Wide skirts with an emphasis on the rear are a key feature of the Georgian silhouette, but I have found this look can be quite difficult to achieve, even with pads or panniers and petticoats in place, plus the marvellous ‘skirt puffers’ described by The American Duchess in her post ‘Why don’t I look right?’
There is also a tendency for the weight of the overskirt especially when done up ‘a la polonnaise’ to push down the underskirt and spoil the line of the skirt. The look you want is this, on the left – not this, on the right.
Quilted petticoats were often worn and are an easy way to provide a fashionable silhouette, but when they are worn to be seen the quilting ought to be done by hand, a labour of love indeed and one which I don’t feel up to reproducing myself – but quilted under-petticoats are another thing entirely. So I have been experimenting with a machine quilted under-petticoat, which is not after all going to be visible, and found it does work extremely well for getting the right look. Not only does it work but it is pretty easy to make yourself and I recommend, in the interests of keeping the cost of costuming down, that you have a go.
First get yourself a double, cotton, fitted, quilted mattress protector. It needs to be quilted on top but have a plain un-quilted overlap to fit it to the mattress – also called an elasticated skirt. Watch out for the ones with elastic loops – they won’t do!
Open it out and trim off the unquilted part of the two longer sides, being sure to leave the unquilted cotton at the top and bottom. You might find this easier if you trim off the elasticated part first.
You will be left with a long piece of quilted fabric and 10 inches or so of un-quilted cotton at the top and bottom. Machine-hem all down the longer sides, including the unquilted cotton part.
After this, fold the whole piece so the two un-quilted cotton parts lie on top of each other, matching the seams where the quilting joins the unquilted cotton. Make sure your fold is even on both sides then cut across the quilting to make the two pieces for the front and back of your petticoat. Don’t worry about the length – it will be plenty long enough with the extra plain cotton pieces.
Since you will be wearing pads and/or panniers, you need the petticoat to be longer at the sides, and even longer at the back. You use the un-quilted cotton to make these adjustments, at what will be the waist. Fold your petticoat pieces in half lengthwise and pin where the quilting meets the unquilted part.
Working from the fold, measure 3 inches down from the top edge along the fold and then lay a ruler horizontally from the 3 inch mark to the hemmed edge. Now cut in a curve from the edges UP to the fold. This will give you two back pieces. Keep one for the back and use the other to make the front. Lay the ruler horizontal again on the second piece, this time marking 3 inches below the ruler, to roughly where the pink arrow meets the fold. Cut a curve 3 inches DOWN from the edges to the fold to make your petticoat front. This is an easy way to be sure the sides are of equal length.
Next, join the two pieces at the sides by sewing just the quilted parts, back to back, and you will have left a slit for pockets, as well as space to get the petticoat on and off. Then fold over the waistline and sew it down to make a channel for a drawstring on each piece. Thread cotton tape through both pieces.
I have actually used elastic for this too – though the costume police would probably consider it a hanging offense. You can also make two gathered waistbands, with ties, depending how many ties you are prepared to have to get dressed.
At last, try it on and mark the length at the centre front. It’s best to get someone else to do this for you, with you standing straight. You will want it a couple of inches shorter than your skirt and you should have plenty of overlap for a nice deep hem, which helps with the ‘sticky-outiness’ . Then pin and sew the hem the same length all the way round, and that’s it – you’re done!
It should look something like this – on the right. If that’s not wide enough for you – there’s always a king sized mattress cover to consider. And finally, these can be custom made to order for £75 – just get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org