An Economical Regency Petticoat

This past week has been a full one. But, just as with dessert, there is always room for some sewing. ;) So, on Tuesday, I set out to complete my Regency undergarments. With the stays done, all that was left now, was a petticoat. After a quick look at Jennifer’s petticoat fabric guide, I went into the sewing room, to hunt for the right material.

My choice was between a very sheer white poplin and the leftover sateen I had used to line the stays. But the poplin is so lovely that I decided to keep it for making an Edwardian shirtwaist. That left the sateen. At first I was hesitant to use it, since atlas-bound fabrics like these have a knack for being too heavy to make good petticoats. This particular sateen, however, is incredibly flimsy and nearly see-through. That is why it made the cut.

My visual inspiration mainly came from this earl 19th-century petticoat at the Met Museum, but also from the sheer, layered petticoat from the Oregon Regency Society’s blog.

Early 19th-century petticoat from the Metropolitan Museum.

Layered Regency petticoat (Source: Oregon Regency Society).

Since I was not entirely sure about the dimensions, I also looked around the web for suitable tutorials. I found two of those: One by Twila Tee and another by Beth. In Twila’s instructions, I found some information on the finished length and the best strap placement. And Beth’s gave me the great idea to use twill tape for the straps. It is just as narrow as the straps you find on extant petticoats and saves you the trouble of extra hemming. ;)

Yet I had to solve another fabric problem first: The leftover sateen was a 59″ x 59″ square. These are not ideal dimensions for a petticoat, but after doing some math, I found a period solution: Piecing. I cut the fabric at my desired length of 43 1/2 inches  and turned the cutoff into a panel of 12″x 43 1/2″. To give the petticoat an even look, I took a similar strip off the bigger panel as well. Then I put the two smaller rectangles to the left and right of the big one and sewed up everything into a 70 inch wide panel. This is about double my underbust measurement and just enough to make a nice, drapey petticoat.

To create enough fullness at the center back, I gathered the excess fabric into the back third of the waistband, so that I had about six inches of deep gathers to either side of the back placket. When everything was assembled, I added the twill straps. I attached one end 2 1/2″ away from the center back and the other 6 1/2″ further to the front, to get two loops that sit snugly at the edge of my shoulders.

Tweaking the back section with an adjustable tape closure.

For the closure I used a simple tape tie. To get some adjustable drape in the back section, I tweaked it a little by threading it through a channel in the waistband with a blunt bodkin. At the end of the gathered section, I poked the bodkin back through the fabric and secured the tape on the inside with a firm knot. I used the same technique with my late Regency pantalets. It works really well to create a more flexible fit.

The tucks at the bottom hem.

For embellishment and some extra weight around the bottom hem, I added five tucks to finish off the petticoat. The top and bottom one are each 1/2″ inch wide and the three smaller ones in the center are 1/4″ each. When I was done, the petticoat came down to my ankles.
And here is the result of it all, after about 15 hours of sewing: I think it came out pretty well.

The finished strapped petticoat – front view.

Strapped petticoat – back view.

Strapped petticoat – side view.

And so, my Regency underthings are complete at last. (Yay!) Now I can finally start making a first dress with a proper period fit.  Perhaps it will get finished in time for the HSM “Brown” challenge. Once it is done, I will also try to post some pictures for you, with all the different layers on my person. But first, it is time for a short break… ;)

Until very soon, Nessa

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8 thoughts on “An Economical Regency Petticoat

  1. Twilight Storm Crafts says:

    I love how your petticoat turned out! I have a question you might be able to answer since you study regency dress a lot more then I do. The picture you linked of the layered regency petticoat shows the (for lack of the correct term) waistband seeming to ride up higher in the front. This gave me the impression the front of the petticoat would sit close to the empire cut, and be lower in the back. Is this just my imagination or does this have something to do with how the dress would lay on the body or was this made like this because the owner just had a particular body type?

    • Nessa says:

      Thank you so much! :D
      And I think you are imagining it right. Worn, my petticoat does the exact same thing, even with closely fitted straps to hold it up in the proper place. It’s mainly due to the bigger amount of fabric sitting at the back gathers. Opposed to the straight front portion, there is more weight pulling the back section down slightly lower. And, yes, period dresses with voluminous back gathers/pleats will show a similar fit. So it all works out together. I hope this has been helpful and not all confusing. :)

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