Vintage McCall’s Pencil Skirt

Hello there! I’m back this week with a run down of my latest make — a vintage pencil skirt using McCall’s 3734.

I’m not only excited to finally share this make, as it took me quite a long time to finish, but to continue sharing vintage in general. I’m really hitting my stride with vintage patterns and I can’t wait to share the styles I find most inspiring.

I’ve always loved the look of vintage, but I never really imagined I could have a closet full of vintage inspired looks. Before introducing sewing to my life, vintage was something to admire on Etsy and in old photographs, but as I’ve said in previous posts, the best part of sewing is that we get to key in on whatever style most love. While it takes time craft, sewing allows us to create a wardrobe that represents our own unique aesthetic. I’m becoming more and more energized by the idea of crafting an entirely vintage inspired wardrobe and I’ve realized this is where my passion lies. I’ve been spending a lot of time searching for and purchasing vintage patterns so to grow my collection, and I’m excited to continue to share some finished products.

McCalls Pattern 3734

McCall’s 3734 provides three beautiful options, as you’ll see above, a bit of top stitching in option A, pockets in option B, and pleats in option C. I love that I can make three distinctly different skirts based off the the same basic pattern just by adding small details like top stitching or pockets. For my first  attempt, I opted to make the easiest version so to become familiar with the structure of the skirt before moving on to the more advance skill of sewing in pockets.

Skirt Front 2

I don’t regret my decision to take it easy the first go around. I learned a few things about this pattern that I’ll need to remember when I move on to the other options. As you can see, this skirt is much more A-line than the illustration appears. Being a beginner, I’ve realized I expect a finished product to look EXACTLY like the pattern illustration and feel a little disappointed when it doesn’t. The photo below is of my first of two muslins and you can see how flared the skirt is. I really wasn’t expecting this — I was expecting a wiggle skirt and ended up with something much more conservative.

I knew I needed to take the skirt in but I wanted to retain the integrity of the pattern. I ended up taking the side seams in by a quarter inch to do just that and to make sure I’d finish with a product I’d actually wear. I’m happy with my decision to retain the look the pattern provided and love the way the skirt looks in person but I do think it could be brought in quite a bit more. Obviously, the 1950s were a different era with different norms — I do think this is how most women wore their pencil skirts. Trialblazers may have worn skirts that more closely resemble looks of today, hugging the bottom and thighs, but I have a feeling the average woman was not wearing body skimming looks like we see on the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.

Something interesting I discovered in this pattern, my first vintage skirt make, is that one dart is positioned at a slight angle. This creates a ton of volume in the hip. I have always thought I had a full bottom, so I was confused as to why my body was unable to fill a skirt out with darts like this, but then I realized women of the 50s were wearing girdles day in and day out. Girdles synched the waist creating an exaggerated waist to hip ratio, which may be the reason these patterns provide more volume in the hip area.

In the photo below you will see my use of Tailor’s Tacks. I discovered this technique on YouTube and it has been a HUGE help. I grew up watching my mom use her roller wheel and transfer paper to mark darts — which is definitely my preferred method of marking darts — but I never realized there would be fabric in which this method was totally useless. Exhibit A is the plaid wool I chose for this skirt. Transfer paper of today is not at all the same quality as the transfer paper mom used, so it would have never shown up on the chaos of this fabric. Tailor’s Tacks were the next best option. With the pattern still on top of my fabric, I pierced through the pattern paper creating loops at the tip and each leg of the darts — I then used a ruler and dressmakers chalk to extend lines from the tip to the end of each leg.

Darts_Tailors Chalk

Once I had the darts marked with chalk, I hand a basted each leg so I wouldn’t lose the lines (chalk wears away as the garment is handled). I really enjoyed this method, as it allows me to work with the fabric in my hands rather than solely relying on my machine.

Darts_Basted

The best part of this pattern was the small tailoring aspects. Below you will see the pleats that sit on the skirt front at the waist and the kick pleat at the back. I really enjoy learning new techniques, no matter how simple they may appear — I love learning techniques someone, somewhere long ago, developed without guidance of technology like we have today. I’m able to Google or YouTube anything I’m interested in learning, but sewing is craft that was developed hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. While the below techniques look simple to us today, someone existing many years ago developed them simply by experimenting. As a beginner, I love learning these techniques and can’t wait to play around with draping of my own.

I had a bit of trouble with matching the plaid, however, that was only due to my inexperience. Now that I’ve encountered the problem and made a few mistakes, I’m prepared for my next attempt.

I plan to make a few vintage blouses the pull the look together but below you’ll find a few pictures of the skirt paired with a simple turtleneck.

I loved working with this fabric. This wool was heavy enough to control under the presser foot but drapey enough to make beautiful pleats. I’m a bit sad the winter in on it’s last leg — I would love to continue to work with wool until I’m ready to take on more challenging fabrics.

Skirt Front

In closing, I’d strongly advise identifying an era of fashion that jives with your style and setting out to acquire a few patterns from that time. I love reading my vintage patterns. I learn something new with each one and feel like I own a bit of fashion history. I love the tailoring of 1950’s looks — my disagreements with modern high street fashion is that it’s too boxy and concealing. I don’t want to hide my figure — 1950’s fashion was about highlighting and flattering the female form and in it I’ve found my muse.

Stay tuned for more!

-Corinne

7 thoughts on “Vintage McCall’s Pencil Skirt

  1. Hi, Corinne! This project is just full of love! The sewing craft is one that anyone can learn as you have demonstrated by your enthusiastic and creative jump into this field! But you have also clearly and painstakingly shown what vintage sewing looks like! It is beautiful and has a different pace to it. Thank you for sharing your dive into timeless patterns, lovely wool material, and vintage sewing skills that make clothes last! This skirt looks lovely on you -without a girdle- I might add! Your plaid matting looks great from the photos!!!

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