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A reception dress, Journal les Demoiselles, 1894.

After the long reign of the crinoline and bustle had ended, it was once again the turn of the sleeves to take centre stage. So after finishing my 1890’s skirt, it was time to turn to the evening bodice.

During this period, sleeves received all the inspiration possible from their enormous counterparts in the 1830s! And it did not take them very long to grow. What had been sedate in 1892 became quite top-heavy in 1894! The long-sleeved (and very full around the bicep) leg-o-mutton and gigot sleeves abounded! But the shorter evening dresses did not get neglected. Rather large “balloon” sleeves adorned many an upper-arm.

By about 1896 the sleeves had reached their maximum size, quite dwarfing the head, and then began to rapidly collapse. However, the size of the sleeves at their height does gives some reason for the similarly timed advent of big hair and big hats, as they were needed to bring some balance to the outfit.

Bodices for evening wear were often made in two contrasting or complementary colours that matched the skirt. Decorations, such as lace or ribbon, but also ornaments (like flowers) or trim in the contrasting fabric, were also routinely used.

An evening bodice, silk and velvet, c. 1893-6, from Museum of London. This is the same bodice patterned in Janet Arnold’s book.

Pattern

I used the pattern of an 1893-6 evening dress in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 2. The bodice of this garment uses a silk bodice base, boned, over which is overlaid turquoise velvet. Then striped silk is mounted over the top of the velvet. I did mine slightly differently to this.

I decided to simplify my bodice and do the whole base in ivory taffeta and overlay the mint-green satin over the top.

I did a mock up of the bodice first, in order to make any fitting adjustments.

The pattern, with adjustments made from the mock-up.

The sleeve pattern pieces, with a slight enlargement.

I used ivory polyester taffeta, flatlined with white cotton broadcloth. The bodice was overlaid with mint-green duchess satin and then trimmed with glass pearl beads. The bustline was finished with some fine bridal tulle.

Construction Steps

Step 1: Beginning with the ivory taffeta under bodice, I flatlined all the panels. The back panels were sewn to the lining (right sides together) on the centre back seam, and then turned right sides out and treated as one layer. (The bodice will be laced at the centre back seam, hence the finishing on the centre back seams.)

The back panels, seamed to the lining on the centre back seam and turned the right way. This bodice opens at the centre back.

Once all the panels were flatlined, I sewed them together.

The back and side-back panels are sewn together.

The front and side front panels, sewn together. The darts are yet to be sewn in.

Once the bodice was sewn together, I did a fitting in order to properly fit the darts in the front panel. The shoulder seams were also sewn at this point.

The bodice was boned on every seam, including the darts. I used some twill tape for the casings and sewed it to seam allowance so that the stitching did not show through to the right side. The top edge of the boning casing was turned over before sewing to prevent the bone poking out.

The boning channels, using twill tape sewn to each seam allowance. On the right is the folded over edge of the boning casing.

Step 2: The sleeve is made up of a sleeve lining, a sleeve outer, and an over sleeve. The ivory taffeta outer sleeve was sewn together. As seen from the pattern piece above, one side of the sleeve seam is gathered to fit the other side of the sleeve seam. The bottom edge is gathered to fit the lining piece, and the sleeve head will also be gathered to fit the sleeve.

The ivory taffeta sleeve sewn together. The sleeve seam (shown on the right) is gathered on only one edge. The bottom edge (shown at the bottom) is also gathered to fit the sleeve lining.

The sleeve lining was made up.

The sleeve lining is sewn together. The sleeve seam is shown to the right. The gathered edge will form the sleeve head. The bottom edge is not gathered.

The sleeve lining and the outer sleeve were put together.

The sleeve lining is attached to the outer sleeve along the bottom edge.

In order to help the sleeves retain their “puff”, I inserted a crescent of stiff tulle. The tulle was folded over on the flat edge and then cut in a curve to form a crescent. The cut, curved edge was gathered.

The stiff tulle crescent, gathered along one edge.

