Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Suspender Skirts of Yore: a Snappy Timeline

My suspendered Jenny skirt was made from a contemporary pattern, but I was moved to make it after seeing a similar silhouette on a 50s pattern. I sported the look to work yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised by how flattering and wearable it was. I was compelled to look a bit more into vintage patterns with similar details, and I was blown away by my findings. I discovered suspender skirt patterns from the 30s - and every subsequent decade on! I honestly didn't realize what a ubiquitous garment this was for the majority of the 20th century.

Want to see the vintage pattern gems my research turned up? Snap on your suspenders and follow me for a magical mystery tour of suspender skirts through the decades!

The Thirties
Lovely Etsy seller Wearing History had the above pattern for sale (sadly, it's now sold) with this fascinating bit of background:
The suspender skirt came in with swing and collegiate styles in the late 30s, and also the Tyrolean or alpine influence, which is why this pattern has the option for an attached apron made in a printed cotton after the folk style that came back. It has a high waistline and suspenders that button in place behind pointed tabs.
Indeed, this is a style that lends itself to both a preppy-chic look as well as a Bavarian/folkloric vibe, and I found both of these styles in my research.

The Forties
On the more collegiate side of things, this darling pattern from the 40s is classic and clean with a gored skirt. Meet you on the quad, ladies!

The Fifties
The suspender skirt styles of the 50s seemed to skew a bit more juvenile, with the patterns being made only for little girls and teens, as far as I could tell. Emblematic of the decade, the skirts were either very full or very slim. Check out the adorable envelope art on the pattern above - how cute is the bit with the puppy?! Love!

Here's the slim skirted teen pattern from my collection that sparked my interest in the Jenny skirt.

The Sixties

It's a mod mod world, baby! Love the chic silhouette of this junior pattern from 1965.

The Seventies

The Bavarian influence comes back in the form of boho chic! There are so many things to say about this pattern below, and so little time.

The Eighties

The 80s never disappoint, do they? This pattern would create an . . . interesting bustline, don't you think?

The Nineties

On the above pattern: Can't you just see View C on Cher from Clueless?

The pattern illustrations below demonstrate Laura Ashley tendencies, but I actually love the look the gal in the front is working. Polka dots and statement glasses: you know I dig it!

Interesting to note that in the 80s and 90s, the suspender skirt moved away from the lederhosen/folksy look.

. . . and Today!

BurdaStyle brings the suspender skirt back in '10! I love that the saddle shoes and crisp button-down hint at the style's vintage-preppy roots.

Thanks for joining me on this exploration of suspender skirts of yore! The cool thing about this style is that it's easy to incorporate into any skirt pattern - just slap on a pair of suspender straps. What do you think? Will you be sewing any of these looks - vintage or contemporary?


  1. Replies
    1. I have a suspender skirt and i don't know what to wear with it. Its black and has a black, kind of pop out pattern and its about an inch above my knees. HELP!!!!!!!!

  2. You're tempting me with all these patterns! haha! I have had plans for months to knock out my own suspender skirt, but just have gotten distracted by other things (e.g. springtime sewing ;). I've been eying the late 30s/early 40s styles myself, especially since I got several yards of a fantastic embroidered ribbon that just screams "folk chic" and would make fantastic suspenders... Plus I really love the skirt shapes from that era. Gee, Gertie--you're tempting me to just throw aside my to-do list and go sew a skirt today! haha!

    I shared these on a forum a little while ago, but you might like looking at some of these other suspender styles:





    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

  3. Great blog topic! Very interesting. As a somewhat busty gal, I haven't worn suspenders since elementary school (but boy did I rock those hot pink pants!). But with all those gorgeous various, I'm awfully tempted. And don't you just love vintage pattern illustrations?!


  4. 90's Simplicity is exactly the reason I shuddered when I saw your (excellent) rendition yesterday - it was that pattern, made with lavender broadcloth, with a lavender and white horizontal striped pop top underneath, that got me rather teased in high school.

    Didn't they know high fashion when they saw it?

    Suffice to say, it's going to take a while for me to appreciate suspenders again :P.

  5. Very timely post as I'm wearing a suspender skirt today! Looks a lot like the Burda one but with buttons at the top. That 80s one is very *special* - reminds me of the Kriss Kross-fuelled trend for wearing everything backwards.

  6. I love all of them. ALL OF THEM. Happy I stumbled on your blog.

  7. Is it just me, or does the 80s one look a little on the.....bondage-y side? Maybe it is just me.

    But I do likey the 50s slim-skirted one, and the burda high-waisted one best of all! And so easy to adapt from another pattern!

    Hmmm.....should I just say "screw it!" to the conference presentation I need to finish today, and the ballgown I need to start today and make my own suspender skirt to wear tomorrow? Tricky call.

  8. I love the 30's 40's and 50's versions of course. I suffered through the 60's 70's and 80's versions as a girl and young woman, and don't think I could bring myself to wear those again! Especially the 80's version - with my bust size, I just can't imagine that looking good on me. I'm sure somebody else could totally carry it off though.

