Tag Archives: Skirt Supports

1950s style petticoat of stiff white netting trimmed with bows

This petticoat came about as a result of my 1950s style petticoat of soft ivory netting being insufficiently fluffy. I used a great deal of a very stiff white nylon netting that I bought for $1 a yard at one of the shops in the Fashion District in Los Angeles a couple years ago. The fabric was originally intended to be used for a faux bustle similar to the 1870s inspired bustle with lavender sateen pillow and pansy net ruffles, but I didn’t go through with the Steampunk costume I was planning to make it for, so the fabric was duly requisitioned.

Not only is the netting much stiffer this time around, I also made the petticoat longer and much fuller, using most of the material I had in order to achieve maximum floofiness. I cut strips of the netting so that each of the three tiers was double the width of the tier above it. The bottom tier is 13½ yards around! The middle tier is 6¾ yards, and the top tier is about 3½ yards around, gathered into a waistband of white polished cotton. I hand-stitched the entire petticoat, using the selvage of the material for a pre-finished hem. The waistband is top-stitched to look nice and tidy.

And then, after finishing the waistband, I came to a conundrum. How to close the waistband? I didn’t want anything lumpy or uncomfortable, and I wanted some flexibility in the circumference of the waistband. So I decided to use ribbons or tapes, stitched to each end of the waistband, to tie together. But alas! I had no simple white ribbons or tapes of an appropriate size in my stash, and I didn’t know when I’d have a chance to go to the store.

But then I ran across a bag of pre-finished turquoise satin ribbon bows. I’d bought them some time back at the Michael Levine’s Loft store in the Fashion District in Los Angeles, for a dollar or two, without any particular plan. After untying two bows and stitching them on as ties, I decided that the turquoise ties needed company – in the form of the application of many more bows to the petticoat. It makes for a slightly silly petticoat, but there’s something inherently silly about Really Fluffy Petticoats, so I just ran with it. Now my excellent petticoat is delightfully covered in turquoise bows!

This petticoat is satisfactorily fluffy for many things, though I still dream of going even fluffier, especially for evening wear. The netting I used here is excellent for the purpose, and I’m planning to go on the hunt for more like it at some point. I also want to try making a similar petticoat (possibly even wider?!) out of synthetic organza. Of course, silk organza would make a truly delicious petticoat, but I think that’s probably out of my price range for a while.

For more information about 1950s style petticoats, see my intro post about my 1950s style net petticoats.

1950s style petticoat of soft ivory netting

I made this petticoat of standard JoAnn’s nylon netting in an ivory color, using a hybrid of several different petticoat tutorials I found online. It’s pretty basic – three tiers of netting, each double the fullness of the one above, and gathered to it. I sewed it by hand, because I didn’t want to do battle with that much machine-gathering (I don’t trust machine gathering), especially using something as fussy as synthetic netting. Unfortunately, the petticoat really didn’t end up sufficiently fluffy, because the netting was fairly soft, and probably needed more yardage anyway. Clearly, my petticoat efforts needed to be far less modest in future if I was going to get the oomph I wanted.

Nevertheless, I did complete the petticoat, even after I discovered that it wouldn’t have as much floof as I wanted. I finished it with an ivory synthetic satin enclosed waistband. And it does have some floof, but in order to really manage proper 1950s style poofiness, I need several other petticoats with it. Still, it was a good learning experience. And it led me onward to my next floofy adventure: the 1950s style petticoat of stiff white netting trimmed with bows.

For more information about 1950s style petticoats, see my intro post about my 1950s style net petticoats.

1870s inspired faux bustle of pansy synthetic netting

The 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume that I made Sarah for Halloween last fall is made from historically accurate Truly Victorian patterns, with an accurate corset which I draped using duct tape, but it isn’t made to be historically accurate; it’s made to be a fun, pretty, historically inspired Halloween/masquerade costume. But because it’s made from historically accurate bustle era patterns, it needs a skirt support. For Halloween, Sarah wore the costume over a borrowed bustle of not-quite-the-right shape, and an old cotton Civil War era skirt of mine, which I puffed and pinned to keep it from dragging on the floor (she is not as tall as I am), and to help smooth the lines of the bustle and create a softer, early 1870s shape. It worked shockingly well.

But in order to make the costume wearable on its own, without major borrowed components, she needed a bustle of her very own. I finally made just such a bustle…in April. Oh well! I used eight yards of 70″ wide pansy purple nylon net from Fabric.com, a piece of scrap ribbon, some upholstery thread, and a bit of regular thread. It took me about an hour, all told.

I measured out a length of net a couple inches shorter than the skirt, folded it evenly, and measured out the same length again. Leaving it folded in half, I cut off the doubled length from my yardage. Then I measured out another length of net, a couple inches shorter than a single side of the previous piece (so, probably  6 or 7 inches shorter than the skirt). Same as before, I folded that evenly, measured out the same length again, and cut off my new doubled length, leaving it folded. Now I had two big pieces of netting, folded in half. I laid them together along the folds, matching up the long (remember, this is wide netting!) folds. Then I pinned one end of the pair of folds to the arm of the couch, and the other end to a pair which I put in the middle of the room, basically stretching the netting out across the room. This made it very easy to run a gathering thread through both doubled pieces at once (by hand), using a length of upholstery thread.

