Tuesday, October 27, 2020

An 1895 Godet Petticoat With Boning and Stiffened Frills: Pattern Draft

The past few days saw me camped out on the den floor, stretching and leaning and murmuring "ooph, ow!" as I drafted the Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung Roehrenfalten-Rock (a four yard godet skirt) pattern to full size. In case you want to use it, let me guide you through drafting it, for there are some spots that confused me and a pitfall that it's really, really easy to fall into.

In case you missed any posts in this petticoat series, you can find them on the 1890s: Costumes, Research, and Documentation page.

Understanding the Draft

If you look at the original draft above, from left to right the skirt pattern includes four pieces:

  • "a", the front piece; 
  • "b", the side-front piece; 
  • "c",  the side-back piece; 
  • "d", the back piece. 
I don't think the draft includes seam allowances, although I could be wrong. 

The grainline is vertical, but none of edges of any gore fall on the straight of grain, so that "c" in particular, appears tipped. Cut them exactly as shown or the skirt will not work out as it's supposed to. Many 1890s skirt patterns tend to be cut such that one edge of a gore is on the straight of grain while the other is on the bias; this makes for a seam that's less likely to stretch or bag. This skirt is pretty much all bias seams.: I am a little worried about it but authors of the period say that keeping the fabric on a flat surface as much as possible while cutting and sewing it, and binding each seam with seam tape, are two ways to prevent problems.

The pattern pieces are marked in centimeters, and each number marks an important spot in the pattern. To draft up the pattern, you replicate the drawing, measuring out with a rule marked in centimeters. 

I found out what the measurements work out to in American/Imperial inches. The skirt front measures about 40", while the back measures 44". This back length is NOT a train; the length is needed to create those wonderful godets that stand out at the back and brush the floor at the same level as the rest of the skirt. The skirt measures 145" around, or about 4 yards. There some room in the waistline; before darts and the essential godet pleats in the back are taken, we have a total of 44" to work with.

It's easy to simply draft up the pattern in centimeters, rather than fuss with converting the measures. This is especially so because some of the measurements are of less than an inch, and it would be a royal pain to squint at the 16th marks on your rule when you can simply use nice round centimeters.

Note: if you should need to resize the pattern, see the Sense and Sensibility site's page called How to Resize a Pattern. She covers resizing a gored skirt, or you could use the slash and spread method. Just know that you will affect the circumference of the lower edge of the skirt.

Let's Start Drafting

Here below is the first piece (a), the front of the skirt. It's cut on the fold, hence the dotted line on the left side of the pattern piece.

Let's assume that you have a yard stick or meter stick and large sheets of paper ready to draw on, and a pencil with a good eraser. Also, a T-square or L-shaped ruler marked in cm is a great help, because it's nice to be able to lay one arm along a measured line and then measure up or down the vertical arm.

Before you start measuring, watch out! Each vertical or horizontal line starts at the 1 cm mark, NOT at the 0 cm mark. Don't do as I did and merrily slide your ruler to its beginning point, which is usually zero, as you would with many American drafts. Instead, draw on your ruler at the 1 cm point with pencil so you will remember to start from there. If you measure at 0, you will add a cm to each part of your draft and it will be off, off, off. You can see the one I use in the photo of the first piece below; it's black with white marks.

I don't know why the patterns start at 1 cm rather than 0. Perhaps it's because wooden or tape rulers easily wear at their ends and the markings get a little off. Perhaps it's convention. If anyone wants to enlighten me, that would be so nice.

Here's how I drafted the first piece, so you get the idea. Again, you're just replicating the original draft in the magazine, but at full size.

Each pattern piece is set inside a rectangle. Draw that out first:

  • starting from the top left, at the 1cm mark on your rule, draw a line out to the right to 26cm.
  • starting again from the top left, at the 1cm mark on your rule, draw a line down to 103cm.
  • starting at the top right, at the 26cm mark, drawn a line down to 103cm.
  • starting at the bottom right, draw a line to the left from 26cm to the 1cm mark.

