Thursday, 27 January 2011

To petticoat or not to petticoat


In my previous post  I mentioned wanting to make a crinoline to go under my "Vintage Re-vamp" cream floral dress. If you can remember, this dress - although it now fits me beautifully - looked rather sad on Gladys the maniquin as it's skirts hung listlessly and without life. I felt sure that a simple crinoline would do the jobs to spice up this dress, but as I looked at the dress I began to wonder whether this would be enough. Would it give the skirt enough lift and body? And then of course my mind wandered off, and I began thinking about 1950s full petticoats, like the ones pictured above. I found myself thinking more and more about these petticoats, and in particular whether or not it would be worth my while making one or not. It was clear to me that a 1950s petticoat was the way forward, having doubt in my mind that the line of the skirt can only reach it's true potential with a full swing-style petticoat underneath. However, this decision now presents me with further choices to consider: Should I try making one of these notoriously tricky undergarments myself - probably the more expensive and definitely the most complicated option - or should I simply buy one, even though this goes against my vow to not buy new clothes this year? Hmmm. I think we need to look at this in more detail.


Ok, so I don't know a single vintage girl who hasn't at some point lusted after one of these gorgeous full petticoats. Not only do they make your waist look tiny and fill out a circular skirt beautifully, they also have the power to give you instant glamour. The swish of tulle  as you walk cannot help but put a swing in your step, making you feel as girlie as it gets. I have always been a fan, and have wanted one for a long time, but have never succeeded in purchasing one. And anyway, aquiring one of these beauties in London can be a tricky business.

As these petticoats are so sought after they tend to get snapped up as soon as they appear in vintage shops, and this equally means that the originals can be horribly overpriced. Another option that is always on offer is the newly made petticoats, usually found decorating a wall in a whole rainbow of different colours. Rokit can be seen selling them here for a reasonable-ish £40 each. Now although I can see the appeal of buying one of these - instant gratification and all that - I've never been tempted enough to buy one, and believe me I have visited their shop in Covent Garden enough times! I suppose I am just loath to buy something that I feel I could quite easily make myself, and therefore personalize in any way that I might want. And so we move on to the move onto the more complicated make-one-myself option...


I have a fascination with how clothes are constructed, in particular lingerie, and so making my own petticoat would be an obvious choice for me. However, over the years I have read several horror stories about the sheer amount of work that goes into making one of these - I have visions of nights spent wrestling with never-ending yards of  tulle netting! - and as none of the blogs I follow seem to have tackled this project before it makes me wonder if there is a good reason for that. Maybe this is a project that is just too much work than it's worth. Well I thought I'd indulge myself by looking into the ins and outs of the process just in case, starting with the cost.

I have found online tutorials to make full petticoats requiring 9 to 12 yards of nylon netting, and when perusing the yardage of some vintage patterns some use up to 16 yards of netting, and on top of this you require yards and yards of satin ribbon to bind all of the raw edges. Now the cheapest I have been able to find tulle from a UK supplier online is 50p a metre, so if I was to use the largest amount of fabric plus about 50 yards of satin ribbon (this is the actual amount required on the pattern, I kid you not!) you're looking at a total cost of about £20 for raw materials, half the price of the Rokit pre-made version. Now that's not half bad considering.  And by making one would mean I would be able to have my cake and eat it: I would have a (hopefully!) beautiful new petticoat and I would still be living up to my promise to make all my own clothes this year. But would the amount of man hours needed to complete the project mean that it is just not worth it? But then again, couldn't you say that about any home crafted fashion project?

Well my friends, I am still undecided - and let's be honest I'm not going to have time to start a new project for a while, not with 3 sew-along on the go at the moment! - so although my heart is steering me very much towards the make-one-myself option I'm not going to commit myself to anything just yet. If I can find materials of decent quality and price when I have some time on my hands again this petticoat project could definitely be on the cards, but for now I'll just say that I'll keep you posted. If any important petticoat decisions are made you will be the first to know!

And what do you think about the idea anyway? Does this seem like madness to you, or am I being over-dramatic and do you think the full petticoat would make a wonderful project? Or have any of you tackled the petticoat before and can offer warm words of advice or warning? I'd love to know your thoughts on the subject! But for now, I'll leave you with some more petticoat pictures. They are lovely aren't they? :)























7 comments:

wanilianna said...

I dream about floral dress. Great post! You you have to sew a dress - especially like the pictures on your post. Greetings!

LandGirl1980 said...

Petticoats are not something I have ever entertained. I love them on other people - just not me. The boob to petticoat ratio is all messed up. Annnnyway. Once you have made it - you would have it forever! And if you made it with detatchable layers - you would have truely versitile garment :)

Miss Katie said...

Wanilianna - Thanks for the comment! If I could make one just like the pictures I would be very happy indeed :)
LandGirl1980 - it's true, I know that once I'd made it I would love it to bits and have it forever... I must admit I am very tempted to have a try at making one! And I hadn't thought about detachable layers, what a good idea! Now I'm reeeally tempted to give it go :)

daisydonut said...

I think it would be worthwhile making one as you so obviously want one, and I'm sure you be delighted once you've made one.

Here are some links I've found for on-line tutorials, which you may find useful. Happy sewing.

http://sugardale.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-to-make-petticoat.html

http://www.pettipond.com/lon.htm

http://sewretro.blogspot.com/2010/09/adjustable-length-petticoat-how-to.html

Miss Katie said...

Daisydonut - thanks so much for the links!

Bee Lira said...

Try ebay for petticoats. Net? terrible stuff. Go for the ruffled edge chiffon petticoats, they are REALLY feminine

Connie said...

Yes, chiffon is so much better then net.  You'll not want to take it off, once you feel how it caresses your legs.

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