The well and truly Ultimate Pencil Skirt

I’ve had so many interesting comments on my post about focusing on building a cool and cold weather wardrobe over the next year! A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks that’s really helped me feel good about my plans, although part of me suspects that I’m so excited about it, it won’t actually take an entire year to build a 3 season wardrobe. So even if it ends up that in 6 months time I feel awesome about what I have to keep me warm when it’s nasty out, I’ll be perfectly happy with that, too!

And what, you ask, are those “feel good” things? Well a couple of serendipitous finds both vintage and repro, some light bulb moment wardrobe ideas and knitting plans, and happening on a new instant LOVE sewing pattern. That’s where today’s post comes in!

Ultimate Pencil Skirt

Last autumn is when I started ditching wide-legged trousers for slim ones, and I haven’t looked back (Jane recently came to the same conclusion!). This autumn, it’s going to be all about the pencil skirt. Well not all, but a lot about it. It’s a style I used to sport pretty frequently several years ago, and then it just kind of fell out of my wardrobe for no real that I can recall whatsoever. I just knew they were no longer one of my “things”. But why the hell not? They’re fantastic, if the fit is good they make you feel great, and they’re the perfect skirt to sew for cool and cold weather as they’re well suited for fabrics like wool and corduroy.

At the time I was looking for a basic pencil skirt pattern, I wanted kind of instant gratification instead of looking for a vintage pattern, so I was debating between the Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt and the By Hand London Charlotte. But I kind of wanted something in-between: a waistband (Charlotte had this), and a back vent or pleat of some kind (Ultimate Pencil Skirt had this), plus a flared hemline to accommodate the pegged skirt shape (Ultimate Pencil Skirt had this too). Two out of three, and so it was decided. I’ve since looked at vintage pencil skirt patterns for extra bits like pocket details and an inverted kick pleat to jazz future ones up a bit.

By the way, a good fit for a pencil skirt can be hard to find, but when it’s good, it’s good. I recall many that made me look like I was wearing a potato sack. This one? Nope. No potatoes here.

Ultimate Pencil Skirt

I did a muslin for two reasons: to check the fit, and to figure out where to add a waistband. To my utter surprise, the muslin fit me literally straight out of the envelope. No bumps, no lumps, no excess pooling, no nothing. Pencil skirt fate!

Now I often have fitting issues in the hip area of patterns. I thought for awhile I had larger hips proportionally, but it turns out I really don’t, and I’ve learned this over time in part as I often find myself shaving off weird little bumpy bits from the side seams of my bottoms and also sometimes adding room for a full butt, too. Understanding your body and how it relates to sewing and fitting is a constant learning process!

Ultimate Pencil Skirt

I did make one very minor change but it’s worth mentioning due to good advice it came with. I trimmed the length 1/2″. I wanted a pretty 1950s length (which is to say, a bit on the long side), and since I’m short, that meant only taking a bit of length off. So here’s the advice part: awhile back I’d emailed the ladies at Sew Over It about the length since I thought (before I had the pattern) I’d need to hack off a good bit like I often do, and Lisa Comfort suggested I take length from the lengthen/shorten line but also from within the kick pleat/vent at the back, so I didn’t raise the vent so much I’d risk flashing people. Great tip! Even though I only took off 1/2″, I still followed that word of advice and did 1/4″ at the line and a further 1/4″ about halfway down the pleat.

Onto the other reason I did a muslin, adding a waistband, which I just prefer on my skirts to faced waistbands which the pattern has. And since I’m short-waisted, anything above my natural waist is just ridiculous looking on me and doesn’t lengthen my legs, but shortens my upper body. So the higher-than-waistline was just not going to work for me.

The natural waistline isn’t marked on the pattern, but the waist is shaped with double ended darts, so I kind of assumed it was at the widest point of the darts. Since I wasn’t positive, on my muslin, I drew a line at that point so when it was on my body, I could see if that line really was hitting at my natural waist. And it was indeed!

Ultimate Pencil Skirt waist darts and natural waistline

The way I transferred this to the pattern was just to cut the pattern pieces off at this point, front and back, making sure everything along the side seam still would line up from the hem to the top. This took just a little bit of finagling, since the widest part of the front and back darts weren’t exactly in the same spot.

