then turned under the hem and whipstitched all around on the inside. I was surprised that it only took me under an hour to whipstitch it all, considering how much yardage is in the skirt. This way wasn't as time consuming as I expected and I think it's the proper way to do the guard. The heavy velvet also makes the skirt hang better as this silk is very stiff.
I am debuting this gown at an event in 6 days, where I'll take more pictures with better lighting. The last picture posted here is the true color of the outfit.