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Edwardian Revival Skirt

icon freeVicky Clarke has a mission: to bring back historical fashion that flattered curvy women so well in the past, and make it practical and wearable for our 21st century lifestyles.

The skirt we'll be making in this article is a hybrid of original 1900s design, 1970s revival and design simply intended to flatter the body as it is. It's fitted over the waist and hips and elegantly flowing beneath, great for girls with curves, and it can be made into a fantastic evening skirt just as easily as daywear with a twist.

We'll start by drafting a custom skirt block, which we'll then slash and spread to get the pattern we want. There are also instructions for an optional applique panel to accentuate the waist: another nod to the original Edwardian style.

 

70s Edwardian Revival DesignIn the 1970s, Edwardian fashion came back big-time. Empire waists, yokes and ruffles reminiscent of shirtwaists, nipped-in waists and flowing maxi skirts adorned women everywhere from the High Street to advertisements for the Ford Capri.

In the Edwardian period itself, the mature figure had been the height of fashion, and skirts were full over the hips to give the illusion of generous curves; in our modern age, alas, the big behind is not as popular as it was, and the 70s revival tended much more towards A-lines.

The Delineator, Nov. 1898, pg 507The skirt we'll be making in this article is a hybrid of original 1900s design, 1970s revival and design simply intended to flatter the body as it is.

It's fitted over the waist and hips and elegantly flowing beneath, great for girls with curves, and it can be made into a fantastic evening skirt just as easily as daywear with a twist.

We'll start by drafting a custom skirt block, which we'll then slash and spread to get the pattern we want. There are also instructions for an optional applique panel to accentuate the waist: another nod to the original Edwardian style.

 

Fabrics

While original walking skirts were made in fabrics with a fair bit of body, such as cottons and wools, I'm aiming for a much more informal look, so the pattern is intended for fabrics with a good drape and flow.

The original pattern

A similar gored skirt from The Delineator, Nov. 1898, pg 559
A similar gored skirt from The Delineator, Nov. 1898, pg 559

Take a look at the pattern illustration for a period walking skirt shown here.

 

It has no side seam, and the side and back gores have a flare that's biggest towards the back, putting most of the flow and weight of the skirt behind. It's slightly fitted at the waist, but flares out pretty fast, and also isn't created using the wearer's hip measurement; the instructions that accompany it simply tell you to choose a hem width for your skirt and work from there!

This, of course, is a skirt made to be worn over corsets and petticoats, where extra volume will be easily filled up by the underpinnings – since we're making a modern style designed to be worn without, we're taking a very different approach.

 

Making the block

You will need:

  • Pattern paper, the length of your chosen skirt plus a few inches, and the width of half your hip measurement plus a few inches.
  • Ruler
  • Set square, giving you an accurate right angled corner
  • Pencil

 

Vicky's going to go through these instructions fairly quickly - they're easy to follow, but if you're completely new to drafting, you might benefit from trying our Easy Pattern Drafting tutorial first!

If you want greater accuracy, or you're an unusual shape and find fitting difficult, try using the alternative notes I've added in italics. If you're finding this all a bit overwhelming or you're a fairly regular size, just ignore the italicised parts! - CH

 

Measurements you'll need

  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Waist to hip, measured at the side
  • Length from waist to hem

 

Extra measurements for greater accuracy:

  • Measure your front waist and back waist separately - from side seam to side seam around the front and back
  • Use your front hip and back hip, in a similar way - particularly useful if you have a larger or smaller than average stomach or behind!
  • Length at front, side and back, especially if you're making a floor length skirt - these may be different. Adjust the length a little if necessary when the pattern is finished.
  • For extra credit: In the instructions below, Vicky has given alternative widths for the darts if you have a small waist in comparison to your hips. Can you find a way to make the darts accurate just for you? Hint: Use the difference between your waist and hip measurements!


block

Drafting instructions

Section I - Basic framework

  1. Draw a vertical line down one side of your paper. Mark it 'centre back'. Mark point A near the top. Square across.
  2. On the line you just drew, mark point B, half your hip measurement [half of front hip plus half of back hip] plus 3cm (1¼”). Square down from B and mark this line 'centre front'.
  3. From A, measure down the vertical line to your skirt length. Mark point C.
  4. Square across from C and mark point D on the centre front line.
  5. From point A, measure down by your waist-to-hip measurement and mark E.
  6. Square across from E and mark point F on the centre front line.

