Saturday, August 18, 2012

Victorian Petticoat: Truly Victorian TV170

I'm trying to write a historical novel, so I decided to try my hand at Victorian costuming to help me get into the mindset. After a few starts, stops, and pitfalls with the big names in sewing patterns, I discovered that the best way to go is straight to the smaller and more historically accurate pattern companies.

Working from the skin out, I decided to undertake the petticoat first. I used the TV170 pattern by Truly Victorian, and I am delighted at how well it turned out. It went so well that I will be sewing it again, as a winter holiday present for one of my best friends.

I chose to sew View #2. According to the Truly Victorian pattern company, View #2 is based on petticoats worn from 1877-1882 and is part of the Natural Form style. In their words, "This version has a slim front and does not fit over a bustle. Suitable for under Tie-Back skirts. Also works well for 1890-1891 slim skirts."

Last year, when Jake still had to make the drive to Spokane every day, I asked him to pick me up some black solid cotton. The wonderful man found me the best he could - the quilt back cotton, which is something like 120" wide instead of the usual 45". There was so much of it that I had to put it aside for future use, and I am happy to say that length of fabric will not only make my petticoat, but a whole other one as well!

But back to the pattern. Being as naturally rounded as I am, I appreciated the flat front and more elaborate back. It's a much more flattering style for me. I haven't yet worked up the courage to make a bustle, but I'm starting to see it inside the realm of possibility.

This skirt required an amazing amount of gathering and pleating. Before I purchased the pattern, I read several reviews on and other related sites. Everyone mentioned the vast time you'd spend gathering and pleating, but until you're faced with it, you can't really see how daunting it is! I keyed up a mini-marathon of Warehouse 13, pulled my ironing board over to the couch and lowered it until it was the perfect working surface. Some days (okay, every time I sew!) I long for the truly massive muslin-covered work table back at the Theatre UAF costume shop, but as we're in a rather tiny apartment, my ironing board will have to do!

I also had way too much fun with lace, as you can tell from the pictures. I did have one little issue - I was so excited about it that I completely forgot to do the horizontal pleats. If I had remembered to do them, it would have impacted the flare of the skirt as well as the length. I ended up taking off part of the bottom ruffle to make up for the length, but I'm not upset - I love the effect of all those short black ruffles.

Here's a close-up of the waistband. I was initially surprised that it was a drawstring, but it does make a lot of sense. It's much more adjustable and forgiving - especially if you're going to layer multiple petticoats. The drawstring I ordered online was surprisingly thick, but it actually worked out rather well. It's so bulky that it completely fills the channel, keeping the fabric from shifting around when you don't want it to.

This was the only place where I was unsure about the pattern's directions - the diagrams were very sparse, and it doesn't actually tell you how to finish the waistband. What I did was lay it out like the pattern directed and sewed it down. Next, I took the raw 1/2" left on the sides and folded it twice towards the skirt like a hem, so that the raw edge would not be rubbed out by the drawstring. I sewed that down before closing the waistband.

Unlike the pattern's directions, I did not sew the waistband with the drawstring inside. I have a handy-dandy little tool called an Easy Threader for that and it keeps me from making embarrassing mistakes (like sewing things together that shouldn't be) and having to take them out again. I'll be honest - it's happened before, but it's avoidable!

All in all, the design was simple and yet quite effective. The pattern directions were sparse yet easy to follow, and the final result looks exactly like the image on the pattern. I absolutely love this petticoat, and can't wait to start on my friend's!

Want more? You can read my pattern review at for more information.

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