  9. As a busty girl with little time to sew, I wouldn't take the risk to sew a pattern with suspenders...

    I happen to possess some really cute patterns that propose this option, though: simplicity 8208 is a super high-waisted dirdl (also! super rare dirdl pants!) with a folk flair, and simplicity 9597 is a pair of mini-shorts 'with a lot of fashion zings!' that evokes lederhosen when made with suspenders (back of the enveloppe mentions synthetic leather, how bad is that?) I had never noticed how constant this style was, however, it is!

    But to me, the last nineties pattern still evokes folk roots: have a look on the waistline of version 3... flower embroideries, anyone?

  10. Oh fun! When I was a teenager in the late 80's, I had a suspender skirt pattern that I loved. I think I made my mom sew me 3 different skirts out of it--it really was a good skirt.

    Nowadays I'd pick the 40's one!

  11. I love suspender skirts! And there were definitely women's versions in the 1950s, although it probably skewed to the unmarried collegiate/secretary look. Here are a few: Simplicity 1423 and 1013. Advance 7089 is super-cute, with tabbed suspenders! But I can't find an image to link to.

  12. My mouth DROPPED open at the 80s one. It is so terrible. Why did the 80s hold such horrible horrible fashion? I do like most of the other ones though. I think my favorite is the 40s and 50s era.

  13. Don't forget to check out the lovely Vintage Patterns Wiki! There are currently 175 patterns in the Suspender category!

  14. Love the suspender retrospective!

    I had a skirt exactly like that 80's one (in the 80's) and I loved it. It was all black, and I usually wore it with all black -- occasionally striped stockings -- and I must say I ROCKED it. It was rather bondage-y, as someone above me mentioned, which worked with the late 80's punk aesthetic I was going for in the day.

    Nowadays, I my taste fall squarely more in the 50s-60's patterns. I don't think I'd rock the boob separating punk look today.

  15. LOL! Now, I feel really old. I remember making that Simplicity pattern when I was in junior high! I use a teal colored denim!

  16. I'm increasingly tempted by all these suspender skirts popping up! The BurdaStyle pattern you made seems like a great option. I can easily picture you in a shortened version of that '90s look with the glasses!

  17. The Fifties version is very Mamie Van Doren. When they dressed her in it for a movie, it was a case of, "Gee, where do you think we're supposed to be looking?"

  18. eeeeeee!!!
    I love suspender skirts! Thanks for the spotlight on them :)

  19. I would make the 1950s pencilskirt but i still love the patterns from the 70s and 80s. So not wearable in my age but really fun to see.

  20. I already have two suspender skirts right now and I'm planning on adding many more.

  21. I had two suspender skirts that I loved (and a less loved suspender pair of pants) back in the late 80's when I was in grade school. I was thrilled that my mom let me where something so stylish.

  22. Hi Gertie,

    Thanks so much for that post, I loved it! I really love your version of the Jenny skirt and it's been on my mind since you posted it. I think it adds a quirky touch and makes a secretary skirt appropriate for wear in occassions that otherwise it might look too formal. Thanks again!

  23. My mom made that little skirt with suspenders that had the hearts on the back pockets when I was a junior in high school! I wore it for picture day, too! I was just really stylin'!!
    I am new to your blog and loving it!

  24. Love them! Here are some other fun examples I've encountered:
    * 70s version with knickers and rick rack options (!) http://vintagepatterns.wikia.com/wiki/Butterick_6348

    * McCall's 2077 has "suspenders on steroids" http://www.flickr.com/photos/gremlygirl/4383027472/

    * This Simplicity pattern strikes me as just WRONG -- suspenders with an elastic waist skirt?! http://www.flickr.com/photos/gremlygirl/4382267653/in/photostream/

  25. You're right on the money with these - Phillip Lim showed them all over his runway this season - fashion is always cyclical!

  26. My grandmother made me that second 90s look! (I was about 13.) If I remember correctly, the top was royal blue and had the dress and suspenders made in a bold blue, purple and dark teal paisley. I wore it to a cousin's wedding and LOVED it.

  27. I have that Simplicity 60s pattern -- way too small for me though. And totally wore dresses with straps in the mid-1990s. Fun. I don't think I'm going back though.

  28. Donna Karan did a great suspender skirt and bodysuit that Vogue printed in the '90s. It's my favorite, even though I am a '40s dame.

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  30. I totally forgot -- I had a black suspender skirt I wore to death in the mid 90s! Now I'm certain I have to have another...

  31. I had the 80s version of this outfit. A highwaisted suspender pencil skirt in a mini black and white houndstooth. I wore it with a white button down shirt.

  32. i still dream of one skirt i saw a girl in town wearing. it was a red velvet tulip skirt with braces - so lush. that is the beauty of home sewing though - one day one will be mine (added to project list)


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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