A partial tutorial on how to make a Colonial Hoop…

I have a always wanted to make a Colonial “hoop” or “cage” as they are sometimes called. It’s the undergarment that holds those full skirted dresses out and makes them look so beautiful. I make the crinolines for my Civil War dresses out of cotton fabrics and run boning in the bottom of them near the hem, but a cage is put together differently. Basically it’s a boned “frame” that the dress flows over to make it stand out. This isn’t necessarily a step by step tutorial but you can see how I constructed mine and probably figure out one for yourself if you like.

If you want to see more of these… Google “Colonial Dress Hoop” or “Colonial Dress Cage”…then hit Images and lots of pictures will pop up.
In one of my books I found a few pictures to show you how varied they can be…

[If you click on any picture, it will enlarge.]





Okay, lets start… I took the boning and made my smaller hoop and stitched the ends together. It’s pretty springy so you really have to hold it together under the presser foot of the sewing machine.


I have an abundance of vintage lace so that’s what I used for my straps… I took 6 pieces of the same length and folded them around the boning and stitched them so the lace was facing up toward the waist. When I had those stitched on, I pinned it to poor Felicity’s body to see if it looked like it was hanging evenly. It was…


I took another piece of lace long enough to go around Felicity’s waist and carefully laid it on top of the edges stuck in Felicity’s waist and stitched those edges to the lace stays going vertically.


Then I did the same thing with the bigger bottom hoop… added the lace to it making sure each piece was the same length.


So this is pretty much how the frame should look… and you can use it just like this if you have a darker fabric or one that doesn’t show through to the frame.


My Christmas dress for Felicity is quite delicate and the edges of the boning sort of shown through, so I decided to cover it with this “rows of ruffles” netting for a more finished look.


I gathered up the top edge and added a piece of stretch ivory lace at least the length of Felicity’s waist plus a little for an overlap.


For ease of putting on your doll, I decided to just leave my edges open. It closes at the waist with velcro and overlaps in the back.


The dress has to be stepped into by your doll first and left open in the back while you slide the hoop and top ruffled petticoat up and situate them at your dolls waist. If you flip the dress up in the back it helps. Tie the waist and then add the ruffled layer over the top of it.

So, I guess you’ll be seeing this under Felicity’s new Christmas dress… :o)

Oh, and I wanted to share one more thing… Suzette saw this magazine cover at the beauty shop yesterday and said it reminded her that my Lian and her granddaughter Riya are “right in style” with their black-and-white-with-a-hint-of-red-at-the-waist-dresses!


Don’t forget Lian’s dress ends tonight on Ebay… If you want to see it again, click HERE.

See you tomorrow,
Blessings, Jeanne


  1. lynn Hull says:

    Hi Jeanne, I was wondering how those hoop skirts and undies actually work. Loved the photos. Picture tells it all. Thanks for the info, may just try this some time

    • HI Lynn,
      I’m glad it peaked your interest enough to maybe try it sometime. They aren’t really hard, but you just have to be a little precise to make sure they hang level.
      It’s pretty interesting to think they wore something like that back then, isn’t it? Can you even imagine ladies wearing something like this today? I certainly can’t!
      Thanks so much,
      Blessings, Jeanne

  2. Marilyn Grotzky says:

    That’s a lovely interpretations of Lian’s dress.
    The picture right above it is nice too — Felicity looking smart and happy in her new underskirt. That is really impressive and will make a major selling point in this already very attractive outfit. If you decide to open a blog store, this would certainly make a nice item for it. So would Williamsburg hats. A Williamsburg hat for spring would make a nice accessory for this gown, but a winter hat or cap is more challenging to design. I’m looking forward to seeing what you make.

