Donna: 1950s inspired half circle skirt and fitted blouse with waistline yoke

For a long time, I’ve wanted to create an outfit that adds a touch of femininity to even the busiest days filled with errands or shopping. Such an outfit would remain crisp and smart throughout the day, no matter how busy it was. The fabrics used have to be easy to care for. It has to allow freedom of movement and the abitlity to walk briskly. Clearly a pencil skirt and high heels would not be suitable for this.

1950s sitcoms like “The Donna Reed Show” and “I Married Joan” always showed the housewives beautifully attired even when they were supposed to be busy baking cookies, doing the laundry or mending socks after dinner. In their roles as gracious housewives Donna Reed and Joan Davis wore full, flared skirts with simple and crisply tailored blouses. Very little jewelry was worn by these characters with the exception of earrings and a wristwatch on occasion. There was a chic quality to the clothing that made the actresses look very attractive. I attribute part of that to the perfect balance between the fit of the blouse and the flare of the skirt.

Front of the half circle skirt.

Back of the half circle skirt.

With idea in mind I chose a half circle skirt and fitted blouse with waistline yoke for my next project. Here are photos of the half-toiles.

The skirt toile was made using a 60″ wide poly-cotton plisse. Since I wanted to cut the front part of the skirt in one piece it was necessary to find a fabric wide enough to accommodate the pattern piece. The finished skirt will have more pronounced flair due to the weight of the fashion fabric. I plan to finish the hem with wide strips of bias cut organza to better hold out the flare of the skirt.

Front of blouse with waistline yoke.

The blouse consists of a fitted bodice with two vertical darts each side of front and back, short sleeves with all in one cuffs, a flat notched collar (part of the Peter Pan types of collars), and a waistline yoke. I have been experimenting with this feature for the past year after reading about it in Claire Schaeffer’s “Couture Sewing Techniques”.

Back of blouse with waistline yoke.

In addition to learning how to create the waistline yoke, this project is also a good way for me to revive and share the learning process for many important sewing skills. I plan to create tutorials with photos showing:

*How to hem a half-circle skirt. The method can be applied to all types of skirts where the bias creates flares.

*How to turn a basic unfitted sleeve pattern into a short sleeve pattern with all-in-one cuff. This is super easy but the attention paid to facing the cuff provides a neat look.

*Consideration of seam finishes for fabrics that ravel and are cut on the bias.

*When it is necessary to underline the fabric used for covered buttons.

I will also post instuctions for drafting a half-circle skirt. The sample measurements will be for a Standard Misses size 4 but the technique can be used for any size by substituting your own measurements. Considerations for wearing full, flared skirts will also be covered.

The skirt will be made from a 6 ounce charcoal grey denim by Kauffman. The blouse fabric is a vibrant red cotton poplin from Gorgeous Fabrics.

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