One of the most important things for me to make is petticoats, almost every dress in a costume requires some form of petticoat or hoop skirt. Petticoats are one of the things whereby the tutorials out there are good, but all lacking something. I had to watch numerous videos and experience a lot of trial and error before I got a method that worked. Hoop skirts are rarely fully explained online and can be a costly mistake to make.
There are many different types of petticoat with many different uses, and I’ve at some point in time made most of them. This is the cover page for my petticoat tutorials; I’ll link the actual tutorials out from here, this post is just basic rules, guidelines and descriptions.
First rule of making petticoats; always buy good net.
Now this doesn’t mean go out and buy the most expensive net you can find, it means go and find the net which will suit your job. If you are making a petticoat that will be visible you want a net with very small holes, maybe even a stiff tulle. If you’re making a huge, many layered petticoat you’ll need cheaper fabric (if you want to be economical) and much stiffer fabric with larger holes so the entire thing doesn’t weigh a tonne and you don’t need 8-9 layers of petticoat. Each tutorial I write will have guidance for which fabrics would be best, even if i personally don’t use them.
Second rule of making petticoats; always buy more than you need
No matter how careful you are with your calculations you are destined at some point to cut something wrong, or realise this level needs just that little bit more oomph. If you have to go to your fabric shop to buy more fabric, or even order it online this can be tiresome and annoying. I’m not saying buy 2-3 meters more, I’m just saying buy an extra 50 cm. It could save you a lot of hassle.
Third and final rule of making petticoats; plan until all you can think of is petticoats
This is actually what I do, I’ll draw up a basic design and some approximate measurements and then spend a week covering my notes and any paper I can find (even my tablet notepad) with the design, drawn over and over again and surrounded by calculations. Once you’re absolutely certain you know exactly what you’re doing draw out a final design neatly (I do it in a specific book set aside specifically for this). Label all of your measurements clearly and write a clear list of exactly how much of everything you’ll need. How much net, fabric, thread, elastic, ribbon, bias binding, hook and eyes, zips….. literally everything. Only when you’re sure that you know exactly what you’re doing should you buy anything. Only when you’re sure you know exactly what you’re doing should you cut anything- and label everything you cut. Numerous times I’ve ended up with strips of dress net strewn over my floor with no idea what goes where. Label everything.
If you follow these 3 fundamental rules then making petticoats should come pretty easy. It doesn’t involve any fancy techniques or maths- it’s just gathering one piece of fabric onto another and repeating.