1880s Fundy Undies - Petticoat and Corset Cover

Hello Lovelies!

I'm back again for more 1880s goodness. As you know, I had to start from the skin out for this era, and while I bought what I could, I did also make some basics since I couldn't find exactly what I needed to purchase. So, I set out to make myself a petticoat, and I also decided to be good and make a corset cover.

Corset Cover

My patterns for these two garment came from two well known sources - the corset cover came from Frances Grimble's book - Fashions of the Gilded Age Volume 1. I followed the instructions using the scales as best as I could. I found the Fashions of the Gilded Age's system to be more difficult to use, since it was based in centimeters and not inches, and so finding the ruler that best matched my bust measurement was a little confusing. I also think that this affected the outcome of the corset cover at the end as well (meaning: I should have gone up one more ruler).

Another issue I had with this was that the illustrated corset cover that went with this pattern was not the one depicted. While Frances states this in the text, it was annoying because I liked the illustrated corset cover better than the one I patterned. (yes, I could have adjusted it, but I was lazy and didn't want to.)

The book, a photocopy of the pattern, and my scaled ruler so I can draft up this little thing. 

To make my life easier, I copied the page that had the pattern in it so I could have the pattern and the instructions out at the same time - avoiding the annoying flip back and forth. It was super easy to draft out, and I would definitely suggest drafting a corset cover from these books as a newcomer's "first project". It gives you the practice of drafting out bodices, etc., without the stress or more difficult pieces. You also will get an idea of how the patterns work and fit so you have a better handle on how the patterns work when you go to the more advanced projects.

Basic pattern pieces for the corset cover all cut out of the cotton fabric. 
As for construction, it was really straight forward, I just had some fiddling to do with the darts at the front of the cover being too snug. Since the cover was closed with buttons, I also had to remember how to do that (I have spent most of my sewing life avoiding buttons.)

This resulted in a massive brain fart when it came to trying to find my buttonhole foot for my machine ... which I found in a bag of patterns after I had a shopping disaster and bought 3 buttonhole feet. My total count is now 3 that work with my machine and one that doesn't. Talk about a shopping failure.

While, I was failing all over the place with my button hole foot, Lauren pointed out that I could just do it with the zig-zag stitch and eye ball it. Not one to appreciate being bottle-necked in a project I really wanted to get done, I went to town with this. It totally worked, but it definitely is on the uglier side of things. However, since it's an undergarment that no one will ever really see, I really don't care.

...I also ended up with some discoloration on the center front because my iron was being an asshole. So, eh. Nothing is ever perfect. But, I got it finished in a weekend, which was my goal.

No perfect, but better than nothing. :) 

1880s Petticoat, or, how Abby fell in love with Paper Cotton

Now, for my petticoat, I decided to skip drafting my own from Frances Grimble's book (because, crawling on the floor isn't my favorite thing to do.), and give Truly Victorian a try. I know a lot of my fellow historic costumers are big fans of the patterns, and I figured that a petticoat would be a good way to get my feel for their patterns.

Per the recommendation of Lauren and other costumers' blog posts, I originally wanted to do the petticoat out of cotton organdy, but I was temporarily disappointed when Mill End fabric didn't have any in their glorious textile cavern. They did, however, have a fabric called "Paper Cotton" which was a cotton fabric that was a tighter and more dense weave, but had sizing in it that did make it behave like paper. It wasn't terribly heavy, and it was cheap...so I figured it would be worth giving a shot.

For my pattern, I used Truly Victorian TV170 Petticoat pattern (view 3). I found it very easy to cut out and put together. I did confuse myself with the tucks on the back, but that was my own fault, and once I figured out the correct way to do it (meaning that I read the instructions more carefully) it was very clear and straight forward. The one thing I didn't do, was fasten this petticoat with a draw string. I, instead, pleated the back to fit the waist band that was correct to my waist measurement. I'm not terribly fond of draw strings, and I wanted to keep everything as streamlined and possible.

The paper cotton was really nice to work with - it doesn't fray...at all, and so it made for a very clean, thread free working environment...for once. I have noticed that the paper cotton will sometimes have issues in heavily sewn or stress points, but it hasn't been a massive problem, just something that I need to be aware of and handle with a bit more care.

Since the fabric is on the thinner side, it also doesn't feel terribly heavy to wear, and the body of the petticoat really did a nice job holding my skirts out. So much so, that I faced the hem of my underskirt in some pink paper cotton scraps that I had from my TV108 project (which I will blog about eventually.) Paper cotton is magic, y'all. Love that stuff!

My version of the TV170 View 3 petticoat for late bustle era. I need to readjust the hook and bark so I get a snugger fit around my waist and less pulling in the back. 

Ok! So that's it for my Petticoat and Corset Cover. Next up will be the underskirt for my 1880s Nautical Stripe ensemble!

<3 <3


  1. I tried to use Frances Grimble's patterns from that same book for one of the underskirt patterns. It turned out WAY TOO BIG for a natural form skirt. Like, the circumference was 180''. And I've tried scaling up some of the bodices before with the rulers, but...I think I did it wrong. I thought picking out the right scale would be simple, but I ended with up an almost doll-sized bodice. In other words, HELP!!!


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