A Ruffled 1890s Cotton Petticoat

October 26, 2016

It's funny how laziness can actually spur me on to do even more work than originally anticipated. I could have just dug through my costume closet to find my taffeta 1890s petticoat, but that would have required moving a lot of large, heavy boxes full of books, which are currently blocking the costume closet, and then moving them back. And I just wasn't willing to do that.

What was I will to do? Make a completely new petticoat, that's what!

I had made an 1830s petticoat a while back out of this lovely cotton eyelet fabric. I liked the petticoat, but I have yet to actually do any 1830s costuming, so it just sat there and went unused. So, I took it apart, knowing that I'd make a new petticoat out of it eventually, just not knowing when or for what.

The blocked closet door gave me the perfect excuse! I dug out my bolt of white cotton and the remainder of the cotton eyelet, and started working.


The main part of the petticoat is pretty simple. It consists of a center front panel that is 20 inches wide x my waist to floor measurement. The back is two panels of full width of fabric x my waist to floor measurement. The sides are the only shaped piece. Because I was working with a narrow width of fabric (36 inches) I cut three panels of 36"x waist-to-floor, and I cut one of them up the middle to create two 18-inch wide panels. I sewed one of these panels to each of the full width pieces. I then cut the 18" panel diagonally from the top left corner to the bottom right, like you see above.

I then measured along the diagonal cut and marked my waist to floor measurement. I marked that line with a pin, and then folded the excess fabric up, to create the correct length along the bottom edge.


I pinned this into place, and then cut off the excess along the folded edge.


I sewed my front panel to my side panels using a mantua maker's seam. I then gathered my side panels, leaving the front panel flat. The waistband you see below is 2/3 of my waist measurement. The back third of the skirt is made in a completely different way, so I needed three waistband pieces. The center of the waistband is matched to the center of my front panel, and the two side pieces are gathered to fit the remaining length of the waistband.


I then had to create my back waistband. This was made up of two pieces of fabric, 5 inches wide x width of back skirt section. Because these would essentially become casing for drawstrings, I had to finish off the center back edge before doing anything else.


Before I attached the waistband, I sewed up the center back seam, leaving about 8 inches open at the top. I folded the seams back twice and sewed them down to created a clean opening edge.


With right sides together, I sewed one edge of the open waistband to the top edge of one of the back skirt panels. I then folded the waistband in half, folded the seam allowance in, and stitched down the other edge of the waistband to the inside of the band, creating the casing for my drawstring ribbon. I repeated this for the other side of the skirt back. Once the waistbands were attached, I sewed my back skirt panels to my side panels, and hemmed the skirt.


I next moved on to adding the eyelet ruffles to the bottom of the skirt. The ruffles that I had salvaged already had the top edge hemmed and gathered, so all I had to do was pin them to the skirt where I wanted them. Each ruffle was 14", which is rather long, but I really did end up liking the finished result.


I added two ruffles to the bottom edge. At this point, I was pretty much finished!


I was excited, so I tried the petticoat on, but I discovered that I'd sewn the ruffles on too low, and now everything was a few inches too long! Instead of taking the ruffles on and placing them higher, I simply added a tuck along the edge of the ruffles, which took up the extra length, and added another decorative touch to the petticoat.


I actually wish I would have thought to add enough length for extra tucks when I started, because I really like the look of this one! Ah, well, that will have to be for next time!

I just love this petticoat. M says that it's probably the prettiest petticoat that he's seen me make, and I have to agree. I love the extra details of the scalloped edge and the eyelet lace. The gathering over the hips gives nice definition to the hourglass shape my corset gives me, which is such a nice feature of this design, and the drawstrings in the back make this one of the most adjustable petticoats I have. The floof created by gathering up the back panels also acts as a minor bum pad, which is a nice bonus.

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