Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An almost finished dress, a ruffly petticoat and a helpful balayeuse.

A petticoat and an almost dress.

I made the mistake of wearing an unfinished dress to something... and now I'm sick of looking at it. 

I also made the mistake of not taking one picture. Not one! I have never done that. I'm usually surgically attached to my camera.

There was a tea last weekend and so I got this dress wearable, so I could enjoy it. I actually attended with lots of basting stitches still in place, lots of hidden pins and no collar! I slapped on a whitework collar and cuffs and machine stitched the button holes. I also managed to get a bone into the CB of the dress. 

It worked and no one really knew but me, so this wouldn't be a bad thing, except now that I've worn it, I've lost all motivation on actually finishing it. Hmph. I'm so mad at myself because this dress was really looking good... It even has a snazzy watch pocket :) 

A handy watch pocket. Inside...

... and out.

The dress is mostly based on what I can see of the below painting and it's sister lithograph, both by Tissot. My dress will eventually have a stand up collar and pleats on the underskirt, as well. Other than that, there's a lot of finishing left to do, starting with re(hand)stitching the button holes. My machine makes the ugliest button holes.

Wearing a half finished dress was actually an interesting experiment. I noticed things about dress construction that really make a difference when they aren't there. For one, little bodice boning (only CB and in the front darts) and no waist tape make a huge difference. The bodice, though it fit, moved around a lot. Also, just facing the neckline, but not finishing it with a collar or piping, leaves it VERY unfinished feeling and flimsy.

In other news, I made a trained petticoat and balayeuse (French for "sweeper") to go under the fantail skirt. This was much needed. Even though I faced the skirt bottom with crinoline and cotton, the train needed more support so it wouldn't fold in onto itself when I walk around. Adding ruffles to the bottom of the petticoat helped hold it out, too, and the balayeuse (basted on, so you can remove it for washing) really helped to hold the rounded shape of the back of the train. Also, when I add the pleated trim to the skirt, that should help even further, though the train really looked good when I wore it Saturday.

I cord gathered two rows of ruffles onto the bottom of the petticoat. I used my rolled hem foot for the first time, to finish the edges of the ruffles. 


I worked so well and was so damn fast. I would absolutely use it again. Certainly for undies, depends on what fabric/effect/era for fashion fabric, though. Aside from the cord gathering being quick, I also chose it because it added even just a little extra bulk (from the cord) to help hold out the skirt.

I cord gathered two rows of ruffles onto the bottom of the petticoat.
I used my rolled hem foot to finish them. First time I've ever used it.

The train flipped over to show the balayeuse.

The balayeuse was very helpful and very easy to make. Not only does it help hold the shape of the skirt, it's main purpose it to protect the hem of your skirt from dragging on the ground. This protects the integrity of the fabric, helping it not to wear out, but also from dirt and funk. the sweeper is removed and washed much more easily than a whole skirt.

Being that this is a frequently washed item, I used store bought, cotton broderie anglaise, mounted on two layers of cotton that was cut to match the crescent shape of the skirt which touches the ground. I chose to baste the sweeper onto the petticoat, but historically, it can also be buttoned. I found some great info on these sweepers at Yesterday's Thimble and in this eBook on Amazon. There is also a photo of beautiful one in the KCI fashion book.

Making a pattern of the bottom of the skirt for the balayeuse.

So the plan: I'm going to take some time off of this, until I feel motivated again, and in the mean time, I'm heading back to the 18th century, just in time for Fourth of July :)


  1. Oh my gosh, that balayeuse is gorgeous! That's something that annoys me about modern times - our underthings lack a lot of appeal!

    1. Thank you! Oh I know, our undies are boring. But there's no room for frilly, lacey, pretty under skinny jeans... Can you imagine the crazy lines and lumps lol!

  2. Cool! Thanks for sharing the information about the balayeuse. I'll look forward to eventually seeing pictures of the gown on you. ;)


  3. I love that petticoat. I'd love to make one for my next gown but I have a deadline of a few weeks and I have no idea how you made that lovely petticoat. I never even heard of a balayeuse before! I'm afraid I'm not clever enough to figure it out but it certainly is swoon worthy!

    1. Thanks! Really, it wasn't so hard. I just took the pattern for the skirt, cut it out in white cotton and shortened it an inch or so. The ruffles just make it look fancy :)