In the late Victorian period the large bustles underneath the skirts gave way to the long, flowing lines that preceded the Edwardian period. The skirts of this period were close-fitting around the waist and very A-line in the front, but they fanned out to be quite full at the back of the dress.
In order to support the shape of the skirt, a petticoat was required that could hold this quite definite A-line angle. There were several different types of petticoats worn during this era, but I was particularly interested in the gored petticoat.
The Delineator magazine published a pattern for a gored petticoat in June, 1896. I have not been able to find the original article online, but Dressmaking Research has been kind enough to reproduce the pattern instructions, which I am very grateful and have found very helpful! For this reason, I have decided to do this petticoat for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #23: Generosity and Gratitude.
The skirt consists of a front-gore, two gores at each side and a back-breadth.
For the fastenings:
The top of the petticoat is finished with an under-facing, which forms a casing for tapes that are tacked [to the] back of the darts in the side-gores and drawn out through openings made at the center of the back, thus regulating the fullness about the waist and avoiding the need of a placket.
And for the ruffles:
The [top] flounce is ornamented by a deep, bias trimming flounce that is turned under at the top to form a self-heading and shirred on cords at the top and hemmed narrowly at the bottom; the trimming flounce is decorated with two silk ruchings, the whole arrangement increasing the flaring effect and making quite an elaborate foot-trimming.
How much material will you need?
To make the petticoat-skirt with the trimming flounce for a lady of medium size, will need twelve yards of material twenty inches wide, or eight yards and an eighth twenty-seven inches wide, or seven yards and a fourth thirty-six inches wide.
Jeepers! That’s a lot for a petticoat! No wonder the war changed the yardage available for women’s fashions.
There are three pieces to the skirt; the front (cut on the fold), the side (cut two), and the back (cut two).
Gored skirt panels always have the “front edge” cut on the grain, with the other “bias” side pointing to the back. In this case, the centre front fold runs with the grainline and the side gores have the front edge on the grain. For the back panel, the centre back runs with the grainline.
The two measurements that need to be taken are your waist measurement and waist-to-floor (length) measurement. The skirt panels plus the added length of the two rows of ruffles need to equal the waist-to-floor measurement.
In order to make sure the finished petticoat fits your waist correctly, the waistline of both the front and side panels should each measure 1/6 of your waist measurement. Because these panels are doubled over on the material, they should make up for 2/3 of the waist measurement (1/3 each), leaving the last 1/3 for the back panel.
As the back panel will be gathered in with ties, the waistline of this panel should measure 1/3 of your waist measurement (which is double what it needs to be, but allows the extra to be gathered in at the back).
The only thing I would change to the skirt if I did it again is that I would make the front and side gores a bit more narrow and less full around the bottom edge.
The first row of ruffles were cut to be 10 cm deep and twice the length of the bottom edge of the skirt. The second row of ruffles were cut to be 15 cm deep and twice the length of the first row of ruffles. I did not make my ruffles on the bias as the pattern suggested, but ran them perpendicular to the grainline (mainly to conserve fabric).
Step One: The skirt panels were sewn together; front to side, side to back, and centre back seams. Darts were sewn in the front and side panels to fit them around the waist.
Step Two: The ruffles were sewn together to form long lengths, which were then sewn with gathering stitch. I also hemmed the bottom ruffle to save doing it later.
- Hint: Sew the gathering stitches on the ruffles in sections. Smaller sections of gathering will reduce the likelihood of breaking the threads and make it easier to make the gathers even.
- Another Hint: Don’t gather the ruffles until you have sewn the ruching on, as it is easier to work with flat material.
Step Three: The ruching was made from bias strips with the raw edges turned under. A gathering stitch was then sewn down the centre through all thicknesses. The strip could then be gathered and stitched down in place on the ruffle. Once again, the gathering stitches should be sewn in smaller sections as it makes it more manageable to gather and attach it to the ruffle.
Step Four: A strip of bias binding was sewn around the waistline. This was then turned to the inside and sewn down to form a casing for the waist ties.
I used cotton tape for the waist ties, anchoring them at the darts in the side panel and then threading them through the centre back seam. They could then be drawn up to fit the waist.
This petticoat was just made with a plain poly-cotton which I found on sale cheap at my local fabric store. It took about 24 hours to make it in total, as it took ages to gather up all those ruffles! It cost roughly $18 AUD to make.
And now for the finished article. Often petticoats of this era were made with silk and were trimmed elaborately. However, mine serves the purpose – as a functional undergarment for a 1890’s fan skirt.
Sources and Relevant Links
1890s Under Dress – from Dressmaking Research
Historical Sew Fortnightly – hosted by Dreamstress