After I ran all 70″ of gathering, I scrunched it up and used a quick whipstitch to secure all of it to the piece of ribbon, gathering all 70″ of all four layers into a space of about 15 inches. I didn’t want to make a full petticoat, only, well, a nice big butt fluff. After the base “skirt” layers of the bustle were secured, I basically bundled up the rest of the netting into one big bouf with a bit of a tail, and hand-stitched the whole mass, rather haphazardly, to the center of the “skirt” section. Because the netting is very lightweight, and the costume is very lightweight overall, the support doesn’t need to be very sturdy, or very determinedly poufy – just fluffy. And it succeeds in being fluffy!

Once it was finished, I persuaded Lyndie to try it on so I could see how it looked, and I was quite satisfied. Very purple, and very fluffy. On its own, it actually looks rather charmingly burlesque. It has yet to be worn with the rest of the costume, because I want to put some finishing touches on the costume first…and also sleeves…but I think it will do nicely. At some point, I think I’ll have to make one of these for myself (because a faux bustle is a good thing to have), and when I do, I’ll take photos along the way and make a more comprehensible tutorial. I didn’t try to take pictures this time around, because I was making it up as I went along and wasn’t sure what I was doing. But I like how it turned out! It makes for a charming and very inexpensive fluffy shape to fill out the skirt of a pretty Halloween masquerade costume with nice historical lines.

1860s covered crinoline of red Kona cotton


Collected Resources: Underclothing Cartoons

Over the course of my Div III research — and especially while preparing the lecture on corset history that I gave in the Hampshire course Sex, Science, and the Victorian Body — I have found a variety of cartoons, from various periods, that mock (and exaggerate!) prevailing fashions of underclothing. Since I’ve found them in so many places, and since such images might be of interest to others, I’m collecting what I’ve found here, and will continue to add to this post as time goes on.

  • Black, J. Anderson, and Madge Garland. A History of Fashion. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1980.

Images: 1819 cartoon of dandies and “dandizettes” in the early stages of dressing, complete with very exaggerated hair and male corsets, page 176; a mid-19th century cartoon depicting a group of women surrounding a man trapped in a cage crinoline, with the caption “The punishment awarded by the ladies, to the artist who made those impertinent drawings about crinoline!” page 199.

Image: “A Bustling Woman — 1829 — after Cruikshank” of a woman with an extremely puffed out skirt apparently selling a padded bustle to a woman with a far less impressive skirt, with other bustle hanging behind the proprietress, page 134; “From ‘Cupid and Crinolines,’ 1858,” a cartoon of a maid lifting an absolutely enormous crinoline over the head of a woman who is quite dwarfed by the exaggerated garment, page 166.

Image: “The new machine for Winding up the Ladies Caricature of tightlacing by ‘Paul Pry’ c. 1828″ on page 69.

1830s corded petticoat of white Kona cotton

This garment is in progress – I don’t know when I;ll pick it up again, but in my sewing room, there is in fact a partially corded partial petticoat, awaiting my return to the 1830s…so to speak. Eventually I’ll post my research, and someday the actual finished petticoat….let’s hope.

Until then, I must, alas, leave you with this sad empty post.

1830s ruffled bustle of white cotton jean

This garment was created as part of my 1830s clothing independent study during the spring semester of 2010, and was documented using Chicago style footnoted citations in my research paper “Reproducing and Documenting 1830s Women’s Clothing.” The relevant section has been copied here, complete with footnotes. It has been formatted for this site and hyperlinks have been added, but otherwise it has been left intact, and is therefore written in a more formal and academic style than much of this site, which is designed to be more readily accessible to the public.


(Excerpted from pages 14-15 of my research paper, “Reproducing and Documenting 1830s Women’s Clothing.”)

My next reproduction was a simple one, exactly following the directions given in The Workwoman’s Guide for “a simple bustle”1. According to that book, “Bustles are worn by those whose shape requires something to set off the skirt of the gown. They should not be too large, or they look indelicate, or in bad taste. They are made of jean, strong calico, and sometimes of glazed calico.” It is important to clarify that The Workwoman’s Guide makes it clear, in its earlier discussion of calico, that as in modern Britain, in early 19th century British terminology, calico signified what is now called muslin in the United States, a soft-finished, plain-woven, and fairly sturdy cloth available in white or unbleached, used for shirts, shifts, baby’s caps, aprons, etc.2 Furthermore, Lynne Zacek Bassett describes early nineteenth century jean as twilled, medium weight, and “in the family of drill fabrics.”3 She also states that jean can be linen/cotton, cotton/wool, all wool, or all cotton.4 For my reproduction, I used white cotton jean, a sturdy, twilled fabric.