Now you can draw in the pattern piece itself. Here's how I did it; I labeled each step from A to I:

  • A to B: From the 1cm point on the left side of your pencilled rectangle, measure down to the 2cm point and draw a point. This is where the center of the front waistline is. 
  • B to C: draw down the left side of the pencilled rectangle from 2 cm to 103 cm. This forms the center front of the skirt. Mark it darkly in a dotted line so that you remember to cut your fabric, which you have folded in half lengthwise, on the fold.
  • D to E: draw a straight line at the bottom of your pencilled box outwards from the 1cm mark to 9cm. 
  • E to F: at the bottom right of your pencilled rectangle, measure up the right side from 103cm to 100cm. Now, from the 9cm mark on the bottom of your rectangle, draw a gentle curve up to that 100cm point. You've formed the bottom edge of the skirt piece.
  • G to H: at the top of your pencilled rectangle, measure from the 1cm mark to 9cm and make a point there. Now draw a very gentle, almost imperceptible curve from the 2cm point on the left edge to the 9cm point you made along the top. This is your waistline curve.
  • H to I: Draw an angled line from the 9cm mark on the top line down to the 100cm mark on the right edge. This is the outer edge of the front piece.
  • Draw in the darts lightly in the approximate place the original draft has them; you will set the darts to best fit your body when fitting the skirt to you.

Now you have your first pattern piece!

The picture below my first pattern piece drawn on some newsprint my husband had stashed for some 30 years. It's getting age spots :} 

If you look carefully you can see that none of my pattern lines are closer to the edge of the paper than 2cm; I wanted room to mark everything carefully. 

If you really squint you can see that I drew a dotted line 2cm outside the waistline and the right edge of the front piece. These are seam allowances. I didn't drawn an extra seam allowance for the skirt bottom because we are going to shorten it to petticoat length later. 

I made sure to label the piece with the name of the skirt, which piece it is, and the grainline. As I drew my lines, I wrote down the cm measures just as they appear on the original draft. Obviously you don't have to do that, but I like knowing what everything measures.

I drew out each skirt piece in the same way, and only found the markings on the "c", side-back piece to be confusing. Here is the original draft -- we're looking at the large pattern piece on the left side.

Here are the three spots I was confused:
  • Look at the little "6" and the "3" drawn inside the top left of the pattern. Well, the little "3", which sits on its side, reminds us that the waistline of the skirt starts vertically at the 3cm mark, where 1cm is the starting point. That part I understand. However, I cannot believe that the little "6" marks the spot where the top of the skirt gore begins horizontally. When I drew the line for the left side of the the skirt pattern piece from 6cm, boy! The angle sure didn't match that on the original drawing; it was too wide. So, I decided to start at 3cm.
  • Then too, I don't know what the 9cm mark is along the top of the rectangle that outlines the skirt pattern piece. Surely it isn't the spot where the first "X" on the pattern is placed...when I set it there, it was far to the left of where the pattern has it. 
  • Finally, I don't know what the "90cm" mark is for that sits at the far right of the top. The bottom of the skirt flares out to 99cm wide, not 90cm. I can't help but think that's a typo.

For those of you wondering what those star shapes are that appear on the side-back and back pieces? That's where you are going to attach the elastic band that holds the godet plaits into position. Once the skirt seams are sewn, you will see that the three star marks fall in a line. Be sure to include them on your pattern pieces! 

The "X" marks and dots on these two back pattern pieces, I believe, show you where to set the box pleats, I believe, but haven't verified it as yet.

Here is the "c", the side-back piece, as I have drafted it.

That ends drafting the skirt. The next step is to cut out the pieces and make sure they match up, and then compare them to my actual fashion skirt. I will want to copy the pieces and then trim the bottom parts a bit so that the petticoat doesn't show beneath the skirt. Two inches or 5cm should do it.

May You Be as Snug as Nutmeg Kitty

These are trying days, but they have their light moments. Nutmeg kitty has been very, very relaxed with the onset of cool weather. Look at those part-colored paws! Then, a few days ago I was folding laundry prior to drafting out the pattern. She decided to interrupt the folding so that I could focus on the drafting. Good kitty...she gave me almost 2 hours of free time :}

I wish you the snuggy feeling she has been feeling: we sure need a bit of cozy time...

Next time, we will look at the pattern all cut out and set onto the fashion skirt so that we can see

  • how much should be trimmed off the bottom so that it's petticoat length
  • what I might need to do to the fashion skirt (!), if anything, to deal with the fact the petticoat is cut for godets while the skirt is definitely not.*
* Yes, I know cotton "wash" skirts like mine weren't supposed to have godets, only skirts made of thicker materials, according to Emma M. Hooper in the Ladies Home Journal, but that doesn't mean that the petticoat couldn't be of a godet cut to hold out the skirt some!

