Monday, April 29, 2013

How to Get the Middle Victorian Look: Dressing to the Nines Part 2- Becky

Have you picked out an experienced seamstress? Or have you embarked on the challenging road of making a corset? Either way, you are on your way to get the perfect silhouette!

The under petticoat or modesty skirt was a slip to cover the wearers backside and could be used from the un-tucked material of the chemiseWith a hoop, men and others would be able to literally "see up the skirt" of the woman who did not wear an under petticoat. 
Under petticoats were made of cotton and other like materials. They were also made of red flannel to "prevent rheumatism" in the winter and colored wool for the hard work at the farm!
There is no need for pattern for an under or over petticoat. Under petticoats are comfortable with a 90 inch circumference. You can accomplish this with fabric 45" wide. You would need to measure the length you desire and cut three panels. Gather the top to a waistband that fits your measurement and hem! This is also do-able with larger width fabrics.  

The hoop and or cage is what makes the shape of a Victorian woman. In 1830's women would pile on under petticoat after petticoat to make the desired bell shapes. Then the late '40's and '50's women were wearing the hoops. There are many shapes and widths a hoop could be. 

Ok un minuto.... I just googled searched "Civil War Cage"... This is what I got:

You can decide on a hoop by your height and body type. Here are some CDVs that show different hoops and cages: 

1860's original cage
The Laced Angel's repro
A cage is a skirt support that has no fabric between the boning, but a hoop has the fabric. My cages, shown below, is made from 7 bones and vertical twill tape connected to a waistband. I bought this from Kay Gnagey at her Originals By Kay store. I ware a cage of 108 circumference and think it is a good size for me. I would also look good in a 90 circumference too. I would be able to layer on over petticoats on this cage if I wanted to make the skirt fuller.

The over petticoat is created with the same formula as the under petticoat, but you want to make sure that it fits over your hoop! The purpose of an over petticoat is not so much as modesty, but to make the skirt wider and to hide the bones. 

Some times Im a derp and look derpy like this:  but this is a great example how the bones show through the dress. I do have a petticoat on, but only one. A great way to prevent this could be to have multiple petticoats or to have a petticoat with tiers. Buy the way, Ken said something really funny and the wind was blowing hard. 

The dress is the last garment you put on to "dress to the nines". I once read a book which was published in 1863, that listed 7 types of dresses! A practical woman would not have so many dresses. One dress may have been and 1)everyday dress, 2) Sunday dress for church, and 3) an evening dress for dinner parties or balls!
But think of the type of woman you are portraying. Are you an immigrant farmer that came over with what she  had on her back? Are you married to a wealthy business man? Different personas will determine what fabrics, prints, styles you will be wearing!

My favorite "go-to" impression is more fact than fiction! I portray a German farmer and I only have one dress. I wear the "required" underpinnings such as: 1) Chemise, 2) drawers, 3) socks, 4) shoes, 5) underpetticoat, 6) a corded petticoat (an underpetticoat with string sewn into the skirt to make a "fuller" look), 7) and my dress!

I know the watch and necklace should not be in the picture!
My dad portrays a poultry farmer. He really does sell eggs to the other reenactors at events! If you are camping a MI event and forgot eggs, you're covered! 


  1. How many petticoats do you wear over your hoop skirt? Do you wear a ruffled one? And I had to laugh at the Civil War Cage. :) I'm hoping I can make it to the GFV fashion show this year! One more question: Were most bodices sewn permanently to the skirts or were they basted?


  2. I only have one. I should wear more. No ruffles, too much work for me. Lol yes, the skit is sewn on the piping of the bodice, but The fancier ones like ball gown it silk are not. They would have The point.



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