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The Turnabout: Pendleton’s Reversible Skirt for 2013

reversible skirt

 “Give it a whirl….it’s Reversible! It’s the Turnabout, with a gay way of whirling when you walk.”  Pendleton’s Turnabout debuted in 1953, and along with the poodle skirt, it was THE skirt craze of the 1950s. Every teenaged girl coveted one. Our customers have shared their stories with remarks like, “None of the others on the block ever forgave my parents for buying me my reversible skirt, because after that, ALL the girls had to have one.” But parents didn’t do all the buying. Summer jobs, babysitting money, berry picking; you did what you had to, to have a Pendleton Turnabout. Perhaps no other garment in fashion history has inspired so much teenage industry.


So, where did this innovative garment begin?

The idea probably arose from the fact that the interior of a Pendleton pleated skirt is almost as attractive as the exterior, as our weaving is beautiful on both sides of the fabric, and quality construction is our hallmark. There are no design notes, but one of our designers probably noticed how the colors changed on the interior of a skirt, due to the pleating, and started thinking about a skirt that could be worn either side out. A great idea, yes, but to construct a skirt that could actually be worn both ways required tremendous teamwork between designers and engineers. Even the closure and label required a special design.

But we worked it out, and the results were part of fashion history. The Turnabout was more than a work of fashion. It was a work of engineering so precise that we had to patent it! Over the years, we used many fabric techniques to achieve variations. By varying the size of the plaids and pleats, we could give the skirts a horizontally or vertically striped effect. Some skirts were woven in bands of herringbone color, for a completely different look.

The Turnabout skirt was always a favorite with vintage clothing collectors.

Fifty years after the garment’s initial debut, we decided to re-introduce it as part of a Heritage capsule that included the 49’er, the Turnabout (released as ‘the Pendleton Reversible Skirt’) and the River Jacket. Again, a wonderful idea, but there were no production records to refer to after all that time. We had many skirts in our archives, but no records on the actual technique.

It took many phone calls to retired personnel and a lot of discussion. After much trial and error, we finally worked out the process. The skirt was tested for Holiday 2002, and re-released for Fall 2003.  The Reversible Skirt has stayed in the line ever since. It does not have a paper pattern developed by a pattern maker. It’s constructed with careful planning and engineering by our fabric design and manufacturing personnel. The sizing method is unique; we simply add pleats to each size.

The Reversible Skirt for 2013 is available at www.pendleton-usa.com. It has a gorgeous movement and hand, and is constructed with all the care and attention to detail of the original Turnabout. And yes, it really is two skirts in one.

The Pendleton Reversible Skirt. Isn’t it time you gave it a whirl?

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. How much did they cost in the 50’s?

    November 6, 2013
  2. I loved reading this bit of Pendleton design history! It shows just how talented the designers were, and how well they knew their textile. Thanks for sharing. (more please!)

    November 11, 2013
  3. I’m just learning about some very unfortunate practices in the raising of sheep in other countries. I love pendleton products and would like to know if you source any of your wool from Australia. I know that the company tries very hard to incorporate american wool into their products, but where does the other wool come from?

    Thank You,
    Brandyn

    November 20, 2013
    • Brandon, the vast majority of our wool comes from the US from sheep ranchers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Some of these relationships go back generations, especially in Umatilla County.

      November 20, 2013

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  1. Vintage Miscellany – November 17, 2013 | The Vintage Traveler

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