First Lady Skirt – Historical Fortnightly #11

The Challenge: The Politics of Fashion (Historical Fortnightly #11). I chose to make the skirt (bodice coming later) based on a skirt owned by Frances Cleveland, who was First Lady of the United States. As the married President Grover Cleveland in office and was 21 years younger than her husband, she was extremely popular and the subject of much media interest. According to one source, “her influence was so great that a false story claiming the first lady was abandoning dresses with bustles hastened the demise of the twenty-year fashion staple.”

Fabric: Lavender silk/cotton blend, dark purple cotton sateen, muslin

Pattern: Folkwear 209 Walking Skirt

Year: 1890s

Notions: Hook and bar, purple rit dye, lace.

How historically accurate is it? Maybe 50%? I never quite decided the exact years I was aiming for. If mid 1890s, the skirt isn’t quite full enough, although it’s not bad for late 1890s. I’m not sure if cotton/silk blends were a thing, although the skirt reads as silk. Trim would certainly not have involved artificial materials (and I’m really not a fan of the lace. I’d like to replace it one day, but this one was a good price). The techniques are sound, as machine sewing was certainly around by then.

Hours to complete: Maybe 15? As usual, not much tracking. The skirt itself was quite fast to put together and I was very impressed with the Folkwear pattern. Handsewing the trim on both sides took the most amount of time.

First worn: Danse Libre performance for the 1890s Schottische.

Total cost: Around $90 (~ 4 yards Silk/cotton at $17/yard, 1 yard cotton sateen at $10/yard, 6 yards trim at $1/yard)

Some final thoughts about this skirt:

  • The fabric was a *dream* to work with. It has the silkiness of a charmeuse, but the cotton adds enough body to make it not-a-bitch to work with. It’s not as stiff as a silk satin, but you could easily line it with something more sturdy to give it the same body. I already have plans to buy it in a dark pink for either a 1910s or 1930s dress (or both?)
  • Since I was rushing to finish this for a performance, I didn’t make any undergarments. This will look So Much Better when I wear it with a later corset (I wore it with my 1850s corset, since I had a quick costume change between 1850s and 1890s). It’s also in dire need of some petticoats to kick out the bottom and keep it from dragging on the floor
  • Check out that sexy sexy 1980s blouse. The pinktucks and lace and high collar are good, but I can’t document any 1890s blouses with a giant attached yoke/capelet thing. And my short stubby neck crunches down the high collar, since swan-like I am not.
  • Still meh about the lace. It’s a fairly stiff plastic-y tulle feel. Anyone knows where to find metallic lace at a non bank-breaking price?

And some photos!

Closeup of the lace

Closeup of the lace

On the form, with a bridal a-line petticoat. If it was a bit fuller in back, it's not actually a bad shape

On the form, with a bridal a-line petticoat. If it was a bit fuller in back, it’s not actually a bad shape

Full outfit (in dire need of a corset and petticoats)

Full outfit (in dire need of a corset and petticoats)

Dancing the Edinburgh Schottische

Dancing the Edinburgh Schottische

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3 Responses to First Lady Skirt – Historical Fortnightly #11

  1. Pingback: Upcoming plans | Avant Garbe

  2. Pingback: Elsa skirt | Avant Garbe

  3. Pingback: First Mockup for the First Lady Bodice | Avant Garbe

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