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.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I feel so laid back and relaxed being able to work on a dress that won’t need to be worn until November. Each day I can work on it a little bit and if I make more work for myself than is necessary, that’s my problem. Because I am and I have. I’ve turned a fairly simple pattern into something complicated. But I have time.
In November I’ve planned a picnic for our costume guild, “A Picnic in Tissot’s Garden” in Balboa Park. My vision was in a garden with blooming roses, looking like a painting, with everyone dressed in summer pastels. You actually can do that in November in Southern California. My first choice of location turned out not to be available, unless we paid an exorbitant fee to rent it. That’s no fun. So my second choice is our lovely Balboa Park near the botanical garden and lily pond. There’s a lovely grassy area just off to the side of the Botanical Building that’s perfect for a picnic and we’re slightly out of the public eye. Until that is when we parade around the pond. And we will.
My vision of my dress would be white, frothy, and ruffly. It was easy finding the fabric, a white cotton voile with light green Swiss dots that I spotted at Roberts Textiles in the LA Garment District for $3 a yard.
I first played around with putting a couple patterns together to create my vision. After I saw a couple dresses my friends had made using an Ageless Pattern I decided this bodice pattern would be less work and matched my vision. Ageless Patterns # 1462, an 1870 jacket, from  Patterns of Time  
I’ve never made anything from this company but after hearing my friends say it was pretty easy, I was willing to try it. Of course this is a reprint from an antique pattern, which means NO DIRECTIONS. You do get some directions that say sew the three pattern pieces together. Yeah, THREE pattern pieces-front, back, sleeves. And it says to sew revers (rows of tucks) along the neckline. You get to figure out how to bind the edges of the bodice (I did self-fabric facings). You don’t have to finely finish any edges either because it will be covered up with rows of lace or self-fabric ruffles.
The pattern size on this is up to you to figure out. But since my two friends who made this pattern are close to my size, I figured I could work with it. It’s loose fitting and is meant to be pulled in tight with a belt. No boning either. I measured across the pattern pieces for the waist and bust size, and added 2” to the side seams for my 37” waist/ 42” bust. Then I made a muslin to try it on. It was quite loose with a lot of flare over the hips.  The armholes were a different animal. The armhole on the pattern looked REALLY narrow. And it had a weird point coming up on it. After enlarging the pattern, I cut away some of the armhole to fit myself and sewed it. And that weird point just hung there. I have no idea where it was supposed to go, and it got cut off. My suggestion is sew it and then trim as needed for yourself.

So the muslin fit ok, and I cut out the fabric and sewed it all together after flat-lining it with a plain white cotton since it was pretty sheer. It’s still really loose, and makes me think I almost could have gotten away with not enlarging it as much as I did. It doesn’t say how the front closes but my friends said they used hooks & eyes. Mine may cross over and hook closed because it’s too loose to close it straight down the front like the pictures show. But we’re going for loose here so that’s ok. As you can see, my bodice is all nicely finished.
The revers, or tucks, are where I ran into problems. The pattern gave no dimensions for the revers; just showed a line that you fit the revers into and then lay rows of ruffles along the edge to finish them. It did suggest lace ruffles of 2 ½” wide. Seemed easy enough. I cut strips of 2” wide fabric and folded them in half. Then I sewed each strip down on top of the next fitting them into the marked lines, starting at the V-neckline edge with a tiny bit of overlap, and then moving across the lines marked on the pattern. 

This is where I realized the ends are unfinished where I started them at my shoulder seams. It occurred to me it might have been better to sew them on BEFORE I sewed the shoulder seams and facings on. Oh well! I wasn’t going to rip all that out again. So I was just going to make sure my ruffled lace would cover it up. But then the unfinished outer edges of the tucks started to bother me, and I made more work for myself than necessary and boxed them in with narrow bands of fabric. Did I really think anyone was going to see those? Maybe.
And then came the closer look at the line drawing of the back of the bodice, and it started to go downhill from there. The revers apparently are supposed to go all around the back of the neck too. Oops. So my famous fudging comes into play. I just raised the line of the ruffled lace up to the back of the neck.
The lace was topstitched down onto the edges of the revers, and there you have it. All that extra work and no one can even see it.  Then the second row of ruffles really finished it nicely. 

