1950s | Skirts

Decades of Style 1950’s Multi-Grain Skirt

February 14, 2013

I started sewing this skirt several years ago after purchasing the pattern from the Decades of Style web site. They have reproduction vintage/retro patterns, although they don’t seem to have this pattern for sale any longer. I bought some gorgeous black and white charmeuse striped fabric and thought it would be a terrific statement look with this pattern.

Unfortunately, I ran into difficulty with the zipper instructions in the pattern but was able to solve that issue, sewing the zipper the way I know how.  I am definitely not satisfied with the zipper though and that will have to be fixed. When I was sewing the skirt a few years ago, I thought my most challenging issue was matching the stripes on the back seam with my slippery charmeuse fabric, especially since the back seam lies on the bias. I experimented with a walking foot for my old Bernina to help keep the fabric from slipping and I managed to get the chevron effect I was looking for, even though the stripes didn’t match perfectly.


Then, my lack of sewing skills ground me to a halt and my wife, not being much better, couldn’t help me out.  I followed directions for the front and back pleats (at least I think I did 🙂 ) but ran into lots of issues. I couldn’t figure out how to transfer all of the pattern markings for the pleats to the fabric properly. I tried tailor tacking but the thread came out in several places when I removed the pattern. Then I tried marking with chalk and ended up with the markings on the wrong side of the fabric but the pleats and creases were on the right side of the fabric so I had trouble using the chalk markings as a guide for the pleats. I finally used pins in a few cases to help and finally creased and pressed the pleats and basted them. After sewing the waistband, and was ready to join the skirt to the waistband, I was dismayed to find that the notches and circles between the waistband and the skirt didn’t line up – quite a ways off! I figured that I had messed up the pleating so I re-pleated front and back pleats and still things didn’t line up. I even went back to the pattern and tried to measure distances between notches and circles to see if the pattern itself was mis-marked and I finally just gave up and set the project aside (for over 3 years!).

About 3 weeks ago my wife said she wanted to do some sewing (another American Girl doll dress for our grand-daughter) and it’s so much fun to sew at the same time, especially since we have multiple sewing machines and a large sewing room. So I was looking through my stash of fabrics and my vintage/retro patterns, trying to decide on a project and decided to finish this 50’s striped skirt one way or another. At first, I tried re-pleating again but soon gave up and decided that instead of pleating, I would simply gather the skirt. It wouldn’t have the same wow factor with the narrow, front vertical stripes in the front pleated section and it would have more bulk at the waist if it was gathered, but it would have to do. I ditched the pattern waistband and substituted one of my own, gathered in place of pleating in places on the skirt and finished the hem on the serger with a narrow rolled hem, although I did get a bit of a lettuce effect on the hem in places because of the fabric content and how it draped.


It looks ok, but some day I am going to be at a fabric store and there will be this gorgeous striped fabric and I know I won’t be able to resist trying to sew this skirt the way it was intended with the fullness pleated in at the waist instead of gathered!

  1. If you’re only able to chalk marks onto the back side of your fabric but need to see them on the front, quickly baste the lines with a contrasting thread, leaving longish tails at each end. It will hold much better than tailor’s tacks but can still be pulled out easily later.

  2. I go through the same trials with everything I sew; I have been working on a dress for my granddaughter for about six months.
    The skirt looks great, though. That’s a really nice outfit.
    In sewing, if you don’t love the process, you may as well give it up…you can go out and buy the end product!

  3. It’s really interesting to follow the trends in fashion and to see how they gradually change and then reappear after a certain time. I’m a big fan of sewing and I often make my own pieces of clothing or other decorative items. Looking at your photo what immediately came to my mind was my favorite fabric store called King Textiles here in Toronto where I usually find everything I need to design my own products. I have to admit I sometimes spend hours and hours just wandering round the shop trying to find some inspiration for my next pieces. 🙂

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