Columbine Pierrot Jacket and Petticoat, 1780

My first foray into the wonderful world of the 18th century has already made its appearance all over my social media, but here it is officially!

You may have already seen my new 18th century stays, but in case you missed it, you can read all about them here.

It’s kind of amazing, considering the amount of Revolutionary War reenacting that goes on, that it’s taken me four solid years to jump into this particular century, but once I was ready to get started, I had lots of decisions to make. With a large time-span at most of the events I am likely to attend, I first of all had to pick a smaller span in which to focus my research. I ended up focusing on the early 1780s, since it is it is a silhouette I particularly like.

In the 18th century, I will be primarily demonstrating as a wig-maker: so a trades-person, but one who works in a highly valued and fashion-related trade. Therefore I was aiming for something not overly fancy or ornate, but definitely fashionable and neat. I started by looking through paintings and fashion plates, looking for women with similar ideas. I was particularly inspired by the two plates below. The first is from 1778, and is described as a cook from the provinces, who has just begun to take on the elegant airs of Paris. The second is of a governess in 1780.

I fell in love with that cook as soon as I saw her. There’s just something about her little bows and peplum. “Pert” is the first word that comes to mind, but in the best possible way! I found the governess when I decided I wanted to do a short jacket and petticoat combo, and started narrowing my research even more. I love that the two employ basically the same shapes. but show how much variety you can get out of simple garment forms.

I settled on a Pierrot jacket and petticoat, and since I found a fun red and white stripe cotton for cheap on Fashion Fabrics Club, I decided to base the details of my first outfit on the governess plate.

By the time I got my stays done, I had one week left to make the actual outfit, which was a bit nerve-wracking. I knew I could get the petticoat done in very little time during the week, so I used the weekend to blaze through as much of the jacket as possible. I wanted to drape the jacket, but I obviously can’t drape on my own body, so I hemmed and hawed a bit until my friend Meredith made a genius suggestion. She and I are very similar sizes, and crucially, are both 5′ tall with very short waists. In my stays, padded out in a few strategic places, Meredith made an excellent body double! We spent Saturday afternoon draping and putting together the jacket.

By some stroke of luck that hadn’t attended me in the build up to making this outfit, this process was incredibly fast. I had help from a couple of extant pieces in order to see what the pattern shapes should be, and ended up with a simple pattern of center back piece, side back piece, front piece, and shoulder strap. I’ve got to say, I love the 18th century shoulder strap. It makes draping and construction so easy!

Jacket from the Met.
Jacket from Les Arts Décoratifs.

I am an idiot, and managed not to get any pictures of Meredith in the stays for the entire several hours that she was in them, except on my Instagram story, so those are gone forever…

We draped with the lining fabric (white linen left over from a pair of Brandon’s trousers). Here I am cutting out the second center back piece from the original draped piece:


I also cut and sewed the jacket together as we went. I had to sew it by machine to save time, but it is constructed using the ingenious method I learned at a Burnley and Trowbridge workshop, wherein the lining and fabric are both sewn at the same time. Why we stopped doing this, I will never truly understand. Bag lining is the worst. But I digress.

And the front pieces:

With the main body of the jacket together, we decided it was high time for me to give it a try. I ended up making a slight alteration to the side seams, but other than that we were good to forge ahead! Meredith had a go at placing the shoulder straps:


And then of course, I remembered that I had wanted a zone front, so I tore the fronts back off again, but it was all ok. We had all the shapes we needed, and (most of) the difficult part was over.

I cut the zone front so that the stripes matched those on the front. I briefly considered changing the front to have horizontal stripes as in the extant jacket above, but after looking at it for a bit I decided I just didn’t care for it.
The edge is then turned under and stitched in place with a minuscule running stitch.

When I got the jacket put back together, and the shoulder strap linings attached, I spent ages staring at 18th century sleeves. It’s always scary jumping into a sleeve design you’ve never worked with before. Luckily, I found that Janet Arnold had patterned the perfect sleeve on one of the gowns in Patterns of Fashion 1, or I might have been stalled by indecision forever. It even had a similar gathered cuff detail to the one I wanted!

