LACMA Sacque-Ma: Operation Petti-Pouf

Thank you to everyone who left incredibly helpful comments on yesterday’s petticoat post.  Last night I went for it with implementing each of the changes suggested, to see what effect they had.

Pretty much all of them were/are necessary, and I’m *still* not through it with this petticoat yet, but it’s getting there.  Here’s where I am today:

What I’ve learned about mid-18th c. petticoats thus far:

  • The top curves control fullness over the sides, but if there is too much, it will cause sagging in the skirt, and the hem will fall under (this is part of what was happening with mine)
  • Stiffness at the hem is a good idea – taffeta, horsehair, etc.
  • The panier shape for the late 1760s and 1770s is high at the hip, but with a narrow body.  Control tapes to create the kidney shape are *very* important.  A ruffle at the hem of the panier helps, too. Not all panier shapes will just “work” !!
  • Pleating the front of the petticoat on the dress form helps.
  • A 120″ hem may be period correct, but perhaps just not full enough – I’ve had this experience with round silhouette petticoats too…
  • A little shortness at the sides of the petticoat help draw it up into the A-line shape.
  • A flat front is important for decorations – some decorations will add stiffness, others won’t.

I still have work to do with my silhouette.  In the photo, I have my desiccated panier, but when I shrunk it so significantly, it lowered the hip hoops, so I actually have my small pocket hoops stacked on top, just to see what an effect it would have (and it looks good, so this tells me I need to mess with the understructures more, or just make some damned pocket hoops already).  Basically, this project is like this:

My hem also needs to be lowered, but lucky me, it’s faced about 3 inches, so there’s wiggle room.  It just means more work.  Yay.

All this for something that is going to be 75% covered!


  • Anonymous

    April 30, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    I know how I'd make this work on a doll dress, but it would not do for a full-size gown that is supposed to have a reasonably authentic support, and is going to be worn by someone who moves… Basically, I shape the support structure any which way I want it, and put it into the petticoat. Miniature paniers are adorable, but I'd really rather not…

  • Jennifer Bristow

    May 1, 2013 at 12:11 AM

    I was thinking that aren't all petticoats Petticoats of DOOM? At least until they are finished anyway. Thanks for sharing because it will be beautiful!

  • Hallie Larkin

    May 1, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Lauren, your front box pleat is too large, and you do not have enough fabric length at the sides, the center front of the petticoat should measure shorter than than the sides. Turn the excess fabric at center front to the inside, tapering the fabric to the sides where you want the full length. It is a little tricky but once you get the hang of it, it is very simple to get the petticoat to hang well over the hoops. Pocket hoops would work better for the gown you are trying to make. These are grand panniers for a huge mantua and god knows what Simplicity based the pattern on.

    • Hallie Larkin

      May 1, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      The best pocket hoop pattern is in Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress 1500-1800, it is based on a pair at the Museum of London. If you don't have it, let me know and I can send you the dimensions.

  • Anna

    May 1, 2013 at 5:10 AM

    I'm dying of laughter at the screaming goat…I basically make that noise at some point in the middle of EVERY sewing project, usually while tearing my hair out, lying on the cold hard ground. *snicker*

    The fabric is soooo lovely, so glad it all 'came out in the wash' so to speak. Hallie's right though about the box pleat in the middle being too big, it's giving your side pleats this weird triangular origami look. I just had to re-do a curtain-along petticoat with the same problem yesterday and it helps it hang much better now.

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