In the Victorian era, petticoats were starched to make them stiffer for the fashionable bell-shaped skirt silhouette, and to make them dirt-resistant so that they’d need less frequent washing.
In this tutorial, I’m going to starch my Victorian tucked petticoat which obviously needs starch! 😉
- 2 tablespoons starch (wheat, corn, rice, or potato)
- about 1/2 l boiling water
- optional: 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- something to starch 😉
What starch to use (A Manual Of Home-Making, 1919)
Rice starch: is the best starch, it ‘gives a natural, pure white color to fabrics’
Wheat starch: considered between rice and cornstarch, for a ‘good color, […] flexibility and finish’, ‘hold up better in damp climates’
Cornstarch: cheap, gives a ‘greater stiffness’ than wheat starch, ‘gives a yellow color, ‘ it has a tendency to lump and show starch spots after ironing’
Potato starch: Here’s an 1882 recipe for making starch from potatoes.
Different starches may also be mixed.
How to starch a Victorian petticoat (Facts Worth Knowing, 1856)
The following recipe is an antique liquid starch recipe from 1856.
Whisk together 2 tablespoons of starch (I’ve used cornstarch) …
… with some cold water.
Pour about 1/2 l of boiling water over the starch solution, and ‘boil it half an hour’ (Facts Worth Knowing, 1856).
‘If wheat starch is used, cook slowly at least 25 or 30 minutes. If cornstarch is used, cook slowly 15 to 20 minutes. […] Thorough cooking […] increases the penetrability of the starch and decreases its tendency to stick to the iron.’ (A Manual Of Home-Making, 1919)
Optional: After the starch has cooked about half an hour, stir in 1/2 tablespoon of sugar to increase the stiffness of the starch. Let the starch cool for some minutes.
Now the starch is ready to use.
Wet the petticoat, and dip it in the starch.
Wring out the excess starch.
Roll the petticoat into a clean towel till you’re ready to iron it.
Iron the petticoat. At the botton, you can see how the petticoat looks not yet ironed; while at the top, the petticoat is already ironed.
Here I’m wearing my freshly starched tucked petticoat without another petticoat.