Tree Progress: Petticoat Flare

After the “buttresses” the petticoat flare was the most revelatory aspect for me of Tree’s foundation.  With support from the buttresses this piece really creates the base shape for the dress skirt and I found it a really interesting piece of dressmaking.

I didn’t take as many construction photos of this layer as I perhaps should have, but for such an odd-looking piece I think it’s actually pretty straight-forward once you see it made up and on the form.


The hem of this piece is deeply faced (both inside as well as out!) with the dress fabric in case the underside of the dress should be exposed during movement (like dancing!)


the lines of basting stitches on the white taffeta denote placement lines for the tulle flounces (the lower line) and the yoke to which the dress fabric flounce will be mounted (the upper line)


I did remember to take a couple of photos of the underside of the petticoat flare to show some of the construction.  You can see where horsehair canvas was used, some of how the pieces were put together and placement of the horsehair braid at the hem.  It feel kind of like traditional tailoring-meets-frou-frou-dressmaking!


Here’s a (possibly superfluous) detail of the horsehair braid, showing the string at the upper end pulled to flatten the braid down around the curve of the hem.  The pins you see the undersides of are holding the outer dress fabric facing, this underside also got covered by an identical facing.


In the photos of the finished petticoat flare above you can see that it collapsed inwards at the centre back.  I don’t know if it’s supposed to do that or not but I didn’t like it.  I also knew that the weight of the tulle flounces + the dress fabric flounce (mostly the latter) would likely cause it to collapse even more. In this photo of Tim’s reproduction for the Chicago History Museum exhibition you can just make out that there is a bit of a dip in the back, but less than on mine.


So I decided to make my most significant departure from what I knew of the original construction and add a cane hoop inside the petticoat flare.

I wasn’t thrilled at having to do this since it altered the dress from what I understood as the original construction, but I had to do something.  Not having been able to examine the original dress, I don’t know if the current material equivalents of what was used in the original dress may have been different and stiffer/more substantial than the ones I used or if there was anything else going on that I don’t know about.  In any case, I consoled myself with thinking that adding the cane was something Charles James might plausibly do.

It’s tricky to see in the photo below, but the hoop, encased in leftover plastic boning casing I had on hand (I knew there was a reason I hung onto that!), is stitched at the upper edge of the dress fabric facing.  You also get a little sneak peak of tulle flounces (SO MUCH FUN, just you wait and see!)


This is the result of adding the cane hoop and I’m pretty happy with it.


Fortunately, it doesn’t alter the shape of the petticoat flare very much, just adds support and actually makes the lines cleaner.  It does cause the front of the piece to stick out a little more than probably intended, but not more than I can live with or will be mostly masked by the layers that go on top.


And it gives a nice full backside! lol


So what do you think of my cheat? Acceptable?  I do wish I’d had the leisure to ask on this before going ahead with my solution but time has been tight, and time blogging is time not sewing!  Would you have done something different?  If so, do tell.  I can’t/won’t change it now but would still be interested in your thoughts!

Next up: flounces!  Fun, floofy flounces!!

2 thoughts on “Tree Progress: Petticoat Flare

  1. I just found your blog through Historical Sew Fornightly and I’m SO INSPIRED to make this dress! I’m FASCINATED by all you’ve done (I’m reading your entire journey here at work, wondering if I can somehow ditch early and go home and start drafting and sewing!) and your research. Once upon a time I made stuff like this… This is just wonderful : )


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