Just because a skirt is vintage and a “go-with-everything” piece, doesn’t mean it can’t be a little hot number. This project proves that point!
What comes of my making some 1930’s tops recently is also the need for a basic skirt to go on the bottom half. This basic black skirt is the first to fill in that gap towards attaining a 30’s wardrobe of separates which mix and match. The great thing about my slim black 30’s skirt is it has a wonderful family connection for me, together with a look that is classic enough to pass as modern. Slim fit doesn’t mean it’s also hard to move in – side box pleats make sure there plenty of secret room for action. Nothing like sewing up an all-around winner! Check it out.
Here above I’ve paired my black skirt with a resale store jacket, which is originally from Target, as well as the lacy top underneath. The jacket, though modern, has a sort of nod to the 30’s in my opinion, with its Deco style fan shaped shell design. My earrings are also fan shaped shells…carved mother of pearl to be exact. I also wore my old vintage 1930’s era leather T-strap shoes (although you can’t see them in the above picture). Enough ensemble clarifications, let’s get down to –
FABRIC: My skirt’s fabric is a mystery content which has a textured look and feel of shantung. I’m assuming it is a polyester, but I’m hoping there’s a small percent of rayon in the fabric. It comes from a stash of fabric that was given to me from my Grandmother. There was only a small cut of this fabric, and it wasn’t even a whole ‘selvedge-to-selvedge’ amount.
NOTIONS: I had the thread, lace hem tape, hook and eyes, zipper, and grosgrain ribbon all on hand already.
PATTERN: a Pictorial Review #7379, circa 1934.
TIME TO COMPLETE: This skirt was quick and easy only taking 6 to 8 hours from cutting to finish. It was done on March 19, 2014.
THE INSIDES: All the inside seams are covered in lace hem tape. The hem is doubled under, while the waistband is neatly and easily finished. See the above right picture of the inside of the box pleat. I am proud of my fine looking insides for this skirt!
TOTAL COST: Nothing! This is the best part!
The pattern for the skirt is so amazingly small and economical on space. Basically two long, skinny rectangles with small extensions (for the box pleats) turns out into this 30’s skirt. A few tucks shape the back waist. Thus, it is perfect for making something amazing and extremely useful out of a piece of fabric that seems too small and worthless to keep.
Like I mentioned above, since this fabric is from my Grandmother, I wanted to make something special out of it, so I made sure to make things work. It wasn’t hard to finagle the pattern to fit – It was hard to believe. I guess this pattern is a true Depression era design, but making clothes out of scrap fabric pieces is a very smart practice in any era.
Unprinted patterns suddenly made complete sense to me as I was laying out the pieces for my Pictorial Review 7379. It literally was one of those “ah ha” moments when I felt like I was blind doing the few unprinted patterns I had beforehand. Although the Pictorial Review patterns were marketed as “printed”, the pattern I used to make my skirt still used the hole-punched method of making darts and such, just like unprinted ones. Basic guides for construction are printed directly on the pattern (as a bonus to the simple instructions, I suppose). Punched out holes for seam markings eliminate the need for a tracing wheel that might ruin the tissue paper, you just take chalk and fill in the holes as you did on tests when you were in school. Punched out pattern hole markings also make it extremely easy to mark the spot with thread, if you choose that method instead. Unprinted patterns are not hard – just a different (better, in my opinion) way to do the same things as on today’s patterns. I especially enjoy the indented balance marks on vintage patterns such as this – there’s nothing to snip off by mistake.
Grading the pattern up just a tad was necessary for the skirt to fit me. I spread out the amount I needed to add by placing the pattern 1/4 inch away (not directly on) the fold at the center back and front, plus making a wider seam allowance all the way along on the side seams. This method of grading only works when adding small increments. I must say, the skirt fits me very well – almost too well, to be exact. It seemed like a very close call, in the way of fit, for this project. I must say, from my experience, 1930’s patterns (and 20’s, too) do not account for curves in women’s proportions. My being a fairly ‘normal’ size by vintage pattern charts, and finding it hard to get a whole lot of shaping in my 30’s makes, I can now completely understand how some people do not know how to wear 30’s styles. Old catalogs show tightly shaping, slimming waist and hip girdles were worn to make the figure long and lean – without such items, vintage styles fit differently on a modern figure. However, I highly recommend everyone having a try at making the slenderizing, complimentary designs of the 1930’s. They possess a simple, classic character.
My first step to construct this 30’s skirt was to sew on lace hem tape over the raw edges of the side seams. Then the side seams get sewn together down to where the pattern indents out. Next the outermost edges of the pleat indentation gets sewn together. Now the pleat gets opened up and sewn down into a box pleat. The left side seam was left open to insert a small zipper. Originally, there were only two small darts, but I made four in the shape of a fan to bring in the waist at the back above the booty. My Pictorial Review pattern recommended something simple for the waistband, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to use as it was vague. I thought about wide bias tape, but that would not have provided support, and might stretch out of shape. Thus, I used some wide 1 1/2 inch black grosgrain ribbon from my stash to finish the waistband. The ribbon feels so smooth and comfy on my skin! I left a longer extension of the ribbon on one side of the waistband to hand sew on a large sliding hook and eye to keep pressure off the top of the zipper, keeping my skirt closed.
The edges of the side box pleats were top stitched down at the very edge of the folds to keep things in place. I’ve done this method before for the pin tucks of my 1937 blouse and it works great to save on loads of ironing time.
Our little dachshund was needy for attention and extra love during our photo shoot in our backyard of my 30’s black skirt. My Flickr page Seam Racer has some successive pictures of our dachsie’s photo bombs, as well as some extra views of the skirt I made. The afternoon was one of those perfect temperature days when being in the sun makes you just warm enough to get all sleepy and mellow. However, as our dachsie has a thicker dark coat, he is heat sensitive, and was ducking into our nearby peony bush when he wasn’t receiving attention. It sure made for some cute pet pictures!
I have a cut of cotton tri-colored striped shirting just waiting to be made up into a blouse using the same 1934 Pictorial Review #7279 that went towards my slim skirt. Hopefully, I will get around to making it sooner than later, and blog about it here so you see the whole set from the pattern. (Update – full blouse and skirt outfit finished and posted here!) I already made a modern/authentic 30’s style knit tunic top (more pictures on my Flickr Seam Racer page, and posted on my site here) that wears well with my slim skirt. Here’s to sewing a useful wardrobe that works for an everyday vintage way of dressing!