Monday, August 04, 2008

A Mid-Century Underskirt, Photographed and Measured

My friend Denise picked up what appears to be a mid-century underskirt, as petticoats were known then, and I have examined, measured, and photographed it. It's a lovely thing, the hem being ornamented with hand-sewn eyelet embroidery and scallops.

I took measurements and examined it carefully, and then asked the lovely folks on the Elizabeth Stewart Clark board about it. Sure enough, it's a mid-century underskirt! As Elizabeth explained, the embroidery made it a nice underskirt, but not a high-fashion one; it might even have been worn by a working class woman for Sunday best.

I like the idea that just a few feet from where I sit, lies a petticoat that would have graced the top of a crinoline, and rustled starchily under someone's dress.

Photo: view of mid-century underskirt.


Waistband width: 1"

Waistband circumference: 26 3/4"

Depth to the piecing or "yoke":
- left of placket: 2 1/2" to 3" for 3.25" length
- right of placket: 1 3/4" to 2" for 6 1/2" length
- middle: varying width, 3 1/2" to 4" for 16 1/2"

Length front and back: 39"

Bottom circumference: ~154 1/2" (38 1/2 scallops)

Photo: Detail of the eyelet embroidery.

Inside seam width:
- piecing or yoke: 1/4"
- panels: 1/8"

- 16 1/2" long
- left side hemmed with 1/8" hem
- right side hemmed with 3/4" hem

Tuck: depth varies from 2 to 2 1/2"

- depth: 1 1/2"
- width: 3 1/2"


The waistband is folded in half, long ends turned under, and hemmed to the top 1/8" of the skirt. There appears to have been a tape sewn to the placket, but tape is in tatters and partially missing, and one one side of placket it's covered up by a very modern, very poorly sewn waistband patch. I think someone might have worn this for a costume at one point.

The skirt is in four panels. It's tightly gathered at top and each gather is nicely stroked: gathering is even all the way around the skirt. The result is a soft dome shape.

Photo: detail of waistband showing the finely stroked gathers, and wear to the fabric.

The top of the skirt features what I at first thought to be a yoke, and perhaps it is, but the pieces are not even: they vary in depth and length. So perhaps it was pieced...with the piecing being set at the top so it wouldn't be so obvious at the bottom of the skirt or get in the way of the embroidery.

The placket is set into the middle of one panel.

The eyelet work is lovingly down, and appears to be by hand since the positioning of the flowers varies a little and each flower hole varies a little, and the sewing is so very neat by not machine-like.

The hand stitching is even and straight, the waistband hemming nearly invisible, the tuck stitching is more like even tacking.


The cotton fabric is mostly in strong condition, but the underskirt has seen heavy use. There are several tears in the eyelet at the bottom and a few scallops have torn off. There is a mend at one spot: it looks neat but may be modern, although the thread is cotton. Stresses on the placket resulted in a tear down from the end of the placket to the tuck. The waistband is quite worn and someone added a horrible patch to one end to hold it together. There is no button and the unpatched end is rather shredded.

The stitching is in perfect condition.

You can see more photos on my Photobucket account.

1 comment:

Kalianne@BygoneBeauty said...

I love crisp petticoats. This one is lovely - plain but pretty. Thanks for sharing!