Petticoat Tutorial

eighteenth century garments


Pretty, Pretty Petticoat

I wrote this tutorial at the request of a friend who was having difficulties making an 18th century petticoat
but it certianly isn't the only correct way of making one. Just the way I do it.
The petticoat below was made for a 1780s gown, designed to be worn with a bum roll rather than side hoops.
If you want to wear side hoops you should adjust the fullness accordingly.
For a slightly different technique (with side hoops) check out Katherine's petticoat page.



fabric, in this case two panels of 45" wide by 46" (my waist to floor measurement)
twill tape
needle and thread


the tutorial


1. I determined my panel lengths by measuring a waist to floor measurement.
I then added an allowance for hem and tore the fabric accordingly.

2. The vertical seams sewn. I like to press my seams open.

3. The center front marked with a pin.


4. Beginning at the pin, I pleated the skirt with a small box pleat in the center front. Not being a math person, I generally pick a size pleat that I like and do half the panel (1/4 the skirt) before measuring to see if that will give me approximatly the correct circumference.

4a. I like to use a sewing gauge to pleat. Determine your pleat depth and move the blue part to that mark (in this case 6/8").
Line up the marker with the edge of the last pleat.

4b. Bring fabric over the end of the gauge to where you've determined the pleat should end, in this case 3/8".

4c. Remove gauge and pin, making sure the pleat is vertically straight.

5. As I continue to pleat, I use a ruler to measure the pleats.
Stop when the pleated area equals 1/4 the waist measurement (or in my case a little less so I can more easily access my pockets).

6. Pleating is then repeated on the second half of the front panel. (I ended up doing it upside down for ease of the gauge.)


7. When the pleated area is the correct size, I like to run a basting stitch (or two) through the pleats to stabilize them.

8a. The basting stitches can also be used to gather up the pleats to the perfect size, if I'm are slightly off the needed measurment.
If you are more than 2" off it's time to take out the pleats and try again. Ungathered.


8b. Gathered slightly. This trick can come particularly handy with extra fabric in the back panel or when you want slightly more fullness without deeper (a bulkier) pleats. Also good for when you mess up the measurements or (if you keep the threads in place) if you lose weight later on.

Not that I've ever done any of those things...

9. Because I wanted more fullness in the back, my front pleats didn't go all the way to seam.
Using a clear ruler and rotary cutter I cut a 8" slit for my pockets and also to create a front panel.

(ta da!)

10. You can fold the edges over twice to finish the edge but I prefer a less bulky method.
I zigzag the edge before folding it over once, at an angle, and pressing well.

11. I then use a running stitch along the edge (much easier by hand!).
In this case, because my fabric loved to ravel, I also used a buttonhole stitch at the point.


(the other side)

12. Repeat steps 1-8 on the back panel.

13. To make the waistband I tore off a stripe of taffeta approx 1 ¼" wide.
Alternately 1" or 1¼" twill tape also works, although the stark white can peak out under a bodice when arms are raised.

14. Press in half with fingers or iron. You could hem the edge but I just let it fray a bit and left it alone.

15. The waistband is placed over pleats so that the fold sits on top of the pleated edge. Pin.

16. The ends of waistband are folded over for a hem before a length of twill tape is sandwiched between the layers.


17. The waistband stitched in place, this time by machine.

(ta da!) It just needs a hem...



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