1950s | 1960s | Skirts | Vintage Sewing

Skirt with side pleats

April 28, 2012
Showing side slits among the primroses

Vogue 5607
This pattern was a present to me from my brother, who found it for 25p in a junkshop and decided it looked like ‘my sort of thing’! Despite the 1960s date it’s actually much more of a Fifties style skirt (View B appears to be an incipient miniskirt, though!), and I thought the generous side pleats might make for an useful garment for an active lifestyle: unfortunately I sabotaged this by setting out to use up a piece of scrap linen I had salvaged – as you can see from these shots, any attempt at ‘activity’ (including sitting or bending down to tie one’s own shoelaces…) and the skirt is creased for the rest of the day! Linen, so predictable….

I’m still pleased with the result, even if it’s a skirt I can only wear on days when I’m not going to be sitting down much. I decided to make view C (not illustrated on the front of the envelope: it’s the longer view A length combined with the ornamental belt and carriers from view B), which was a good move as the dangling belt helps to distract from the inevitable set of creases in the front of the skirt. I lengthened the skirt by an inch and a half at the last minute to make sure it covered the top of my socks!

Otherwise the result was pretty close to the illustration – and the good thing about patterns of this era is that the hip/waist ratio matches mine pretty closely. I didn’t have to take in the waist or expand the hips.

Swayback issues
I did have to do the usual swayback adjustment, however. In fact I did it three times, each more extreme, after panicking when the first attempt didn’t seem to have eliminated the sagging in the small of my back – eventually I spotted that I was simply making matters worse, went back to my original adjustment markings, and realised that the apparent problem during fitting was caused by having only sewn the front edge and not the reverse of the waistband….

The edges were hemmed under

Hand topstitching on the outside of the pleat

The seams all had to be hand-finished. I used hand-sewn self-bound seams for attaching the backs of the pleats (which are sewn down flat onto folded-in flaps at the edges of the skirt pieces), but the existence of the side pleats and of the centre zipper meant that all the main skirt seams had to be pressed open, thus ruling out run-and-fell or French seam finishes here. In the end I simply cut a very wide seam allowance and hemmed the raw edges under. The machine top-stitching on the outside of the pleats proved quite tricky, and where the seams grew too narrow a few inches from the top I simply abandoned them and back-stitched the remainder and the top ‘arrow’ by hand (click on photos for detail). After which I had to hem down the unfinished tops of the pleats! Twenty hours or so of ‘couture’ finishing work that would have been saved by a serger – still, home sergers didn’t exist until 1964 :-p

Hem inside pleats
Because I decided to increase the skirt length at the last minute I didn’t have enough material to make the recommended 3-inch hem. I compromised by using some ancient (vintage!) bias binding out of my grandmother’s workbox as a hem tape substitute, and it actually worked extremely well. But reversing the self-bound seams in order to hem the pleats was NOT MUCH FUN 🙁 I’d left the ends open but it still involved an awful lot of clipping and folding to render all those raw edges now mercifully invisible….

The zipper was also inserted by hand – mainly because my hand-crank machine doesn’t have a zipper foot, so using it to stitch that close to the seams is out of the question. The original pattern specified a simple centred zip, but I altered that to a lapped zipper, mainly because my hand-stitched zips always seem to ‘bulge’ so – the fewer visible seams, the better.

Side-lapped zip and vintage hook & eyes

The super-large hooks and eyes/bars used to fasten the waistband are also very ‘vintage’: out of my grandmother’s workbox again! The belt carriers are turned fabric tubes; I found it quite impossible to fight the seam allowance down the inside of the tube using the width suggested (and dared not cut the seams any closer on this fraying fabric) so ended up increasing the size of the tube by 1/8", which proved to make all the difference.

  • Time taken: months
  • Cost: mainly the price of dyeing the linen, as all the notions were scrounged
  • Would I make it again? No, but with the pleats sewn up for pressing it made quite a nice fitted skirt – might be worth just trying the main pieces

And finally a couple more random photos – the survivors of about 40 attempts at getting a decent view of the skirt! Unfortunately I’m not much of a photographer: hence the hit and miss approach.

Just like the pattern picture

  1. I agree…no one is shocked when linen creases, I wear linen – and just own the wrinkles!

    I have that pattern in my stash…I might have to make it now – yours looks great 🙂

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