Underpinnings: Hoopskirt and Petticoat
This dress very obviously uses a hoopskirt-- I've heard that the actual costume used one of the hoopskirts from "The King & I." I thought about making my own, but
in the end opted to buy the biggest one I could find, which was a six-bone, 180" diameter hoopskirt from bridalpetticoat.com.
Armed with my hoopskirt, I set about making the petticoat. The petticoat was going to serve as my muslin for the skirt, so I made it with the same number and width
of ruffles as were on the actual skirt. I used plain white muslin; in retrospect, I should've gone with tulle or petticoat netting for the ruffles, because the muslin is *very* heavy and
also gets crushed under the weight of the actual skirt, so it doesn't do much puffing. But the hoops don't show through, and it was nice to have my skirt muslin be
functional, so it serves its purpose.
At any rate, I decided to make a five-panel base-- four even panels, with the back panel split in two so I'd have a center-back closure. Basically, I took the waist
measurement, the hem measurement, and the skirt length, and fiddled around with the math until I found something that worked, which was a sort of trapezoid with a curved
bottom. The top of the trapezoid was 7", the sides were 45", and the curved bottom was also 45". With nine ruffles total on the dress, each ruffle worked out to 7 1/2"
with about 2" of overlap between ruffles. I only put the bottom 7 ruffles on the petticoat, though, to cut down on the amount of material in the waist.
The actual process of doing the ruffles was pretty easy, just time-consuming. I ripped 7 1/2" wide strips of my muslin, as long as I could make them, and then
ran them through my machine with a ruffling foot. If you want to get really technical about it, the foot makes little tiny pleats, rather than gathers, but it
looks the same in the end. I just messed around with the degree of ruffling until I was satisfied. I didn't bother finishing any of the edges; I didn't have enough
time, and it was just a petticoat, anyway. I used pretty tightly-woven muslin and haven't had any problems with unraveling. Then I marked lines on the petticoat
base where I wanted the ruffles, and sewed them straight on. If I were to do it again, I'd sew them on upside-down, so when the petticoat is right-side up, the ruffles flip over and you
don't see the raw sewn edges. A quick waistband finished the petticoat.
A corset is worn with the real costume (you can see it underneath her bodice in the episode), but I didn't have time to make mine. I do have all the materials, though,
so someday! I just wore a white camisole I had on hand. Below, you can see the evolution of my underpinnings, along with a picture of me in the full rig:
Since my skirt was going to be essentially identical to my petticoat, construction was pretty easy. I did make each panel a bit wider and longer, so it would fit
comfortably over the petticoat, and you wouldn't see anything peeking out underneath. I made the base of the skirt out of white Southern Belle cotton from Jo-Ann,
which is a nice, tightly-woven fabric. The ruffles were made from my trusty 10mm silk chiffon from Dharma Trading.
I don't think that's what's used on the real costume, because my ruffles don't have the body I see in the real costume. (My ruffles are awfully floppy.) But nothing
else came closer-- organza was way too stiff-- and besides, I already had a bunch of 10 mm chiffon on hand. Thrift wins the day!
There are three colors of ruffles-- white, peach-ish, and pink. I calculated how much 54" chiffon I'd need for each color, and then dyed the peach and the pink in
my kitchen sink. I used RIT Rose Pink for the pink ruffles, and a combination of Rose Pink and RIT Golden Yellow for the peach. To dry the fabric, I wrapped my
shower curtain rod in plastic wrap and draped the fabric over it:
Then I ironed the fabric, ripped it into 7 1/2" widths, and did a serged-rolled hem on the edge that was going to show. A quick trip through the ruffling foot, and
they were ready to be stitched onto the base. Again, I wish I'd thought to sew them on upside-down so the raw edge wouldn't be as visible, but oh well, what's done
is done. The lower eight ruffles went onto the skirt; the ninth ruffle, which was made of bodice fabric, would get sewn on with the bodice.
This is the part of the costume I'm least happy with, because it was the last thing I did, and consequently the most hurried. I'd really like to redo it sometime in the future. Butterick 4375 is a very ugly, pseudo-Renaissance, thankfully out-of-print
Butterick pattern that worked perfectly for this dress, because it was a high-necked princess-seamed pattern. The fabric is an off-white polyester patterned fabric from Jo-Ann. I bought pre-ruffled pink trim, also from Jo-Ann, and inserted
it in the front princess seams and at the neckline. For the sleeves, I just dyed some leftover silk charmeuse with RIT Rose Pink and gathered it evenly around the
armhole, then added a band of pink patterned ribbon and put elastic through it to gather the sleeve around the arm. The same ribbon went down
the front of the bodice and around the waist, camouflaging the seam where the bodice, the top ruffle, and the skirt were all sewn together. The whole dress closes
up the back with an invisible zipper and two hooks and eyes, because the zipper wasn't long enough. (This bodice is so ghetto, I can't even begin to tell you.)
The whole dress is a bit long, because I couldn't hem it while it was on me and my dress form is taller than I am. (Someday, I'll get around to figuring out
exactly how much taller, and then hemming things will be much easier.) So I erred on the side of caution, and figured I'd just wear whatever heels worked best. That
ended up being my 2 1/2" wedding sandals, which aren't the greatest for wearing around all day. Ouch.