This crescent was then put in between the two layers of sleeve. Janet Arnold’s original dress appears to have had no sleeve supports, however it was common in this era of large puffs to have some sort of support for the sleeve head.

Then the sleeve was sewn into the armhole.

The sleeve is inserted into the armhole. You can see the layers of the sleeve in the seam.

I used bias binding to bind the sleeve seam, as the tulle can get rather itchy if left to poke into your armpit!

Step 3: The over sleeve functions almost more as a collar, as it is attached to the neckline and hangs down over the sleeve.

It was basically a straight strip of material, with a rolled hem on one edge. The raw edge was then pleated to fit between the balance marks at the front of the bodice and the centre back. The over sleeve piece is angled to form a point where it meets the centre back.

The over sleeve is sewn in at the neckline. The back of the over sleeve is angled to meet the centre back at a point, shown on the right side of the photo. (The neckline casing is already sewn in this photo.)

The front corner of the over sleeve (which would hang awkwardly free) is pulled under the front of the arm and held under the armpit with some tacking stitches.

The one irritating thing I have found with this bodice is that the over sleeve does not hang straight. This is because I sewed it too low at the front of the bodice neckline.

Step 4: In the original example, the over bodice was a straight strip of material, which was mounted on the bodice to angle slightly around the body to sit fairly flat. A small tuck was taken at the bottom of the centre front to allow for the sharp angle of the waistline. However, when I tried this method of fitting the over bodice, I found that my corseted shape was not sloped enough to make it work. That is, my waist was not small enough in relation to my bust.

This meant that I had to take a large tuck under the arms to take in the fullness of the material. I also altered the type of tuck I did at the centre front in order that the fabric sat flatter on the body. (Once I looked at the original photos online – highly zoomed in – I felt better about it all, as their tucks did not look fantastically neat either!) In addition to this, because I had already sewn the sleeve in, I had to fold under the raw edge around the arm scythe and hand sew it down.

The over bodice is being handsewn down. The over sleeves are pushed up to show where the over bodice reaches to. The tucks under the arms can be seen and have been handsewn down. (The front corner of the over sleeve has not been tacked under the arm as yet, and that is why they can be pushed as they are.)

The back view of the over bodice.

Note: If I had of been sensible, I would have mounted the over bodice before I did the sleeves! However, I was struggling to figure out how to do this step while fitting myself, so I moved on with the sleeves instead. So I think this step would fit better as Step 2 and save a lot of grumbling later on! (As you might be able to tell, this was the point where I wanted to throw the bodice in the bin!)

Step 5: A casing was sewn to the top, around the neckline, with a drawstring to tighten it at the centre back. This prevents the weight of the sleeves pulling the bodice off the shoulder.

The neckline casing, pinned ready to sew. It will then be turned to the inside and handsewn down.

The bottom edge of the bodice was bound with bias binding (as this bodice was worn tucked in to show the waistband of the skirt).

Hand sewn eyelets were put in the centre back, with lacing to tie up the bodice. This was a fairly common way of fastening bodices closed during this era. The original dress used hooks and eyes, which is the other main way used for fastening.

Step 6: Pearl beads were sewn around the over bodice edges, around the bottom of the oversleeve, and hung in two strings over the bust. A total of 933 pearl beads hand sewn onto this bodice. A square-ish piece of fine netting was gathered up in three lines and hand sewn down at the centre front to form a soft cloud-like strip.

The pearl beads and the fine netting are sewn on.

And here is the whole ballgown all finished!

The front view

The side view

The side view shows how the over sleeve is positioned too low at the front.

The back view

My chemise does show slightly at the centre back, but as I am hoping to redo this chemise I was not concerned. Overall, I am pretty pleased with this gown. I had been worried that the sleeves would be too large, but I think a large hairstyle does help to balance the sleeves. It is a nice gown to dance in as well!

Related Posts

Making an 1890s Ballgown: Skirt

Making an Early 1870s Gown: Evening Bodice

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A reception dress, Journal des Demoiselles, 1894, from Pinterest.

