Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Focus On: Skirt Styles

By Sherri of Sew Betty and Dot

Skirts, in some version or other, have been a part of the human wardrobe for millennia--prehistoric cave paintings show male and female figures wearing a type of skirt. Roman and Greek men also wore a form of skirt (as well as tunics and togas, more like a draped dress). In Western cultures, men  stopped wearing skirts by about the Middle Ages (14th century)--with the exception of kilts, of course--but in hot climates, they continue to wear skirt-like garments (the Indian dhoti, the sarong).

Women's skirts--and we're talking about the "skirt" part of a dress at the moment, not necessarily a separate garment--quickly evolved into elaborate constructions with elaborate underpinnings--crinolines, petticoats, and hoops, reaching a pinnacle in the 18th century: hoop skirts during the Civil War era were often an astonishing six feet across.

A brief history of the skirt in the twentieth century: French designer Paul Poiret introduced the hobble skirt, which was as it sounds: a skirt that was tight around women's legs, substantially altering her gait.
A hobble skirt: 1911 postcard. Image from Wikipedia
By the 1920s, Coco Chanel and Jean Patou helped raise hemlines to the knee--think Flapper dress--and then in the 1930s Patou reversed course and introduced longer, mid-calf-length skirts. World War II fabric rationing meant that skirts were fairly streamlined and tailored. In 1947, Christian Dior introduced the New Look: yards and yards of fabric to make a very full skirt (with a VERY nipped-in waist). In the 1950s, slim and full skirts were in fashion (and patterns from this era often offer a choice of skirts). Of course, the 1960s saw mini skirts arrive--thank you, Mary Quant and André Courrèges--and in the seventies, women could choose maxi, midi, mini, or micro-mini. In the 1980s, designer Christian Lacroix introduced "Le Pouf," a bubble skirt seen on socialites everywhere. All of these styles have made a comeback over the years, and in the anything-goes twenty-first century, we're free to wear any one of these that strikes our fancy (well, there aren't too many hoop skirts walking down the street!).

Let's go! Skirt styles, some practical, some fantasitc--and again, some are attached to bodices and are thus part of a dress--currently on offer from the Pattern Patter team. 

(As always, please click on the images to make them larger.)

Top row, left to right: 4-gored skirt from 1939: McCall 3188: She’ll Make You Flip
Accordion pleats: Vogue S-4832: RetroMonkeys
Middle row: Knife pleats: Simplicity 1279: JFerrariDesigns
Inverted pleats: Vogue 8668: Redcurlz
Bottom row: Pencil/straight skirt: Butterick 5594: VioletCrownEmporium
Modern hobble (1960): McCall 5320: SoVintageOnEtsy

Top row, left to right: Exaggerated full circle skirt: McCall's 4357: SewBetty and Dot
Two gores, inverted pleat/two gores, underlay, slot seam: McCall's5048: MidvaleCottage
Middle row: Tiered skirt: McCall 7258: PrettyPatternShop
Top row, left to right: 1920s wrap skirt: Butterick 1480: Vintage Needle Finds
Wrapped and buttoned: McCall’s 3887: EmSewCrazy
Middle row: Flounce in back pleat: Style 4859: All the Precious Things
Bottom row: Sarong style: Advance 8634: pinkpolkadotbutton

Left to right: Pouf/bubble/“harem”: McCall’s 4690: Frisky Scissors
High/low hem: Vogue 1686: SelvedgeShop

That wraps up--pun intended--this quick (and gorgeous!) trip through Skirt Land...there are so many variations and combinations of these styles available. Just search "vintage skirt pattern patter" and see what treasures you'll uncover! Tell us in the comments about YOUR  favorite skirt style!


  1. Great post! Lots of cute skirt patterns!

    I love that hobble skirt, but I'm so glad I'm not expected to wear one.

  2. I "hobble" enough without the skirt! Great Post and very nice patterns!

  3. I enjoyed seeing the fashions from the past that have resurfaced in a differnt way, bubble skirt, high low hem. Very interesting with great patterns.

  4. I agree Jennifer. Great blog post Sew Betty...I've shared it all over :)

  5. So many styles just keep coming back in to vogue.
    If it ain't broke...don't fix it !
    Great article about skirts ! Thank You