I decided to make a 2 layer skirt, with the petticoat layer in white cotton and the overskirt in teal silk. Making these things one skirt reduced the number of waistbands I needed to wear and since the petticoat is longer than the skirt, I would never wear this petticoat with any other Victorian since usually I dont have my petticoats showing!
Now I had to pick a pattern and here I had a conundrum. The Parasol Protectorate is set in the 1870s, but the bodice length and style on the Manga cover appears more 1880s to me. I decided to go 1880s for this outfit, since I felt it fit the image on the cover more even though author sets the books in the 1870s. I based my underskirt/petticoat layer on the Truly Victorian TV261-R. Since this simple base would be easily altered to fit the image on the cover and still full enough in the back to give that satisfying bustle skirt swish!
I used to completely plain view (no ruffle and no bustling) and made it out of white cotton. I then added 2 layers of really narrow ruffles. To keep the ruffles simple, cut the ruffles from the selvage of the cotton so there are no seams and no hems! I used the pattern with no alterations for this layer, including all the darts to make this layer smooth over the waist of the corset.
Once the white underskirt was done, I needed to make the overskirt. I again used the plain TV261-R pattern, but with a bunch of alterations. The back panel is cut exactly like the pattern. Ruffles for the back were made with 3 times the width of the back panel, hemmed both top and bottom and then gathered onto the back piece before assembling the skirt. The ruffles start a few inches down from the top, since I knew the top of the skirt would be covered by the bodice. The ruffles are are the same size, except for the bottom most one which is the same width in the center, but tapered to the sides as the center back of the skirt is longer to accommodate the bustle.
It was in the middle of cutting the skirt ruffles that I realized I had a problem. I had bought 2 yards more silk than I though I needed, but had not realized how narrow the thai silk is! I ran out of silk before I cut the main parts of the bodice or the side poufs! I ordered more silk from my Bangkok Silks, but found that there is a lot of batch to batch variability in the color and I could not use any of the other silk that came in for this project! This silk was wonderful to work with, but in the future I will order way more than I need so I dont have this problem again! I really did not want to have any of the ruffles a different color, so the bottom ruffle is really heavily pieced but I did manage to get the full skirt out of the teal silk.
The side panels and the front panels greatly expanded versions of the panel pieces from the TV261-R. Since the image shows the skirt being strapped down and falling in gentle pleats down the front, the base pattern would not work. This pattern is designed to give a very smooth look and so would be insufficient for the puffiness under the strapping. Basically, I split both the side and front pattern pieces from top to bottom and widened the pattern pieces as much as a could while not piecing the panels (since piecing would be really obvious in the main skirt panels). I then pleated the skirt rather than darting the skirt. To keep the pleats flat under the bodice, I stitched down the top several inches of each pleat. You can see the sewn pleats to the left.
I decided I wanted to attach the odd lace edged hip poufs to the skirt, but I had a problem, I knew I was going to have to use a different fabric for the hip poufs (and the main part of the bodice) but I was having no luck getting really closely matching Thai silk. In scanning through the manga I noticed that Alexia was often drawn with the hip poufs and the main bodice a different shade (see the image to the left). However the front cover shows the same, or very close color. I decided to go for a very close color but a totally different texture in silk. I picked a very close color match dupioni but of course the dupioni has slubs and the Thai silk is much more smooth. The hip poufs were drape drafted using scrap fabric until I liked the shape. I then cut them out of the dupioni, gathered lace to the edge and lined them in the cotton. At this point I attached the waist band, sewed the openings of the underskirt to the over skirt and added hook closures.
I then put the skirt on with the bustle and marked where the bodice would likely hit. At this point I put the bustle and the skirt on a dress
dummy and played with the velvet ribbon to make the strapping until I was happy with it. The crossovers and the strap ends are covered with small bows of the same velvet ribbon.
Overall I really love this skirt, it is so swishy and big!