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Corset Covers and Bust Ruffles, and White Petticoats, from a Sears catalogue, c. 1912.

Corset Covers and Bust Ruffles, and White Underskirts, from a Sears catalogue, c. 1912.

My panic is rising in my quest to finish off the raft of undergarments required for a Titanic evening costume.

As the list of undergarments required for a Victorian woman increased during the length of the 19th century, new “combinations” were invented to try and limit the sheer quantity of them. There were an almost exhaustive range of these undergarment items that were combined during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods; from chemise-and-corset cover, to corset cover-and-skirt/drawers, to brassiere-and-bust improver. We have already examined the chemise-drawer combinations, but there was also the combination of the corset cover and petticoat, which became known as a “princess slip”.

An Edwardian petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from

An Edwardian petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from The MET Museum.

Princess slips of the time tended to have a series of long panels (often either 6 and 8), with or without a waist seam. There was generally a lightly gathered frill at the knee, which was not very full, especially as the width of gowns was decreasing into the 1910s. The frill was very often trimmed with lace or could be a whole embroidered lace panel fixed to the bottom of the petticoat. Lace often adorned the top of the princess slip as well, which was used instead of fabric at the shoulder straps. The neckline could have a ribbon drawstring to help adjust it properly around the neck, and the princess slip generally reached to the ankle area.

Pattern

I did not use a pattern for this princess slip, but instead relied on what I could see from pictures of surviving extants online.

The petticoat pictured below was one of the sources I used in my design. Some of the design features that I liked were the large insertion lace around the neckline, and a smaller row of lace/ribbon to draw in the neck. The knee length frill and the back opening placket were also features I wanted to include in my garment.

An Edwardian Petticoat, front view - from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, front view – from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, back view - from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, back view – from Antique Dress.

There are more detailed pictures of this particular garment on the Antique Dress website, which is in the “Sources” below.

My princess slip was made from white cotton lawn, and various different types of cotton lace.

Construction Steps

Step One: I decided that the best way to do this was to do a bit of draping. Initially I was going to do a side panel, which went over each shoulder, and then a front/back panel (with the centre back having a button placket). Unfortunately I underestimated how much material would need to go under my arm, so I added an “underarm side panel” in addition to the side front panel I had already cut out.

I cut out the basic pattern shapes and then pinned them together. After I laid it on the dressmakers form, (which was set to my corseted waistline) I realised I had to alter some of the seam lines as the grainline did not sit properly.

The front, pinned together.

The front, pinned together. You can see the centre front fold line.

The side, pinned together.

The side, pinned together. You can see the underarm panel I cut later.

The back, pinned together.

The back, pinned together, allowing a bit extra for the back button placket.

Step Two: I sewed all the seams and then flat-felled the raw edges.

The seams flat-felled. The top seam is how it looks from the inside, and the bottom seam is how it looks from the outside.

The seams flat-felled. Hard to see, but the top seam is how it looks from the inside, and the bottom seam is how it looks from the outside.

Step Three: I wanted to put a wide insertion of lace in the front neckline. I pinned it to fit, adjusting the corners to a mitred edge, and making sure that the resulting angle would go over the shoulders correctly. Then I topstitched it to the top of the garment. The raw edges of the lawn on the underside were trimmed and turned under and slipstitched down.

The finished neckline, showing the wide insertion lace with mitred corners.

The finished neckline, showing the wide insertion lace with mitred corners.

Step Four: The neckline was then finished with a row of large entreduex and a row of lace. These were sewn together in the same manner as is done in heirloom sewing, with a small tight row of zigzag stitches. Any raw edges were trimmed back to the row of zigzag stitches.

The finished neckline. A ribbon was threaded through the large entredeux.

The finished neckline. A ribbon was threaded through the large entreduex, and then tied in a bow at the centre front.

Step Five: The armhole was finished with the same lace as around the neckline. The raw edges were turned under and sewn in a small hem.

