The Dress Like Frida Sewalong Week 4 – The floor length skirt

Week 4: The skirt

Frida wore alot of skirts, and they are one of the defining features of her look.

Undoubtedly the choice of a long, floor length skirt was in part due to Frida’s desire to cover her legs – one was underdeveloped due to polio. But she also chose a version of Mexican national dress. Frida was about 5″ 3″, with a beautiful, shaped figure. She has a nice waist, and often she tucked her tops into a waist band. However as she frequently had to wear a corset to support her back she also wore her top out, and I feel this is the more identifiable Frida look.

I have made four or five long skirts for this challenge, and have been wearing them constantly, especially during my annual leave. I have enjoyed the experience. Here are a few reflections.

  • They are very quick, easy and satisfying to make
  • There is no waste. Also the skirts can be unpicked and made into something else at a later date.
  • Many have a lower flounce.  You can achieve this look with a longer petticoat underneath a knee length skirt or attach a separate section. Just gather up a longer, shorter section and attach to the hem.
  • It is nice to wear a long skirt, and it swishes around your legs in a pleasant way
  • You may worry about looking like a hippy or an Edgware Road beggar woman, but you will actually look tall, strong and beautiful

How to make a Frida skirt

I have three methods which you might like to consider. None needs a pattern, and the only measurement you need is your waist. You can make the skirt with relatively little fabric, but if you are short of fabric consider the two part skirt with a large flounce in different fabric. If you have lots of fabric a full, gathered skirt is nice and dramatic.

Elasticated waist

This is the most basic skirt, a “beginners project”, but an utterly satisfying way of wearing a nice piece of cloth. I timed it – these skirts take about ten minutes to make. I used the selvedge for the top and hem. You sew the fabric into a tube (using a French seam is even better). Press open. Sew up the hem on the machine (or by hand if you want finesse), and press. Now make a folded down a channel at the top, leaving a small opening, into which I threaded 1cm wide elastic with a big safety pin. Stitch the elastic together on your machine. The maroon silk blouse was made for Sewing with a Plan a couple of years ago, using McCalls 7938 and some artificial sweet peas.

Pleated into a waistband

This pattern is in my book, Making Life more Beautiful. It is a no-waste skirt (all of these skirts are no waste). You insert a zip into a tube of fabric and pleat it into the waist band. I used a lovely piece of white linen that I dyed with Indigo. Instead of hemming it I used a lace edging, stitched with a narrow satin stitch on my machine. I am wearing it with an embroidered blouse I made some time ago. I enjoyed doing the embroidery.

Indigo dyed skirt and vintage emboidered blouse
Indigo self dyed skirt, with blue linen waist band, worn with a McCalls 1385 1940s embroidered top

Gathered into a waist band

The final skirt is the most sophisticated of my skirts, but it too is very simple. I wanted this one fuller, so tore my fabric in half and joined it together. This gave me an opportunity to add pockets. I dyed this fabric too, again with indigo. I tied lots of chickpeas into the white cotton, in three columns. This took forever. I haven’t used the fabric before as it felt a bit precious. I used it all so it is nice and full. For the belt I used a piece of yellow linen that was left over from my painted huipil. The green huipil is made from a piece of silk I spattered with batik wax and did a few doodles. It’s just the same pattern as I used before.

If you want to make this skirt, just cut out four pockets pieces (use a pattern if you have one), join them to the side seams at the right position, sew up the side seams of the skirt. Now you have a tube. Divide at the CB, insert a zip and complete the seam. Put two layers of basting stitch in the top of the skirt, pulling it up to your waist measurement plus a centimeter or two of ease. Make a waist band that fits your waist plus a little ease; mark where the side seams and CB and CF will go. Ease the skirt onto the waist band. Baste by hand and then machine stitch. Finish the waist band by hand and use poppers or a button to close.

Silk batik huipil with tie dye indigo skirt
Silk batik huipil with tie dye indigo skirt

A couple of other ideas

A few of the #DresslikeFrida team believe that a full, long skirt will not flatter them. I am not sure I agree. But here are a couple of other ideas you might consider;

  • If you have slim hips but not much waist consider a pencil skirt and attach a flounce, so that you get a neat look around the waist and hips, but still lots of drama
  • If you don’t care for the hippy look try shorter skirt – whatever length you like – but as full as you dare
  • If you have short legs, compared to your torso, you will probably want to tuck in your huipil
  • You could use a 1970s petticoat pattern.
  • Use a textile printed with Frida motifs and just make your favourite skirt or dress shape
  • And then, of course, there are trousers! The last few weeks I have been wearing my huipils with shorts. Ideal over swimwear or gym kit on holiday.

What sort of skirt are you planning to make? Which styles suit you best? Are you going to use a printed fabric or something plain?

9 Responses

  1. Mary

    This has been such an interesting creative journey for me. I started by pulling out and wanting to use ALL my vintage trims and lace. I put many combos together and really enjoyed seeing how they did or did not work together. Then I sort of stepped back and reacquainted myself with what my actual style is and knew I had to go a much simpler route. I found a gorgeous white lawn and crochet skirt on the $1 rail at the thrift shop and the light bulb went on for me that I should start with white and add very minimal touches and focus on the silhouette created with a long skirt and a belted top. I am on my way now!

  2. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    I’ve finally had some thoughts on the blouse that might work for me-I have a much loved, but way too small, expensive. turqouise, embroidered Italian shirt which had shamefully few wearings before it took up its place in the corner of the wardrobe. it’s way too beautiful to get rid of though. I’m going to attempt to take the embroidery off as panels and appliqué onto either a plain white or plain black blouse. SHould get some use out of that…
    All your outfits look gorgeous, I’m impressed by your take on the silhouette

  3. Raquel

    These are fantastic! Every one looks lightweight and fresh for the summer ! I guess I’m not quite done yet with the Sewalong yet!

  4. Sue

    An interesting and informative post as always. Neither of my tops will go with a full skirt, in my opinion, as they seem too long. Having said that, I have a long skirt that I may try with them as a test, and if it works, I shall make another à la Frida!

  5. Kerry

    Bravo, Kate! I have been reading each post with interest, wondering how the Frida look could translate to the modern day. You’ve done a super job, creating each outfit simply and creatively with heaps of wow factor. I’m not sure what an Edgware Road beggar woman looks like (!) but what you have achieved is a sophisticated, playful, look. I love them all!

  6. Michelle

    Your skirts look beautiful. It’s interesting reading your thoughts on alternatives to the long full skirt (which I’m not convinced I could carry off) and you have definitely given me some ideas I hadn’t considered – thankyou!

  7. Vancouver Barbara

    What a great summer wardrobe you have created using the simplest of styles. They’re all beautiful but I especially love the hot pink top and green skirt.

  8. Hélène

    Until last week, I thought floor-sweeping skirts didn’t fit my square figure. Then I found an extra long A-line skirt at the charity shop and bought it for the fabric. Back home, I tried it on and was amazed to see that I could sport it as is and could start sweeping Montréal’s sidewalks and subway platforms with pride! I just need to make a quick huipil to go with it now. Thanks for these very generous and informative posts, Kate xx

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