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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Step Two: I sewed all the seams and then flat-felled the raw edges.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
All finished! A bit wrinkly, but nothing that an iron won’t fix.
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!
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