The lace finishing the armhole.

The lace finishing the armhole.

Step Six: The centre back (which had been cut on the selvedge line) was finished with a button placket by folding over 1 inch of the edge of the fabric. Buttonholes were then sewn and corresponding buttons attached.

The button placket. The ribbon threaded through the entreduex is attached at the centre back so as not to come undone.

The button placket. The ribbon threaded through the entreduex is attached at the centre back so as not to come undone.

Step Seven: The bottom frill was cut 15 inches deep, and finished with the same large insertion lace as used at the neckline, plus another large row of broider anglaise. The large insertion lace was sewn in the normal way, topstitched onto the fabric and then the material cut away behind the insertion. The raw edges were trimmed and turned under to form a small hem.

The bottom of the frill is edged with a row of insertion lace and a row of broider anglaise.

The bottom of the frill is edged with a row of insertion lace and a row of broider anglaise.

The broider anglaise was sewn right sides together onto the bottom of the lace insertion, and then the raw edges trimmed and neatened with a small zigzag stitch.

Step Eight: The frill was gathered and then sewn to the bottom of the slip, just below the knee level.

The frill; trimmed, gathered and attached.

The frill; trimmed, gathered and attached. The total length of the frill is 15 inches. The lace is attached at the 10 inch mark.

Step Nine: A row of ribbon insertion lace was topstitched around the bottom of the slip, but above the gathered frill. The fabric behind this insertion can be cut away, and often was in extant examples, however I didn’t do that this time.

The ribbon insertion lace attached above the frill.

The ribbon insertion lace attached above the frill.

All finished! A bit wrinkly, but nothing that an iron won’t fix.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

One of the undergarments that I had been keen to make was a brassiere, but I felt that I had run out of time to manage it for this event.

So next on the list is the Titanic-era evening gown!

Related Posts

Titanic Panic! – Making a Chemise/Drawer Combination Suit

Titanic Panic! – Making a 1911 Corset

Making a Gored Petticoat (1890)

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: 1912 Sears catalogue, in “What real women wore in 1912“, by American Duchess.

Image Source: An Edwardian Petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from The MET Museum.

Image Source: Detailed pictures of an Edwardian Petticoat, from Antique Dress.

How to sew flate-felled seams – by So Sew Easy

Sewing Lace and Entreduex – by Sew Beautiful

Basic Lace Insertion by Machine – Wearing History

Interpreting Edwardian Undergarments – by Lady Carolyn

Dressing for Dinner on the Titanic: Early 1910’s Evening Dress – by Demode Couture

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A robe a l'anglaise, with a matching petticoat, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with a closed front and a matching petticoat, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum.

This year I have had a long list of costumes planned to make, but a Robe a l’Anglaise was not one of them. However, I quickly changed my mind when a friend decided to make one and it became convenient and easy to work on the project together!

The robe a l’anglaise was fashionable for an extended period of time during the 18th century. Literally, “the English gown”, it was characterised most generally by a fitted bodice, in contrast to the robe a la francaise which had a pleated-and-draped back that flowed free from the shoulders.

A gown cut en fourreau, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with the back cut en fourreau, c. 1776, from The MET Museum.

The Anglaise saw many different variations through the 18th century: open and closed bodices; long and elbow-length sleeves; worn polonaise style; etc… During this time, the Anglaise often had a long centre-back panel piece, extending from the shoulder to the floor. This back piece was then formed into a series of sewn-down pleats on the dress bodice (the “en fourreau” back) which were then released to form fullness into the skirt of the gown. Towards the end of the gown’s popularity, the bodice was cut separately to the skirts and attached with a waist seam.

Another transition in this gown was with the front. Gowns that had been worn open to reveal a stomacher earlier in the century, began to be worn closed, either pinned or closed with hooks and eyes. The skirts could also be closed in front (called a “round gown”), or be worn open to reveal a matching or contrasting petticoat.

