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  • Writer's picturelaurajparker

Late 16th c. Petticoat Bodies

Modern research in 16th c. European fashion has made some really fantastic leaps forward over the past few years - including the fundamental issue of what foundation garments were. Older research leaned towards heavily boned corsets/pairs of bodies throughout the 16th c., but modern interpretations are leaning far more towards supportive, minimally or unboned garments called "petticoat bodies". After experimenting with this, it definitely looks like a more appropriate silhouette.

Other folks have written extensively on this topic - read up on it here:

I've challenged myself to create a new 16th c. wardrobe, using primarily fabric and notions that I've already purchased. This garment is a self drafted pattern based on The Tudor Tailor. Linen canvas flatlined to heavyweight linen twill for the upper bodies, with medium weight linen lining slipstitched in place. The upper bodies is completely hand sewn. Front pieces and back flatlined, edges turned, then whipstitched together before the lining was slip stitched in place.

Skirt is a really luscious crimson lightweight wool that has been in my stash FOREVER. Long seams done by machine (I wanted to get this project done this weekend - I knew I wouldn't finish it if I didn't!), then hand pleated to the bodice with a 2" fold.

The bodice is made out of three layers of fabric - the outer fabric is a finer, tightly woven linen canvas. The interlining (the tan fabric in the photo below) is a coarse linen canvas. It is lined with a lightweight linen. The canvas interlining is cut to the finished measurements of the garment, and the outer fabric is cut with seam allowances that will be folded over and finished before the pieces are sewn together. After drafting and rough fitting the bodice, the canvas interlining is basted to the outer fabric and cross-stitched in place.

Next, the seam allowances are folded in towards the canvas interlining, and tacked into place with a cross stitch. Once all three pieces (back and two fronts) are finished, then they are hand sewn together with a small, tight whip stitch.

Next, eyelets! Done by hand, spaced for spiral lacing:

At that point it can be tried on, shoulders marked and stitched together, and lining slip stitched into place:

Next, the skirt - more stash-busting, with just enough of this lovely suitweight crimson wool to create a lovely full skirt. Another piece that's been languishing in my stash for years - purchased on the remnant table at the now-closed Saftler's in Whitman, MA.

Skirt is created cutting rectangular panels, sewn together selvedge to selvedge. I did stacked knife pleats, with the bulk of the skirt set towards the center back. I could have less bulk around the waist if I had cut it in trapezoidal panels, but I like the idea of preserving as much of the fabric as I could so it could be resized or recycled later if necessary.

Skirt is then whip-stitched to the finished waist edge of the bodice:

Lastly, all the finishing touches - a tacked bar at the center front slit of the skirt will help keep it from accidentally tearing when I put it on or take it off:

And the hem of the skirt is bound in a medium-weight black wool cut on the grain, cross-stitched into place.

Overall, I'm really pleased with how this project turned out - it does a remarkably good job at creating the proper 1560's/70's/80's silhouette, and is really comfortable and supportive.

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Eloise Walker
Eloise Walker
Oct 02, 2023

Laura your creativity behind the 16th century petticoat bodies is remarkable! The garments used were intricately designed with a mix of fabrics, lace, and embellishments, and showcase the skill and imagination of the era's fashion designers and seamstresses. Each petticoat body is a work of art, carefully constructed to create the desired silhouette. Truly your clothing patterns was were beautifully designed.


Dianne Read Stucki
Dianne Read Stucki
May 03, 2019

Absolutely gorgeous!

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