Monday, January 29, 2018

An 1890's Re-made Plaid Wool Skirt

"Mend, Reshape, Refashion." That's the first Historical Sew Monthly theme for 2018. Mend or re-shape one of your previously made historical clothing items, or refashion a new one out of something not originally intended as sewing fabric. There couldn't be a more perfect theme to get me back into historical sewing after my year long absence!

I made this plaid wool skirt a little over a year ago as a costume for a Christmas play my mom and sister were part of. 

The skirt in it's original form in the Christmas play

Not only did I make my mom's and sister's costumes for the play, I costumed the entire cast. Mostly the costumes consisted of  pieces from thrift stores and my own personal costume stash, but I did make a few new pieces as well, such as this skirt. 

I found this wool at a thrift store for just a couple dollars. There was a tag on it marked "4 yards." 4 yards of wool plaid for under $5!! Yes please! The wool came home with me, I did a quick burn test to make sure it was indeed all wool, not synthetic, (it's all wool!), then stashed it on my fabric shelves for the perfect project. So, there it sat, on my fabric shelves, for over a year, until I needed it to make this skirt. That's when I ran into issues.

It turns out, there were not 4 yards of fabric. Oh, no. There were only two. Would it be possible to squeeze an 1890's gored skirt out of only 2 yards of 60" wool? Well, I was gonna find out.

Turns out, it's possible to make an 1890's skirt out of only 2 yards of fabric, if you throw plaid matching out the window. So that is what I did. Good-bye plaid matching, hello new skirt.

I found a cotton sateen sheet in my fabric stash that would work perfectly to underline the wool with, so I cut that out too. Then the skirt got thrown together one evening so that it would be ready for dress rehearsal the next day. It had a machine sewn hem and unfinished seams and it looked excellent on stage. It served its purpose well in the Christmas play! Once the play was over it came home and sat in my sewing room waiting for me to return home from the World Race and do something with it. 

The original wearer of the skirt was a bit larger than I am, so when I made the skirt I made it with the intent of re-setting it on a waistband to fit me after the play was over. January's Historical Sew monthly challenge was just the push I needed to do just that. So a couple weeks ago I pulled the skirt out of the costume pile in my sewing room (please tell me I'm not the only one with "organized piles" in their sewing room) and detached it from the waistband. 

While doing so, I took a good look at the insides of the skirt and decided they need a bit of work. That machine stitched hem, faced with twill tape? it had to go. Those raw seams? They needed finishing. The lack of pockets? That needed addressing. I pulled out my seam ripper and got started.

Over the past two weeks, whenever I could snatch a few moments in between other projects, this skirt got put to rights. All the seams were overcast by hand to prevent unraveling in the future. Then machine sewed twill tape was removed and replaced with a cotton canvas hem facing, which was hand-sewed in place. Pockets were added to the side seams. Finally the waistband was cut down to fit my corseted waist, and the skirt was pleated onto the smaller waistband. 

Now I've got an 1890's winter skirt that I can't wait to wear! After I complete the outfit with a shirtwaist and jacket, of course! I have the fabrics for both of these pieces in my stash, so all that's left is to actually make them. (In these pictures I'm wearing my 1860's Garibaldi Blouse, since I don't yet have and 1890's 'waist') Now that I've gotten a taste of historical sewing again, I can't wait to forge ahead with other projects!

The pockets work well!

Historical Sew Monthly Facts:

The Challenge: #1 Mend, Reshape, Refashion. I remade an 1890's skirt to suit my needs and be more historically accurate.

Material: Mid-weight plaid wool for skirt, cotton sateen sheet for flatlining, scrap of cotton poplin for pockets, printed cotton canvas for hem facing.

Pattern: My own

Year: 1890's

Notions: Thread, hooks and bars for closures

How historically accurate is it? Probably about 90% The main materials are correct, the construction is correct, and the look is correct.

Hours to complete: Probably about 10, done in short bits between other projects or on long car rides.

First worn: 1/28/18, for pictures.

Total cost: The original wool fabric cost about $4 at a thrift store several years ago, and everything else was in my stash either gifted to me or left over from other projects. 


  1. Aw that is like the best skirt ever. 😍

  2. It looks fabulous! Very sweep-y. :D I really like your deep hem facing, too.

    1. Thank you! I was given quite a bit of that navy cotton canvas and it is just thing for hem facings!

  3. Hi, I am also in the position of wanting to make a 1890s skirt out of only 2 yards of fabric. If you have any pointers on what resources you used to draft your pattern it would be MOST appreciated! Your skirt is beautiful!

  4. This skirt was made from a “hacked” “Big 4” pattern. However, since then I’ve discovered the books “59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns” and “Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns” both by Kristina Harris and they’re now my go-to for anything 1890’s . I’m sure there’s a pattern that would work for you in one of those!