Many years ago I started researching corded petticoats. It all began because I wanted to make an 1830s dress and needed the proper silhouette underneath. There wasn’t much information out there. But I picked up bits and pieces and started to put together what they really were and how they were made.
Then I started collecting… I own a few originals, each with their own methods of construction but still similar. The particular petticoat I’m showing you here awed me. I’d heard of cords being actually woven into fabric but had never seen them…. until I bought this one on eBay. Can you say Jaw-Dropping Fantastic?!
c.1840s Corded Petticoat Vitals
- Fabric: linen with cotton cord that has been starched
- Length: 39 1/4″ including waistband
- Width: 94″, made from 2 panels of roughly 47″ each
- Waistband width: 1 1/2″
- Width of cording section: 13 1/2″
- Number of cord rows: 33
- Hem: 3/8″ or 3/4″ from first cord to selvedge edge
- Opening: 10″
- Tuck: 7/8″ or 1 3/4″ total take up
The Woven Cords
The 13 1/2″ section of cording is made from rows of cotton cording woven in the fabric with the selvedge turned up to create the small hem. A large tuck above it was probably there to shorten the petticoat as they used the entire width of the textile.
It was not uncommon for women to purchase lengths of pre-corded fabric and simply sew in a seam to create the undergarment. This petticoat was made by *somewhat* staggering the rows of cord to reduce bulk within the seam.
The seam allowance here is about 1/4″. It is made with a tiny running stitch. The cords were not trimmed before seaming and the edges are left loose (no whipstitching to finish).
The filler really does appear like a braided cord, not loose shreds of other fiber.
The waistband is wide at 1 1/2″ and unsupported by any type of underlining. The width helps keep it flat against the tight corset. The skirt is set onto the waistband in large knife pleats.
What I find fascinating is that there are no closures on the waistband. The ends around the opening have been repaired with pieces of cotton but no sign of hook & eyes or even tapes sewn to the edges to tie closed.
The opening itself is cut straight into the fabric down 10″ from the waistband seam. The edges were rolled inside and stitched down.
Another unusual item about this petticoat is the shoulder straps. I’ve seen them on Regency dresses, both skirts and petticoats, but not on a corded petticoat this late into the century. They are quite long making the waistband sit pretty much at the waist.
Now that I look at the photos again, I have to admit I may have the petticoat on backward on the dressform. From the photo above the pleats seem to be wide then taper off as they near the opening. That opening may actually be in the center front. Skirts of this era were commonly pleated with the pleats facing forward. This would make sense to have more fabric in the back to fall over a small pad worn right beneath the corded petticoat. hmm….
What do you think about this corded petticoat? Have you woven cords into fabric before or seen it done?