How To Starch A Victorian Cotton Petticoat

How To Starch A Victorian Cotton Petticoat

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! 😉


You’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp starch – wheat, corn, rice or potato starch
  • about 1pt /1/2l boiling water
  • optional: 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • something to starch 😉



The Best Starch (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 Clothes In The Victorian Era (Facts Worth Knowing, 1856)

The following recipe is an antique liquid starch recipe from 1856.

antique liquid victorian starch recipe from 1856

Whisk together 2 tbsp starch (I used cornstarch) …

diy liquid starch recipe

… with some cold water.

cook liquid starch

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)

homemade sugar starch

Optional: After the starch has cooked about half an hour, stir in 1/2 tbsp sugar to increase the stiffness of the starch. Let the starch cool for some minutes.

homemade liquid starch

Now the starch is ready to use.

starch victorian petticoat tutorial

Wet the clothes and dip them in the starch.

victorian cotton petticoat

Wring out excess starch.

cotton petticoat with tucks

Roll the starched clothes into a clean towel until all clothes are starched.

iron victorian petticoat

Iron the starched clothes.

victorian starched and tucked petticoat

Here I’m wearing my freshly starched tucked petticoat without another petticoat.

22 thoughts on “How To Starch A Victorian Cotton Petticoat

  1. What an informative blog post. I never knew about starching. Amazing tutorial indeed. I am looking into buying some more clothes in historical fashion. So it is great to have some for-knowledge on this!

  2. Oh wow! Thank you so much for this tutorial and the specifics on the best starches to use. With some of my sewing projects I have made in the past I had to buy a lot of starch to stiffen up some of the fabric I was using. It started to get quite expensive when I added up the amount of cans of starch that I was using for the project. I kept thinking… There has to be a cheaper way:) would have never thought that I could just make my own. I will definitely have to try this now! Thanks so much! Saw your post from the handmade hangout party:) pinned!

  3. Oh! Your petticoat is beautiful! In my permanent clothes, I have a petticoat that I bought in my 20’s (1980’s) ~ it will NEVER leave my home, though it is in storage, at present. 🙂 I used it under Laura Ashley prairie style dresses, under costumes. It’s a great piece to pull out when needed! Happily pinning via Tailwind to my Period Dress and Cleaning Ideas boards on Pinterest. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! <3

  4. I’m fascinated by how Victorians managed their wardrobes and I found this post so interesting! What a beautiful petticoat too! Thank you so much for sharing, and for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

  5. Canada does not have liquid starch products and the spray on variety is much too light. This is very very much appreciated. Pinning and writing out for my little recipe box.

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