Friday, October 21, 2011

21 October 1957 “Dressing Vintage & an Easy Skirt”

I recently received to fun comments that I thought I would address in this post. Fellow Apronites asked:

“50s Gal,
I adore your blog, it's such a kick! I am wondering if you & your husband still dress in 50s costume, on a daily basis, as you did as you did when you began this blog? Do you still roll play the 1950s at home? Or do you now just post about the way that you wish things were?
It must be such fun to have so much time to devote toward your project. What fun!

Mrs. Walter Sinclair”


“I was wondering the same thing. I imagine that it is challenging to be dressed in character all day; you must thrive on the attention. Wish I had the nerve to do it. Maybe on Halloween.


Well, first off Yes, we do both dress 1950’s. Though to us, it is no longer costume. It is simply our way of dressing. Hubby doesn’t wear vintage pieces only (though some of his trousers were 1950’s pieces I found so those are ‘authentic). But, he wears trousers, button down oxford shirts over under shirts. He wears his pants at his natural waist (not the low rise of today) with a belt. He has many vintage styled socks, such as argyle, and his shoes are a variety of brogues, wingtips, loafers, and bucks. He has one pair of dungarees which he will sometimes where on a work in the yard day.

My wardrobe is made up of some vintage pieces and many handmade pieces made by myself. As I am tall and fuller figured, to buy a vintage dress is often not an option. My wardrobe is still mainly skirts and dresses. And my shoes are vintage inspired as well. I often wear vintage hats.

We recently biked with a new friend and she commented on how ‘dressed up’ we seemed and that I was riding my bike in a skirt. I didn’t notice until she pointed it out, but it is simply are ‘casual’ clothes. That is not to say we are in a tux and evening gown, but I have a good high calf length serviceable wool gored skirt and a cardigan on. Hubby was wearing khaki  trousers, button down oxford, loafers and a pork pie hat. We have no ‘insignia imprinted’ T-shirts or sweatshirts. This is simply ‘our normal’.

To answer the second comment, I do not actually like attention. Luckily, for me, my little town is used to me. I ride my vintage bike in my skirt and the people I encounter at the tea shop, cafe, grocery store, antique store and other various town shops are used to me. I often will get, ‘You look lovely today, as usual’. Which makes me feel good, but I hardly look for attention.

In fact, I recently was in contact with someone from a production company who produces reality shows. They were wanting to put together a show about people who live vintage, a reality show following people about. This is the farthest thing from what I would want. I would love to promote the lifestyle but to be on TV in any capacity is never anything I aspire to. It is too bad, as it could really be an almost fun move, but it is simply not what I want.

Now, I often get many letters from ladies saying they wished they had the nerve to wear vintage clothes. Or that they would like to, but think they would not be comfortable. I counter by saying, as far as never goes, start small.

Wear a vintage or vintage inspired skirt with a modern top and shoes. Another day wear a modern outfit but with a vintage hat and say scarf tied to your handbag. Another day, a vintage/vintage inspired top with modern trousers and vintage/or inspired shoes. After awhile, in this fashion, those around you will begin to see and probably comment, “oh she has such style”. This now gives you leave to dress as you like. Go full on vintage one day and they might be heard to say, “Oh, she can pull that off, she has such style anyway, I would be to afraid to try it.” And you can smile knowing how easily it was to slowly become that woman of style.

To me, dressing vintage is no longer about complete period accuracy. I have always loved various time periods, Victorian, Edwardian, 1930/40s, and will often mix such styles now. I figure, were I a frugal gal of the 1950’s I would most likely still have serviceable pieces from the 1940’s anyway. And to have style is really just to have the basic drive to say, “Well, there is no specific look anymore, so why not just wear what I want”. We don’t want too many “I wish I had done that” at the end of the day, and our clothing is such a simple way to become more empowered.

As someone who enjoys fashion and dressing now, it feels good and I honestly feel better when I am dressed. It is easy now, as anything I grab is vintage inspired, as I have bought no new clothes in three years unless they fit into the look I like. You can really build up a nice wardrobe with very little and with some very BASIC sewing skills.

Today, then, I am going to share my latest creation. An elastic waist skirt. I feel this is very non-vintage specific. It can look anything from Victorian inspired right down to modern depending on how you wear it. And I wanted something easy to make that was as comfortable as modern clothes (i.e. track suits)

Here it is:

newskirt This skirt is very wearable. By wearing a comfortable cardigan that buttons tight to my waist, the elastic waist is not even visible, but what comfort. Though I am still wearing my girdle, it is my comfortable stretch girdle, no lacing or boning. This would work wither with a vintage foundation or not, depending on how you feel that day.

As I forgot to photograph the easy step by step process, I thought I would just draw/Photoshop a basic diagram to make this skirt. It couldn’t be easier as the ruffle is put on BEFORE it becomes a tube, so easy pinning and sewing. And as the ruffle is doubled and sewn into a tube first, you are left with a nice finished hem BEFORE you sew it together.


