Claire and Cherry Pie

Ten tips to creating pinup perfect skirts

I have been visiting the world of skirts a lot since I posted about making my Graceful in the Garden skirt and there’s a good reason for this; skirts are awesome! There are so many types of skirts to choose from that were popular in the 1940s and 50s if you are looking to add a bit of vintage flair to your wardrobe. Skirts are versatile; one skirt can be part of many different outfits and go from summer to winter.  That’s the great thing about separates! A basic skirt can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion and there is so much variety in fabric and style to choose from – there is a skirt to flatter any shape and many styles have reappeared again and again over the decades for this very reason.  So I’ve been doing some research, having a look around for some future skirt projects I can have a go at to add to my wardrobe and I thought I’d share what I’ve found!

How the fashionistas wear them:
Lets start with some skirt-spiration to whet the appetite. Here is a collection of skirt posts from 4 fabulous fashion bloggers who have oodles of style and flair.

Vintage Current –
Wrap circle skirt

Candice DeVille is the epitome of modern vintage glamour. I honestly don’t think she could put an outfit together that would look anything less than amazing. Whether it is formal wear or completely casual, Miss DeVille does it in style and is kind enough to show us how!   Plus her blog contains some fabulous how-to styling tutorial videos for more complicated things like scarf tying, hair and makeup that aren’t as easily demonstrated through still images. This particular post details an outfit focused around a spectacular vintage Mexican wrap skirt.

Junebugs and Georgia Peaches –
Gaining confidence with pencil skirts

Junebugs and Georgia Peaches is the fashion blog of two lovely ladies; Katie and Amanda, otherwise known as Amelia Jetson and the Modern June Cleaver.  These ladies have wardrobes to die for and have recently collaborated with Pinup Girl Clothing to bring out a range of dresses with the Junebugs and Georgia Peaches name – I can’t wait!
In this post Katie talks about how she changed her mind about figure-hugging styles and now brings pinup style to her office with pencil skirts.

Chronically Vintage –
Quilted circle skirt
My mum had a quilted circle skirt when she was a child living in Illinois.  It was royal blue with a Paris scene appliquéd on it and a large mother of pearl button, she used to wear it to school.  She loved it so much that she kept it and it eventually ended up in the dress ups box for me to play with.  I remember it well so was pretty excited when this post from Chronically Vintage arrived in my inbox!  Jessica is a vintage fashion blogger and as the name of her blog suggests, also lives with chronic illness.  When I read her posts I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit!  She has great passion for mid-century style and shares that with us through her blog and etsy store.

My modest collection of crinoline petticoats - I'd love to have a rainbow of colours but there's a storage problem, wow they take up a lot of room!

Petticoats!  I’d love to have a rainbow of colours but there’s a storage problem, wow they take up a lot of room!

Miss Victory Violet –
Petticoat Passion
If you want to achieve the iconic full-skirted look of the 1950’s what you wear under your skirt is just as important as the skirt itself!  But where do you start?  How do you go about choosing the right petticoat when there are so many about?  Miss Victory Violet (2015 Viva Las Vegas Pinup, Miss Pinup New Zealand 2014) model, hairstylist and fashion blogger has done a lot of research on the subject and kindly brings us a post reviewing many different styles available at different prices.  She has rated each individual petticoat style for fit, comfort, length, durability, quality and volume and photographed them all with the same dress on for comparison – how helpful is that!

Lets get down to business!
You’ve had a taste of skirt-spiration, but where to start?  Do you want a full skirt?  And if so will you choose to make a 1950s circle skirt, of would you prefer the cute kitsch-ness of the poodle skirt, the fabulous quilted circle skirt or just something with a bit of swing to swish around in?  There are many, many options!  Gathers, pleats, gored or circle?  Full length, tea length or a bit more leg room?  Flirty, feminine and fun, the full skirt is a thing of beauty and is what often comes to mind when thinking about 1950s women’s skirts.  They are also the style that dominates my skirt collection!

My skirt collection so far, I think it could do with adding to!

My skirt collection so far, I think it could do with adding to!

If a pencil skirt is more your style you have a few decisions to make there too! Do you want a wiggle style skirt to tenderly hug every curve or the simple, clean lines of an early 1940s A-line shift style that lightly skims? Would you like the addition of a mermaid ruffle on the bottom or maybe a soft waterfall of fabric cascading down the side?  The classic pencil skirt is simple, versatile, no fuss, sexy and chic. It shows off all the right places and proudly proclaims ‘I am woman’. Closer fitting styles aren’t for everyone (but then again neither are full skirts!) and when you make your own you have much more freedom for tailoring and fit than if you buy one ready made.  If this image of the stunning Miss Bettie B Goode isn’t enough to make you want to slip into a pencil skirt of your own I don’t know what will!

Miss Bettie B Good in a classic, figure hugging black pencil skirt Image by Rose Meddings Photography

Miss Bettie B Good in a classic, figure hugging black pencil skirt
Image by Rose Meddings Photography

After you decide which type of skirt you want to create there’s a world of trim to adventure into; buttons, pockets (matching or contrasting – ooh the possibilities!), piping and appliqués – the list goes on and I’m getting quite inspired just thinking about it all!  Why aren’t there enough hours in the day to devote solely to creating a fabulous wardrobe full of skirts?  Hopefully these links help you narrow down your list to a style (or styles) you want to create.