    • HI Marilyn,
      Thanks for your sweet compliments on my doll dresses for both Lian and Felicity…
      You’ve read my thoughts again… I already have the straw hat sitting on top of Felicity’s head…just waiting to be decorated! We’ll see what I come up with…
      Blessings, Jeanne

  3. Linda Doyle says:

    Although I will never be making a hoop petticoat, that is so very interesting about how to do it! I use the ones from American Girl, mostly for Cecile, and I will say they certainly do make the outfits stand out! It took me several time to get the idea that the dress goes on first, THEN the crinoline!!I wonder if it was done like that in real life?

    Oh, the overskirt with the ruffles, is so very pretty!! I understand what you mean by the boning showing through, and this will certainly hide that! It almost looks like it could be a skirt in itself! Can’t wait to se what you have in store for Felicity!

    • HI Linda,
      Yes, unless you are someone who puts your doll dresses on over their heads, there isn’t any way to put the petticoats on except to do it “after” you have the dress on your doll. Especially with the boning, there is no way to put a dress on “over” it…
      I think that ruffled netting worked well to cover the hoop but still look pretty!
      Thanks Linda,…now to get it finished…
      Blessings, Jeanne

  4. Good tutorial on the hoops–I made a couple a few years ago, although I used ribbon instead of lace to connect the boning. I have to say that I really like the slip you made to go over it. I will have to keep my eyes open for some of the ruffled tulle. I enjoyed everyone’s pictures yesterday and will try to send you some of mine, but I am warning you now that l’m not a very good photographer!

    • HI Carolyn,
      I’ve seen the hoops made with the ribbons too, but just opted for the lace since I had so much of it… it had a few rust spots on it from pins so it wasn’t something I could really use on the outside of a dress…but the underneath side was fine…

      I’ve got a whole new batch of Christmas dresses from other ladies, so go ahead and send me your pictures and I’ll add them to the next lot I show…
      Thanks Carolyn,
      Blessings, Jeanne

  5. Very interesting ! Merci.

    • Thank you Pom,
      I’m glad you liked the post today and found it interesting… Is that something you would ever try?
      Blessings to you, Jeanne

  6. Good morning Jeanne, Again, the details and creations you make are wonderful. The hoop skirt is beautiful and I agree with Linda, it could almost be a skirt itself. I can’t wait to see this dress completed. With the green patterned material and the lace panel and your creativity and sewing ability, it surely will be an outstanding dress!

    Have a great Sunday, Blessings!

    • Thanks so much Paula,
      My day has been so busy I haven’t even stepped into my sewing room yet, but I’m hoping to get some more done on it this evening… I was actually hoping to get it listed, but so far, I’m not sure that will happen…
      I hope it turns out the way I envision in my head…
      Blessings, Jeanne

  7. Jeannie Brandon says:

    Jeanne, just in the nick of time !! I have made a colonial dress for my 10 {1/2} year old granddaughter for Christmas. I have finished the dress and was working on a mop cap. I thought about a crinoline so I was honestly headed down that road. Now I see that I could try to make a hoop skirt for this dress instead. Great timing because the under skirt is today’s project along with an assorted other projects that will jump up on me.
    I see you found a great use for the strange fabric I sent you a while back. I originally found it in the drapery department and was going to use it for crinolines for the Butterflies’ Halloween costumes – Princesses. I did not get that far along when time was a matter of essence so I had to ship asap. I do still have yards of it. The hoop skirt is a great use for it.
    I do have some boning I used when I made my daughter {now 44 yrs old} a prom dress that required a stiff bodice. Goes to show that we keep everything !!! She was 18 then! yikes !!!! Maybe I could buy some of the newer type and not break the bank !!!!
    Have a great Sunday !! It’s sunny in Dallas – no rain.

