Tuesday, February 25, 2020

1890's Foundation Petticoat Progress

My 1890's petticoat project is progressing! It's been a bit slower going than I thought it would be, but it's been going. 

It feels so good to work on this. I don't mind taking it a bit slow. I have really enjoyed each step of this project so far and want to savor this feeling. It's been a while since I have made a historic item that I really felt excitement and joy about, without any deadlines or pressure to get it done. I didn't know if I ever would feel this way again, but here we are!

forgive my very horrible scribbles - they make sense to me, so that's what counts. :D
Though I purchased the Fantail Skirt pattern from Scroop Patterns for the actual dress skirt, I decided to draft my own petticoat based on my measurements. I haven't yet printed out the Fantail Skirt pattern and the thought of cutting and taping together dozens of papers was daunting. I haven't drafted a historic pattern in forever, either, so it was fun to get out some paper and a pen and my measuring tape and figure out exactly how I was going to make this petticoat! It felt familiar and comforting and soon enough, I had a simple pattern drawn out. 

laying out the cut-out pieces to get an idea of what it will look like!
This foundation petticoat is based on the 1890's petticoat in Costume in Detail, although I am making some changes to mine. For one thing, I wanted a fixed waistband rather than having a drawstring in the back waistband like the one in the book. I have images of an original petticoat with a fixed band, so I thought that the deviation from the CinD petticoat would still be historically accurate. For another thing, I am not making a tuck where the flounce is attached to the skirt. I am guessing the original has this tuck to encase the raw edges of the top of the flounce, however, I forgot to take that tuck into account when drafting my pattern so I am leaving it off. I'll simply apply the flounce to the skirt and cover the raw edge of the top of the flounce with a band of fabric, or, perhaps even more simply, hem the top of the flounce with a narrow hem and sew the flounce on with a header. 

My fabric is a lightweight baby wale corduroy that I got at the end of last year when it was on a huge discount from Fashion Fabrics Club. I got this fabric, thinking to use it for a Fantail Skirt, but it's a bit light for a skirt. It seems ideal for this petticoat, though, since it has a lot of body and holds it's shape well. The CinD petticoat is described as being made of a "heavy cotton", so this will work. 

Speaking of making it work - ugh. I had just 3 yards of this fabric and it wasn't quite enough for my pattern as I first drew it out. In the end, I had to cut the flounce going the opposite direction as the skirt panels and the flounce is HEAVILY pieced. However, with the piecing done, I think it will work! The original has the flounce cut on the bias but needless to say, that was not an option for me since I was dealing with such a small amount of fabric. 

I had a hard time finding any measurements as to the common circumference of petticoats in this era. I found references to dress skirts being many yards around the hem, but this is a petticoat and is meant to be a very modestly-fashionable, practical, everyday type of petticoat. In the end I went with what I thought would work and the petticoat itself is around 115" at the hem, and the flounce, pieced out, measures about 155" at the hem. I've not tried it on yet (it's not quite done!) but put on my dressform this size seems okay. 

So far I've sewn the main petticoat together with flat felled seams, sewn the darts in the front waist, gathered the center back panels by hand and stitch the waist to the waistband. Since the waistband was cut from my last tiny scraps it is quite narrow - just about 1" wide - so I sewed on a hook and eye to close the waistband instead of using a button and buttonhole. With the seam allowances encased in the waistband, the back waistband was simply too bulky to work a buttonhole neatly.

What's left: Hemming the bottom of the main petticoat skirt with a facing. Partially lining the flounce and inserting six rows of cotton cording around the hem of the flounce. Attaching the flounce to the petticoat. 

I am getting really excited about seeing this outfit come together! My new goal is to get this petticoat done by the end of the month and make the top petticoat sometime early in the next. I recently purchased the digital book No Lady of Leisure; Clothing for the Victorian and Edwardian Working Woman by Marna Jean Davis and oh my word. This book is life changing! (haha, not really life changing but! Definitely so helpful for understanding working class attire of this period!)  I have so enjoyed reading it and discover so many new and interesting details every time I look through it again. This book has a great overview of everything one needs to know about working class attire in this era - from sewing machines and their use, to construction shortcuts used by women having to make their clothing at home, to pattern production and measuring systems, to the cut of skirts and bodices and sleeves, to fabrics and accessories and the role of working class women in society - it's just amazing. I'm so glad I bought it. It was worth every cent and more. And it's made me feel much more confident in my choice to mostly machine sew this petticoat!


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