The seam allowance for an added waistband takes that new waist line down 5/8″, so I figured that would position the waistband in a good spot on my body. And if I needed to lower it slightly next time I could. As it happens though it felt just right, so no changes next time for me.

Ultimate Pencil Skirt

The fabric was a nice relatively thick stretch corduroy, and it seemed perfect for fall. I initially thought it was leftover from a pair of Smooth Sailing trousers I made a few years ago (I much later decided they were pretty hideous and did me no favors so I got rid of them), and was totally confused when I was read my own comment about the diagonal nature of the corduroy wales, when this fabric didn’t have that! Duh. Different fabric. This was one I got from Denver Fabrics some time back. It was described as “cordless cord” but really, there are minuscule wales if you look super close (way smaller than any pinwale/pincord/needlecord I’ve seen), so it’s basically just a cotton velveteen.

The color is weird because it seems like it can’t decide if it’s gray or brown, so I’m hoping that means it’ll easily worth with both, which is just what I need this season. I guess you’d call it taupe? Paired with my fall-colored blouse and soft gold shoes, I felt it read more brown in this outfit, but Mel still thought it read gray. I’m guessing that means I’m indeed right and this skirt really will work well with both!

Ultimate Pencil Skirt

Corduroy is one of those fabrics I love to wear but don’t necessarily love to sew as you have to treat it a bit delicately. Not actually in the sewing, but in the pressing. Lots of finger pressing and steam and patience! But corduroy is worth it, I’ve learned over the years. For awhile, each time I’d sew with corduroy I’d swear off doing it ever again, but I’ve definitely grown as a sewist as that’s no longer the case. πŸ™‚

Ultimate Pencil Skirt

When it came to a lining, I really waffled. Lining or no lining? It’s a stretch fabric, so would a woven lining defeat the purpose of the stretch? Not that I was going for stretch per se, just trying to use up fabric in my stash. Some vintage resources recommended lining an A-line or pencil skirt to prevent the rear end from bagging out which seemed like a really good idea for stretch corduroy. In fact, at the time I was working on this I happened on the use of only a half lining in the back. This was new to me! I read about it about the same time I bought a vintage skirt that had this feature, and then bought a vintage pencil skirt pattern with just a half back lining. And I’m trying it out on my next version of the Ultimate Pencil Skirt, so I’ll report more on that when I share that one!

(Momentary grumble here that I can’t get skirts on my dress form when the zipper is in, grrrr! So you’ll have to make do with inside shots on the floor of my sewing area.)

skirt-inside

In the end I decided to do a half lining in rayon bemberg, and stopped it just above the top of the vent, which you can see above. I added about 1/4″ of ease around the hips for movement, which I think is especially helpful since my fabric is stretchy and my lining isn’t. To keep the lining in place when I get undressed, I made little hidden thread chains towards the lining hem to attach the lining and skirt seams. (By the way, the best tutorial I’ve found for these is Jen’s video from the Cascade Duffle Coat sew-along, way easy and quick.) I hope I don’t later regret not doing a full lining when it comes time to wear this with tights… only time will tell if it creeps up my legs.

You can see I used some leftover fabric from my Cliffs of Insanity dress as the waistband facing. My absolutely favorite waistband for stretch fabrics is a two piece, with the facing made from medium-weight cotton interfaced with fusible tricot/knit interfacing, and under stitched at the top end to keep things tidy. It always gives me a giggle when I use a fun print like this! But I’ve been thinking lately I’d like to get several polka dot prints in different colors for fun matchy matchy facings.

waistband

So, the first piece of my 3 season wardrobe challenge is complete! And I have a new favorite pattern, which is quite a treat when it’s for the very item I already envisioned myself wanting to make a slew of! And I’m already nearly finished with my second as I’m trying to bang out a few things before a big exciting holiday that’s just around the corner.

But wait wait, before I wrap up today, you might be asking yourself what’s that blouse and did I make it?? I did make it, so don’t worry, I didn’t forget about it! I’ll tell you more about that one later in the week. It’s a great blouse but I went through some sewing rage with it, and so it deserves a post of its own.

