Help! I feel like a cupcake!

August 14, 2012
The dress with the cupcake petticoat

I am going to my 10 year high school reunion on Saturday, and I had this grand plan to sew a dress and a petticoat to wear. The dress came out just like I wanted, but the petticoat… well, let’s just say I feel ridiculous in this thing. I look like a cupcake. It is one thing to take pictures and post them on a website where you know everyone loves vintage clothes, but quite another to wear said cupcake petticoat to see people you haven’t seen in the last 10 years. Here let me show you.

The dress with the cupcake petticoat
The dress with the cupcake petticoat

That doesn’t even give you a good idea how huge this thing is. I have to smoosh it to walk through doorways. The dress probably comes out at a 45 degree angle from my body. When I walk I feel like I’m going to knock things off tables and hit my kid in the head hard enough to cause a concussion.

Ok… in all seriousness, I love the petticoat, I’m just not sure if it’s too much for this event. I feel like I’m wearing a costume, not a cocktail dress.

petti peek
petti peek

So I guess my question would be: is it too much? Should I just give up and wear a smaller petticoat I have (it’s white and doesn’t have the fabulous purple-ish trim) Should I live it up and go all out with vintage hair and makeup? Should I go with a really modern messy hairstyle to offset the costume-look? Should I ditch the shoes and go with plain black pumps? Please Please PLEASE! I need help deciding.

I know I will probably get questions about all the details of the dress, so I will answer them here, now that I’m done having a nervous breakdown. The dress is a self drafted bodice and circle skirt. I got the fabric 75% off at my local JoAnne’s when they moved. I’m pretty sure it’s 100% polyester. The belt I got at Ross. I got the shoes years ago (can’t remember where). The petticoat is an adaptation of Alice Lon’s 48 yard petticoat. I changed up so much stuff on the pattern I should really call it inspired by. It only ended up being 32 yards at the bottom because I ran low on trim (boy am I glad I didn’t make it the full 48 yards… I might have suffocated on all the ruffles) The trim is self made “bias” binding (cut on the straight grain) from cotton fabric I had. Don’t use cotton to bind your petticoat. I think that is part of the reason it is so ridiculously poofy. It also makes it really stiff and unyielding at the bottom (in a not pretty way).  The fabric from the skirt falls into the valleys of the petticoat in a really unattractive way as well (you can’t tell too much in the picture, but I promise it looks weird in real life) If you have gotten this far, Thank you! Extra points to whoever helps me decide what to wear!

BTW This is my first post. (If you didn’t already figure that out)

  1. Definitely keep the shoes. I would go with a smaller petticoat or without one altogether if the skirt hangs nicely that way. It would still be a cute outfit. Also, how much did you alter the length on that petticoat pattern? I’m getting ready to use it myself and it’s nice to (at least sort of) see one put together and under a skirt.

    1. I made each of the bottom two layers 7 1/2 inches and the top circle section I think was about 7 inches. I’m 5’2″ for reference. It is about knee length on me.

  2. I vote for a smaller petticoat too. And keep the shoes. They are fab-o.

    I hadn’t heard of that petticoat before and went Googling. I definitely need one! Thanks for the introduction.

  3. Love the dress, shoes, and petticoat! But I agree with the other commenters, a smaller petticoat would be better for the occasion, but definitely wear the full thing for something where other people will be dressed in vintage clothes too 🙂

  4. I vote for modern messy hair, dress, fab*U*lous Shoes and smaller petticoat. Many times ladies would layer 2 (or more) less poufy petticoats to get the shape they wanted. If you add one and it still isn’t looking quite the way you want, add a slip or two or see if a friend has another lightweight petticoat to make it the right amount of fluff; your skirt should gently ‘sway’ when you walk, not stand on it’s own! ;^) Good Luck and have a great time!!

  5. I was just thinking that maybe you could tame it some by somehow threading a cord or some elastic through outer layer and pulling it in slightly. It would be more dense but still full, just not so full.

  6. I think you should wear a smaller petticoat to this event with full vintage hair and makeup. Save your big petticoat for an occasion where you will feel comfortable.

  7. Great dress & great shoes! Enjoy the reunion!

    Regarding the binding on the petticoat, just wondering if you’re up to replacing it with something less stiff than the cotton? If it won’t spoil it, maybe cut it off instead of unpicking it to save some time?
    You’ve put a lot of effort into that petticoat, so you deserve to feel good when you wear it, not worried about looking like a cupcake! Hopefully a little more effort would do that.

  8. Wash it a couple of times, maybe that will tame some of the stiffness. I know my petticoats tend to ‘droop’ over time.

  9. I think it’s cute, but if you’re not comfortable in it you’re going to feel self conscious no matter how you look.

    That said, I will be absolutely outraged if you do not wear those shoes. I love them 😀

  10. Wear it! It’s a class reunion. I guarantee you will thrill the crowd. Everyone shakes down nicely into their life mold by 10 years, and your mold is…a fearless original. Don’t second guess yourself. Go the whole hog with full retro makeup and hair. Have a little bracer before you walk in, if you must, but remember, you didn’t sew all that purple bias on just to chicken out.

