I’ve already shown you all the glamour shots of my new subtly-striped 1780s petticoat, but I thought some of you might be interested in the construction details.
For the overall look of my petticoat I was inspired by fashion plates like this one from 1778:
Obviously my petticoat doesn’t match my pet-en-l’aire, and I’ve made my ruffle a little narrower – less than 1/3 of the petticoat length, rather than almost 1/2 of the length, but I’m comfortable with the overall look.
The skirt is made from three 36″ long widths of 45″ wide cotton muslin with a subtle self-stripe in bamboo. The widths are sewn together with a 10″ long gap for the skirt opening left unstitched at the top of one seam.
Sewn together, I had 132″ of skirt to gather in to my waistband. This is a little too much width for an 18th century petticoat – most examples that I can find are no more than 112″ wide, and if I did it again I’d probably omit that extra 20″.
To gather the skirt into my waistband I used cord gathering, folding a bit of my fabric over the top of the cord and stitching it in. I gathered the skirt widths so that the centre front width goes almost all the way to both my sides, and a full two widths are gathered on to the back, so there is more fullness at the back of the skirt to go over a bum-rump.
I attached the gathered widths to a simple twill-tape waistband which wraps around my waist twice and ties with zig-zag stitches. Quick and dirty, but surprisingly effective.
Zig-zag stitches don’t pull and squash the gathers like straight stitching would, and while it appears weak, I actually find this method to be stronger than straight stitching.
To give the petticoat body and support the hem and ruffles I cut a 132″ long x 4″ wide strip of stiff linen (it actually came out of a vintage obi, and was used to stiffen and support the obi) and folded the hem over it and sewed it in.
All of the hems are done with a machine blind-hem stitch – totally cheating, but looks reasonably like hand-sewing from the outside.
The hem stiffener shows through the skirt fabric slightly, but this isn’t a problem as the ruffle hides it. The ruffle is made from 12″ long widths of the fabric – 9 in total (3 per each skirt width) as box pleats pleat up at a 3:1 ratio. Making box pleats in striped fabric is so wonderfully easy, though time consuming, and I was even able to match the stripes.
Gathering might have been more period accurate than pleating, but then I wouldn’t have been able to match the stripes, and obviously I’m not focused on historical accuracy with this petticoat. Besides, I wouldn’t have been hand-gathering, and neither cord nor machine gathering would look right on the exposed ruffle.
Like the petticoat itself, the pleated border is hemmed with machine blind-hem-stitch, just a much smaller version.
And there is my petticoat! Next time I’ll do it ‘properly’, with less width of skirt, a longer hem ruffle, period appropriate fabric, and hand stitching. You know what though? I still love this version!
The Challenge: Stripes
Fabric: 5 metres of bamboo-cotton blend with a self stripe
Pattern: none, based on historical examples (only I made the petticoat fuller than any historical examples, and now I’m regretting it)
Year: ca. 1785
Notions: cotton thread, cotton waist tape, linen hem stiffener.
How historically accurate is it? OK, so this was a quickie rather than a super-accurate project. It’s completely machine sewn and the stripes are bamboo (granted, machine processed bamboo rather than chemically processed bamboo, so more like linen than viscose). 50% maybe.
Hours to complete: 6. Even machine sewn, all those metres of hemming and pleating take time.
First worn: for a photoshoot with my 1780s pet-en-l’aire
Total cost: I bought the fabric so long ago I can’t remember how much I paid, but I think it was $4 a metre, so $20 for the skirt.