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’50s style petticoat

DONNAKAYE | Posted in General Discussion on

I am preparing to construct a ’50s style garment with a gusseted bolero jacket over a square neck sleeveless dress.  The style is typical of the ’50s, full at the hem.  Does anyone know where I can find a pattern for the petticoat?


  1. FrancesC | | #1

    I wore dresses like that! Readymade petticoats were usually stiffened with buckram or the like and weren't washable so I made my own and stiffened it with heavy Pellon. I think I may still have it around somewhere.

    Anyway, it was made in tiers. A top tier just wide enough to go over my hips, the next tier down was wider still, and the bottom tier was the widest and was stiffened with the Pellon and decorated with eyelet embroidery.

    Does that description give you enough idea of how to make it? You certainly don't need to spend money on a pattern.

    I will see if I still have it and, if so, I can post a photo. Even if I don't have it, I can draw one easily enough, but not right now since I have to start dinner.


    1. DONNAKAYE | | #2

      Thank you so kindly.  I can certainly draft the pattern myself but would be just as happy spending a few bucks on one if anyone knows where to get it. Did you use just Pellon?  How do you clean it?  Are there any other fabrics I can use to get the same effect?

      1. FrancesC | | #3

        I still have my petticoat (don't ask why, I really don't know) and have attached 2 photos.
        To make one like mine is very straightforward and a pattern is definitely not required. But you do have to do some thinking about what you want.
        You can see that I used 3 tiers; each tier is just a rectangular strip of fabric gathered on to the strip above.
        The tiers are top)6"x40" middle)10 5/8"x65" bottom)9 1/2"x84". I see that I found that 40" to be too much fabric so I made tucks at the waistline. You have to adjust the sizes to your own measurements and the width of the skirt.
        In this case, I stiffened only the bottom tier. It was for ordinary street wear so I didn't want anything too extreme.
        I used a fairly heavy Pellon and enclosed it for protection. I made a decorative flounce for the same tier, just for decoration. If you use one, make it 1 to 2" wider than the bottom tier so it won't pull in on the tier.
        I could have used a double layer of Pellon for more stiffness or made the bottom tier wider so that there would be more fabric when it was gathered. I could also have used only 2 tiers and made the stiffening longer from top to bottom and, again, I could have used heavier stiffening or a wider tier.
        You do have to decide how bouffant you want your skirt to be.When I read your posting, my mind immediately jumped to a tiered petticoat and I think that would be best for a gathered skirt. However, I imagine that your dress could also be a princess style in which case you should have a shaped petticoat. But that would not be hard to do - just repeat the skirt pieces but stiffen them and possibly add a stiffened ruffle along the bottom. And, of course, you would need to add a waistband.My petticoat is made from cotton or poly/cotton, I don't remeber which, and it is completely washable.Please remember that it was made a long time ago and we now have all sorts of wonderful fabrics and findings which you could use instead. Unfortunately, I am not very knowledgable about what is available so perhaps there are others who could make some suggestions. I have tried to make this as short as possible but no doubt I have left you with questions, which I will be glad to answer. However,I will be away for a week starting Thursday so anything after Wednesday will have to wait.FrancesC

        1. DONNAKAYE | | #5

          "However, I imagine that your dress could also be a princess style in which case you should have a shaped petticoat. But that would not be hard to do - just repeat the skirt pieces but stiffen them and possibly add a stiffened ruffle along the bottom."

          Yes, that is exactly the case here.  The pattern is a Vogue Retro, #2267. Princess seamed, squared neckline dress, gusseted bolero jacket.  What do you mean, a "shaped" petticoat?  Help!?!  (I was born in '55!)

