Making A (Modern!) Edwardian Walking Skirt || Historical Style


I am obsessed with the idea of bringing details
of historical dress into the modern wardrobe. Because after all, when you’ve devoted your
life to studying the stunning craftsmanship of clothing from the past, it’s really difficult
to settle for the simplicity and ephemerality of fast fashion today. So today I have a second video in what I think
is going to become a series around here, of adapting historical details and silhouettes
into something that would be comfortable to wear out on the street today. I’ve been long enamoured by the turn-of-the-century
walking skirt: that clean, smart silhouette, the delicate flare, and that fun little bit
of pleating just at the back. So my next new addition to the wardrobe is
going to be this: a modern adaptation of the Edwardian walking skirt. Fortunately I found a fantastic pattern for
the historical version of this by the company Truly Victorian. This pattern, according to the notes included,
was taken directly from an existing pattern originally published by the Metropolitan Pattern
Company in 1898. It was super important to me that I start
with a real contemporary pattern or garment so that I truly understand the historical
origins of the skirt, and my finished, adapted skirt will hopefully still retain its historical
essence. It comes with a good range of sizes, and I
never like to cut off the larger sizing lines in case I ever decide to reuse the pattern;
it just saves Future Me the headache of having to grade all the pieces, so I’m just folding
the unnecessary bits out of the way for now. I like my skirts to fall below the knee, so
I’m just measuring down 26 inches from the waist edge to figure out the new length of
the skirt. Of course you can lengthen or shorten this
to your fancy, but just be aware that since the skirt is cut in gores, meaning that they
get wider at the hem, you may have to add a bit more width into the hem if you decide
to make it really short, since all the flare on this pattern starts to happen round the
knee area. I’m going to be making the skirt out of
this nice black cotton stripe I bought in the garment district a few months ago with
this very project in mind, so I’m really excited to finally be getting around to it. Can you tell I’ve come home from Costume
College overflowing with sudden new motivation to do ALL OF THE SEWING? And once again, I haven’t cut the pattern
on my new marked lines in case—in the very probable event— I decide to make a full-length
walking skirt one day. Also—this should go without saying, but
when working with a printed pattern, always be sure to read the instructions thoroughly
before starting your project. This pattern comes with a half-inch seam allowance
included, so there was no need to add any on in cutting. The waistband is cut on the fold, but since
I’ve decided to align the stripes horizontally here, I’ve decided to cut it flat so I could
be sure the stripes were going exactly in the right place. You know what’s interesting, is that since
I’ve started working original practice for my historical recreations, I’ve found that
my everyday sewing is so much neater since I’m now so much more willing to take the
time to do the small precision tasks that really make a finished garment look nice and
neat. The instructions say to flat line the skirt,
and this agrees completely with my instinct. I picked up a few yards of this lightweight
black cotton that I’ll use to back my skirt panels. If you’re not familiar with the process
of flat lining, basically it’s this: instead of making up two complete garments—that
is, the fabric layer and the lining layer, then stitching them together, flat lining
is when you secure both layers together as individual panels, then treat them as one
piece during further assembly. While it doesn’t enclose the raw seam edges
like regular lining does, it provides a crucial inner layer of material to catch stitches
so you don’t have to see any stitching on the outside of the garment. Flat lining is, I believe, also generally
the more historically common way to line garments. Before we start putting the skirt panels together,
I’m first going to cut out some facing pieces. Historical walking skirts are generally constructed
with wide borders of stiff material at the hem to hold the bottom of the skirt out in
a nice bell shape. I’ve decided to honor this practice by experimenting
with putting it in on my shortened hemline. I’m not sure if it will work out, but I’m
going to cut all the pieces and make it up anyway just to see if it works. So I’m just cutting out these facing pieces,
one set from the flat lining and then another set from a heavy cotton twill that will add
weight and shape to the hem. You’ll notice that I also cut some stiffener
pieces for the waistband and the placket strip, which the instructions didn’t say to do
but I wondered if they might be nice to have. It turns out they weren’t necessary, since
my main fabric actually has quite a decent body to it, so we shan’t be seeing them
again. Now because the facing pattern pieces are
actually intended to cover the wider width of the hem at the bottom of the longer skirt,
the given pieces are much too long for my shorter, narrower panels. However because I didn’t trust myself to
math well enough to work out the decline of width to my new hemline, I decided to just
cut the full pieces, then match them up to my new pieces and trim them down accordingly. Now it’s time to begin flat lining. I’m just laying my pieces together, matching
up the shapes and making sure the grain is smooth before pinning it into place. Then I’m basting all of the edges so that
they don’t try and slide around while I stitch the seams together. This takes a bit of time; even with wide basting
stitches, there are still 7 skirt panels and 7 more facing panels to do, so be sure to
plan for this. You can probably get away with just holding
it in place with the pins while you stitch, but be aware that the pins actually do force
the fabric into a shape that isn’t perfectly flat, so you may end up with a bit of a baggy
or off-grain lining in the end. Again, it’s these little precision tasks
that really help to keep your finished garment nice and clean. Putting some tension on the end of your seam—whether
by pinning it to a cushion or by just…stepping on it…will help your stitching go a bit
quicker. So now that we have our pieces all prepared,
it’s time to get to assembling the skirt. The instructions say to begin with the center
back seam and get the placket in place before seaming together the rest of the panels, so
that’s what I’m starting with. The closure placket extends 9 inches down
from the waist edge, so I’m going to leave this much open at the top and stitch together
the rest of the seam. It’s always a good idea to press your seams
as you go, since the garment only gets more complicated, and it’s nice to be able to
