- New Demos

- Classes & Schedule

Getting Started
- Basic Sewing Tech
- Fun With Bias

Body Measurement
- What & Where to Measure

Pattern Development
- Basic Pattern Drafting
- Basic Pattern Development
- The Toile & Mock-Up
- Basic Rectangular Patterns

Sewing Tech
- Gores, Gussets, and Inserts
- Facings
- Cartridge Pleating
- Basic Handsewing Techniques
- Hand Bound Eyelet Holes
- Machine Seams

Trims & Embellishment
- 5 Cross Cultural Embroidery Stitches
- Appliqué Techniques
- Passemaine (hand made trims)
- Trims requiring very little equipment
- Complicated Trims
- Cardweaving
- Buttons
- Making Felt

Western European
- Underwear
- Shirts
- Farthingales
- Corsets
- Stockings
- Collars and Cuffs
- Partlets
- Gloves
- Hats
- Shoes

Eastern European:

- Shirts
- Pants
- Coats
- Shoes
- Boots
- Hats
- Jewelry

Ancillary Arts
- Fans
- Pouch Hinges, Part 1
- Pouch Hinges, Part 2

Demonstrations>Accessories:Western European>Farthingales

The pattern for this farthingale comes straight out of Juan de Alcega's Tailor's Pattern Book, #67. Janet Arnold's Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd was also used as an ancillary source. The Wardrobe accounts contain specific instances of various farthingales, describing the materials and colors used and some clues as to the method of construction.

Alcega's farthingale adds length to the overall pattern so that tucks for the hoops may be formed using the garment fabric itself. Having made one of these, I do not recommend it as a first time farthingale project. The Wardrobe accounts listed by Janet Arnold reveal that farthingales could also have bias strips added for containing the hoops. This is the method emploied for the farthingale pictured

Fabric and color was a secondary consideration but a consideration nonetheless. We chose an undyed cotton drill that was sturdy but not too bulky. For the bias tapes, we choose a lighter cotton twill. Overall, it took about 4.5 yards of cotton drill (at $2.50/yard) and about a yard of cotton twill (at $2.50/yard). The hoops required about 34 feet of the rigid plastic tubing (at .33 cents per foot and five connectors at $1.75 each). The grand total was $33.72 for the entire project.

In wearing a farthingale, three things should be considered; length, width and placement of hoops. The length should fall right at your instep. Any shorter and the finished line of the dress will look odd. Any longer and your toe will hook the bottom hoop with disastrous results (there's a story there). We measured from the waist to the instep and added about three inches for seam allowance and for belling when the hoops were inserted. The width of the finished farthingale should be in keeping with the aesthetic of the period. In choosing to go with fabric the same width as that required for Alcega's pattern, we felt that this would ensure that our farthingale was not too wide nor too narrow. Hoops should be placed evenly from top to bottom with the first one just at palm length so that when you sit down in your farthingale, you can grab this hoop and maneuver the dress.

The diagram to the right is drawn after Alcega's pattern. The material is first folded lengthwise and the front and back pannels are then cut out with the center back and front on the fold. The fabric is then opened back up and the front and back gores are then cut out. Notice the wedge cut out of the top of the front panel. The point of the front gore ends at the bottom of this wedge. The bias cut of the gores is sewn to the selvedge edge of the panels. The piecing diagram shows how the pieces are lined up before sewing them together. When the bias cuts of the gores are sewn to the selvedge edge of the pannels, the selvedge edge of the gores are sewn to each other. This means that the side seam does not droop.

Alcega's pattern begins with 30" wide fabric. The cotton drill ended up being about 40" after washing so we stripped 10" off the side before laying out for the pattern. We followed the pattern diagram, which showed the back and front cut on the fold. After measuring and cutting those pieces, we opened up the fabric and cut the back and front gores. We did not measure the angle of the corner cut on the front piece, choosing instead to do it by eye from the period pattern. We chose this method to cut out our gores as well. Most tailors in period would also have done cutting in this manner instead of relying on complicated mathematical equations or complicated body measurements. When we put the front gores on to the front piece, very slight truing of the corner cut was required to bring it into line with the gore side. The photo to the left shows the front panel at the top, the back panel in the middle and the two sets of gores having been cut.