Testing out the mock-up sleeve.

The grid underneath is the original from Patterns of Fashion, the one on top is my final altered piece. It looks crazy, but it makes a nice shape! The scoop on the bottom right comes up over the top of your forearm, while the v on the right gets sewn together so that it cups your elbow.


I really liked the way 18th century sleeves are set, but I won’t tell you all about it myself, because Koshka the Cat has a wonderful post dedicated solely to that, which you can read here. Long story short, the bottom of the sleeve is sewn to the body of the jacket as per usual, then the top is pleated to the shoulder strap lining seperately, making it really easy to adjust the pleats to your liking.


Sleeves on!



Top-stitching the shoulder strap in place on top of the sleeve.

At this point, it’s just a matter of finishing off edges. The lining and fabric edges are folded up towards each other, with the lining just slightly shorter than the fabric, then the whole thing is top stitched in place.


Technically finished! There were still details to add, but those would have to wait until I had something to wear on my bottom half!

Once again, Koshka the Cat has a fantastic tutorial for putting together an 18th century petticoat. Mine is made to go over a split false rump, and pleated smoothly in the front half, and gathered in the back for extra floof to help achieve that 1780s silhouette.

Placing pleats.
Finishing off the twill tape waistband. The twill is a bit thicker than I would like but I realized too late that I was out of nice thin linen tape in the right width.

I was cutting it very close on time at this point, so of course I had to have one major disaster. I had pressed up the hem, all ready to stitch, and decided to try the petticoat on to check the length. It wasn’t until this point that I realized that I had gathered the (shorter) front half of the petticoat, and pleated the back, which resulted in a bizarre and unflattering silhouette… So off came the waistband and all that work had to be done again.

After wasting all that time, I was down to just a few hours before I really needed to go to bed so that I would be conscious for Market Fair, so I prioritized my details: Hat trimmings and breast knot, peplum ruffle, sleeve ruffles, hem ruffle. The hem was last because it was big enough that I could either get just the hem ruffle done, or everything else.

On Friday night, I trimmed out my straw hat with peach ribbons and white flowers, and made a lovely little bow for the center of my neckline from the leftover ribbon. That would at least give me a bit of fun even if nothing else got done.

After that, I started on my first ruffle. Time was getting very short now, and I had to hope that I could do it quickly, because once it was part way on, I would be stuck doing the rest, no matter now late I had to stay up.

The peplum ruffle has a narrow hem, the top edge is pressed to the back, and a gathering stitch run through both layers.

I had to stop here for Friday night, but after the event on Saturday, I managed to move one more step forward. The sleeve cuffs are made by pressing under both edges of a tube of fabric, gathering both edges, and then stitching each edge to the sleeve. I really like the way these turned out!

I got started hemming the hem ruffle, but quickly realized that hemming, gathering, and attaching a ten yard ruffle was just not going to happen that night.

I took some photos at the event with no hem ruffle. I still love the way this outfit turned out! Market Fair was freezing cold, so I spent most of the time wrapped up in shawl and gloves, but I can’t wait to wear this next spring!

My wig is the one documented in this blog post. If you’re interested in acquiring your own handmade, human hair, and endlessly customizable beauty (or you’re just interested in seeing more of what we do), check out Custom Wig Company!







I enjoyed wearing this so much. I already have many more 18th century ideas bouncing around, and there will be more outfits coming next year!

PS: The Hem Ruffle!

It turned out to be a good thing I waited on this, because it took me aaaaaages to get it together.

Here’s what 10 yards of 12″ wide ruffle looks like waiting to be hemmed…

Like the peplum ruffle, the hem ruffle has a narrow hem, and is then pressed under at the top. This one has two rows of gathering: one 1/2″ below the folded edge, and one another 1 1/2″ below that, creating a ruched band between the two rows of stitches when the ruffle is attached.

Sadly, I’m not sure I’ll get to wear the completed look again between now and Kalamazoo Living History Show in March!




