Introduction: How to Make a Petticoat

About: I adore sewing and knitting, mostly vintage or vintage-inspired patterns. I hope to inspire others to create lovely and lasting garments that speak of a past era and yet remain timeless and elegant.

There are many, many different silhouette options for a petticoat; this is just one which happens to be very suitable for a 1960s bell shaped silhouette.

Generally, I prefer more of an a-line silhouette in a petticoat with the poof starting at mid-hip (I find it more flattering), but I wanted to try something new. And I hardly need an excuse to add another petticoat to my collection!

Any gathered skirt pattern should work with minor modifications - just look for one that is similar to the silhouette you are looking to create.

Step 1: Layer Tulle Over Cotton

Layer your tulle and/or netting over a layer of cotton and baste into place along the edges. Repeat for all of your skirt pieces.

Many petticoats are made exclusively from netting. Personally, I find this rather itchy. Tulle is a less itchy option but has significantly less body than netting. I find it can still irritate my skin. My solution is to layer the itchiness between layers of cotton. This is also great for warmer climates - cotton is much cooler to wear than synthetic netting and tulle!

For this particular petticoat, I used a single layer of tulle (pink) over a single layer of netting (green) basted to a layer of cotton because it was what I had on hand.

Step 2: Begin Skirt Construction

The tulle, netting, and cotton will now be treated as a single layer. Stitch the side seams together and stitch the center back seam, leaving an opening at the top.

Repeat this process with a single layer of cotton. Now you should have the beginnings of two separate skirts, one that contains layers of tulle, netting, and cotton, and a duplicate lining made of cotton.

Step 3: Join Petticoat to Lining

With right sides facing, join the two layers together along the center back opening.

Flip the skirt right side out, leaving a finished edge along the center back opening; you will still have raw edges at the waist and hem edges. You could certainly insert a zipper instead, but they are really not necessary for a petticoat and can add extra bulk.

Baste the raw upper edges together.

Step 4: Gathers Make It Poof

Gather the upper edge. I prefer to push the majority of the gathers to the side seams and over the hips, leaving the center front and center back relatively flat (I find this more flattering).

Because of the bulk created by two layers of cotton plus two layers of netting & tulle, I like to use a zig-zag stitch and a length of crochet thread to gather petticoats (and anything bulky, for that matter). This saves on the frustration of snapped gathering threads.

Step 5: The Waistband

Cut a waistband out of cotton using the measurement of your waist plus 5/8” on one end and 1 5/8” on the other end (I like to interface this portion as with any other waistband). I like my skirts to be snug at the waist, but you can certainly add extra ease into the waistband if you like. Fold up one long edge of waistband to create a finished edge.

Step 6: Join Waistband to Skirt

With right sides together, stitch the waistband to the gathered upper edge, making sure to leave the appropriate amount of overhang at each of the opening edges.

With the right side of skirt facing, fold waistband in half, right sides together. Stitch the folded edge in place, trim, and turn waistband right side out.

Fold the waistband over the raw skirt edge and slipstitch in place.

Step 7: Closures

Apply a hook & bar closure to the waistband. I believe these pictures actually depict the “wrong” way to close a woman’s skirt, but it has always been easier for me to reach around to my back and hook the right side over the left – and that is more important to me than following standard protocol. If you are looking for a more standard application, you may want to make that alteration.

Step 8: Hemming

Hem the skirt layered with tulle & netting by turning the raw edge up twice. It will be helpful to baste the multiple layers together along the fold lines so they cannot shift.

***IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure to use a presscloth when you iron over tulle & netting - it will make a huge mess if you don't!***

Once everything is stitched into place, don't worry about the layers of tulle, netting, and cotton separating - that just adds to the poof!

Step 9: Extra Special Touches

Apply horsehair braid to the hemline of the petticoat lining (the single layer of cotton) and sew in place.

The first petticoat I made was not done this way, and the lining has a tendency to get caught between my legs when I walk – the horsehair will push that inner hemline away from the body and will stop that from happening.

Thread tack the two finished hemlines together at the side and back seams.

Step 10: Time to Enjoy Your New Petticoat!

Finished! You are now the proud owner of your very own petticoat; a petticoat that will not scratch you and is quite cool to wear, even with all the added layers. Hooray for natural fibers!

And they really are incredibly fun to wear - just know that you are going to take up more space than you are accustomed to! Swing wide when maneuvering around coffee tables and the like, or you may clear the surface! This is also an excellent choice if you wish to increase your own personal space in crowded areas - a built in buffer zone, if you will. :)

Now all you need is the dress . . .

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