For this particular costume, I decided that I wanted a petticoat to match the gown, and with a pinked flounce. It also needed to have pocket slits so that I could wear my new pockets!

The petticoat

The petticoat, c. 1775-1785, in Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

Pattern

In looking for a suitable pattern for a petticoat, I went with one in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. It is dated 1775-1785 and is part of a matching petticoat/gown set. It is a very basic skirt pattern, made up of a large rectangle of material (pieced where necessary).

The FINISHED WIDTH of the front panel of my petticoat (not allowing for seam allowances) was 62 inches wide (and then made as long as I needed it for my height). The back panel was exactly the same as the front.

This gown is made of a cotton printed material, and is completely handsewn.

Construction Steps

Step 1: After you have cut out the large rectangles that make up the skirt, sew the side seams together. I had to piece several pieces of material together to get the required width, but I made sure I had two side seams to make allowing for the pocket slits easier. The top 10 inches of the petticoat side seams were left open for the pocket slits. All seams are either on the selvedge or flat-felled.

Step 2: Pleat the top of the front panel onto a waistband. My pleats start from the centre front and go out to the sides. Pleat the back panel in the same manner with a second waistband. Often petticoats of this era could also be attached to a length of twill tape as a waistband.

Step 3: After finishing the waistband, attach ties to the ends of both the back and front waistbands. I made an eyelet through each end of each waistband and then tied a length of cotton tape to it.

The two halves of the waistband, with ties on each end.

The two halves of the waistband (back and front), with ties on each end.

Step 4: Hem the bottom edge of the petticoat. I inserted some cord into the hem to help it stand out better.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

Step 5: Using pinking shears, pink the flounce with a scallop at the top and a zigzag at the bottom. Attach the flounce. My flounce is 9 inches deep, and twice the length of the bottom of the petticoat. It is box-pleated to fit the petticoat, and it should only just overhang the hem.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

Step 6: Add any trim. My trim is just a piece of plain gimp-like braid with a ribbon threaded through it at intervals.

The trim; a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The trim: a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The finished pictures!

The front, shown over my hip roll.

The front, shown over my hip roll. The front half is tied around the waist first, and the back half is tied around the waist second.

The side view. Because the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see the pocket slits in the side.

The side view. As the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see that it doesn’t quite fit the dummy. There is normally a bit of an overlap between the front half and the back half. The pocket slits can be seen in the side.

I was quite pleased with the end result, though I do think I need another plain petticoat underneath (over the hip roll) to help with the skirt’s body.

Look out for the next post in this series, the closed-front gown to match. – coming soon!

Related Posts

Does my Bum Look Big In This? – Making an 18th Century Rump

An 18th Century Robe a l’anglaise – a very early and non-historical attempt!

How Heavy is Too Heavy for a Dress? – about a quilted petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1776, from The MET Museum

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, c. 1660-1860, by Janet Arnold – on Amazon

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An 1880's petticoat, worn over a bustle.

An 1880’s petticoat, worn over a bustle. From The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Another one of the numerous undergarments worn by the Victorians were petticoats, and – depending on the particular decade of the 19th century – there could be many layers of them.

I needed to make a petticoat that was worn with a bustle, generally made with layers of frills to soften the line of the cage-like structure underneath. As my bustle was most similar to those worn in the 1880’s, it was no surprise that the petticoats that really suited my purpose were ones from the 1880’s.

The one I really liked is pictured to the left, with small flounces to add body and pretty lace that could peep out the bottom of the dress. It was really unfortunate that I had so little time to incorporate any of this into my own petticoat, but I had only two days to make mine!

My fabric choice was a white cotton broadcloth, 4 metres in length.

Pattern

I made my own pattern from the picture above, using the measurements of myself and my bustle as a guide for size.

