This is not an exaggeration! Have you ever wanted a really large and nice skirt that took little time to make, that was adjustable, and that looked really fancy? LOOK NO FURTHER. 18th century petticoats, my darlings. I made two, in one evening, sewing by hand.
How, you ask? Why, the secret is simple, flat bedsheets…
1. Take one bedsheet…
(In this case, this is a pale blue double bedsheet in cotton, bought a couple of years ago for a blouse that never came to be, and a white single bedsheet, also cotton)
2. Measure yourself…
(From the waist to wherever you want your skirts to fall)
3. Cut the sheet so that you have one or two fabric rectangles, as wide as you want your skirt to be long, and as long as you can be bothered. Make sure the edges of the sheet, the ones that have already been hemmed at the large bedsheet factory, are intact along the long edges! This saves you ALL THE TIME in the world.
(The double sheet made two rectangles, the white one. This means that the blue skirt will have more width than the white)
4. Sew the short sides together, leaving both sides open the last 10-12 cm. The unhemmed edge is the top of your skirt.
4b. If you make your skirt from only one rectangle, you have to cut a 10-12 cm slit on the opposite side of the seam, and hem the slit.
5. Now, find a table or some clear floorspace or anywhere that is reasonably flat and smooth and uncluttered. Here comes the maths: Measure your waist, where you want your skirt to sit. Divide by 2. Add 5-7 cm (the more you add, the more room you have to grow, smart to consider if you’re pregnant, for example) to get the width of one skirt side. If you don’t want to draw on your table or floor, place a piece of cellotape, and draw a line on it. Divide the width you got by two, and measure that amount of cm from the line to the side. Make another mark here (on tape, if you prefer). Do the same to the other side. It will now look something like this:
6. Pleat the raw edge of the skirt so that it fits between the marks you’ve made. Decide what rectangle should be the back and which is the front, and pleat away from your front, and towards your back. This is the front…
… And this is the back:
By the way, no need to be mega-exact if you don’t want to, as long as it is approximately evenly spaced. 18th century people never measured this very precisely.
6b. Not necessary, but nice: cast over the raw edge. This way, you keep the pleats in place, and the fabric from unravelling.
7. Sew bias tape or another sort of ribbon on to the raw waist edge, one on the front piece and one on the back pice. Let there be an excess of approximately 50 cm of ribbon or tape on each side of each panel, like this:
(NB! Do NOT sew the back and front panels together! If you do, you won’t be able to put your skirt on…)
Here you have the finished product! This is my white petticoat, work with chemise, stockings and stays:
“How to put on a skirt with openings everywhere an masses of ribbons?” you might ask. Well, ask, and ye shall know…
1. Step into your piece of massive skirt.
(Make sure you have the front in front, and the back in the back)
2. Grab the ribbons attached to the back panel, and pull them forward.
3. Tie them around your waist.
4. Grab the ribbons attached to the front panel.
5. Tie these around your waist too, this time on your back.
The best thing about these skirts: They are quick to make, easy to adjust to various periods and sizes, Look great, give volume to your hips, and you can wear separate pockets underneath them! What’s not to love?