Can a pear wear a pencil?

People are contrary. I have dead straight hair but always wanted curls. I look good in a fit and flare dress, but constantly try on pencil skirts in the hope I will find one that suits me.

It’s got to make sense to stick with the shapes that enhance your figure and disguise your less than perfect features. The danger with the pencil skirt is that the straight up and down shape (clue is in the name) suits straight up and down figures. And very slim ones at that. Curvy figures are OK in a pencil if you want the “sexy” Marylin Munroe look where the skirt clings at the back and really emphasises the roundness of your behind. This look requires slim legs and ankles as the narrow hem of the pencil really emphasises the width of the legs.

Nevertheless a straight, slim skirt can look very elegant, and is ideal for workwear. What rounder women with an hourglass or pear shaped body need is a skirt that gives the illusion of slim and straight.

  • Firstly is a skirt that is not obviously flared but is actually wide enough at the hips and then comes more or less straight down with perhaps just 1cm (or even .5cm) at the side seam.
  • Secondly, and most importantly, is where to put the hem. It is essential that the horizontal line (the hem) cuts across the legs at their slimmest point.
Butterick 5032
Butterick 5032

I have made this dress up twice. Its a dress from 1952 that has been reproduced by Butterick, and there are lots of nice versions of it on the internet. I used a light blue fabric I got at Simply Fabrics. It contains cashmere and silk, and has a really nice soft sheen – its has a bit of structure and is warm to wear. I shortened the pattern considerably although the straightness of the shape is emphasised by the length in the picture on the packet. I also took the front bodice in by transferring a little of the fullness to the bust dart. I lengthened the torso slightly, and added a habotai silk lining to the facings.

Butterick 5032
Butterick 5032

It appears to be a slim skirt, but in fact it is pleated at the waist and has plenty of ease at the hips. It appears to be straight, and, for me, it ends at a flattering point.

But, dear reader, I want more. I have been experimenting with making a pencil skirt pattern that will really flatter women whose hips are more than 10 inches bigger than their waist. Marilyn had a 14 inch difference. (For the record – 5 ft. 5.5 inches tall; 35 inch bust; 22 inch waist; and 35 inch hips). I have been innovating with illusion!

  • a skirt with a facing rather than a waist band for comfort
  • a curved side seam that accommodates larger hips and derriere
  • tapering at the knee
  • a split at the back to make walking comfortable
  • the best length
  • the use of different fabrics

I have drafted a pattern, and will report on progress.

Curvy Pencil skirt pattern
Curvy Pencil skirt pattern

4 Responses

  1. sweatyknitter

    Your posts are amazingly informative and clear. I haven’t sewn (beyond mending) in years, though I used to be quite good. You are encouraging me to start sewing for myself again … but as I’m retired there doesn’t seem to be much of a need. 🙁 But maybe a nice dinner dress using one of the DVF patterns (I’ve never worn those – I never liked the way they would swing open too much) would be fun. I am very attracted to your use of vintage patterns … that would be a lesson! I used to use generally use Vogue patterns, and every one I had to lengthen the bodice piece by 2-3 inches! And a dress that fit my hips swam on my waist and torso! I read your post with the Daily Mall description of sizes … so I guess I’d be about a 14 … but the width across my chest (above my breasts) is very slim. So many times I ask for something in a size large or a 14, and they say – despite the fact I’m close to 6 feet tall – “oh no no … I think you’re more like a 4.” (I don’t think so!) So I learned not to waste my breath arguing but ask them to bring me a size 4 AND a size 14.

    • fabrickated

      I seem to have the aame “figure faults” so just find it easier to make my own. Vintage patterns are so cheap (leas than £1 for unexceptional ones) and usually more interesting than the latest Vogues.

  2. sweatyknitter

    I’ve never made my own sewing patterns (though lots of knitting patterns) … I think you are much more skilled in sewing than I ever was!

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