Marlena | 1930s Skirt

Recently I have been particularly enamoured with 1930’s fashions and decided I needed a 1930s skirt in my life. As I may well have mentioned one of my all time favourite films is Glorious 39; it has an absolutely enchanting atmosphere, a storyline with more twists than a bindweed plant and the costumes- well there are no words. If you haven’t seen it already and want a gripping period- thriller which is full of vintage fashion inspiration then I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Another favourite, again featuring wonderful clothing from the 1930’s is Water For Elephants, a little hard to get through if you are an animal lover like me, but its a wonderful, powerful film and really worth the packet of tissues (cough *or two). The main characters in each of these films wear gorgeous white linen skirts both of which inspired the one I am sharing with you today.


I drafted the skirt from my block and I think I will be producing it as a PDF and printed pattern soon.

Despite it being made from white linen I decided not to line the skirt.  It works out much cheaper not to line everything during the summer months and just to make a couple of good slips to wear under things that need it. I will be making it up in a wool soon and will most likely line that version for the Autumn/Winter season purely for an extra layer of warmth!



The skirt has ten self- covered 19mm (3/4″) metal buttons down the front. I covered these in the white linen backed with a very fine cotton/silk lawn to prevent the silver of the button glimmering through the weave of the linen too obviously. I made all the buttonholes functional but later realised only three on either side are needed to get the skirt on and off comfortably so next time the other four will be purely decorative. It is important to save these extra 20 minutes here and there where possible as it allows more time for drinking tea and dreaming up the next garment on the sewing list! Hehe!

I think contrasting buttons would look really nice on this skirt too- maybe a navy skirt with white buttons for a lovely nautical look.


The skirt tapers in at the hem slightly and the little kick pleats at each knee allow for comfortable movement as well as being a style feature. I find that skirts that taper in at the hem in this manner are far more flattering to my 5’4” legs that can look a bit drowned in straight skirts- more so oddly than big full ones!


The top I have on here is another rendition of the Reglisse dress as a blouse that I posted about  here. This one is in a heavy weight silk crepe (4ply silk to those of you in America I believe). I got my silk from Beckford and it is in the shade powder blue. I decided not to cut this version of the blouse on the bias. Silk cut on the bias looses all its blousey-ness and becomes quite clingy and form fitting which is beautiful but I wanted this to blouse out when tucked in and hang loosely when not.



I have accessorized the outfit here with Rachel Simpson shoes (the sister company of my favourite Agnes and Norman) my What Katie Did seamed tights and a little beaded clutch. Oh and a half dropped- out, rained-on pincurl set! 😉

Have you seen either of the movies?

Thanks for reading!

53 responses to “Marlena | 1930s Skirt”

  1. Lovely, elegant outfit! Beautiful colours! Another two masterpieces! I feel like such a suck-up whenever I comment any of your posts, because it’s all superlatives, but honestly, all your sewing is just so beautiful. I can’t wait until you start releasing patterns! x

  2. Really lovely. Quick question about making your own slips – do you make them out of a stretch or woven fabric? And how do you elasticise the waist to get them on and off? Or do you make full slips not half slips? Thanks! 🙂

    • Hi Sarah! Love your question as it is one I pondered over myself for ages! So the most recent slip I made is out of a silk crepe back satin (no stretch) and I was in great deliberation about the style of it for a while. It is a classic straight petticoat that has little slits up the side seams to just above the knee and the waist is elasticated. The thing I was worried about was how it would work under fitted skirts like the one I am wearing in this post as I didn’t know whether it might e a bit bulky around the waist or kind of bunch up and be a little uncomfortable. I decided just to try it out as I figured I could always just use it under my fuller 50s skirts if it did present these issues. The elastic waist is just 6mm elastic drawn through a channel made by turning the top of the skirt over twice, just like a hem. Obviously when drafting the pattern you have to make sure that pre-elasticated the waist is big enough to pull on over your hips. Also there is quite a bit of extra ease added to the hips- 10cm if remember right.
      End result is a slip that goes on easy, sits absolutely perfectly even under my most fitted skirts and is so comfortable and not at all static to wear over stockings/tights. The same is definitely not true of my purchased stretch full slip which clings like a nightmare!
      Sorry for the essay of a reply! Hope that answers your question 🙂 happy sewing!

  3. This skirt features all the rights and no wrongs! I’m short as well and struggle to find a good look for straight skirts. I’ll keep this silhouette in mind the next time. Oh, and I love those movies!