 

Section II - Back waist and darts
Now we'll divide the pattern for back and front, and draw in the waist and some darts. Here's the back:

  1. On the line E-F, starting at E, measure one quarter your hip measurement [half your back hip measurement] plus 1.5cm (5/8") for ease, and mark point G. This is where the side seam will sit.
  2. Square down from G to the hem line and mark point H.
  3. On the line A-B, measure one quarter of your waist measurement [half your back waist measurement] plus 4.25cm (1 11/16")and mark point I. (If you have a small waist in proportion to your hips, add 5.25cm (2") instead).
  4. 1.25cm (½") above I, mark point J. Join J to A and G with dotted straight lines.
  5. Half way between A and J, mark point K.
  6. Mark point L, half way between K and J.
  7. From K, square down 14cm (5½") using the slanted dotted line between A and J, and mark M.
  8. From L, square down 12.5cm (5") and mark N.
  9. Now draw in the darts using these lines as the centre lines and M and N as the endpoints of the darts. Each one should be 2cm (¾") wide in total, so the sides are 1cm (3/8") away from the centre line at the top. (Again, if you have a small waist, do this differently: make the darts 2.5cm (1") wide, or 1.25cm (½") each side of the centre line).
  10. Draw in the waistline, curving it down slightly. Draw in the side seam between J and G, curving it outwards by 0.5cm (3/16").


Section III - Front waist and darts

  1. From B, measure one quarter your waist measurement [half your front waist measurement] plus 2.25cm (7/8") (small-waisted girls add 2.75cm (1 1/8")) and mark point O.
  2. 1.25cm (½") above O, mark point P. Join P to B and G with dotted lines.
  3. Half way between B and P, mark point Q.
  4. Square down from Q 10cm (4") and mark point R.
  5. Draw in another 2cm (¾") wide dart using this line, as you did on the back (2.5cm (1") for small-waisted girls).
  6. Draw in the waistline and side seam curve as for the front, and you're done!

 

Slashing and spreading

But of course, our pattern doesn't end there. This is a straight tailored skirt with darts in funny places, not an Edwardian style! We're actually going to cut our pattern and spread out the pieces to create the A-line shape we want, plus we'll alter a couple of them a bit.

Place your set square on the hip line of the block, use it to position your ruler, and draw a vertical line from the point at the bottom of each dart down to the hemline. Label the sections 1,2,3,4 and 5. Spreading step 1, divided block

Cut the pattern along the dividing lines, and cut out the darts too.

Spreading step 2, Cut the pieces apart

We'll start with panel 1: this will be the centre front panel. All we need to do to panel 1 is add a little flare.

Measure the width of the panel, then tape some extra paper down the left-hand side of it, starting at the bottom of the dart.

Draw out the hemline onto the new paper, and mark the amount of flare along that line: if your skirt is ankle-length, you should flare the panel out by half, so the bottom is 1.5 times as wide. (It's cut on a fold, of course, so the finished front panel will be twice as wide at the bottom as it is at the top).

If you're making a below-knee length skirt and you don't fancy doing complicated maths, flare by about a quarter and use your judgement!

Draw in a slight curve for the hem, so that it meets the seam at a right angle.

Spreading step 3, Front panel

To achieve a smooth and flattering fit over the hips without losing the bell-shaped silhouette, we're using side seams instad of the single side gore that we saw in the Edwardian pattern.

Take panels 3 and 4, and lay them out with the hip and waist lines touching.

Measure the distance between the bottom corners in the gap that creates.

Spreading step 4, measurement
Divide that measurement by 4, and add that much flare to the side seams of each panel, in the same way as for panel 1. Spreading step 5, adding the side seam flair

We're finished with panel 4; keep panel 3 and take panel 2 as well.

Close the dart between them so that panel 2 swings out; tape extra paper into the gap.

Draw in a curve for the hemline that meets both seams at a right angle.

Once you've got the angle right, adjust the pieces so you can make a smooth waistline curve, and fudge the waistline in.

Do not pause for shame!

Spreading step 6, adding the side back panel flair
We're going to widen panel 5, the center back, so that we can add some decorative pleats, as well as some flare.Measure the width of the panel at the hem and draw a vertical line half way across the panel; the waist will be smaller on one side. Spreading step 7, back panel
Cut the panel in half along this line, and spread the panels out till the new width is one and a half times the old one. Spreading step 8, back panel

Now, tape the pieces to a new sheet of paper (or the table) at the top only, just to hold them in place.

Keep the right-hand half still, and swing the left-hand half out to create a flare.

 

Spreading step 9, back panel

You're looking for a shape similar to what you see if you line up the two side pieces you've just made (see how it looks similar to the period pattern's side gore?), but it'll be narrower overall.

Spreading step 9, comparison

 

Spreading step 10, the back panel

Draw straight grain lines on all pieces as shown. (note that it's not parallel with the front edge of the piece on panel 2+3.)

And we're done. Remember, though, that this pattern has no seam or hem allowances yet – if you have enough paper to do it, trace the pieces out and add them on.

Spreading step 11, adding grainlines

Advanced topics: Adding a train

You can of course add a slight train when you're making the back gore piece:

 

  • Lengthen the centre back seam line
  • Draw a wide smooth curve (the pleating will make it look narrower and sharper when finished). Make sure the curve meets the centre back line at a right angle - the two centre back pieces will need to fit together with a smooth hem line!
  • Carry the curve out onto the side back panel to make the whole back of the skirt longer.

