To ensure your 1860's day dress is always smooth and perfect, you really need the extra layer that a petticoat provides. Nothing can ruin the line of a beautiful gown faster than the tell-tale lines of a hoop skirt showing on the outside! But where do you find the time for all this underwear?
Ginger Breo shows you the fastest way to rustle up a great 1860s petticoat. It's easy, it's lightning fast - you can have a new petticoat in just a few hours - and it'll work equally well for all petticoats that are worn over a hoop skirt of some kind. Ladies and gentlemen, start your sewing machines!
Start with a 5 yard (4.5m) length of fabric. For an 1860's era petticoat, white eyelet [broderie anglaise] is a traditional choice, and it saves you from needing to hem it, as eyelet is usually bordered on one or both selvedges. Most eyelet is 45" (115cm) wide, so we'll presuppose for this tutorial that you have 45" (115cm) wide fabric.
Don your corset and hoop-skirt, and grab a tape measure!
Make sure to have on the shoes you're planning to wear as well, if they have a significant heel. Stand straight with weight evenly distributed and shoulders back and grab the tape measure around the 45-inch mark, placing that at your waist, letting the other end drop to the floor.
Then, adjust the length until the tip is brushing the floor, and check the measurement at your waist.
This will ensure you have extra width to go into your waistband, and for a hem, if you need it. If you're working with eyelet [broderie anglaise], you can subtract a half-inch or so and that will be the length of your petticoat.
Cut your fabric to that length all the way along the length; for eyelet, the cut end goes into your waistband.
Tall girls may need the whole width, but most of us will land between 38" (97cm) and 41" (104cm), with the rest left over for waistband and such.
Place right-sides together and sew up the center back seam. If you have a serger, serge the raw edges first and then sew your seam.
You want to stop your center back seam five to six inches from the top to form a placket.
For a simple placket, roll the raw edges under and top-stitch over them; alternately, you can make a casement of same fabric, or case the opening in bias tape.
Cut your waistband.
Measure your waist in your corset, and add two inches for overlap.
Then, cut a strip of fabric to that measurement.
I like to cut mine about 5" (13cm) wide to have about a 2" (5cm) wide waistband once folded, allowing for a small seam allowance.
Fold your strip of fabric in half lengthwise, and sew at each end, creating a casement.
Then, flip right-side out and iron to create a nice crease.
Time to pleat all that fabric into your waistband!
Some people will tell you to baste and gather the fabric, but pleating creates a much more period-appropriate appearance. Hunker down with your waistband and skirt and a good pin cushion, and get started!
First, fold your waistband in half and mark the center front with a pin. Then, fold each half in half again, and mark those halves with a pin; your waistband is now quartered.
Now, take your 5yds (4.5m) of skirt and quarter it, pinning each mark to the corresponding one of the waistband.
This will keep your skirt pleats more even, and avoid having too much or too little fabric at the end! Now, start pleating!
I have found that directional pleats, that is, those that all run in one direction, can be easier for the beginner than box pleats. Start at the center front and pleat away from that mark, with pleats going towards the back; you will reverse the direction of the pleats on the other side, so the pleats face towards each other at the center back.
There is no great and easy formula to getting perfectly uniform pleats; depending on the length of your waistband, you may have larger pleats, or you may have to double or triple up on your pleats to make all the fabric fit.
Practice makes perfect, and don't be afraid to take a section out and start again.
Take your pinned skirt to the sewing machine and sew the waistband to the petticoat.
Remove the pins and turn the waistband over, encasing the raw edges.
For a cleaner look, hand-stitch the right side of the waistband down. For a quicker finish, fold the edge of the waistband under, iron it, and top stitch it in place with your machine.
Put your corset and hoop skirt back on, and mark your waistband for your skirt hook-and-bar closure, or button and buttonhole.
If you are doing a hem, this is the time to check the length, trim or pin fabric, and get that squared away too.
If using eyelet [broderie anglaise], you're almost done: sew on your closures, and that's it! You now have a brand new petticoat!
Happy sewing, everybody!