  4. Just adorable, so love self covered buttons they just ooze class. not so sure i could ever get a way with a white skirt …way to clumsy- love they blouse as well have looked at their website Ohhhh drool 🙂

    • Ah thanks Amanda- yep I really like self- covered buttons too, especially as they save me having to pick out buttons which for some reason I seem to massively struggle with! Hehe.
      Deer and Doe have some beautiful patterns don’t they!

  5. Honestly, everything you make is gorgeous. Can’t wait for you to start releasing patterns. Thank you for the inspiration!

  6. Gorgeous Ami! Love the idea of navy with white buttons too. I will have to check out Glorious 39 as Water for Elephant is one of my favourite fashion inspo films 🙂

    • Ah yes you absolutely should- its quite a bit later than Water For Elephants and so you can see the fashions drifting into the 40s a bit. The costumes are simply stunning!

  7. Wow Ami! this skirt is stunning. I love the kick details, thoughtful and functional. Very excited about this being released as a pattern. I particularly love the detail you went into when describing the slip you made in response to Sarah’s query. I just lined a 3/4 circle skirt that i made and i’m planning on making another skirt soon – also to be lined. Your note about making slips has got me thinking about making some slips to wear underneath many skirts instead of lining each and every skirt – so practical! Having not ventured into drafting myself are there patterns you can recommend for slips? Failing that, could I coax you into writing up a post about it? hehe.

    • Hmmmm not that spring to mind, although I am sure there must be some good PDF patterns for slips on Etsy so maybe have a peek on there. I am very happy to write a post about it tho!- its one of the simplest drafting projects so actually a good introduction to having a go at your own 🙂 I have been wanting to do a few drafting posts for a while now as it really is one of my absolute favourite parts of making my own clothes 🙂

  8. This is so elegant. I definitely want to give the skirt a go, perhaps in a lightweight wool for the autumn. I’m not so good with buttonholes, so great to hear they don’t all have to be real!!

    • I dread machine buttonholes, I have no idea why as my machine is really pretty good at them, but I was definitely pretty happy at the prospect of doing four less next time! Yes I think light weight wool would be ideal- and it would crumple less too! 🙂

  9. Another really lovely piece. Hurry up with your pattern release please – this would make a perfect skirt for work in Autumn/Winter in a plaid or maybe a boiled wool. I do look forward to your posts – you have inspired me.

  10. This is so cute Ami! The buttons are a really great touch, I love that they’re fabric colored and I also really love this color on you. Or I guess white isn’t technically a color but you know what I mean, haha it compliments your skin tone well. Also I love the red lips ps!

  11. I adore the whole outfit. I love that you are inspired by movies too! Interesting that you use crepe back satin for your slip. I too have been trying to decide – line or slip for my dresses. It adds a lot of cost to line. I have a few bias silk slips that I’ve purchased (these are my favs), some slips that were my grandma’s, but will likely make some. I can’t wait to see this skirt in the wool you mentioned. White, yes? That will be gorgeous. And I love the beret paired with the belted top & skirt in the image from Water For Elephants. The blue top is divine!

    I haven’t seen either movie, just added them to my list. But, I did listen to “Water for Elephants”. If you haven’t listened to that, it’s a must. The book is read by 2 different readers – an older man with a gravelly voice and a young man. I’ve not heard such a good set of narrators in quite a while.

    • Oooo that sounds amazing! I love audiobooks for when I am sewing- I am listening to Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day at the moment but once I am done I will download Water For Elephants 🙂
      Yes I have some white (well more ivory really) Wool Sateen and I think it will be the perfect fabric for it.
      I love her whole outfit in that screen shot too- I am sure if you like that there will be some outfits in Glorious 39 you will love!

  12. I love this whole outfit! Such an elegant skirt, the details with the buttons and the kick pleat are just darling 🙂 I adore the Reglisse blouses you’ve been making, so pretty. You have such a classic and elegant style.

  13. You look like a beautiful film star! A lovely outfit and so neatly finished as always. Thank you so much for you reply re the collar from your last post. I know the ric rac you mean now, but hadn’t thought of it for a neck edging before.

    • Aw thanks Angela, that’s so sweet!
      I wonder if it has a name, I am pretty amazed you could tell what I was on about from my clumsy description! Hehe! I will still pop the details in the post about pin-tucks and embroidery 🙂

  14. I just had to come here and let you know; on your recommendation I have just finished watching “Glorious 39″…oh my goodness, I just LOVED every second of that movie! I was absolutely RIVETED the entire time. I can’t thank you enough for the head’s up about it, as I had never heard of it before, which is funny, because those types of movies are right up my alley.
    Any other recommends you’d like to share? There’s nothing better than discovering a new movie or book that you’ve never heard of that you LOVE from the get-go! Thank you Ami!
    Oh…love the skirt and top, too…but then again, I always love your things…!

