Friday, June 11, 2010

1790s Project Update: a Quick Strapped Petticoat

My goodness, have we been busy bees lately! Getting ready for this festival is a great deal of fun but it is occupying whatever leisure or late moments I have and almost my dreams.

As Always, please click the images to see larger versions.

I would imagine that Jenni and Polly might say the same. See what Jenni has been doing over at Living with Jane and you will see what I mean.  From very good fake Regency men's boots to an entirely handsewn straw capote (!) and mitts she has done it all. Hats, off, Jenni, you take my breath away.

Polly has been almost as busy, finishing the skirts to the bodiced petticoat bodice I made for her...and this week, undertaking a hand-drafted buckram base for a hat based on a 1790s Heideloff fashion plate.  I am to cover and trim it. Polly is an extraordinarily talented milliner so it will be really, really neat so see how she takes a fashion plate and runs with it. Did I say really twice? Meant to repeat it thrice.

A Strapped Petticoat

Then Caroline, who is relearning to sew, hand-sewed the strapped petticoat you see in the image, while I did the cutting and fitting. This was a fun project. Since we're recreating 1790s, petticoats are somewhat full, and two full panels of 45" good-quality muslin gives an appropriate look.

Here is all we did, girls and boys. It's not hard and can be undertaken sans pattern and sans experience. All you need, really, is fabric, needle and thread, and a measuring tape or string, and some  1" and 1/8" twill tape.

Make the skirt tube:
  • Measured her from below the bust to the floor.
  • Cut two lengths of muslin to this measuremant plus an inch for hem allowance and seam allowance at the waist.
  • Caroline seamed them together into a tube. Each seam is about a 1/4", made with combination stitch...a needleful of running stitches followed by a backstitch, repeated to the end of the seam.
  • Then we held the skirt up to her to check the fit and since she is very slender, we did not need to cut the front at the waist into a dip or do anything else to level the skirt hem on her body. Notice that we are leveling the skirt at the waistline, not at the floor! So much easier to do a skirt this way.
Hem the skirt and make the placket:

Photo: Caroline in her strapped petticoat at the second fitting. I have just set the straps and we are about to create two tucks at the skirt hem.
  • She hemmed the skirt bottom with a 1/2" hem (turned twice), with running stitch. Stitches were set towards the top of the hem.
  • I made a 9" deep slit at the center of one panel to serve as a placket.
  • Caroline made a 1/8" double-turned hem to each side of the slit with conbination stitch.
Set the waistband:
  • I measured her chest below the bust but not right below, consistent with the mid-1790s waistline height, and cut a two-inch wide strip of muslin for a waistband to this measurement plus 1" for allowances.
  • We folded the waistband in half.
  • Caroline ran a single row of gethering stitches a scant 1/2" below the waistline seam. Each stitch was about 1/8" or a little more long. Normally we would have done two rows plus stroking, but we chose a simple route.
  • Now, I learned from The Historical Sewing Blog (thank you) that the best look was achieved in this era by moderately gathering or pleating the front, minimally gathering or pleating the sides, and heavily gathering or pleating the back.  This mode would produce the slenderest silhouette from the front.
  • So, I set the waistband on  Caroline, and on each side, marked it at the front of her side and the back of  her side, if that makes sense -- that is, marked out the thickness of her body front to back -- with chalk.
  • We then gathered the skirt to the waistband marks, and completed the waistband just the same as I had last fall for my stroked gathered mid-century petticoat.  The process and stitches, so far as I can see from Costume Close-Up, are pretty much the same. We did not add a button for closure.
  • Look carefully at the photos and examine the waistband. You will see that the front is somewhat gathered, the sides barely so and the back very so and the result on Caroline is lovely. She carries herself so well that she could wear a barrel and still be chic, but still, I think you see what I am getting at.
Assemble straps and skirt tucks and skirt closure:
  • Caroline tried on the skirt. I cut two pieces of 1" wide twill tape and set them over her shoulders out towards the arm joint.  Pinned them in place in front and back and marked them with chalk. Sewed them to the inside of the waistband with backstitches, sewing a little square shape at top and bottom of the waistband and each edge of the tape.
  • At the same try-on, I set a 1/2" tuck some six-eight inches above the hem to take the skirt up off the floor, and Caroline sewed the tuck with running stitch while I sewed the straps...we were both working at the same time at either end of the skirt! :}
  • Then we set a second 1/2" tuck below it, leaving about 3/4" space between the tucks so that if the petticoat is seen both tucks will  appear as separate pretty shadows. Caroline then sewed that tuck. The two 1/2" tucks eat a total of 2", setting the skirt the right height above the floor for the period. If it proves a little long, another tuck remedies the issue.
  • The last step is to attach two 1/8" wide tapes to each placket end so she can tie the skirt closed.
The entire project was pretty quick and fun: I hope Caroline enjoyed it and I love fitting garments to people by sight like this.

14 comments:

Adrienne said...

Yes! Muslins are a must for a good fit! I cannot understand how people have custom sewing done over the internet; at least, close fittings like these. Beautiful workmanship.

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Adrienne,

Thank you so much! Yes, I should think it would be very difficult to achieve an excellent fit with just measurements sent over email. For measurements, even if you take many -- shoulder width, upper bust, center bust, lower bust, high waist, and so on, while wearing the proper period undergarments, still only convey partial information. The human body's bilateral symmetry is only approximate, and you have shoulder blade positions and so one to deal with.