Measurements to take (with bustle and corset on):

  • Waist circumference
  • Waistline to floor at centre front
  • Waistline to floor at centre back
  • Waist to floor at side

Using these measurements, measure out the pattern pieces on the fabric. The waist-to-floor measurements should correspond to the length of the pieces (minus the depth of your intended bottommost frill). The front area of the petticoat at the waist is not gathered so the front and side pieces (on the top edge) together should measure the same as the front part of your waist (or a bit further around). The back area is gathered, so the top edge of the back panel should be double this part of your waist. Add seam allowances too!

Pattern pieces:

  • Front panel (cut centre front on fold)
  • Side panel (cut 2)
  • Back panel (cut centre back on fold)
  • Waistband (cut 1: 2″ x 28″ or waist measurement, plus seam allowances)
  • Frills for back panel (10″ deep, plus seam allowances) Each frill should be roughly double the length of the line (across the back panel) that it will be sewn on. I tried to cut these frills against the selvedge.
  • Bottom frill (10″ deep x double the length of the bottom edge of petticoat, plus seam allowances)
These are my panels; from left to right, front, side and back.

These are my panels; (from left to right) front, side and back.

Construction

Step One: Sew the front panel to the side panels, neatening seam edges.

Step Two: Hem one long edge of each section of frill (those frills that are for the back panel) and gather the other edge (I gathered the selvedge edge to avoid neatening it). Attach the frills to the back panel, one at a time, by sewing it on top of the back panel, through all layers.

The first frill is attached along the upper edge of the back panel.

The first frill is attached along the upper edge of the back panel. Each frill is roughly twice as long as the section it is sewn to.

The bottom frill is attached along the bottom of the back panel.

The bottom frill is attached along the bottom of the back panel. The bottom edge of the frill reaches slightly below the bottom edge of the petticoat.

Start with attaching the first frill along the top edge of the back petticoat panel and then do the bottom frill. Then you can space the other frills in between. There should be an inch or two overlap where the upper frill falls over the one under it. I had a total of four frills on the back panel.

Step Three: Pinning the edges of the frill to the edge of the back panel, sew the back panel to the side panel (making sure you catch the frill edges in the seam).

Step Four: Make sure the bottom edges of the petticoat are even. Trim off any excess if needed. You will notice that a little part of the last frill (in the side seam) is raw, and this was hemmed by turning under and sewing.

The frill at the bottom of the back panel is lifted up, and you can see me trimming the bottom edge of the petticoat.

The frill at the bottom of the back panel is lifted up, and you can see where I am trimming the bottom edge of the petticoat. This is because I made the back panel much longer than the front panels so it would go over the bustle.

Step Five: Hem one long edge of the bottom frill and gather the other long edge (in small manageable sections). This gathered edge will be caught in a seam so I used a raw edge (rather than a selvedge edge as I did in the back panel frills).

Step Six: Attach the frill to the bottom edge of the petticoat. You will notice that a small part of the side seams will need to be unpicked (where the back frills are sewn into the side seam) at this stage so that the bottom frill can go around neatly. You may need to resew (or hand sew) these parts afterwards so they sit properly again.

Step Seven: Gather the top edge of the back and side panels. Attach the waistband in the normal manner, adjusting the gathers to fit.

Note: Because I had sewn all the seams closed, I needed to make a placket in the left side front seam. I just sewed (top-stitched) the seam allowance open, reinforcing it at the bottom of the placket, and then unpicked the seam.

I used a pair of hooks and eyes for a closure, but a button or waistband hook and eye would work too.

The side view, with the bustle underneath.

The side view, with the bustle underneath.

The front view

The front view

All finished! And I really like it! One very handy thing is that, if it happens to be too long, you can take a few horizontal tucks around the bottom frill to raise the bottom edge, as it was done in the extant garment pictured above. Mine is slightly longer at the back, but not enough to trip on when I am dancing.

My next item in my Victorian wardrobe is an early 1870’s gown. – coming soon!

Related Posts

A Victorian Bustle

Making a Victorian Corset

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

An overview of Victorian undergarments

Attaching a waistband – by Sewaholic

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