I added the sleeves, which still need their ruffles in this photo, and more lace along the bottom of the bodice.
My skirt is made using Truly Victorian’s #208, View B. I haven’t bustled up the back of it yet, and am trying to decide if I need to make a lining or just stick with some white petticoats.  

Today I cut out the apron from the Skirt B pattern piece and finished with a row of the lace. In the pattern it has you sew it into the side seams but I like my apron separate so I sewed a narrow waistband around it that ties in the back. I’ve pinned a couple pleats on the side in this photo and decided after seeing it that it’s going to get one more near the bottom.  My green belt is made of some silk taffeta remnants I have, along with the bow at the neckline. Right now it just has a buckle brooch on it to fake a buckle, and ties in the back with a larger bow. I’m looking for a small round buckle to put there. The sleeves still need a tuck in them to pull them up and add bows to them too.
I still need to do the bustling in the back and thought about buying, finally, the appropriate bustle cage for this time period, since I’ve been trying to get by with an 1880s bustle. This bustle should have a half hoop on the bottom of front skirt to hold it out properly so I don’t get that “caved-in” look that I’ve been dealing with. I didn’t want to make one but this is the pattern for it, Truly Victorian #108, the Grand Bustle. I checked with Shelley Peters to see if she had any for sale but she didn’t at this time. When I asked if I could do a temporary one using my current bustle and put a channel along the bottom of it with Petersham ribbon and hoop bone, she said it would work. So that’s the plan.
My hat for this is still in the planning stages. I have a few ideas, using this hat style on the blue dress, with some of the green taffeta, and play with some trims I pulled from the stash. If I can find this green feather, which I apparently have according to this photo, it might be added to it also.

Chloe has been spending most of her days sleeping and not harassing me while I’ve been sewing but she’s enjoying the near 100d the rest of us are melting from. I heard the news mention tonight that all of Southern California’s lawns now have a tan. In other words, brown.



  1. Hi Val,
    I've been lurking about your blog for several months now and saw in a past post that you had bought this pattern and FELL IN LOVE!! So I bought it immediately:-). I'm new to costuming and would like to know if you thought this pattern would be fairly easy for someone just starting out.

    1. Wow, now there's a hard question. In regards to being easy for a beginner, I'd say yes mostly because it doesn't requre a lot of fitting which is what most of us have trouble with. But you will need some knowledge on how to alter the pattern to fit you, and have a vague idea how to do the tucks. Which I hope my blog will help a bit. I've been sewing for many years, and granted I'm not the best at figuring patterns out, but this was a bit easier than most.
      I hope having this information will help you in making it since you'll know the problems and some solutions ahead of time. This was my way of making it, not saying it was correct. I wish you luck and would love to see how yours turns out! If you're on Facebook come join my Historical Costume Pattern Review group. You can find out lots about all the patterns.

    2. Thanks for the info Val! I think it helped a lot and will probably have to come back to the post several times and take a peek at how you put yours is darling by the way!!
      I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time at the pic-nic too! Balboa Park has such amazing architecture and will be a perfect setting for your event!
      Oh! I'll check out your facebook page and thanks!!


  2. Val, that dress turned out gorgeous! I really want to make that bodice. So feminine.

  3. This looks so good! I love the dress already and the location looks amazing, too!

    1. Thank you. I hope this helps anyone else who wants to try it.

  4. I think the extra flap on the bodice front is the back side of the armscye. If you had continued sewing it to the back along the seam, it probably would have made sense. It looks like patterns for 18th century bodices or 17th century jackets where very little of the armscye is on the bodice back and most of it is on the bodice front.

    1. MCB, I'm sure you're right but I couldn't find anywhere to sew it on so I had to do what I did.

  5. Oooooh! I cannot wait to see pictures of you wearing this confection!!! And of course Tissot!! Perfection my dear!!!


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