Image Source: An evening bodice, c. 1893-6, from Museum of London.

Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Details of the Bronze and Pink 1893 Gown – by The Quintessential Clothes Pen (Read another costumers journey in making a gown inspired by Janet Arnold’s pattern.)

1893 Evening Gown – by Rhiann Houlihan: Costumier (Another costumers reproduction of this gown.)

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An evening gown, c. 1894, original source unknown.

The late Victorian period falls in the middle of a period of time retrospectively called belle époque. This period – from 1871 to 1914 – was characterised primarily by a period of international peace and economic stability in the Western world. As a consequence the arts flourished during this time, which had an impact on the fashions of the populace. It became possible for even the middle class women to dress quite richly, with lace and flounces. The gowns of the period became quite ornate with multiple trimmings of various sorts.

The skirts of the 1890s had recently fallen from the heights of the final bustle period that ended with the 1880s. The fullness of the skirts remained at the back, with the fabric cut in a sort of semi-circle, but it was closely and smoothly fitted at the waist. The skirts became slightly simpler, with less drapery and adornments than the previous decade, which created a tall and elegant silhouette.

But now that the skirts had resumed more sensible dimensions, it was the sleeves turn to increase astronomically! More on that later…

Fan skirt with matching bodice, silk and velvet, c. 1893-6, from Museum of London.

Pattern

I used the pattern in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 2. I have had my eye on this pattern for a while – indeed, I had even bought all the material and supplies for it about 5 years ago! The actual skirt that Janet Arnold patterned is in the Museum of London and is pictured on the right.

The main alteration I made was to omit the train, as this dress was intended for dancing. I also left off the padded hem.

I used a mint-green duchess satin, with ivory taffeta for the contrasting waistband. The skirt was flatlined with white cotton broadcloth.

Construction Steps

Step 1: Cut out the pieces and flatline them.

The back panel, using the white lining as a pattern. Note that the back panel had to be pieced in order to make it big enough at the centre back seam.

The back panel piece is quite large and so joins were made in order to make it big enough. Any joins need to be made on the straight grain.

The front panel, flatlined with white cotton.

When I flatline, I usually iron the lining and the outer layer together A LOT, whilst pinning all over. Then I sew 1cm from the raw edges on the side seams. I also sew 1cm from the raw edge around the waistline and I leave the bottom edge pinned. (I deal with this edge later when hemming.)

Step 2: The panels were sewn together. The centre back seam was left open for 12 inches to form a placket.

Step 3: The pocket was sewn and the placket piece prepared.

The pocket and the placket flap, cut out.

The pocket was sewn between the placket piece and the left back panel. A short piece of twill tape was used to anchor the weight of the pocket to the waistband.

The pocket is sewn in, with the placket on the left and the inside of the skirt showing.

The pocket opening seen from the right side.

Step 4: The original skirt was gathered at the centre back, but my duchess satin was too thick to gather into such a small space. Instead I decided to make deep pleats to draw in the fullness. At the same time as the pleating, I also did the darts, as this required a fitting to do it accurately.

Then a very thin “waistband” or binding was attached to the top edge.

The waistband from the inside. The inner waistband measures 1/2 inch in width, and the ivory waistband is hand stitched on top. On the left you can see the CB pleats and the stitched dart.

The ivory waistband, cut on the bias, was mounted on top of this and handsewn down. The centre front of the waistband has a triangular dart in it to give it a V-shape.

The ivory waistband is mounted on top and handsewn down.

Step 5: The skirt was hemmed with a deep hem facing (9 inches, in white broadcloth) as well as a “brush braid”.

The hem facing, shown pinned and ready to handsew. The brush braid has already been sewn to the facing, but is held flat with pins.

I have noticed recently that my skirt hems take a real beating when I wear them. (On one of my skirts it took only 2 outdoor outings for a hemline hole to appear.) Historically, a brush braid was used to preserve the part of the hem which wears the most, which is the bottom edge. I have struggled to find much information on brush braids and how they were attached, so I invented my own way.

