1860’s ruffled petticoat

The next step on my path to mid-1860’s costuming is a big ol’ fluffy petticoat.  I had an exact picture in my mind of what I wanted to create – a full, gathered petticoat with three tiers of ruffles – and this project turned out just about perfectly in my opinion.

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For this petticoat, I used white cotton organdy from Vogue Fabrics.  I’m not sure what I was expecting – I’ve heard organdy called the “costumer’s dream fabric” – and it was interesting to work with!  This organdy from Vogue is stiff and paper-like, but it softens a bit with handling and with heat (ironing.)  It holds its shape and structure very well, though.  Which is just what you want in a petticoat of this style, I suppose!

(Pardon the tee-shirt; I’ve managed to misplace my chemise in the, what, two weeks since I blogged last?  I have a problem. D:)

I’m wearing it over a cheap bridal hoop skirt I’ve had for a few years now, and have used with a number of costumes.  It’s definitely not period, but I don’t have enough interest in the mid 19th-century hoop skirt era to want to make a period one of my own, and the shape and size is just right for what I have in mind right now.  I may or may not ever get around to making a historically accurate one.  This one is nice and light, and as a bonus, squishes up to fit into a grocery bag pretty easily.

The petticoat is made of ~8 yards of the organdy, and measures 126″ around the hem (my hoop is 120″ at its fullest width.)  As I was researching some petticoats from this era, I thought 126″ seemed like kind of a scant hem, but I’m glad I didn’t go against my better judgement and make it even bigger – for one thing, I probably couldn’t have gathered more than that amount onto my 25″ waistband.  I think it looks fine proportionate to my size and height.  Still, it’s so big that I couldn’t even get a full picture of the thing in my small bedroom!

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The ruffles are twice as long as the skirt hem, so, roughly 240″ each.  They’re not quite as full as I might like in some spots (I was eyeballing as I went around gathering so some areas have more fullness than others…) but, again, the organdy is so stiff that I doubt I could have done much more gathering.  As you can see, the gathers were pretty much a mess at first, but after some finagling, they looked pretty good.  Gathering, straightening, and pinning the ruffles was what took most of the time on this project – I spent probably three hours on each one, but that’s including hemming, too.

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I liked working with the organdy, and I’d definitely use it again, but I’ll say one thing – it can be quite unwieldy.  I was drowning in this petticoat trying to sew it through the machine, but I went very slowly, maneuvering the giant skirt through in small bits.


Just for fun – here’s a picture of the petticoat standing all on its own, with nothing underneath.  I bet with a bit of starching, it would be walking around by itself!

I said last week that I was going to start working on the gown bodice too, but I had so much other, non-sewing stuff to do this week that I cut that from the plan.  I learned the hard way on my last off-week that overworking myself to get sewing done does nothing for me in the long run, so I made sure to rest this week, too.  I’m raring to get started on this costume, though, so next week I’ll be sure to get things done.



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