If any of you read my first post about Cinderella, you know that I REALLY wanted to re-create a high-school-budget-version of the wonderfully over-the-top ball gowns found in the Broadway version of “Cinderella”. The magical lifts and twirling skirts weave a wonderfully fanciful image of a Fairytale land ball–something every little girl would dream of attending. Figuring out a way to do this was definitely on my “More” \ “Upgrade” list . . . .
I did a lot of online searching for petticoats. There are various long fluffy colored petticoats that you can find from different vendors. The price starts at about $30 each, and goes up. I had eight Cinderella Waltz dancers, plus Cinderella herself. I had already ordered hoops for all of them, which was a large purchase. As much as I WANTED layers, I really couldn’t justify the expense, and I knew my budget was already bulging. There was one other issue that solidified my reluctance . . . at the time I was looking there were two basic versions available, one appeared to be single layer with a ribbon edge, the other version was a double layers with a ruffle. The problem was (as often can be with out-of-country suppliers) that the pictures seemed to be interchangeable, and had very little relation to price. It was also difficult to determine whether they were single layer or double layer, and what the bottom circumference was. If I was going to spend the money–I wanted to make sure it was going to be WORTH it, and I didn’t feel confident it would be, so, buying commercially didn’t seem feasible. And the thought of sewing huge petticoats didn’t seem really realistic either, so I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Then, I had an IDEA. (That phrase always makes my Mom worry . . . ).
When we did “Grease”, I had purchased many of the inexpensive tea-length organza petticoats. Below is a typical sample found on Ebay. By shopping early (and often), I had managed to get quite a few of them with “free shipping” in the $6-7/range. I had a red one for Cha-Cha, and it didn’t quite do what I wanted for her dress, so I had combined two of these petticoats to make one larger one. We also had added toppers to a few of these (and some square dance petticoats) to make them longer as my Director wanted a mid-calf skirt length. As I thought about those petticoats my brain started churning . . . because I HAD 16 of them in white . . . .
For the Ball scene I had already purchased hoops for the majority of the cast. These were fairly small (about 30″ diameter) tea length, three-ring hoops. Hoops come in many shapes and sizes. We wanted something that would easily allow dancing, and give elevation higher in the skirt. This size gave a nice shape, but was still manageable and we would be able to fit many of them onstage. They also can be found in the $8-10 range. When we did our first trial run of the Waltzers in their dresses, the empty space under their dresses, was very noticeable.
I needed something to fill that space, and my old petticoats seemed like they could come to new life. I ordered organza ribbon from tulleshop.com in colors to match the dresses of the dancers. Then, we took two petticoats and cut them open on one side and sewed them together to make one larger petticoat.
We added additional fabric on top, and made an elastic casing, and call this the “topper”. You will note that this one has several layers . . . the bottom is the original skirt, then a cream layer, and then an additional layer. Originally I erred on the side of making the skirts shorter, thinking the girls would trip on them. What I found out was that they need to be quite long (just shorter than the skirt) in order to be seen as the girls dance. We had to go back and add length to the top of almost all of them. If I were doing it again, I would make the original topper longer–it is much easier to sew a pleat to shorten it, or even pin it, than to have to add another piece in.
We sewed 25 yard rolls of the 1.5″ two satin edge organza ribbon to the bottom edge. The double layer look of the ribbon added to the “layered” look of the petticoats. There are two layers of organza on the bottom of the petticoats. Some of the petticoats were completely trimmed on the two layers, and some came up a bit short–but not enough to be noticeable.
These petticoats were worn UNDER the hoop.
I think they turned out wonderfully!
You will note some of the girls have visible bloomers. After a bad experience with a girl and a hoop onstage, anyone who was doing dancing had a pair of bloomers. Ideally, I would have put them on everyone with a hoop, but I didn’t have time to get quite that many made.
A few of the other characters also had multi-layer petticoats: Cinderella, Charlotte & Gabrielle.
Cinderella had a traditional square dance petticoat under her skirt. I cut the elastic off the top, and added a topper (made from an old white straight skirt–ala nurses uniform of bygone days). This was a last-minute addition as we upgrade her costume the weekend before the show. This petticoat was fairly old and rather ratty, but I think it does the job under her skirt. In addition, her hoop as three 6″ layers of ruffled petticoat strips. I am not sure what fabric it is. I had ordered it back when I thought I would try to make some petticoats for “Grease”. I edged it with YARDS and YARDS of pre-gathered white lace (donated!) and then ran it through the ruffler. Then I sewed it around, and around, and around the bottom of the hoop. I think I made it around 3 times. I was hating my life about then, lol. I would have liked to have lowered the hoop a bit so the ruffles hung a bit lower, but, there is only so much time in the day. If you look closely, the top ruffles of the petticoat are a brighter white–this is the lace. The inner ruffles are a slight cream–this is the pettiskirt.
Charlotte had a hoop with a singe ruffle sewn along the bottom. Her dress had a very full underskirt and the back had three layers of ruffles trimmed with pre-gathered lace. The petticoat net of the dress was trimmed with some flat white lace. Unfortunately, this lace had some iridescent threads which were very “sticky”, and they clung to the petticoat net and tended to fold up on themselves, which was disappointing. Gabrielle had pre-gathered white lace sewn along the bottom of the petticoat net under her dress. This gave her dress a little extra poof, and visual interest as she danced.
Cost: The cost of the petticoats would probably be in the $15-20 range, if you bought everything new. I had all of the petticoats, so I only added the $2.50 roll of ribbon, and then some scrap fabric and elastic.
Square dance petticoats/pettiskirts like the one Cinderella had run in the $30-$80 range on Ebay, depending upon the condition, age, and fullness.
The darker colors of the ribbon showed up better, so I would be inclined to avoid the very pale pastels if possible.
The skirts could easily be made shorter again for a 50’s look. They could also be separated if need be. I would be inclined to leave them doubled. The original petticoats are not particularly full, depending upon your desired look.
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