Whether you want to dress up in historic clothes for a living history re-enactment or just enjoy vintage styles, a simple petticoat is a quick addition to your wardrobe, requiring only basic sewing skills. Traditionally a petticoat is worn underneath another skirt. Nineteenth-century and earlier styles used multiple petticoats to increase fullness in the skirt and keep the legs from showing, for modesty. Current fashions include decorative, lace-trimmed petticoats as outer garments. Traditional petticoats are white, though trims may include pale pastel colours. For fashion items, however, your personal taste dictates colour choices.
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Things you need
- Tape measure
- Cotton fabric, pre-washed
- Cotton cotton
- Sewing machine or hand sewing needle
- Steam iron
- Drawcord or 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide elastic
- Trims such as lace or eyelet (optional)
Use the tape measure to measure snugly around the largest part of your hips. Multiply this number by four; cut your fabric to this length. The cut will be perpendicular to the fabric's selvedges, which are the long, self-finished edges of the fabric.
Decide on the desired finished length of your petticoat. To do this, hold the tape measure with its beginning at your waist and note the number at the desired length. You may find it helpful to stand in front of a mirror for this step. Add 10 cm (4 inches) to the desired finished petticoat length and cut the fabric to this width. The cut will be parallel to the fabric's selvedges.
Add 30 cm (12 inches) to your hip measurement and cut the drawcord to this length. If you prefer an elastic waist petticoat, use the tape measure to measure snugly around your natural waist. Add 2.5 cm (1 inch) to this measurement and cut the elastic to this length.
Measuring and cutting the materials
Fold the fabric in half crosswise, right sides together, and pin the two short edges together. Stitch along this edge, leaving a 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) seam allowance and leaving the top 8.7 cm (3 1/2 inches) of the seam unsewn. Press the seam allowance open with an iron, pressing down the unsewn edges at the top of the petticoat as well.
Fold the top edge of the petticoat down 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) and press with the iron. Fold it down again 3.1 cm (1 1/4 inches) and press again. Stitch along the folded edge to form the casing for the drawstring or elastic.
Thread the drawcord through the casing, leaving the ends hanging out. Knot the ends of the drawcord if desired, to keep them from accidentally slipping back into the casing. If you prefer an elastic waist petticoat, thread the elastic through the casing. Overlap the ends of elastic 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) and stitch securely. You may stitch the ends of the casing together over the elastic if you wish.
Fold the bottom edge of the petticoat up 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) and press with the iron. Fold it up again 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) and press again. Stitch along the folded edge to form the hem. Add lace or other trims to the hem if desired.
Sewing the petticoat
Tips and warnings
- Old sheets can be repurposed to make petticoats; simply cut the fabric to size and sew as directed. If the sheet has decorative lace trim, turn the fabric so the trim acts as the petticoat hem; in this case the width of the fabric should be cut to the desired petticoat length plus 7.5 cm (3 inches). You can also add a self-fabric ruffle at the bottom of the skirt. Be sure to include the width of the ruffle in your calculations for the finished petticoat length.
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