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

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; 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. 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.


Monday, August 12, 2013

1890s Seaside Dress for Sunday Tea

Started June 24 /Finished July 31, 2013

Here was my original idea for a seaside gown for the Sunday Fantasy Tea at Costume College on Aug 4. The theme is “The Pirates of Penzance; A Victorian Seaside Romp”. I don’t do pirate so a seaside gown was the winner. I had a blue & white striped shirt-weight cotton I’d purchased in the Garment District about 6 years ago and it had finally ripened enough to decide what it wanted to be.

My original plan was the boater hat, a two-tone collar, a navy blue belt and short sleeves. But the more I dug on the internet, the more ideas I came up with. This was the look I decided I would go for.
 But I kept seeing more. I liked the large buttons on the jacket front of this first dress, & then saw the group of three buttons on this theatrical photo, and another on a catalog photo. A couple photos had dark bowties or ties on them too. 

Other thoughts were: do a belt under the jacket with a blouse? Tuck the jacket in with a belt on the outside? Shorten the sleeves?  It’s not an easy process giving birth to something like this.
Hat ideas: So many pretty hat ideas!
Besides the ones on the previous photos, these photos gave me a couple ideas; I love the bunny ear loops of ribbons; piling stuff on top of the hat; and possibly a veil. So I purchased some white hat veiling from JoAnn’s Fabrics for it. BTW, they hide it behind the cutting table so you have to ask for it. I think it was $4.95 yd. It's not very wide so it won't go under your chin like these pictures. 


And then there was this cool looking catalog from the Millinery Department catalog.
 The one photo above in aqua also gave me an idea of using some dark trim on the front of the bodice for contrast. More on that later.
So here is my hat, a vintage English boater I bought on etsy, and some vintage blue silk ribbon purchased at The Johnson House in Old Town San Diego. The earrings were purchased from the Kansas Mercantile. They’re going to give me a pop of color.  
When I finally took a break from sewing on my gown, I worked on the hat. The vintage ribbon is kind of dry and crisp when you bend it lengthwise so any portion of that would break or open up. Fortunately folding it crosswise was fine. Instead of taking off the existing pink ribbon on the boater, I left it on to give a base to sew my new ribbon onto it instead of the hat The hat was also is a little crisp and I had to use some clear glue to repair a crack in the brim at one place. I folded up about 1/4th inch along the length of the ribbon since it was a little wider than the crown and took tiny basting stitches to attach it around the crown. I made a big bow just by folding the two ends under to the middle of a length of the ribbon, did a gathering stitch across it, pulled it in, and voila! You have a bow. Then I added the white veiling which was a bear to put on. I’d never done this before and didn’t have a clue. I stitched little tack stitches along the edge to the bottom of the crown and curved it around to the back as I went. I ended up with some bunching on the back but it just looked like I’d pulled it up. I left it loose enough in the front to bring down over my eyes. It wasn’t wide enough to go under my chin. Oh well, I can’t eat at the tea with that over my mouth.

It actually looks cute just like this. I have some off white vintage berries I may attach later, but for now, let’s call it done and move on to the dress.
I looked at a couple patterns that would have the collar I wanted but once again, Truly Victorian has the closest style to it: the TV 496 (1896) Ripple Jacket, and TV 291 (1898) Walking Skirt. I also looked at their TV 498 (1898) Eton Jacket but it didn’t have the jacket shape I wanted. And the Ripple jacket had the belts in front that I could replace with a faux vest.

