Finished Project- 1950s Petticoat

I don’t know what it is about Autumn, but for the past few years it’s caused me to catch 1950s fever… as in, I picture myself lounging about in stunningly tailored frocks and suits made of silks and wools.  The only unfortunate side of said fashion day-dreams is my complete inability to have a figure that even remotely resembles the 1950s ideal. Enter Audrey Hepburn, my heroine of 1950s style, that proves there is hope for girls like me who don’t have a chance on earth of Marilyn-like curves.  But, thought I, there is also hope for the 1950s shape in period undergarments- and so I set about to try to make sure I had a proper base to build on for my future creations.  I found a very nice vintage bra/shaper on Etsy and while I wait in anticipation for it’s arrival I thought I’d re-visit the territory of petticoats.

Perhaps, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember this:

See, Autumn=1950s for me.  I made this with distinctly Halloween inspiration.  However, it met a sad and untimely demise at the hand (or paw, or mouth) of…

these two seemingly cute and innocent culprits.  Sure, they look cute and fuzzy, but the petticoat didn’t have a chance.  I didn’t see them coming.  And even if it had, it was unsurprisingly confused by their similar markings and adorable faces.  The one on the left is the main instigator… not that you couldn’t tell, as he’s blurry in this photo for a reason.  Moves quickly, has a decided appetite for tulle, and nothing gives his little heart as much glee as the sharp sound of tearing netting.  The one on the right is somewhat more innocent in approach. He’ll simply hide underneath his super cloak of invisibility (shh.. don’t tell him tulle is see-through), and sit… and sit, until something makes a sudden movement and in a flury of whiskers and claws, the tulle with leap and run across the room- encasing the cat.  But I digress… short version- the petticoat died at the hands of felines.

You may also remember this:

My 1950s skirt made over from a 1980s prom dress found at a thrift store. I have never really worn it because I was not happy with the shape.  So… it made a perfect candidate to be chopped up and turned into a new petticoat!  It has the tulle netting still underneath from the prom dress, so everything was ripped apart, re-cut, and some taffeta I had left over from my mourning dress project was added, and TA DA! New petticoat all from fabrics in the stash.

The pattern I used for this project was Simplicity 4137, a vintage pattern from 1953.  Mine is missing a front cover, but here’s the illustration image from the instructions:

I made view 1.  This pattern was EASY and was pretty fast to sew! It probably took me under 4 hours to sew, and I wasn’t moving fast.  Also, I must say, hurrah for having my serger back! I have been serger-less for many, many months after breaking a nigh-unbreakable part, having it special ordered, having the company change the part number, reordering… yes, I was not a happy camper. I am so sick of vintage style and bias-bound seam finishes that I could scream. Give me convenience and speed, thank you very much.

I have to add, since I hadn’t sewn anything in well over a month, I broke in my sewing project in the appropriate way- by completely messing up the waistband.  So excuse the underlap on the wrong side of the waistband, but it’s underwear so I’m not re-doing it ;)  I have a slew of these zippers that I got when the costume shop I worked for was cleaning house, and it just so happened to match the gold tone in the polka dots perfectly. How fun is that?

I also have to add, in case any of you are thinking of making up this pattern, that the tulle underlay was NOT originally included in the pattern or instructions.  I just wanted extra fluff, so this is the piece that was cut straight out of that 80’s prom dress, just trimmed down at the top and added at the bottom of the petticoat yoke.  I think it does the job really well, and I’m also quite pleased at the extra body given by the taffeta! Someday someone may curse my name for cutting up “vintage” 80’s prom dresses, but heck- there was no way I was leaving this gold dot and black moire goodness behind at the thrift store. See, it’s already on life #3.

Here’s an inside-out shot in case any of you are interested in attempting a similar project:

So I guess that’s it!  I hope you are all having a fabulous week and finding some fun inspiration for this Autumn!

32 Comments on Finished Project- 1950s Petticoat

  1. Elise
    October 26, 2011 at 5:10 pm (13 years ago)

    Wow, loving it! I always fancied making a petticoat, you’ve inspired me! :)

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:56 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! I’m glad to be helpful for some petticoat inspiration :)

  2. Beth
    October 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm (13 years ago)

    SO SO cute!! Love the polka dots. I think the 3rd time’s the charm for that 80’s prom dress!

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:57 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! Ah, yes! The past lives! I think it likes it’s current state best ;)

  3. Wacky tacky
    October 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm (13 years ago)

    This looks awesome! I know Hattie McDaniel’s petticoat in GWTW was taffeta, but it never occurred to me to make one in a ” solid” material. Every vintage piece that we have found is way too short for Mary. I guess I’ll have to break down and make one for her but where will I find another black/gold, polka dot, moire, 80’s prom dress???

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:58 am (13 years ago)

      I think I was a bit discouraged after going to the fabric store and only finding really stiff and scratchy netting or really loose and drapey netting. We need something stiff but with smaller holes, so it doesn’t get snagged and tear on everything! So hurrah for prom dress netting and taffeta for body :)
      And hey, you never know… they had to have made many more of them!

