Fan skirt by Black Snail Patterns.
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A fan skirt by Black Snail Patterns

A fan skirt or an umbrella skirt was fashionable during the 1890s. It was pretty simple in shape: the front was a simple A-line skirt and the back had this half-a-circle shape and pleats that gave it volume. I wanted a long skirt to go with my shirtwaists that would not be too hot during the warmer months and I chose this fan skirt pattern by Black Snail Patterns.

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Fabric considerations

I wanted my skirt to be cotton and had some problems in choosing the right kind. Cotton lawn would probably have been too lightweight and the cotton sateen sold in the closest fabric shop collects dust, pieces-of-thread and everything driving me crazy. (Ask how I know!) But there was this beige cotton twill… The fabric was pretty heavy, something that I could have made a trench coat out of but I thought I could still pull it off as long as my pattern didn’t have any heavy gathering (which it didn’t). So, I decided to try it. (I bought the fabric before all this Corona-virus craziness.)

Pattern details

The fan skirt pattern is a pdf pattern. Like I already said, it has an A-line shape at the front and a circle skirt at the back with pleats on both sides of the centre back. There are two options for a waistband. A simple straight one and a one that curves creating a downward point at the centre front. The skirt has a placket at the centre back and optional pockets at the side seams.

Victorian fan skirt by Black Snail Patterns (made by me)

The pattern comes in sizes US 8-30 (EU 34-56). The sizing assumes that you wear a corset and that your waist is reduced 1,5″ (or 3,8 cm). I might have just shrugged off this mention in the instructions but I shouldn’t have. Now I really have to wear my corset and not only wear it, but to lace it very tightly in order to fit into the skirt. I’d still say that the skirt is true to size as the skirt fits very well with the corset.

What I love about Black Snail Pattern is that they don’t waste paper. The bigger skirt pattern piece was shortened and fit on 9 sheets of A4 paper. It was very easy to add 60 cm to the length after pinning the shortened pattern piece on my fabric. I drew the hemline on the fabric and cut the skirt panels after that.

I didn’t want to line the skirt. My fabric didn’t need to be lined to give it support and I wanted to keep the skirt simple. I only added fusible interfacing to the waistband. On a whim, I finished all the seams with blue satin bias tape.

With the hem, I waited until the skirt was nearly finished and hanged it overnight. I then asked my patient husband to mark it even (The only thing I can’t do alone!) and cut it to the right length. Then I spread the skirt on some pattern paper and traced the hemline on it to make the patterns for the facings. After consulting experts at Foundations Revealed, I was convinced that my fabric didn’t need any additional support and thus, ended up using the same fabric to face the hem.

All in all, this is pretty easy pattern to make and would suit perfectly for somebody starting to make historical garments. The pattern comes with pretty detailed, illustrated instructions, which help along the way.

The finished fan skirt

I had just enough daylight left to take some photos at the sea. I put on my corset, corset cover, my Gibson Girl blouse, a petticoat and a bustle. It was drizzling but luckily not pouring rain.

Fan skirt by Black Snail Patterns

The front of the fan skirt is simple and narrow but then you turn and see the volume:

Side-back view of my fan skirt.

These two following pictures give some sort of idea on how the skirt moves when walking around:

The volume at the back.
Another back view of the fan skirt.

I cut the hem to the length specified by the pattern and only evened it out. I have pretty short legs, so if you are tall, you may want to add a few inches extra length, just in case. For me, this is the perfect walking length, even inside, when I don’t wear shoes.

One more pic of my outfit.

All in all, I am pretty happy. However, the next time I will probably size up the waist. Yes, I like the figure the corset gives me but I think I want to be able to slouch in a 21st-century style, even when wearing historical skirts.

Another thing I must consider is to make myself another corset. One thing that makes wearing this skirt uncomfortable is that my corset doesn’t fit very well. If I had a corset that had more of an hour-glass shape that would squeeze my waist without crushing my lungs, I’d find it more comfortable. Luckily, now that I have joined Foundations Revealed, I can get professional help with corset fitting!

Thank you for reading and do subscribe to stay updated with my future posts! Happy sewing and stay safe!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


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