Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Making a Petticoat - Part 1: Plan

I've spoken about my petticoat ambitions quite a lot recently and now that I have a mini-break in my exams I've gotten round to ordering the fabric.  Now I can show you the plans for this petticoat!

The plans are based on an article written by the mother of Alice Lon, an American 1950s singer and dancer on a popular TV show, who was famed for her very full petticoats.  The article itself is only a few lines long, but can be used as a basis for re-creating a big 50s petticoat. The most useful tutorial I've found for it so far is here, but unfortunately, it's all for American units of fabric and length etc so not much use at face-value for an English metric girl like myself so I have re-hashed it into useable units and here's my tutorial for the plans!

Craftini's Alice Lon Petticoat (as shown on Craftser)

I ought to warn you that there is some maths involved in this tutorial, but do not be afraid, it's easy maths and I'll try to show you it in the most easy to read (but still mathematically correct) way.

This tutorial also assumes that your fabric will be sold in widths of 140cm, as most are in the UK. This part covers how much fabric you will need, and how you'll need to cut it, but the sewing method will be covered in the next part (in a few weeks time).  Essentially, its a satin circle skirt with 60m of netting gathered and sewn on to it - hence the poofiness of it!

Warning: I am yet to make my petticoat using these calculations, so there is theoretically still room for error but it ought to be fine.  If you do plan on using this tutorial, I'd suggest you wait until I post my results.


Petticoat Plan

Stage Satin (very strong polyester satin used in dancing clothes) for the top and ribbons
Dress Net (100% polyester) [Edit: Dress net is too wide a weave and too stiff for this project so an organza-type voile will be used instead, apologies if you've bought net already!]
'Sugar puff' Voile (100% nylon)

To work out how much fabric you'll need, follow this plan!

Firstly, you'll need to work out how long you want your petticoat to be.  The dimensions of the tutorials listed above make a skirt that ends up being 71cm long (from waist).

Note: All measurements are done in cm, not inches! Write down your measurements as you go along, noting what they are, so you don't forget them.

That ends up being too long for most people, so I suggest you put on the dress you intend to wear it with and measure from the smallest part of your natural waist (normally inline with your belly button - i.e. above your hips) and down to the hem of the dress.  This is your "Desired Length" for your petticoat.

Measure from your belly-button to the top of your pelvis/legs.  This is the length of the satin top of the petticoat, which is cut from a circle, so we'll call it "C".

To work out what width of net you will need, you need to calculate the measurement "N" (for net, get-it?):

N = (Desired Length - C) ÷  2

N.B: It helps to use values for N that divide easily into 140 (like 17.5cm and 20cm) to give whole numbers so you may need to add/take-away a centimeter or two off the C value to adjust the N value.

Now measure your waist and write it down.

To work out how much satin fabric you'll need, do this calculation:

Waist Measurement + (2 x C)

If it's less than 140cm, you can use layout 1 and cut your circle as a whole piece.

If it's greater than 140cm, you'll need to use layout 2 and cut your circle in two pieces, then sew them together.  This means that you'll need double the length of fabric, i.e. 2 x (Waist Measurement + (2 x C)).

Now go back to your net width number, N.

To work out how much net you're going to need, do this two-step calculation.

140 ÷ N = Number of Strips

60 ÷ Number of Strips = Length of Net (in metres)

This is how you'll be cutting up your net.

The original tutorial also calls for 53m of ribbon to edge the net skirts however, I am a student and ribbon is expensive so (as previously posted about) I have bought a rotary cutting machine that specialises in cutting 1" strips (amongst other widths as well) and another that turns that strip into binding, so I will be making my own ribbon with the extra satin I am buying.  If you do it this way, remember to cut twice the width of ribbon to allow you to fold the edges under.

To make sure you have at least 53m of ribbon, buy 2 metres of satin and cut it into 28, 5cm wide (or 2 inch) strips.

And there you go, that's how you work out how much fabric you'll need for your own personally sized petticoat.

So it's:

Stage Satin - 2 m (for ribbon) + either 1.5m (if your circle fits in one piece) or 2x (Waist Measurement + (2 x C))  (if it fits in two pieces)
Net - Whatever your "Length of Net" value came out as in the calculations above

This means that from my favourite UK stockists Fabric land, the grand total cost for one petticoat (including the thread and elastic, but excluding postage and my machines of course) came to £21.60! Not bad eh?


  1. Remarkable detail, in your terrific tutorial! The detailed oriented engineer shines thru - making it very easy to follow Just finding it difficult to convert fabric needs for USA measurements for 28 inch waist, 38 inch skirt length (waist to floor). For that length, it seems 3 tiers would be best. Thanks!

  2. Love you, I stupmble uppon the original tutorial and as I am not native English speaker I got bit confused how to asseble the petticoat, you made it very clear, thak you so much!