This blog post is really overdue. Usually I’m a few weeks, or even months late when it comes to blogging about projects but in this case i’m years late. This project was originally completed in November 2014! I never got around to writing about it and I have no idea why.
This past November I fixed it up, made a matching headpiece, and got photos of the project. So now seems like an appropriate time to finally write about it. If you would like to read about making the bodice there is a blog post about that here, and a blog post about making the sleeves here!
Usually skirts from this period would be cut from gored panels. Because gored panels create full skirts with less material at the waist, and require less fabric to make. Win-win all around.
But doing that requires sewing certain seams on a the diagonal, and that wouldn’t look very nice on the linear plaid material that I was working with. So I decided to make a simple rectangle skirt from three 48″ by 55″ panels. These got pinned together with the wrong sides of the fabric facing each other.
I was very careful to make sure everything lined up perfectly. Then I sewed a half inch away from the raw edge, trimmed the seam allowance down to 1/4″ and folded the fabric so the right sides were facing each other and the raw edge was hidden.
To make sure the plaid pattern would line up perfectly I used basting stitches instead of pins to secure everything.
Then I sewed a half inch away from the edge, again, to create a french seam. Once ironed everything looked pretty good! Not perfect, unfortunately, but it was close(ish)…
I folded the bottom edge inward by a half inch and basted it in place.
Then folded it inward by an inch so the raw edge was hidden.
And stitched across the top edge with a cross stitch!
I marked the pleat placement across the top edge. This skirt was knife pleated (the easiest and prettiest type, in my opinion). Two thirds of the pleats go in one direction, and one third in the other direction.
Once the pleats are marked it’s just a matter of playing connect the dots (or lines, I guess)!
I pinned them in place.
And put it on my dress form to see how it looked. At the time I was really happy with it, now I feel otherwise. How did I think that level of volume was okay for this period? It looks so sad!
But on the positive side of things, I really like how the pleats look!
After pleating everything I sewed across the top edge and did up the back seam (with a french seam). As per usual I left the top eight or so inches open and folded the raw edge inward twice, then secured it with whip stitches. This opening lets me get in and out of the skirt.
Since I didn’t want the petticoats to be visible through the portion of the skirt left open, I used snaps sewn onto each side to hold it closed.
I did a terrible job documenting this part of the process but the next step was making the waistband. I cut out a strip of plaid material and interfaced it, then folded over all the edges.
I made piping from bias cut strips of matching green fabric, flannel (as lining), and cording. I don’t have photos of the piping but I do have photos of the raw materials which is probably not super helpful.
Then I sewed the piping around each edge of the waistband and sewed the waistband onto the skirt with whip stitches. I covered the raw edges of the waistband interior and the top edge of the skirt with cotton lining, which was also sewn in with whip stitches.
This wasn’t the best decision. The thickness of this fabric (especially when pleated!) added a lot of bulk to the waistband. The top edge should have been finished separately and folded down, so it sits below the waistline and adds volume to the skirt instead of adding extra inches to the waistline.
I sewed a button hole into one side of the waistband, and sewed a button onto the other. With that done the skirt was finished!
Here is what it looked like worn, over a bunch of random petticoats and with the cotton sateen corset I made to go with it.
The skirt is so…meh
This November, when the fall colors were in full swing I decided I wanted more photos of this project. Which required fixing the skirt problem.
Which meant I needed to find something to make it fuller. I don’t have a round hoop skirt or elliptical hoop skirt that would be appropriate for this period, but I DO have a spanish farthingale which is kind of similar. To make the shape of it a little nicer I folded a petticoat in half and safety pinned it to the back of the farthingale.
Then tossed a cotton/tulle petticoat over the whole thing to round it out. It’s a little lumpy, but it definitely has the appropriate level of volume.
And my skirt had enough volume to sit nicely over the petticoat without disrupting the pleats! All I had to do was re-hem it to suit the new shape. This involved raising the front by almost three inches, and the sides by an inch.
Another change was sewing three snaps into the back of the waistband, which line up with three snaps sewn onto the back of the bodice. This weighs down the back of the bodice so it doesn’t move when I raise my arms, and prevents the skirt from “sinking” and showing the bottom edge of the bodice.
As a side note, I love the silhouette this petticoat and farthingale combination gives. It’s a little flat at the bottom since the top petticoat isn’t long enough, but other than that I think it’s great. I’m so pleased that i’m now planning on using it underneath another mid 19th century gown, all i’ll have to do is make a more appropriate, ruffly petticoat to go overtop!
I also decided to make a headpiece to match the project. I didn’t want to make a full bonnet, but I really liked the look of this partial bonnet. Though I didn’t have proper materials for that, so I combined the shape with the sheer/open appearance of this evening cap from the same period.
I made my pattern out of newsprint.
Then cut it out of felt weight interfacing. I tried it on at this point and realized I made it way too big – I had to take it in by three inches!
I closed the opening and sewed wire to the interfacing so it became shapeable.
Then I got to decide on materials. I chose to use the matching green material (which was used to pipe the waistband) and a bit of vintage lace.
I ended up using a half yard of crochet lace in a deep beige color and a stained lace trimmed mesh collar in the same shade.
I covered the opening with the lace. Then I removed the binding from the collar (and the stains), gathered it slightly, and sewed it onto the top edge. This creates a bit of texture, and a ruffle, which is something this costume was really lacking!
I covered the interfacing with one inch wide strips of bias tape, which were made from the green fabric. I left the tails of the bias tape really long so I could use them as ties for the bonnet, which will keep it in place when worn.
The edges of the bias tape were whip stitched together and then it was done!
Here is the project all together!
And here it is when worn!
Look at how much that side profile has improved thanks to the petticoat switch!
I’m very pleased with how this whole ensemble turned out in the end, even though it took a while to get there!
I’ll do my best to edit the rest of the photos we took in November and have those up soon…but no promises!
Thanks for reading!