Thursday, April 15, 2021

An 1895 Godet Petticoat With Boning and Stiffened Frills: Adding a Stiffened Hem Facing

While I haven't posted about the petticoat since February, it's not for lack of working on it. Oh no. There's been a ridiculous amount of work. Documentation simply fell behind. So. In this post I'll talk about a step I never meant to take: adding a stiffened hem facing before tackling the boning.

The petticoat, laid flat, inside out, with facing sewn on
but not finished at the top.
The little lump of shadow on the sofa is Lily kitty in 
the middle of a mid-winter nap.

How did that happen? Trying the petticoat on the dress form is how it happened.

It seemed smart to see what the petticoat was like sans any stiffening whatever but with the godet pleats set in place. After all, without those large undulating flutes, the back is longer than the front and the entire thing looks ill-fitting.

So I set the petticoat onto the form, and then pinned the side darts approximately where my original pattern suggested to fit the sides into that hip-defining shape so typical of the decade, and pinning three very messy box pleats in the back, as close to where they are supposed to go as I could get given my larger waistline. The original pattern has oodles of initial waist room. Remember, it's the box pleating of that excess, and how the pleats are handled, that creates the godet plaits.

No opening was cut. That can wait until the exact placement of the box pleats is set, and then an opening can go under one of the pleats.

Here's what it looked like. My adjustable dress form isn't "me" at all: it's too wide across the front and two narrow from the side, especially if a corset were worn, and the godets are just pinned madly, but you get the idea.

The petticoat without stiffening, back

The petticoat without stiffening, front

The petticoat without stiffening, side

What a droopy back, but you can see that the godet plaits -- godet fluting -- organ folds -- whatever you want to call them -- have the potential to be beautiful if given something to help them puff, and that the full body of the silk shantung is a good match for that sort of effect. Something to keep in mind for outer skirts!

Adding the Facing

However, I looked at the silk and thought, putting boning or wires and especially the pleated haircloth frills from my inspiration petticoat is going to drag on that silk. I need a hem facing. Then I thought, whether it's overkill or not, I am going to stiffen that facing with interlining.

I am beginning to think like a mid-1890s home seamstress: stiffen, stiffen, any way you can! Beauty before ease... 

The prospect of paying for more haircloth to use as interlining was not attractive, so out came milliner's crinoline (a bit different than tarlatan) from the stash. It proved too limp to do much. Here is some in my hand, so you understand what it's like.

Milliner's crinoline

Out came milliner's buckram, a medium-heavy weight. That seemed about right in the hand, and probably too stiff, but I have what I have. Here it is.

Milliner's buckram, mid-weight. No flopping in the hand here...

So I cut the silk facing and the buckram interlining:

  • 5-inch wide facing pieces (including 1/2 inch for the bottom seam allowance and 1/2 inch for the top) was cut using the original pattern pieces as a guide, with 1/4 inch for each side seam allowance;
  • 4-inch wide interlining, again using the pattern pieces as a guide.

Because I had sewn the petticoat seams by hand, I hand-sewed the facing pieces onto the petticoat bottom too. Running stitch for two stitches, then a backstitch, and so on.

Sewing the facing to the bottom of the petticoat while Nutmeg naps

...And tacked the interlining to one layer of the silk by hand. The tacking stitches will be covered by the haircloth frills. Dear Heaven, was tacking an awful, unpleasant, bloody-hell process. Why didn't I use a sewing machine? At that time we were in an icy cold snap, outside it was still getting dark early, and sitting at a machine up in the brr-chilly, shadowy upstairs was not enticing. 

So instead, stubborn -- but warm! -- silly that I was, the silk and buckram and I battled the entire four yards around the petticoat bottom, leaving multiple little bloody marks on the silk that never did come out completely. The needle kept hating to go through the silk and then would stop angrily on tough, thick buckram fibers and slip unexpectedly sideways and into my fingers.

The facing was not hemmed over the buckram to finish the inside. That's a later step.

That's the post for today.

Next up, the battle of the bones, wires, CAT5 cabling, canes, milk jugs, and cords to give the petticoat the delicious width and sweep it cries out for. Can you guess which one ended up staying in the petticoat hem?