HSF #23: An Edwardian “Empire” Skirt

Oh dear, has it been a month already? With Christmas, uni and sewing keeping me busy, it has really flown by like nothing. Quite a lot of new things have happened in the meanwhile. For once, I have bought my first own vintage pattern books. Here they are:

The one on the right is an original pattern drafting manual from 1906 with instructions to pattern your own shirtwaists, skirts and house dresses for women and young children. The other is an 1983 reprint of an original linen pattern book from 1901. It is quite awesome and contains patterns for household linen, underthings, nightwear and swimwear for men, women and children, as well as the cutest baby clothes and a whole appendix of monogram embroidery patterns.

With those two books at hand, my love of turn-of-the-century fashions has, pretty much been set on fire. The plan to make an Edwardian skirt for modern evening wear has actually been around since the beginning of this year, but only in the books did I find the perfect pattern. The one I chose to make is a Reform corselet skirt with a small train. Once I opened the pattern book, I fell in love with it, since the heading on the page also described it as an “Empire skirt”. So it really fits in with the blog and adds a little touch of Regency flair to my first Edwardian fashion item. :)

Below you can see the original skirt pattern drawings, with model measures in centimeters. Even though I have used Inkscape to size up historical patterns before here, I have scaled it up the traditional way this time, using a big roll of pattern paper. It was a whole new experience for me, but turned out very well.

The pattern of the seven-gore “Empire” corselet skirt (c.1910).

While I was making it, we had an interesting discussion in the HSF’s Facebook group about actually combining a corselet and skirt in one piece, instead of adding a Swiss waist or cincher to a regular skirt. For some people, the notion of doing so was a novel idea, which actually fits in well with the challenge’s “Modern History” theme. A skirt like this was actually considered a part of Reform fashion at the time and was especially popular with younger women.

My first contact with corselet skirts happened while I was browsing Edwardian fashions on Pinterest. After that, I lucked into a copy of “I Can Sew”, a turn-of-the-century fashion compendium by Antonie Steimann, at the Vienna fashion library and got to reserach the extant construction of the sewn in corselet belt of these skirts. It is a separate piece of fabric, sewn into the high waistband of the skirt. It goes over the square portions at the top of the pattern.

The belt also holds the skirt’s boning. For my version, I placed a short strip of plastic boning against the seams of each gore and also reinforced the band with interfacing, for extra stability. You can find a very useful illustration of the extant construction method over here on Esther’s blog. My next post will also go a little more into depth about it and walk you through the construction steps. After talking about it in the group, some of you might find reading about them useful. :)

So much about the theory behind it all. Now it is time to present the finished skirt to you. Thanks to the moody taffeta fabric, finishing it took a while longer than expected. The worst part were the bottom hem and the closure at the back. After my first attempt of using snaps, like in the period instructions, all 18 of them fell right off again. After a day of sulking I replaced most of them with hook-and-bar and hook-and-eye closures, which took a few turns of sailing off as well before they decided to behave. Just now, when taking the photos, the very last snap at the bottom decided to jump into its death as well. I already see myself sewing it back on on Christmas Eve, like an hour before the skirt’s big moment.

For the record: Taffeta and snaps will be banned from the sewing room for a long, long while now… But, enough of the ranting. Time for some photos and a brief roundup:

Corselet skirt front (excuse the funky socks).

The train at the back.

The side view, with a peek at the Christmas-y cotton lining.

The Challenge: #23 – “Modern History”.

Fabric: 3 yds of brown poly taffeta for the shell and 3 yds of candy-cane striped cotton for the lining.

Pattern: “Miederrock oder Empirerock aus sieben Bahnen” from “Einfache Zuschneidemethode für Damen- und Kinderkleider”

Year: 1910.

Notions: 2 hook-and-bar closures; some sew-on snaps and smaller hook-and-eyes; 1/2″ of iron-on interfacing and 1/2 yd of sewable plastic boning.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate, except for the poly fabric and plastic boning. Used the machine for it, but only on straight stitch.

Total cost: About € 25.

Hours to complete: About 40 hours.

First worn: Will be worn extensively over Christmas.

I am so glad I finally managed to get this post out for you. With all the work at the moment, I have really missed blogging for you. But, luckily, it will be Christmas break very soon. Until then, I should get cracking to finish making up the last of the Christmas presents. And then, you will have my full attention again. Soon, there will also be a new camera to take better pictures again as well. (Yay.)

Love, Nessa

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