1870s Unmentionables: Layer 3-Bustle and Petticoat

And here we are! The third and final segment of 1870s undergarments! If you missed the last two, check out:

1870s Unmentionables: Layer 1-Chemise and Drawers


1870s Unmentionables: Layer 2: Corset

The final additions to the silhouette are all about skirt volume. Skirts in the early 1870s were just beginning to deflate from the full elliptical hoops of the 1860s. But instead of going completely away, the volume moved up, settled just below the back waist and became the bustle. So this:

Victorian fashion plate with children 1867.

Victorian fashion plate with children 1867.
Fashion Plate from The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, May 1867

Became this:

File:1870s fashion plate.jpg

Fashion Plate from Victoria, March 1870

I was going for a silhouette from the very beginning of the Bustle Era, so my base layer is Truly Victorian’s voluminous Grand Bustle, which gives support both to the bustle shape in the back, and also around the hem, so that the entire skirt maintains some volume. The pattern is very simple and easy to follow, and you can even buy pre-cut boning for your size right from Truly Victorian‘s website, which was both cheaper and easier than buying a 10 yard roll.

My fabric is a gorgeous purple cotton sateen from Renaissance Fabrics. I can’t say enough good things about this fabric, is beautifully soft, has a stunning sheen, and I love the color!

It begins with stitching the two front pieces together, leaving the top of the seam open, and stitching down the seam allowances to make a placket where the bustle will close.

Then you put the boning channels, which are pieces of bias tape, in the back. I used tracing paper and wheel to mark where the channels needed to go.


There are four horizontal channels, which are very straightforward:


And then one more, which is made of two diagonal pieces and one small “tab”, for a fifth bone to go through. This bone helps the bustle keep a nice dome shape without drooping.


Ruffles all down the back help give the shape extra floof, while also softening any awkward lines created by the boning. The final ruffle at the bottom won’t go on until everything else is put together.

My ruffles are made of cotton organdy because it’s lightweight and easy to gather, but stiff enough not have the volume completely crushed out of it by heavy skirts. I bought white organdy and dyed it purple to (sort-of) match the sateen. It’s not perfect, but close enough for under-garments, right?

The back also has a brace that pulls in the edges of the piece to make sure all the volume goes straight back, rather than expanding too much to the sides.


It was pretty nuts to crush base fabric, brace, ruffles, and bias tape into the side seams, but it did happen.

Once the fronts and backs are put together, one more bias tape boning channel goes around the entire bottom of the skirt, about four inches up from the hem. The hem itself is also used as a boning channel.

The final ruffle can either stay on the back with the rest of them, or go all the way around the hem. I chose the latter option because why say no to MORE FLOOF?!


The final task is to get everything gathered onto the waistband. I decided to gather the back volume, and pleat the front/side volume to give myself as much poof in the back as possible, while keeping the front relatively smooth.

I finished off the inside of the waistband with a quick whipstitch.


Put the boning in:

And voilà!

The petticoat is view one of Truly Victorian’s Victorian Petticoats pattern. It’s a great, straightforward pattern that includes variations to get you from the early 1870s all the way through the turn of the century.

The petticoat starts the same way as the bustle: sew a center seam, leaving the top open for a placket, though this time the closure is at center back.


The upper portion of the petticoat is very simple: there are darts in the front and side pieces to eliminate bulk, and then a nice large back section to gather up over the bustle. Things start getting exciting with the middle section, the flounce. It is gathered onto the top section, and ornamented with tucks, which help to stiffen it. The tucks take forever, since the piece is about five yards around. I also added an extra two tucks to shorten the petticoat.

And then there are 10 yards of ruffle to contend with. Once again I did this in organdy for extra stiffness. The ruffle gets hemmed first, then gathered onto the middle flounce. When gathering, I normally divide up the piece into quarters in order to distribute the gathers more evenly, but this ruffle was so huge, I had to divide it into eighths!

And one more waistband, this one narrower and closed with a drawstring:

And we’re done!


And that’s a wrap on the undergarments! Next comes the underskirt! I will probably be working on this project concurrently with my upcoming Adora Belle Dearheart cosplay, since the North American Discworld Convention will be here before I know it, and I have a petticoat, gown, possible jacket, and parts of Brandon’s suit to complete before September!

