I’ve been doing a lot of sewing lately: finishing up sewing PHDs (Projects Half Done), both physical and mental.
Physical PHDs are things I actually started that have languished unfinished.
Mental PHDs are things I bought (or was given) fabric for thinking “I’ll just do this project quickly”. Even though I haven’t actually started the project, it still preys on my mind as an unfinished idea!
Mental PHDs are particularly frustrating when they are really quick simple projects. Surely I could find the hour needed to make it!
And yet my life has so many ideas and so few hours…
But here’s one I did!
When I was down in Christchurch visiting Lynne last year she gave me a beautifully made nightgown of very high quality fabric which had some wear in the upper half, and a lost sleeve:
The skirt fabric was still in excellent condition, and I thought it would make the perfect 18th century under-petticoat.
Under-petticoats were shorter petticoats tied over the shift, and worn under the stays, pockets, and over-petticoats. You can see one here:
Re-making a modern nightgown into an 18th century under-petticoat means mine won’t be fully accurate of course.
The nightgown iss cotton, which was a luxury fabric in the 18th century, so very uncommon compared to linen and wool (and even silk) for an under-petticoat. It’s also only 200cm around at the hem, which is a little on the narrow side. The embroidery designs aren’t typical of the 18th century, but the idea of embroidery is: many extant under-petticoats are decorated with embroidery.
The spirit of my petticoat is definitely accurate though: re-making, saving, and using what you have!
To make mine I measured up from the hem and marked the length I wanted: 85cm/33”
I cut it roughly:
And then tidied up the edge:
Normally I prefer a centre back placket in an under-petticoat, but with two side seams already in place, a centre back placket would only add a point of weakness, and be more work.
So I opened up the left side seam, reinforced the bottom, and hemmed the opening.
Then I cut a waistband, and marked quarters in the waistband and skirt. I made sure to keep m waistband a couple of inches shorter than my natural waist, so it could always be tied without trying to overlap.
Then the moment when the petticoat starts to look like something: I pleated the skirt to fit the waistband, with all the pleats facing away from the front, towards the centre back.
I pinned on the waistband:
And then sewed it on.
The petticoat already has lots of machine sewing, and since it’s winter I need to take care of my hands and limit hand sewing to the places where it really counts.
Like tie hems! Such a satisfying moment, and impossible to do beautifully by any method but with handsewing.
And there’s my under-petticoat!
And very satisfactory it is! Works well too..it had its inaugural outing under the chintz petticoat you see behind it.
If you want to make your own, Burnley & Trowbridge have a video tutorial, and the American Duchess 18th century Costuming book includes under-petticoat instructions.
Now I just have to figure out what to do with the rest of of the nightgown. Oh dear. Another PHD…
And for the Historical Sew Fortnightly 2021:
The Challenge: The Costumer’s New Look (April): Give an old costume a new look, either by creating a new accessory or piece which expands or changes the aesthetic and use of an outfit, re-fashioning something into a costume item, or re-making an old costume.
Material: An old cotton nightgown
Pattern: None, based on period methods.
Notions: Cotton tape
How historically accurate is it? Not at all in precise techniques, but accurate in spirit.
Hours to complete: >1.5 hours
First worn: For an 18th century dinner, late June.
Total cost: 0!