This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

My photo
HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. This year I am the Dean of Costume College 2018. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

1850s Bloomer gown

Started Feb 2011/ Finished July 2011
This will be a short version about my Bloomer gown for now since I'll be presenting two mini workshops on it in the coming months for my two costume guilds. I've also been asked to do a class for next year's Costume College.
I started making this gown after "inheriting" an incomplete pattern from a friend. It had been copied off an 1851 extant gown in the San Diego History Museum. I contacted both the museum, and the pattern company, Past Patterns, about it. The museum gave me an appointment to come in and take photos of the gown which had been in storage. The museum requested I not publish those photos on the internet but can use them in slide shows for my classes. I emailed back and forth with Saundra Altman of Past Patterns, & telling her I wanted to recreate the gown. She got excited about finishing the pattern to put on the market. I spent months emailing back and forth with museums and historical societies in New York about the dress reform movement, and about Amelia Bloomer and the other ladies involved in the women's movement.  Bloomers were not originally designed by Amelia, but by Elizabeth Smith Miller, who Amelia credits them with. But Amelia earned the name from the newspapers, and it stuck.
I made mine in an avocado green silk taffeta, lined with cotton. I enjoyed learning how to do piping and a different technique for gathered ruching on it.

The skirt was about 4 inches below my knee, and the Bloomers are made of silk taffeta until about midway up my thighs, a period technique to save on the silk. The Bloomers are pleated around my ankles with a cuff that has more of the gathered ruching on it.
In the meantime Saundra Altman was slowly getting the pattern completed, hopefully in time for me to bring them to Costume College. She didn't make the cutoff date but did send me one so I could show it around, and let people sign up to buy one as soon as they're available before they go on the market. We're hoping for it in the next month or so. And I really hope to have them in time for my workshops. I'm even mentioned in the acknowledgements for helping her get this pattern done.

I really enjoyed wearing these. They were really comfortable and got a lot of attention. Three of my friends also made their own version and we met up at a specified time in the hotel lobby for a group photo.

I had nine ladies sign up to purchase the pattern when it's available, and one literally squealed when she saw it and is really anxious to get the pattern to make her own.
Now that I have this one under my belt, I have all kinds of ideas for a new one but made out of cotton for a day dress version, as this one was kind of dressy.


  1. Are you still taking orders? I was at CoCo and loved your outfit, but didn't know that I could get my hands on the pattern! my email is lbc42 at yahoo dot com. I can send/paypal you $$ if necessary!


  2. Noelle, yes, it is. And thank you! Its not on the market yet, so I'm taking names for people that want to purchase it before the public can. I'm even mentioned in the acknowledgements.
    We're probably still talking a month away. I don't want to collect the money until I have the patterns. I'll email you with more info.

  3. Hi Val,
    The outfit looks great! I really love the fabric. I also like the story of how you got the original pattern.
    Regards, Natalie

  4. Thank you, Natalie. There's a lot more to the story of the pattern, the gown, and the whole process of finishing everything that will be included in my mini workshops on it. Those people that order the pattern thru me will get that story included with it. :)

  5. Tres chic, Val! I hope you had a ball at Costume College~

  6. Thank you, Mary, it's always such fun to be totally in costume for 3 days and in different eras each day.
    I just had a very exciting morning talking w/ Saundra Altman and the SDHM over the re-making of the original gown. Saundra just sent me a photo of the gown she found being WORN by the owner of it around 1850 prior to it being altered into Bloomers. What a treasure chest I've fallen into! I am literally squeeing!

  7. It's a great outfit! It does look comfortable too. Thank you for posting the time frame too, it's encouraging to know other people's projects take time to come to fruition.


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