I decided to use a stiff polyester twill tape, which was sewn to the hem facing after the facing was attached to the dress (this way the stitching does not show on the outside). The brush braid overhangs the hem by 1/8 inch. This means that the braid is the part that drags on the ground the most, and it can be easily replaced when it is worn out.

Step 6: Hooks and eyes were used as fasteners at the centre back. An ivory taffeta rose was made to cover the centre back closure.

A 8-inch strip of fabric was folded in half and gathered along the raw edge. (The other raw edges were tucked under.) The gathered strip was then rolled up to form a rose, and stitched on to the waistband.

The rose is gathered and ready to roll up. The finished width was 1 and 1/2 inches.

The centre back pleats and the taffeta rose.

I really love the late Victorian and early Edwardian skirts. They are so slimming (for my figure at least) and elegant, and I would love to wear them everyday!

The front view

The back view

My gored petticoat goes perfectly underneath this style of skirt. I also wear my 1880’s corset underneath it as well. Look out for the next post in this series; making the bodice.

Related Posts

Making a Gored Petticoat

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Making a Victorian Corset

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: 1894 Belle Epoque gown, from flickr

Image Source: Fan skirt, silk and velvet, c. 1893-6, from Museum of London.

Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Tutorial: How to sew flatlining, by Dreamstress

A picture of an 1860s gown, the hem-facing and remnants of the brush braid – from Pinterest

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Blouse

1910’s Edwardian blouse, made from cotton batiste

I made a Victorian Fan Skirt a while ago and recently made a bolero jacket to match, using the last of the leftover fabric. The next thing to make was a blouse, often called a “shirtwaist” during this period.

Blouses for women had increased in popularity during the second half of the 19th century. This new form of dressing for daytime meant that there was a bit more flexibility in shirt-and-skirt combinations than had previously been the case, especially when the mode of dress in previous times had been only gowns. This change in fashion during the Victorian era, from gowns to two-piece ensembles, really paved the way for a new element of women’s dress that would continue into the 20th century, gradually making women’s clothing more similar to mens.

I particularly wanted a blouse with a high collar, back-closing, with a pin-tucked front and insertion lace, and with sleeves that were not too full. In short, I can’t tell if my new blouse is an early Edwardian blouse or a late Victorian one!

Pattern

I used a variety of sources to “make” my pattern.

Ladies' Street Costume, Summer 1893, from Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns.

Ladies’ Street Costume, Summer 1893, from “Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns”.

The pattern I used for my bolero jacket (from Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns, edited by Kristina Harris) included a pattern for a shirtwaist blouse. I used this pattern for the sleeves and the cuffs, as well as the back panel.

A free pattern from Ladies Treasury for a sleeveless blouse was helpful to use for the collar shape.

A free pattern from Vintage Connection for an Edwardian blouse was helpful to use for the enlarged front panel, which I needed to make the tucks.

I graded the different parts of the original patterns up and then made the necessary adjustments according to my measurements.

This blouse was made from white cotton batiste, with cotton embroidered insertion lace, cotton lace edging, and plastic “mother of pearl” buttons.

Construction Steps

Step One: First I did pin-tucks down the centre front of the front panel. There were fours sections of pin-tucking, each with four rows of pin-tucks each. Then the material was slashed in-between the two rows at the left and in-between the two rows at the right. This slash allowed for the insertion lace to be attached.

The front panel, with rows of pin tucks.

The front panel, with rows of pin tucks. The slash on the left of the centre front is for a row of insertion lace.

Step Two: As my insertion lace had a “seam allowance” on each side, I could not sew it the easier way. Instead I had to slash the material and sew the lace on right-sides-together. The unfinished raw edges were folded under on the wrong side and hand-stitched down.

The insertion lace pinned down to sew.

The insertion lace pinned down to sew.

Step Three: The last thing to do on the front panel was to pin-tuck the shoulder seam area. This was tucked to fit the back shoulder seam. The tucks were released before the bustline, to allow a bit of extra fullness.

