Hoop Skirts and Corsets, Part II

How the undergarments were constructed. . .

Shortly before I finished my dress, I had gone online to find corset-making supplies, and the only place I could find was Farthingales up in Canada.  I ordered the kit for the corset pattern I had (What a lifesaver!), that included all the necessary bones and hardware, and the boning for my hoopskirt.  Here I made a near-fatal mistake.  Rather than spend the little extra that steel hoop-boning costs, I bought the really cheap plastic boning.  Once I finished my hoopskirt, it worked really well until the plastic bones warped in the heat at the State Fair.  Years of trying to “re-heat-set” the boning at various times has helped, but I still wish I had bought the steel. 

Making the hoopskirt was an adventure.  Sewing it together was easy enough, but when it came time to cut and wire together the boning, I had to recruit my dad’s help.  Most of the time, when I tell someone that I sew, they ask, or at least used to ask, “Does your mom help you?”  “No, my dad does.”  He actually cut himself on a wire and started to bleed on my hoopskirt  (this was a month away from fair) and I ran in a panic for the peroxide to get the bood out!  When the hoopskirt was finally done, I put it on and starting walking around the house to show my family, only to have my little brothers and the dog go running under it, the brothers screaming “It’s a tent!”  (I swear, that needs to be in a movie someday. . .)

Next project was the corset.  Yet again, I had to recruit my dad to help with the eyelets up the back.  This time, no one bled on anything, although we did break the hole-punch.  Since I had bought the corset kit from Farthingales, all the boning was already cut to the right size, so it was an easy matter to construct the rest of the corset myself.

By this time, I had less than a week to County Fair, and I had yet to make the chemise, bloomers, or petticoat.  I made a timeline and ranked them in the order I thought most important, and began a race against time! 

First, I made the chemise, so the corset wouldn’t chafe against my bare skin.  It was only a two-day project.  Next, I made the bloomers, since the hoop-skirt was likely to “fluff up” and show my legs– not a good thing.  The bloomers were a little harder than I expected– especially since they had no crotch seam, and were edged with lace.  Finally, I made the petticoat, and finished it, lace edging and all, the night before the fair!

I was as proud as I could be the next evening when it was announced that I had won Grand Champion. . .

Published in: on December 12, 2008 at 5:08 pm  Comments (1)  

Hoop-Skirts and Corsets

So, after I was done with the Lord of the Rings dresses, I began to plan for the summer’s 4-H project. . .

I went to Hobby Lobby in the spring of 2004 to look for a pattern for the Civil War dress I had in mind.  It was as simple as that.  I did no research ahead of time, I had no idea what would have been worn at what time, and my innocent little mind thought that almost no undergarments beyond a hoop-skirt were worn.  I got a pattern for a dress and a separate pattern that had a pattern for what I thought was a hoop-skirt.  (It wasn’t.)  I had very little sewing experience, so I began to get concerned on the ride home when I learned from reading the directions that there was sixty steps to making this dress, and about as many pattern pieces.  I was further concerned when I learned that this pattern called for fourteen yards of fabric.

So, before I began anything more, I began to do some research.  I learned a lot about the Civil War.  I learned a lot about what types of fabric were used.  I learned how fashion changed as money grew tighter during the war.  I learned almost nothing about how to sew the dress.  I also learned that the simple hoop skirt I had in mind was not going to do the trick.  I would need to make a really good one to support the weight of the dress, plus a chemise, bloomers, corset, and petticoat.  By this point, it was April, and the only thing I had accomplished so far was buying a bolt of green calico for the dress– sixteen yards at two dollars a yard– a veritable miracle of cheapness!

I cut out the fabric and began to sew.  Again, it was as simple as that.  I don’t have a contract to advertise for Simplicity here, but I will tell you that they make amazing Civil War patterns.  All I had to do was follow the directions, be willing to rip out seams when I had to, and not give up. 

Sewing the Pleats for the Skirt

Sewing the Pleats for the Skirt

That summer, I babysat for a family in my hometown, so I didn’t have nearly as much time for sewing as I would have liked.  At the end of May, I had purchased some more patterns for the undergarments, and as the summer progressed, I began to make timelines for how much to get done each day in order to finish by fair.  This didn’t work so well.  I was bound and determined to make everything historically accurate.  That changed after I spent a week hand-sewing buttonholes.  (They turned out really nice though, and much better than any machine buttonholes I have ever done!)  I also crocheted lace for the collar and cuffs of the dress, and for the top edge of the inner lining of the bodice.  Eventually, I finished the dress itself, and was ready to move on to the undergarments!

To be continued. . .

Published in: on December 12, 2008 at 5:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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