Monday, 28 September 2015

Noisy into Nice, Grey Leather Charity Skirt

I feel that most very long skirts don't seem to work for me.  One example is a great looking, full length leather skirt in pewter-grey from French Connection, which when I bought it I thought would be a perfect addition to my wardrobe.  I love wearing grey and I love leather.  The skirt was a charity shop purchase last year, but although it fits like a glove and I was delighted to find it, I just can't get the hang of the long length hemline and it has ended up being worn only once.  Not least because having all that leather around my lower legs is actually very noisy, as I discovered when walking about. 

Also kicking against a big wall of leather felt a bit restrictive, for I am large-of-stride and tend to steam around with purpose most of the time, which met with a fair bit of resistance despite the generous back vent.  The day I did wear it was to a conference, I spent the whole time being very conscious of how much I was moving around due to the very intrusive flapping noise.  I felt like a leathery-winged dragon clattering around the room.  Not as fun as it sounds.

The leather skirt was therefore destined to be an alteration project.  As you can see it's ankle skimming but the split at the back is quite high, so that's a bonus when thinking about taking it up.  It does fit really well though around the waist and hips too, falling in a fairly straight line all the way down, so I was pretty sure it didn't need any further adjustments. I've been putting it off as I've not been absolutely sure what length to cut it and also because of nervousness about working with leather.  Also altering clothes is a bit boring if I'm honest.  However now autumn is here and I could visualise wearing something like this, it came out of the 'to alter' pile and onto my cutting mat.

On proper, close up inspection the way the skirt is put together made it obvious that it was to be a very easy job to simply shorten the length.  The bottom hem of the leather is just cut across and left raw and unfinished.  The satin lining inside is hemmed but quite cleverly attached to the reinforced leather fold of the back vent where it tucks under, so that the stitching is concealed.  Therefore unpicking it and restitching it would mean no damage to visible parts of the skirt. 

I folded up the hemline to the length I wanted and used tape to hold it in place for trying on.  Word to the wise here!  Sellotape or similar will damage the leather (doh!), so if you do this, be sure to use a tape that is meant for fabric or something non-sticky that will come off with no marks.  I used ordinary sticky tape as it was all I had lying around this weekend, and even though it was only on for moments, it did rip a little of the leather surface off.  I had only a short time in between the usual weekend rush to try this one in the afternoon and mess around in front of the mirror.  As I'd recently been wrapping birthday presents on the bed, the roll of tape presented itself handily to me. Lesson learned about taking short cuts!  Anyway, I decided to go for a length that hits just below the knee as I think this is a flattering length for a straight or pencil skirt but still retains a nice long line.

I measured from the hemline, marked the inside with tailors chalk in several places all around the skirt and then cut across in as straight a line as possible.  You can see from the shot above that, even with a good amount taken off the bottom, there is still a good 10 inches of back vent left.

Here's the new length with the raw hem. Not too bad for straightness, although I think I might have placed the skirt slightly wonkily on the cutting mat for this shot!  Altogether I took 24 cm from the hem, just over 9 inches.  Turning to the insides, I unpicked a few stitches where the lining was sewn to the fold of the leather at the back vent each side.  Then I turned up roughly a double seam allowance of 5/8 inch and zig zag stitched along the hem.  I then added a couple of stitches to attach the lining back to the leather at the very edges, just one centimetre or so, near the vent.

I'm now considering how I might use the bits left over, they seem the perfect size for cuffs or lower sleeve sections on a mixed fabric top or jacket perhaps? I can visualise a cropped length, boxy style jacket with a zip front, in charcoal and grey wool, with this grey leather trim.  Another idea to note for the autumn/winter wish list.

Here's how the finished skirt length looks and I'll definitely be wearing it this season.  It still retains the long, slim line that I like and therefore still makes a statement in this pewter leather, but I think it's much more flattering as well as versatile.  

The back works perfectly well, as the vent goes to well above the back of the knee, where you can see the upper and lower sections of leather have a seam line.  So it still looks balanced as well as being easy to walk in and unrestrictive.  The almost straight sided design of the skirt means that, even with over 9 inches off the hem, it still falls perfectly nicely without hanging in awkward folds or needing the side seams taking in.  

Its great to have something that I've brought back into use again and a garment that will go with so many other things in my wardrobe.  No more flapping around either, as this skirt now  thankfully seems content with being seen and not heard.


  1. Definitely a design fault originally, this skirt is much better proportioned now you've shortened it - and it looks great on you, a perfect fit. I take issue with you on your view that altering a garment is boring; think of it as giving it a 'made to measure' finish. Altering a sleeve length, adding another button and buttonhole to make a jacket fit better, taking up a hem to shorten a skirt, and voila! You can have a new garment in a fraction of the time it would have taken to make it from scratch, and at a fraction of the cost if it's a charity shop buy. And it's often interesting to see how a garment has been constructed originally - you can pick up some useful tips for future sewing projects. Here endeth the lesson............!!!

  2. Hi AWR, thank you so much for your comment, altering seems be controversial then! Good to hear your view about achieving 'made to measure' from an off the peg purchase, I see what you mean. Also good point about picking up useful tips from how garments are made commercially, that is certainly true. Unpicking a garment can reveal construction that you wouldn't necessarily see otherwise. Lesson duly taken on board! Sarah x