get some good, clean pressed seams while it’s still flat and manageable. And while I’m here, I’m just going ahead
and pressing the placket, which just gets folded in half. The instructions say to fold back the half-inch
seam allowance on the open edge of the center back seam and top stitch these into place. Then the placket square just gets pinned onto
the wrong side of the left skirt panel and stitched carefully over the original topstitching
line. I should note that the instructions say to
overlock the raw edge of the placket before attaching it so that it covers the raw edge
of the skirt seam allowance, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Even if I had an overlock machine. You will only pry hand felled hems from my
cold, dead hands. Once the seam is stitched securely together,
you can remove your basting threads. I’m finishing these edges in my usual historical
manner, by clipping the underside of the seam allowance, then folding the upper edge over
to hide the raw edges. I’m only doing this on the lengths of the
seam that won’t be covered by the facings, just to save a bit of time. It’s secured down with a felling stitch,
which catches only the flat lining layer and won’t be seen from the front of the skirt. And the same thing happens to the placket
edge, as well as the edge on the other side of the skirt opening. Then it’s just a matter of seaming together
the rest of the skirt panels. I’m leaving one side of the skirt seams
open for now, just so that I can press all the other seams more easily while the garment
is flat. While I’m at the machine, I’m also going
to go ahead and stitch together the facing panels. So I was just going through and cleaning up
my seams, trimming threads and taking out my basting when I realized I have actually
made a very grave error, and that is I forgot to put in pockets! How on earth can I be a woman of the 21st
century and forget to put pockets in my skirt? That is not okay. So I’ve gone ahead and I’ve held the skirt
up to my waist and determined where I want the pocket to sit and put a little pin mark
in there. I’m going to rip out these seams and add
in a pocket because that’s very necessary. So I’m just cutting out some pockets from
my flat lining material. I’m only cutting two pieces, since I decided
only to add one pocket into the left side seam of the skirt. And the space between these marks gets unpicked
so the pocket can go in. The pocket shapes are pinned to the right
side of the skirt and stitched into place. These are then pressed inward to give a nice
sharp edge to the pocket opening. Whilst I’m here, I’m just going ahead
and pressing open all of my seams, since I didn’t yet do that before I had my pocket
revelation. Then I’m just finishing off this pocket
business by stitching it all around, and into the skirt seam. Then I can go ahead and close the skirt by
seaming together that last open seam. Then I can finish off all these skirt seams. For the center back seam, you’ll have noticed,
I finished each side separately since there’s a split in the seam for the placket; but since
the rest of the seams are closed, I’m just folding them all together to save the effort
of finishing them separately. I know there has to be an easier, quicker,
probably machine-done way to finish off flat lined seams in modern garments, but I literally
have no idea what it is, so I’m resorting to my usual historical antics with my hand
felling. At this point I’m quick enough at it that
it doesn’t feel a chore; and honestly, I rather enjoy it. And, you know, you’d be surprised how much
hand work is still employed in fine couture sewing today; so I’m not old fashioned,
I’m couture. But feel free to finish your seams however
you like; just don’t be sure I’m not around to witness the dreaded overlock. Before I attach the waistband, I’m just
running two gathering threads into the back panels. The pattern has conveniently marked notches
where the gathering is supposed to end. I’ve just pressed the waistband in half
to create that nice clean folded edge at the top. Then I’ve marked the center point: not at
the actual center of the waistband, but one inch to the right, so that the left side is
longer where the placket extends. Then with right sides together, I’m pinning
only the nearer layer of the waistband to the skirt, up to to the two notches where
the gathering threads start. Then I’m gently gathering the back panels
of the skirt to fit into the remaining bit of waistband. I spent quite a while doing this, ensuring
that my gathers were nice and even, almost like tiny cartridge pleats, since this is
such an interesting design feature in the back of the skirt and I really wanted it to
look smart. Then I can stitch the underside of the waistband
in place. I don’t think you can see it here, but I’ve
actually folded in the half inch of seam allowance at the end of the waistband so that I don’t
have to wrestle with it later. Then I can just fold the bottom edge of the
waistband under half an inch to hide all of the grubby edges and slip stitch it into place. The skirt is closed with two pairs of hooks
and eyes at the waistband. I’m just using some size 3 black hooks,
secured with a heavy silk thread. The instructions were rather vague about this,
but this is what I’m assuming is supposed to happen; the placket opening remains unfastened,
but the one inch extension, as well as the closeness of the gathered folds, ensures that
everything remains nice and closed back there. So now it’s time to test out this facing
thing and see if we like it. I’ve just gone ahead and pinned the hems
together with right sides facing, then am stitching them together. Then I’m just securing the hem where I want
the edges to fold, and tucking under the upper raw edge. This edge is secured into place with a small
felling stitch. And the skirt is complete! When I first put it on, I was really quite
unhappy with how the facing made the skirt stick out, but just as I was about to rip
it all off, I put the skirt on again with the shoes and the hair and I actually sort
of liked it. You’ll notice all throughout history, the
fashionable silhouette is always so carefully balanced. The hair, the shoulders, the neckline, waistlines,
skirt shapes—they all somehow work together to balance each other out, and messing with
one can often throw off the look of the outfit completely. This was very subtle, I know; but I’m still
always amazed at how all that works. Anyway, I’m actually very happy with how
the skirt turned out in the end—with the facing. And so that is all for this little adventure. I hope I’ve maybe inspired you to pick up
your own unique sewing project, to pepper a bit of historical delight onto your wardrobe,
or at least that I’ve provided a bit of pleasant company. If you are already a regular visitor to these
parts, then I shall greatly look forward to seeing you soon on my next historical sewing
adventure.

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