The bustle designs offered in The Workwoman’s Guide are essentially ruffles of fabric intended to be tied at the waist, worn across the back in conjunction with petticoats, to increase the fullness of the skirt at the high hips and decrease the apparent size of the waist. I followed as precisely as possible the directions offered for the first bustle design:

“It is composed of one piece the width of the calico, say a yard [36”], and eight nails [18”] deep. This piece is doubled in two, so as to make two flounces, the one four nails and a half [10-1/8”] long, and the other three and a half [7-7/8”]. At one nail [2-1/4”] from the doubled top make a narrow case to admit of tapes. The bottoms of the flounces are hemmed with a very thick cord in them. When worn, the bustle is turned inside out, by which means the frill falls between the two flounces.”5

There are two small illustrations accompanying these directions6, which helped me to understand the directions.

However, I still wanted to consult other sources. There are many references to bustles, hip pads, hip improvers, and bum-rolls for this period, but there are few images available, and some of those available are cartoons, which cannot be taken literally. Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines offers some relevant information relating to early- and mid-nineteenth century bustles7, and I was able to find one ruffled bustle, from 1833, in the Manchester Art Gallery collection online8. While the online bustle was of a different shape and design from the one that I chose to reproduce, it was an effective corroborating source indicating that ruffled bustles of fairly stiff white cotton or linen/cotton were used during the period. In the end, I followed the directions precisely, except in that my cotton jean was of a much wider width, so I had to cut it to a yard width and narrowly hem the sides of the bustle. I hemmed both ruffles with cord, which stiffened them nicely, and ran a narrow cotton twill tape through the casing, tacking it down at both ends of the casing once adjusted to a rough hip-width. I left long pieces of the tape hanging on each side, to tie around the waist.

It is my surmise that this type of garment would be worn over the petticoats, or at least over most of the petticoats, particularly by women with low or slender hips. If it was to be worn, skirts would have to be made and adjusted to be worn over it, so as to have the correct length all around. Because this was a simple item, with relatively straightforward directions – though I did need to read them through at least six times before I was reasonably certain of what they meant – it was a good choice for my first reproduction garment for this period, whether or not it is ever necessary that I wear it.

2   Ibid., 12. (Page 12 online)

3   Lynne Zacek Bassett, Textiles for Regency Clothing 1800-1850, 35.

4   Ibid.

6   Ibid., plate 11 (following plate 8, following page 54) figs. 30 and 32. (Plate 11 online)

7   Norah Waugh, Corsets and Crinolines (New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1970), 93, 117, and 134.

8   Manchester Art Gallery, “Bustle (Accession Number 1947.1942),” Search the Collection, Manchester Art Gallery, http://www.manchestergalleries.org/the-collections/search-the-collection/display.php?EMUSESSID=4d4ed491b2370dc13880da9da748f57c&irn=13470.

Since officially finishing the independent study (and, of course, the paper), I have found more information relevant to this garment, which I will include here, along with the previously mentioned sources.

Print resources:

On page 133, Figure 58 is a photograph of three extant bustles. The top and middle bustles are similar, of the “bum roll” variety, long variants on a crescent shape, stitched together and stuffed. The lowest of the three bustles is listed at dating to 1833 and being in the Gallery of English Costume in Manchester. Therefore it is likely yet another photograph of the same ruffled bustle shown on the Manchester Galleries website and worn by a model in a photograph on page 68 of Fabric of Society. But in this case (for what reason I do not know), the bustle is shown upside down, because while it appears lumpy, only a hint of the frills or ruffles underneath can be seen, at one side. See the entry under Fabric of Society below for more information.

On page 134, Figure 60 is a cartoon, “A Bustling Woman — 1829 — after Cruikshank” of a woman with an extremely puffed out skirt apparently selling a padded bustle to a woman with a far less impressive skirt, with other bustle hanging behind the proprietress.

Pages 100-101 contain a passing reference to the wearing of some sort of rigged handkerchief to give loft to the back of the skirt, after which there is a disparaging critique of the artificiality of excessive (or, indeed, in any way discernible) tournures. However, there is no useful information about construction or shape.

Text on pages 83-84. Images on plate 11.

There is a photograph on page 68 of a model wearing a full complement of 1825-35 underclothing, including a ruffled bustle which appears to be of a rounded shape. It is mostly hidden from view, and in shadow. However, all of the undergarments pictured are of the “Fanny Jarvis” set, which is in the collection of the Gallery of English Costume in Manchester, and on their website there is a ruffled bustle of a rounded shape, marked “F. J.” for Fanny Jarvis. It seems quite likely that this offers us multiple views of the same bustle. The website describes the bustle thus: “White cotton satin with three frills with rounded ends, the bottom one wider and the top one narrower, gathered to band at top edge, linen tape tie each end. Inscribed ‘F.J. – Senr / 3 / 1833’ (Fanny Jarvis).” Additionally, the lowest of the three bustles shown on page 133 of The History of Underclothes is listed at dating to 1833 and being in the Gallery of English Costume in Manchester. Therefore it is likely yet another photograph of the very same bustle, but in this case seen upside down, because while it appears lumpy, only a hint of the frills or ruffles underneath can be seen, at one side.

Text on pages 93, 117, and 134.