Greetings from the Shirred Skirt Test Lab

by m1khaela

in 1940s,1950s,Skirts

Shirred Skirt Inspiration from the Sears Catalog

Shirred Skirt Fabulousness from the 1949 Sears Catalog

In between muslining my Sencha blouse, schmoozing over falafel with the fabulous Bloggers and Blogettes (more on this later!), fighting off a nasty cold and decluttering the apartment for Cartoonist Baby, I’ve been working out the pattern-free pattern for my reversible shirred-waist full skirt:

Reversible Shirred Skirt Sketch

This skirt is the foundation of my spring mini-wardrobe contest plans–like the no-elastic yoked knit skirts I’ve been making, it should be stretchy enough to accommodate the most pregnant of bellies, but will still work just fine post-maternity.

But, horrors! As you recall I hit a roadblock recently when I discovered that my purchased Burda shirred-yoke skirt pattern was a circle skirt that just Would Not Do with my vertically patterned purple cotton lawn.

What I really needed was a pattern for a full skirt, like this 1950s number:

Shirred Girls' Skirt and Dress from 1940s Sears Catalog

Or like this RTW reversible Gap skirt (the reverse side is a solid). It’s not a maternity skirt at all, it fit me just fine before I gained 30 pounds of belly, bustage and baby, AND it is still quite comfortable in my third trimester!

RTW Reversible Shirred Skirt

Except no pattern is really needed at all for a dirndl/full skirt–as Gertie revealed in her tutorial on a non-elastic version, it’s just a bunch of gathered rectangles. All you do is choose how full/gathered you want the skirt to be in relation to your hips (two times? three times?), “draft” a waistband piece, gather, cut and sew.

Construction is a bit different for a reversible elastic-shirred version with a deep yoke instead of a waistband, of course. And I’ve never shirred a stitch before in my life. So here’s a peek at the Mikhaela test lab:

The Shirred Skirt Testing Lab

As you can see I’ve worked out some measurements and a likely construction sequence and cut out my (wearable) test garment pieces in a small-scale gingham ($1.50 a yard from Fulton Fabrics!). Right now I’m playing with different elastic shirring techniques on some muslin–none of my sewing reference books are very detailed on the subject, and online tutorials and advice differ widely on ideal stitch length/tension and how tightly the elastic should be wound on the bobbin.

I don’t know yet if the test tube version of my shirred skirt will be a success, but once I achieve World Shirring Domination I promise not to take it too far:

Shirred Cotton Play Dress w/ Attached Panties from 1940s Sears Catalog

Mommy and Me 1940s Playsuits

(Crossposted to my blog, Polka Dot Overload).

This post was written by...

– who has written 16 posts on WeSewRetro.com.

Cartoonist, illustrator and graphic designer with delusions of making as many of my own clothes as possible and an obsession with bright colors, bold prints, retro and vintage styles and sewing projects far out of my skill set. I live in Brooklyn with my cartoonist husband Masheka and our sleep-averse toddler Ms. Z.

m1khaela's posts / m1khaela's website

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