Red Petticoat

Diary Started June 13, 2008 – Dress finished November 16, 2008

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Research and background

Running costs
Red wool cloth (2m @ 199) 398 kr
Red sewing silk thread 26,50 kr
Linen from Himla (1m @ 59) 59 kr
Red silk bodice lining (0.5m) 80 kr
Hooks and eyes (1 pkt @ 20) 20kr

Total:  583,50 kr

June 13: The beginnings – First of all, the fact that my wardrobe for so long has been lacking in a red petticoat or kirtle is a disgrace. In will after will, the ladies of the 16th Century deeded their red petticoats in descending order to sisters, daughters, cousins and servants. All women had at least one red petticoat, a woman of standing had many to choose from and the newest one, or the one made up of the finest fabric was her ‘best petticoat’ with rankings going down from there.

The layout presented an initial difficulty, since I had only two metres of the cloth. I had to be very conservative with the layout and I looked first to my Alcega petticoat pattern, then I looked in The Tudor Tailor by Malcolm-Davies & Mikhaila, and decided on the layout seen here to the left after seeing their version of a petticoat skirt on page 106. The waste is minimal, and I will get nearly three metres of hemline. The waist will have a few knife pleats, but not all the way around. The skirt is entirely cut out and pinned ready for sewing, but the bodice still waits for a suitable interlining layer. I intend to make this petticoat a supporting layer, so that I can lace it on in the morning (front lacing) and be well dressed, and then throw on additional layers if needed. The concept of petticoat skirt and my waistcoat in the morning worked wonderfully, except for the -ahem- “uncontained cleavage issues”.

While the skirt is as yet untested by me, I believe it will work. More questionable is the bodice, which is why I have not yet touched the wool to cut that out. I will have to make up a mock-up, or do the internal structure first, try it on, and then clad it with wool and lining. I continue my trend of slightly modifying previous patterns to make up a bodice. This time I started with my mk 1 bodice pattern taken from my one and only corset. Then I compared the pattern to my splendor solis kirtle, and then I put together the two pieces of the pattern into a single front-opening piece. The reasoning behind that was that it is the most fabric conservative, losing nothing to seam allowances in the sides.

The Bodice Begun

Bodice made up of interliningWith the skirt pinned together in a final configuration I turned my attention to the bodice. I finalised the neckline and cut it out in two layers of a fairly heavy linen. I stitched all around by hand with waxed linen bobbin lace thread using mostly back stitches, with the occasional running stitch to make it go faster. I sewed up one front, around the neckline, armscyes, back neckline and down the other front again – leaving all shoulder straps open at the top so I could turn the two layers inside out, bag lining style, and still be able to adjust the length of the shoulder straps.

With the internal structure of the bodice made up I now need to add boning inside these two layers to make it a supporting garment. To this end, the lower edge is still unstitched, although I pressed the seam allowance up before turning it so I would know where the waistline should sit. As can be seen in the photo to the right compared to my drawing above, there will not be much waste, as the bodice is laid out on the remaining piece of wool cloth.

Bodice StiffenedJune 20, 2008: Supportive – The bodice is meant to be supportive, so I stitched five channels parallell to the front which makes up four boning channels and one left empty for eyelets. Then I stitched one diagonal boning channel and another vertical one to act as support for the bust. The eyelets are also whipstitched open. They are offset for spiral lacing and count twelve on either side. I have also made a lacing cord using a simple fingerloop braid method, so I can try it on and adjust the shouler straps. After that is done I will decide if I want to do eyelets through linen and wool, or if I should let the wool hook and eye closed over the lacing.

September 2, 2008: Front closure – Following a productive sewing circle progress which marked a re-starting of the petticoat project. The progress consisted of finishing up the bodice mounting. Seam allowances clipped and all edges were herringboned down neatly. The twelve pairs of eylets in front were also overstitched properly with buttonhole stitch.

Final Details


November 16, 2008: Finishing touches – Last I updated this was before the Big Photo Gallery crash, and since then I have finished and worn the petticoat at an event. But that is getting ahead of the story. After mounting the bodice onto the stabilising layer I went ahead and got half a metre of red silk for the lining. This makes the kirtle much easier to put on and take off, and looks pretty when the kirtle is put on a hanger. With the lining stitched in place, I added the final closing mechanism in a row of hooks and eyes on the wool layer from the neckline down into the skirt. Without it, the front would bulge out, and possibly flap open to show everyone the lacing and that is unacceptable.

To attach skirt and bodice, the top edge of the skirt was folded down once, then stitched all around with running stitches and gathered together to whip stitch to the waistline of the bodice leaving the gathering thread in. The edge is not held down in any other way, but the wool cooperates sufficiently that the single-fold edge keeps the shape of the cartridge pleats, and as you can see, the skirt does not require four metres of hemline or waistline to look good. The skirt was, however, a little short so I added a strip of black wool to the hem. To echo this and make it look intentional, I also added two lines of black velvet trim around the front opening and neckline of the bodice. The first line follows the edge all the way around the neckline and front opening, the second row of velvet is added to cover up the line of stitching down the front that keeps the wool and the support layer together. This seems like a logical reason for the many period examples of trim in just this position. It is not only used to hide ugly construction seams, it also makes the dress pretty and gives it that last finishing touch.

Photo Gallery

For images I may not have linked in the diary, close-ups and overviews et cetera please have a look at the photo gallery.