Cotton knee-length petticoat (&pattern)

I’ve been wanting to make a cotton petticoat for under my knee-length skirts for a while. My good petticoat is an A-line, but I have some skirts for which a bell-shape is more appropriate and I like the idea of cotton for petticoats. I’d been looking out for a pattern for a while, because I wanted to get the shape and volume right. Recently, I had a performance with my dance group doing an hungarian piece and got to have a look at the petticoats worn with the costume. I’m not certain if these petticoats are also the traditional type worn, but they certainly give the bell shape.

Not quite as huge as this though (but it is pretty)

Voivodina Hungarians (Kupusina and Doroslovo) women’s national costume.


I figured I’d share my pattern with you. The petticoat consist of 3 layers, a top layer and two under-layers. These layers, together with pleats and gathers give the volume.

For this pattern you need to decide on 2 things on your own, namely your waist circumference and the length you want the petticoat to be.

Start with making a waistband for yourself, fitting at the natural waist. Decide on whatever closure you want in the waistband, can be hooks, a button, or another type of clasp (sew this on at the end). My pattern closes only at  the waistband, leaving a slit open in the skirt. This doesn’t matter as it’s a petticoat and therefore always worn under another skirt. If you wish to wear it as an over-skirt, make sure that the slit fully closes or insert a zipper.

The top layer will have the following pattern:



So the width will be your waist measurement times 3, the height will be the length you want the petticoat to be. Beware that if the petticoat is very full, the actual length might fall a bit shorter because the skirt stands out from the body. In this case, add a little to your desired length to get the height measure.

This top layer is pleated onto a waistband at the top. Make sure your pleats meet, in that you have 3 layers of fabric everywhere.

I used 1,5 cm pleats, but you can look at what you like visually. I’d recommend smaller pleats though. Sew the sides together, leaving a slit at the top which your hips fit through. Hem the slit.

The bottom two layers of the petticoat only have fullness at the bottom.

This is the pattern for the top part of the lower layers. You’ll need to cut this out 4 times. I recommend making a mock-up first, as this part is more close fitted. The lower measurement is your hip circumference at a point Length/2 below your waist. If your petticoat length is 40 cm, measure at 20 cm below your waist, if it’s 70 cm, measure at 35 below your waist. Be careful if you measure below the widest part of your hips, in this case just take the full hip measure at the widest part. You can add a little ease to the bottom part of this pattern to make sure it’s not too snug. How much can be up to you, but I’d say that 10 to 20 cm is safe.

Petticoat 2


Once this is cut, sew 2 of the pieces together at one side. Sew the other side close at the bottom leaving a slit at the top. Make sure you can fit it over your hips when deciding how deep the slit is. Hem the edges of fabric at the slit.

The bottom part of the under-layers is the following (so cut 2, one for each under layer):

Petticoat 3


In other words, the height is again half the length you want, so your bottom layers will be the same length as your top layer. The width is based on the bottom length of the top part of the under layer (Hip/2 + ease measurement). For this, take your hip measurement + ease as a base. (Not divided by 2, as now you’re looking at the full hip measurement and not half of it). You can take this measurement and multiply it by a number somewhere between 2 and 3. This decides how full the bottom of your petticoat will be. For a very full one at the bottom, pick a higher number. If you go above 3, it might be a bit hard to gather everything. Gather the top of this piece of fabric, and sew it onto the bottom of the top part of the under-layer.

Final step: hem everything (it’s prettiest if the under-layers don’t show, so make the hem of the upper layer slightly narrower). Trim if you want.

Because I always prefer looking at a garment when figuring out how to make it, here are some pictures of mine (bad phone quality, sorry for that):

The top layer:


The bottom layer (the weird stuff at the top is the top layer being held up):



After I finished sewing the layers together and was looking at hemming, I noticed that I’d cut the petticoat a bit longer than I needed. I fitted it with a skirt I had and the bottom peeked out. This could be nice, as the lace at the hem is pretty, but it wasn’t really what I wanted. Instead of taking the hem up, I chose to make pintucks above the hem. So I hemmed the skirt as usual, and then marked and folded my fabric so the entire skirt would be a little shorter. I chose this method because it’s pretty, but it’s also something I saw in the existing petticoats. It makes sense, as clothing was shared by people (or inherited from others), so the length wouldn’t always be right. Having pintucks is an easy way of shortening a skirt so that it can be let out again later. So some more pictures of the finished petticoat:



Done! You can barely see the pintucks in this photo, but you can see that ik gives even more of a bell-shape with the skirt a bit shorter.



The closure.



The hem. I trimmed it with cotton lace. It’s not antique, but made with a still operating antique cotton machine. The two pintucks are 1 cm each and placed 4,5 and 8 cm above the hem.



The first bottom layer. There is one more like this beneath. These layers also have 2 pintucks in the same way as the top layer, but no lace.



This looks a bit weird, but I just pinned the top two layers up so you can see there’s a 3rd one.



And the petticoat with a skirt on top, to show the volume.



And for reference, the same skirt without petticoat.