Today I’m sharing a quick how-to on 18th century garters, plus my new shoes and stockings from American Duchess. The garters are very easy to make, and I have a sneaky way to help them stay up. It’s also a great project for leftover ribbons that are too small for trimming.
Embroidered garters are so lovely, and I’ve wanted a pair for a while. However, I got a hoop and exactly diddly squat with it. I think I like the idea of embroidery, but in practice I find it fiddly and boring (see also: knitting).
I was in the trim store for something else—this is how all sewing purchase stories begin—and there was a big sign declaring “All Ribbons 25% Off!!” so it seemed like the perfect time to finally make a pair of garters. I found a jacquard ribbon that I liked, and then tried to find a silk satin ribbon the same width in a complimentary color. Sew them together, easy peasy!
Easy 18th Century Garters
1 yd 1-1.5″ (30-38mm) wide jacquard or embroidered ribbon (can do with less)
2-3 yds 1-1.5″ (30-38mm) wide silk satin or grosgrain ribbon, (must be same width)
Matching thread, silk 50 wt recommended
Note: You can wear your garters above or below the knee. These are meant to fit over your thigh, and I’d recommend this length so that they won’t be too short if you switch from below the knee.
- Measure around your thigh and note the number. This is not for cutting, but to help you estimate the garter length.
- Add 10-12″ to your thigh measurement, and see if that gives you enough to tie a pretty bow. (You can even do this with your tape measure!) The garters can tie in the back, like mine, or make the ribbon long enough to be cross-gartered, or tie in front. This is more secure and best if your ribbon is slippery. Once you’ve found the right length, cut two pieces of the satin base ribbon.
- Cut two lengths of the jacquard ribbon; a good starting point is [1/2 your thigh measurement + 1″]. There’s really no wrong answer here. You can do more or less, if you happen to be working with a scrap, and fussy-cut to show the design symmetrically. My ribbon was 9.5” to not cut off the rose motif.
- Fold under 1/2″ on each end of the decorative ribbon and tack down. Fray check the ends as an extra precaution against unraveling.
- Optional: Sew a piece of elastic ([length= thigh circumference – 1″] into a ring, preferably with machine zigzag stitch. Sew to the front center of the garter, starting on top edge and making a rectangle. Continue to steps 6 & 7 as normal, which will cover the elastic stitching. To wear, tie garter in a bow over the elastic to cover. No one will know and it stays put!
- Mark the center on both satin pieces. Then fold the jacquard ribbon in half to find center, and lay on top, matching centers. Pin and sew by hand using fine running or prick stitches. Repeat for other garter.
- Pink the edges of the satin ribbon. Tie them on, and enjoy your new garters!
It’s so simple I feel silly calling it a tutorial, but it’s a nice way to practice handsewing. . . or just have the instant gratification of starting and completing project in the same afternoon!
American Duchess doesn’t exactly need my help getting the word about their shoes, but I’m really happy I made the investment. They really complete the look and the layaway option helped soothe my conscience about buying shoes just for costuming. I happened to be wearing all my 18th century undergarments for fitting when my shoes arrived.
I’m not sure what the postman thought when I answered the door, but it was a funny coincidence!
Don’t they look lovely?
When I first slipped them on I was surprised at how comfortable they are! Heels always involve a bit of discomfort (usually squishing of toes for me), but these had perfect pinky toe room and good support. I’ve worn them for several outings since March, and they’ve warmed up nicely. Since I’m not a reenactor spending the day in a muddy battlefield, the wool upper is fine for my needs and I like the softer look. I’ve also brought backup shoes when I go out to keep them pretty, like at Comic Con where I know I’ll have to do the long slog to Javits. The Dunmores in black wool have since been discontinued, but they’re still available in leather.
You will need an awl and a disappearing marker to fit the buckles. It’s a bit stressful making that first hole in your new shoes, but trust me when I say it’s very easy to do. (Making it more stressful by waiting until an hour before an event to bite the bullet is not recommended. Don’t be like me haha) I used the instructions from the American Duchess site, and they’ve become even more comfortable now that I’ve worn them a few times.
In the time since I bought my shoes, the ladies at AD made a handy video for adding buckles: http://blog.americanduchess.com/2018/05/how-to-fit-18th-century-shoe-buckles.html