  1. 3 yards of fabric (I used cotton)
  2. a length of elastic longer than your waist
  3. sewing machine or needle and thread
  4. an iron

I took two yards (72 inches) for my width. I am a ‘fuller figured’ gal, so if one were a smaller size 60 inches might suffice. If you use more and you are thinner you will just have a fuller skirt, which is also quite nice. At this point the width of the fabric is just whatever it came as 45/60 in seems to be the standard here.


Now depending how large you want the ruffle to be will determine the next step. I chose to cut my fabric just above my knee. Knowing, of course, that the final length would be greater than my knee with ruffle added.

elasticskirt2 Now keep this excess and what I did was to take this excess and with my remainder fabric (One yard from the original 3 yard piece) I used it as a template for the Ruffle.

Taking the left over yard, layout the strip cut off the bottom of the skirt piece. Cut as many of the same sized strips as you can get from the left over yard.


Stitch this into one long piece. Then fold that piece over and sew. I forgot to sew with right sides together, but it didn’t matter as when you pin it to skirt the rough edge is hidden in the skirt. IF you do sew it right sides together (pattern facing itself) simply turn right side out when done and then press flat.elasticskirt4

Next, take this long strip of pressed fabric and pin a basic pleat along the bottom of the skirt piece. Remember to keep the outside or right side of the fabric facing it. To be sure, after you pin, hold up and make sure you are pinning on the right side. The pins should be on the inside of skirt. You could also do a gather stitch along the long piece and attach as a gathered ruffle, but I wanted a pleated version this time.

After pinning stitch to skirt. This is all done while fabric is flat so it couldn’t be easier to work with.


Now take your elastic and wrap around your natural waist and pull it about 2 inches tighter (you don’t want it too loose). Remember this is going to hold the skirt up so make it tighter than you think you want it as it gives once it is on. Cut and that is the waist of your skirt.

Now fold the top of your flat skirt piece over about 3” (wide enough to easily allow the elastic to pass through) and stitch close. Then take a safety pin and attach to your elastic and slide through that sewn waist line tube. Pin BOTH ends securely so it does not slip out.


Next, pin skirt together (forming the tube shape of a skirt) starting with ruffled bottom, so skirt meets nicely at bottom.  Now sew this up ending at the waistline, being sure to really backstitch elastic ends for security. Now you are done and no hemming needed. elasticskirt7

This skirt could easily be made in under an hour. And you could also gather the bottom ruffle piece rather than pleats for a different look. Very easy indeed.

I am going to try a few varieties of elastic waist skirts such as gored and full and so on. I think it is an easy way to sew, get a vintage look and still have the comfort a modern gal (who is used to looser clothes) could still feel comfortable. I am determined to help all you gals who write to me saying you wish you could dress vintage but are afraid or worried it wont be comfortable. We can take more control of our lives and we can also infuse our daily lives, even when we are home alone seeing no one all day, with style. Remember we do it first for ourselves and let the worry of what others slide off our back. You will be surprised how quickly the fear of jibes turns to the joy of compliments.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. Hi 50'sgal,

    I really liked this post. I love wearing skirts and blouses and dresses and dressing vintage. I feel so much better and so much more feminine than when in jeans. I agree doing it for yourself is what is important.

  2. Wonderful post-I am going to try the skirt! Where do you get your foundation garments?? I have the worst time finding a bra that really "lifts!" Everything seems so sloppy and loose. Dee

  3. I get them from ebay. There are so many modern heavy duty versions of girdles today. Even the ever popular Spanx are really just girdles. Though they talk of 'oh I wouldn't wear a girdle' and the other day I saw spanx in the most tortuous shapes. One was a full body with Long legs and long sleeves ALL to bring you in. I am not sure where it all ends up it it is All being compressed.
    Even things like 'merry widows' are easy to find in comfortable stretchy modern fabrics new on ebay. Good luck
    For modern lifting bras try Lady Grace. We have one in town, but I believe they have an online presence. They still made new cone and vintage bras as well as stockings and shapers and girdles. I don't know the website address but certainly you could google it. I may have a few things listed in the Corner Store as well under undergarments vintage dressing.

  4. Where you you find plus-sized vintage clothing? Most vintage clothing I come across is size 12 or smaller. Also, I have never seen vintage garment with an elastic waist, what a novel idea!

    Mrs. Penny Neal

  5. I am glad you are not one of those people who starves themselves to be unnaturally thin (as opposed to being normally naturally thin). You are normal-sized and well-proportioned. You always look nice!

  6. Thank you, Mary, what a kind thing to say. Though I Do need to lose some weight, just for health reasons I think. I was never heavier when I was younger, but as we age, I suppose, it isn't as easy. Though, I still think it important to dress nice and feel good about yourself. It isn't as if I am out trying to have SA (sex appeal) which, really, until the late 20's and 30's wasn't even a real goal for gals. To be pretty, sure, but SA was not the thing.
    Mrs. Penny Neal. I am only lucky enough to find larger cardigans and such that are vintage, all my dresses and skirts I make myself. Although I do have a lovely plaid skirt that is vintage. It is just easier to make my own. If I ever do return to my thin shape it will be easier, but I am also quite tall so that is an issue some times as well.

