The Spanish Farthingale is a stiffened underskirt that gives Tudor and early Elizabethan skirts their characteristic conical shape. You can make a very passable one with a full length gored skirt pattern (either a commercial A-line skirt pattern, or one you draft yourself), a lot of ribbon or bias tape, and boning.
A simple A-like skirt with two gores will do fine for this project. I drafted this gore with a 73 degree angle to the side seam, comparable to the Alcega farthingale.
Do this on both pieces. I’m making this for a doll, so I’ve marked the hoop locations every 5/8″.
I find it faster and less annoying to rip the seam and resew, rather than remarking the skirt. Once you have the seam in place correctly….
Why do this? It’s going to keep our seam allowances from being pulled wonky as we sew the channels for the boning, but it doesn’t make a large, thick seam that will be hard to sew over.
A ribbon hem is fantastic here, because it will also form the bottom hoop casing.
Now, here’s a piece of advice: do not send someone who knows anything about weed whackers to the store to get your strimmer line. They will get something like this, which is great at cutting grasses because of the crazy profile. What you want is the utterly crap round stuff – the kind that grass laughs at. It doesn’t snag so much going through the channels.
This trick will only work with a gored skirt. It works best if the casing is just barely wide enough to hold the doubled area of the boning. My strimmer is about 1/8″, and I’m using 1/4″ ribbon. The very tight fit acts like a splice between the ends, and it doesn’t really wiggle or shrink. And it’s easy, which I like.
I am trying to make the human-sized version. My hoops don’t want to stay circular. The skirt is folding in at the front even though it feels like I’ve pushed as much of the hoop material through the casing as I could. Any suggestions on what I’m doing wrong?
I have two thoughts on what might be going wrong. First, how big is the bottom circumference of the skirt? If it’s too big, it’s very difficult to get boning to support it.
Second, what kind of boning are you using? Sometimes bones that are sold bound up in tight circles want to stay true to their original curves. It’s not just natural materials, either – formed spring steel does it, and there’s no working with it once it’s formed in the wrong size circle. With a lot of materials, there’s a way to relax the curve they remember having. (This usually involves a soak in warm to hot water, and a chance to dry either flat, or in the right size circle.)
Also, are you wearing your overskirt with the farthingale when this is happening? Sometimes the weight of the overskirt is more than the boning in the hoops can bear, and the bones buckle.
Let me know, and I’ll try to help more!
Made a hoop / skirt, but it was too long.
Stepped on it ! So, ok, pick up the hoops going forward, uh, then what do you do moving backwards ! ! How far off the floor is safe & still looks good ?
Thanks (& from my dance partner too !)
Hi, Sarah Marie,
Ok, so, seriously, you should never have to use your hands to manage a hoop skirt! Thing is, you’ve got a whole big circle to work inside of. Here are some tricks:
-your skirts can only get under your feet if your feet fully leave the ground. Sweep your toes along the inside circumference of the hoop, and you’re golden.
-if you have to jump in a hoop, do it with energy- your feets will come down before your skirts. Come straight down, unless you were jumping at an angle and then you will want to follow the angle of the skirt.
-stairs- two options: either sweep your toe around the circle then up the face of the stair (ie, use your toe to raise the skirts) or, if you must use your hands, press down gently on the BACK of your skirts. This will raise the front of the skirt slightly, but you won’t look like a modern woman trying to sort out how to wear long skirts. (Seriously – the point a long skirt is coverage. Traditionally, you’d manage your skirts by pulling them to the front where you can keep and eye on them, rather than pushing them to the back or lifting them out of your way.)
I kid you not – I have run up stairs following an energetic queen (of the female persuasion) and carrying THE GOBLET in both hands. I can run over uneven ground in a skirt six inches too long and wooden heels. It’s all about cultivating the weird-long-skirts-shuffle.
I feel like I should make up a sheer farthingale and do a demo…. ;)
Oh, Missa! I think you should post a demo! I’m about to embark on the farthingale adventure and once it’s done, I’d love to know how not to break my neck as I handle a greyhound at Ren Fair!
Thank you lovely lady for your clear and sense-making “how to”s! Without them my first costuming attempts would have and continue to include a lot more blood, sweat and swearing than is the case. :) For the upcoming season my french 1540’s will get a farthingale to show off the fabric and trim. And the skirts will be less in the way jumping over the uneven fields…
Very much appreciated!
You’re welcome, Miri! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the site. I’d love to see pictures of your costume when you finish!