Last night the kids had just finished watching the Brady Bunch and then on came Little House on the Prairie and there was Caroline right there wearing her light colored blouse and colored skirt! Could our beloved Little House be at fault?
I wanted to research it myself, but took, of course, my favorite shortcut: e-mail Liz Clark.
Liz promptly responded confirming my hunch about the inaccuracies of the Pioneer "skirt." She said that a silk skirt/sheer blouse combo did come about around the 1840s and lasted through the century, but it was fancy-wear: nothing one would wear to emigrate West (especially in winter). After the Mormon Pioneer era, around the 1880s, a skirt/blouse combo for working classes did come about. I looked up when the Laura Ingals lived (1867 -1957), so maybe Little House wasn't as bad as I'd suspected, considering they were a bit later in the century.
Now that we've got that straight, yes, I will make you (ok, not you, I probably don't even know you) a Pioneer "skirt" for trek if you don't have anything else and you don't have the time or money for anything else :). Just remember it's really a petticoat (big slip to be worn with additional petticoats (ok, even I don't go that far currently, I just wear one petticoat. Now some of you are cringing at me!)).
Liz suggested for those who get more into reenactment after a first-time trek, use the "skirt" for a petticoat under your dress later. Liz gives good, authentic, FREE instructions on how to make a petticoat ("skirt") on her site. She also suggests that if you make your skirt to appropriate fullness (so you won't trip and it would also be more accurate), an elastic waistband will not hold it up, so do make it with a waistband.
Since I'm going for speed at the moment, though, here's how I made mine:
1. I tore two widths of 45" fabric to my desired length. Off of one width, I tore a 4" strip off the side (parallel to the selvage) for my waistband. Thus, I have two equal-length pieces of fabric, one is just wider than the other.
4. Hem the skirt to the desired length. I like to turn mine under 1/4" then again 1", then add growth tucks to shorten it a little, if needed.
5. Then run gathering stitches (big, straight stitches, no backstitching) at the top of the skirt at about 6/8" and 7/8".
6. Determine how many inches you want your waistband. I made this one big on me so that others can use the skirt. Press the short ends of the waistband under about 1/2".
7. Mark the half-way point and the quarter points on both the waistband and the skirt. Gather the skirt. Place the waistband behind the skirt, right sides of both pieces facing you. Match up the marks, adjust gathers, and pin.
8. Stitch the waistband to the skirt at 1" being careful not to catch any fabric underneath.
9. Flip the waistband up and press it.
10. Fold the waistband down until it meets the top of the skirt. Fold it over again so it sandwiches the skirt (there will be 4 thicknesses of waistband with skirt in the middle). Top stitch the short ends and the bottom of the waistband.
11. Create a closure with buttons and button holes as desired. I put buttons at multiple locations to allow this skirt to be shared by people of varying sizes.
Hope that made sense!