  4. Stephanie
    October 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm (13 years ago)

    I’ve been all 50s lately! (well, minus the beach pjs). My “petticoat” is also from an old prom dress, but I think mine was a lot younger than yours! And mine certainly doesn’t look as nice as yours. I just chopped it out and slapped some elastic on the waist. It is functional though!

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:50 am (13 years ago)

      Wow~ Great minds! I am convinced that this is the best use for some of the old prom dresses I’ve seen ;) Gotta keep my eyes peeled for another.

  5. Michelle
    October 26, 2011 at 10:47 pm (13 years ago)

    The petticoat the cats destroyed was just lovely. I would have cried if I’d been in your place! The new one is great too though! Thanks for sharing!

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:50 am (13 years ago)

      Aww… it was sad, but I know it was partially my fault for leaving such a delicious temptation in the reaches of the kitties!

  6. Miss Meadows
    October 27, 2011 at 5:23 am (13 years ago)

    I’m so sorry your pretty petticoat was killed! I usually try my best to keep mine away from the black “soft” paws tripping around in MY house…The new petticoat looks really good tho, and with the tulle underneath it might be a bit more difficult to get to for the little furry beasts. And don’t worry about cutting in 80s prom dresses. Most of that decades dresses should be removed from this planet and the memory of mankind! ;)

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:52 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! It’s funny, actually- the morning after I posted this it was still on my dress form and I heard a curious crunching sound… when I went into the next room I found the main instigator standing up on his back legs and taking a mouthful of the tulle. Luckily I caught him in time, but I’ve found he is not to be trusted! Lol!
      And ditto your thoughts about the prom dresses ;)

  7. Tasha
    October 27, 2011 at 10:47 am (13 years ago)

    Kitties, what little devils they can be! And then they look so cute and innocent. Mmmm hm. We know better. ;)

    I love the new petticoat! And what a great way to rescue something that you weren’t completely happy with in the first place!

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:59 am (13 years ago)

      So true! They are that cute for a reason… so we won’t stay mad at them when they do something exceptionally naughty!

      And thanks :) It was in the giveaway pile and thankfully I salvaged it before it made it out the door!

  8. Jen O
    October 27, 2011 at 10:56 am (13 years ago)

    This post is right on time for me–I have to finish up one I am re-modeling from an 80s white prom petticoat–really hate wrangling the slippery taffeta ‘vs’ crisp net at my sewing machine, but yours will inspire me to get this one done for today’s fitting!

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:53 am (13 years ago)

      How funny we thought of this at the same time! I hope yours was finished in time for the fitting :)

  9. mala_14
    October 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm (13 years ago)

    The new petticoat looks great! I love the tiers. And it has such a nice amount of fullness, not excessive but still froofy. :)

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 10:00 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! It was suspicious that it might not be fluffy enough, but I tried it on last night under a skirt and it was just about the perfect amount. Yay!

  10. Heide @ Apron History
    October 27, 2011 at 3:14 pm (13 years ago)

    What a great idea! Recycling an old prom dress. Sewing the tulle/net is usually the hard part. Love the pattern!

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 10:00 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! Yes, the pre-sewn netting made it SO much easier and faster! Hurrah for quick projects!

  11. Katrina - Edelweiss Patterns
    October 27, 2011 at 8:29 pm (13 years ago)

    Oh, that is too cute! It’s just perfect for colder weather, or any 50s dress that is a dark color.

    Happy sewing!

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 10:00 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! :)

  12. Shelly
    October 27, 2011 at 11:21 pm (13 years ago)

    How timely is this post! I’m just about to try my hand at making a petticoat. I have made them for square dancing in my youth but that was a looong time ago. :) I’m hoping I can just wing it and not use a pattern if I can. The visuals are perfect for reminding me how it all goes together.

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 10:01 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! I think it could easily be done without a pattern! Other than the yoke this one’s basically just long rectangles that are gathered to each other :)

  13. Bella
    October 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm (13 years ago)

    It’s great! What will you wear it with?

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:53 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! I’m not sure, but I figured if I wanted extra fluff I’d need a petticoat to help me get there :)

  14. Lizzie
    October 29, 2011 at 11:15 am (13 years ago)

    Well done! It’s a great usage of a project you were not happy with. I bet it has lots of that great “swish”!

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:54 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks! I wore it last night and I admit I was swishing about more than usual ;) The sound of the netting + taffeta is quite fun!

  15. Foxy
    October 30, 2011 at 3:01 am (13 years ago)

    I’m loving your blog and the 50s styling in particular. I’ve been looking for a special dress to wear to my Christmas party and why on Earth would I want something modern?
    I have sent you a blog award which you can find at
    Thanks for the inspiratinn

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 9:56 am (13 years ago)

      Thank you! And thank you so much for the award!

  16. Alli
    November 1, 2011 at 1:12 am (13 years ago)

    Wow! That looks fabulous….you did such a beautiful job. I LOVE it :)

    • Lauren
      November 1, 2011 at 10:01 am (13 years ago)

      Thanks so much!

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