Idle hands, you know…

Tutorial: Patternless Full Gathered Skirt

There are some very exciting things coming up on the event roster! At the end of the month I will by putting on my foot wigs and spending a weekend in the Shire at ALEP 3.5, and immersive Lord of the Rings themed event at the Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, KY. It is actually a smaller, halfway point event between two larger, triennial ALEPs (which stands for A Long Expected Party). Along with my coworker Hannah W., I will actually be leading a workshop on Saturday about taking a commercial pattern to the next level. We’ll be teaching how to fit a mockup, and discussing seam finishes, trimming options, fabric choices, and other ways to make your costume wow.

Standing at just five feet tall and with an almost obsessive love of food, I will obviously be dressing as a hobbit. I watched the birthday party scene from Fellowship multiple times (and then the rest of the movies for good measure), and dug around through the costuming special features and put together a list of everything a stylish hobbit woman needs:

  1. a peasant blouse with half-length sleeves
  2. a vaguely 18th century sleeveless bodice which closes in back and usually has some embellishment on the center front panel (different fabric, lacing, embroidery, etc…)
  3. (optional) a shawl or other tucker worn loosely around the shoulders with ends tucked into the front of the bodice
  4. a full, gathered skirt which ends about mid-calf
This picture is a bit grainy, but you can see that almost every hobbit woman is wearing some variation on that outfit. (The exception being the woman in blue/grey in the front who seems to have gotten an extra costume from some 18th c. set film.)

The first item I set out to create is probably the easiest: the skirt. No need for a pattern on this one, you can make it all by yourself! This skirt isn’t just for hobbits either: it’s great for many eras (especially for petticoats), and can be made any length–you could even make yourself a cute shorter skirt to wear this summer!

Fabric Choice

Start with the fabric: you want something light-to-medium weight, anything extremely heavy won’t gather as well. The hobbit ladies seem to have gone mostly for a medium-weight, so their skirts have a nice drape. Some of them (including Rosie) also have multi-layered skirts, which makes for a fun variation.

For my hobbit, I chose a linen/cotton blend from Renaissance Fabrics. They carry it in lots of colors if you’re interested! I also made myself a petticoat, which is exactly the same thing, but I put a bit of lace on it which will show beneath the skirt.

Amount of Fabric

How much fabric you need will depend on your height, the desired length of your skirt, and the desired fullness.

The easiest way to make a skirt like this is to use panels the entire width of the fabric. This means your seam allowance will be the selvedge edges, and you will not need to finish the seams.

I am 5 feet tall, with a 28″ waist (remember when measuring your waist, find the place where your torso can bend to the side without moving your hips). I used 2 pieces of 44″ wide fabric, making a total skirt circumference of 86″ after sewing. The total fullness is a little more than three times my waist measurement, and is almost as full as gathering can handle–much more and I would have had to do cartridge pleats to contain all of the volume, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Depending on your size and the width of your fabric, it may take three or four widths of the fabric to get to your desired fullness, but I wouldn’t try to gather any more than 4 times your waist measurement into a waistband. For the hobbit skirt, I would say 3-3.5 times your waist measurement will do it. You don’t have to be exact, as I said it’s easiest to work with multiples of the fabric width.

Example: if your waist measures 40″ I would recommend three widths of 44″ fabric or 2 widths of 54 or 60″ fabric. Any of these options would make a nice silhouette, though they don’t come out to exactly the same circumference.

To figure out the length of your skirt, have someone measure from your waist to your desired length (mid-calf, floor, knee, whatever your like. Hold the top of the measuring tape against your body and the bottom slightly away, since the skirt will stand out from your legs when worn. I would recommend measuring at the side of your body, starting at the waist and bringing the tape straight down from your hips.

My finished skirt needed to be 29″ long in order to hit at the hobbit’s preferred mid-calf length.

To know how much fabric you need, add together:

  • your finished skirt length x the number of pieces required for your desired fullness
  • a generous 6 inches for seam allowance and hem
  • an extra 12 inches to cut a waistband and placket and allow for another if one gets messed up

Divide your answer by 36 to convert to yards.

For me, this added up to 2.11 yards. I bought 2, which meant slightly less wiggle room, but easier ordering.

