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.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Previous Gowns Part 3: 1885 Blue Floral

I’ve started to catch up on documenting some of my older gowns, and this was the latest. I started this gown in 2007 & finished it in August 2008 for a Victorian tea.
I finally found the photo of a painting I’d printed off the internet that inspired my 1885 blue floral gown. With the help of a friend, I was able to get a scan of the photo to put back on my computer. *If anyone can identify the painting or painter, I’d really appreciate it. I printed this off my computer quite a few years ago and had a habit of not saving any identifying information with them.*

**Edited to add- the painting has been found! This was “Pruning Roses” by Robert James Gordon.

Besides loving the blue color, I liked the dark blue insert on the bodice and was happy when Truly Victorian came out with the French Vest pattern with the insert.

When I saw this fabric at Rosie’s Calico Cupboard, a quilt shop in San Diego, I knew right away it was perfect for this gown.

The painting doesn’t really show what the underskirt looks like but I decided I wanted to continue the solid color for it. I also didn’t have enough of the blue floral to make the skirt. The bodice was fairly easy to construct and the insert portion was even easier than it looks. I thought it was some complicated bit of hooks & eyes system to attach it, but instead it was just sides sewn to the front portion of the bodice to continue it to the center. Piece of cake! I used buttons & buttonholes as my closure on this, and used modern flat blue buttons. In hindsight, it also made it easier to alter the size because as I began losing weight, just moving the buttons over made that easy too. I had one oops while making it though. When I was opening the buttonhole up using my seam ripper, I pushed too hard, and I ripped right through the buttonhole and went an inch and half into the fabric. I did a very tight zigzag stitch over it in navy blue thread to close it, and I’ve been told it’s hardly noticeable. But I notice it.
As you will see in the photos of the completed gown, I was still in my early years of knowledge of how these were made and worn. The skirt in this era should be flat in front, with the excess in the back to go along with the bustle. And a little fuller petticoat wouldn’t hurt it either. But overall I still like it, and this pattern is very flattering.

I don’t have any decent photos of the hat since I’ve repurposed it into other colors for other gowns. At times I’ve worn an antique black wire frame bonnet with it but at some point I’d like to make one that looks more like the original painting.


  1. The gown looks beautiful on you, and your accessories are perfect!

  2. The draping is so nice!

    Very best,


  3. I think it looks lovely. Shame about the button hole, I've done that before - got a bit overenthusiastic with the seam ripper. You will always notice it so much more than anyone else.


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