We laid out the front, front gores, back gores and back the way that Alcega describes them being sewn together. There is a neat textile engineering thing that goes on in the placement of the bias edges of the gores to the selvage edges of the front and back panel pieces. In doing this, we have found that when the weight of a skirt is applied to the hoops, the farthingale rocks back slightly, making the front of the dress fall flatter and the back bell out more.

Evidence that this is intentional can be found from reading Alcega when he talks about hemming. He specifically states that more will have to be removed from the front of the hem than from the back in order to compensate for this action. The side seam formed by the two gores is selvage to selvage and therefore does not droop.

We chose to french seam all seams but realistically, flat-felling or any other type of seam that finishes off the raw edges would work. We left one side seam open so that the entire farthingale could be laid out flat and the measurements for the bias guards could be made. This was done with a washable pencil according to the measurement we took from the palm length down to the bottom.

Once the measurement lines were placed, it was time to sew on the bias guards. This is the part of the construction process that takes the longest. You can use commercial wide bias tape but we suggest making your own, illustrated by the photo to the left. Our farthingale ended up having six hoops. One word of advice is in order here: Do not sew the guards down to the very edge of the seam.

Leave yourself at least an inch or two so that you can both insert the hoop and hand finish this edge.

If you want to be able to remove your hoops or even just to break them down, don't sew the guard edges together. The last bias guard forms the hem of the farthingale by attaching on either side of the raw hem edge. You will probably have to true up the hem before this last step. The photo to the right shows the raw hem before truing for the last bias guard.

With all of the guards in place, we finished the side seam and went on to measure for our waist band. This photo shows the waistband pinned to the farthingale. Alcega's farthingale probably had a drawstring waist but we choose to use a band instead. The cotton drill was heavy enough to not lend itself well to the drawstring method. The Wardrobe account mentions silk and taffeta farthingales which would probably allow for a functional drawstring waist. Because we had a band, we also choose to flat pleat our skirt into the band so as to reduce bulk at the waist. We also choose to have a center back opening rather than using a side seam. This meant the inclusion of a placket. Alcega's farthingale very likely made use of the side seam opening rather than a placket.

Once the placket was made and the waist band attached, we hand sewed the inner part of the waist band down, and added our ties. At this point, we began inserting and fussing with our hoops. Period hoop material was made of anything from whalebone to willow strips (from which the word "farthingale" comes; see the Comprehensive Tailoring Vocabulary), to heavy ropes. Having actually cut willow strips and boiled them to make hoops (for that earlier farthingale I made... my mother was hoppin' mad after she saw her willow tree), we decided to find a modern equivalent instead. In the plumbing section of Home Depot is a rigid plastic tubing, about 1/2" thick that comes with its own brass connectors. It is sold by the foot and in rigidity is very similar to the willow hoops made before. Avoid, if at all possible, the hoop wire sold at most fabric stores and costume stores. It is simply not rigid enough to do the job right. The photo to the left shows the plastic hoop in place with its connector and a lone connector to illustrate what they look like. These hoops are washable and packable simply by undoing the connections and fitting them into whatever space you are trying to fit them into. I would advise letting them drip dry rather than putting them into a dryer. I've not dryed mine but I would suspect that the plastic tubing would not do so well in that environment.

Fuss with the size of each hoop until the proper bell shape is achieved. Warning: This will take time and very likely be frustrating. Eventually, you will get the line you want. Cut your hoop ends so that you can insert the connectors.

site map | guided tour | contactOther sections: 16th Century | 18th Century
This site and its contents (c) 2006 Tammie L. Dupuis
Best viewed at 640 X 480 or 800 X 600