Black underneath

I obviously needed a petticoat to go with my Edwardian skirt (the 1880s ones just don’t quite work). And I’ve been a bit obsessed with the idea of an all-black set of underthings (hence the black corset, and there’s a black chemise cut out and living in limbo at the moment, too.) So, why not a black petticoat, particularly since I had a nice chunk of black batiste in stash for just such a purpose.

Now, what to use for a pattern? Well, I could have gone with the same as my skirt, maybe just omitting the above-waist extension. And I might still make one like that.

But I ran across the following draft in the “Art of Dressmaking,” copyright 1903 by Madame Marie Boudet, one of an assortment of historical sewing manuals I’ve collected digitally. In particular, I liked that she works in metric (being French), and also that it’s designed to be drafted directly on the fabric. It’s also extremely economical and low-waste, requiring only two skirt-lengths of fabric, and only a few bits are cut away to form the curves at hem and waist.

Now, working out the pattern was not quite as simple as I might have liked—there was a lot of on-the-fly calculation I would rather have worked out beforehand, and her order of describing what to do left a bit to be desired. I also realized partway through that her calculations seem to assume a fabric width of about 32”—not surprising but I had to make some adjustments for my 60” wide fabric. But aside from some issues (mainly losing track of some of my measurements) I still do really like the draft. Even if it does consider 60 cm (23.6”) an “average” waist size. Because of my wider fabric, I had to make my flare a bit more extreme, and I have more gathering at the back waist than is probably intended. On the other hand the draft does mention that a more full petticoat might be desired, requiring three lengths of fabric, so I don’t think my version is beyond the realms of the possible.

I added about a 6” ruffle at the bottom, which was what I planned for, but I really think I do prefer the wider ruffle I used on my earlier petticoat. Although maybe I just need to press it more. I also would’ve liked a nice black lace at the bottom, but I definitely don’t have that much of anything suitable in stash.

For the waist finishing, I used a method from Sew Historically, which I’ve also found described in period sources (isn’t it nice when we’re all reading the same books?). It’s basically two drawstrings anchored at the side backs, that run opposite directions through a casing and emerge from eyelets to get tied together. Although I didn’t follow it quite right and I think I have a lot more gathering at the waist than might be intended due to my overly-wide fabric, so for me it works best to pull the drawstrings around and tie them in the front. Otherwise it looks a bit wonky, as below:

There isn’t much else to say, other than the obligatory complaints about photographing black. So I’ll just let it be that.


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