Author Topic: Italian petticoat/underskirt questions  (Read 988 times)

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Offline gem

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Italian petticoat/underskirt questions
« on: February 03, 2016, 06:49:44 PM »
I'm planning the pieces for a mid/late 16th c. Italian ensemble (1560s-1580s). I'm thinking of making a petticoat/underskirt and stiffening the hem with tucks and wool felt, like Anea/Operafantomet talks about in her wonderful article, here:

(The gown I'm making will actually be pretty similar to the painting of little Isabella Colonna shown at the very bottom of the article.)

First question: pattern/construction:
I'm having trouble figuring out what shape such an underskirt should be. What works best? Straight panels/yardage, pleated to a waistband? Shaped panels? Pleating down yardage is obviously simpler, but if shaped panels will work better, can you point me to resources that show what those pieces would look like?

Second question, fabric.
The fabric that has volunteered for this project is a lightweight rayon-blend satin that is the perfect color and "class" for this gown. It looks, feels, and behaves very similarly to a midweight linen, although it's a bit slinkier (because of the rayon) and loftier (it's hard to fold neatly because it keeps puffing up). The linen-y-ness and loftiness make me think it will work fine in a petticoat... but the slinky-rayonishness makes me worry that, except for the stiffened hem, it will all just collapse under the gown skirts (silk velvet, lined in...?).

How can I tell/test this? I have a bazillion yards of this fabric (like 9), and it's been hanging around in the stash for years now, so it's no great loss if I test it out and it doesn't work... but I don't want to give it a try if it's just doomed from the outset!

I'm not sure you can tell much from this photo. The fabric is a shimmery metallic satin; the wrong side looks like linen. It's slippery and hard to wrangle, although it washes, presses, and sews beautifully (it's just challenging to pick up 9 yards of it without it wanting to pour right out of your arms).

Here's a picture of a couple 1/8 yard cuts of the fabric; this might show the loft a bit better?

Thanks for any help/leads you can offer! Hoping to get this made for February's "Tucks & Pleating" challenge at the Historical Sew Monthly. :)

Offline isabelladangelo

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Re: Italian petticoat/underskirt questions
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2016, 05:36:24 AM »
I wouldn't use the rayon no matter how pretty.  Rayon is meant to be drapey and not stiff in anyway.  Also, being not natural, you'd probably be better off with either a heavy silk, wool, or cotton velvet.   Nothing goes up in flames like rayon - bad if you are ever near smokers or a campfire. 

As for the shape, I'd go with Eleanor Toledo's skirt pattern.  It's slightly shaped but still pleated at the top.  Anea has a photo of Eleanor's dress up on the hem page among other places to give you a good idea of the shape.   The closest commercial pattern I've seen to it is that old Shakespear in Love one- use the skirt pattern from that if you don't want to make your own.   Of course, you'll have to make the front longer than the back to add the tuck.  What I suspect they really did is use the yardage, shape the sides but leave the length and, then when it was done, add the tuck so the person could walk, but leave the back length and just prop up the back with bumrolls and wheel farthingales - which is why we see it around the same time those pop up.  Rather than shape the bustle, they just tuck up the front. 

Offline operafantomet

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Re: Italian petticoat/underskirt questions
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2016, 02:05:40 PM »
I am thrilled you found the article on the "doppia" helpful! I'm a big fan of the method myself, it's really improved the look of my gowns as well as walking comfort. By now I've added a "doppia" to all underskirts and most gown skirts.

I agree that the Eleanora di Toledo and/or Pisa dress patterns will be good starting points if you want something similar to Isabella Colonna's skirt. You need straight panels with inserted gores at the hem. Simple as that. The waist can be pleated or gathered - both works well.

That said, I've also tried just taking a giant strip of fabric, pleat it down and tuck it to a waistband. Also works well, and there's very little sewing. The "doppia" is added afterwards, so you can adjust the length. It's how I make "quick and dirty" petticoats. But straight panels with gores can save you some yardage, if that's of interest. And it gives you a bit more hourglass silhouette.

(Adding a "doppia" to a skirt with train is a bit more work, as the skirt curves at the sides and in the back. But wool felt is wonderful to work with, and can be cut in angles and tacked together at the curvy parts)


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