An 1850’s Guide to Dressmaking: The Skirt

“General facts and rules to be remembered:

Some few things are true about the making of all skirts, through every change of fashion, and whether the dress be of the courser stuff or the richest satin.


  1. In cutting off the breadths, be careful to have them all of precisely equal length; also see that regard is paid to the figure running up or down, when the breadths are being basted, previous to running them.  This is a matter that is frequently overlooked, even by experienced dressmakers.  
  2. The breadths should be basted or pinned securely while running them, because a puckered skirt will spoil the appearance of the most elegant dress.
  3.  Commence running each breadth at the bottom, first measuring off a length of silk sufficient to prevent the necessity of making any breaks of any sort in the seam.  Not one backstitch can be permitted , as it will show distinctly on the right side, especial if the material be stiff silk.  


The fastenings of the dress should be sewed with great care, so that they may last as long as the dress itself.


 Whalebones should be smoothly pared on the edges and ends, to prevent them from slipping out after wearing holes in the waist-lining.”


Source: The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility… by Emily Thornwell, 1856

Looking to create your own 1850’s skirt?  Here are a few great patterns to get you started:

Past Patterns has a wonderful pattern for a skirt and bodice.


This pattern for a petticoat can be made of a variety of materials for under or outer wear…and the price is great!


Happy sewing!


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