Saturday, May 30, 2015

HSM for May: Practicality a simple set of Victorian Skirts

I was wandering around the internet trying to decide what I wanted to make for the May Practicality challenge when I ran across the skirts shown to the left.  I love these skirts and I love the pockets, they are so functional and yet stylish at the same time.  Even better, these skirts were one set of 3 that were the subject of a very well written article by Sunny Buchler for Your Wardrobe Unlock'd (for those with subscriptions, the article is here).

Sunny did a wonderful job fully analyzing these skirts and there was so much information to aid me in creating my own, yet I still managed to mess the skirts up pretty badly.  I have gone back a forth a couple of times on if I wanted to post about this attempt or not....but with all the talk lately in the online costume community about the myth of perfection, I figured I would go ahead and post anyway.  This was a good learning experience for me, particularly since I am still pretty uncomfortable with the construction of Victorian clothing.

The brown skirt set is from 1869-1874 and I love that the pockets on the front are no only functional but show staining that suggests they were actually used.  The original skirts were wool, but I had some brown twill laying around that I felt would be perfect.  I also decided to vary my skirts a bit from the original and add a 3rd color trim as a method to use up a ton of oyster colored bias tape that has been sitting around my stash forever.  I was inspired to do this because the pockets on the original were piped and I also had matching oyster colored piping in the stash I could use on my own pockets.

Sunny's analysis was absolutely wonderful!  She provided information on the number, size and type of pleat for every position on the skirt.  Using her article, I easily made the underskirt.  The underskirt is kept fairly flat in the front with only one very shallow and wide pleat. The majority of the fullness in the skirt was kept to the back.  The sides of the skirt had knife pleats with a set of stacked pleats in the center back for fullness.  The is skirt is really very satisfying to wear as it moves beautifully!
Underskirt Front
Underskirt Back

  The overskirt is where I got myself into trouble and I should have realized it earlier in the process before construction.  I remember thinking I would probably not have enough fabric for both skirts and that I would likely have to piece the underskirt significantly.  When I made the pattern pieces and laid them out somehow they fit.  I should have realized this suggested that I made the pattern wrong and I should have remeasured the pieces and compared again to the original article.  I missed adding the measurements for the fact that the overskirt also had layered pleats in the back and only added enough for single pleats. Now the overskirt is way too narrow across the back bustle area.  As a result, the lack of room across the back pulls the sides of the over skirt back and creates a very narrow front silhouette.  As you can see below how narrow the skirt is from the front and the pulling across the back.
Both skirts Front

Both skirts Back

I do like the way the pockets came out, although I attached them upside down from the original (oops!). And I do like the way the buttons came out.  I was a bit leery of hand covering large buttons and if they would look OK, but I do love them. 

I have since fixed the pattern issue, but I cannot get more of the twill to match.  The brown set of skirts will need to stay too narrow, so they will not be appropriate for Victorian wear.  I think I will keep these skirts for Steampunk, but I plan to make a new set of skirts using the corrected pattern for actual Victorian wear.  I guess I can say that my May Practicality challenge produced a pattern, if not actual skirts! And I learned quite a bit from this experience.