Imagine, your excitement! The Second World War has recently ended. Throughout the War you had to wear severe clothing because of rationing. So boring for a young lady but you just couldn't get the material for anything else! Now though it's 1950. A new style is emerging and you are so excited because you have just purchased the material to make a skirt. You can't believe how much material the pattern demands, but you've seen other women wearing the new fashion 'circle skirts', and you love them.
When I took this skirt to show the children, their reactions were hilarious. They had never seen such a big skirt and were surprised at both its size and how much it weighed. The waist of the skirt is only 26 inches or 66 centimetres, but the circumference of the skirt is approximately 201 inches or 510.5 centimetres around - that's over 5 metres! Many could not imagine carrying around a skirt that heavy, let alone the petticoats which would be needed to make it flair properly. They were also surprised at how small the waist of the skirt was. Many of the children, even one or two boys, tried the skirt on but only the youngest and slimmest were able to completely do the skirt up. Most decreed it to be 'too small to be healthy, especially if it's for an adult!' They did love the style of the skirt though, enjoying the way it flared when they spun around and the ultra feminine figure it created. In fact, several of the girls would quite like one in their size!
Although circle skirts are seen as an icon of the 1950's, they did not make their first appearance then. The very first circle skirts appear in the 1890's, though they were not so large as the 1950's versions. The reason why the skirt is called a 'circle skirt' is because it is cut from a single, circular piece of fabric with a hole cut in the middle to create the waist. It was a very easy way to make a skirt, though it used a lot of fabric. It also demanded unusually wide pieces of fabric. The one I showed the children is a cheaper version, cut from several pieces of fabric and joined. In the 1890's the fashion was to wear the skirt with a slim but flared waist and at floor length, sometimes even with a train! To make the skirt long enough to fit with 1890's fashions, other fabric needed to be attached to the main part of the skirt, and this is why early circle skirts often have elaborate flounces. You simply couldn't get fabric wide enough to make a floor length skirt.
In the 1950's, it is likely that rock and roll music was an influence on the new fashion. The circle skirt with its elaborate flair lent itself perfectly to the new style of dancing, especially to the jitterbug. You can see people jitterbugging by clicking here. Another influence on the rebirth of the circle skirt was the 'new look' being created by Christian Dior. After the severity of War time fashion, caused by material rationing, Christian Dior wanted to create a new look which would accentuate the feminine figure. His fashions often also called for massive amounts of fabric! In 1949 he launched new, full skirts held out with layers of netted petticoats but which had narrow, nipped in waists, often created by girdles and corsets. The circle skirt was part of this new look. Of course, the circle skirt hasn't completely left our fashions today, and many modern skirts and even the skirts of dresses are made to resemble the wide, flaring skirts of the 1950's! If you would like to learn more about circle skirts click here.