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, 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.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

IT'S A SURPRISE! It's a wrapper!

I’ve been keeping a surprise for a couple months, and it was fun when I got to finally reveal it. This project was something out of my comfort zone type of thing. I rarely sew for anyone else, not just because of the difficulties of not having the body here to fit constantly, but I’m a slow sewer and often get confused by new pattern instructions where I have to walk away. So I don’t like to be on a scheduled due date either.

There comes a time when you really want to step up and help someone out in their costuming dilemmas. I had a friend, due to very happy circumstances, wasn’t going to be able to fit into her dresses for the upcoming Costume College convention, nor did she feel well enough to sew anything. After being part of a conversation of what an expecting lady could wear, everyone suggested a wrapper. It could be worn before, during and after her confinement.  I contacted Shelley of Kansas Mercantile (on Facebook - Kansas Mercantile ) to see if she had any for sale but she had none, and anyhow they were very pricey for just doing a favor for a friend. So I took a deep breath and decided how hard could a loose fitting robe be? And a cotton one to boot. 

Pattern choices were these and I had them all in my stash: Laughing Moon #118; Peachtree Mercantile #206; and Kay Fig #611.

Shelley had recently tried making the Laughing Moon one and she said it was almost like making a dress. So that wasn’t going to be the easy one I was looking for. I was told by another friend who had made the Peachtree Mercantile that it was really blousy in front, and hard to fit. Since the body I was "fitting" was a couple states away, that seemed hard to do. Two of my friends had made the Kay Fig a couple years ago, and I’d taken a photo of them wearing it. I wasn’t able to get hold of them in time for any feedback or help in construction tips, but they looked nice.
The Kay Fig seemed the route to go since the bodice is loosely fitted over an underbodice. That leaves me room for mistakes. I liked that these can be worn buttoned up on the skirt or left open with a pretty petticoat showing. And it has lots of possibilities for trimming, or using contrasting fabrics.

 Part of the fun of this was shopping for a suitable fabric. I thought I could use something in my stash but the one fabric I had with enough yardage wasn’t a great color for her. So it was off to the fabric store for a suitable color. And I lucked out finding some on sale too.
After furtively getting my intended victim’s measurements, I took my pattern and fabric with me to Williamsburg, VA, when I went back there for a conference. I figured during any down time, or evenings, I would cut out the pattern and fabric and be one step ahead when I got home, since I would only have one month to make it, my own bustle dress, and a Regency morning robe. Except the best laid plans didn’t work with our schedule there, although the pattern did get cut out. But I tried reading the instructions. It wasn’t the normal type sewing instructions: step 1. 2. 3., etc. You would start one part, then stop, go do another part, but wait, don’t do that until you do this. Okay, so I had a lot on my mind with the upcoming presentation I was doing at ALHFAM. I set it aside to go back to it when I got home.
While I was reading it, I came across this photo in the pattern book of my friend, Penny, who had modeled one of the wrappers for the pattern. She had a few years ago claimed she was my personal stalker. I can confess that I’m a stalker of other costumers too, so I consider this a compliment. I texted her and we got to talk wrappers for a bit. She sent me another color photo later when I got home. She hadn't made it, just modeled so she couldn't help me with it.

As soon as I got home, besides cutting out my white Swiss dot fabric for my Regency robe, I cut out her fabric. And the mad sewing was on!
So the underbodice went together ok. I did some piping around the neckline.
I sewed up the skirt portion that is only sewn to the back of the bodice, added piping to the bottom of the bodice, and attached the skirt to it.
Here comes the hard part. I’ve never seen one of these. If I had one in front of me I might have been able to figure out the rest. The over bodice is attached to the shoulders, is pleated across them and somehow kind of closes on the sides and in the front. I had to rip out the shoulder seams to pleat and fit that into the shoulder seam. Then I found out the length of the front section starts at the neckline, not the waistline as I thought a skirt should have been. Seems logical, right? My friend is 6-4, and luckily I had enough fabric I was able to sew a piece to the bottom of the front skirt for the extra length.

I have a pattern review group on Facebook and one day I saw my friend had posted a question about this particular pattern. First I thought, uh oh, she’s going to make it. Then I thought oh good, she might be able to get some help that would help me. But she didn’t ask the right questions for me. So I slyly commented that I was looking at the directions too, warned her about the length, and mentioned a couple things that I didn’t understand and hoped someone might answer them. No luck.
I kept playing with the pleated section of the bodice, but couldn’t figure out how to close up that section of the back skirt that partially comes forward to meet the front overlay.
 I did some chatting back and forth with the pattern designer but again, I’m not good at understanding text descriptions. She mentioned it opens like a French door and to turn it back to sew it. As I am known for fudging it, I turned that outside edge under and topstitched it on top of the portion of the back skirt. It was closed. Done.
I sewed the button holes in but decided to leave off doing buttons since I didn’t know how far over she would have to close it, and crossing my fingers that it would fit, and left the hem for her to do also. All this took me about 1 and 1/2 weeks. 
Two weeks before Costume College, knowing she would need time to hem it and do the buttons, I sent her a text that I had a surprise for her. I mailed it off and in a couple days she sent me a photo of her wearing it. It fit! And the length was perfect! Hot damn!
I was so excited to get to see it on her at Costume College, and I don’t know who had a bigger grin, her or me.

She looked beautiful in it. After seeing some photos of other wrappers with wild contrasting trims, I think this could be a lot of fun to work with, and I probably need to try making another one for me, AFTER I find out how it really is supposed to be sewn. But as long as you don’t look too closely inside, I think it came out pretty good. Yep, I’m still grinning. 


  1. It was so pretty on her, and she really liked it! Looks comfy too.

  2. You are such a kind soul, giving such a beautiful gift! And it suits you friend so well, she is glowing!

  3. You are so awesome to have made this gorgeous wrapper for your friend (I'm going to assume she doesn't want to be named...)!! It turned out beautiful! And looks so wonderful on her!! Job very well done Val!


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