20th Century

The ‘please don’t photograph me’ 1930s-ish nautical skirt

Remember how I made a mid-1930s skirt to wear with a nautical outfit for Windy Lindy 2011  way back in August?

Well, I’ve been trying to get good images of me in that skirt ever since, and I tell you, that thing just doesn’t want to be photographed.

So I’ve finally conceded defeat, and am just showing you some mediocre images.

The inspiration for my skirt was a common mid-30s design with outward facing pleats front and back.  I can’t find the actual image I used for inspiration, but you Wearing History has posted some images of similar skirts, like this adorable one with lacing (on the right) and a simple one in flat silk crepe (on the left).

The skirt

Like I said, very common design!

For my skirt I used the same white  cotton with irregular diagonal rib that I used for the 1770s man’s redux waistcoat and breeches.  It’s not a period accurate fabric for the 1930s, and the resulting skirt is a bit more structured and tailored than a real 30s example would be.

The very crisp pleats

I lined it in plain white cotton: not a traditional lining fabric at all.  I sew modern clothes so rarely that I don’t own a lot of lining fabric, and didn’t have any on hand for this skirt (though I had just de-stashed some to an op-shop only a few days earlier – such is life!).  So far it has worked incredibly well: it’s nice an supportive for holding everything in place, and thick enough that I can wear dark undergarments without worrying about it.

The cotton lining with mini-bias hemming

Since the skirt wasn’t going to be exactly period accurate due to my fabric choices, I decided to just make it ‘modern – period inspired’.  So it has an invisible zip (which, of course, the pull on broke right away).

The cotton lining and invisible zip

I did go for a beautifully done period bias tape and hand-stitched hem.  Sometimes the old ways are really the best ways for getting something to lie perfectly!

Bias-tape hemming

To hold all of the pleating perfectly, and to add a little dimension to the diagonal fabric, I topstiched the pleating seams

Topstitched pleat

The one place where I may have cut a few corners is in the edge finishings.  For reasons that elude me completely, I left them totally raw.  Quite unlike me!

Now why didn't I finish you?

Minor “Why did I do that?”s  aside, I’m quite happy with the resulting skirt: it’s a nice twist on the traditional pencil skirt.  I wouldn’t say that it is exactly 1930s, and I’m not sure that the double pleats are doing me any favours (they just seem to get a little odd and boxy at the hem), but it’s comfortable, fun to wear, and I can dance in it.

It doesn’t photograph well though!

Meh 1

...and back

Some lovely ladies and I had a nautical picnic yesterday, and I wore the skirt with the intention of giving it one last try in photographs.  What do you think?

Sailor togs by the sea


  1. I think this skirt is fabulous!!! It’s got the perfect mix of good for today fit and period cut. I would totally wear it all the time. Love your fabric choice, too 🙂

  2. I think it’s darling! I’d wear it all the time. It’s a good mix of the structured style skirts popular today and the cut of the 1930’s.


  3. This is too cute for words! The pleats at the back are sassy but paired with a nautical top *divine*!

  4. Ahhhh! I love it! Of course you look wonderful. I’ve been going back and forth with myself about whether I should make a white 30’s skirt (no kidding) and this has tipped the balance in favor of the project. Very nice.

    Leimomi, you do know the year isn’t 1930. It’s ok to use modern techniques. 😉 No matter what you do, it will never be “period” because this is 2012. Have you seen “Midnight in Paris”?

    • Yes! But I like to distinguish between what uses period accurate materials and techniques, and what doesn’t, so that nobody gets confused about what is historical and isn’t!

      And I haven’t seen Midnight in Paris yet. Too much else to do.

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