Petticoats

basic patterns: see skirt patterns on the skirt page. A special petticoat pattern will be scanned later.

Petticoats are extremely important for the fit of a gown. A skirt or dress without a petticoat, be it separate or sewn in (i.e. a lining), was unthinkable. The term petticoat encompasses not only skirts, but also dresses worn as undergarment, esp. under ball gowns, and even with long sleeves.

Normally a petticoat has a hem circumference of 2,5 m and is 2-4 cm shorter than the upper skirt. The lower part is made up of (serpentine) flounces: the lowest is about 10 cm wide and covered by another, larger one. The seam between the plain part and the flounce is either covered with drapery or done right-on-right. In the 20th century, flounces were often buttoned on (and fitted with a pocket) with snaps so that they can be washed separately, which was necessary because they had more contact with street dirt than was good for them.

Winter petticoats are made of wool or moirée, summer petticoats of batiste, satin, linen, alpaca etc. Elegant petticoats are made of taffeta. Sometimes proper skirts are made into petticoats when their time has come.

Now here's something about winter skirts I don't understand myself. If you have any idea what it means, please tell me. Here we go:

"As every lady wants to appear as slim as possible, and the volume of the undergarments is a burden for many, winter skirts are lined so that the shorter so-called decency skirt becomes superfluous, but only, of course, if one wears reformed knickers."

I'm not sure what a decency skirt is. Some kind visitors to this site have suggested that it is the relatively tight petticoat, also known as "modesty petticoat", that was worn in earlier times, when women didn't wear knickers yet, to prevent exposure of the legs (or worse) if the skirt flew up.

{Every now and then I get messages, mostly in the guestbook, pertaining to my puzzlement about this. I am grateful for every hint, of course, and feel I'm a lot closer to the truth than I used to be. But I'm afraid there's a bit of a language and maybe cultural confusion...
Most hints come from a background of American Civil War re-enactors. Let me say that we cannot safely assume that American 1860s modesty skirts and German 1908 decency/modesty skirts are the same. Even if they are related, we cannot assume that European or German ladies of the 1860s wore the same undergarments as American ones unless we have proof. I don't have any. Anyway, if I say that ladies didn't wear knickers back then I'm not referring to the open-crotch excuses for knickers that were obviously worn early in the 19th century.}

Petticoats can be decorated with flounces, lace, embroidery etc according to taste. The only important thing is that the flounces become more voluminous towards the hem. The flounces also serve to stiffen the petticoat.

Petticotas are often equipped with pockets in the front part at about knee height, preferably at the seam between skirt and flounce.

 

 

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