1915 Picnic Dress, Part III: Skirt

As you recall from my sketch, the skirt has several layers to it– an overskirt, an underskirt, and an apron-ish panel in front. When I decided to make this outfit into a dress, I originally planned on stitching all of the layers to a single waistband to ensure that they’d all stay properly aligned. However, after getting most of the way through the process I decided that the weight of the underskirt was pulling everything down too much, so I ended up making it separate from the overdress. The whole process was a serious pain…

For the underskirt I first just cut a single rectangle about 2 yards long and ran two horizontal decorative tucks at the hem. I made them deeper than my sleeve tucks– about 1″. I’d originally planned on doing three tucks to mimic the sleeves, but I had some issues with placement and ended up with only two. I used a folded sheet of paper as a guide to keep the width consistent.


I stitched up the back seam after sewing the tucks, and used the selvedges for the top and bottom of the skirt, hemming the skirt to the correct above-the-ankle length. Happily, my mistake with the spacing of my tucks turned out all right, because turning up my hem twice made it just about the depth of the tucks, which looked intentional.


Then I cut out a mockup of the overskirt– originally I’d intended to make it out of just a quarter-circle, but I had two problems: first, the requisite measurements called for a 48″ radius for the circle… but my fabric was only 44″ wide. And second, the front edges of the quarter-circle refused to hang straight down– instead, they angled towards each other (that happens with circle skirts), which was not the effect I was looking for. I might have fixed the second issue with some concealed weights in the hem, but the 44″ thing was basically a dealbreaker.

I ended up fixing both problems by making my skirt out of three pieces– the back section was still a quarter-circle, but the smaller inner circumference necessary to only go around a bit more than half of my waist measurement meant that I had enough width in my fabric to cut it out. The front was made up of two right-triangle-ish pieces with the vertical edges (cut on-grain) down the front and the slanted edges at the sides. When attached to the back quarter-circle piece, these hung properly down the front on either side.


Finally, I cut out the center “apron” panel, which I hemmed all the way around with a 1″ hem to mimic the bodice panels. Immediately after I did that I realized that I’d cut it just a bit too narrow and had insufficient fabric left to cut it out again, so I ended up adding strips of fabric to the sides as facings, allowing me to extend the apron width by just over an inch, which was all I needed.


For my first try at assembly I pinned the overskirt to the waistband (slightly gathered to make it match perfectly and give it a bit more fullness), then started pleating the underskirt down to the waistband as well– once I’d gotten around to the side seam I was able to mark where the placket on the underskirt should go, and I cut and stitched it before pinning the rest of the pleats.

And then I realized that I’d gotten confused somewhere and put the placket on the wrong side– I’d put it on the front left instead of the front right! I couldn’t just move the whole skirt over because that would move the center back seam off-center, and I couldn’t rearrange the layers of the bodice to make it close on that side instead. There was nothing to do but close up the placket and put in another one on the right side. I figured that maybe I could insert a pocket in the old placket or something later.

Anyway, after pinning and basting everything I tried the whole thing on. It worked… technically. The skirt closure was hidden by the overskirt and the apron panel lined up properly, but the weight of the underskirt was pulling the whole dress down. I knew that the sash I’d add later would help with that, but I didn’t like the idea of everything getting dragged down from the waist. That’s when I decided to alter the structure of the dress to make it into an overdress (with the overskirt and apron panel attached) and an underskirt. Without the weight of the underskirt, the remaining skirt was much lighter and hung better.

So, I took everything apart and re-stitched the overskirt layers to the bodice. Then I pleated the underskirt to a separate waistband, making slightly deeper pleats in the back than in the front.


I wish I’d done this originally– not just because it would’ve saved me the hassle of redoing everything, or because then I could’ve made the underskirt’s placket at the center back seam rather than inserting one (twice), but because it was a lot easier to handle the underskirt when I didn’t have to bother trying to line everything up perfectly with the bodice closure.

Finally, I needed to hem the overskirt. I wanted it to have a 1″ hem like all of the other visible hems on the dress, but since it was curved I couldn’t just turn up the edge the way I’d done with everything else. So I decided to hem it with a facing.

Of course, out of the 7 yards of peach lawn I’d bought, I had very little left after cutting out all of my pieces and keeping some back for accessories– definitely not enough for a curved facing (unless I wanted to piece it together in several sections). Luckily, what I did have was several yards of my original canteloupe-dyed voile (remember that?)–  it was very close in color, and when turned to the inside of the skirt the difference was unnoticeable. I figured that I was unlikely to use it for anything else, so after marking my hem I cut out a 1.5″ facing to match and zig-zag finished the top edge before stitching it to the hem and pressing it up. I machine-stitched the top of the hem as well– ordinarily I’d have used tiny hand-stitches to keep the hem invisible, but all of the other hems were topstitched so I figured it would match this way.


I will note that in the future, I’ll cut out only the bottom edge of a skirt hem facing before attaching it to the hem and turning it up. Then, and only then, will I trim the top edge to the requisite width and finish it. The way I did it this time (cutting both edges before attaching), slight differences in the edges made the width of the hem inconsistent– not a good thing when the facing shows through the sheer fabric. You can see how uneven it is above, but I’m not annoyed enough with it to re-do it this time.

Once everything was hemmed and I was sure it had all gone together properly, I whipstitched the inner waistband over the raw edges of the skirt and added snap closures to keep everything in place.


So here’s the basic set:


On to embellishments!



One thought on “1915 Picnic Dress, Part III: Skirt

  1. I love what you’ve done with this bodice and skirt pattern. I’ve made my bodice but stalled on the skirt. I love the triangles on the sides. I may have to pull it out and give it another shot. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

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