Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mystery skirts

I found a couple of very interesting skirts at the City Wide Garage Sale recently. I thought I knew what their general time period was, but now I'm not so sure.

I know this blog doesn't have much of an audience, but if any of my three followers knows someone who knows about historical clothing and can show them the following pictures to help me date these skirts, I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER.


Skirt 1
I found Skirt 1 in a pile of "small, mixed linens" at a vendor who sells linens by the pound. It's actually a skirt panel. I'm certain that it's a skirt because there's a little notch in the center front and creases from pleats that had been picked out at some point.

Pleat creases.

Repinning the original pleats.
All pleats repinned.

The selvedge edges are preserved and it measures 29" wide.

I can't find a whole lot of info on historical fabric widths. I know that fabric came in a standard 36" width for a very long time, at least from the 1920s-1960s. I found a vendor of antique fabric online and most of her turn of the century fabrics are 29" wide.

I thought this style of skirt was Edwardian, with the lace insets. But I don't think this lace is considered insertion lace.

Lace inset on Skirt 1.

And the Edwardian summer dresses with the beautiful insertion lace are usually made of lawn, and this fabric is a sturdy twill-like fabric.

I'd like to restore this skirt panel as a fully functional skirt to be part of a historical costume, but I just can't seem to find anything quite like it, so I'm not sure what time frame to put it in.


Skirt 2 is a silk chiffon number with a stunning panel of lace down one side. What kind of lace is this? Is it Venice lace? I know nothing except that I love it. 

There are traces of black net that once backed the lace. I didn't see any traces of this black net anywhere else on the skirt (i.e. at the waistband). 

The lace sash is mounted on a silk panel with the center cut out, and then attached to the waistband. It's not tacked down on the skirt. There is a silk panel behind the lace sash that is sewn as part of the skirt. 

The chiffon skirt is gathered and mounted on a silk waistband that fastens with hooks and eyes at the side. 

Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering--what side were skirts usually fastened in the "old days"? Could the skirt actually close in the back, with the lace sash hanging down the center front instead of the side? 

As you can see, the silk hem along the border is completely shattered. It's as brittle as old paper and crumbles if you even look at it. The same can be said for the silk panel behind the lace sash. Interestingly, the silk fabric of the waistband and the sash and the chiffon of the skirt are in excellent condition. 

I'd love to be able to recreate this skirt using that beautiful lace sash and make a whole outfit from it. 

When I saw this skirt I immediately thought "flapper skirt!!" but... This would be part of an evening ensemble, wouldn't it? I don't think separates were worn very much in the 20s, at least not in evening wear. Could this be from the teens?  Am I anywhere close to the ballpark in guessing its age?


  1. Hi!
    Let's start with the second skirt. Here's a fashion plate with a similar skirt (on a dress) shown:

    The lace flap would have been directly to the front and is from about the 1913/1914 time period.

    The second one is harder tell because it has been repinned. I would not use it in historical costuming as the fabric will weaken quickly no matter how strong it feels now. A couple of thoughts on the date (although without pictures of the insertions themselves and some bigger ones of the skirt unpleated, I'm not sure):
    It could be from the teens era as well. Lace insertion was very popular from the 1890's through the teens era. Based on the side lace insertions from the waist to the hem, it very well could be from the teens era. However, the lace panel you showed in the pictures looks "newer".

    It could also be from the 1960's/early 70's. There was a huge resurgence of "renaissance" and "peasant" fashions during that time. Many dresses and maxi skirts had lace patterns similar to those found in the earlier part of the 20th century.

    The third, and probably most likely possibility, is both. :-) It may have been a teens era dress that was taken apart in the 1960's to be put back together as a maxi skirt and it just never got finished.

    Hope that helps!

  2. Omgosh I can't believe you answered my blog post!! I adore your blog "All the Pretty Dresses" and I was thinking about sending you a message asking for your help dating these pieces but then talked myself out of it. Thank you SO MUCH for your insight!

    I can unpin the pleats on Skirt 1 and post new pictures with the detail you need. I considered that it might be a 1970s Edwardian revival piece, but the fabric width threw me off, as well as the very considerable yellowing of the fabric.

    Do you know what kind of lace that is on Skirt 2? I am so in love with it. I'd love to clean it up. Do you think it would be safe to do so if I ever remove it from the skirt? I know you're against taking old clothing apart and I am too but this skirt seems beyond hope because of the shattered silk... Although the chiffon is still looking really good.

    1. I'm not good with the types of lace beyond bobbin. Since I doubt that the lace is rayon (it might be but doubtful at that point in time), I'd leave it or only take it off (it does look shattered beyond hope) the silk backing to immediately handsew it to a new silk backing. Even then, I'd only use it as a mantle piece or something else where it won't be moved much.

      I know a lot of people swear by fabric widths - I don't. I've seen multiple widths in multiple eras - partly because even today we still have home looms. :-) Those are never standardized.

      Just make a new post when you put up the new photos. I'll see it. :-) I watch on bloglovin rather than directly.