Some early Regency garments were only partially fitted, and drawstrings would allow a person to refine the fit, but Polly's dress is very fitted all around the bodice.

Thanks again, and will jump over to your blog some time for a visit!

Natalie in Kentucky

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Adrienne,

Thank you so much! Yes, I should think it would be very difficult to achieve an excellent fit with just measurements sent over email. For measurements, even if you take many -- shoulder width, upper bust, center bust, lower bust, high waist, and so on, while wearing the proper period undergarments, still only convey partial information. The human body's bilateral symmetry is only approximate, and you have shoulder blade positions and so one to deal with.

Some early Regency garments were only partially fitted, and drawstrings would allow a person to refine the fit, but Polly's dress is very fitted all around the bodice.

Thanks again, and will jump over to your blog some time for a visit!

Natalie in Kentucky

Gail said...

This is just what I was looking for. I like the idea of strapped petticoats for my Regency dresses. They look very comfortable and quick to make.
Thank you for posting about them.

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Gail,

Thank you! This sort of petticoat really is a useful solution, and so very fast. I made another for Polly this past week. It took, sans hemming, about 1.5 hours, most of that consumed in hand-gathering.

In that version, I made the petticoat like a common 18th century petticoat, with two panels seamed from about 9 inches from the top. This created two plackets, one on each side, that needed no extra finishing because the seams were on the selvage.

I then gathered the skirt onto a waistband made from 1.5"-wide of linen, and Polly hemmed the bottom. I sewed two narrow ties to each placket top to close each side.

No straps on this one because she is pinning it to her bodiced petticoat to keep it up.

Very best,

Natalie

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Gail,

Thank you! This sort of petticoat really is a useful solution, and so very fast. I made another for Polly this past week. It took, sans hemming, about 1.5 hours, most of that consumed in hand-gathering.

In that version, I made the petticoat like a common 18th century petticoat, with two panels seamed from about 9 inches from the top. This created two plackets, one on each side, that needed no extra finishing because the seams were on the selvage.

I then gathered the skirt onto a waistband made from 1.5"-wide of linen, and Polly hemmed the bottom. I sewed two narrow ties to each placket top to close each side.

No straps on this one because she is pinning it to her bodiced petticoat to keep it up.

Very best,

Natalie

Kleidung um 1800 said...

I'm currently working on a petticoat, too and thanks to your tutorial I will try the combination stitch for the long seams...I always backstitched the whole seams, which was an awful lot of work...combination stitch is a brilliant tipp...thank you!

ZipZipInkspot said...

You are welcome! The books Costume Close-Up, Fitting and Proper, Costume in Detail all document how combination stitch was used on long seams that did not receive much stress. Many times they went perhaps 8 stitches per inch. So much faster to sew, and so much faster to take apart if a skirt needed to be turned or renovated.

For a petticoat, I might take a few more stitches than 8 per inch, though, for petticoats are washed more and the seams need to stand up to a little more use.

Thanks kindly,

Natalie in KY

HeatherLynn said...

Strapped petticoat! BRILLIANT! Thank you so much! I can't wait to make one!

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear HeatherLynn,

Glad I could be of help...and hope the petticoat works out well. It really has for Caroline.

Very best,

Natalie in KY

Julia Coenobita said...

Excellent idea!
How wide is the fabric used?
Do you finish the seams any way?
-Julia <3

ZipZipInkspot said...

Dear Julia,

We just used two panels of 45" wide fabric. So that's 90" in circumference at the bottom. Of course the top is gathered into a waistband.

Many skirts of the day used the full width of the fabric and sewed selvage to selvage...meaning no seam finish is needed. That's what we did.

If you are making this for later years in the Regency, you may want a skimpier circumference. You should measure the circumferance at the outer skirt's bottom and see if most of the front is very flat. In that case you may want to use 36" fabric or cut wider fabric into narrower strips. In this case, for any seam that has a raw edge, I'd flat-fell that seam so that the fabric won't fray when washed, although some originals show raw seams.

Very best,

Natalie

Lady D said...

Ooh so glad I found this. I'm making a half robe (books says its 1790-1800 so right time) and don't want too much bulk under it but need a petticoat. Plus the bodice is what has taken me ages to get right.
Question if the bottom of the petticoat is to show is it permitable to make it decorative? Add ribbon or some embroidery?
And for the closure can I use hook and eye?

ZipZip said...

Dear Lady D.,

The petticoat in this post was designed to be worn under a dress: it's an underpetticoat, in specific.

Now, you can use a similar technique to create a petticoat that is meant to be seen in the front of a robe. However, I have found that the straps tend to move a good bit, and start to show at the edges of the robe. Not so good. Therefore, I prefer to add small loops to the petticoat waistband, and then to attach small buttons to my stays, and to hang the petticoat from that. Under that petticoat, I wear another, underpetticoat. Whether this is totally accurate is up for debate, but I have had very poor results simply tying the petticoat up and and then pinning the waistband to the stays for more security.

Yes, of course you can embellish an exterior petticoat. See for example the fashion plates in the fashion plates sources I have linked to online, or consult period paintings.

I do not use hooks and eyes to close them, but cotton or linen tapes, instead. That was typical.

For a really good treatment of making an exterior petticoat, see the 1770s petticoat tutorial on A Fashionable Frolick, or consult Costume Close Up. You will have to adjust the length and so on to fit the period, but other than that the method of making it is the same.

Very best,

Natalie