Developing the Curvy Pencil skirt!

posted in: WIP (work in progress) | 5

As someone who wants to wear a pencil skirt but has struggled to buy one that fits and flatters my curves, I have been working on a new pattern. But first let’s consider the problem.

Most manufactured skirts assume a difference of 10 inches or less between waist and hip. The following chart appeared in the Daily Mail.

standard measurements

If you want to buy something that fits from the high street, good luck! Anna has produced an application that gives you a better chance of finding something. See her blog post here.

For me the difference between my waist and hips is around 13 inches, the same as Marilyn Monroe, as it happens. When I put on a high street skirt, or RTW trousers, the three-inch deviation from the norm appears as an ugly gaping space at the waist line. With a flared or A line skirt you can buy according to your waist size – the problem resolves itself if the skirt is loose on the hip. With a more fitted skirt, or jeans, they are cut to fit on the hips. You therefore get extra ease you don’t want in the waist, and it has nowhere to go. Not only extremely uncomfortable, but also very unattractive.

The waist gapes
The waist gapes

However few hour-glass or pear-shaped women want to wear a flared skirt all the time, and it isn’t even our most flattering look. A voluminous skirt (while comfortable, and attractive on the waist) can make our hips look larger. Many of us with hips more than 10 inches bigger than their waists, yearn to wear a flattering, straighter skirt.

Key features required:

  • no flare
  • tapered to the hem
  • knee-length or a little longer
  • no waist band to cut us in two
  • comfort in wear
  • easy to stride around in
  • celebrate the curves without clinging to the thighs or behind

Having drafted the pattern (front with two darts, centre back zip, faced at the waist, tapered at the hem, curved side seams), I tested it out in calico.

Making up the toile
Making up the toile

I tend not to make traditional toiles for my normal dressmaking, preferring to “prove” the pattern in more appropriate fabric, and to create a garment that I can wear. However when I am testing a pattern I have designed and cut myself, a calico toile provides a very useful tool. It is easy and stable to sew, the grain is visible, it is easy to mark with felt tip or a sharp pencil, and it is cheap, at around £2 a metre. When I make a toile I include the salient features – zips, facings, etc, so that the fitting is as realistic as possible.

Black interfacing. And slippers
Black interfacing. And slippers

Even with the slippers, and a 5am selfie in the hallway mirror, you can see that the shape is rather promising. A smooth curve is much more flattering than a straight line.

I drew the side seams with my curved ruler and  I really cannot improve on it. At the first fitting therefore I only had one question – how high it should fit? Some people like to wear their skirts on the waist – ie an inch or so above the navel. This is normally the slimmest part of a woman’s body. But if there is some ease in it, it will tend to slip down a bit towards the hip. As a consequence many skirts actually settle an inch or so below the navel (as the selfie shows).

To make my skirt sit on the true waist I reduced the waist marginally (at the CB and side seams). The curved CB seam means the zip must be inserted on a slight bias. On the plus side a tapered CB seam flatters a slim waist.


5 Responses

  1. ab

    Another project that I am followsing with huge interest!

    I have the same hip to waist issue and have found that the only off the peg pencil skirts that fit are Lycra based tube effect skirts which are not what I really want.

    Something that fits with structure and a good lining sounds more elegant and probably more comfortable too.

    I wait with interest for further posts!

    • fabrickated

      Thank you for your advice Galina. I have redrafted the pattern with a slightly bigger and longer dart at the front, but on the diagonal rather than parallel to CF. And ab I will do a lined version, perhaps in wool. At the moment I am working with a fairly heavy cotton with 5% Lycra. If I knew how to get my pencil and paper patterns digitised I would happily let you have one Lyn. Anyone know how?

Leave a Reply