Less than a week before Easter, I realized that the dress I was planning to wear on Easter Sunday required a petticoat, and that I did not have a petticoat which I could wear under it.
I have one longer length 29″ starched crinoline which I got at a thrift store a few years ago, and it works perfectly for the few 1950’s tea length gowns I have. Because of the longer length, this crinoline doesn’t work for my “regular” length skirts and dresses though, which are usually somewhere around 24″-25″ long, so a few years ago, I also invested in a Doris Petticoat. I decided to buy a Doris Petticoat because I had seen several other bloggers wearing them, and they are so, so pretty since they are made of over 36 metres of fluffy and soft nylon lingerie netting and ruffles. There could be nothing more perfect in my mind than a peach coloured ruffled petticoat, so I decided to buy the 21″ length one, and then waited expectantly for it to arrive. Imagine my disappointment when it arrived and I discovered, when I tried it on, that it was simply too full for the majority of my dresses! I did have one circle skirted dress it fit under, so I wore it with the petticoat a few times. I realized though, that while I do love the extremely full and dramatic silhouette of the 1950’s, for some reason, I felt very self conscious when wearing an extremely pouffy skirt for daywear. When I see pictures of other vintage ladies, I never think that their skirts are too full- but as soon as I am wearing one, I feel a bit unsettled. Give me a ridiculous hat and I will walk tall and proud- but an extremely wide petticoat makes me nervous! (Oh, and so sorry that my massive skirt with a mind of it’s own just bumped into your priceless vase. . . )
So, with great reluctance, I stuffed the petticoat back into it’s bag and hid it in the back of my closet so I wouldn’t feel bad every time I looked at it. It came out of hiding a few times for costumes etc. but not as a regular part of my wardrobe.
Well, back in October I was reading Lily’s blog, Mode-De-Lis, and she shared a post about different styles of petticoats and what kind of shape they give and how she liked them. She had altered her Hell Bunny petticoat with a cotton yoke, so that it would be more comfortable, and suddenly I realized that I should alter my petticoat! Fast forward to the week before Easter, and I realized that it was time to enact Operation: Save the Petticoat.
I was a bit nervous cutting apart my petticoat: after all what if I ruined it?! But then I realized that it wasn’t doing any good unloved and unworn in the back of my closet, so I decided to go ahead with the petticoat alteration. Here is how I altered it and ended up turning it into two separate petticoats of different lengths, which can also be worn together, if needed someday in the future.
The first step in the petticoat alteration, was in creating a yoke. I decided to create a yoke because, like Lily, I found the elastic waist to be rather bulky, as well as shifty. I was always afraid that it was going to slide down and poke out the bottom of my skirt. Creating a yoke, solved this problem by making the top fit smoothly and securely, while also reducing bulk. (Because who wants bulk right at their waist?)
I made the top out of a few scraps of cotton in our scrap bin (exactly enough to make this yoke- so keep those scraps- you never know when you might need them!) In order to create the shape, I took a basic skirt pattern, traced it and then figured out where I wanted the yoke to end, which was 8 inches down. I then cut out the fabric at this length.
I decided to French seam the side seam, as I wanted this to be perfectly finished inside and out. For the other side (the opening) I pressed the seam allowance in, to cover all the raw edges, and then sewed up from the bottom about an inch. At this stage, I tried it on to see if I could pull it up over my hips, and over my head (before I got it all sewn together and discovered that it was too short or something).
Once I had made sure that the yoke fit well, I turned under the seams and topstitched to finish neatly. To finish the top edge, I had thought about creating a facing, but then decided to cover the raw edge with bias tape instead. Bias tape was my mom’s idea and was a lot quicker than creating a facing, and it made a nice edge without too much bulk. Once that was done, it was time to add the petticoat ruffles.
I took apart the elastic waistband/casing of the petticoat, which left me with a tube of tricot with ruffles sewn on either end. I then measured up from the hem to the length that was required. Since the yoke was 8″ and the finished length I wanted was 24″, I measured up 16″ and added 1/2 inch for a seam allowance. I pinned all the way around, (since I currently don’t have a fabric marker) and then cut neatly all the way around.
Once the piece was cut, I was left with a very short and wide petticoat 🙂 Now it was time to sew the petticoat to the yoke. As the petticoat was wider than the yoke, I just eased it in as I sewed without worrying too much about it if I got some pleats in the fabric. Once I had sewed the petticoat on, I serged the edge of the seam to give it a nice finished edge.
With that, the petticoat was done, except for buttons. I decided to do small buttons and button loops, so I marked where my buttons needed to be, and then created thread loops using this method below. With that, the first petticoat alteration was done!
After I had made this first petticoat, I decided I might as well take the remaining half and create a shorter one. I don’t like my petticoats sticking out below the skirt, so I thought that creating a 21″ petticoat would be perfect for those few dresses I have which fall at exactly knee length. For this one, I decided to simply sew some wide lingerie elastic around the top and call it done. But, of course that would have been too easy, right? When I tried this shorter petticoat with my dresses, I realized that the fullness had too much of a rockabilly flair and I am simply not a rockabilly girl. The petticoat was too full for it’s length, and so I realized that (horror of horrors!) I needed to reduce the fullness. So, now began Operation: Dismantle the Petticoat.
When Doris Petticoats tells you that their petticoats are made up of more than 36 metres of fabric, they are not kidding. The first step in this petticoat alteration was in taking the bottom tier off of the petticoat, which resulted in more than 17 metres of ruffles!
I decided to reduce the fullness of the petticoat by about a 1/3 as I figured that would be enough, and I wasn’t sure whether reducing it by 1/2 would be too much. I cut the bottom tier at 12 metres and then came to the odious task of regathering the nylon back onto the top tier (while also distributing the fullness evenly all the way around; so I wouldn’t end up with an unevenly shaped petticoat that was fuller on one side!) This probably took the better part of 2 hours to do. Once it was all regathered, I pinned it within an inch of it’s life- and then went to bed! 🙂
In the morning, when I was ready to tackle the job again, I took the petticoat and ran it through the serger. This took care of the edge seams, as well as sewing both pieces together all in one step. I did end up with some areas that missed the stitching, since it was a massive amount of fabric to work with- so I ran it through twice.
Once the tiers were all gathered back together, I was almost done. All that was left was to sew the skirt back onto the elastic waistband. I sewed it near the top, to get the proper length, and was initially planning to sew two rows- one at the top and one at the bottom of the elastic for stability. However, when I tried it on, the elastic accidentally flipped inside out and I realized that if I left it with one row of stitching I could flip it in or out depending on which length of skirt I was wearing. It is now essentially a convertible petticoat! Yay!
So, after all that, I ended up wearing the convertible petticoat for Easter Sunday, as it turned out to be the perfect length to wear with my Easter dress which is a bit on the shorter side.
I was at first nervous to cut it apart and attempt a petticoat alteration, but I am so glad I did! After two years of owning it, I now have a petticoat that I can actually wear. I have worn it a couple of times now with my knee length skirts, and it adds such a nice fullness, shape and swish to my skirts. It was amazing how simply reducing the amount of ruffles in half made such a difference. I think now, that my petticoats are going to get a lot more wear from now on!
Have you ever altered something you purchased that didn’t work out for you the way you had hoped? Would you ever make or alter a petticoat?
You can see what a difference the petticoat gives to the shape of this dress. The perfect amount of “pouf”!