The Crocheted Skirt: Fashion Fact or Fantasy?

The crocheted skirt has to rank up there as the ultimate “in my dreams” garment project, at once wonderfully feminine yet totally impossibly impractical. Why, then do I have at least ten current skirt designs, either out there for 2012 or in production for 2013? Good question, considering there is not one drop, not an iota of Girly-Girl in my constitution.

I am strictly a jeans/T-shirt/Chucks female, the look I landed on in 1971, and the one I’m sticking with probably forever. [Shoot, if I could bring myself to sit still long enough in a hair salon I’d get me a 70’s shag haircut and finish my total blast from the past]. The parts have changed over the years, my body parts as well as the wardrobe essentials.  The jeans now tend to be mid-rise or loose cargos instead of hip-huggers, straight leg not bell bottom, in the new trend of not wasting water and resources to factory pre-wash the fabric so they are dark, creased or whiskered, and a touch stiff, as opposed to the well-worn, ripped look of decades past. The T-shirt, which now must be long enough to cover the top of the pants, no longer has radio station or rock band logos or cutesy slogans like “I’m a Spam Fan”; instead my shirts are emblazoned with geeky sci-fi logos, NASA meatballs and esoteric fan slogans like “Keep calm and don’t blink”. But I find it comforting that high-top Chuck Taylor All Stars are pretty much the same (except for the inflated prices); seeing as I can now afford more than one pair at a time, I like to mis-match the pairs.

So why do I design such unabashedly femme, sashaying crocheted skirts that have girls of all ages squeeing with delight?  Beats me. Yes, I wear my crocheted skirts, and yes I do it in public. As a designer it is my responsibility and my mission to show crochet on the body every chance I get. I could make it easier on myself if I designed projects that don’t require me to suck in my gut, such as hats or scarves or baggy sweaters, which are way less complicated to wear and less bruising on the ego to style on this old lady’s squishy, squat body. But, no.  I have to design skirts.

The early skirt designs were mostly larks, just for fun and shock value. The first skirt I ever designed for a yarn company was purchased but never actually published, presumably because the public (more likely the editor) wasn’t quite ready to go there.  The next three became part of a beachwear collection “Surf’s Up” featured in Family Circle Easy Knitting in 2004, followed by the Vive La Provence skirt on the cover of the first Interweave Knits Special Crochet Issue in late 2004.  Since then I have done dozens more, with a few stunners yet to be unveiled in 2013, including four in my own next book, Convertible Crochet. Here are some of my skirt hits and the inevitable misses, FYI. Some you may never ever ever see or be able to get patterns for no matter how hard you search or how prettily you implore me to cough them up since they are sold, lost in some vault, no longer in my possession. So just look, don’t cry.

JAN 05 Interweave CoverDesigned by Doris Chan, Family Circle Easy Knitting, 2004Designed by Doris Chan, Family Circle Easy Knitting, 2004 Designed by Doris Chan, Family Circle Easy Knitting, 2004From Amazing Crochet Lace by Doris Chan Designed by Doris ChanFelinaRiver SongPingRohise

Jolimar skirt childBirthday Girl

Exploded Lace Motif Skirt

  Multi Media Skirt Lara's Dance Skirt   Charlotte Skirt

Bias Mini by Doris Chan from Crochet Noro, published by Sixth&Spring Books. Photography by Rose Callahan copyright © by Sixth&Spring Books/Knitting Fever, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bias Mini by Doris Chan from Crochet Noro, published by Sixth&Spring Books. Photography by Rose Callahan copyright © by Sixth&Spring Books/Knitting Fever, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Crocheting my kind of skirts is easy. All are virtually seamless, starting with a sturdy, elastic waistline formed with the chainless foundation wonder of the world, FSC. It amazes me how the FSC ring can be 8 to 10 inches smaller than your full hip measurement, yet allows you to shimmy into the skirt. From the foundation each skirt is shaped in specific ways to lie smoothly over the hips. Here’s the most critical caveat you’ll get from this post: if the pattern calls for a Foundation Single Crochet waistband, do not, I repeat DO NOT try to work around it using a traditional chain start.  You’ll never be able to get the waist stretchy enough to pull on the skirt, no matter how loosely you chain. As a result, you’ll have to size up so far that the skirt waist and high hip contain too much fabric and will pouf out. Trust me, hardly anyone looks good in that.

My skirts are all pull-on style, without fussy closures or fitting, held up with drawstrings or elasticized with applied waistband elastic or crocheted with carry-along elastic thread. Many are generously sized for hips, or are flared for easy fit. The editors normally request sample garments to fit their tall, leggy photography models, but they nearly always stick to conservative skirt lengths, at or around the knees.  However there are always pattern options for adjusting the length. The fabrics are crocheted with relaxed tension so they have terrific drape on the body without cling. If you choose your yarn fiber wisely, if the yarn twist is firm yet pliable, then you’ll have a skirt that can tolerate the stress of being tugged and sat upon without shredding.

Do  you dare to wear a crocheted skirt? Obviously you are inviting attention, but you can make sure it’s for the right reasons.  Begin by crocheting the correct skirt style, size and proportions for your figure. Crocheted skirts are not for every body, but I believe nearly everybody can find one that works.

My designs have lots of holes, being generally lacy, and need some sort of clothes under them, unless you are a film star, pop diva or reality TV icon and don’t mind parading around with nothing under your lace. You can do what I do, wear skirts over leggings (not opaque tights, but actual pants that are slim fitting), or skinny jeans or over thin knit tube skirts. Slips work well, if you can get over the concept of people seeing your slip. This completely horrifies my mother, BTW. To her, a slip is still an unmentionable and should never be seen. I remember a time where you would die of embarrassment if someone took you aside and whispered “Your slip is showing”.  HORRORS! If only we knew what all would be showing in 2013!

If you have an active lifestyle and find yourself on the beach, poolside, or ducking in and out of yoga or pilates classes (so NOT me!), I understand that crocheted skirts make useful, pretty cover-ups for swimsuits and workout attire, allowing you to be dressed enough for the boardwalk or the sidewalk, juice bar or cafe.

If you have talent for sewing you can make color-coordinated linings for your crocheted skirts, which is so not what I enjoy, but linings have the advantage of looking more natural (as opposed to a stark white slip).

And, if all fails and you find yourself unhappy with the look of your crocheted skirt, depending on the cut and proportions, you can try wearing it as a capelet or poncho. Straight or slim skirts aren’t going to allow enough room for your shoulders, so you’ll have to choose wisely. Just saying.