Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Two 1890's Petticoats

Mid-week has hit already, though it feels like the weekend was just yesterday. Dang. It's always this way, though, every year - life starts to get going faster and faster and then boom, it's summer. The first few months of the  year tend to feel like free months for me, sewing-wise. I can make what I want without *really* needing to make anything super important. I'm getting down to the very end of that time so I am kinda wanting to get this 1890's dress DONE this month.

I do have things I need to get done first, though. I'm nearly done with an 18th c. shirt for a friend of mine and am in-progress on two sweet little lace flower girl dresses for Rose and Anne to wear for my sisters wedding this summer! 😍 After that I am definitely getting back to the 1890's although my current feeling of urgency has to do with a hat, rather than a dress. I just want to make this hat so bad! Soon. 😀

Anyway, I have the petticoats done and I am pretty happy with how they turned out! First I have the finished 

~ Foundation Petticoat ~

can I just say here how much I DO NOT LIKE this hairstyle.
Oh the things we do for historical accuracy. . .
This is the one I was working on a few posts back, made of lightweight corduroy. I drafted my pattern and sewed it mostly on machine, with hand work at the waistband. The petticoat is made as a full length, plain skirt with a corded flounce mounted on top of the skirt, set about 10" above the skirt hem. This is according to the petticoat featured in Costume in Detail. 

Facings of scrap fabric finish the skirt hem and the flounce hem. 
I covered the raw edges of the flounce, where it attaches to the main skirt, with a band cut from a different brown and white fabric. This is sewed down on the machine. This honestly was a really fast petticoat to make - probably because I sewed the cording in as I went, instead of making channels and then threading the cording through. 

I really like the graceful way the skirt falls. This would even make a pretty awesome everyday wear skirt, if shortened up a bit. But this one is specifically for an 1890's impression and I probably won't be wearing this for everyday use. 

So the foundation petticoat makes a good foundation but it needs more floofyness before a dress skirt is worn over top. Therefore, I have my

~ Upper Petticoat ~

This petticoat is made from the same pattern as my foundation petticoat, except it ends about knee length and has a very full flounce gathered and attached to the bottom. I made this petticoat from an old sheet I've been saving for this purpose and I had to work with the sheet dimensions. The flounce is slightly bigger than the flounce on my foundation petticoat,  both in width and in circumference. This flounce finishes out at about 168" at the bottom. 

I finished the seam between the flounce and skirt by folding over the seam allowance and slip stitching it down.
This white petticoat has two decorative tucks to break up the plainness of the solid color fabric and I had juuuuuust enough of this pretty white lace to go around the skirt above the tucks. I  got this length of trim from an antique store that has all kinds of pretty, wonderful sewing notions and I was glad I could use it on this petticoat! It would be ideal to have had enough to trim the edge of the flounce, instead, but this way the trim will be protected from wear and tear at the hem and since I sewed it on by hand, I can take it off if later on I want to use it on something else. 

This petticoat also closes at the back with a hook and eye. 

I tried both petticoats on over my Victorian corset and my 1883 chemise and I think the shape is looking ok. The skirt is actually a lot more flared in silhouette than I expected, so I think this shape is probably best for mid-late 90's impressions? Earlier 90's silhouettes look narrower in the front. I suppose I could always add ties to bring the fullness to the back more, if I want to go for a specifically early-90's look. 

After trying these on and taking some pictures I realized I really needed a bum pad, so I made one after this. I'll have a post soon about making it. It was a really fast but satisfying project and adds just the right amount of bum-curve. 😂 I still haven't made a corset cover and probably won't unless I make a very lightweight dress or shirtwaist. I do need to take in the front abdomen of my Victorian corset. It has always been a bit big there, even when I first made it, but in the 1860's, of course, anything below the waist is covered by full gathered skirts. Not so the 1890's! A few topstitched darts should do the trick. 

Much love,



  1. I'm not sure if it's helpful, but a lot of what I've seen in extant 1890s gowns relies on leno or tarlatan beneath the fashion fabric layer, plus heavy horsehair braid tucked in a faced hem, to achieve that slimmer front look.

    Also interesting - a lot of the sewing machines from the 1880s on have something called an "underbraider" attachment, which helps immensely when doing machine stitched braids and cording. If you find a vintage machine from like 1935 or earlier, they're usually compatible with the ones you can find on ebay.

  2. These are gorgeous! Thank you for sharing!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!