Stay tuned for more! πŸ˜‰

Ultimate Pencil Skirt

outfit details

Ultimate Pencil Skirt – made by me
blouse – made by me (more soon on that!)
Bakelite earrings – misc.
lucite bangle – local antique shop
gold wedges – Remix

Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

Tagged: , , ,

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Golly, 35 Comments!

  • That’s a great looking skirt. I used to wear pencil skirts 15 years ago, and somehow they disappeared from my closet for no good reason. I struggle with skirt sewing/fitting, but this gives me some motivation to try again.

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  • Oh, it’s really lovely! I used to wear pencil skirts all the time too, and also stopped wearing them a few years back. I think I got tired of tight fitting clothes or something. But I’ve going back to narrower silhouettes recently, so maybe it’s time to try another pencil skirt? This is inspiring.

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  • I’ve also made the Sew Over It pencil skirt and similarly found it to be a wonderful fit straight out of the packet! It looks great with that waistband though and I love your choice of fabric…

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  • This is a really great skirt! I’ve been thinking about the Ultimate pencil skirt, pattern, and this really makes me want to get it.

    I can’t wait to see what else you make for your Fall “capsule.”

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  • Juliana @ Urban Simplicity October 13, 2015 at 12:40pm

    I love this outfit! I’m a big fan of straight/pencil skirts, especially for cooler weather. I made a corduroy skirt last year that I wear a lot!! I really like yours–the greige color is quite versatile (although I agree with Mel, it does read a bit more to the grey, at least on my screen). The blouse is beautiful too–I’m looking forward to hearing more.

    I’m wearing skirts and blouses again more this fall (I prefer a kimono sleeve Portrait style blouse, but I love the collared look on you, and I’m all about vintage button accents)

    A well-fitting skirt is a thing of beauty.

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  • You’ve done a really great job! I’m working on some cashmere pencil skirts myself and have lined in silk satin and underlined the back only in silk organza. It is taking forever but I hope the result will be beautiful and long lasting!

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    • Thanks, Christina! Ooooh cashmere pencil skirts sound divine! Did you underline the back in organza to stabilize it? Sounds like a great plan and well worth the extra effort you’re taking!

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  • Thank , a really useful post, I love the fancy waist facing and the discussion of the half lining. Men’s trousers of ten have a similar feature.

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  • Aren’t pencil skirts great? For the last few winters i have been wearing mainly plaid pleated skirts. I swear the elderly ladies of Sydney were all clearing their old skirt wardrobes at once. I got some great pieces, but have started to want to throw some pencil skirts into the mix. I managed to make one before winter ended here, and have a few in the works. Just now have to work out the pegging

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    • That sounds amazing, they cleaned them out into your closet! πŸ˜‰ I’m very glad this pattern had the pegging so I didn’t have to try and work that out, it achieved a really nice fit through the thighs and didn’t make me feel frumpy!

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  • Pencil skirts are something I like quite a bit, and yours is no exception! I love how the taupe color of the skirt goes with practically everything. I have never seen/heard of the half lining in a skirt. I think it’s something I may need try out (although I probably won’t- I’m super lazy haha). You’ve inspired me to re-draft my pencil skirt pattern.

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    • Ha ha! Yeah I admit I tend to be really lazy and not line a lot of things, especially since I usually wear a slip, but I figured I’d really regret it with a slim skirt and a stretchy fabric so it forced me to! πŸ˜‰

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  • Very chic Tasha and good to know you achieved such a great fit without much fiddling (I’ve heard that from other bloggers who’ve sewn this pattern too). I have the pattern so it’s definitely going on my winter sewing list! x

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    • Thanks, Jane! I’m so glad the fit was a breeze on this– I never did make the Ultimate Trousers as the two muslins I did were going to take a lot of work. At least this one got to be “ultimate” right out of the envelope! πŸ˜‰

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  • Lovely skirt. Wow! The fit is fantastic! Love the grey/brown of the corduroy!! Makes me want to sew a pencil skirt, but I doubt it would as good on me as it does you! (rather large tummy here!!)

