The circular skirt – who can wear them and how to make one

posted in: Style advice | 6
1950s circular skirts
Circular skirts

I saw these amazing circular skirts at the Women, Fashion, Power exhibition last month. initially I couldn’t see any link between novelty skirts and women’s power, but maybe I lack imagination. On the other hand these items come from are an interesting moment in history. One features ten pin bowling, the second jazz and music clubs, the third the Beatles. Perhaps they just show young women having their own taste and making their own decisions about what they did in their leisure time and how they spent their money.

This style of skirt was very much a thing in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In America they called them poodle skirts and embroidering cultural references on them seemed to be quite a thing. Not sure if it was such a British hobby although examples exist. To me the printed textiles are interesting – basically 1950s style pictorial prints, adapted (sometimes) into a border print. Exuberant and a little bit trashy.

However I really like circle skirts and they are very easy to make, requiring a little geometry and some measuring instruments. Pattern company By Hand London have produced a little app to do it for you. If you like the general look but don’t want to use (or wear) quite so much material try the half circle or quarter circle skirt instead.

This is an easy skirt to make, requiring just a waist band, a zip and a hem. No darts and no gathers. The picture at the top is a circular skirt made by my friend Lyn for her daughter Grace. She used a double jersey, omitted the zip and threaded elastic through the waistband.

  • It can be any length from mini to full length
  • lively all-over cotton prints are nice for summer
  • plain medium weight cottons with a little shine
  • wool works well but probably avoid plaid
  • silk velvet ballerina length or longer would be a nice evening look with a leotard type top
  • suits anyone who has a defined waist line; you don’t have to be particularly slim.
  • if you are taller or larger you may suit a wider waistband; keep it an inch or less if you are petite.
  • if you want to make the skirt stand out a bit wear a 1950s style petticoat.

I haven’t made one for years, but if I get the right fabric I plan one for the summer. If you have a circular table cloth you could adapt it easily!

6 Responses

  1. helen

    I really love a full circle skirt. I used to make and wear when I was younger. I had a great striped one, when I bought the fabric the shop assistant questioned the idea of a circular skirt but it looked great as the stripes head off in different directions over the hips. Also depending where you put the straight grain line the skirts fullness can sit at in different areas.

  2. Stephanie

    I am curious to try making one. I made a skirt that had circle shape a couple of years ago and it really swamped me, but I think the fabric I chose was too heavy and blah. Maybe with something light and crisp it would work. I seem to look OK with the full, pleated look at the waistband and a skirt that finishes at the knee, but will confess that I feel more “fun” than “powerful” in such a skirt. You’re probably right about the association being with the possibility of choosing with one’s own money.

  3. symondezyn

    I love circle skirts on others – so feminine and pretty! But alas, they just do not suit me – perhaps one day I’ll figure out how to pull it off, but I haven’t had success with it yet ^__^ I agree, it isn’t exactly the embodiment of “power” to me; more like fun and flirty 🙂

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