Friday, October 16, 2020

An 1895 Godet Petticoat With Boning and Stiffened Frills: Design

Finally, life has a bit of sewing in it again. The energy simply hasn't been there, a common refrain during annus horribilis 2020. Behind the scenes I've been musing over what I've learned and re-researching as necessary, filling the email inbox with a sequence of emails to self, edited and re-edited to obsession, but touching a piece of fabric? Couldn't muster the muscles. Today's sunshine woke me up. It's so lambent with light and warmth and color, this lizard-chilly body finally felt ready to go, so we're off on a petticoat adventure.

The petticoat is designed several goals in mind: to do the support work for the plain, unlined cotton skirt, as was common; to add as little bulk to the waistline as possible; to be adjustable in size.

The wardrobe this project is a small part of is listed at 1890's: Costumes, Research, Documentation.

Design Ingredients

1. The Cut

The cut is all-important, and boy, advice abounds. There's so much of it that an entire post should be added to the Period Methods to Add Skirt Fullness series, but that will have to wait.

At base, I'd like the cut to produce a look close to that from The Delineator's petticoat, with its wonderful back godet fluting.

The Delineator, Jan 1895 pp. 58-59

Elegant, isn't it? However, a copy of the pattern is elusive. Besides, it's 3 1/4 yard circumference. Now, writers have said that this is enough; Emma Hooper said three yards "wide" was enough (see quote below); she emphatically did not mean 9 feet across, but circumference. 

We know from previous posts that the petticoat could be cut just like the final skirt, so I could use the TV 291 1898 Walking Skirt pattern, which I used for my outer skirt. Its back piece is a straight panel gathered to fit, though, and I want a godet look. However, using oodles of fabric to create a godet cut with the pattern isn't an option, nor have I the design chops that Atelier Nostalgia has with redrawing 1890s skirt patterns. 

The pattern I took from An Antique 1890s Black Skirt With Brush Braid In My Collection could work too. It has an interesting back in two pieces, with straight edge on the outer sides, and a bias seam in the middle. However, I wasn't comfortable experimenting with it because I don't know how the back was originally handled at the top, the finishing band having been taken off at some point before I bought it. 

So, enter once again The Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, a favorite magazine. The March 10, 1895 issue offers a pattern for a Roehren-falten-Rock, or pipe-fold skirt. Here it is:

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 10, 1895, p. 68
Side note: you can clearly see the skirt binding or
brush braid at the skirt bottom.

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 10, 1895

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 10, 1895

Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung, March 10, 1895, p. 64

The skirt base comes to just about four yards (the original pattern is in metric). That's perfect. The top has plenty of room for different waist sizes, including mine, and comes with helpful directions. (The translation will sit in a construction post.) I don't even have to grade it! For those of you who might, do see the Sense and Sensibility site's page called How to Resize a Pattern. She covers resizing a gored skirt, or you could use the slash and spread method. Just know that you will affect the circumference of the lower edge of the skirt.

Some of you might be alarmed by all those bias edge to bias edge seams. Yikes! Ripe for fabric stretching and sagging and all kinds of trouble. The 1890s dressmakers had a cure for that. Miss Davis of Elements of Modern Dressmaking, along with others, suggested that each bias seam be held with a cotton tape, after handling the pieces on a flat surface, trying not to stretch them. The skirt in my collection has just that. It's pretty thin cotton, not today's thick twill tape. A little trepidatious, am still going to use the pattern, and trust to bias tape :}

2. Godets Made from Box Plaits (Pleats)

Look at the Delineator and Illustrierte Frauen-Zeitung pictures again. There are those wonderful godet flutes supporting the back of the skirt, and you can clearly see how each flute is rounded right up to the waistband. It's just ducky. However, for maximum skirt support, the magazine suggests that it be made of haircloth. Well, that's a no-go for me, as it's beyond the budget I've set for this project. Still, I can riff off of the godet idea.

"Each back gore is arranged in a box plait, the plaits being narrow at the top and flaring into godet or organ-pipe folds" (The Delineator, Jan 1895 pp. 58-59). Box pleats, or plaits, as I've been calling them because that's the word usually used then, were a primary, but not exclusive way of creating the actual folds that grew to great, lovely undulations at floor level. To shape the increasing width of the folds and to hold them into place, they were "held well to the back by an elastic strap tacked underneath." (ibid.) Naturally, we'll use both of these methods.

