Friday, October 16, 2020

A Yoked Silk Petticoat With Boning and Stiffened Frills, Part 1

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 picture 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 the 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.

How to merge the godet plaits 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. Perhaps a little 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...

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