20th Century

The 1903 Chinoiserie ensemble – the skirt

I’m sure that when all of you read my post introducing this project you looked at the calendar and though “wait, you have only a week and a half (less really) left to do this.  It isn’t going to happen!”

But look…progress!

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

Not just progress, a whole, beautifully made, and almost finished, skirt!

For the basic construction of the skirt I used this fashion plate from 1902:

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

And this pattern from Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques (originally from the Ladies Tailor Made section of The “Standard” Work on Cutting) to draft my pattern:

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

I decided to make the skirt right, and deal with whatever fabric was left for the bodice, come what may.  I drew my pattern out on my skirt: one giant swoop of pattern piece going from centre front to centre back, with no side seams.

Felicity helped hold the fabric down:

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

Then I drew a slightly curvier swoosh for my flounce, and pinned it directly to the main body of the skirt, and sewed it on with one raw edge showing.  My fabric is felted  and won’t fray, and my LACMA inspiration dress shows that this is period.

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

There are little curved V’s at the centre front and back.  All of this will probably get covered by the ‘cloud’ applique.

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

Then all I had to do was sew the front and back seams, set a placket in the back, and pleat the skirt to fit my waist.

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

There is a single set of pleats that opens up from the centre-back waist, with beautifully set hooks and eyes hidden in the pleating.

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

Placket and pleating sorted, I attached a waistband.  It is faced with black silk satin left over from my Midnight Garden corset – the sort I hope to trim the whole skirt in.

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

For the hem, I marked the hem up, and then sewed in a line of tape to give the hem a little more body and stiffness and ‘swoosh’ (this skirt seems to be all about swoosh).

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

Although the fabric is felted enough to withstand fraying, I though it would be better safe than not, so I finished the edge of the wool with bias binding.  Then I turned up the hem over the tape, and sewed it down with a machine invisible-hem stitch (yes, cutting a few corners here):

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

Hurrah!  Basically done skirt:

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

And isn’t it deliciously swoosh-y?

All it needs is a hem protector, and the ‘cloud’ applique, and it will be done!  And then at least I will have something to submit for the challenge, though I’m hoping I’ll manage the bodice as easily and quickly and with as little headache!

I thought a bit more about the design.  I have been tempted by a bolero (and I know some of you are advocating it).  I even drew up a design:

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com

However, the more I looked and researched, the more obvious it became that short-sleeved boleros were really only for summer wear, and they were only made in silk, cotton, or very light wool.  A bolero just wouldn’t be right for the idea of my outfit.

1903 chinoiserie skirt thedreamstress.com


  1. Tenshi says

    I’m in love. That skirt shape is so wonderful, words fail me. The colour, too, and your design sketch, but most of all, that wonderfully swooshy, elegant skirt shape.
    I think I really really need to make something from that era…Need. But I suck at pattern drafting – do you have any recommendations? My historical sewing experience amounts to one roba à la francaise (plus stays and pocket hoops), and I’m generella not afraid of anything, but I do need some kind of starting point.

  2. I love that waistband, and I love these skirts with no side seams – I definitely want to make one, too!
    I now hope that you have enough fabric left for the bodice!

  3. The one thing I do like about Edwardian fashion is that they knew how to make a graceful skirt. You have emulated the fashion silhouette to perfection. Magnifique!

  4. I like skirts of this era. Not only are they elegant, but they tend to be fairly easy to make as well. Yours is lovely, especially in that blue color.

  5. Lynne says

    Love the skirt! Well done. I prefer the top minus bolero – I think the cloud on the front is wonderful, and I look forward to seeing that. What with the cloud on the skirt, it is going to go together so well. Lovely thing.

  6. Zach says

    I can’t wait to see the top with that beautiful skirt! I’ve always loved the skirts from that era–they’re amazingly elegant and…well, beautiful! You’ve done a wonderful job!

  7. MJ Ruisi says

    I know some people will cringe…but I think your Plly/Oliver Jacet would look smashing with this skirt….

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