Gertie’s blog for better sewing – How to make a quilted circle skirt
Gertie has been blogging about sewing with vintage patterns for several years now.  Her blog is hugely popular and she has published two books on sewing vintage styles that are chock full of detail, beautiful illustrations and gorgeous projects with patterns included; with another on the way. Several of the projects from her books can be found in her blog including how to make a full gathered skirt (or dirndl skirt) that I used to make my Graceful in the Garden skirt, how to make a simple pencil skirt – aka the ‘comfiest ever pencil skirt’ and of course a post on making a quilted circle skirt.  The books and blog are a fantastic place to get started learning how to sew vintage women’s clothing that was popular in the 1940s and 1950s, resizing and interpreting vintage patterns, adjusting patterns and drafting your own patterns – they are pretty much my sewing bibles.

Jolly Santa Circle Skirt - image with permission from Beccie Leathy at Sew Retro Rose

Jolly Santa Circle Skirt – Source with permission from Beccie Leathy at Sew Retro Rose

Sew Retro Rose Jolly Santa panel Christmas circle skirt
Beccie Leathley has been blogging about sewing with vintage patterns since 2011. She posts about making her own clothing and gets her faithful readers eagerly involved in sew-alongs.  The Sew Retro Rose blog and facebook page are a lot of fun and filled with different projects and vintage sewing tips – such as a recent post on adding bound buttonholes as part of her Decades of Style Capelet sew-along.  I really want to give that project a go, I saw some lovely cashmere wool blends at Cleggs that i’m dying to find an excuse to buy…
Beccie is a huge fan of Christmas, which is totally understandable, and makes multiple outfits for the festive season each year. In 2012 she created this Santa panel circle skirt that is absolutely adorable! Not only is this a great gored circle skirt post, the fact that the finished product came complete with vintage santa panels just makes it even more lovely.
Recently she made and blogged about an Iris appliqué woollen circle skirt for winter which is definitely worth checking out just for the ‘Ooh!’ factor.
If you’re after a plain and easy circle skirt tutorial this one is pretty good, though it’s for a shorter style so if you want a longer skirt simply use wider fabric and this handy app can do the maths for you!

Coletterie – Colette patterns blog
I love the patterns that Colette Patterns produce but did you know there is a blog and weekly newsletter too? The blog is filled with all sorts of free pattern tips, tricks and additions like adding a waistband to a skirt, how to sew darts and all sorts of useful posts like different styles of hemming and tricks to adding zips and closures.  They also post pattern hacks to their patterns so you can change them up a bit.  I’m currently making the Moneta knit dress in a few different styles and as soon as I started they brought out a collar hack with 5 different collar types – it’s as if they knew I was making it!
I particularly love this post about turning your favourite dress pattern into a skirt! It’s not as simple as just taking out the bodice and this handy how to explains it all in an easy to follow step-by-step guide. This tutorial is for a waistband-less skirt but never fear there is a further post on adding a waistband to a skirt – yay!

Makezine – Reversible Wrap Skirt
Wrap skirts were gaining popularity in the 50’s, and why wouldn’t they be, they are comfy, adjustable and versatile and so simple to make – plus, did you check out Candice DeVille in her Mexican Wrap Skirt?  What’s not to love! But what if you you have more than one print that you love but can’t decide which one to use?  Why not use both and have 2 skirts in one?  How good is that!  This pattern is super easy to follow and includes optional pockets.  The link has two styles in it, a beginner version with no closures and an advanced version.

One of my favourite skirts from Pinup Girl Clothing - the Kinky Box skirt in Venus Flytrap Print

One of my favourite skirts from Pinup Girl Clothing – the Kinky Box skirt in Venus Flytrap Print

The Crafty cupboard – Pleated Chevron skirt
This skirt is beautiful and makes quite the statement.  If simple design and eye catching patterns are your thing then this skirt will be right up your alley.  If chevron stripes aren’t your thing this pattern can be used for a pleated skirt in any fabric print, there’s no rule saying you have to use the same fabric pattern it was designed in!  Here is another great tutorial on drafting and making a box pleat skirt, the end style is more full than the Chevron pleated skirt tutorial, a bit more like my Kinky Box skirt in the earlier photo.  Gotta say it, I LOVE box pleat skirts!  The best thing I think is that they are a full skirt masquerading as a shift – the pleats let it sit reasonably flat, almost like a shift but add a bit of movement or petticoat and you have instant fullness.    I didn’t think pleats were great for my body shape but quickly changed my mind when I purchased a Kinky Box Skirt by Pinup Girl Clothing a couple of years ago.  It looks fabulous with a petticoat underneath – my favourite petticoat is by Australian brand Spin Dance.

Add a mermaid ruffle hem to the bottom of a pencil skirt
Mermaid or ruffle hem skirts are very popular and no wonder, they give you the best of both worlds and look fantastic!  You have the figure hugging VaVa Voom of the pencil skirt plus the fun flounce of a gathered full skirt, the combination of which can be quite stunning – what’s not to love?
Ok bear with me here,  it’s not exactly made for the vintage loving audience (particularly the music choice) but it’s still pretty instructive.  There are quite a few ruffle hem pencil skirt tutorials out there and I have to say this one is amongst the better ones!  It’s a well thought out, clear tutorial with great instructions and while it is for a contrast ruffle there’s no reason the instructions cannot be easily adapted to a single colour.

After my big wardrobe and clutter clean out I could do with some new and interesting things in there.  I’ve been giving the sewing machine a bit of a workout with a few Moneta dresses and I hope to share them here soon.  After I’ve finished them I think some more skirts are in order and I have plenty of inspiration now.  I’m thinking a fabulous full skirt with something pretty appliquéd on and then a classic pencil skirt to bring in some sexy chic to my wardrobe.  Ooh the possibilities!

What’s your favourite skirt?

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