Make sure you read every step through to the end before beginning!


With fabric in hand, it’s time to move on to cutting. You’ll rarely cut anything as simple as this skirt: it’s just a bunch of rectangles.

To begin, make sure that the cut edge of your fabric is straight and runs perfectly perpendicular to the selvedge (finished) edges of the fabric. Measure down the selvedge edge your desired skirt length plus six inches (for me this was 35″). Cut straight across the fabric. Do this until you have as many pieces as you will need to get your desired fullness (two for me).

From the remaining fabric, you will cut the waistband and the continuous lap placket. (The placket is the piece that will finish the slit where your skirt closes, don’t worry, I’ll explain more about that later!) If you have an odd number of skirt pieces, the placket will be unnecessary.

I wanted a 1.5″ wide waistband, which means my piece had to be twice that wide, plus 1″ for seam allowance–4″ total. Your total may be different depending on how wide you want your band to be. The length of your waistband will be your waist measurement plus 2 inches (1 for seam allowance, 1 to allow for overlap).

Cut the waistband with the short edge parallel to the selvedge edge.

Your continuous lap is slightly trickier, but not by much. It should be 2″ inches wide. To figure out its length, subtract your waist measurement from your hip measurement (make sure you measure at the widest part of your hips). I usually add  5 more inches to make sure I have plenty of room. That made my lap 2″ x 14″. Remember, if you have an odd number of skirt panels, you will not need this piece.


Step 1: Sew your skirt panels together around the selvedge edges.

You can use a 5/8″ or 1/2″ seam allowance if you like, or you can simply follow the line where the selvedge meets the main fabric. Press your seams open.   **if you have an odd number of pieces, leave an opening at the top of one of your seams 1/2 the length of your placket piece. This will be your center back

Step 2: Find your center front and center back.

You will now have a large tube of fabric. Lay your tube on a flat surface and arrange so that the seams are directly on top of one another (if you have two seams). Mark each side of the folded tube. These will be your center front and center back.


**if you have three pieces, arrange your tube with the slit you left to one side, then mark the opposite edge

***if you have four pieces, arrange the tube with two seams lined up left of center and two lined up right of center. mark both edges just as you would with two pieces.

Step 3: Sew your continuous lap placket **if you have an odd number of pieces, you can skip this step, but you may want to neatly whip stitch the seam allowance to the skirt on either side of the center back slit to keep it in place.

Decide which mark is your center back. Lay it out on a flat surface like an ironing board and measure straight down from the mark 1/2 the length of your placket. For me this was 7 inches. Draw a line from the CB mark to this point with chalk or a water-soluble marker.


Cut a slit down this line.


Fold your placket in half and mark the center with chalk or a water soluble marker.


Line up the mark on your placket with the bottom of the center back slit.


Open the slit wide and pin the placket along one side, then the other. The skirt fabric will bunch a bit at the center, but don’t worry about it, this is totally normal.

I find it’s best to sew this part with the placket down so that you can see the slit in the skirt while you work. Start with a 1/4″ seam allowance at the top of one side. Stitch towards the bottom of the slit, gradually bringing your seam allowance down so that it is about 1/8″ when you reach the bottom of the slit. Leaving the needle in the fabric, raise the presser foot and pivot the fabric so that you can sew up the other side of the slit. Lower the foot again and stitch the other side, gradually widening your seam allowance to 1/4″.

Begin at 1/4″ seam allowance.
Gradually narrow the seam allowance as you stitch.
It’s okay if the placket is a touch off at the center, but try to keep the two layers lined up as much as possible as you shrink the seam allowance down to 1/8″.
Leave the needle in and pivot the fabric so that you can sew up the other side.
Gradually widen your seam allowance back to 1/4″.

Press the seam allowance towards the placket. Your placket should now look like this:


Turn the skirt so that the wrong side of the placket is facing you. Decide which side of the skirt you would like to overlap the other. On the overlapping side (for me it was the one on the left with wrong sides out) fold the placket edge in so that it touches the seam. Fold it in again to enclose the raw edges. The seam will now be at the edge.

Do this to within an inch of the bottom of the slit.


On the other side, just fold over the edge of the placket, then fold again so that your first fold rests on the seam, encasing all raw edges.

Do this to within about an inch of the slit bottom.


Hold the skirt as it will be when worn, with one side overlapping the other. Now that everything else is in place, you will be able to place the last few pins. You may have to fold, unfold, and adjust a few times before you get everything to lay just right, but don’t get discouraged!IMG_1828.jpg

Once everything is pinned, slip stitch the folded edge of the placket down to skirt. At the bottom of the slit, simply pass the needle from one side of the placket to the other between layers so that you can slip stitch the other side. The placket should remain folded at the bottom as you sew.

Slip stitching down the edge that will overlap when finished.
Passing to the other side of the placket at the bottom of the slit. Be careful as you sew this area to make sure you encase all raw edges.
Slip stitching back up the side that will be overlapped.

From the right side of the skirt, your finished placket should look like this:


Pat yourself on the back, the hardest part is over!

Step 4: Sew gathering stitches

Use chalk or a water-soluble marker to mark halfway between the center front and center back on each side (if you have two pieces, this will be your side seams). Starting at the center back, sew two rows of gathering stitches (this can be either a long running stitch by hand or the longest straight stitch on your machine) all the way around the top of the skirt. Begin and end your stitching just outside of the placket. Leave very long tails of thread at each end. If you are using very heavy fabric for this project, use a heavy duty thread to prevent breakages while gathering!

Step 5: Prepare your waistband

Fold your waistband in half lengthwise and sew along each short end, stopping at least 1/2″ from the open edge.


Trim your seam allowance, making it especially small at the corner.


Turn the waistband right side out and press along the entire length.


Mark the center front and the sides with chalk or water soluble marker by folding the waistband in half, then folding each half into the center.

Pin the right side of the waistband to the center front, sides and center back of skirt, matching your marks. Be careful to leave the inside edge of the waistband free. I pinned mine out of the way.

Pinning the inside of the waistband out of the way.
Pinning the waistband to the skirt at the marks.

Pull up the gathering stitches by holding the thread ends and carefully sliding the fabric along the threads so that it bunches. Work very slowly so that your thread doesn’t break–believe me, you don’t want to get most of the way through and have to start over again! You may have to un-pin and re-pin as you do this to make gathering easier, but always make sure you line up the marks.


Once you have your skirt gathered to fit the waistband, make sure the gathers are nice and evenly distributed, then pin securely in place.


Sew the skirt to the waistband using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Make sure that you keep the inside of the waistband and the voluminous skirt fabric out of the way of the seam!

Trim your seam allowance to 1/4″.


Press the seam allowance towards the waistband. Unpin the inside of your waistband and fold the edge under. Pin the folded-under edge to the skirt at the waistband-skirt seamline so that it encases the raw edges.


Slip stich the inner waistband in place.


Your skirt is nearly finished!

Step 5: Closures

You have plenty of options–you could put on buttons, skirt hooks, snaps, hooks and eyes, or even tie your skirt closed with ribbon or cord. I had some hook and eyes lying around, so I used them. My skirt overlapped enough that I could put them only on the waistband, but if you find that your skirt is gaping in the back, put another in the center of the slit.

Make sure you try the skirt on before sewing on the fastening so that you know how much it should overlap.


Step 6: Hemming

Hem the skirt to your desired length–this is easiest if you have another person who can pin up the hem while you wear the skirt, or if you can try it on a dress form. If neither of these options is possible, determine how long your skirt needs to be, then lay it on an ironing board and use a tape measure to measure straight down from the waistband  and mark where you would like the hem. Do this all around the skirt.

In my case, I had already made a lace-trimmed petticoat, so I put that on my dress form and pinned up the skirt so that the lace showed beneath the hem.

You’re finished!

Here’s my finished skirt and petticoat, and a peek at my in-progress hobbit bodice.

You now have the tools you need to make any variation you may desire on the gathered skirt. You could make a sassy short skirt, a period petticoat, or even gather two different colors of lightweight fabric into a single waistband and hem them at different lengths to create a layered look à la Rosie Cotton!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you have any questions please leave them in the comments–I’d love to help!