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, December 10, 2011

1872 Red & Black checked bustle gown

Started Sept 2010/ finished Dec 2011
I bought this tiny red and black checked silk dupioni at a store close-out sale a few years ago and began planning a bustle gown for it. I planned to use a solid black silk taffeta for the skirt and trims, & a black cotton velveteen for the collar.

I used Truly Victorian #405 Basque bodice, and will be making the apron and bustle from TV 208 with the ties in the back. I made a new black silk taffeta skirt, again using TV 201, and will be attaching a pleated ruffle once it’s hemmed.


I made my own buttons for the front closure and cuffs using modern inexpensive buttons covered with the checked fabric. The front buttons were 5/8”.

COVERING YOUR OWN BUTTONS-- I cut a circle of the fabric large enough to go over the button & meet in the back, then do a basting stitch with a strong doubled thread ¼” from the edge (this changes w/ the size of the button). I placed the button on the circle with the flat side being the top, gather it in over the button and pull it tight so it makes a little shank in the back. You can trim it if it’s too bulky. I do a couple stitches around it and through it to strengthen the sewing. Without cutting the thread I continue sewing it to the bodice. Obviously this is done when your bodice is ready to have buttons sewn on. I’ve used both flat buttons and ones with shanks. I no longer need to buy those awful expensive metal covered button kits that hardly ever worked. ** SUPER TIP** If you have enough of them, you can even use all those little extra mismatched buttons you have at the bottom of your sewing kit. No one will ever know you used those ugly lime green and orange buttons.
The pattern went together fairly easily. I sewed the front black vestee (the center insert) on last so it has an open seam where it attaches to the bodice for any size adjustments. I only flatlined the bodice, and didn’t line it. I finished the edges with purchased black bias tape. Since I do a lousy job of sewing bias tape around square edges, I chose to sew pieces along the bottoms of each pleat, then pieces along the sides which fold over and finishes off the corners. I sewed boning into the two front seams, side seams, and the two back seams.
I was having problems understanding the directions of how the back pleats were sewn so I ended up just looking at the picture on the pattern and saw how it folded and tacked down the tops of the pleats. Where they join at the top will be covered with some kind of trim or buttons.

Right now it looks kind of plain with the red/black check bodice over the black skirt I’ll be making for it, but it will have an apron and bustle of the same checked fabric to separate them.

Everyone knows sleeves are evil (aka Sleevils). These sleeves weren’t too hard to put in since there’s not a lot of excess fabric on the sleeve cap. But try as I might, I couldn’t understand how to construct and attach the cuffs. Two other people told me they’d had the same problem with theirs. I finally gave up and sewed the cuff fabric to its lining right sides together and turned right side out, then sewed them right sides together to the sleeve end with the little flap sticking out. Even that took a lot of brain cells to figure out. It took me four times to get them on right, and after finishing them, I noticed I still sewed one the wrong way so the flaps were on the side next to my body. So I had to rip it completely out and start over. I finished off the raw edges of the connecting sleeve seam with bias tape, & put two larger covered buttons on the outside edge of the cuffs. At this point I had to set it aside for other projects that had priority.

In November 2011 I finally got time to work on this outfit for a couple events coming up in December. I got the black taffeta skirt finished for this, and added a row of pleating around the bottom hem.  The pleating is sewn directly onto the skirt, hanging about 2 inches below it. I sewed a braided soutache trim along the top part of the pleats to cover the stitching where I sewed it to the skirt. 
Since I was now ready to start adding some trims, my first addition was to the hem of the apron. I had a length of vintage chenille trim just barely long enough to attach to it. It was actually 4 inches too short but my back sashes cover the missing sections. Ah, the back sashes, they deviled me. I had trouble figuring where to put them and had visualized the long ones hanging down on my sides. But when I sewed them there, it really looked off balance. So out came the seam ripper. Then following the placement directions, short behind the apron, long on top, the short ones were covered completely. So out came the seam ripper.  I reversed their positions, but this time only pinned them on. And this time they weren't lined up. So with a little repositioning, the apron was happy. 

I first had sewn buttons covered with the red/black checked silk on the back of the peplum but decided I wanted bows. So I sewed two long lengths of black silk taffeta and tied them into bows to attach just above the peplum of the jacket.

                      Bonnet or hat?
 I’d thought of wearing a black wire frame bonnet I had but after looking at this ad for hats in 1873, I wasn’t happy with my choice. So I looked through my photos of hats I had and came across these two. The first one is a modern made one but look! It has fabric with a similar color to my dress and it has the height I need, and will sit on my head in the proper place. I may add a froofy black rosette to it like the ad pictures.  My other option is my antique velvet one, but it needs some height added to it. I think my decision will come when I try them on and see which one wins.

The first event I will be wearing this is on Sunday, Dec 11. Our costume guild will be going to the Holiday in the Park at Old Town San Diego for our annual Xmas party dinner at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Earlier there will be the Posadas parade, and afterwards a bonfire in the town square with Xmas carols being sung. All of us dress in our best Dickensian frocks.

The following week our guild will be attending the new movie of Sherlock Holmes, in costume of course. Then the week after that I’ll be going to the Dickens Afternoon Tea in Riverside, CA, where Gerald Dickens, the G-G-grandson of Charles Dickens will be performing his one man show of A Christmas Carol. I’m happy I’m going to get some good use out of this gown already, all in one month.

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