About a week or so ago, I decided I needed a full-length skirt. This was partly because I'd wanted to sew a skirt for a long time, and had nobody to sew one for (my sister wears them, but she's more than capable of sewing her own skirts) and partly because I suspected that they were super easy and convenient to dress in. The problem was, of course, that any skirt I'd really want to wear would have to look like this:
Yes, I know those are pants.
But I can admire nice things even if they're not my style, and in the last while I'd seen pleats and gores and button-down panels all over the place, in blog photos and real life, so I finally decided to take the plunge, if you will. Only to clamber backwards on the ledge almost right away. (I like dragging out questionable metaphors to their slow and painful deaths. And mixing metaphors, too, but only sometimes.)
See, I'm so used to self-drafting by now that I barely hesitate at doing up a design for trousers or a blouse or a new jacket. But as I was exclaiming about my great skirt plans to my sister, she calmly suggested that I slow down a bit before planning out elaborate, voluminous, complicated designs, seeing as I never wear skirts, ever. Full of good advice, she is.
I've said before that knowing how things work is half the reason I sew. Putting pieces together is satisfying, but loses a lot of its appeal if I don't know why I'm doing what I'm doing, why pieces fit together or drape the way they do.
And so I decided to draw myself some skirts. As someone who pretty much doodled her way through grade school, I tend to measure my understanding of something by how easily and naturally I can draw it. I figured that since I didn't want to make a half-dozen skirts to "get in the zone", drawing them was the next best thing.
And it's a good thing I started there. Look at this:
That was my first attempt at drawing a skirt on my computer, and while it's not downright ugly, it's close. Not to mention that compared to the pant sketch it looks ridiculously amateurish. After seeing that flat, unappealing rendition, I had to face the fact that my vague idea of a skirt being a rectangle with side seams just would not cut it, at least not if I wanted to make my own.
So I drew, and drew, in an attempt to understand how those skirt things work. I drew skirts in motion. I drew them from the side. I drew them twirling.
I've always had an easier time shading clusters of shadows than filling in flat planes, and it showed as I worked my way through drawing skirts. The "walking woman" (or skirt) in purple above was my first drawing that worked out, probably because it's more shadow than light, all rippling cloth and movement.
One thing I realized is how much empty space there is on a skirt. Even the most basic pants have inseams and side seams to break up their surface, not to mention all the small creases that form around the knees and thighs when you wear them. In my original conception, at least, skirts ain't got none of that.
Maybe that's one of the reasons I prefer pants -- not just because I can skip around more easily in them, but because of how small their canvas is, how defined and close together the lines and shadows are (and the creases in trousers only emphasize that). When drawing these skirts I kept thinking of doing watercolour washes back in highschool art class, and how long I always took trying to fill in those skies and sprawling fields in interesting ways. It's funny that in sewing clothes I have the exact same challenges.
I'm not pushing some kind of "draw before you sew" method, like that old tech class saying -- "measure twice, cut once" and all that. It's just that sewing for me is usually about the feel of the fabric and the thrill of getting measurements right, and this project's reminded me that sewing can also be about principles of design and art. Which is nice.
Plus I got a pretty solid sketch for my skirt out of it.
In different colours, though. (Colours were also something I struggled with. Go figure.)