For more inspiration I found these videos of ladies wearing ripple jackets on youtube by Carl Stormer and his detective camera, “Streets of Oslo” in the 1890s. Hmmm…from the land of my Grandma.
In the middle of all this planning, I decided to try my hand at waist holders, also called waist belts or stay tape belts. Some of my bodices like to bunch up from my waist, and this was how they prevented that. I dug up a few photos of extant gowns for them, and did some figuring. They’re made of twill tape or grosgrain, attach to either the back seams, center back seam, or side seams, depending on what you have. They’re just attached at those points and then brought to the front where a hook & eye close them.
I pulled out a couple of my own problematic bodices and put them in, and I can say they really did work. Not once did I have to pull my bodice down. I know some of them also had hooks on the bodice to attach to an eye on the skirt but this helps keep its shape to the body also. This research turned into a blog entry of its own. Stay Tape Belts
The jacket was pretty easy to sew, as was the skirt. I altered the collar width so it didn’t hang quite so far over my shoulders, and even though I was nervous about the big poofy sleeves, they weren’t bad at all, and don’t require turning sideways to go through a door. I flatlined the bodice with a white lightweight cotton twill to give it some body.  Instead of doing the collar and facing both out of the striped fabric, I used white cotton on the outside. The back peplum was really cute. I thought I did something wrong when none of the “pleats” would fold under but turns out they’re supposed to be “ripply”. Get it, The Ripple Jacket.

 I used my favorite method of finishing by binding the edges with bias tape. Sometimes I make my own but mostly I buy the store bought stuff.
The pattern shows three bands connecting the front of the jacket but instead of that I made a square insert of navy blue cotton by sewing them right sides together with a light twill fabric sandwiched inbetween, turned it right side out, stitched the end closed, and handsewed it to one side. On the other side I sewed hooks and bars.

OOPS! Do we see a mistake here? How did those hooks line up at the bottom instead of to the vest? Where’s that seam ripper? For the life of me, I can’t figure out how I did that, but will blame it on the rush before Costume College. I made my own buttons by covering some large plastic ones, purchased in the Garment District of course, and covered them with the navy blue cotton. I also sewed two on each cuff.

I had good intentions of making a plain white cotton blouse using Truly Victorian’s (#491) 1893 blouse waist pattern to go with this. Those poofy sleeves would also give some support to my jacket sleeves. But with only four days to go, I decided not to stress myself further, and just pulled a lacey blouse out I had purchased from Recollections years ago. Later I learned from my friend Tonya that I could have bought a more period looking one from them. But I will get that blouse made.
So here we have the completed outfit being worn at Costume College. The first photo was taken by Jennifer R. of Historical Sewing. I wore my little gold watch pin and watch on the lapel. It bothered me that my white blouse was so limp and didn’t have a high neck, but I was so happy with this dress, I didn’t care. The second photo is by Jerry Abuan. And guess what? Ask me how I goofed. I was putting the jacket on at Costume College and noticed I’d forgotten to put boning in it. And hey, guess what? Earlier I had noticed I’d forgotten to EVER put the boning in my 1885 mourning bodice that I’d worn the previous day there. I made that almost a year ago, and I just now noticed. 

When I first walked out of my hotel room and was wandering the halls my friend stopped me to take photos and asked what was hanging out the back of my jacket. I looked and realized I'd forgotten I'd put a stay belt in it and hadn't hooked it up. Another lady stepped in and said I can fix this. She put her arms around me under my jacket and hooked me up in front. LOL! Of course my friend had to take that photo. And we still don't know who that lady was.


  1. You looked darling! I'm a sucker for anything nautical/sea side!

  2. Beautiful job!

    Emily's Vintage Visions

  3. Very nice, Val! Perfect for Sunday Tea at the Seaside!

  4. Ahhh Val that is so lovely, wished I had been there this year to see it!

    1. Carolyn, we missed you too! Lauren passed on your greetings.

  5. Dear Val,

    Fresh, crisp, ducky! There's nothing like a seaside dress in August. Your design looks fabulous on you [claps]. And your hat, with that ribbon? Big sigh...

    Yay for the 1890s! The fashion plates may look odd, but on real people the fashions tend to be great fun.

    Very best,


    1. Natalie, you described exactly how I felt wearing that: fresh, crisp, and ducky! I made me very happy wearing it.

  6. Ich bin begeistert von diesem wundervollen Ensemble. Ich liebe es. Viele liebe Grüße von einer Steampunk-Lady aus Deutschland.
    Tutursula von Ungefähr

    1. *translated* - I am thrilled with this wonderful ensemble. I love it. Lots of love from a steampunk lady from Germany.
      Tutursula of approximately
      Thank you Tutulla, and hello from Southern California, US.


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!