Half Scale Seventeenth Century Dress Recreation: Part 3- The Skirt

Hi all! Time for another update!

Once I had the chemise finished I decided to move on to the skirt so that when it was time to drape the bodice I would be able to drape it over the skirt. Now before I go into the skirt lets talk about fabric.

Historically the formal dresses in the 1660's would have been made out of silk. Extant garments in the V&A and the Museum of Costume are both made of silk: one of a silk satin and the other of silk tissue. According to The Evolution of Fashion: Pattern and Cut from 1066-1930 (Hill & Bucknell, 1967) the fabrics used during the 1660's were "taffetas, velvets, silks and satins- some substantial, others soft and capable of being finely pleated" (p. 102). Now note that silk is a fiber not a weave, so those taffetas, velvets and satins were likely made of silk. Now this being a project for school and meant to be easy to maintain and relatively inexpensive to make I opted to not use silk for this project. I did however want to use something that would hold pleats well, look similar to the texture in the paintings and resemble a silk taffeta or silk satin. Also, I was pretty limited to whatever my local JoAnns store had to offer. I ended up finding this really pretty gold polyester taffeta in the red tag section and snatched it up. It has a slight sheen and nubby texture so it resembles silk dupioni a little bit but most importantly it pleats beautifully! I also think it would look gorgeous with some pearls sewn onto it!

So looking at some of the paintings I posted earlier some skirts appear to have a series of small knife pleats at the waistline and others appear to have cartridge pleating. The two different pleat types are sewn differently, with cartridge pleating being able to use more fabric in a smaller amount of space.  Hill & Bucknell (1967) describes the skirts of the 1660's as "bullet-pleated" (p. 102), which is a type of cartridge pleat. Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress 1500-1800 describe the skirt of the 1660's as cartridge pleated (Hunnisett, 1991). The extant garment from Bath has a skirt made of knife pleats with a double tied waistband. Interesting!

These images are all from http://smg.photobucket.com/user/sapphorama/library/Z%20research/1660s-silver-tissue?sort=6&page=3


Since I've never done cartridge pleating and have always wanted to, I decided to go the catridge pleating route! Whoohoo!

I used the cartridge pleating method outlined in Period Costume for Stage and Screen (Hunnisett, 1991) and this seriously awesome website: How to Sew Cartridge Pleats

In order to figure out how large I wanted my skirt to be a made a small section of cartridge pleats and gathered them up to see how much fabric I'd need to cover an inch. About 6-7" pleated up into an inch so I needed quite a bit of fabric.

Now I wanted to have an easy opening in the back with a waist tie so Dr. Pedersen could easily take the skirt on and off from the form. Since the whole dress is relatively small and light, I decided to omit the second waist tie like the Bath dress has and just go with a simple slim waist band that ties in the back. I made my skirt in three sections, with a larger front panel and two back side panels so I would have a center back seam. 

Now if I were making this a full scale garment I would have likely also made a bum roll to go under the skirt to poof out these pleats. However this garment is simply for teaching purposes and with the body of my fabric it was becoming clear that I would not need the bum roll to hold the weight of the skirt out so I decided to omit it. 

To give the pleats some more oompf (that's a technical term you know) I put a strip of cotton muslin in between the folded back top edge of the skirt. I handsewed it in with a running stitch and then turned it under so it also served as a finish for my edge. 

Now in the photo above you can also see how I stitched the side seams. I used a hand sewn running stitch, trimmed one seam allowance, then folded it over and sewed a small prick whipstitch to anchor it down. I used the same whipstitch to finish the hem as well.

I decided I wanted to leave a 4 inch flat panel on the front of the dress for the point of the bodice to lay over. I started my pleating from that point and went towards the center back.

For the waistband I took a long strip of the gold and made a small tube turned it inside out, finished the ends, and then stitched the underside of the pleats to the waistband. 

And voila! Finished skirt! I'm very happy with the way it came out. Cartridge pleating was much much easier than I always thought it would be and I really love the finished look. I can imagine it being a little more difficult with heavier fabric and in full size but really, it just takes patience. 

As you can see the photo below also has the mock up of the bodice, which will be talked about in another post! 

Stay tuned for more! 

    Hill, M., & Bucknell, P. (1967).   The evolution of fashion: Pattern and cut from 1066 to 1930  . London: Batsford;.    Hunnisett, J. (1991).   Period costume for stage & screen  . Studio City, CA: Players Press.


Hill, M., & Bucknell, P. (1967). The evolution of fashion: Pattern and cut from 1066 to 1930. London: Batsford;.

Hunnisett, J. (1991). Period costume for stage & screen. Studio City, CA: Players Press.