Studying Theatrical Costume and other adventures in London - sewing, fabrics and events.

Month: October 2009

Class 7: Corset – adjusting the pattern size

Unfortunately I missed this week, but I was able to look at a few of my class mates notes to come up with adjusting an 18th century corset pattern.

18th Century Corset Pattern

The base pattern we are using is the ’18th Century Corset Pattern’ from ‘Period Costume for Stage and Screen‘.

The pattern when scaled up to full size will fit a size 12 model with the following measurements:

Bust 89 cm
Under bust 76 cm
Waist 66   cm
Hip 91.5 cm
High hip 87.5 cm
Nape to Waist Back 40.5 cm
18th Centruy stays pattern from 'Period costume for stage and screen'

18th Century stays pattern from the book 'Period costume for stage and screen'

At the end of last weeks lesson, we started to scale up the pattern and add the seam allowances.

Scaled up 18th Century stays pattern from 'Period costume for Stage and Screen'

Scaled up 18th Century stays pattern from 'Period costume for Stage and Screen'

Panel C (front side panel) pattern peice showing seam allowance, boning and hatch stitching placement

Panel C (front side panel) pattern piece showing seam allowance, boning and hatch stitching placement

Needed for next week:

  • corsetry fabrics
  • corsetry habby and notions
  • candle, jar and lighter/matches.
  • tracing paper and wheel.

Fabric, trimming and haberdashery suppliers

Design considerations for the corset

  • bias binding
  • hand worked eyelets/grommets
  • top stitching/hatching stitches/contrasting by hand
  • contrasting ribbon for straps
  • work on assumption that the corset will be seen and and plan fabrics and trims accordingly.

Scaled up 18th Century stays pattern from 'Period costume for Stage and Screen'

Scaled up 18th Century stays pattern from 'Period costume for Stage and Screen'

Class 6: Petticoat – Finding the waist and inserting the placket.

You can put in the placket only once the waistline has been established on the petticoat to ensure that the depth of the opening stays the same.

Draping on the stand to find the waist

  1. Waistline is established by using measurements to set up the stand accordingly and then draping the petticoat on the stand over the bum pads.
  2. Using cotton tape around the waist to hold up the petticoat, arrange the fabric to give the desired length and shape.To manage the fabric, often pleats or gathers are used to manage the bulk of material at the top. Usually there will be more pleats or gathers at the side and back than at the front, as this will be more flattering the the wearer.You do not want to have the front completely flat as this may cause the petticoat to ‘cave’ inwards at the front.
  3. Once you are happy with the arrangement and the length of the petticoat, use soluble marker to draw a like or points round the waistline.
  4. Removing the petticoat from the stand and laying flat folded in half (CF to CB), you can see the marker with gaps (where the fabric was folded).
  5. To make the waistline you just follow the point and join them up making sure that the line is similar on both sides and meets at the cb and cf.
Pin bum pads to the stand

Pin bum pads to the stand

Petticoat arranged on the stand

Arrange the petticoat on the stand

Marking the waistline with soluable pen

Marking the waistline with soluable pen

Joining up the dots to mark the waistline

Joining up the dots to mark the waistline

Inserting the placket

  1. The placket should measure 30cm x 2.5cm when finished.
    To achieve this you will need a 63cm x 9 cm strip of fabric as a ‘facing’ is required. (2 x length of placket + seam allowance / 2 x 30cm + 3cm = 63cm).
  2. Measure down 30cm from the waistline. Sew from the hem to this point (or open th seam from the waist down to the point).
  3. Press the seam allowances flat on the petticoat closure at cb before inserting the placket.
  4. Press both long sides of the placket facing to wrong side of fabric by 1.5cm so that both sides are reinforced and the centre is flexible enough to fold over application edges.
  5. At the bottom of the cb closure point, snip the seam allowances so that they can lie flat.
  6. With right sides together, ‘straighten out’ closure at cb so it becomes a straight line and lay the placket along the right hand side of the opening, attaching the facing with a 1.5cm seam allowance and continuing to the top edge of the left hand side of opening.
  7. Press seam allowance towards facing
  8. Fold the placket over to encase the raw edge. If there is any excess, this should be hidden on the inside.
  9. Edge or sink stitch to neaten.
  10. At the bottom of the placket, stitch a diagonal line from the fold up to approx 2 cm at the edge. This will help the placket to lay flat.

Class 5: Petticoat – Gather and sew on frills.

Aim for today was to set frill on to the bottom of the petticoat. It ended up looking like this:

Knife pleats with gathering underneath

I did this by:

1. Finishing the hem of the gathering fabric:

  • Sew gathering drops together (about 7.5m)
  • top edge: turn 6mm (1/4″) and then 6mm (1/4″) again, and sew.
  • bottom edge: turn 12mm (1/2″) and then 25mm (1″), then sew.

2. Put in the gathering stitches:

Using 2 rows of longest machine stitch. The top row was 20mm (3/4″) below the hem, and the second row below was the width of the sewing machine foot 12mm (1/2″). At each seam, I pulled the threads loose so I would have something to grab on to when I was gathering.

3. Gather sections of the drops.

As the petticoat circumference was quite long it was best to do the gathers in shorter sections to reduce the risk of threads breaking. I had 5 drops, so I just did it in 5 sections, but we could have done it in 4 quarters.

Using pins to secure the threads at one end, I pulled the drop sections to the desired length. I divided the circumference of the petticoat by 5 so that I knew how long each gather length should be (250cm / 5 = 50cm).

I found that the gathers were too tight and so had more gathering material than needed. I used Kate awl to run back and fourth along the gathers to try and get them even.

Pinning gathering to petticoat. You can also see the pins securing the the gathered sections.

4. Pin gathers to petticoat.

Started at the back seam and worked round to front. I marked the half and quarter points on the petticoat and the gathering so that it would be even all around, but as I had too much material, in the end, these points did not match up and I just had to cut off some material at the end and then close the gathers with a seam at the back. This was a shame as I had originally made a loop when finishing off the seams for the frill. If you did not have too much excess when pinned, then you could just ease in the difference.

5. Sew on the gathers to petticoat.

Starting at the back, I tried to sew in the middle of the gathering stitches. I had to remove the pins holding the gathering threads at each seam as I went along.

Close up where I attached the gathers to the petticoat. The attaching stitch was meant to be in the middle of the gathering stitches, but as you can see it is a little wonky.

Class 4: petticoat – checking formula, draping, cutting and construction

Today Claire checked our formula and layplans, explained the order of work, and after draping the calico over the bupads on the stand, we started to cut out the petticoat pieces. The draping was done so that we could start to get a feel for it.

Layplan for a basic 18th Century petticoat (using my measurements)

The planning an 18th Century petticoat pattern page has more details about the measurements used, the formula and layplan.

Constructing the petticoat

Sewing order for petticoat:

  1. Seams
  2. Hems
  3. Tucks
  4. Frill

Cut out the fabric for main body of petticoat. Press cf and sides so that there would be a visual guide to the quarters.

Sew up cb to roughly where the placket would start.

Measure and mark out the lines for the five horizontal pin tucks and sewed them in to place.


  • prepare frills
  • sew joins
  • hems (do not gather).

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