Authentinote: These instructions are for an 19th century corded petticoat. It is a good method for achieving the full look of 16th century skirts, but there is currently no hard evidence that corded petticoats were used in the 16th century.


3 yards 45" wide medium-weight cotton or linen fabric
95 yards of #16 cotton cord
1 large spool (1000 meters) thread
3 yards 1/4" manila hemp rope
2 yards bias tape (optional)
2 buttons
Liquid starch


Sewing machine
Zipper foot
Hand sewing needles
Ironing Board
Pump Spray bottle

These instructions are taken from a posting to the Compuserve History Forum, and are actually for a 19th century corded petticoat; corded petticoats come in handy just as much under 16th century dress, however. They help your skirts stand out, look very sharp, and are period. The above drawing of a spanish woman in a rope-stiffened farthingale, created in 1545, depicts a skirt similar to that which these instructions create--only with a larger size of cord in the welts, and a wider space between them.

If you use a larger size of cord when making the below petticoat, make sure to cut the original pieces of fabric longer than the 48" specified below--55" or more will be necessary to accomodate all of the tucks necessary. the 48" below makes a petticoat that will fit a woman 5'8" or so; if you are taller or shorter, you may want to sew a strip onto the bottom after all of the tucks are made to make it longer, or cut some fabric off of the top after the tucks are made to make it shorter.

You may find it useful to read Lisa's Tips for Making a Corded Petticoat; she has tried this recipe and has several good suggestions and observations.

Making the petticoat:

Prewash, dry, and iron fabric. Straighten edges, and cut 2 pieces, each 48" long.

Pin two of the selvages together, mark 8" down from corner, and sew selvages together from this point all the way to the other side. Press seam open. You will now have a long rectangle 48" wide and about 88" long.

Turn the bottom edge of the long 88" side up 2" towards the inside of the petticoat and press. This is where the first row of cording will go.

With the zipper foot on the sewing machine, tuck the #16 cotton cord tightly into the fold you just pressed, and sew as close to the cord as possible. This will create a welt on the right side of the petticoat. Continue all the way across to the other end of the fabric, back-stitching to lock the seam when you're finished. Leave approximately 1" of cord sticking out past the end of the fabric.

Fold the fabric up and iron a crease 3/4" above the first welt. Tuck the cotton cord tightly into the crease, and stitch it closed as you did the first welt. When finished, there should be 3/8" between the first welt and the second.

Continue this process until the welts number 36 in all. The welted area should be approximately 18" wide.

Pin the edges of the fabric together witht the right sides (welted sides) together, and mark down 8" from the corners that are not welted. Sew the selvages together from the mark to the bottom, sewing over all of the cord ends. Press the seam open, and, if desired, trim down the ends of the cords and cover the seam with bias tape.

Turn up the raw edge of the bottom of the petticoat. Roll the bottom fabric of the petticoat around the malila hemp rope, hand whipstitching the fabric around the rope, so that it is completely covered (it should look similar to the welts with the cords, but larger).

Measure your waist. Divide the measurement in half, add 2" to each half-measurement, and then cut 2 5" wide waistbands to this measurement.

Example: You have a 30" waist. 30"/2 = 15 + 2" = 17". Cut 2 17" long waistbands.

Run two lines of gathering stitches at the top of each half of the petticoat, and gather each half onto 1 waistband. Turn the waistband down and slipstitch. Sew ties onto either side of the front and back waistbands and tie them together. Alternately, you can use hooks & eyes or buttons to fasten the front and back waistbands together.

Starching the petticoat:

Mix up a solution of 2 cups Vano (or other) liquid starch to 2 cups water.

Put the petticoat in, and completely immerse. Allow the petticoat to soak in the starch several minutes, or until it is completely saturated. Wring out the excess starch, and hang outside to dry.

Dampen the dried petticoat with a sprinkling bottle or pump sprayer, and roll tightly. Wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator overnight (if it is below 50 degrees F outside, you can store it in plastic outside).

Set up an ironing board and set the steam iron on the Cotton/Linen setting. Turn the petticoat inside out, and iron on the wrong side. Add additional moisture to the petticoat as needed from a pump spray bottle, and iron until dry and very stiff.