Wow! I have not updated here in a while, so lets change that with some foundation garments!
We made 1830’s ballgowns for our first unit back at university and whats more iconic to the 1830’s than obnoxious sleeves and plaid fabric? Corded petticoats of course!
Remember when I made my 1870’s corded corset and I was surprised by how much cording went into it? I ate my words during this project!
This project was really interesting and I enjoyed it greatly though it did test my patience here and there. I’m pretty pleased with the results, I was a little concerned I made it too big (width) but after speaking to other historical costumers they seam to be pretty pleased with the results as well!
8m of white pillow cotton
Two 100m spools of size 4 cording (this was bought whole sale, cheaper!)
White thread (I used a polyester overlocker spool and never worried about my thread only the bobbin)
2m of petersham tape (any waistband tape will do)
One skirt buckle
White top stitching thread
The pattern I used for my corded petticoat was an altered version of the pattern found in ‘The Victorian Dressmaker’ (Prior Attire). The original pattern consists of four 1m squared panels, these are then sewn in pairs making two 1m by 2m panels. These panels are then put together (wrong sides together) so cording can be sewn between the layers. I altered this pattern by doubling the patterns required with the intention of making a larger than standard petticoat. My reasons for this were as follows.
- No seam allowance was added to the patterns. I was using a standard 1.5cm seam allowance, this is minor but worth mentioning.
- I wanted to account for the shift in the fabric when the cording is added and the fabric that will need to be taken off in order to square up the petticoat. I read blogs that made mention of this (written by historical seamstresses), they mention that the more cording there is the more the fabric will shift which in turn means more needs to be taken off at the end of the process to square the petticoat up.
- Silhouette, the design I’m working from features a large skirt, rather than making a smaller corded petticoat with little volume and having to pile net petticoats on top to reach the size I think it makes more sense to make my base foundation bigger. I may need a layer or two of net to smoothen the shape out but this can be determined when the petticoat is complete and I have a skirt toile.
- Continuing from 3, as the unit is about opera costumes (costumes in motion / stage costumes / performing costumes) so we to think about costume changes and the practicality of the costumes. Having one large corded petticoat vs one regular corded petticoat and a large (or multiple) net petticoats would seem to be easier to change into making it more practical.
The panels are sewn together creating two layers of 1m by 4m panels. The seams should be pressed open and then the two layers laid over top of each other with the wrong sides together (matching the seams).
I decided to have a 3” hem on my petticoat which could be turned up to add extra support and strength. I marked and sewed the 3” by measuring 3” from the needle on the industrial machine and placing tape there as a guide.
This line also acts as the initial starting line for the cording.
The cording was sewn using a zipper foot to ensure the channels were snug with the cording. As the industrial machines don’t have zipper foot attachments the sewing of the cording had to be done on a domestic machine. To make this process easier for myself I got out one of the extension tables and fitted that to machine for more flat space to work on.
I found the fastest way of sewing the cording (without tucks or puckering) was to push the cording snug between the two layers, keeping my left hand between the layers to keep pushing it in as I sewed while my right hand would steady the fabric and also keep it taunt.
This was very successful and I was able to sew around 20m of cording per day. I was very cautious when sewing the cording and was very thankful to not have to unpick any tucks or puckering!
I was amazed by how quickly the petticoat stiffened up with the cording. I had intended to starch my petticoat after completion (mostly for the experience) but about halfway through sewing the cording I had half decided there would be little point because of how much structure it was already holding.
After looking at extant corded petticoats and reproduction corded petticoats I decided to stagger my cording so that there were more heavily corded clusters at the bottom and slowly dispersed in thinner clusters at the top. Below is a diagram of how I staggered out my cording.
When I had finished the cording (I used approximately 120m) the sides (open ends) needed to be straightened up as during the cording process the two layers shifted in opposite directions. I used a square ruler lining it up along the bottom row of cording and drew a line up to the top edge. I then cut along this line which covered two layers removing the shift in the fabric and straightening everything up. In the process of straighten the end up I ended up taking approximately 20cm off each side due to the shift in order to straighten out the two layers.
Next I gathered the waistband, it needed to be reduced down to julias measurements in the stays which is 26”. I decided to cartridge pleat the waistband as I felt that I wouldn’t be able to reduce it down to waist size just by gathering it. After carefully considering how to gather it I decided on having deeper 1” gathers at the centre back of the petticoat and have ½” gathers from those point forward to the front. The deeper gathers at the back would give the petticoat more fullness there creating a slight elliptical shape which I had seen in extant garments and historical reproductions. I marked the petticoat into quarters, the middle would be the centre back. On either side of the CB I marked 18” (equivalent to ⅛ of the petticoat length) which amounted to equally spreading ¼ over the CB (36.25”) this quarter measurement over the CB would be the area of pleats that are 1” deep giving more fullness to the CB, from those points towards the centre front would be ½” deep for a more gradual silhouette.
Below is a table I made which is a better visual representation of my planning.
After finalising my maths I marked the gathering increments along the top edge of the petticoat so they could be used as reference when cartridge pleating it down to size. This was done by hand using white top stitching thread, the top stitching thread is less likely to snap and the white will blend with the fabric.
The petticoat was then very carefully gathered down to the waist size, I did not want any of the threads to snap at this point. In this picture you can already see how much more of a ‘kick’ the pleats over the CB have in comparison to the ½ pleats. I decided to pin it to a temporary waistband just to check I was happy with the shape it was creating before moving forward.
I was quite happy with the shape it created and decided to move forward.
The petticoat needed to be closed, I discussed this with Glenda (tutor) and she suggested overlapping the open ends (staggering the cording) and then sewing it up. I also asked Hester (studio technician) what she would do and she suggested unpicking 1” of the open ends (exposing the ends of the cording), then sewing a seam joining the top fabric open ends together (leaving an 11” opening at the top) and then carefully weaving/hand sewing the open ended cords together before folding the wrong sides excess fabric back over concealing the cording. Hesters idea was a much longer process but it sounded like a much cleaner end result. My main concern was the petticoat collapsing where the open ends joined but this idea sounds like it would prevent
that without having to overlay the cording.
After unpicking the cording on the open ends and sewing a seam (right sides together on top petticoat fabric) I started hand sewing the cording back together. I trimmed the cords so they touched ends and then whipped them together keeping them as flat as possible. This was don’t up until the cording that was 11” below the top edge as this needed to be left open for the opening. Those cords would be sealed in the next step.
The excess seamallowence was then folded back over concealing the cording. I then used a small whip stitch to hold it in place. For the cording position in the opening the excess seam allowance was folded inward right sides together and stitched down.
To further reinforce the cording where the join was I top stitched into the channels in the join which separated them into their channels again making it appear as though the cording was coiled into continuous circles. The join was much more firm after this and I no longer felt like the petticoat would collapse in on itself from this point.
The petticoat was then hemmed, this was very easy to do as I was just folding the 3” I had left along the bottom edge up to the inside of the petticoat. This was then hand stitched in place using a herringbone stitch.
The hem of the petticoat now ran along the first row of cording with the turned up 3” now helping stabilize and keep its shape.
Finally I sewed a waistband on, the waistband was an 1” wide petersham tape doubled over the top edge. The waistband closes with a skirt hook and bar.
And below is a finished picture of the petticoat on my model!
I’m super happy with the result of my petticoat, the shape is great and I’ve received so many nice complements on it! When I get around to taking finished photos of the complete ballgown I’ll add them here!
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Thank you for reading,