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Vintage crinoline petticoat

user-194448 | Posted in The Archives on

I have to make a vintage style (1950s) crinoline petticoat, the kind with lots of rows of gathered net. Any suggestions on how many yards of net I might need and how to sew the different tiers of gathered net together?  I need help fast. Thanks for any help offered.


  1. Josefly | | #1

    One thing about net crinolines: the net is painful against the skin. It feels much better if there is a layer of tricot between the layers of net and the skin.

    I can give you some simple instructions. You will have to figure the amount of yardage depending on how long the slip will be and how wide the net is.

    You can sew the net to a ready-made tricot slip, solving the comfort problem. A long strip of net, doubled for more volume, is gathered and sewn around the slip anywhere from 4 inches to 9 inches from the waist. (The length of this strip should be at least twice and maybe 2 1/2 times the distance around the slip at the point where it will be attached. The width of the strip depends on how long you want the slip to be, minus the 4 to 9 inches of slip at the top, and minus 6 more inches for the bottom ruffle. Then, at the bottom of this strip, gather another strip of net, twice as long as the first strip, but only 6 inches wide. Again, this strip can be doubled for more volume. You sew this gathered strip onto the bottom of the first one, just overlapping the gathered edge on top of the first layer by 1 inch, and stitching 1/2 ffrom the edge. You can of course make as many of these tiers as you like, each one double the length of the one above, and as wide as you need to make the crinoline as long and full as you want. But if you're making a crinoline only below-knee length or mid-calf, two tiers as I've described might be enough.

    I'm assuming this is part of a costume. If it is a crinoline that will be worn more than once, you might want to bind the raw edges of the net at the bottom of the bottom ruffle, because the net really feels like pins in your legs especially when you sit down. If it will only be worn briefly, it might not seem worth binding all that length of ruffle. I made one of these for my daughter for a costume, and I found some inexpensive satin ribbon 1/2 inch wide, which I simply folded over the raw edge of the net and stitched to form a smoother, more comfortable edge.

    This really brings back memories for me - I wore these things almost every day in the mid-fifties. The best ones were not actually made from net, but from some other stiffer fabric like net, because net loses its stiffness after a wash or two and became too limp to hold our skirts out enough. Some of them were made with a very stiff organdy which was heavily starched after washing, and hung by their circular edges on the clothesline to dry so they would dry in a circle shape. They were so crisp they sounded like paper when you sat on them. "Crinoline" actually refers to a very stiff fabric, originally a horse-hair-and-linen combo. I actually knew a girl whose mother made her a crinoline out of nylon window screen. It certainly kept its stiffness and did its job holding out the full circular skirts, but of course, when we sat down in those things our skirts popped up and the crinoline showed, and the screen was dark grey, instead of the pristine white everyone expected! :) Maybe more than you want to know!

    I wish you luck and hope this is helpful.

    1. user-194448 | | #2

      Thank you very much for taking the time to post to my question. I graduated from high school in the mid 50s. We are having a 50th reunion and I needed one of those "slips" for the reunion.[We have an original poodle skirt from the 50s for display] I appreciate your directions and instructions. I think I will use red nylon net. I know it will be a bit scratchy but your ideas will over come those "wearing" problems. I plan to make and wear a Vogue vintage (1957 pattern) dress. I'm using our school colors. It has been a few years and I had forgotten how they were made. I haven't had such a petticoat in years. The costume shops want $40-$50 and I thought I could make one for less money especially as I don't plan to be wearing in very often (at my age). Thank you again for taking time to post.

      Stone Lady

      1. Josefly | | #3

        What fun! Shouldn't be hard to do, and much cheaper to sew.

      2. Teaf5 | | #4

        I recently added tulle to the hem of a dress and found that bridal tulle, 6" wide by 25 yards long, was a very fast way to do it because I didn't have to wrestle with fabric net to cut it into lengths.  The normal price is 2.99 per roll, but there are probably sales and close outs (at fabric stores and at party supply stores, where they sell it for making favors.)

        Tulle is softer and more comfortable than net, so to get the same fullness, I used a double layer that was four times the desired length.  Very pretty and nice!

  2. mygaley | | #5

    In Sew a Beautiful Wedding by Palmer/Pletsch, there is a good description and pattern for sewing different kind of petticoats. They suggest you use an a-line skirt as a base and the top can form the yoke. Remember your ruffles don't have to go all the way to the top; start them about 8-10 inches down. The petticoats we wore in the 50's were constructed so all the seams were on the outside, and yes the bottom edge was bound so it wasn't scratchy. I have never been satisfied with the fullness of net petticoats, so I try to get that extra-heavy net but it only comes in white and black (Hancock's) I'm sure you know about using buttonhole twist and zig-zag over it to pull up your ruffles (use 4 times the width you want).

    Here's another tip that I have done and it works: use monofilament fishing line (clear) about 20 wt and zz over it as you sew your gathering seam and hems. This product is dirt cheap some dollar stores have it. DH says 30 wt is what they catch whales with (if DH donates some to you be sure and smell of it first LOL). Fuse the overlap together with a drop of super glue. This is flexible enough to sit on and bend but will hold your garment out similar to those wired ribbons. If it's not as stiff as you want it, zz with two layers of the monofilament. With the monofilament you can use a non-net fabric perhaps organza or very lightweight taffeta and you will not require as much fullness, thereby saving money.

    Another thing I was taught to do was to partly unfold your nylon net lengthwise so you had four layers with all folds at the bottom and the cut edges at the top. Gather all 4 layers at once and you will get a lot of stiffness for your labors. No need to join them end to end, just overlap slightly. A historical note: to be really authentic, these can-cans as we called them have to be as long as the skirt over it, thus ensuring it shows the entire time you're wearing it--guaranteed to drive your parents wild!

    Hope this helps. God bless you, Galey (If you have a friend who is a square dancer, maybe she will let you borrow one of hers. I wish I could lend you mine.

    I should have put this first: thrift shops sometimes have petticoats, so if you have time, shop there. Also, I once bought a taffeta bridesmaid's dress with a stain on it for $5 at goodwill and removed the sewn-in petticoat and used it with a new elastic casing in the waistline. I always shop thrift shops for specialty fabrics and underpinnings; I know of one that has store donated gowns and every gown is $75.00. As you know, it doesn't take long to use up $75 buying lace and trim.

    Edited 8/26/2006 9:12 pm ET by mygaley

  3. sewchris703 | | #6

    This is probably too late but bridal shops sometimes rent the petticoats.  The shop where I work rent the petticoats in different fullnesses for $25 + a $25 refundable deposit (if the gown wasn't purchased at our shop).


    1. user-194448 | | #7


      Your post is not to late. I appreciate the suggestion. It is one I certainly would never of thought of. Thanks.


      1. sewchris703 | | #8

        You're welcome.  Even if you have to spend more than the $25 that we charge on the petticoat rental, it's still got to be worth it in time and agravation in making your own.


    2. Teaf5 | | #9

      Wow! What a great idea! This would be ideal for some of the more elaborate Halloween costumes I have planned... Thanks!

      1. sewchris703 | | #10

        Or check out your local thrift stores.  The last time I was at our  AmVets thrift store, they had petticoats and hoops for sale.   A great way to get a slip/hoop for dirt cheep since new, they can run around $100 to buy.  Especially if you end up needing them for more than one Holloween.


        1. Teaf5 | | #11

          Thanks, but our local thrift stores are fairly well picked over and rarely have anything other than polyester blouses, garishly printed tshirts, and moth-eaten men's suits.  But our local university occasionally has costume sales, so maybe I'll just have to check one out this year!

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