A cheater super-full 1916 petticoat

A petticoat for a 1916 evening dress

I’m making progress on my romantic historicism 1916 evening gown.

Harpers Bazaar 1916

The under-bodice is totally finished:Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress

Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress

Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress

My biggest concern about this gown was how to create a petticoat to support the width of the skirt.  The bell-shaped silhouette of 1916 was so high fashion, and lasted for so short a time, that there are very few extent petticoats to use as a guide.  There are lots and lots of examples of petticoats to create the more common A-line silhouette, but the bell-shape is harder to source.

There is this wonderful petticoat from a 1917 issue the Paris Journal of Fashion, and it’s on my to-make list, but I think I’m going to need to try a couple of versions to get it right, and I couldn’t find the right fabric.

Undergarments, 1917

I was getting a little frantic, and then I realised that the solution to the petticoat puzzle was right under my nose – in my UFO pile.

A petticoat for a 1916 evening dress

I’ve had this 1950s petticoat schedule for a re-make for a while. The construction and finishing is beautiful, and the petticoat fits me width-wise, it’s just almost 3″ too short in the bodice, which puts the waist round my ribcage. Ouch!

So, I cut off the bodice, added a side placket, and bound the bodice with bias tape.  I want the skirt to sit on my hips, rather than at my natural waist, so it doesn’t add any bulk there.

A petticoat for a 1916 evening dress

Once I’m done prepping the petticoat I’ll put pink ribbon through the beading lace on the petticoat.

A petticoat for a 1916 evening dress

A petticoat for a 1916 evening dress

If you’re thinking that the petticoat doesn’t seem that full, you’re right, but wait until I starch it!

In fact, it’s currently in the washing machine as I write this, getting pre-washed in preparation for starching.  Fully starched, it will hopefully do a good job of supporting the lower fullness of the evening dress, and the organza underlining of the upper skirt should create the upper fullness.

Bring on the poof!

A petticoat for a 1916 evening dress


  1. Hi,
    I recently found your blog and I love it. I have a fascination with historical dresses and I enjoy all your rate the dress posts. I can’t wait rod see the finish product. I have never seen those fluffy petticoats in the mid 1916. I will go and research them they just look lovely.
    Thank you for all that you teach us

  2. I am so excited to see this dress! I have a long standing love for this silhouette & I can’t wait to see the finished garment!

  3. I love the quick change of silhouette in 1916. It is also on my some-day list. It’s fun to see what you come up with as you try to recreate it! I’m enjoying your progress. I hope the starching works, though I wonder how it will travel…?


    • I’ve had really good luck travelling with starched petticoats – just shove them in the suitcase un-ironed, and when you iron them at the other end they come out as fresh and stiff as ever. And right now this petticoat is STIFF! Stand out its own and stand out to the fullest extent of its width, so I’m pretty sure I’ll get some good volume on the night.

      Some day you must come to CoCo so we can do 1916 together!

  4. Pam Metsers says

    Looking forward to seeing & meeting you at Costume College 2017. Can’t wait to see your dress.
    Safe Travels.

  5. Kaitlyn says

    Did you ever make that petticoat from the Paris Journal of Fashion? It looks perfect for a project I have in mind, but can’t quite figure out how to make it. It looks to me like a basic tube gathered at the top with ribbons sewn evenly spaced down it. Since the ribbon is stiffer than the fabric it holds it out more, providing a bell shape. Do you agree? You are so much better at making petticoats from sketches than I ever will. Any help you can give would be appreciated!

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