What I wear

The ‘Penciling it in’ skirt

I’ve been having fun finding music to match my ‘me’ sewing lately.  This week’s me sewing is a ’30s skirt, so it needs one of my favourite swing songs,  Lavender Coffin.  Great to dance to, and a good conversation starter — we have an ongoing discussion of ways to make a lavender eco-coffin.  I’m advocating dye made from blueberries or java plums.  It’s not like the colour needs to last! (yes, I have macabre interests).

On a much more random note, I’ve also been doing a lot of sewing to Julietta Venegas lately.  It gives me a chance to practice my rapidly fading Spanish.  If only I’d known I’d be spending my adult life in New Zealand I could have spared myself years of torture in language classes, or at least taken something I was good at, like Hawaiian. But whether I understand it or not, I enjoy Julietta Venegas.  I particularly like  Limon y Sal  and its cute silent movie aesthetic.

Right!  The sewing!  The skirt!

This week’s theme on the Sew Weekly is ‘Reality Check’: make something your wardrobe really needs.  I’ve tried throughout the year to keep my Sew Weekly sewing purposeful and useful — with each garment crossing something off my sewing list and filling a need in my closet.  I don’t believe in sewing things I don’t need and won’t wear just to fill a challenge or a theme – that’s a waste of my time and resources.  Six months in there was just one big gap that I hadn’t managed to find an excuse to sew: I desperately needed a black pencil skirt.  I have them in almost every other basic colour!

I knew just what style of skirt I wanted: very high waisted, well below the knee, and with pleat details.  Enter my beloved ’30s nautical pattern,  Butterick 5654.  Just the thing!

Butterick 5654, 1930s Nautical pattern

Butterick 5654 is actually a dress, and has no waist shaping, so I had to figure out my own darts, and draft a waistband.  I also had to reduce the pattern to compensate for the stretch fabric.  I’m particularly pleased with the waistband.  Thanks to my blouse it isn’t showing up in the photos, but the waistband has a lovely shaped curved, and it makes me very happy.

My photoshoot, and thus this post, were delayed all week because my camera is in the shop :-(.

To get it done I asked Shell if she would to take pictures on her camera.   We took the afternoon off and went to the Embassy Theatre, a restored ’30s theatre with a lovely bohemian Art Deco look, and a bit of international fame as it hosted the Return of the King premier.  It fits perfectly with my ‘’30s skirt meets modern top’ outfit.

It’s quite a dramatic setting, so Shell pretended to be a fashion photographer and I did my best to do my most pouty, vacant, fashion model look.

I don’t think I’m cut out to be a fashion model!  I’d do my best to look expressionless, but a little smile would slip out:

And then a full on giggle:

Yep!  I’d rather sew than pose!

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric:  1.5 metres of thrifted stretch cotton blend $3

Pattern:  Butterick 5654

Year:  1934

Notions:  1 metre lace trim, hooks and loops, thread (inherited from Nana), invisible zip (thrifted, 30 cents)

Hours:  3

Make again?  Yes, or at least close variants.  Its a lovely, versatile pattern

First worn:  Thursday for classes, lunch with a friend, and a photoshoot

Wear again?  Yes!  This is a perfect fit for my wardrobe

Total cost:  $3.30

And the inside?:  It’s unlined (that’s what I have a drawer full of slips for), and I finished all the selvedges with my overlocker (gasp!).  But I used a mix of black, purple and lavender thread, because even overlocking needn’t be boring.


  1. Now I wish I lived in New Zealand.

    I love pencil skirts, but it’s difficult to find off-the-rack skirts that will fit my figure (normal waist, generous hips, thighs wider than the hips about 3-5 inches below my hipbone).

    If I lived in New Zealand, I’d ask you to make me a few pencil skirts. (I would cheerfully pay whatever you’d charge, plus materials). Then I’d get harmonizing blazers and wear them to work.

    If I get another regular job, that is. Sigh.

  2. Lynne says

    That is a really nice pencil skirt, and you look elegant and efficient in it! I had one very like it when I was about nineteen, inverted front pleat and all. The blouse looks terrific with it – modern, but tipping its hat to the jabot-fronted sort a secretarial gel might have worn with the skirt.

    Great length. Really smart.

  3. Nice skirt! Everyone needs a black pencil skirt. Though I don’t have one. Haha. My ‘basic’ one is grey, which goes with just as many things as black 😀

  4. Surely the best lavender coffin would be constructed similarly to the wicker ‘eco-coffins’ but woven from lavender flowers? Then you get colour and scent.

    • Elise says

      Oh! And it would keep the bugs away for a little while!

  5. This looks so fantastic! Beautifully done.
    And I think you make a fantastic model 🙂

  6. Super-sweet skirt — and I love that second photo of you. Such a great face in photos. You ARE a model, whether you like it or not. 😉

  7. Claire Payne says

    How I long for a 1930’s revival. Modern designers persist in harking back to decades when style died a dreadful death – 1980’s, 1970’s, etc. I love the long lean designs of the 1930’s when one’s attire left something to the imagination. Real elegance. You look marvellous and I am sure your wonderful new (or should that be old?) skirt will give you years of wearing enjoyment.

  8. I love the cut, the length, and the fabulous style of the waistband! A completely fabulous piece that fills a gap in your closet and adds some pizazz to your outfits 🙂 Well done!!! Love the setting as well – totally glamorous and fitting.

Comments are closed.