I made a thing! Right now my life is a sea of toiles for the next Scroop + Virgil’s pattern, and it seems like I will never get to sew anything that isn’t calico (that’s muslin for those in the US).
So it’s doubly exciting to have taken a little time to make something not-toile, and in such scrumptious fabric too.
I have some 1780s sewing (to go over the Scroop & Virgil’s Augusta Stays of course!) planned for this year, and I looked at all my fabrics, and realised that what they all had in common was that they would look great with a red petticoat.
I had no suitable red in stash, but when I was shopping for fabrics for the Robin Dress samples I let myself linger in The Fabric Stores silk section (always a dangerous activity) and they had an amazing silk-cotton faille in bright red.
I wanted a dark red, but the fabric was so scrumptious, and such a perfect match to the weight and hand of one of the 18thc dresses I’ve been able to handle in person, that I couldn’t resist. And it was on sale…
I experimented with dyeing it a darker shade, but it changed the fabrics hand, so I decided bright red would do.
The petticoat wasn’t top of my to-do list, but just as I wrapped up the Robin Dress launch, and was feeling like I deserved a sewing treat, Burnley & Trowbridge launched their petticoat sew-along on YouTube. Kismet!
Now, confession time:
I don’t watch YouTube.
OK, not entirely true. I try. People rave about the YouTube costumers, and I’ve tried them. But even when I’ve met them and love them in person, I hate the YouTube format. I just turn into some horrible curmudgeon shouting “why did that take you 11 minutes to tell me! I could have read it in 37 seconds”, and “Oh my god, why are you being cutesy! You’re a professional adult” and “6 minutes of intro for 2 minutes of actual info!” and “Why do so many things pop up! Does every bit of information need an amusing arrow or caption to accompany it!?!” at the screen.
Videos just aren’t how I like to learn and relax. There’s so much noise in the world, and YouTube is just more noise which stresses my brain (I have exactly the same reaction to most podcasts).
So I keep reading blogs, because blogs make me happy and enthusiastic, and I like being a happy enthusiastic person, not the guy from Up at the start of the movie.
But, with the lockdown on, I guess I was getting so much silence that for once my brain had space to appreciate some extra talking. And I enjoyed the B&T series! (OK, I may have yelled at it for being cutesy at least once…). And it helped me to make what is definitely the prettiest petticoat I’ve ever constructed.
First I sewed the side seams. I happened to have exactly the right shade of red silk thread in stash. More kismet!
Then I hemmed. So much hemming…
Then I hemmed the pocket slits. Because of the width of my fabric they weren’t on seams, so I had to slash them into the fabric. I really don’t want them to rip out at the bottom, so I worked little reinforcing circles of buttonhole stitches.
I have zero evidence that these are accurate to the period (in fact, I’m pretty sure they aren’t) but they are pretty, and will do the job extremely well.
Then it was on to pleating. I took me 8 tries to get it just right…
I did two lines of diagonal basting to hold the pleats in place:
And then blanket stitched the top, because I love a good line of blanket stitching.
Then it was on to levelling the hem! The American Duchess Guide to 18th c Costuming has a great discussion on how to do this.
What I did is a little different to the AD book, because I levelled mine over a ‘croissant’ rump (like the ones shown on the woman on the far right or the kind just above the head of the man in the red jacket), rather than a split rump, although the general principal is exactly the same.
I levelled over a croissant rump because I want to wear it with a jacket that will sit best over a croissant rump, and if I’d levelled it over a split rump it would end up with a funny dip in the hem when worn with a croissant rump. If I do want to wear it over a split rump I’d be wearing it over an Italian gown, where the skirts of the gown will hide any irregularities in the back hem.
I hemmed it at 8.5″ off the ground on me, which is more in line with 1770s and early 1780s fashion than later 1780s fashion, when the skirts usually get longer (although there are some examples that still show exposed ankles I haven’t done a proper survey of what types of outfits show shorter skirts, and what types show longer)
If I want a longer skirt later, I may add a piece and hide it with a strip of contrast ribbon, similar to what is shown in this plate.
With the hem levelled, it was on to sewing on the waistband, with assistance from Miss Felicity:
And the final touch was hemming the tapes:
And, since it has pocket [slits] I had to make Gertrude stick her hands in them!
There’s even photos of me in it!
Although with my frizzy hair and bare feet I do look more like a hobbit than an elegant 18th century lady…
And I’m submitting it for the Historical Sew Monthly 2020 Challenge #12: Community
What the item is: A petticoat
How it fits the challenge: The Burnley & Trowbridge sew-alongs are a wonderful example of the historical costuming community’s generosity, and they way costumers come together in times of stress to support each other. Angela has been a fabulous cheerleader and mentor, and I’m so grateful to be part of her community.
Material: Ribbed silk cotton
Pattern: None, based primarily on the Burnley & Trowbridge petticoat sew-along, with reference to the AD 18th c Dressmaking book and period sources.
Year: ca. 1780, but wearable for 1770-1790
Notions: silk thread, linen tape from Burnley & Trowbridge
How historically accurate is it? The fabric is an excellent match to the weight and hand of an 18th c dress I’ve examined, but I haven’t been able to document examples with a silk cotton blend. Extant 18th c silks seem to be a slightly pinker red than this. The pocket-slit reinforcement was probably not used in the 18th c.
Hours to complete: about 8
First worn: Only for photos.
Total cost: About NZ$50