Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How to Sew a 50's Novelty Skirt With No Pattern Part 1

While circle skirts are the cool kid of the 50's wardrobe, the gathered skirt is a staple of the retro/pinup closet. It doesn't take as much fabric as circle skirts, and it's much more forgiving of novelty print fabrics that may run in a certain direction. Here's a gathered skirt from Pinup Couture:
So Cute Skeleton Skirt! Available for Purchase at Pinup Girl Clothing

Often called a Dirndl, the gathered skirt is pretty much just two giant rectangles gathered at the waist, so its a great easy skirt for new seamstresses.  In this post, I am going to use two different fabrics to make two dirndls. The first fabric is a novelty car print I bought at Joann Fabrics on a stashing binge. There is 2 1/2 yards (2.3 meters) of this fabric, and it is a 42/45 inch.



The second is 2 yards of a 60 inch wide cotton that I purchased at S.R. Harris, a fabric warehouse in the twin cities. I am in love with it:


Your required materials will most likely be 2 1/2 yards of fabric, a half yard of interfacing, and matching thread. If you are a curvy girl this should still be fine, although you won't have as much fullness. if you want FULL, you can purchase 3 1/2 and we'll talk about how to add another panel later. You will also need a zipper that is at least 7" long ( the longer the zipper the more wiggle you have to get into the skirt.

The first thing you need to do is measure yo' self. Just two measurements. Your waist- Mine right now is about 29".  And how long you like your skirts- I usually like mine to be about 25" give or take because they hit just around my knee. 

The resemblance is striking...

After you have those measurements you need to add a bit to them so you have room to get into the finished skirt. I like to put a button or a hook and eye on the waistband because that way if I eat too many cookies I can move the closure without having to take apart the whole skirt. 
Remember that I said my waist is 29, so I'm going to say that my waist piece needs to be 34". That will give me extra room for seams, a button overlap, and cookie adjustment.

I also like to have a pretty big hem on my skirts because I can put some stiffening stuff in there to make the skirt stand out. If you are trying to use less fabric you don't have to. You can just add an inch onto how long you'd like it to be (which would make it 26" for me)

So let's recap:
You should have your own set of measurements:
Your waist + 5 inches.
How long you want the skirt + 1 inch.

Here's how you'll cut your fabric:



I cut my fabric from both skirts and ended up with three pieces for each skirt- The two identical skirt panels and the waistband piece.  I would advise using a lightweight interfacing on the inside of the skirt waistband to give it some oomph. If you are a curvy girl and you want a full skirt you can do this by adding another panel. Here's how you can lay that out:


If your waist is up to 40" you can cut one waistband strip. If your waist is above 40" you will need to cut 2 waistband strips.

Okay that was a lot of brain activity. Cut your skirt pieces and I will continue the sewing part in part two!









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