Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's Underneath: Quilted Petticoat and Pannier c. 1750

Egads, I have a lot going on in the next two weeks! But I have two more posts related to the 1750 Court Gown, so I'll get them out lickity-split.

Here are the pannier and quilted petticoat that go under the gown. First, the pannier (these and more photos here):

For a pattern I used the illustration in Jean Hunnisett's Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress 1500-1800. I did shorten it, since apparently I'm not as tall as the typical stage actress.

The fabric is silk taffeta, flat-lined it with a heavy weight silk organza. The hoops are modern hoopsteel; I would have like to use a natural, period material (such as basket cane) but that was proving to be too much of a pain, so I gave up.

Control ties and hoop channels.
The hoop channels, waistband, ties, and trims around the ruffle are all polyester ribbon, either grosgrain or double-faced satin, in the same shade of blue. I tried to find a silk ribbon that matched the blue stripe in the fabric, but this poly ribbon was the best match I could find. C'est la vie.

Hem ruffle and trim.
The bows along the ruffle are "butterfly pull bows." When I was a kid, I had some pull bows for gift wrapping. A little of 'net surfing (first to figure out what the heck these bows were called), and I reverse engineered how to make them. I made mine with just four loops; commercial gift wrap bows have eight to twelve. The bows come off, too. I just used the pull ties to tie them onto loops stitched onto the pannier.

This is my tester, so it's sloppy.
Inside are two pull ties.
Pull the ties and gather up the main ribbon.
And we have a bow!

Side hook.
I made the pannier to be tied on, but it's really difficult to tie it on tight enough on my dress form (it would be a little easier on the body, because I can sit down and thus alleviate the weight). So, on each side, I tied a loop in the back tie and tied a heavy hook onto the front tie. Problem solved! It' much easier to put on that way.

Bum pad.

Hunnisett suggests putting a pad in the back, so I gave it a shot. The effect is to tilt the pannier back, and I liked it, because it made the front of the pannier flatter.

Over the pannier goes a quilted petticoat (more photos here):

It's made from a single king-sized quilt, and yes, it's a little short but it does it's job (hiding the ridges made by the pannier's hoops) so I can't be bothered.

Period quilted petticoats don't have batting from hem to waist; the batting normally ends a few inches below the waist. I find this quite logical, because it makes the waist less chunky, and easier to pleat into the waistband. So, I pulled the quilting stitches out of the top of each panel, removed the batting, then re-quilted the area. Yeah, seriously tedious. But I'm very pleased with the result. I also removed the batting from the seam allowance at the side seam, before doing a modified fell seam.

The quilted petticoat is easily the heaviest part of the whole garment, heavier than the pannier. But it does give the gown an excellent shape and look, and, really, well fitted stays help to carry the weight.


  1. Claudine, I'm going to have to ask you to lift your skirts so I can see this gorgeous thing in person!

  2. Haha! Of course...let's be scandalous! ;)

  3. Amazing! You make me want to try more 18th C. Question though, although very yummy, why did you use a silk taffeta for the panniers? Were you at some point wanting to wear them by themselves?

  4. Hi Jen! Why taffeta...just because. I've been all into pretty undies lately! And I wanted to make something suitable for a really wealthy persona (which is SO not me!)

  5. Hi and thanks for posting this! Beautiful and so informative. I'm in the process of making one myself (without a pattern, so just with math and graph paper) I've gotten it put together and it looks 95% right, but I was wondering about the top rung (the slanted one). Is it all one piece or are there two pieces that come down to make the V? It seems like it would have to be a solid piece, but I am having some trouble with the hoop wanting to pop into the round and/or bend horizontal in the front. I have anchored the front center down to hoop #2, but it seems like there is a potential for an explosion if the anchor threads break. Ideas?

  6. Hi JulietDelta! The Hunnisett pattern calls for the top steel being all in one. However, I've seen extent panniers where the top steel is split and makes a V shape like you describe. Here's an example from LACMA:

    You'll notice also that there are two steels at the top. In this arrangement I've typically seen two steels at the top, though I'm sure somewhere out there there's an extent pannier with just one.

    The top steel in my pannier does want to bulge at the center, but in the front I've pushed it towards the body and it happily stays there. In the back it bulges out, thanks to the pad. I think the pad makes a difference. Since the whole thing tilts back, the front isn't inclined to bulge out.

    As for breaking loose: I've got each steel fully enclosed in a channel (you can see them in any of the photos looking into the side openings) so I don't think they're going anywhere!

  7. Thank you so much for the help! I got mine done and I'm pretty excited! I put up some pictures on my blog if you want to see- (no idea if the link will work, but you can click on my profile picture to get there)

    Doing the stay strings inside kind of gave me a fit but I ended up creating sort of a string clasp mechanism using a buttons and thin satin ribbon. It's great because you can adjust it without having to tie and re-tie.

  8. Oh, Claudine, I saw your comment about the silk ribbon and I wanted to let you know that if you ever need silk satin or velvet ribbon or anything like that, I offer it in my store with complimentary custom dyeing and I'm happy to help you out. I'm cousingigi on Etsy or you can visit my webstore which is

  9. Oooh, your pannier turned out great! Isn't looking up from inside just a hoot? I spent some time under there adjusting the control ties.

    I bookmarked your store and favorite'd your etsy shop. I'm always needing ribbons!

  10. I looove your quilted petticoat! Where did you find such a perfect quilt to make it out of? I've been searching everywhere for a quilt that gives the right look and have been coming up empty!

    1. Hi Megan,

      It's been a while, but most likely I got this quilt at (I can't think of any other reason why they'd be sending me catalogs). Marshall's and Target sometimes have quilts in the right style, and at rock-bottom prices, and try also. Good luck! It does take some patience to find the right style of quilt.

      Also, FYI: the petticoat is REALLY heavy.

  11. Hi , Claudine . I thought I would share my hack to stop the sinking in of the hoops problem . I do costume rather than HA but this works and came about after a friend was quite badly injured during Venice Carnevale . I make a couple of slots in each tape that holds the boning , on both the front and back about 14, 16, and 18 inches apart in order from top to bottom . Then get some rods of the type that you put into the channels of Roman blinds . Cut each one slightly longer than the slit widths and pop into the channels in front of the boning . I promise you will never have that sinking feeling ever again , and no one needs to know !