  11. Firstly you look gorgeous!!

    The reason it’s sticking out so much might just be because that big fluffy petticoat style would normally be worn under a tea length dress, which would dampen it a bit more. Also a true circle skirt pretty much loves sticking out as far as possible, so you might not have as much trouble if you had pleated the waist, or it wasn’t a full circle. Teenagers wearing circle skirts in the 50s wore ‘flatter’ petticoats, the really fluffy ones were reserved for longer dresses.

    As someone who wears repro/retro and vintage a lot, I vote you go all out and do some wonderful retro hairstyle, and if you are a little self conscious about the volume, you would be better off with a lower volume petticoat. Maybe you could temporarily add some purple satin bias binding to it??

  12. I am going to be one of the few that says KEEP IT! I think it looks awesome and the best way to get away with it would be to have accurate ( not costumey) vintage hair and make up. The way I like to roll when I’ve got an occasion to go to is definitely to OVER dress. You can’t go wrong if you go all out because the worst that can happen is that you’ll be the best dressed person there!!!

  13. I think you did such a great job, you should wear it because it looks fab. Washing the petticoat will probably help to tame it a little. And I agree, the shoes are gorgeous. You will be the best dressed girl there for sure!

  14. I have to say I’m agreeing with the girls who say keep the petticoat – I think it looks fabulous! And then go the whole hog and do the vintage hair and make up thing. Maybe if you haven’t seen them for years it’ll be easier to play at dressing up than it would be with people you see everyday. Anyway, who cares – you probably won’t see them again for another ten years – and at least they’ll remember you for looking fab.
    If you REALLY can’t manage it, I made a less sticky-out petticoat by making a petticoat from lining fabric (same shape as the skirt) and then sewing a gathered strip of netting (about six to eight inches wide) along the bottom. If you sew it on the outside of the petticoat (ie not the side against your skin) it’s between the lining and the dress and it doesn’t get all scratchy or catch your tights and you don’t need to add binding at all. Hope that helps – and I’m sure your dress will get a great reaction whatever you decide. Gill x

  15. Just go with it! Own your look and who cares what anyone else thinks. 🙂 I kind of like it with the petticoat, but if it makes you self-conscious go for no petticoat.

    As for the petticoat, I think it’s a little too short for that skirt, which is why the bottom of the skirt is collapsing.

  16. Beautiful dress! if you don’t feel confortable you can wear a smaller peticot, perhaps you used a “heavy” material or perhaps you used the light one btu with too many fabric, perhaps you can do one with no so many fabric or one made of some poplin and tha last layer with the fabric you used.

  17. I say smaller petticoat (but not too small!), and I would def go with retro hair and make up. There are many sort of modern takes on retro hair/make up, so that could be an option? I think this dress deserves more than messy hair, haha. 🙂

  18. Thank you for all the responses. Everyone was super sweet to help me. I think I decided to wear a smaller petticoat so that I’m more comfortable. I will keep the black petticoat for another occasion… who knows, Halloween is coming up. Oh, and I think it was unanimous on the shoes! I know I can’t go wrong there 😉 I still haven’t decided on the hair and makeup yet. It will probably depend on how much time I have to get ready and if my hair is cooperating or not. Thanks again everyone who commented. It means the world to me 🙂 I promise I will take better pictures next time too!

    1. Why not just cut a layer out of the petticoat? You could turn that layer into a second petticoat to wear with this one if you wanted it to stick out so much. Much quicker than maknig a new one and you get a more versatile look 🙂 I think you look amazing and just taking one layer out will render it perfect!

  19. Another note on petticoats – the petticoat should be no more than about an inch shorter than the dress otherwise you get that odd lampshade shape effect. And if the petticoat is longer than the dress, it looks costumey and non-authentic. Petticoats should only show when spinning on the dance floor. Here is a great guide to matching the right petticoat to the dress, including how much fullness according to the fullness of the skirt: http://www.vixen-vintage.com/2011/10/how-to-wear-petticoat.html

  20. you did a lovely job on the dress and petticoat! i would trim some of the layers from the petticoat sort of creating a bell shape with the fullness at the bottom. i can’t see all of it, but, maybe just use the top layer and the lining. that way you will keep the great black and purple combo to match your dress. i do love the shoes, but, i am thinking maybe the black pumps would give your legs a more streamlined look. you have gorgeous legs, by the way!. i would go modern, messy or a madmen updo on the hair. mixing it up like that is more creative and fashion forward instead of costumey! have a great time!

  21. I LOVE IT. The first time I wore a full petticoat I felt rather cupcake-like as well, but I got over it after a little while. I’d suggest wearing a heavier skirt over that petticoat if you’re worried about excessive fluff… it would support circle skirts in wool and other heavier winter fabrics. It looks like your dress is made of something sort of slippery, which explains it falling into the folds of the petticoat… I think a fabric with a little more body won’t do that.
    I’m too late to offer an opinion for your event, but I’m sure that you looked AMAZING and those shoes are killer. Can’t wait to see more work from you!

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