Late 18th Century Skirt Supports – The Unorthodox Edition

I have received some questions from you guys asking what I wear under my petticoats to give that super-poof shape.  Well…it ain’t pretty.  I don’t have picture-perfect panniers, or layers and layers of ruffled, pintucked, or embroidered petticoats.  While I would like to, in the end i’m kindof lazy when it comes to the under things – I go for the overall look and tend to use whatever means possible to achieve that.  Here we go:

Layer 1 – Bumpad.
This goes on first (over chemise, stays, anything else closest to the skin).  It’s a crescent shape with three partitions, and ties around the waist.

Bumpad (this is showing the side back)

Layer 2 – The Puffer.  (technical term)
This ugly thing works wonders.  Seriously, it makes all the difference.  It’s cheap pre-quilted fabric gathered into a waistband and tied around the waist.  It’s a short length for no particular reason (could be longer, could have a massive ruffle attached), and it *really* adds the volume to the upper part of the skirt, to give that nice full shape.  I also wear this over my hoop skirt for mid-Victorian, to help achieve the bell shape of that period.

The Ugly Puffer, but this thing WORKS

Layer 3 – Petticoat.
This is a basic muslin petticoat, made just like the one in this tutorial.  It’s floor-length, although I do pin it up sometimes if I’m wearing a walking-length skirt.  I wear this petticoat with pretty much everything, including over my mid-Victorian hoop skirts.

Pretty basic – ties on front and back with shoe laces

Layer 4, 5, 6, 7 – More Petticoats, if I had them.
I love the massively puffy skirts of the 18th c., so when I get off my lazy bum and make another petticoat, I will pile that one on as well.  Stack on the the ruffles, the cording, the pleats!

Top Layer – Your Skirt(s).
The last layer is what shows on the outside.  I almost always wear taffeta for 18th c. (or cotton), and this material also adds fullness to the overall look.  If you are wearing heavier materials, I recommend more petticoats or underlayer supports so that heavier skirt doesn’t smoosh down your poof.

The taffeta skirt – might be a petticoat itself, for an open-front gown, or might pair it with a jacket.

And that’s it.  It’s about as paired down as it can be, and even when I look at photos now I think “I need to make more petticoats!”  Don’t be afraid of the super-poof, ladies, it only makes your waists look smaller!  I hope this has been of some help, and as always, comments are welcome 🙂


  • Rowenna

    February 17, 2011 at 8:56 PM

    OK, yours look better than mine! My false rump is…an old towel. Really. Folded and stitched into shape. I should be ashamed…but…it does work! Someday I'll make proper underthings 🙂

  • Anonymous

    February 17, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    Hmm. You make me think I ought to start making petticoats for lazy costumers like you (and myself, if I ever get off my butt and, you know, costume). I sometimes enjoy the loooooong seams and pinning and pressing.

    I know, I'm a little psycho that way.

  • Abigael

    February 17, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    Oh my goodness, thank you so much for posting this! I am always mightily perplexed about that poufy quality that some folks manage to preserve. I am definitely making myself an ugly puffer.

  • Lauren Stowell

    February 18, 2011 at 12:49 AM

    hey, whatever works! Rolled up towel … old socks stuffed in a knee-high stocking…(been there).

    Abigael, ugly puffer wins! Although don't make yours as ugly as mine, hahaha. I didn't even hem that thing.

  • Angela

    February 18, 2011 at 11:03 PM

    I also am not always 'period' in my underthings…So I will often use your layer and one and two combined and then layer three. However, I tend to make 1780's on up. I am not a pannier kind of gal. But, if I needed more side action, I love your solution! Thanks

  • Lauren R

    February 20, 2011 at 8:02 AM

    In what few things I've seen in textile collections and museums, women made their supports out of just about everything. There's a wonderful little bustle in the costume museum here that is made out of bed springs 🙂

  • Sandra Brake

    February 20, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Y'know I wondered about things like that. I know well-to-do people could afford well constructed clothing etc but I imagine the average woman wouldn't have had much money for things that they could, with a bit of thought make for themselves with whatever they had handy. I love people's ingenuity!

  • Unknown

    June 8, 2012 at 8:53 AM


    Is the puffer only attached ad the Back, where the Bumpad is, or is it like short round skirt?
    Its a nice Idea, and i want to give it a chance, because my new gown is made from a heavy material, wich kills all fullness… *sigh*

  • Unknown

    May 29, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    I love this article and its thanks to you Lauren that I now have pooch skirts, although pre quilted fabric in the uk tends to be rather expensive, i did find a cheap quilted matress protector which I cut up and turned into a skirt floofer. The difference is amazing. So yay, thankies hun.

  • Miren L.

    September 15, 2013 at 6:00 AM

    This is so helpful, thank you! I just used an old sheet to make the petticoat and pillowcase fabric for the 'bumpad.' Your tutorials are always very helpful and straightforward. I really want to try with a quilted puffer as well!

  • Katy

    March 5, 2017 at 7:46 PM

    I love your blog, and this ugly puffer is very helpful! I just made my own cage crinoline, which was a ton of work, then put it on and I'm disappointed by the lack of floof at the top. I remembered reading this page a long time ago, and so I googled it, though a little bit wrong (note to all, do NOT search for "ugly fluffer"!!) So, I need to make one of these…but I'm new enough to this that I'd love to ask sort of how much quilted material I want to gather into that waistband for a puffer skirt? Thanks

  • sara

    February 23, 2020 at 11:28 PM

    So happy to have company on the unmentionables walk of shame. Currently my 18th c skirt support is an old pair of pantyhose stuffed with air pillows from amazon packages, and tied around my waist by the (unstuffed) legs. Truly shameful but they work SO well and add NO weight. I keep planning a pair of pocket hoops, but it's amazing how sturdy my "airhoops" are!

  • Nara

    November 6, 2022 at 10:39 AM

    I keep meaning to copy this pattern we used at work for myself since one of the choristers was my size – we made pannier for the entire female chorus with 3 ruffles of sefar gathered onto a fabric base and tacked into shape. It gave SO much lift and puff while adding basically no weight and being really easy to sit in. Wish I could add a picture!

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