How to make a crinoline underskirt

Updated April 17, 2017

Wedding and prom dresses with ball-gown skirts need the structural support of a full petticoat called a crinoline. Square-dance costumes and 50s-style full skirts also require the fullness of crinolines. The Vintage Fashion Guild of America says the term "crinoline" now refers to a full underskirt, but it dates back to the1840s and originally referred to the stiff fabric used to make the underskirt. According to designer and author Claire Shaeffer, several fabrics and methods work when building a crinoline underskirt. A circular taffeta base with a layer of gathered netting provides one option.

Measure the waist and divide by six for the waist radius. Measure the length from waist to instep, add the waist radius plus 1 inch, and use that number for the length radius.

Make an 88-inch square by cutting the taffeta into two 88-inch lengths and stitching together along the selvedges. Fold the square in half and mark the centre point of the fold. Use that point as the centre to draw a semicircular waist radius and the hem radius. Cut along the waist and hem lines to form a circle with an open centre.

Start at the waist opening and remove stitches from one seam for about 9 inches to create a placket. Hem the sides of the placket.

Cut two pieces of grosgrain ribbon for the waistband, equal to the waist plus 2 1/2 inches, and set one piece aside. Mark 1/4 inch from one end for the seam allowance and 1 1/4 inch from the other for the overlap. Divide the remaining waistband in half and mark.

Pin the waistband to the waist opening in the taffeta, matching the halfway mark on the grosgrain to the seam in the taffeta. Leave the waistband seam allowance and overlap free. Stitch the band to the taffeta.

Sew the second piece of grosgrain inside the waistband and stitch the hook and loop tape to fasten the finished band.

Fold the hem under and stitch. Lay the taffeta flat, right-side up. Mark a line 29 inches from the hem all way around on the right side.

Stitch the short end of the netting to make a very wide tube. Open the netting, set the stitch length at 5 and stitch a gathering line 1/4-inch from one long edge all the way around the tube. Pull on the bobbin thread to gather the netting.

Lay the gathered netting around the marked circle on the taffeta, distributing gathers evenly. Stitch the netting to the taffeta.


The taffeta layer prevents the netting from snagging hosiery. Try plaid or coloured taffeta. For a fuller crinoline, add a 14-inch layer of netting under the first layer, 14 inches from the hem.

Things You'll Need

  • 5 yards of 44-inch taffeta
  • 9 yards of 28-inch netting
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • 2 inches of hook and loop tape
  • 2 yards of 1-inch grosgrain ribbon
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
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About the Author

Vivienne Lydamore has written professionally since 1978. A retired health-care marketing communications executive, she has also written and produced local television commercials. Lydamore has covered the dedication of Egyptian galleries at the British Museum, published oral histories with underground miners and ghostwritten numerous health-care articles and marketing pieces. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northern Michigan University.