An Edwardian Divided Skirt: Making Up

Following the drafting of the pattern, the skirt was very quick to cut out as it only has two pieces plus a waistband. I then proceeded to make the skirt up like a pair of trousers. I began by sewing the inside leg seams followed by the crotch. I then pressed and stitched the inverted pleats at CF and CB top-stitching them down to hip level to hold them flat . After a fitting I completed the skirt by sewing the side seams, inserting an invisible zip on the left hand side and attaching a straight narrow waistband.

The only alteration I made was that I found I needed to raise the CF and CB about an inch in order to get the pleats to lie correctly and I have my theories about why I needed to do this which relates back to the pattern drafting and pattern cutting.

When drafting the divided skirt pattern I needed to create a new slightly sloped CF and CB to allow the inverted pleat to hang correctly. However it was not indicated anywhere in my source books whether the old CF and CB or the new CF and CB were to be placed to the straight of grain.

As I was working with a self striped fabric I decided to put the new CF and CB to the straight of grain, that is along a stripe so that I got a vertical stripe up the centre of my skirt front and back. However because I found that I need to raise the CF and CB on my made up skirt I began to suspect that actually the original CF and CB on the pattern drafts were in fact the straight grain lines although if I had cut the fabric like that the stripes would have hung at an angle.

When I came across this sewing pattern picture during a Pinterest search I felt it confirmed that suspicion as I can see that the stripes on the check hang away at an angle from the CF creating an upside down V shape. To be honest I don’t suppose it looks that bad and with plain or flowered fabric it absolutely would not be a problem but I began to wonder what you do if you want your striped or check fabric to hang vertical at front and back and not at an angle.

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I looked through all my reference books again and found that in Pattern Cutting Made Easy the author states that when using check or striped fabric do not create the new sloped CF and CB for an inverted pleat and just use the original CF and CB (it was also when I read this that I realised it substantiated my suspicion that the original CF and CB are the straight grain). I can see that this would lead to the check or striped fabric hanging vertically but I began to ask myself how would this affect the hang of the inverted pleat if you remove the sloped CF and CB. Obviously this is something I need to play around with trying out different pattern drafts with and without the sloped front and seeing how the inverted pleats hang (especially on striped and checked fabric) but that will be saved for another day.

Although I love the self striped fabric I have used for the divided skirt, it is very soft and I think the pleat will fall out readily and need regular pressing to maintain its shape. A crisp fabric is definitely better for pleats. Also another way to keep the pleat laying better would have been to cut the pleat as two pieces thus creating a seam on the inside fold of the pleat.  The photo on the left below shows front pleat and the photo on the right below shows the back pleat.

Anyway despite these observations, with some tweaking my CF and CB pleats now lay how I intended with the stripe vertical and overall I am very pleased with my attempt at drafting and making a garment from my own measurements.  It is certainly something I want to develop more and use for everyday garments as well as for historical and vintage items.

An Edwardian Divided Skirt: Drafting the Pattern

As part of a planned costume, I want to make an Edwardian style divided skirt. These skirts, along with bloomers, became popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century as women began to participate more in sports such as tennis, golf and particularly bicycling.

Divided skirts look essentially like a pleated A line skirt but are actually culottes and therefore, as well as providing more freedom of movement, they also help to preserve a lady’s dignity, for example, when trying to mount a bicycle. Occasionally the skirt was part of a stylish suit which made a totally practical outfit for outdoor activities. Edwardian designs were often referred to as bifurcated skirts and the front of the culottes was often disguised with a centre front panel sewn into the seam on the right hand side but left to hang loose on the left hand seam as in first picture below. I suppose our modern equivalent would be called a skort. However my design is going to be a straight forward A line divided skirt with centre front (CF) and centre back (CB) pleat.

Initially I thought I would make the divided skirt by drafting an original Edwardian divided skirt pattern buttoned up the CF from Turn of the Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques but when I began to do this I realised I just didn’t have enough space on my dining room table for the size of measurements used especially the length of the original vertical line A-B from which other measurements are taken. This drafting method is based on the circular skirt method of swinging a pencil on a string round which is still used today – often in the Burdastyle magazines.

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For some time now I have been planning on creating some blocks using my own measurements in order to design my own patterns, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to create a skirt block using my own measurements. I had three source books (the first two from the local library, the third being one I picked up from a flea market) as follows:

Pattern Cutting made Easy by Gillian Holman

Pattern Drafting for Fashion: The Basics by Teresa Gilewska

Dress Pattern Designing: The Basic Principles of Cut and Fit by Natalie Bray

Although all skirt blocks begin as a basic rectangle measuring 1/2 hip measurement x required length of skirt, the way in which the drafting was undertaken varied in each book. The Teresa Gilewska method does not use any ease allowance on the drafting (I presume you must add this when cutting out) and was very calculation based. I did draft her basic pencil skirt for future use. The Pattern Cutting made Easy used a similar system but did add some ease to the measurements and did include a culotte variation.

However in the end I decided to use my Natalie Bray book mainly because the follow up book More Pattern Cutting (which I bought at the same time as the basic book) has instructions for a pleated divided skirt. It is an older system and I suppose some may say old fashioned method but the book is often seen as the definitive guide for pattern cutting. There are updated versions but the copy I have dates from the early 1960s and so many of the variations illustrated have a lovely vintage feel. The book uses the technique of cutting and spreading the original basic rectangle. As I began to draft this skirt block the technique began to feel familiar and I realised I had used it before when I did some basic pattern drafting at school. This method creates more of an A line skirt which is what I wanted for the Edwardian style but the book does show how to reduce hem width to create a pencil skirt style.

1. Creating the Rectangle:

2. Cutting and Spreading the Rectangle at the hip line, then tracing the outline on to new paper:

3.Inserting the seamlines and darts to create the final block:

Ideally the block should be made on something durable like thick card but I had to make do with thick paper.

Once I had made the block I traced off a copy to alter for the divided skirt pattern below. A divided skirt is a full length skirt with a crutch part and usually inverted pleats added on CF and CB. To create the divided skirt the width of the standard skirt block is slightly increased in such a way that 1 inch is added to the CF and CB at the hem but nothing at the waist to enable the CF to slope more for the pleat to hang correctly. A crotch part is then added to the new CF and CB (this would create simple culottes pattern) but to create the divided skirt the crotch part has to be cut off and pleats added to the new CF and new CB and then the crotch part re-attached. Stage I below shows the new CF and CB added and the crotch part drafted on. Stage II shows the pleat added at back and crotch ready to be reattached and the front shows how it lies with pleat closed.

Here is the pattern for the front showing the pleat and also with the pleat on the pattern folded to make sure it lies correctly.

The pattern is now ready to be cut out and made up. Ideally with self drafted patterns it is advisable to make a muslin to test the pattern and make any adjustments to the muslin which can then be transferred to create a final correct block pattern. As I am pushed for time I am going to bypass the muslin (risky I know) and cut out my fabric direct. I shall be writing about the final outcome and any problems I encounter in the next blog, so stay tuned.