    • Aww I am soooo glad you liked it! It really is just such a great film isn’t it- the atmosphere has you right in the action somehow. Stephen Poliakoff who directed it also did a BBC drama called Dancing on The Edge about a Jazz Band in the early 1930s, it has the same air of intrigue and suspense and again some truly stunning costumes! I will come back to you if any other gooduns spring to mind 🙂

  15. Lovely outfit! I’d not heard of ‘Glorious 39’ but I’ve put it on my Locate TV feed now so hopefully it will be shown on telly soon and I can look out for it. I just watched the trailer for it, and the clothes look divine! The 30s is one of my favourite fashion eras – so many of them still look beautiful today, not dated at all (something that can’t be said for some other eras! Can anyone say 1970s…)You look fab, as always! x

  16. Another amazing outfit, Ami. The blue silk blouse is just perfect and so elegant with your skirt – and those shoes, what can I say! Glorious 39 is such a great movie – I do love the yellow dress in the picnic scene. 1920’s fashions are also a love and I adore the film Enchanted April (although worth reading the book first) – ‘Wisteria and sunshine’ in Tuscany; pure heaven. And such gorgeous detailing on the 1920’s outfits.
    Really looking forward to your pattern releases – thanks for the inspiration.

  17. Ami your skirt looks lovely and very flattering. I love the covered buttons and kick pleat they give a very feminine touch. The blouse goes perfectly. It’s very inspiring for a novice like myself to see clothes made so beautifully. It made take practice but self made is definately the way to go. Keep posting blogs Ami I’m learning alot. Tracy x

  18. Ami, love your classic style.
    There is nothing like quality design and a great fit. Beautiful skirt and great styling!
    I’ve never seen Like Water for Elephants but I’m often imspired by films and TV in the most random places, the other day I found inspiration whilst watching Murder she Wrote!

  19. Wow, very chic outfit! I have actually not been a huge fan of the reglisse dress, but yours in blouse form, is fantastic! Now, I want the pattern. Who knew? And, the colours and fabrics together, really make it seem high end.

  20. Omigod. yet another beautiful, thoughtful creation – or creations, rather. I love the blouse and skirt – of course! – but what I adore is your eye for detail – backing the linen for the buttons, cutting the silk on grain rather than on bias – you are really inspirational. Probably the only blogger I follow that always inspires me in some way or other! This is so so lovely, and so recognisably 30s whilst being totally contemporary and wearable and not at all “dressed up”.

    Have to check out both films – I tried to watch Elephants but got too sad – but must tell you, once you are a 30s aficionada like me, you have to see the Poirot films with David Suchet. I love the Marple ones too – those are set in the 50s and have some incredibly gorgeous clothes – but the Poirot ones are all set in 1936 (yes, that specific) which being the mid-30s is my absolutely favourite style period – those long, lean, flowing lines are just incredible. For evening wear and allover glam, I think my favourite is Death on the Nile – the dresses are breathtaking – imagine a gold one shouldered bias dress… you must see it! Oh, and I love the hairdo… and the shoes – man, you must get bored of all this adulation:).

    Slips – yes. Can’t live without them. In winter always as otherwise stuff sticks to tights and rides up…. in summer when something needs a bit of help to glide or to be less seethrough. I do sometimes line winter skirts and have lined a couple of dresses, but I very rarely line summer things – too hot here in Malta to add any fabric! I have a couple of half slips that I made myself, plus one I which is an upcycle of one of mummy’s wedding nighties:) – they married in 1949 and it her nightdresses were pure 40s glamour… ivory heavy crepe silk cut on the bias with diamond shaped inserts under the bust and hand work like faggoting etc…. I eventually made a slip out of one as at least it gets used like that…

    Oh – can’t wait for your patterns!

    PS 5’4 is not short at all. In fact it’s about average in the UK and the US I remember reading somewhere. Shorter for many other parts of Europe, except for the younger generation who are getting taller….

  21. I just saw Your great utube tute for the reglisse blouse – thank you! I don’t know how I missed that… and am now following you there and in pinterest where I saw all those amazing pics from Glorious 39….. wow. Must see it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *