Making a Jane Porter cosplay: the skirt and overskirts

Hello everyone! I’m back on writing about this costume – I really need to start writing up closer to the sewing time, because I end up forgetting a lot about how I made things (my memory is terrible). I have one post about the concept and the foundation garments for this dress here and the post about the bodice here. Once again, just a quick reminder that I did not intend this dress to be a historically accurate Jane! I just wanted it to be more detailed and more ‘me’, while keeping some historical elements like the bustle back. So on to the skirts!

I decided against my original plans of making a circle skirt for this dress. I know, right? So indecisive. Circle skirts just weren’t working for me in this project. I decided that a panelled skirt, like that of my 1871 evening dress would work better. It would still accommodate the bustle back, I could give it a large hem so that it swished, but it would also keep a flat front, which I thought was in line with Jane’s original dress.

The skirt consists of four panels: the front (which is cut on the fold), two sides, and one back. I had all my plans written out for this but I’ve lost them, so eep! I didn’t make a pattern for this, I just drew out the shapes I wanted on a piece of paper and did maths (gross) to figure out lengths and slopes and etc. I used the same method as I did on my 1871 evening dress skirt, and I had sloped panels so I could get a large hem (the hem ended up being three meters). The top of the front and side panels is small, so it ends up being almost triangle shaped, but the back panel is as wide at the bottom as the top, so I had enough room for the bustle.

I drew the shapes directly onto the fabric and then cut out the panels. I used those panels to cut out the lining.

One of the side panels, in the lining.
The front panel being cut out of the lining. It’s cut on the fold so there’s no seam at the centre front.

Once all the panels were cut out, it was smooth sailing. So to speak. I somehow managed to warp the fabric when I cut out the front panel so that it was slightly cut on the bias and it draped weirdly. One side ended up being nearly three inches too long. I was so lazy and decided just to go with it, that I could level it once I hemmed it. I ended up sewing up the whole skirt, lining and everything, and then deciding to rip it out and re-cut the front panel.

But anyway

I pinned the panels to their corresponding lining and then flatlined them (machine basting around all sides). I then went over all the edges with a zig zag stitch. I don’t have an overlocker (though I really really want one) and the lining fabric was fraying so much, that this seemed like an easy fix. I wanted this cosplay to be durable, so finishing the seams was a must and this seemed like the easiest way. I’m glad I did it this way, because if I had used another method, like french seams, it would have been much more of a pain to rip out the front panel.

Because of the bustle back and the fact that this was meant to be a separate bodice and skirt piece, I left a six inch slit in between one of the side panels and the front panel. I turned the edges inwards twice. I pleated the skirt down to my waist measurement, making most of the pleats on the back panel so it went nicely over the bustle. Then I added a waistband and a bar and a hook. I hemmed the skirt with horsehair tape, which is my new favourite thing. This is quite narrow, so I sewed it on the right side of the fabric with 1/4” seam allowance, then turned it to the wrong side, pinned it and sewed it by hand with a herringbone stitch.

Tape sewn to the right side
And turned it to the wrong side!

The skirt was done! Or so I thought.

You can see it was still un-hemmed in these photos. Also fun fact: draping over a bra is dangerous.

 

 

The answer is… WRONG! After the whole costume was finished, the overskirts and bustle were weighing down the skirt so much that it didn’t line up with the bodice AT ALL, so I ended up having a whole flash of flesh at the back (not okay). It was a crop top. So I ended up sewing the bodice to the skirt, to make it a dress, which meant relocating the closure to the back. Thankfully the overskirts cover the previous closure so it can’t be seen!

Onto the overskirts then.

I wasn’t sure how to achieve the effect of Jane’s overskirt. But after I looked around, the costume Jane wears at Disney World shows the pleats much better, so I got onto pleating. I took the old front panel of the skirt and pleated the sides just to get an idea of how long the overskirt panel should be. The pleats are just wide, knife pleats going against the flow of the skirt, so it looks like is folds inwards.

Like so.

Once I figured out how long it had to be and how wide, it was just a question of drawing out the schematics and then cutting the fabric. I drew it directly onto the fabric, which was cut on the fold. It looked like a slightly sloped rectangle. It had to be as wide as lowest point where it hit the actual skirt, so that it fit comfortably and didn’t look strained (this is something I learned from my failed overskirt in my 1871 evening dress).

After that was cut out, I made the three pleats, the first is 3” deep, the second 4” and the third 5”. I found I liked the look of this slight difference.

I sewed the pleats down by machine, after ironing them.

Then  I turned the bottom and side edges inwards twice by hand, to hide the raw edges. This also hid the machine stitching. Then I made a waistband for the top, not sewing the sides so that it formed a channel through which I threaded a piece of matching ribbon. This is the overskirt closure.

For the pouffy bustle… bit (I’m not sure what to call it, pad maybe?), I pretty much winged it after a rough mock up. I made it quite wide and very sloped. I noticed that the sides of the pad covered the sides of the pleats in the front overskirt, so I measured them (12”) which told me how long the side panels of the pad had to be before they sloped. Then I sloped them into one big curve. Once again, it was cut on the fold. This gave me a rough oval shape (when the top was gathered down). The top had to be quite wide to fit comfortably over the bustle. Originally I tried pleating it, so it would match the front overskirt, but it didn’t give the same look as the one in the film. So then I tried gathering it with two rows of stitching and it worked! I also noticed that Jane had some sort of border around the pad which seemed to be stuffed, because it stood out from the pad.

To achieve this, I cut wide bias strips of fabric. Because there was a slight difference in colour, I used the wrong side of the fabric, like I did for the sleeves. I turned the long edges inwards by 1/2” like when making a waistband. Then I pinned and sewed one side down, all around the pad. Then, while turning the other side and pining it, I added polyester toy filling to it, and sewed it down by hand.

Then I added a waistband, like on the front overskirt, and threaded some ribbon through it. I added a couple of snaps to the side, so that it would attach to the front overskirt (this whole costume is rigged with snaps and hooks to be honest).

And that is it for the skirt and overskirts! Here are some photos of the costume at this stage (roughly), including a sneak peek at the collar and scallop trim. The next post will be about the collar, cravat, umbrella and misc. accessories/details!

(this is not the final belt, it was just here for picturing purposes!)

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