by Cynthia Anderson
While the roots of the our 256 At The Hop pattern belong in the 1950’s, time moves forward with each new generation having a voice in need of expression. This circle skirt, also known as the Poodle Skirt, originally evolved as a fun garment, that allowed women a bit of glamor and a way to express a playfulness that had been suppressed due to a world war (read more on the history of this skirt here). It was an innocent garment for an era trying to regain it's optimism. However, this iconic skirt would embody and bond a generation of women. The poodle or circle skirt was not just a fun skirt to make and wear, but it became the voice of hope for a generation of women.
There is always more to clothing than we realize. Clothing reveals and reflects the cultural and social mores of a society at any given time. Clothing has always been and always will be, so much more than a way to protect and adorn the human body. There are times when clothing says more than we can speak ourselves. Typically, we go about our daily lives in clothing that subtly reveals something about us. But, sometimes clothing can be a platform for a bolder statement or idea.
In the desire to honor this iconic skirt's history and in the hope of keeping it's creative spirit alive, Folkwear hopes you will be inspired to treat this simple circle skirt as a canvas to express your own creativity and ideas.
In this blog, I will explain my thought process on how I decided to use the 256 At The Hop skirt pattern to commemorate one of the most iconic women in American History. My intent was to use this pattern as a wearable canvas to honor the courageous spirit and determined voice of Ruth Badder Ginsburg and celebrate her legacy.
Being a former graphic designer, I knew I should to keep this project simple. Being a sewist, I envisioned a multilayered and detailed quilted master piece. However, due to a deadline and other Folkwear projects on my plate, I went for simple with the hope of still honoring my subject. I decided a big-bold, black-and-white design with a splash of significant color would suit my vision. I made a muslin of the skirt, which allowed me to experiment with my ideas without the risk of messing up my final fabric.
Deciding how to execute any project is half the battle and what materials will most likely allow for "realistic" results was a good part of my planning process. Most importantly, I wanted to feature a portrait of Ruth that would actually look like her. Andy Warhol's silk-screen portraits came to mind. So did the campaign posters for former President Obama.
My next consideration was how to work with the shape and drape of the 256 At The Hop skirt, using it as my canvas. Having a large area to work with can be as daunting as having too little space can be limiting.
To procrastinate making an immediate decision on how to proceed and to allow myself to think through my project, I cut my canvas out first, according to the pattern instructions.
I knew this skirt would be really easy to construct, but the construction would come last. Working flat makes creating the art part much easier. I cut the front and back of the skirt using the pattern. Instead of using the "Lengthen/Shorten Here" line to shorten the skirt, I measured and cut 4 1/2-inches off the bottom of the skirt, which I reserved for the hem to be added later.
Due to the manipulations the fabric inevitably goes through, I stabilized the waist with a stay-stitch just inside the seam allowance, and finished the side edges and bottom edges with the serger, being careful not to move too much fabric, keeping the intended skirt length in mind.
I found a graphic portrait and using the computer program Photoshop, (you can also use Illustrator), I enlarged the portrait and printed it off on my desktop printer. Because of the size of the image, I tiled and taped the pages in place like you would a pdf pattern.
Plan A was to cut the portrait out of black fabric and applique it to the skirt fabric. Even though I was pleased the cut fabric portrait still looked like Ruth, I decided hand applique would take too long and machine stitching the intricate edges would not work well for me. Plan "B"... paint.
Because of the shape and drape of the circle skirt, positioning a vertically orientated image straight up and down needs be done with the skirt hanging as if on the body. This is where having a skirt muslin really came in handy. Notice the position of the portrait when hanging on the dress form compared to the position of the skirt laying out flat.
Once I was satisfied with the positioning, I consulted the Folkwear blog How to Transfer Embroidery Designs to Fabric. Even though I was not using embroidery, a simple tracing technique from the blog still applies.
After tracing the portrait, I placed a scrap piece of cardboard under my work and used black acrylic paint to paint the portrait. This was a slow process, being careful not to create a paint mishap. During the process of painting I avoided moving the fabric around on the cardboard. The paint seeps through the fabric to the cardboard and moving either would create an undesirable effect. When using acrylic paint on fabric, be careful to not use paint that is too thin. Strive for a paint consistency that will flow without bleeding. After the portrait was painted, I let it dry completely.
The RBG initials were created using Photoshop and tile printed due to the large size. I taped the pages together and this time I cut the letters out with scissors to create a pattern to trace around. Because I was working with black fabric I used a white lead pencil to trace with. Once the letters were cut out of the fabric, I positioned the letters according to my planned idea. I used white sewing thread to baste the letters in place... with the idea that I would keep the basting stitches as part of the design. Once the basting was complete I machine zig-zagged around the edges of the letters with the same white sewing thread. To my surprise, I liked that the zig-zag stitching related well to the painted collar design in the portrait!
Next I turned to the back of the skirt. This blank canvas was so empty, but the perfect place for a famous RBG quote. The "Notorious" quote seemed to epitomize Ruth's spirit. Because of the wide sweep of the skirt, I opted to place the quote on the bottom curved edge. Using Photoshop I drew the bottom edge of the skirt curve using a scaled snapshot of the skirt pattern as a guide. I decided on a font and positioned it on the curve, playing around with the positioning until I liked it.
Once again I printed out the type and tiled the pages together. Just like the portrait... I traced the quote using a pencil.
Now the fun part . . . seeing it all come together! I constructed the skirt according to the pattern instructions: adding a side zipper with fusible interfacing for reinforcing the zip area, stitching-up the side seams and hemming the bottom edge. Because I wanted the hem to have a bit of weight I used the extra fabric previously cut off the bottom of the skirt, sewing the hem on separately.
The waistband was cut and made wider than the pattern required, in order to accommodate the ribbon used to cover the waistband.
A rainbow ribbon to represent Ruth's support for Gay Rights (and a nod to Pride Month) was edge-stitched to the waistband and finished off with a couple of snaps to secure.
There is so much wrapped up in being inspired to make something that did not exist before. The creative process is unique to everyone and during this project I could not help but wonder if Ruth ever wore a poodle skirt? I hope she would like this skirt.
I hope that you will look at this skirt pattern for new and unique possibilities. Use the 256 At the Hop skirt pattern as a canvas to express something that inspires you and celebrate your own voice! We can hardly wait to see what you have been inspired to make!
Special Thanks to Folkwear's latest team member and model... VICTORIA!
February 14, 2024