Petticoats and Panniers (Project Belle Part 3)

I managed to find myself at a loose end after waving goodbye to a friend the other day. I probably should have been writing my (many) essays, but instead, I found myself twirling on a chair, looking at my stays, and deciding that I would just bite the bullet and make the petticoat layers so that I could build up the outer layers as and when I find myself with an hour or two to spare.

Panniers are the basket like contraptions that fix around the waist and poof out the skirt to give it the distinctive shape of the mid eighteenth century. I, true to form, decided not to do actual basket panniers, mostly due to the spontaneity of this sewing session and my limited resources. What I had was: four meters of white antistatic dress lining, and about ten meters of net and tulle of various colours and textures.

I started off with a base layer of white dress lining. I cut a rectangle of 1.5m by about 90cm (My adhoc sewing skills were very much in full force during this part of the project, no pattern and very little in the way of a plan!) I then cut a second piece approximately 10 inches deep across the length of the remaining fabric and creating two additional side pieces. I used french seams to attach the two side pieces, and roll hemmed the bottom using gold thread and a zig-zag stitch. I machine gathered the top of the rectangle and once gathers were equal, fixed it to the bottom of the main rectangle using a narrow french seam.

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I then hand gathered the top of the petticoat to 32 inches with greater gathering over the hips than the front. I fixed this rectangle to a waistband of gold satin, which I left open so I could use it as a binding for all the other layers of the petticoat.


The gathering alone took such a long time that I was glad I was only doing this one!

I then used the netting to create the volume to the sides rather than panniers. So, I made net pannier. I had to switch thread colour to red because I didn’t want to use up all my gold! With the net, I started pleating the fabric and fixing it to the waistband, then trimming it to the desired length and using the remnants from the bottom as a short layer to increase volume between longer layers.


The second layer, I pleated it the opposite way to try and increase volume further. So, in the end, there were two black net layers, and four white net layers poofing the sides out rather beautifully! Until I lain the satin over the top to see if the shape would hold. It did’t deflate loads, but enough, so I added a short layer in the dress lining, again, pleating two meters worth of hemmed fabric to the waistband and fixing.

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Finally, I added the last layer of the petticoat, there to ‘tidy it up’ and make sure all the layers were in the right place really. I had a remaining rectangle of 2m by about 1.1m which I roll hemmed and then pleated to the waistband in the same way I had all the other layers. The front was not pleated on any layer, in order to create the poofy sides and back that the Robe L’anglaise was known for.

So, here it is! My complete petticoat with pannier-like structures of copious amounts of net! I will be wearing this under the stays, as is displayed on Mabel. I don’t have any pictures wearing it, because I haven’t added the snap fastenings yet so the skirt only stays up with pins!

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Undergarments complete! I am hoping to find time to start the outer layers soon, but it is very unlikely despite how much I want to lock the door, crank up the radio and just finish it already! Alas, real life and responsibilities!

Hoping to sew something again soon!



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