    • HI Jeannie,
      I hope you get your dolls hoop skirt made for your granddaughter. They really do work at holding out the dolls dresses.
      Actually when you mentioned about the fabric you had sent me a while back, I had to go look to see what it was…and I couldn’t find anything like this from you… I have some pale pink organza with tiny little flocked dots, but I can’t remember something like this. I actually found this at Hobby Lobby yesterday and decided to see if it would work. It works very well in my opinion and was pretty easy to sew… maybe what you have is just like this? I hadn’t thought about looking in the drapery department but I bet they would have something like this…perfect for some window treatments…

      I remember sewing on a prom dress for me and my sister and using that boning too… guess it’s been around forever and always will be.
      Don’t forget to send a picture of your doll dress so I can showcase it with everyone else’s.
      Thanks Jeannie,
      Blessings, Jeanne

  8. Always a great new surprise when I open your Blog every morning. So interesting. It seems there are endless possibilities with these dolls and the meticulous details you incorporate are wonderful as well as the history lessons. I’m sure I’d have been the seamstress making these dresses and not the ladies wearing them!

    I was mistaken in thinking I would be finished with the green dress for my granddaughter’s doll, but after seeing the darling lace stockings on Lian, there I was at the store this morning to find the girls’ tights that you suggested to use for the material. Now I’m fitting together tights and the socks from McCalls 4896 and hoping to end up with stockings. Also had to make an appropriate headband with matching fabric flowers, so that took up a lot of yesterday. I’m pretty slow at this.

    Paula’s comment has me remembering that my Dear Mother made me a red dress that was all net ruffles, top and bottom, when I was 14 to wear to my first formal, a Christmas dance, and 60 years ago, there were no fancy sewing machines to help make the ruffles. No pattern, just imagination. So thanks for the memories.

    Keep going with the wonderful surprises, Jeanne.

    • HI Susette,
      I’m glad you find a little history mixed in with the sewing instructions… something for everyone I say!!!

      It’s okay if you get your granddaughters Christmas doll dress finished later… I had a whole new group of ladies send me pictures, but I can do more as everyone’s pictures keep coming in. I hope your tights work out for your doll…and the headband too!

      How fun to go back and remember a dress that your mom made you when you were 14… that blesses my heart to have you reminiscing about it from 60 years ago… It must have been super special to you…and your mom!
      Thanks so much Susette,
      Blessings, Jeanne

  9. Rather late, busy today. But, when our daughter, now 34, was about 8, my mother made her a light blue colonial dress with the hoop underskirt for Halloween. She wanted the dress so much, and I was working full time, so grandmother stepped in. I recently, found it in the dress up clothes and sent it home with daughter. Daughter will always remember the dress besides loving it, that she couldn’t sit in her desk at school. So she just stood up. Poor women of the day. All buckled in.

    • HI Joy,
      What a wonderful story filled with lots of memories for you AND your daughter. I bet some little granddaughter will see the likes of that dress some day too! I’m glad you shared that story, Joy!
      Yes, oh the joy of hoops… I’ve always wondered about going to the bathroom and have heard a few stories… :o/
      Blessings, Jeanne

  10. Marilyn Grotzky says:

    Well,wow! I was watching Lian’s auction — I’ve never seen one that skipped a whole hundred dollars. I hope George was watching too, and your sisters, and I hope it was one of your blog fans that won. It’s a happy night for someone. Lian must be proud.

    • HI Marilyn,
      Yes, the entertainment factor was quite high from here in Southern Illinois, to Colorado, and all the way to Pennsylvania! Yes, my hubby was watching too…and yes, his jaw dropped like mine did…and yes, the dress is going to a proud new mama who reads my blog each day!
      Lian is thrilled…she does get extra attention when her dresses sell like this. She might even get a chocolate bar for Christmas! That’s what she wants!
      Blessings, Jeanne

  11. Oh my, everything is so gorgeous. I DO have to say though, that I cringed a bit when I saw that you used what I would call Heirloom insertion lace on this hoop!!! ALL COVERED UP!!! What I’m trying to say is that it is precious lace, not to mention expensive – I’m going to guess that it’s probably at LEAST upwards of $5/yd these days. (I understand it has the rust spots on it, but perhaps they could come out?) And the ruffled fabric you put over it, I’ve never seen. Although I HAVE seen fabrics similar to it. Can’t wait to see the final product! (Lucky for me, I just have to click a few times to do so!)

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