          Edited 6/27/2005 6:40 pm ET by DONNAKAYE

          Edited 6/27/2005 6:40 pm ET by DONNAKAYE

          1. Kiley | | #6

            My last petticoat in the 50's was made of horsehair. It was stiff but in those days we stiffened them more..by soaking them in sugar water then drying them. It worked better than starch. You might say that the girls that wore them were "sugar sweet". :)

          2. FrancesC | | #7

            Donnakaye, that's a very pretty dress (I looked it up on the Vogue site).Because it flares out from the waist, there is less room at the hip than there would be if it was a gathered skirt. So you need to minimize the amount of fabric in your petticoat in that area. One way to do that would be to make a petticoat that follows the skirt pattern. Simply cut a "skirt" from your dress pattern and add a waist band. I would call that a shaped petticoat.Or you could use your petticoat fabric cut on the bias or some kind of stretchy fabric for the top tier which allowed you just enough stretch to get it on. I like that idea, on thinking about it, because it would minimize the amount of fabric at the top but also eliminate the necessity of a waistband. But you would need elastic at the waist.If you used a shaped petticoat, you would need to stiffen it with something. That gives me a problem because I don't know what is out there these days. My solution would probably still work, namely a fairly stiff Pellon (or equivalent) sewn in with a covering layer of fabric to protect it. It occurs to me that there might be some kind of iron-on stiffener that would do the job and save you some time - an interfacing fabric, maybe? And I think I would confine it to the lower half of the petticoat. That depends on how bouffant you want your skirt to be. If not very much, then use a lighter stiffening. These are things that you need to make up your mind about.There is a fair amount of work in this, no matter how you do it. Applying the stiffening to each piece of skirt will take time but so will gathering each section of a tiered skirt and sewing it to the one above.FrancesC

          3. DONNAKAYE | | #8

            You're the best!  Can't wait to experiment!  Will let you know the outcome (after I finish the gold linen suit for my business partner, that is).....

            Donna Childress Brandt


          4. FrancesC | | #10

            Donnakaye, I am thrilled that I could help. But you are the one who has to think out what you want to do, all I have done is to try to point the way. Obviously, you are an intrepid sewer and you will do just fine. I look forward to seeing the result. And congratulations at being able to wear a dress like that at your age!Elisabeth, I think I kept it because I put considerable work into it and thought maybe it would come in handy again, some day. I haven't kept much, just my wedding dress and going away dress and another dress I made about 20 years ago which required so much work that I couldn't bear to give it away to just anybody. But I also wear my clothes for a long time so some of the things in my active closet are pretty old.The netting might work, it depends on how heavy the dress fabric is. I think I would make an underlayer in the petticoat to keep the netting away from the body. Something silky.FrancesC

          5. AuntBarb | | #11

            Check children's patterns, such as Vogue for how they recommend to do these types of petticoats today.  If I remember correctly, I used Tricot (slip fabric) for the top.  Depending on the amount of fulness needed Organza wit a layer of net in the middle would work.

            Aund Barb 

          6. mem1 | | #12

            I wore a petticoat which had shape in the waistand upper third   under my wedding dresswhich had a drpped waist. I made it by having a yoke made from the top of a straight skirt pattern and inserting a zip and then gathered layers of tulle net onto it spacing them to get the correct sillouette as I went along They were attached to the slightly fared bottom of the petticoat and sat between the dress and the actual petticoat.The  longest layers which held out the bottom of the dress was stiffened along their  edges with horsehair tape which is a sheer tape used for this purpose.You can get it in any good haberdashery department.Its used in wedding dresses.It can actually be used as afacing along the bottom of your dress as well.

        2. Elisabeth | | #9

          Nice petticoat! I'm glad you kept it, so we could see it. I wonder if "can can" net would work for a 50's style. It's a bit scratchy but it's light weight and has a nice crispness.

      2. FrancesC | | #4

        Donnakaye, I just read your posting about your mother and the Bishop method which sent me to my sewing books to find that I still have a copy of the Bishop Method book. You can see that I keep things for a long time! I have never really stopped sewing but I did get rather sporadic about it but now that I have got a lot of problems out of the way I am trying to do more, before I get too old. I must re-read the book to remind me of all the things I have forgotten.FrancesC

  2. roone | | #13

    Hi Donnakaye I might suggest you look at wedding dress patterns for tierred petticoats. When I made my wedding dress the pattern included the petticoat. Another thing I might suggest would be to look at costume patterns. If you wanted to just create one I might suggest making a simple elastized tube, then stitching, in tiers layers of gathered netting. You could apply as many as you needed to create the right affect. Good luck Karen

    1. DONNAKAYE | | #14

      Great idea!  I can't wait to go check out the wedding and historical patterns....Will let you know!

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