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Mastering the Corded Petticoat

Like everything we make here at Maggie May's Historic Clothing, it all begins with a "mock up." A mock-up is often referred to as a muslin and made of scrap cloth. It is the "first draft" of a garment. When you are dealing with bodices, jackets, and other fitted garments, this is the time to make alterations to darts, gussets, and seams to ensure a smooth fit BEFORE you cut into that expensive fabric!

However, with the corded petticoat, it is more about trial and error than anything. Finding the right amount of cording, the right type of cording, the space between the corded rows, and height of the cording all determine the shape and success of a corded petticoat.

Here are two corded pettioats (one linen and one cotton) I have made in the past.

A corded petticoat is exactly that- a standard petticoat that has several rows of cording added to the hemline (and body) to create a skirt that stands away from the legs. In the 1830s, multiple corded petticoats were worn to achieve the full skirted silhouette.

There are two ways to cord your petticoat. The first way employs a type of applique technique. The cording is applied between two pieces of cloth (the skirt itself and an underlining) and top stitched in place.
Here is an example:

This technique creates a beautifully uniform corded petticoat. However, this technique requires a great deal of time and MANY rows of cording.
The second technique consists of placing cording into small tucks around the circumference of the petticoat. No underlining is necessary for this technique- just a great deal of measuring and pinning.
Here is an example:

This technique does not require as much cording as the applique technique. However, tucking the cording is not as uniform as appliqueing, but does require less time to complete.
As for what type of cording to use, here is what I have found:

Large cording makes a large, heavy petticoat.
Pros: Less cording is needed, very stiff, rows can be placed upto 1.5" apart
Cons: Awkward to work with

Small knitting cord makes a lightweight petticoat.
Pros: Very inexpensive, very pliable
Cons: You need MANY closely placed rows and A LOT of patience

Cotton lacing cord makes a lovely light-medium weight petticoat
Pros: Semi pliable body, rows can be placed upto 3/4" apart
Cons: Can be expensive

Natural cording like Jute, Hemp, and Sisal
Pros: next to knitting cording, the least expensive, can be placed upto 1" apart
Cons: Unfinished suface, depending upon the material- natural cording could bleed or fade onto your fabric

Experiment with placement. Use extant petticoats as your guide. Some petticoats are just corded at the hemline. Some petticoats are corded all the way up to the waistband! When cording your petticoat, it is best to stop often and try it on to check the shape. Determine where you need additional cording, mark it, and cord it!

Happy cording everybody!
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These pages are for educational purposes only.  All text copyright Susan Jarrett.  No unauthorized use without permission.
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Page revised January 2013