 

This can look really good for a knee- or calf-length skirt worn with boots.

Adding a train

Advanced topics 2: Note about the style

As given here, this pattern creates a pretty dramatic flare. To give you an example, my scale-model pattern was made to my own measurements, which is 96cm (38") waist and 96cm (38") length (yes, I'm square!). The total hem measurement of the miniature pattern in the photos is the equivalent of 2.5m (100"), which is on the generous side for a modern skirt.

If you want a leaner, more everyday style or you don't have enough fabric to make it so big, it's easy to do:

  • add less flare at the side seam (I'd suggest 5cm (2") on each piece as a minimum to keep the look intact)
  • leave a 1cm (3/8") dart in the side back panel between pieces 2 and 3
  • reduce the amount of flare you add to piece 1 when you make the back gore (you should still use the other pieces as a guide and make the back gore to match).

 

The Waist Applique

Designing this is relatively easy once your pattern is complete. You can always drape the pattern, or draft it as shown below:

Take a single sheet of tracing paper. I use greaseproof kitchen paper [US: baking parchment]. Fold it in half, and trace the waist section of the front panel pattern onto it.
Then align the edge of the tracing with the side front panel pattern, close the dart, and trace that too.
Tracing the waist
Do the same with the side back panel and the first part of the back gore. That's the shape of your pattern's waist.
Draw your style lines on that...
Drawing in the style line
...cut out and unfold.
Do make a mock-up of this piece as it doesn't have seams you can use to fit it!
Finished pattern

 

Sketch showing the applique from front, side and backThe simple applique shown in the pictures is 10cm (4") deep at the point, narrowing to 5cm (2") deep at the sides.

The ends are lined and left loose so they can be tied with a decorative fastening at the back.

 

 

Cutting and sewing notes

Cut the front panel on a fold, and cut two each of the side front panel, side back panel and back gore. Cut two small pieces of lining fabric using the applique pattern to line the free ends of the applique panel. (You may also want to interface the ends to stop them crumpling). For the applique, clip the seam allowances and press them to the wrong side, then topstitch the applique panel onto the assembled skirt as close as possible to the folded edge.

Lining your skirt or not is up to you; if you have a “sticky” fabric it's a good idea, especially for long versions. The pattern is designed to be finished with a hidden zip at the centre back. The waist is either faced (construct the facing pattern in the same way as the applique) or uses petersham with a hook and bar; this is useful for supporting heavier fabrics. If you use petersham don't forget to ease the front gore onto it a bit, to prevent it riding up; attach the petersham to the skirt before you add the applique, then use the topstitching that holds the applique in place to keep it folded down. There's nothing worse than a waistband that persistently pops out at the back of your skirt!

The centre back seam is on the bias. You may wish to baste this seam and then hang the skirt for a while to let the fabric "drop".

Hems and finishing

Edwardian skirts had a very broad hem; since we're working with flowy modern fabrics, I've left this out to keep the movement free, but you can recreate the look with a judiciously placed ribbon or trim. Or, if you think extra weight will improve your fabric's flow, try a faced “perfect” hem as per Cathy's tutorial.

The back gores, of course, need to be pleated down by one third. You can choose any kind of decorative pleating you want; this isn't a period-accurate skirt! For a slender and modern look, topstitch the first few inches of the pleats in place; you'll still have lots of movement at the hem. Leaving the pleats loose will create a period-style explosion of volume at the back. If you plan to topstitch, try asking a friend to pin the pleats in place with the skirt on; this can create a pretty sunray effect as your figure pulls the skirt body outwards.

Useful links:

Invisible zip tutorial for beginners

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totc_42  
A Revived Edwardian Revival Skirt by Vicky Clarke   I LOVE these skirts! Is there by any chance a jacket to go with it??? Thanks!  
 
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cathyhay  
A Revived Edwardian Revival Skirt by Vicky Clarke   totc_42, this was a one-off article, unfortunately... I keep thinking we must somehow influence you all to vote for an Edwardian DPP next year!  
 
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magpie  
A Revived Edwardian Revival Skirt by Vicky Clarke   Thanks so much for this tutorial! My late-summer project is to add more long skirts to my wardrobe in time for winter, so this was a great discovery!

I'm drafting it up now, but I just wanted to draw your attention to something: when we get to the slash-and-spread stage of the instructions, the numbering on the panels changes. The CF and CB panels (1 & 5) exchange numbers. Not a big problem, but it puzzled me for a minute and I thought you might like to know.

Thanks again, looking forward to my new skirt!
 
 
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devilmaycare34  
A Revived Edwardian Revival Skirt by Vicky Clarke   love this website, my costume placement told me about it by chance when i was asking if they had any tutorials. you have all the skills my fashion course just won't teach me.  
 
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Kirk  
Picture   No finished picture?  
 
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Molley  
  OMG you are a wonderful human being! I have been searching for a pattern I could follow in my size, which is hard since I am plus size! I could not be more grateful to you for all the hard work you put into this! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!  
 

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