One of my biggest pet peeves about admiring reproduction historical clothing is being able to tell where there is a shocking lack of petticoats. A woman may have the most beautiful gown, the correct silhouette, and fabulous accessories – but it can all fall flat if she doesn’t have enough (and I do mean that) petticoats. One petticoat usually doesn’t cut it.
The worst offense is when a hoop skirt is worn. Have you ever seen a Civil War or 1860s skirt where a distinct wire row is visible about 6″ to 12″ above the hem? (yikes) Sometimes the row is seen even with a petticoat. Sometimes that one petticoat is not enough. Obviously.
It really IS ok to wear multiple petticoats!
They won’t hurt and will make your costume that much better. If you don’t want several waistbands under your skirt, set the petticoat panels onto a yoke or set them all together onto one waistband.
The two early-1850s skirts below would not have that gentle bell shape without the use of multiple petticoats supporting them underneath.
I just cringe when I see a fantastically made 1890s gown only to notice the skirt falling limp against the wearer’s legs. Even if the skirt has all the proper panels and hem width. And simply adding horsehair or other stiffener in the hem won’t cut it.
The problem is NOT ENOUGH PETTICOATS.
Our ancestors knew the secret to a fashionable silhouette. They knew that you won’t look the same with just a skirt about you, over your chemise and drawers. They knew the extra foundation skirts, cut just so, would show the world your fashionable eye.
So many problems can be solved by adding an extra petticoat – that airy ball gown skirt will stay put; the bell shape you desire will form; the cold air you feel will be dispelled; that train will lay flat.
Plain, corded, ruffled, trained, gored, tucked, paneled, shaped, tied – you name it. That extra petticoat or two could be the missing element of your costume. Give it a try!
What are your thoughts on petticoats? Please leave a comment below.