The front panel shoulder seam is tucked to fit the back shoulder seam. The tucks are released to form fullness for the bust.

The front panel shoulder seam is tucked to fit the back shoulder seam. The tucks are released to form fullness for the bust.

Step Four: Once the centre front was completed, I turned my attention to the back panel. As the back panel housed the button placket, I prepared the centre back by folding over the centre back edges.

The back panel, with button placket preparation.

The back panel, with button placket preparation.

As it turned out, the back panel was not wide enough for my figure and I had to unfold this section and then add a separate button placket later to give me a few more inches!

Step Five: The side seams and shoulder seams of the blouse were then sewn.

Step Six: The top edges of the collar were sewn together. A small lace edging was also included in this seam so it would adorn the top edges of the collar when it was right side out.

The two layers of the collar was sewn right-sides-together. A small lace edging was also sewn in the seam.

The two layers of the collar was sewn right-sides-together. A small lace edging was also sewn in the seam at this step.

The collar was then attached to the garment, sewing the outer layer of the collar to the blouse with the machine, and then hand-sewing the inner layer of the collar, making sure all the raw edges are tucked under. I did gather (or heavily eased) the neck edge of the blouse to get the collar to fit better.

The collar finished, showing the lace edging.

The collar finished, showing the lace edging.

Step Seven: The sleeves were then sewn. As this blouse needs a shirt-sleeve placket, it is wise to make the placket *before* you sew the sleeve seam (which of course is NOT what I did!). Here is a great tutorial on making a shirt-sleeve placket.

Once the sleeve seams were sewn, the head of the sleeve was gathered and set into the armhole of the blouse.

The bottom edge of the sleeve was gathered to fit the cuffs. The cuffs were sewn together, with the same thin lace edging around the outer edge that I used in the collar. Then the cuffs were attached to the bottom of the sleeve. (For more on the basic attaching of cuffs, see this tutorial.)

The cuffs finished, showing the lace edging and the button.

The cuffs finished, showing the lace edging, the button, and shirt-sleeve placket.

Step Eight: The final finishing steps involved hemming the bottom of the shirt and running a bias-binding casing around the waist. A cotton tape was inserted through this so it could be drawn up to fit snuggly underneath the skirt. Finally a row of buttons were sewn as fastenings down the centre back and on the cuffs.

Unfortunately I had not taken adequate measurements of my width, nor my height, nor my arm length! This meant that the centre back had to have an extra placket added (as mentioned above), the bottom of the blouse had a bit added beneath the casing to make it longer, and the sleeves still need to be pulled apart and re-made so they reach down to my wrists! This is one of the lessons I seem to have to learn again and again with each sewing project.

Anyway, here is the finished garment!

The front view

The front view, with three decorative buttons sewn down the centre front.

The back view

The back view, showing the buttons and the casing ties.

Myself and my daughter at our recent outing to see the new Anne of Green Gables movie.

My daughter and I at our recent outing to see the new Anne of Green Gables movie.

My new ensemble was now desperately looking for a place to “go-and-show” and it was lucky that the new Anne of Green Gables movie was coming out in Melbourne at just the right time! My daughter and I got dressed in our finery, stocked ourselves up with some raspberry cordial and plum puffs, did our hair the best we could, and took ourselves off to the theatre.

My daughter wore her Anne of Green Gables outfit, while I wore my gored petticoat, fan skirt, bolero jacket and my new shirtwaist.

Needless to say, the movie was a great success! Whilst it could never compare to my own personal favourite Megan Follows, I am excited that a new series may reinvigorate a new generation to be Anne-ites.

Related Posts

Making a Bolero Jacket

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Making a Gored Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: 1910’s Blouse at Adored Vintage

Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns: A Complete Lady’s Wardrobe, edited by Kristina Harris – buy on Amazon

Sleeveless Blouse for Suits, c. 1905 – free pattern from Ladies Treasury

Edwardian Shirt Waist (Blouse) Pattern, c. 1903 – free pattern from Vintage Connection

How to sew insertion lace – by Wearing History

Attaching a collar – by Grainline Studio

The Shirt-Sleeve Placket – by Off The Cuff

How to sew a button cuff – Youtube tutorial by Professor Pincushion

Reflection on the White Shirt and Womankind – by Fashion Archeology

The new Anne of Green Gables movie – trailer on Youtube

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Ladies' Street Costume, Summer 1893, from Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns.

