Ooooh look, I made a petticoat! Ruffly petticoats aren’t something we see much of these days. They’re usually only worn with special occasion dresses. Sometimes a pretty party dress will come with a layer of tulle attached to the skirt lining but not much else.
I talked about the current popularity of the Fit and Flare dress in my last post, but those dresses don’t often get the kind of “flare” in the skirt like they did in the 50s and 60s. Why not give the flare some extra oomph with a crinoline petticoat!??
I’m wearing this petticoat with my floral circle skirt. It also works well under other types of full skirts.
I originally followed this great tutorial but I made my petticoat a little different. Firstly, I didn’t use ribbon trim. Spools tend to come in something like 3yd lengths and I didn’t want to buy 5 spools for one petticoat. Also, that tutorial uses quite a bit of fray check for the raw edges, but since I used cotton crinoline rather than nylon I didn’t need the fray check and simply finished my seams with a zig-zag stitch.
I tried to make this tutorial beginner friendly so first let’s talk about:
What is Crinoline?
Crinoline is a stiff but flexible fabric with a very open, plain weave. You can find 100% cotton as well as poly and nylon versions. It is most often white but you might be able to find it in black.
How is Crinoline different than tulle?
Tulle typically is made of nylon and has a diamond weave so it doesn’t fray. The size of the net can vary but it doesn’t have as much stiffness or body as crinoline. My petticoat made of crinoline will stand up on its own, tulle won’t do that. Crinoline is mainly for structure so it isn’t “pretty” like tulle. Those fancy colorful petticoats that are made to peek out from under skirts are tulle.
You can use tulle with this tutorial but your petticoat won’t be nearly as poofy. You’ll need several more layers of tulle to achieve a similar effect.
You will need:
4-5 yards of cotton crinoline (I bought mine from Fabric.com, some Joann Fabric stores sell it in the utility section)
1″ wide Twill Tape the length of your waist measurement plus an extra 5 inches
Hooks and eyes
Measuring tape, ruler, marking implement
Sewing Machine, thread, pins, needles, scissors, etc.
Tip: For this tutorial I’ll refer to Crinoline as the fabric and Petticoat as the garment.
1. Measure the Length of the Petticoat
Use your tape measure to measure from your waist to the hem of the petticoat.
Tip: The petticoat should be 1″-2″ shorter than the skirt you will wear it with.
My petticoat length is 20″.
Divide that measurement by 3 for a 3 tiered petticoat. I made my tiers 6″ (top), 7″ (middle), and 7″ (bottom).
2. Cut the Tiers
(I used a rotary cutter and mat and folded the fabric in half twice so I sliced through four layers of fabric at a time. You can also simply measure, mark, and cut with scissors.)
Top: 6.5″ (6″ plus .5″ seam allowance at the lower edge) x 2yds
Middle: 8″ (7″ plus .5″ seam allowance at upper and lower edges) x 4yds
Bottom: 7.5″ (7″ plus .5″ seam allowance at the upper edge) x 8yds (two 4yd pieces).
Tip: I cut my bottom tier along the selvage so I wouldn’t have to hem the lower edge.
Tip: My waist measurement is ~26″. If your waist is ~40″ or larger, consider cutting longer tier lengths like 3yds for the top, 5yds for the middle, and 9yds for the bottom tier.
3. Stitch the Short Sides Together
For the bottom tier, stitch the two 4yd pieces together along the short sides using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Finish the seam allowance with a zig-zag or overlock stitch.
Repeat with the middle tier.
For the top tier, hem both of the short ends by folding the raw edge inward 1/4″, then fold it over again 1/4″ and top stitch. This part will be open so you can get in an out of the petticoat.
4. Sew the Gathering Stitches
Lower your machine tension slightly and use a long machine stitch. Sew two lines of stitching on each tier, one at 3/8″ from the upper edge and again 5/8″ from the upper edge.
Tip: For the bottom tier, start and stop your gathering stitches at the short side seams rather than stitching all around in one continuous loop. It’s easier to gather 4yds than a huge 8yd piece all at once.
5. Divide Each Tier into Fourths
Divide the length of each tier into four equal parts and mark with pins. You could also lightly iron vertical folds into the crinoline to mark each section.
6. Sew the Tiers
Starting with the bottom tier, pull the two thread tails on the right side of the fabric to gather the crinoline.
(Look how well it stands up on its own! Also, the bottom tier is so long!)
Once gathered, pin the upper edge of the bottom tier to the lower edge of the middle tier, right sides together. Match up each pin/fold in the fabric so the gathers will be evenly distributed.
(If you’re struggling with gathering stitches that don’t like to stay gathered, you can secure your thread tails by wrapping them around a pin in a figure-8 pattern)
Stitch all the way around with a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Press the seam allowance toward the upper tier and topstitch with a zig-zag stitch to prevent fraying.
Repeat with the middle tier, then top tier.
(That’s a huge mess of fabric right there! This is sewing the top tier to the middle tier. Notice how the top tier has gathering stitches but isn’t gathered yet.)
7. Sew the waistband.
Cut a length of twill tape that matches your waist measurement + a few inches extra. My waist measurement is about 26″ so my tape is about 29″ long.
Mark the length of your waist measurement with a pin on the tape. Those extra few inches will be overlap for the hooks and eyes.
Gather up the top tier to fit the waist measurement area of the twill tape. Fold the short sides of the twill tape under 1/4″.
Wrap the twill tape over the raw gathered edge of the top tier leaving the overlap hanging off one side. Pin.
Stitch close to the edge of the twill tape and be sure to catch all three layers as you sew. Continue stitching all the way until to reach the end of the overlap, backstitch.
8. Sew the Hook and Eyes
Sew a “hook” to the inside end of the overlap.
On the opposite side of the waistband, sew on corresponding “eyes” each about an inch apart.
(I ran out of the flat style “eyes” but these loop style eyes work just the same.)
Tip: sewing on extra “eyes” allows you to wear the petticoat lower on your hips when wearing longer skirts.
Yay! You made a petticoat! No go wear your skirts extra poofy!
My crinoline was only 38″ wide but I had enough fabric left over to eek out a smaller petticoat.
This one used 4yds of 8″ wide crinoline for the bottom tier, 2yds of 6.5″ wide crinoline for the middle tier, and 45″ x 7″ of cotton muslin for the top tier. I didn’t have enough twill tape left so I just cut another strip of muslin for the waistband.
Here’s an example of my Breathless dress with no petticoat, small petticoat, and large petticoat.
I didn’t take a pic of me wearing both petticoats together but, man, it makes for a huge skirt!
I was talking to my Aunt about her experience wearing petticoats in the 50s. She said girls would compete to see how many petticoats they could pile up under their skirts. She’d also dip her petticoats in liquid starch to make them extra stiff. If you were around in the hey-day of petticoat-wearing I’d love to hear your stories!