Whether you are just starting out dressing pinup or you have been at it a while, a circle skirt will be one of your go to wardrobe staples and it couldn’t be easier to make. Especially since there are blogs like By Hand London that have a calculator to help you with the math along the way. When I first started sewing clothing, a circle skirt was the first thing I made. While the skirt came out pretty decent for my very first go of it, I wish I had found someone to really explain how to make one before I dived into it.
So, I am going to try to break this down. That way someone else who may want to start sewing can find the help they need. This will consist of a couple of blog posts: one post about the different types of circle skirts (yes, there are more than one), then one post explaining the math behind each type, and lastly one post about the type of skirt I make and how I go about it. This will cover some basics for drafting your own pattern. Which if you have never done so before can seem daunting, but don’t worry it isn’t so bad. Let’s get started…
First things first, what type of circle skirt do you want?
There are 4 basic types: a ¼ circle, a ½ circle, a ¾ circle, and a full circle. Which I am sure already has you scratching your head. The following diagrams will help show the differences:
Example 1 is a ¼ circle skirt, example 2 is a ½ circle skirt, example 3 is a ¾ circle skirt, and example 4 is a full circle skirt. If you were to lay a full circle skirt out flat on the ground it would look like a donut as it is quite literally a circle of fabric with your waist cut out of the center.
1/4 Circle Skirt
So, what are the differences?
In essence, the more complete your circle of fabric is the fuller your skirt will be. A ¼ circle skirt is very similar to an A-line skirt in that it holds a flared shape but does not have any folds of fabric. It is more figure hugging but not a wiggle by any means. In comparison, a full circle has enough fabric that if you were to spin around the skirt would fly up around your waist. Because there is more fabric, the skirt has a lot more movement to it.
If you are a lover of vintage fashion you may have noticed the drastic change in skirt silhouettes from the 1940’s to the 1950’s. Due to World War II, there were strict rations placed on fabric that resulted in 1940’s fashion becoming more slimline and figure hugging (though still modest by today’s standards). Skirts were made shorter, going from tea-length to knee-length. They were also less full. Which is why on 40’s dresses and skirts you will usually see an A-line silhouette. This silhouette can be achieved in multiple ways but a common way is with a ¼ or even a ½ circle skirt.
In the late 1940’s, Christian Dior changed fashion with the “New Look” aesthetic. As the war was over and fabric was no longer being restricted, skirts were suddenly voluminous. Bodices were also tighter to accentuate that nipped in waist. When you think of the 50’s, swing skirts are essential and a lot of that is due to a full circle skirt. Below are vintage Butterick patterns that reflect these differences.
Nowadays, a lot of people who love the 50’s style but don’t want a huge skirt (or want to save on fabric) choose to make a ¾ circle skirt (as referenced in the diagrams above). It has more fullness than a ¼ or ½ circle skirt and allows room for a petticoat. I personally love a full circle skirt. But I wear a petticoat (sometimes two) every day and I like the more dramatic hourglass shape I can achieve with a full circle skirt.
Now that we have covered the different types of circle skirts, have you decided which one you prefer? If so, I imagine your next question will relate to pattern drafting. This is where the math will come in and I will leave that to a separate post as it will be long and detailed. But don’t fret if math is not your strong point. Math has never been my strong point and even I can sort this out.
So stay tuned until next time…