Monthly Archives: March 2014

Early 1880s pouf over skirt

When many people look at fashions from other eras, especially the Elizabethan and Victorian eras, their comments are often something to do with how complicated that costume is or that it would be hard to make.  Many gowns have many pieces and are covered with yards and yards of trim.  If you look at the actual patterns (collected in some of the books on my Links and Books page), you can see that the shapes themselves aren’t very complex.  There often was either a lot of trim or draping and pleating to give a desired shape and look.

In the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, many over skirts had a fairly short sort of apron in the front which went from the front to the side back (if you stand with your hands on your waist, to around where the tips of your thumbs touch your waist).  Sometimes there was a longer apron under the first one.  The back was a longer pouf that was mostly a rectangle pleated around its edges and the resulting poufs in the middle tacked at various spots.  After making the front apron and the back pouf and adding as much trim as you want, sew one side of the one to the side of the other.  Sew to a waistband.  On the other side, add snaps or hooks and eyes to keep it closed.  Usually the bodice and the over skirt were in the same fabric, while the under skirt was in a different color or texture.

First take a large rectangular piece of fabric you can play with and pin the pleats.  Once you know if that piece is too large, too small, or just right, you can cut it out of the fabric you want plus enough to hem it all around.

Here are photos so you can see what I’m talking about.  I used 3 different fabrics: floppy antique satin, quilt cotton, and regular apparel polyester matte satin.

Floppy antique satin with the top pleated

Floppy antique satin with the top pleated.  Pleat the bottom, too.

 

Close up of the top pleats

Close up of the top pleats

 

Pleat the sides like this, further apart than the top and bottom.

Pleat the sides like this, further apart than the top and bottom.

 

The top, bottom, and sides have been pleated, leaving some floppy puffiness in the middle and making the rectangle smaller than its original size.

The top, bottom, and sides have been pleated, leaving some floppy puffiness in the middle and making the rectangle smaller than its original size.  The bottom almost always folds under, as seen (rather, not seen) here.

Various spots of the pouf have been pinned.  Play with it until you get it looking how you want it to and just tack down with a few machine stitches (or several by hand).  Many over skirts were not symmetrical.  Have fun with it.

Various spots of the pouf have been pinned. Play with it until you get it looking how you want it to and just tack down with a few machine stitches (or several by hand). Many over skirts were not symmetrical. Have fun with it.

Here is a piece of cotton with the top pleated.

Here is a piece of cotton with the top pleated.

The bottom and sides have been pleated, leaving a pouf in the  middle as above, but as this cotton is less floppy than the antique satin, it stands up better and has a different look than the antique satin.

The bottom and sides have been pleated, leaving a pouf in the middle as above, but as this cotton is less floppy than the antique satin, it stands up better and has a different look than the antique satin.

Poufs have been pinned

Poufs have been pinned

Pleats on the polyester satin

Pleats on the polyester satin

Pleats again

Pleats again.  Don’t forget to pleat the bottom.

Here, it's all pleated and waiting to have those puffs and poufs pinned.

Here, it’s all pleated and the puffs and poufs are pinned.

Another view

Another view, pinned

As you can see, different fabrics give a slightly different result.  It’s up to you which fabric you choose and if you want to go with solid, something with a pattern, or stripes, which would look really interesting.

Here is a photo of what the apron part should look like.

Front apron.  This will be worn on your waist (actual smallest part of your torso, not where you wear your pants) so measure your waist.  The top curve of the apron is your waist minus the width of the back pouf plus 1/4 to 1/2 inch ease plus enough to over lap and be able to close.  The sides will be pleated, how much is up to you.  The lower curve can be trimmed.  The length is how ever long you want it to hang at the center.

Front apron. This will be worn on your waist (actual smallest part of your torso, not where you wear your pants) so measure your waist. The top curve of the apron is your waist minus the width of the back pouf plus 1/4 to 1/2 inch ease plus enough to over lap and be able to close. The sides will be pleated, how much is up to you. The lower curve can be trimmed. The length is how ever long you want it to hang at the center, which will be a bit shorter when it’s worn because the side pleats will cause it to drape a bit and pull up.  Cut it a bit longer than you actually want it to be.

Let me know if anything here doesn’t make sense and if you have any questions.

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