There were different plans for how far up or down the strap would be set, and indeed, how many straps would be used. See Skirt Godet Plaits and Interior Ties for more about shaping the folds. By the way, I've learned so much about them since that post that it needs an overhaul.

By back gores, they mean that the back section would be made of multiple wedge-shaped pieces narrow at the top and widening quite a bit at the bottom, each with two edges on the bias -- a version of today's triangular godet. 

3. Yoke and Drawstring

A yoke for a top finish makes sense, too. The wide yoke holds in the abdomen a bit, and the shape is smooth, where a belt can make the fabric below it puff out in the front and sides, something nobody wants. Here's the February 1895 Delineator:

The yoke doesn't have to go all the way around the waist, though, a bonus if you want some good godet flute action as well as size adjustability. Listen to Emma Hooper in Home Dressmaking Made Easy (p. 27):

Make it on a yoke; have it three yards wide, well faced, and then bind with the bias velveteen featherbone binding, which will keep the petticoat comfortably extended; add three bias gathered ruffles, overlapping each other, each five inches wide and the top one with an erect heading; finish the top with a yoke four inches deep; no opening, but a drawstring in the back from the side seams where the yoke ends, the back being faced.

There's a lot packed in there, but for now we're focusing on the yoke:

  • it's 4 inches deep
  • there's no placket opening
  • the fabric in the top back has a facing
  • two tapes, each attached to the side seam, are run through the top of the facing to make a drawstring

Hooray! No placket (the Delineator petticoat calls for one) and no closure. If I need one I can make an opening with folded edges. I've done plackets for Edwardian skirts, and they're nice, but fiddly and I don't see the need in a petticoat.

Of course, Ms. Davis' petticoat doesn't have godet plaits itself. So how to merge the godet plaits I want with the faced-back on a drawstring? Make three godet plaits in the center, backed with their elastic, then have a small portion of faced fabric in between the godet plaits and the side seam, with two sets of drawstrings. This gives the adjustability that we need, although I may have to cave and put in a hemmed opening in one of those two sections. Complicated, but I want this petticoat to last a while.

4. Boning

Boning the petticoat to hold it out was suggested by so many sources in both the Petticoats with Crinoline, Ties, Bones, Wires! post and in Petticoats Redux that I had to do it. There are lots of ways handle the boning, from encasing it into the hem binding (yes, binding petticoat hems was a thing too), to inserting one to five rows near the hem at inch or less intervals. Obviously, the more you use, the stiffer the hold. And the more like a hoopskirt it gets, I deem, but I have not found a wired example still extant, so I can't say.

Because godet skirts could include a bit of boning or wiring, rather than five rows, that's the way we are going.

Researching replacement boning consumed well over a month, and there were multiple points at which the Grail seemed found --Eureka! -- but then I'd find a deal-breaking flaw. The special products invented to do the job have gone the way of the dinosaur. However, I have two options waiting in the wings. One can cost you nothing, the other is taken from another of my hobbies and is an example of the benefit of having multiple interests. I will start with the no-cost option and if it works, we're done. Otherwise, I will invest the cash for option two. 

Lest the wires be too in evidence, frills, ruffles and flounces go over them, so we come to the last ingredient.

5. Specially treated frills

Mrs. Mallon's silk-plus-haircloth godet box-plaited petticoat (see Petticoats with Crinoline, Ties, Bones, Wires!) has been a favorite for its tiered haircloth box-pleated frills.

Petticoat with haircloth box pleating .Ladies Home Journal, July 1895, p.25

Let her describe the petticoat once again:

The newest skirt, however, is the one shown at Illustration No. 2. It is made of white moreen, and is to be worn under cotton, silk, or any light-weight material that will not stand a stiff lining. It is cut by the godet pattern and has as decoration three box-plaitings of the white haircloth, the top one having as a finish a thick silk cord. 


I could use true haircloth from B. Black and Sons or Bias Bespoke, but again, there's the expense. Instead, I've chosen Takach Press stiff tarlatan, a tried and true stiffener much used in the decade for such jobs as giving shape to sleeves.

Next Steps

Next up is drawing out that pattern onto large sheets of old drawing paper.

The petticoat body will be made from a set of silk curtains I made for the living room years ago. Just a bit of the silk started shattering due to getting direct sunlight so they were replaced, but I kept the fabric.

Off we go...