Civil War Designs

by

Lady Faire

  These are several examples of Civil War Era petticoats and under slips. Note the fact that there are both ruffled and plain styles. The difference was one of taste and pocketbook.   The purpose of both was the same:  to give volume to one's skirts and to avoid 'lampshading'.  Lampshading came about from the 'bones' or hoops in the hoopskirts which gave the belles the wonderfully full skirts without having to wear umpteen million underskirts with the attendant weight and bulk.  Hoopskirts; a marvelous invention! Before they went out of style, they actually reached 6-7 feet in diameter!  That means that a 5 foot tall woman could actually have a skirt wider than she was tall!  Today's re-enactors usually settle for hoops of 120-150" in circumference or 40-50" across.  Rarely, you will see a woman with a larger hoop.  Personally, I like the larger hoop.  And for the same reason women back then did:  it makes my waist look smaller by comparison.   Look at the pictures below for a prime example of the larger hoops.   However, the hoopskirt did have it's price:  the metal hoops would show through light-weight fabric, causing ridges that made a skirt look like a lamp shade.  Hence the term.

Petticoats are also wonderfully feminine!  The fabric and ruffles seem to delight the little girl in all women.  I love them, and love to make them.  Here are some of my past examples. The third from the last, the white one that seems very full, is on my 200" hoopskirt. The others are on 138" and 150" hoopskirts. That is the big (pardon the pun) difference.

Click on the image for a larger view:

 

I personally hate working with netting.  It is a pain in the posterior.  It does, however, add quite a bit of fullness to ruffles.  The black taffeta (extremely light-weight, lining taffeta) has netting under the ruffle at the bottom.  It made for a lovely petticoat.  I cursed that thing more than any other petticoat I made.  Part of the problem was the netting.  Another part was the light weight taffeta. Lining weight taffeta doesn't have the wonderful body that dress weight taffeta has, and is, to be perfectly frank, kind of limp.  It kept getting in my way as I was sewing the netting into place.  Without the reach of a truly commercial machine, fabric becomes bunched under the 'arm', and takes tremendous concentration and work to avoid double layering when working that deep on the skirt.  Consequently, I tore out more stitching than I left in place.  The finished product is indeed, lovely to look at!  But I don't know if I'll do another!!  I show the black taffeta both with and without a hoop. 

 

The pink lace is another custom petticoat I did, for a lady in Germany.  She wanted 9 layers of 12" lace on a base large enough to cover her 200" hoops.  It was a lovely skirt!!  I made another for her with 12 layers of 12" lace!!  Talk about full!!  I do not have any photos of that one, unfortunately, they were on my hard drive when it went down.  I have some 15 -16" ivory lace coming in soon, so I should have some more petticoats available soon!!  I ran into someone clearing out their stocks (going out of business) of WIDE (18" wide!) laces.  I picked up black, pink, teal - could be others, just can't think of them right now - and several rolls of each color!  Friends, I have some LACE on hand!!  Keep checking both here and on Etsy under my vendor name DesignsLadyFaire.  You might pick up a bargain!!

 

Here is a white lace, 6 tier on white silk taffeta.  Made for another Bridezilla (sigh.)

This next black one was just FUN.  The lace 'spacers' between the tiers is unlined - the white of the hoopskirt shows through.  Fun to make, and it got a lot of attention.  Surprisingly popular, considering that it is rather 'simple' - as compared to some of the more elaborate petticoats, that is.

 

OK, I'm going to upset a few people here, but better here and now, than later when we are talking about having me make them a multi-tiered, lace, ruffled petticoat, I think.  I believe it would be good if you, the customer, had a better idea of just what went into the making of these lacy confections.

First of all, the pink 9 layer lace petticoat that catches the eye of so many of you - that would be a good starting point:  That petticoat had approximately 250 yards of lace hand ruffled into those 9 tiers.  Before that could happen though, I had to mark out just where those tiers were going to go.  This meant that I had to calculate EXACTLY the measurements and distances between the tiers so that they would come out evenly for the length of the skirt.  Then I had to sit down with a disappearing fabric marker and a ruler and mark out those lines to sew on around the base layer of the petticoat.  Before the lines could fade, I had to gather up all of the lace to sew onto the base, then actually sew it onto those lines.  That is harder than it seems, because I had to keep all of the previously sewn lace out of the way while I was doing the current tier (try it sometime).  The total time involved in this would be the same as if I got out of bed early in the morning, started on the petticoat, worked straight through until about 8 PM - for 3 to 4 DAYS running! Over 12 hours each day - non-stop!  Now you have a better idea of what it takes to make one of my ruffled lace petticoats.

The pink 9 layer lace petticoat cost the customer $325 plus shipping to Germany.  If you think that is too much to pay for the time and labor I described above, that is your privilege.   That was also about 2004.  Before you do anything else, hop on eBay or Google wide lace trim, and check out the PER YARD price.  Multiply that price by 250 and figure about $25 shipping.  Now, tell me I charge too much - go on, I dare you!!  I have only raised my price for that particular style as the cost of lace went higher and higher (don't forget, when fuel prices go up, so does EVERYTHING else due to transportation costs, etc).  I still am not making a profit on any of these!  Please note:  Just because I sold that petticoat back in 2004 for that price, does NOT mean I can still do the same price today.  Just a warning!  I've already had one person get all huffy and excited because the price I quoted her was quite a bit higher than the price charged for the pink 9 layer.  Check prices of materials if you think my price is too high.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  If you stumble across a less expensive source of lace, I definitely want to know about it!!

 

Here is my latest multi-tier, lace petticoat. White, 16" soft lace on a lightweight batiste base. I almost think the lace is TOO soft for this type petticoat!

