I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- It’s all about the underwear!

You could have the Bestest and Most Beautiful reproduction Victorian gown or Steampunk garb and it won’t look right unless you have the right underpinnings.

That means, most likely, a corset, a bustle (always depending on era) and petticoats.

Now, believe it or not, I’m still learning with every piece I make…. my big learning moment last year came when I discovered waltzing in a full length gown with a half length bustle is nearly impossible. With every step back I took (while trying to do that elegant sweeping dip), I was in imminent danger of stepping on the back of my skirt.

So. Before continuing on the blue and yellow dress, I took a detour to make a “Long Bustle With Train” and a flat-front petticoat.

I used Laughing Moon #112 for the bustle-a different view from the same pattern I used last year for the “long bustle” that didn’t work out so well for dancing.

Truly Victorian #170 was the pattern for the flat front petticoat.


First: the petticoat.  I used the flat-front version because these new underthings are for my Victorian ballgown, which I used this pattern to make:

dressSo, a lot of petticoat bulk in front is bad.

I found the pattern very easy to follow and understand- every once in a while with these “modernized” Victorian patterns you’ll find a mystery marking that you just don’t know what to do with, but not here.

If there is one purchase that I can recommend, that I am so happy that I finally made, it is the ruffler foot.  Find a coupon for your local fabric store if you will, but it’s worth the (approx.) $30…. 9 out of 10 of my students agree it’s a major time saver!


(Play with it on a variety of scrap fabrics first, to get a feel for the speed, the settings, etc,) On this pattern there is a mid-height ruffle and one that spans the bottom. Took me 20 minutes. And trust me, it’s not my mad skills, it’s the ruffler foot!
Okay, moving on… I (of course) did the version with the cute little pintucks.
And of course I didn’t bother to iron the folds, or really measure them. It’s not necessary to do them, you can cut your pattern piece the 5 or 6 inches shorter & skip them, but I had saved allll this time (with the ruffler foot!), so I figured why not.

Do as I say, not as I do!


I’m sure if I had, they would have turned out perfectly; as it is, the pintucks, although even widths, are not evenly spaced, by about a quarter to an eighth of an inch. But my reasoning was, “No-one will ever see that, and now I’ve done pintucks!”  There are bigger fish to fry.
The length was good for me, and I am 5’6″ with an average of a 2″-3″ heeled shoe with any dress, so keep that in mind when cutting your pattern- it’s easy enough to add or subtract length. (More on that when I get to the bustle!!!)

So, that was good. The waistband: I hate a drawstring waist & I closed mine off.  I’m reconsidering now, bacause when it’s Semi-Corseted Days vs Total Corseted Days, an inch or two makes all the difference.

Let’s move along to what this lovely petticoat will be placed over… the bustle.


If you go back up and look carefully at that bottom left pattern image, the description says “long bustle with train”, but it doesn’t look that long.  It appears to go a bit past her knickers, which go a bit past her knees, which means your dress will be hanging off your bustle around shin-height?? Oh noooo, I don’t think so.

I went online & did some research into blogs (possibly like you are now) to see if anyone had issues with the length. And sure enough, a costumer said it was about 6″ off the ground on her, and she only hits 5’2″.  Now, I do know that the weight of the skirts and petticoats will lower the height some, but that’s *quite* a ways off the ground.

So I added 6″ right off the bat. If you’re unsure, add more because, again, it’s very easy to take a couple inches up from that straight portion right in the middle.  I ran into no patterning issues after extending it.

When I put the boning and grommets in the lacing section of the last bustle, I put a piece of boning on either side of the grommets. A habit from making corsets but not necessary so I skipped it this time.

BUSTLE (6)For the last bustle I used a lightweight cotton which I fear is just not up for the long-term strain of the metal boning, so I chose a heavier grey and black striped material this time.

When you’re ready to attach the lacing panels to the exterior portion of the bustle, take a moment to re-check the drawings. It can be confusing, but you want to attach the panels so that the raw edges are facing the innermost part of the bustle… this ensures that any fabric resting on your bum will not rub you the wrong way!

Speaking of metal boning, I went ahead and purchased buckram wrapped hoop boning instead of using the by-the-yard spring steel! Cheaper, yes…. BUT. Oh, but!

… If you’re going to use buckram covered hoop steel (and I assume this is not an issue with plastic covered hoop steel) MAKE SURE you give yourself a little extra room in your boning channels! Because, you see, the fabrics don’t slide so well against one another.  Dear god, it took so long to shove them through those channels. If you use boning channels, as I did, use the 1/2″ and just sew on the inside edge of the channel sides. If you use bias tape, give yourself some wiggle room- you’ll thank yourself later.

Seriously, all that ruffler foot time I saved, just wasted.

Once you get past the length issue, it’s pretty straightforward. Your boning channel lines should be a gentle arc without much curve at all. I’d use chalk to mark them, and if *I* would use chalk…. well, that says something.

I finished my bustle with a semi-sheer taffeta ruffle from an old skirt, to further soften the lines of a skirt draped over it.   Finished pictures of both the bustle and the petticoat over it: