Tree Progress: Buttress Petticoat!

For me, the buttress petticoat is really one of the most fun and illuminating aspects of the structural design of this gown – and Charles James’ approach to couture overall.

This was also one of the trickier bits to get right … so far (I’m still terrified of the bodice and upper skirt pleated draping to come!)

This is one of the buttresses below with all layers quilted together – with pink silk thread, of course!


These are the layers that comprise each buttress, from top to bottom: plain cotton, cotton crinoline/heavy woven non-fusible interfacing, stiff synthetic crinoline, another layer of plain cotton.  My buttresses have 4 layers as opposed to the 3 layers recorded for the original only because I mistakenly cut pieces out of the synthetic crinoline as well (oops) and didn’t want to waste the pieces.  In the end I don’t think it hurts having a little extra substance and stiffness in there.


Silly me didn’t take a photo of the right side of the buttress all bound, but oh well, you get the idea.  I used some wide bias tape to bind the upper edge of the buttresses.


And added narrow binding to the lower edge, which you can just make out in the photo below.  I stitched down the lower edge so as to form a casing for boning.  The original is apparently boned with cane/reed but I was concerned it might snap when I sat down (the ball includes dinner – it’s going to be really interesting to see how that works out with this dress and whether it will actually fit under a table).  In this photo of the original dress you can see that the left-hand buttress looks like the bone inside may be broken.

News Photo: Evening dress Tree 1957 Silk taffeta by Charles…

Wishing to avoid that I used plastic boning.  I also noticed when sitting down that even when I just perched on a chair (I think perching will be my only sitting option in this dress) the upper part of the buttress would get crushed and not totally pop out again when I got up.  So I added the additional piece of boning you see here.


The actual ‘petticoat’ parts of this foundation layer are cut of pink quilting cotton on the bias.



Here is the shape of the cut-outs since I also forgot to take photos before mounting the buttresses:


At first I pinned them right on the proper seam lines, but then realized that because I had to widen the pattern a little through the hips that made the buttresses seem too far apart compared with the original.


So I re-positioned them using the seam lines as more of a guide placing the buttresses closer together and voila


As you may expect, the buttresses are handsewn to the petticoat and I actually decided to sew through all layers to really anchor them.  I’m not sure if this is what was done on the original, but in the photo above it does look like this may have been the case.  The stitching here isn’t really noteworthy and it’s less than beautiful.  I don’t care, those suckers are stuck on there good and solid!

Below is some prettier stitching.  This is the close-up photo I mentioned in my last post showing the catch/hemming stitch I used on both the innermost foundation and the buttress petticoat.  I did take care to sew the buttress petticoat to the innermost petticoat only, leaving the bottom part of the bodice foundation free.  I didn’t want to run the risk of causing any pulling there that might affect the hang of the skirt or lower bodice portion.


Next up is the petticoat flare, when the shape of the dress really starts to emerge!

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