       

I also did something a LITTLE different with this one. The waist is both set-in AND drawstring! You get a smoother look, with the convenience of adjustability. The lace on the waistband is only on the front face - the backside is the smoother batiste.    

 

I've also started adding a pocket on the 'open' side, upon request, instead of just a placket.  This acts as a placket (to keep the under area from showing), plus it gives you a bit of 'storage' space.  Above you see an example of a 6 tier (18" wide lace) with a fancy metallic jacquard trim, and the pocket.

Here is a link to how and why my petticoats cost what they do.  It is also a rough primer on making one, if you are interested in trying it yourself.       Petticoat Cost

 

I also now offer ruffled hoopskirts, as I had so many requests.  It is what I always use under my skirts when I photograph my outfits.  Much easier than wrestling with hoops, petticoats and my outfit along with; the mannequin, the camera, my puppy - oops!  I mean, my quality control inspector!!! and everything else I haul out to the yard for my 'photo ops'!!  

I take commercially available hoops, and add my own ruffles to them.  The difference between my ruffled hoops and the ones offered by the bridal companies is the ruffling, and the customizing.  Theirs offer minimal ruffling (fabric), whereas mine are touch more full [smile].  Also, you can get mine with minimal tiers (layers), or as many as you wish, or can afford [grin].  I think I have a couple of pictures of ruffled hoops here somewhere....

The one above was made with 15" white cotton eyelet and 3 tiers on a 6 bone hoopskirt.  I think the bottom diameter of the skirt without ruffles was 165".  Don't be fooled by only 3 tiers, though.  It still used over 70 yards of fabric!!  There were NO bones showing on that hoop!!

 

While this one used just as much lace (about 70 yards, believe it or not!) as the eyelet did, it doesn't show as well because of the transparency of the lace, and looks so much more minimalist, with 3 tiers of pale ivory 15" lace.  It did the job, don't get me wrong!  Personally, I would rather have had double the tiers, myself.  I have always been a sucker for rows and rows of lace ruffles (sigh!).  They just feel so wonderfully feminine, somehow, don't they?  And if you just happen to show your 'petticoats', well, my gracious!  You couldn't ask for anything more ladylike and feminine, now, could you??????  Yes, I know, but I can't help it, I'm from Georgia (Gaw-ja), you know, and I do believe it's bred in the bones!!!

I also like to make the double layer petticoat.  You have all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of multiple petticoats with these lovelies.  Less bulk, less weight, fewer waistbands or drawstrings, yet, plenty of cushioning for the bones of your hoopskirt, and lots of fabric and ruffles for the 'girly' part of all of us.  And they can be as lacy and ruffle-y as your heart desires.  Here are 2 of my double layer petticoats.  As you can see, one has a set in waistband, and the other has a drawstring waist.  One has an additional ruffle on the bottom, the other doesn't.  They can also incorporate more than 2 layers.  It is all about what you want.

 

Here are photos of my latest multi-layer petticoat - a repeat customer wanted a petticoat like the one above, but with an additional ruffle.  The photos below are the result.  I made the petticoat from unbleached muslin, and added another layer on top of the upper layer.  So, there are 3 layers of fabric over the hoops.  At the top, where the first ruffle is joined to the base layer, I have lace to give it that delicate finish and I then put a matching row of wide lace on the hem of the topmost layer for that essential feminine touch.  I thought it turned out well.  Take a look. 

 

Here is another of my multi-layer petticoats.  This one has an unbleached muslin base layer, with a ruffle that is approximately 1/3 of the length.  I then added a top layer of unbleached batiste (cuts down on weight, and looks SO feminine) with a ruffle that starts at low hip to the bottom, where there is a ruffle of natural colored lace.  The lace more closely matches the muslin, so it is a touch darker than the light batiste.  I then used the lace over muslin for the waistband.  The petticoat is shown over a large, 6 bone hoopskirt with a bottom circumference of 160".  I think it turned out quite well, don't you?

 

You have probably noticed that almost all of my petticoats have a row of lace on the very bottom.  That is deliberate.  I feel that if your 'slip' should show (and in my experience, it WILL at some point), it should show lacy and delicate.  It doesn't take that much more effort on my part, and quite frankly, I think it gives a more lady-like and, yes, feminine, look.  I know I use that word a lot, but it could be used as the very standard for the antebellum period.   A woman of 'quality' was expected to look as though she didn't do anything except needlework and wait for her man.  When in reality, she worked as hard as any field hand!!  She had to be able to run a household of many members so seamlessly that no-one knew she was doing it.  She had to make sure there were sufficient staff to do the required housework, and she had to make sure each of them was properly trained and clothed.  She also had to manage accounts, schedule and plan for supplies and deliveries and meals, not to mention parties, balls, etc.  She also had children (whether her own, the children of the household or family) to look after and arrange for their education, and she was expected to be the first to administer medical care in times of illness and injury.  All of this means she had to have a good education (although, she shouldn't be TOO enthusiastic about education, or risk being branded as a blue stocking!!), she needed to be knowledgeable about general health and first aid.  A modern MBA is probably not as well educated!

But!!

She was never to be seen doing any of these things!!  She was the force behind the scenes.  The quiet voice of reason, the iron rod of discipline, the keeper of the purse, the manager of the staff.  To any who might see her, she was the languid, helpless, softly, feminine flower of the south.

She had white, soft skin.  Glossy hair, and bright, shining eyes.  She never raised her voice and she was never in a hurry.  If you listen to older ladies from the south, you'll find they speak, softly, and with a gentle, measured cadence.  Being reared in the deep south, I was taught that a lady never causes a scene - no matter what!  If attention is drawn to one, it should be for the proper reasons - deportment, dress, manners (not the lack thereof!) charity and good taste.

History lesson over.  For now.

 

 

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