How To Starch A Victorian Cotton Petticoat

Victorian Corded Petticoat Before After

In the Victorian era, petticoats were starched to stiffen them to create the fashionable bell-shaped skirt silhouette. Homemade fabric starch was also used to make petticoats resistant to dirt so they’d need to be washed less often.

The Best Homemade Starch

From “A Manual Of Home-Making” from 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 types of starch can also be used together.

How To Starch Clothes Like In The Victorian Era

The following recipe is an antique liquid starch recipe from “Facts Worth Knowing” from 1856.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp starch – wheat, corn, rice or potato starch
  • about 1pt /1/2l boiling water
  • optional: 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • cotton or linen clothes

diy liquid starch recipe

Whisk together 2 tbsp starch (I used cornstarch) 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)

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.

victorian cotton petticoat

Now the starch is ready to use. Dip the damp clothes into the homemade starch. Then wring out the excess starch.

cotton petticoat with tucks

Roll the starched clothes into a clean towel until all clothes are starched. Then iron the starched clothes. Here I starched my Victorian tucked 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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