Wednesday, July 3, 2024

A Green Herringbone Edwardian Skirt for the Anne Picnic

 Over the course of the two years I have owned this fabric, I’ve brainstormed quite a few ideas for my green herringbone Edwardian skirt. There are so many cool Edwardian skirt designs! I could make a dozen skirts from 1900-1910 and they would all be different! Heck, I might be able to manage that entire dozen just in the first half of the decade! Trying to pick just one style was. . . A challenge. 

Photo by @samithefae

That said, my green herringbone was a bit heavier than generally preferable for Edwardian skirt material, so that limited my choices somewhat. 

A month before the Anne of Green Gables Picnic I still had atleast 5 ideas running through my head, but it was time to actually get down to business and start the skirt if I wanted it done in time for the picnic - if I didn’t start soon I’d have to wear my 1894 blue paisley to the picnic, and as much as I love that dress it doesn’t fit quite right anymore and I really wanted something new! Thus, I’d better actually pick a design.

I couldn’t. So I drafted a pattern. Now that might sound contradictory, don’t you need a design for a garment in order to draft the pattern? Well, it’s helpful, but for this particular project it wasn’t necessary. I decided to draft a plain 5 gore Edwardian skirt pattern from the book Turn of The Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques. When reading through this book trying to decide on a skirt design, I discovered that most of the fun Edwardian skirt designs I’d fallen in love with started with the basic 5 gore pattern and the flounces and pleats were added to that. So, draft the 5 gore skirt I would! 

And did.

Then I gave myself the weekend to think it over and look on Pinterest for inspiration. About this time I realized I ought to decide exactly what year I wanted to base my ensemble in. That would help me narrow down my options. Since I would be using the Black Snail Edwardian Blouse Pattern for my blouse I needed to first figure out what year the blouse appeared to be from and pick my skirt design accordingly. 

After a bit of reading online it appeared the blouse design was from about 1905-1906. Thus, 1905 and 06 fashion plates captured my attention - with a few from 1904 thrown in for good measure. (Fun fact, since I had to change the blouse sleeves to make it fit on my limited material my blouse now better resembles something from 1904 than it would have with the original pattern sleeves.)

. . . And I picked a skirt design that best matched a 1903 fashion plate. 

A basic gored skirt with an inverted box pleat near the bottom of each seam line for some extra fullness at the hem. I liked the look of it, and I knew this design would work well with my fairly stiff and heavy fabric. It seemed to be a basic enough design that it would work for a good chunk of the Edwardian era, rather than screaming "I'm from 1903!!"

It was also quite easy to add the pleated detail when cutting out the skirt - I didn't even really mess with the original pattern I'd drafted the week before. (Other than to split one of the gores so I'd have a 7 gore skirt rather than a 5 gore, thus more seamlines to add pleats to.) As I was cutting the gores out I just added a section to be pleated toward the inside at the bottom of each seam allowance. 

I made the pleats extend a bit higher up the skirt as I moved toward the center back. Last minute I also decided to add a single pleat at the waistline to the center back seam - and that turned out to be a very good decision.

Once I had the skirt cut out I used my serger to finish all the seam allowances, preventing the fabric from unraveling. Historically accurate technique? No. Practical one? Yes.
I then proceeded to assemble my skirt according to the chapter on skirts in Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques. Despite the title, this book is actually an Edwardian sewing manual - a reprint of a book originally published in 1905.

  My one deviance from the instructions was to add large pockets, supported by twill tape extending up to the waist, at the side seams. From my reading it seems as though most Edwardian skirts, if they had pockets, had them at the center back seam (the way I did for my pink silk Edwardian gown). However, for this skirt, I wanted the pockets easily accessible at the side seams.

Pockets in, I sewed up the skirt and tried it on, over all my Edwardian under things - corset, hip padding, and princess petticoat.

With this try-on I learned two thing. First off - I loved it! The shape was perfect!! I loved it!!!
Second, it was a darned good thing I'd added that pleat to the center back seams. Turns out the measurements I'd used to draft the skirt were no longer accurate, and I needed a bit more room in the waist. If I hadn't added in that pleat last minute it would have been a whole ordeal to fix the issue - but thankfully all I had to do was let out the pleat slightly and the skirt fit perfectly!

Fit checked and fixed, it was finishing time!

I used some vintage hooks and eyes for the placket up the back of the skirt.

Supported the box pleats at the seam lines with twill tape along the inside, according to the directions in Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques.

Made and attached the waistband.

And finally, hemmed the skirt with a pretty cotton calico hem facing.

With that, technically the skirt was done, but I decided to add one last little detail.

One of this year's Historical Sew Monthly themes is "New Stitch in Town - Make something that uses a new-to-you stitch!" I had been completely stumped on what to make for this challenge! Thus, as I finished my skirt I looked through Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques to see if there were any new-to-me stitches I could try and add to this skirt as a finishing touch - and I found one!

There was a whole section on "Ornamental Tacks and Arrowheads" These fancy stitched triangles were recommended for ". . . at the end of seams, tucks, plaits, and at the corners of collars, pockets, and pocket laps." I decided to attempt the "crossed triangle" tack at the top of all the inverted box pleats in my skirt. First, I made a practice tack on a scrap of my green herringbone out of some embroidery floss I had on hand. When that turned out decently it was time to sew on the real thing.

I used ivory silk button hole twist, and once I got the hang of them the triangle tacks went pretty quick.

And they were so satisfying to look at as I finished them!

The perfect finishing touch on the skirt!

Photo by @samithefae

When I finally started on this skirt after over two years of hoarding the fabric and dreaming of it, I was a bit concerned that the finished skirt wouldn't live up to the vision in my head - especially since the fabric was stiffer than ideal.

But I needn't have worried - with the right pattern and embellishment it was perfect!

Photo by @samithefae

What the item is: Edwardian Skirt

The Challenge: #9, New Stitch in Town - I added crossed triangle tacks (a new stitch for me!) to the top of all the inverted box pleats.

Material: Pale green cotton herringbone, green floral quilting cotton for facings and pockets.

Pattern: Self-drafted, using the 5 gore skirt drafting instructions from Turn of The Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques as my starting point.

Year: 1903 - 1907ish 

Notions: thread, cotton twill tape, hooks and eyes, buttonhole twist

How historically accurate is it? 80% I'd say. The fabric is a bit too stiff for the era, and I serged my seams to finish them. Also, I can't say my pockets are perfect. However, the pattern is accurate from a re-print of a period drafting manual, the construction is accurate from a 1905 sewing manual re-print, and the overall look is excellent.

Hours to complete: I don't know, I worked on it for a couple of weeks between other things.

First worn: 6/1/24 for an Anne of Green Gables Picnic

Total cost: I believe I got the fabric for $4 a yard and I had about 4 yards of it. Everything else was stash, picked up cheap over the years at thrift stores and estate sales. So definitly under $20

Photo by @samithefae


  1. I really like the skirt. Especially the shape. I’m always impressed with the way you can draft patterns. Amazing.

  2. Stunning! I love the shape of the skirt, with the beautiful gores and bell shape. The arrowhead tacks are a wonderful touch! And the color keeps the whole ensemble very pastel and romantically hazy. I love it!

  3. Wonderful skirt! I love the texture of that fabric, and the color. Your little arrows are so beautifully sewn!
    I can’t get the name/url option to work, so this is Lauren (wearing history).