  7. A lovely skirt, the ruffle is a great idea - I will definitely try it. I sometimes tuck my shirt in and put a belt over the elastic to hide it.
    Thanks for the dressing tips - I am getting there gradually - working on hairstyles at the moment!

  8. Vintage Cherry-this is a good idea. I am going to put belt loops on this skirt and the next that I make for that reason.
    I have not had my hair cut since 1955 (well not real 1955, but two years ago) and am now wearing it rolled and twisted in various 40's or French twist styles. Sometimes I make braids and so on. I may get it cut again, but want to wait until I find the right style again. My bangs/fringe has finally grown long enough to be pulled back. It makes working easier, but sometimes I mist the short fringe.

  9. What a wonderfull Blog!!!! :D I love it! I gonna follow you because i think it´s incredible!

  10. Thank you for letting me know about your clothes. Since I love the vintage style, I think I will make my own garments until I fit in the clothes of the period. Funny how people's bodies "evolve" over time. I remember when I had my babies I was told that average birth weight is 4-5 lbs. higher than it was in the 1950s, due to prenatal vitamins and more information about prenatal nutrition. I was told by mt OB group in NYC that in the 1950s OBs use to advise pregnant women to smole to keep their pregnancy weight gain under 20 lbs. Now Drs say up to a 40 lbs weight gain during pregnancy is normal.

    Mrs. Penny Neal

    Mrs. Penny Neal

  11. I also dress vintage styled every day. I have a few real vintage items, but they are very fragile, so I only use them for stepping out. Wearing vintage was an easy transaction for me since I’ve always preferred dresses and skirts. I think I wear a pair of trousers once every second year, and for working in the garden. I only get nice comments. My colleagues at work consider me a little bit weird but also admire me and think I light up their day. I think there are many vintage styled things and that it depends on how you match it and style it. A pencil skirt with a buttoned cardigan and nice stiletto heels – and you look vintage. Do wear your hair in a nice up-do, use a red lipstick and add some vintage jewellery, and everybody turns their heads. :)

    But I have a confession – I have never worn a petticoat! I have never dared, but now I have just ordered one, and I look SO much forward to receiving it. I can hardly wait! :) I suppose I will not wear it at work, only for stepping out. I have a small collection of vintage gloves, which I haven’t worn yet either, but I will start doing so – also in private. But I don’t think hats ever will be for me. I like the look of them on others, but not for me. Perhaps a little pill box hat one day, you can never know.

    I have just sorted all my clothes and lingerie, everything that was not my stile is given to charity. There were a lot of nice items, but I didn’t use them. So you’re right, you don’t need many things to be elegant.

    And I don’t understand the saying that vintage dressing is not comfortable – wearing a dress or skirt is much more comfortable than tight low-waisted jeans.

    Thank you for the skirt instruction, I will make it when my office is done. It looks very nice and seems easy to make. I suppose I can go hunt for those few metres of fabric and make it at a very low cost.

  12. I ride my bicycle to and from work, very often in a long skirt (shorter skirts 'ride' up). However, I ruin the look by wearing sneakers -- I change into heels at my destination. I find that I need sneakers to grip the pedals properly. What shoes do you wear to cycle?


  13. I've been wearing ankle length skirts and dresses for about three years now. At first my husband wanted to know why I was all dressed up. Was I going to town or to tea?

    Then at some neighborhood meetings on woman was confused and asked why I was dressing in such a way. At first she made sarcastic comment and then bewildered she finally asked why I wore long skirts. Was I in a religious group?

    My answer seemed to confuse her even more. I simply told her I was tired of wearing jeans and wanted to look more feminine.
    You see its the feminine part that confuses people.
    Instead of straight hair down in my face, I wear my hair up and curly now. My dress has become more colorful, floral and less drab. I still wear denim, but now I wear it in a dress or skirt form with a bit of lace or a silk flower pin or hair clip.

    Since my skin was burned so much as a child (no sunblock in the 1950's) I wear hats now to protect from the sun. A plain hat is no fun. So I add a small hat pin, or a bit of silk flowers, ribbon, feather, etc. Nothing flamboyant or outlandish, just a touch of something to finish it. My purses are basic fanny pack style, small. My shoes are the basic fisherman sandal in summer and a ballerina flat or an above calf high boot in winter.

    Mrs. J.

  14. I not only wear the long skirts out to town, but I wear them in home, while working or in garden doing really dirty work. I made a lot of long aprons to wear over my skirts and dresses to keep them clean.

    I found that I can do anything in a long skirt that I did in a pair of jeans. Its getting past people who are used to seeing me in jeans that is the hard part.
    After a while they all accepted it. Women's jeans have become below the hip showing bellies, and so tight showing every flaw you own. Tops have become short showing more bellies, and cleavage. I feel that modest styles make people and children feel safer around you.

    People stop my mother in law and I all the time in stores and ask where they can buy our hats, skirts, dress, whatever.
    I have noticed that some clothing stores in our town have started ordering longer skirts and dresses. And also that women in our town have started wearing more modest styles and longer skirts, dresses and even hats.

    If one person has the courage to change others will take courage and change also.

    Mrs. J.


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