basic petticoat instructions

Sharing these basic instructions since I've been asked a few times & this should save me the extra typing. These instructions make an average sized petticoat suitable for many historical periods. I have worn mine for everything from the 15th through 19th centuries, and yes, even sometimes in my modern life.


2 yards of 60" wide fabric
3 yards or more 1/2" wide linen or silk tape

To make a basic petticoat:

1. Cut your material into 2, 1 yard pieces; one for the front panel, one for the back.

2. Turn the fabric so that you are pleating along the 60" side. This leaves you with a 36" long skirt, more than generous enough for most applications.

3. Knife pleat 1 panel of your fabric. See "Taking a Stab at Knife Pleating" for detail instructions.

4. Sew the pleats in place, right at the very top or the panel.

5. Repeat for your other panel.

6. Lay both panels right sides together (like the skirt is inside out).

7. Measure ~9" down from the top edge, where your pleats are.

8. Sew from the bottom edge of the panels to that 9" mark. The remaining space will act as your pocket hole.

9. Measure a piece of linen tape long enough to go around your waist & tie in back easily. Cut 2 of these, one for each side.

10. Line the center of the tape up with the center of the front panels. Lay the remainder of the tape along the panel's top edge.

11. Sew the tape to the panel.

12. Fold the tape over to the opposite (right) side. If you are lucky when you fold the tape over it will hide the machine sewing lines from attaching the tape & from sewing the pleats together.

13. Hand sew, with a whip stitch or straight stitch, the folded part of the tape in place.

14. Repeat attaching the tape for the back panel.

15. Hem the skirt. Don't be shy about this. Idea length for a working woman's skirt is short enough that she doesn't have to pick the skirt up when going up stairs with her hands full of things. Also, if it's shorter you are less likely to step on the back when crouching down & standing up again, nearly falling head first into the fire pit you were bending down to tend!

To wear your petticoat:

1. Turn the petticoat right side in (d'oh!)

2. Take the ties from the back and wrap it around your waist like a backwards apron. Tie in the front.

3. Do the same with the front ties, going around back like a traditional apron.

Taadahh! You're wearing a period correct petticoat.

Hope that helped!


  1. Just the other Slight Obsessed blogger out there stopping by. I found a link to you on craftster -- I was staring at thinking "I know I didn't do a tutorial on knife pleats. . . what's going on?" :)


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