Claire and Cherry Pie

Graceful in the Garden – the full, gathered skirt

The first sewing project of the year would have to be something simple enough to make with my injured hand (never underestimate the dangers of a tail comb!) and finished in time to add to my wardrobe for Ballarat Beat Rockabilly Festival.  The full skirt is a staple in the wardrobe of any 50’s fashion lover and Rock n’ Roll dancer because of it’s flattering shape and fun swishy skirt.  The Vintage Dancer blog has a great post on skirt styles of the 1950s with more information on gathered and pencil skirt styles.  The full skirt can be attained in several different ways – the most popular in the 50s being a full circle, gathered waist, pleats, gored styles and layered tiers.  Out of all of these the gathered waist skirt is possibly the easiest to make – so that is what I chose!

1950s full skirts from a Sears catalogue Source

1950s full skirts in a 1958 Sears catalogue

There are simple, clear instructions in my new favourite book; Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, on how to draft your pattern and make the skirt.  Or you can find the instructions on her blog.  It’s super simple, anyone can do it.  All you need is fabric (meterage depends on how full you want the skirt to be), a dress zip and a bit of interfacing for the waistband.

Three main features I like in a full skirt are; enough fullness to be able to wear a crinoline under it on occasion without it looking stretched or squashed but not so much fullness that it becomes unflattering and bulky without a crinoline, enough length to cover said crinoline (below my knees) and pockets – who doesn’t love pockets!  I think more things should have pockets.

Thanks to my hoarding tendencies I already had everything on hand!  I made the skirt using:

  • 3m of printed cotton from my fabric stash that I had bought because it was on sale at Spotlight some time ago and had no immediate plans for it,
  • 18cm invisible dress zipper from my zip stash,
  • Iron-on interfacing,
  • White cotton lining for the pockets.
Sweet floral print fabric from my magical never-ending fabric stash

Sweet floral print fabric from my magical never-ending fabric stash

Once you know how much fullness you want in the skirt (so how big the pieces are going to be) putting it together is quite straightforward.  There is no interesting cutting, stitching or strange angles as the gathered waist does all the work.  It’s pretty much machine stitching straight lines, hand gathering the waist and putting in a zip – so if you can do that you’re set!

I chose 26 inches for the length of the skirt (with a 4 inch allowance for a double hem) to hit below my knees as the majority of my crinolines are 22-24 inches so that will cover them nicely – I also think it’s a flattering length for my height, shape and the length of my legs.

I incorporated the pocket pattern from the shirtwaist dress pattern series, using the instructions on making the shirtwaist dress on page 183 of the book, to add pockets to the skirt.

Eve on the mannequin

Skirt on the mannequin

Sorry the photo isn’t great, I’m still setting up the craft room and have limited space!

I must confess that I am completely in love with this fabric and regret not buying more.  I now vow to never buy less than 4m of a dress fabric if I don’t have a specific plan for it (unless it is for millinery).  For fabric I had intended to use to mock something up or play around with it has exceeded my expectations!

Here it is in action at Ballarat Beat 2015!  Accompanying me in the photo are the lovely Miss Bettie B Goode – who had just come Runner up in the Miss Pinup Doll Victoria pageant (shown here wearing a gathered full skirt she made in adorable retro rocket print) and Melissa Johnson who spent the weekend working tirelessly in Glamour Central helping the ladies at the Beat look even more fabulous.

With the gorgeous Miss Bettie B Goode (left) and Melissa Johnson (right)

With the gorgeous Miss Bettie B Goode (left) and Melissa Johnson (right)


  • The waistband is slightly loose but that’s ok as my waist measurement fluctuates a bit for mysterious reasons of its own, oh the joys of odd chronic illnesses!  Next time I will make it slightly smaller but for now – that’s what belts are for 😀
  • The fabric is very thin so requires a petticoat, crinoline or lining.  I would have liked to have made a horsehair braid hem underskirt in plain white cotton for it but ran out of time.
  • At some point I will make a shirt to go with Eve, possibly the keyhole blouse from Gertie’s book in a soft, red jersey.
  • I’m obsessed with matching things at the moment – there were some lovely trends with matching accessories to clothing, particularly in the early 50’s.  I would love to make gloves and/or trim a hat with the offcuts of this fabric.  Something like this – how divine!

Are you making anything special at the moment?


Max Heyman design, 1951. Found on Gemeente Museum Den Haag

Max Heyman design, 1951. Found on Gemeente Museum Den Haag


  1. rachelfaithcox

    Claire, it’s gorgeous! And yes, you must make some accessories to match. Oh how I love matchy matchy!

    1. Claire

      Matchy matchy is where it’s at! So glad you like it Rachel 😀

  2. Jana

    Love the pic of the three of you! Full of colour and fun. 🙂 Best wishes from Toronto, Jana

    1. Claire

      Thank you Jana! I am very lucky to know such gorgeous, photogenic ladies 🙂

  3. Bettie B Goode

    Hello Miss Cherry, Thank you so much for using our picture in your new blog- very special. Good luck for the crafting and you create a pleasant read. Looking forward to seeing you soon, love Bettie

    1. Claire

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading my piece Miss Bettie! Thank you for your kind words 🙂
      Looking forward to seeing you soon too.

  4. Jill Teresa Farmer

    My mother always taught me to buy at least 3 yards, so I’m with you on that. (She once bought 6 yards because she was so overcome with ideas about how to use it!). Enjoyed your post so much!

    1. Claire

      Your mother sounds like a very wise woman Jill. I think 6 yards is perfectly reasonable, it must have been some fabulous fabric!
      Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂


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