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    • Thanks, Linda! If you feel self conscious about your tummy you could always wear one with something over it that isn’t tucked in perhaps! πŸ™‚

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  • Great skirt. I think the blouse is nice but maybe not a good companion for the corduroy. I think you would look fabulous with a sweater twin set with set in sleeves. More fitted look and a knit would look even better, that is. I’m not a fan of the blouse look that comes with kimono sleeves myself. Believe it or not that was our seventh grade sewing project back in 1968. A basic project we spent a year on learning every technique. Then we had to wear them to school and be subject to the derision of our claassmates.

    Surprisingly. This started my love of sewing. I was probably the only girl in the class (only girls took sewing then) who stuck with sewing.

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    • I much prefer kimono sleeves to wear as I’ve expressed many times on my blog. πŸ™‚ I used to like twin sets many years ago but I find them a bit stuffy for my taste now. Along with the aesthetic look I also like the extra ease of kimono sleeves. We can agree to disagree!

      One of my vintage sewing resources was actually probably something similar to what you had in class I bet– included fabric swatches and notes on what patterns the (grade school or high school, not sure) girl was going to sew. Really neat!

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      • Very interesting, Tasha. We can agree to disagree!
        I like that you work hard on perfecting techniques of all kinds. It’s fun, isn’t it?

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        • It is… sometimes! πŸ˜‰ There’s always the times when it’s a bit maddening though. But I love the sense of accomplishment and learning new things, even when they don’t always work out quite as planned!

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  • I was thinking some more about your blouse. It looks like it has no darts. Maybe you would benefit from a style with bust darts and even waist darts.

    I remember our seventh-grade project had bust darts. That’s how I learned to make them.

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  • Such a cute skirt and the facing on the waistband has me smiling gleefully! I admire your commitment to filling out the wardrobe and can’t wait to hear more about the blouse.

    Thank you as well for your recent advise on my lapped zip, Emery dilemma. I’ve actually gone down a very, very lazy route for solving it. So, here’s hoping it will work.!

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  • Fabulous! I haven’t made a pencil skirt but was recently considering patterns. Looking at yours with its hip-swaggering greatness, I really want to have a go at the Ultimate. I agree they are a perfect addition to an Autumn wardrobe.
    Oh and I would call that colour mole. 😊

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  • […] in the week, I was waxing on about my Ultimate Pencil Skirt and how happy I was with it. Now, let’s have a slightly less gushy sewing post, shall […]

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  • This skirt is gorgeous and fits you to a T! πŸ™‚ I’ve been eyeing that skirt pattern for a bit, but I have another similar one in my stash (that I made up several times–and probably just needs a bit tweaking to update the fit). But I love your modifications, and this is making me want to pull out my pattern and sew up a pencil skirt pronto! πŸ™‚ The half-lining is fantastic; and I really encourage you to try the half-back lining idea! I have a gorgeous, vintage designer skirt from the late 1950s that features the half-back lining, and it seems to have held up very well over the decades. πŸ˜‰ It actually really surprised me when I examined the construction of this skirt that it wasn’t fully lined, since I guess I have preconceived notions that “designer” or high end clothes would be totally finished. But the seams were bound with soft rayon seam tape and the back only lined. I wish I had brought my vintage collection with me overseas, because I’d love to share some photos of the insides! :/

    Anyway: enough of my rambling! Beautiful skirt and perfect, versatile piece! Bravo!

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  • Such a chic, classic, beautiful skirt. The length hits at what is my personal favourite point for most types of skirts and dresses (true midi length).

    β™₯ Jessica

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  • This turned out beautifully! I love the color, too.

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  • Love the color! Thanks for sharing the adjustments you made – I’m definitely tempted to pick up a copy of this skirt myself!

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  • The skirt–fit, fabric, everything–is gorgeous, but now that you’re all-in with pencil skirts I hope you use every opportunity to quote Cry Baby: http://possibleside-effects.tumblr.com/post/73958991503/i-wouldnt-be-caught-dead-in-a-full-skirt

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  • […] And here is another beauty from wool by ThisBlogIsNotForYou. Oh, and corduroy pencil skirt from ByGumByGolly just left me with no words, I need a corduroy skirt, I really […]

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  • […] them match up. The skirt was a lot easier: I’d already changed it to hit at my natural waist (detailed in this post), so all I had to do was move the front and back darts over to match the placement of the darts on […]

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