Saturday, February 24, 2018

title pic How to Sew a 1950s Crinoline Underskirt

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on August 12, 2011

Hello Ladies

This is the first entry in our Walkaway Dress Sew-Along!  Since we probably need a little more time to purchase our patterns and fabric, I will begin by demonstrating how to sew a 1950s crinoline!  While the crinoline underskirts of the 50s were actually just like tiered skirts made of ruffled tulle and net, I’ve found that you can achieve the same silhouette with only two yards of stiff crinoline or netting and 1/4 yard of lining fabric.  My other reason for not making a completely authentic 1950s petticoat is that the walkaway dress has that front sheath panel which does not allow for skirt fullness in front.  So I discovered how to make a crinoline that only pouffs out in the sides and back, leaving the front piece undisturbed.  It is so simple to make, and I’ve given a tutorial on how to sew this below. 



This 1950s petticoat is for sale at

History of the 1950s Crinoline Underskirt



 After the fabric rationing of World War II, women’s “New Look” fashions required full crinolines or petticoats to hold out their enormous, circular skirts.  While I’ve never seen one of these original 50s crinoline slips in person, I’ve talked with several ladies who actually wore them while in high school in the 1950s.  They all seemed to say the same thing: 

  •  “We would wear lots of petticoats, not just one, and when our petticoats got too soft, we would just buy another one and wear it on top of the old ones!  The rich girls would wear as many as nine petticoats at a time… ” “I remember when we were driving away on our honeymoon, the whole back rack of our car was filled with all my crinolines hanging up!’
  • “The 50s crinolines were not actually made of stiff crinoline, they were more like a tulle or netting.”
  • “These crinoline petticoats looked just like a tiered, ruffled skirt.  Each ruffled tier was bigger than the one above it.   
And one lady even shared
how to starch a 1950s crinoline petticoat:


“I remember how to starch a crinoline to make it stand out more – I would soak the petticoat in water that was mixed with Knox gelatin, then I would lay it out flat in a big circle on the basement floor.  In the morning when I went to put it on, the skirt would just stand straight out to the sides!  Of course by the end of the day it would start to wilt, but for hours it would just puff right out!”  (The petticoat shown above can be purchased at Blue Velvet Vintage.)

So now let’s get to sewing!  I recommend sewing your crinoline before you start your dress, so you will have the appropriate foundation garments to give you that classy 50s silhouette.  If you try on your dress without the crinoline, it may be just a tiny bit discouraging to look in the mirror and think, “This doesn’t look quite how I had hoped.” 

Wearing a 1950s crinoline skirt is just grand, and once you’ve sewn one you’ll be so glad you did!  It will only cost you about $4 and take just a couple of minutes, so at least by the time you finish your walkaway dress you really should make one! 

How to Sew a 1950s Crinoline Petticoat

You will need:

  • 1/4 yard of 45″ wide  lightweight lining (polyester, rayon, acetate, or China silk)
  • 2 yards of 54″ wide crinoline (stiff netting will not work as well, but is a substitute)
  • 3/4 yd. – 1 1/4 yds. of elastic (enough to go around your waist)
  1.  Take your 1/4 yard of lining and finish one long end of it (45″ wide) with a serger or zigzag stitch.  Repeat on the other long end.          
  2. Fold down one finished edge of the lining approx 1/4″ more than the width of your elastic and press.
  3. Stitch the casing closed and set lining aside.
  4. Cut the crinoline across the width every 18″, so you will now have four pieces that are 54″ by 18″.
  5. With two of your cut crinoline pieces, join the short ends of these two pieces at the selvage so that you have one long piece that is 18″ by 108″.   (Leave as one long strip, do not attach final ends to form a circle.)Now place a row of gathering stitches along one 108″ edge.
  6. Pull up the gathering threads, pin this gathered edge to the bottom of the lining piece, and stitch in place.
  7. Now take your other two pieces of crinoline and cut them across the width at 9-inch increments to give you four pieces that are 54″ by 9″.
  8. Sew the four 9″ panels together at the short ends, for one long piece that is 9″ by 216″. (Leave as one long strip, do not attach final ends to form a circle.)
  9. Gather one of the 216″ long edges, pull up the threads, and pin the gathered edge to the inside of your crinoline slip.  The bottom edge of this ruffle should match up with the bottom of the crinoline petticoat.  Once your ruffle is pinned in place, just stitch it in place!
  10. You’re almost done!  Now simply run your elastic through the casing you made in the top of the lining, and stitch the two ends of the elastic together.  Note that you do not want to catch the lining in this seam! 

You want to be able to adjust the fullness of the petticoat by sliding it off to the sides.  This way you can pull the crinoline all the way around your waist for a full circle skirt, or slide it towards the sides to wear with your walkaway dress! retro-butterick-pattern-4790                 

Once you’ve put on your walkaway dress, fasten the front piece at the back waist as indicated by the pattern, then pull the crinoline up over the front sheath part.  Fluff out the crinoline skirt for fullness, then snap the wraparound piece closed and arrange the circle skirt over the crinoline.   You can slide the lining off toward the sides, so that the only part of the dress that has crinoline underneath is the full circular part.  (And of course if you ever choose to wear this for a 50s dress that does not have an opening down the front, just distribute the gathers evenly around the elastic  and your whole skirt will pouff out!)

That’s all there is to it!  Hope you enjoy sewing it, and feel free to post any questions you might have.            butterick-4790-retro-dress-with-crinoline

On August 16th we will start cutting out our pattern to fit it, (Butterick 4790), and each following week we will make more progress on the walkaway dress.  I believe we can sew the whole thing in one month’s time, and at the end of that we’ll have a 1950s dress “party” where we will all post pictures of the finished dresses!