For a while I have wanted to make a new dancing skirt. I have loved dancing in my Victorian Fan Skirt and I really love this style of skirt prominent in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period. The long A-line shape with the pleated fullness at the back seems so elegant, and it is a style that I think I could wear everyday!
After the late bustle period faded away in the 1880’s, the skirt – which had already become tighter over the front of the waist and hips – lost the bustle bulge at the back and became fitted closely around the waist, but full at the bottom. This basic style continued through the 1890’s and into the Edwardian period until around 1908 when the fashions for skirts began to change again.
The type of skirt that had particularly caught my eye was one that had a circular flounce that kicked out below the knees. This seems to have been particularly popular during the early Edwardian period, when S-bend corsets were also in fashion.
“They’re–they’re not–pretty,” said Anne reluctantly.
“Pretty!” Marilla sniffed. “I didn’t trouble my head about
getting pretty dresses for you. I don’t believe in pampering
vanity, Anne, I’ll tell you that right off. Those dresses
are good, sensible, serviceable dresses, without any frills
or furbelows about them, and they’re all you’ll get this
summer. The brown gingham and the blue print will do
you for school when you begin to go. The sateen is for
church and Sunday school. I’ll expect you to keep them
neat and clean and not to tear them. I should think you’d
be grateful to get most anything after those skimpy wincey
things you’ve been wearing.”
Anne Of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery
I found the pattern I wanted to use in Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costume for Stage and Screen. All of the patterns in this book are based on period patterns or fashion plates, but have been altered by the author to fit the more modern figure.
This particular skirt had a straight front panel with the circular flounce only going around the bottom of the side panel. This pattern consists of four main pieces; front panel, side panel, side circular flounce, and back panel (plus a waistband).
The only two measurements I took was my (corseted) waistline and my waist-to-floor length. This skirt was made from a cotton fabric with a self-woven stripe. It was flat-lined with black cotton broadcloth and trimmed with black polyester braid.
Step One: All pieces of the skirt were flat-lined with cotton broadcloth. I began by basting the lining to each panel.
Step Two: Then I sewed the circular flounce to the bottom of the side panel.
Step Three: Then all the skirt pieces were sewn together.
Step Four: At this point I fitted the skirt. The side panel had darts to fit it to the waist, and the back panel had two large pleats on each side of the centre back seam to take in the fullness of the skirt.
Step Five: Once the skirt was fitted, I attached it to the waistband in the normal manner.
Step Six: Up to this point the skirt construction had been fairly straightforward, but the hemming practices of 1902 was something I had never done before. My skirt was levelled and then hemmed using some helpful advice from Historical Sewing.
I cut a length of black broadcloth on the bias (7″ wide) for my hem facing. I also cut a length of white cotton duck on the bias (4″ wide) for a modern version of “horsehair stiffener” enclosed in the hem.
I laid the broadcloth and duck strips together and treated them as one layer. It was placed, right sides together, on the hemline of the skirt. The raw edges were stitched together at the bottom of the skirt and then the broadcloth/duck layers were turned to the inside of the skirt. The end result was that the white duck was hidden in between the hem facing and the skirt lining.
The upper edge of the hem facing was pleated to fit the skirt and, with the raw edge folded under, hand stitched down on the inside of the skirt. The duck would be attached/anchored in the next step.
Step Seven: Next was the trimming! Two lines of braid were handsewn through all layers along the hemline (which effectively fixed the cotton duck in place and stopped it bunching up in the hem).
Then a bias strip of black broadcloth was added to the seamlines, with the raw edges turned under and then edged with more of the black braid used at the hem. (At this point I had to unpick small portions of the waistband to slip the trimming into the waist seam.)
I am very pleased with the end result!
I decided – on a whim – to use this skirt for an upcoming steampunk event, and so then I began planning a matching jacket for it!
Sources and Relevant Links
The Delineator, March 1902 – an article by Antique Crochet
Anne Of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery – read online
Flatlining 19th Century Skirts – by Historical Sewing
How to Finish Skirt Hems for the Most Support – by Historical Sewing