Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – The Finsbury Skirt

finsbury bubble skirt

Four days to go and let’s welcome the weekend with the fifth project in Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts: the Finsbury – a bubble skirt.

Finsbury Park in London is where I lived during the industrial placement year of my degree. Four of us lived in a flat above a Greek restaurant on the Seven Sisters Road and worked at a Marks & Spencer’s supplier called Desmonds. Needless to say we had a ball and didn’t spend much time at the flat. I worked in the childrenswear department as an assistant girlswear designer and made some fantastic friends who are still dear to me today. (You can read about one of them who was my boss for that year here.) In today’s competitive job climate of internships, I look back on that year of work with fondness; I was treated as a fully fledged member of the design team, working on new designs, attending meetings at M&S head office and meeting some amazing fabric suppliers. I really felt like I was a valued employee. I was paid and it was more than just travel and food expenses, it was a proper salary that I could live on as a student in London and I even got a pay rise during that year!

So, back to skirts, the Finsbury is one of the most fun styles in the book and it totally reminds me of being a schoolgirl in the 80s….. Known as puffball skirts back then, even Princess Di wore one and their varied incarnations have graced the runway shows of many a contemporary designer including one of my design heroes; Alexander McQueen. In the 80’s Christian Lacroix is credited with reviving “le pouf”.

lacroix le pouf skirtLacroix’s iconic 1980’s “le pouf” designs. Source: Google image search.

The style was around before the 80’s and was originally known as the “balloon” skirt in the 1950’s by Christobal Balenciaga (probably my all-time design hero).

balenciaga balloon skirtBalenciaga’s “balloon” designs. Source: Google image search.

I love the sculptural quirkiness of this skirt; it’s girly in an edgy kind of way and is the ideal blank canvas for showing off beautiful fabric.

finsbury bubble skirt

You can make this skirt in a variety of lengths, with or without pockets…..

skirt pocket

and with a gathered or pleated hem.

If the sculptural bubble style is just a step too far for you, you can also use this pattern to make a simple gathered skirt.

how to make a gathered skirt

However, if you really want to go for it with a bubble skirt, do what they did in the 1950’s when some balloon skirts were stuffed with tulle to make them even bigger!

You can dress the Finsbury skirt up or down depending what fabric you choose and how you wear it; my lightweight denim version works just as well with bare legs and trainers in summer as it does with tights and smart shoes or boots for work in cooler months and that beautiful multi-coloured silk poplin pleated hem version really needs nothing more than the simplest of tops and shoes to have everyone asking which designer your amazing skirt is by and I’m currently dreaming of a gorgeous crisp black taffeta version for the festive season.

The bubble version of the Finsbury works best and looks its most sculptural in crisp light to medium weight woven fabrics such as silk or cotton poplin, denim, taffeta or dupion. The plain gathered version works well in these fabrics too, but will also look great in more fluid drapey fibres and fabrics such as rayon (viscose), cupro or silk challis, crêpe, noile and satin.

Watch out for skirt number 6 tomorrow!

I’m now taking pre-orders for signed copies of the book. You can order yours hereNOTE: You will be charged when you place your order, but your book won’t be sent until publication day on 25th October.

All photography is by Julian Ward © Cico Books with styling by Rob Merrett. Illustrations are by Wendy Ward.

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