What is the perfect skirt?
The answer to such a question is, of course, highly subjective. Yet certain qualities would likely be desirable to a substantial segment of skirt-wearers: comfort, versatility, and aesthetic appeal. Does the skirt fit correctly without unduly restricting movement? Does it work well with a variety of clothing combinations and for a variety of settings? Does it look appealing on a hanger? on the person wearing it? Does it, through some arcane means, confer upon the wearer the suspicion that they are in fact wearing the platonic ideal of skirts? Different skirt-wearers will undoubtedly come to different conclusions about such questions depending on the skirt involved.
But folks, I think I’ve found my perfect skirt.
Last time, by applying scissors to my bridesmaid dress, I ended up with a strapless top and a pile of fabric. My primary goal for that pile of fabric was a skirt which maintained the charm of all those yards of swishing chiffon. At the same time, I was hesitant to duplicate the ruffles that I so disliked in the strapless top.
My first thought was to make a two layered skirt – the bottom layer a simple, straight skirt and the top layer gathered chiffon, but not so tightly gathered as in the bridesmaid dress. This would have involved making the pattern up as I went along and quite a bit of trial and error to get the gathers just right. But that approach would involve math, measuring and alot of luck, and frankly, I had never worked with anything remotely as slippery as chiffon before. It’s a squirmy beast to cut out and to sew with, and while I love a sewing experiment, they tend to come out better when there are fewer variables in play.
Vogue 7798: surprise casual skirt
This was when my Mom suggested Vogue 7798, a pattern that had been languishing in my parent’s basement since 2003. For whatever reason, it had never been made up despite being a perfectly respectable set of dressy separates. I will admit, I looked at my mother like she was crazy – wasn’t the goal to NOT end up with a formal, floor-length skirt? But she was, as she so often is, perfectly correct. The skirt pattern was made with precisely this kind of dressy fabric in mind, it had layers built into the pattern already, and it was easily hacked off at the knees for a much more casual and functional look.
The skirt has a narrow waist band and nice lines, despite its bland appearance on the pattern picture front. I used the pattern pieces, but completely ignored the directions (that’s a shock). I kept the center back seam of the skirt from the bridesmaid dress because that made one less seam to sew. Of course, this left a bit of a challenge for figuring out what to do with the center back zipper. What I ended up doing for the zipper finish was a centered standard zippper in the bottom layer and a rolled edging to the top layer of chiffon. I did that bit by hand and learned as I went – it’s not the prettiest, but it is serviceable.I will confess that I used a… nontraditional approach to hemming this skirt. As you can see above, I finished everything else in the skirt before hemming it, which is pretty standard. The wildly uneven bottom edge came about from my insane method for cutting across the bottom of the pattern pieces. When I was cutting out the skirt pieces, I got frustrated working with the slippery lining fabric and the chiffon. It just kept moving every time I cut it! By the time I got to the bottom of the skirt pieces, I was so annoyed that I guesstimated the length of the skirt and just quickly cut straight across (a word to the wise: Don’t Do This At Home). You can see the varied resulting lengths in the picture above. In order to fix my mess, I needed to true the hem. You get the most accurate results for a straight and even hemline by putting on the skirt or dress in question and having someone else measure and mark a consistent distance from the floor.
I took the lazy but practical approach of measuring and marking an even length from the waistband. You end up with nearly the same result with much less fuss. The hem itself was just each layer folded over twice and stitched down, as narrowly as possible. I think my slightly uneven hem is actually an asset in this skirt. It shows off the layers and gives the skirt more movement.
Having worn it a time or two, I am still pleased as punch with the result. The skirt has great lines and hits a middle ground between a full A-line skirt and a narrow pencil skirt. I think you could cut off the skirt in this pattern at pretty much any length and still get a nice result. It is comfortable and not restrictive, but it still feels neat and sleek. I will admit that I have already made up this pattern in a polka dot fabric and it is similarly delightful (more on that later).
The skirt doesn’t need a slip, what with the layers, but it isn’t very wearable with stockings. This skirt will be seeing the outside of my closet much more when it warms up.
Bridesmaid Dress Reinvention Part Two: Success. One more adventure to come! There is one more layer of dress lining to use up and more pictures of green clothing in a green room on a gray day to squint at. Stay tuned!