Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quick Victorian-ish walking skirt

So I keep trying to come up with a few pieces to start a Steampunk costume and haven't made it there yet. I've seen a lot of simple-looking skirts that would make an excellent base for a Steampunk costume when paired with other great pieces and props. I've seen a lot of "ready to wear" Steampunk/Victorian costumes with these ruffle-bottom skirts, so I thought I would make one. It is vaguely reminiscent of a walking skirt, especially on an American frontier setting. Remember, this isn't supposed to be historically accurate - just fun and easy.

I had about 3 yards of a suit-like fabric with a subtle plaid pattern that I paid $5 for at a thrift store. At the very least, I could probably get $5 worth of do-it-yourself lessons from the experiment right? So I started with a skirt pattern that I have 3 copies of. McCalls 4090 - full ren-type skirt with 6 gores. I wanted the front of the skirt to be flat and the back to look full, in an effort to create a bustle look without the work and without the undergarments. This is supposed to be something simple - and an experiment. This may have turned out a little better if I had drafted my own pattern instead of altering one, but I'm not ready for that.

So the first alteration was the length of the skirt. I wanted to add a 6-inch ruffle to the bottom, so I took off the difference for my height as well as for the ruffle. (I also had to make sure I had enough fabric leftover to actually make the ruffle. Although a ruffle in a complimentary solid color might also look nice.) Since I wanted the front panel to be one piece and have the seams fall at the sides, I added several inches to the waist and hip of the front pattern piece. I also changed the front piece to resemble a that of a straight skirt - straight bottom hem and straight sides down from the widest point of the hip. (I figured I could add darts at the waist line if the front panel didn't drape well.) I decided not to alter the side seams of the middle panels as I was just doing this for fun with cheap fabric. It was tough getting the lengths of all three pieces to match, but I ended up cutting a little bit off all of them anyway. When in doubt, make it longer.

I didn't worry too much about lining up the striped pattern on the fabric. I got close on the top of the side seams (since most folks won't see the bottom), as it's hard to get patterns lined up on a bias cut. Something to think about next time if I decide it bothers me. I did notice that the stripes near the top of the front piece aren't even with the waistband. Perhaps a few darts are needed after all - if I feel up to fixing the hem. The back three panels were gathered to make the "fullness" in the back. I think next time I would add more panels, or make the three panels I used wider. For the ruffle, I cut 4 strips of fabric 8 inches wide and did a narrow hem on the bottom. After experimenting with the settings on my ruffler foot, I decided on a ruffle ratio of approximately 1.5. With a 100" hem on the skirt, I would need about 150 inches of fabric to ruffle. I finished the edge of the fabric before I ruffled.

The intention is to add a waist cincher, ruffly shirt, and maybe a bolero jacket, along with my collected steampunk props and accessories. (The cincher and shirt in the picture are just what I had on hand - not part of the intended finished product.) I think it turned out well, for a $5 investment. I would likely make it fuller in the back next time, and maybe try two layers of ruffles on the bottom. I'm also thinking of a trim at the top of the ruffle.

I also don't know how to cut the pattern pieces to get the stripes at the correct angle, but a little thinking next time might help. Now to find some fabric for a waist cincher.