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; Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, and a representative of the San Diego History Center. 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.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

1870s Purple Floral Polonaise

I started this gown along with two others (The Celery Polonaise & The Polkie Dot Polonaise) from the same pattern, Truly Victorian 410.

I bought the polyester fabric from the Los Angeles Garment District last year,

and flatlined it with a lightweight black twill to give it some body, just in the upper bodice area.
I planned on wearing it over a solid black silk taffeta skirt that I already had. I thought it set off the floral print on the bodice fabric better.

The polonaising in the back really came out nice and the peplum in the back

looked really crisp, but it really needed some subtle trim. And I wanted the trim to pop.
So I decided on putting a ½” pleated trim made from a wide black ribbon on it, but when I started on that, I couldn’t find the ribbon. So I made my own from my black silk taffeta. See my blog on making these trims:

It looked really nice going around the neckline and sleeve ends but I ran it down the front of the bodice. Then it really made the buttons stand out more.

The buttons were a vintage reproduction gum drop shape from JoAnn’s Fabrics. Because the bodice edge continues down to the hem of the skirt, I knew I had to keep making more pleats. I ended up cutting 6 strips from the 60” wide taffeta to make all the pleat fabric.
I basted the pleats all along the neckline and down the front of the dress, and then around the sleeve ends. Then I top stitched it by machine close to the fabric edge.

The back over the peplum needed a bow, and I continued with using the silk taffeta and made a large bow out of it.

I looked at the dress sideways, and it really needed bows there too. So I cut out two more lengths of the taffeta, and added a large bow on each side where it gathered up on the skirt.

A hat I’d made earlier turned out to be perfect for this outfit, even down to the vintage purple flowers I had on it.

The purple doesn’t match the fabric exactly,but I liked the variety of the colors.
OK, I knew I'd not stop with just one trim, and after digging through my stash of trims, thinking I'd just find a black soutache or something, I came across a fancy beaded one on black velvet that I had lots of, and would be perfect for this gown. I really would have liked to run it all the way down the front and around the hem but because of the buttons and pleating already being there, there wasn't any room for it. I may yet find a way to add it to the hem somehow.
I only have a bit sewn so far but here it is on the neckline.

ETA on Oct 17: I wore my polonaise for the first time at a walkabout in Old Town San Diego for our A Haunting We Will Go, and I was very happy with it's completed look.


  1. Hi!
    Just wanted to let you know I nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award :)

  2. The detail you go to on your costumes is just amazing. Beautiful!

  3. Oooh, this is gorgeous! It came together very well! Great job!

    I may be sewing some late 19th Century dresses soon, and was wondering if you had any tips on doing bustles? This is pretty much the only era I've never costumed before.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!


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