June 17, 2020

Inside & Out: Regency Bodiced Petticoat

"'Yes, and her petticoat; I hope you saw her petticoat, 
six inches deep in mud, I am absolutely certain'" 
- Pride & Prejudice, Chapter VIII

Last week on Facebook, I posted a few teaser shots of my most recently completed project - a bodiced petticoat appropriate for the Regency Era - and, as promised, today's blog post will detail its construction. 

A Regency Era Bodiced Petticoat

Having wrestled with my fair share of strapped petticoats in the past (and the struggles of sloped shoulders for straps to fall off all day long), I decided that it was time for an upgrade to a bodiced petticoat.  Not only does it solve the fiddly strap problem, but the additional bodice helps smooth the front, disguising the line from stays or the support garment, and doubles as a lining under sheer dresses.  The style makes for a simple, yet essential undergarment for the columnar silhouette of the Regency Period, and here's how I made mine!

Construction Details

As with any project intended for historical wear, I first looked to period examples for inspiration.  I felt particularly drawn to this early-19th century petticoat from the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) collection, which is described as a "white high-waisted underdress, [with] drawstrings at neck and waist, narrow shoulder straps, [and] back tie closure" -

Woman's Underdress, Early 19th-Century
Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Accession Number 49.876)

From looking at this extant example along with several others, I decided to drape a short, front-opening bodice.  Once I had a basic pattern, I made a quick mock-up in scrap muslin to check the fit, pinned any adjustments (mostly in the bust area because of the dress form I have to work on), and then transferred the corrections to paper.  

After draping, I test the pattern in scrap muslin to check the fit.
If there's anything I've learned - don't skip the mock-up!

Once I was satisfied with my pattern, I cut the bodice pieces out twice - once in a crisp muslin for the outer layer, and again in a lightweight, cotton batiste for the inner layer: 

After correcting the pattern, I cut the bodice pieces twice -
both in cotton muslin (outer layer) and in a lightweight batiste (inner layer)

The outer bodice and inner lining were assembled separately.  To reduce bulk, I clipped and graded the seams, using pinking shears to prevent future fraying of the finer batiste.  Then, the two layers were stitched together along the front edges and neckline, clipped, turned right-sides-out, and pressed in place, rolling the seam towards the inside.   

The lining and outer bodice were assembled separately,
then joined together along the front edges and neckline.

Clipping and grading the seams reduced bulk,
and pinking prevents fraying of the finer batiste fabric

To finish the armscyes, I pressed the seam allowances to the inside, again making sure to roll the lining edge under slightly (so the seam won't show on the outside), and securely whip stitched them closed.  I also pressed along the bottom edge of the lining, which will eventually cover the join of the skirt. 

Pressing, clipping and rolling the seam allowances

Whip stitching both the layers to finish the armsyces 

Next, I tackled the skirt:  I measured and ripped two panels of the muslin, stitched the side seams, and flat-felled them to finish.  I added three 1/2" tucks to add body to the skirt (which helps prevent the fabric from tangling around the wearer's legs) and a wide hem.  To create an opening at the center front, I cut and narrow hemmed a 14" slit, reinforcing the bottom with a strong, button hole stitch:

The skirt before attaching, please excuse the wrinkles!

With the bodice and skirt now assembled, it was time to join them together!  I opted for a flat front, 1/2" deep directional knife pleats at the sides, and 3/4" deep pleats in the back, meeting at the center with an inverse box pleat.  (I like that this sounds incredibly technical, when in reality, it was based on the "divide and conquer" method and the math just worked out this time!)  I tend to pin and hand baste pleats before machine stitching to prevent any slipping:

Flat in the front, 1/2" pleats at the sides, and 3/4" pleats in the back.

I hand-baste pleats before machine stitching to prevent any slipping - works like a charm!
(As my costume tech professor always says: "a baste is never a waste!")

Finally, the finishing steps were pressing the seam allowances up and whip stitching the lining to enclose the raw edges.  I did this while listening to "costuber" Sarah Woodyard's video - Sewn Stories: Hand Sewing Health with Samantha Bullat

Finishing stitches while listening to
Sarah Woodyard's - Sewn Stories: Hand Sewing Health with Samantha Bullat
Love these two costumers! ❤

Eventually I might add hooks and thread eyes to the front, but for the following completed project pictures, I just pinned the bodiced petticoat shut!

Completed Project Pictures

And here's the completed bodiced petticoat: worn over a shift, 1830s corset (because all three sets of Regency stays are currently back in New York), clocked stockings, and pashmina scarf wrapped as a turban.  Jet necklace is by Kristen of the Victorian Needle, link to her etsy shop, here.  Photos are taken using a new tripod and self-timer feature on my phone.

Front view

Side view

Other side view

Silly side view

Back view

And some images of the bodiced petticoat just by itself:

Front view, flat.

Front view, open to show a completely finished interior.

Back view, flat.
I love crisp, direction pleats that meet in the center!

Now onto the fun part - dreaming of all the Regency dresses, bonnets, and frilly accessories to wear over top!  Oh where to begin...do you have a favorite Regency Era gown or fashion plate?  Feel free to share in the comments below - thanks for reading! 

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