Ladies’ Street Costume, Summer 1893, from Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns.

Quite a while ago I made a Victorian Fan Skirt, which I generally wear dancing with just a T-shirt. However, I began to feel that it would be nice to make a matching jacket using the left over material. It could then be used as more of a complete costume, instead of just a dancing skirt.

I did not have very much material left, so I thought a bolero jacket would be the easiest option, as it used the least fabric.

Bolero jackets had been quite popular since the 1850’s and 60’s, and continued to be so through to early Edwardian times. They differ from the warm winter jacket and coats, that clearly were designed for warmth. Instead they seem to be more of a decorative fashion.

Pattern

I used a pattern from Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns, edited by Kristina Harris. This pattern book is a reproduction of patterns that were published in the popular dressmaker’s journal, The Voice of Fashion. The patterns are all authentic 1890’s patterns and cover a wide range of women’s clothing.

I graded the original pattern up and then made the necessary adjustments according to my measurements.

The pattern drafted and then cut out enlarged to fit my measurements.

The original pattern is drafted onto grid paper and then cut out enlarged to fit my measurements.

This jacket was made from the same materials as my Victorian Fan Skirt, with blue cotton outer and white cotton broadcloth lining.

Construction Steps

The construction of this bolero jacket was very simple, as there was no sleeves, no collar and no fastenings. It was also fairly simple to fit without doing a mock-up.

Step One: I began by sewing the side seams together in the outer fabric. Then I sewed the side seams of the lining together.

Step Two: Then the outer and the lining were placed right sides together and sewn around the outer edges. In the picture below you can see that the only part left unsewn is the shoulder seams.

The side seams have been sewn and now the outer is attached to the lining.

The side seams have been sewn and now the outer is attached to the lining.

The curves are clipped and then the jacket is turned the right way and pressed well.

Step Three: The shoulder seams can now be sewn. The outer layer is sewn first with the sewing machine, and then the raw edges of the lining are folded in and handsewn down.

Step Four: Embroidery is one embellishment that I love to do on my clothes, and this jacket was no exception. I drew a design on the edges and embroidered it with one strand of white DMC cotton in chain stitch.

The embroidery, which is a more mid-19th-century design.

The embroidery, which is a more mid-19th-century design.

And here is the finished garment!

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

Stay tuned for the next post on making a shirtwaist blouse to complete this ensemble!

Related Posts

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Making a Gored Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns: A Complete Lady’s Wardrobe, edited by Kristina Harris – buy on Amazon

Pattern for a Bodice with Bolero Front (c. 1896) – at Ladies Treasury

How to make a simple bolero jacket – Youtube tutorial

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Evening gowns from the 1890's

Evening gowns from the 1890’s

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.

A gored petticoat, c. 1896.

A gored petticoat, c. 1896.

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.

The Pattern

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 pieces cut out; (from left to right) front, side, back.

The pieces cut out and laid out as they will be sewn; (from left to right) front, side, 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).

Construction Steps

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.

The raw edges of the bias strip are turned in and under before being sewn with a gathering stitch.

The raw edges of the bias strip are turned in and under before being sewn with a gathering stitch.

The finished frill with a row of ruching on each row of ruffle.

The finished frill with a row of ruching on each row of 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.

The bias binding sewn onto the waist edge. This will be turned to the inside and sewn down to form a casing for the ties.

The bias binding sewn onto the waist edge. The ties will come out through the seam in the centre back.

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.

Side-front view

Side view

Back view, with ties

Back view, with ties

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: A Bodiced Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

1890s Under Dress – from Dressmaking Research

Historical Sew Fortnightly – hosted by Dreamstress

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