Materials Needed for a Farthingale

A farthingale is a very simple piece of clothing. To make one, you will need some Fabric, Boning to stiffen the skirt with, and a ribbon to use to tie the farthingale closed at the waist.


As the Farthingale you make will be hidden beneath your skirts, there's no need to make it out of fancy fabric unless you want to. The cheapest and sturdiest material to make a farthingale out of is cotton duck or cotton drill fabric, both of which are available at your local fabric store for about 5 dollars a yard. It is a very sturdy, canvas-like material which can be washed, breathes well, doesn't wrinkle very much, and can stand up to all sorts of mistreatment.

If you're going for the period look, however, you can make your farthingale out of silk, as is specified by Alcega in his Instructions on making a farthingale. Queen Elizabeth had farthingales made out of satin and taffeta. You can also make it out of a sturdy linen. There's no record of farthingales made out of brocade or velvet, but bridal satin and shot-silk taffeta, both reproductions of the original silk-based fabrics, can also be found at your local fabric store. If you want to make it out of silk, you can find a number of very strong and sturdy silk weaves at Thai Silks, listed on the Mailorder Supplies list.

The average farthingale takes around three yards of 45" wide fabric. For a very wide one, 4 yards should be enough.


The most common material used for boning farthingales is hoop skirt boning, which is a 1/2 inch wide strip of stiffened canvas with steel wire at both edges. It is readily available at places like AlterYears and Greenburg and Hammer, both of whom are on the Mailorder Supplies list. Greenburg and Hammer asks $10.25 for twelve yards, enough to do a heavily boned farthingale.

A friend of mine has used timber strapping to stiffen her farthingale. Although it is rather wide, it works splendidly once the ends have been filed round and smooth. It is very springy, and can hold out the heaviest of velvet skirts.

Period two boning materiels were used to stiffen farthingales: whalebone, and bent rope. Whalebone is unavailable these days, but can be substituted with artificial whalebone, or hoopskirt boning, for a material of similar strength and flatness. Bent rope was a rope made of bent, or reed grass. It too is unavailable these days. You can make your own bent rope by buying bundles of tiny, 00 (double-ought) round reed, taking 20 pieces of reed, and binding them with linen cord or artificial sinew to create round boning 5/8 an inch in diameter. Bent rope is lighter than artificial whalebone or hoopskirt boning, is surprisingly flexible, yet holds its shape well. Here's a few places to look:

Plymouth Reed and Cane Supply	    English Basketry Willows
1200 W. Ann Arbor Rd		    RFD 1, Box 124A
Plymouth, MI  48170  		    South New Berlin, NY 13843-9649  
Phone:  (313) 455-2150		    Phone: (607) 847-8264

W.H. Kilby & Co. Ltd.
1840 Davenport Road
Toronto, ON, Canada  M6N 1B7
Phone: (416) 656-1065
Fax:   (416) 656-1700

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