Thursday, 6 February 2014

Making a Crinoline –style petticoat to wear with ‘50s full-skirt dresses

Guest post by Linda Slade of All the precious things.

I decided to have a go at making one of these petticoats, to wear with a few of the dresses I’ve made lately. They’re full-skirted ‘50s dresses, and don’t really look fabulous until they are worn with a petticoat of some sort. I didn’t want a really “full” petticoat (authentic, but not really practical for me), so I opted for making a crinoline, which is a tiered, gathered, elastic waist petticoat.

I drafted a pattern to suit my own measurements, after scouting around various blogs and sewing sites, and I’m very happy wit the result. The fabric I used was striped organza from Pitt Trading , found in one of their remnant bins. Any similar fabric would work well; it just has to have a tiny bit of stiffness. The added bonus of using the striped fabric was that it made cutting the tiers out super easy; just follow the lines!.

You will need:

-fabric for the lower 2 tiers, as described above (organza or similar)
-some softer fabric for the top tier, which will be more comfortable against the skin (mine was another remnant bin find)
-cotton or satin bias binding to match
-waistband elastic
-matching ribbon for edging the bottom tier (if this is the edging method chosen).

Measurements and Maths:


It helps if your dress is made first, because you want the finished petticoat to be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) shorter than your dress. If the petticoat is too long, it will show too much (some girls like this effect), too short and an ugly “lampshade” shape results from the dress hem drooping over the bottom of the petticoat.

Measure from your natural waist to the bottom of the dress hem, and subtract an inch. Then divide that measurement into three roughly equal tiers.
Top tier:
Add allowance for an elastic casing at the top, and a normal seam allowance at the bottom.
Middle tier:
Add seam allowances for top and bottom
Bottom tier:
Add seam allowance for top, no extra allowance for bottom edge if you are finishing with bias binding, binding with ribbon, or rolled edge hem on an overlocker. Add hem allowance if finishing with a narrow hem.

Width of each tier:

Most sewing blogs told me to make each tier twice the width of the one above, which creates a reasonably full skirt effect. I used 1 ½ times for mine, which gives a slightly less full skirt.

Start by measuring your natural waist. The width of the top tier will be twice (or 1.5 times) this measurement, plus 2 seam allowances.

The middle tier will be twice (or 1.5 times) the top tier width, plus 2 seam allowances.

The bottom tier will be twice (or 1.5 times) the middle tier, plus 2 seam allowances.

Cut out the tiers as measured, joining the widths of fabrics as needed (I used French seams, which enclose the raw edges and prevent fraying). You will end up with 3 “tubes”.

Turn over the seam allowance and casing at the top of the top tier. (You can insert the elastic at the end). Make loose double rows of gathering threads along the top of tiers 2 and 3. Since the tiers are so wide, it helps to divide each tier into quarters and gather and pin each quarter separately – this helps to distribute the fullness evenly.

Sew the tiers together, starting with the bottom, and working upwards. CAREFULLY trim away the excess seam allowance on the inside, and encase all the seams in bias binding, to stop fraying.

I finished the hem of my petticoat by cutting and joining one of the “solid” striped pieces of organza, and folding it double to use as a matched binding over the bottom edge. Satin or grosgrain ribbon, or satin bias binding, would work equally well. A rolled edged hem could be used if your overlocker will do it.

Thread the waist with elastic, finish the casing opening, and voila! Vintage style petticoat!

Guest post by Linda from All the precious things. You can find this tallented sewer and lover of all things vintage on Facebook here:
and for some gorgeous vintage patterns and sewing bits and bobs check out Linda's etsy store here:

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