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Any reasonably lightweight fabric with a good "drape" will work for your gown. Check the drape by unrolling some of the fabric and letting it hang in a swag from your hand. Does it curve smoothly, or sit in little straight lines with breaks inbetween?

I used a synthetic dupion, which is washable, drapes better than silk dupion and is way less expensive at £4 per metre [$8 per yard]. Unusually for me, I didn’t use any interlining at all. My fashion fabric was sturdy and since there’s a lot of fabric in the skirts, I wanted to keep them lightweight.

The "main fabric" I refer to in the list below is the outer skirt and bodice fabric (the black stuff in the Black Pearl) and the "secondary fabric" is the underskirt fabric, also used in the centre front of the bodice (the cream stuff in the Black Pearl). I used cream in both gowns to match the creamy muslin undersleeves. The figures below assume that your fabrics are at least 112cm (45") wide.

When choosing lining, keep in mind that there's no rule saying that you have to match the colour to the outer fabric. I used a plum lining in the Black Pearl gown to great effect.

Below is a table of everything you'll need. When estimating fabric lengths, I’m assuming you’re 5’6”. Since the dress is pretty voluminous, your dress size shouldn't make a huge difference to the amount of fabric you need, but if you're significantly plus size, you may want to add a yard, just to make sure. (It's often a good idea to get a little extra to allow for mistakes anyway.) I'm also assuming that you're planning on wearing low heels and no bum roll.

Of course, for an authentic period effect you’ll need a “bum roll” to hold the skirts out. The original dresses I made didn’t have them since they were intended for a mass audience who wouldn’t have understood. But if you wish, you can still make one very simply by stuffing a sausage of calico with scraps of fabric. Attach a ribbon to each end and tie around your hips. If you want to do this, remember to buy extra fabric and make the skirts extra long to reach over the bum roll to the ground!


You will need:

7.1m (8yd) main fabric.
6.1m (7+1/4yd) main fabric’s lining
4.5m (5yd) secondary fabric (for a complete underskirt)
OR 1.7m (2yd) for an underskirt panel only
4m (4.5yd) secondary fabric’s lining (for a complete underskirt)
OR 1.2m (1.5yd) for an underskirt panel only
1m (1+1/8yd) bodice strength layer (eg coutil, canvas, drill, etc)
2m (2+1/4yd) cotton in similar colour to main fabric (to pad between bones and outer layer and to line the bodice)
2m (2+1/4yd) muslin for undersleeves
3m (3+1/2 yd) lace for the cuffs, or more if possible
OR if you're on a budget, another 1/2m (1/2yd) muslin for plain ruffles
10cm (4") x your waist plus 10cm (4") interfacing for waistband - you don't need commercial interfacing - a piece of calico or other mediumweight closely-woven fabric is fine
20m (22yd) Rigilene plastic boning (yes, Rigilene - it’ll be too heavy with corset steel)
18m (20yd) x 15mm (5/8” approx) wide ribbon (cf bodice and sleeves)
Some 25mm ribbon as drawstrings for skirts – get 2x your waist measurement for one skirt, 4x your waist measurement for two skirts
Eyelets (as used in corsetry)
Thread in all colours required
Cathy Hay
Oops! Thank you for pointing this out, we're fixing it right now!
Not to be a pest, but...
It's still not working for me? Looking forward to it! Thank you!
The article is now fixed as far as page 8; the rest should be done tomorrow. An outside hosting site that we were using in 2007 has changed things around without us realising it, so the task involves saving, moving and re-linking all the images on our own server, which is a big task. Thank you again for the heads up.
I can see! Awesome. And I so appreciate the problem - I'm a web designer/developer... Good luck with getting it all together and thanks for not getting annoyed! Take care!
Cathy Hay
The article is now fixed in full, as far as I can see - let me know if I missed anything!
Unfortunately, the cartridge pleating tutorial is no longer at that link.
Love this tutorial and the dress and i'm really grateful you put it up, but i'm really struggling to figure out the math on these knife pleats withought a clear sum. my fabric has ended up 162" and I need to get it down to 30", I don't know where to even begin to get it to the correct width :/

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