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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.