Hot! The “Mid-Century Bird” Skirt

The Facts 
Fabric: Light red denim from a friend, a scrap of vintage fabric from 1954
Pattern: None
Year: Fabric remnants from 1954 make it c.1954
Notions: embroidery floss
Time to complete: ~5 hours
First worn: April 2012
Wear again? Yes.

Total Cost: Pretty much $0

Because I buy so much of my fabric at estate sales and flea markets, it’s pretty impossible to pin down with certainty the origin of the pieces. Usually an educated guess (selvage width, printing methods, print design) and sourcebooks will only get me so far in identifying era. That’s why I absolutely LOVE finding fabric with copyrights on their selvage! Since this was my second piece of fabric from the Associated American Artists, I’m just going to go ahead and call me a collector.

My first piece, also from 1954, was another estate sale find. I wrote about the origin then, but here it is again:

During the late 1940s the design division of Associated American Artists embarked on a mission to disseminate the work of its members to the mass market via ceramics, graphics, textiles, and wallpapers. This resulted in the Signature Fabrics collections, which included printed apparel fabrics marketed by M. Lowenstein & Sons, Inc. from 1952, and three collections of furnishing fabrics produced by Riversale Fabrics in 1952-3. The scheme was stylistically eclectic because of the sheer colume of contributors…

among whom were Laura Jean Allen

She’s the artist of the print (Bees in a Bonnet) I’ve used for my circle skirt. I purchased this remnant (less than 3/4 a yard and cut in bits) at round two of the Novato Estate Sale (the sale that requires a smiling nod whenever it is mentioned). My original plan was to make a blouse to go with the skirt and use a couple of the scraps for the applique. But, since I could barely eek out enough fabric for a top, I decided to just go all out and use the pieces for appliques around the entirety of the skirt.

Here’s a detail of two of the appliques. I used double-sided fusible interfacing to attach them to the skirt and to connect them all, I embroidered a chain stitch.

As you can see from the picture below, I decided to take the easy way out and simply make an open placket instead of inserting a zipper. Before I wear this skirt again, I’ll actually take the time to add fasteners so that it doesn’t stay open. However, when I’m not spinning, it’s not obvious at all.

Oh and I didn’t make my top. It’s a vintage corset cover that I bought for the Titanic dress but ended up not wearing.

As you can see from this photo (taken by Penelope), the Christina Hendrickfacation of my hair continues. My hairdresser is my voice of reason and she refuses to do it all at once. So every five weeks or so, we go a bit lighter. My hair is almost entirely grey so as it grows out, the red will take more and more. This last round really made the difference.


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


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  1. Beautiful skirt and I’m loving the haircut/color!

  2. Love your hair, and the glasses and the skirt – clever way to use a small scrap of fabric. I would really love to more of the print design – can you do another mini post – pretty please?? It looks so interesting!

  3. Pretty in Pink (what are you going to do for next week??) I like the weight of the fabric used and the appliqués are delightful. Are you using a crinoline?

  4. I love the way you’ve connected the cut-outs with the stitching and the fabric history is really interesting to me.

  5. Beautiful as always! Love the skirt’s color and appliques. Your hair looks great too!

  6. How many yards did this take?

  7. Love it! So sweet with the cardi too. With the new hair, pink should be your signature color!

  8. A twirling beauty–You and the skirt!

  9. This skirt is adorable! I love the Christina Hendricks hair!

  10. Your skirt is adorable, so lush and full. What an excellent idea to use old bits of fabric as applique. I’ve seen 1/2 yards of vintage fabric at the flea and on etsy and I never buy it because I never knew what I could do with it…

    Your skirt has me thinking mine must be a 1/2 circle skirt because I don’t have the twirl-factor that you do. :)

  11. Love the applique fabric, supper cute.Circle skirts just make you want to skip and bounce around. Thanks for the great challenge, I’ll be making more options down the line.

  12. Your skirt turned out beautifully! I’ve been itching to pull out the bee skirt I embroidered last year, but haven’t yet (it’s in storage and I’m just being lazy… lol.). I really love how you paired it with the corset cover; I have a few of those in my closet that I just love to wear throughout the spring and summer! :)

  13. I love it all, especially your fabulous hair!!! The skirt is positively fantastic, and I love all the applique – it’s so fun and whimsical!

  14. Love that bird in the hat. It reminds of something….possibly Disney. But I can’t think what. And that hair colour really suits you. And what a fab photo by Penelope! Glad to see you passing on more skills/training her up as a fun assistant.

  15. It’s very beautiful! How can a circle skirt not be? Love the appliqué details and the pink really suits you :)

  16. What a cute little skirt, Mena. :) Love the corset cover top, too.

  17. Those birds are adorable! Love the new hairdo too!