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|