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.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

An 1851 Brown Cotton Bloomer gown

February 2012
This is my second Bloomer gown and this time I wanted one made in a cotton fabric instead of silk taffeta to be more of a day dress and cooler to wear.
I chose to do this one in one of my favorite necklines with a chemisette under it, similar to these photographs. The first photo was dated 1840s but I have another photo showing a similar gown and dated as 1850. Without being able to see more of the sleeve style on the first photo, it’s hard to tell if the date is correct. It looks like it has a tight cuff instead of the pagoda sleeves on the 1850 photo. But there’s no rule that says you can’t still be wearing the same style a few years later.

 For the v-neck I once again used my favorite bodice pattern from Butterick 3855 and with my shorter altered pagoda sleeves.

The cotton fabric I’m using was purchased from the reproduction fabric section at Rosie’s Calico Cupboard in San Diego. My last Bloomer gown had matching fabric for the Bloomers, but this time I’m using a solid color brown for them.

 I flat lined the bodice with burnt orange polished cotton that was given to me. Finally, something I could use that color for. And I made a bias trim from it to face all the edges of the bodice with.

I repeated the sleeve jockey that was on my previous Bloomer gown and made some small pleated trim to go down the front of the bodice, and around the sleeve jockey and the cuff of the sleeve just like the 1840/50s photos show.

 I used Truly Victorian’s underdrawers pattern for my bloomers this time and made them in a solid dark brown which gave a nice contrast to the rest of the gown. I used the solid brown for some ruching on the ankles like my first one too.

Because of a shortage of time before my first lecture & slideshow on the Bloomer gown that I wanted to wear this to, I didn’t have time to put ruching on the sleeve cuffs, nor make a new chemisette to go under it. So I used an existing one I had.  I added my watch chain and attached it to the lower front of my bodice, and an antique brown topaz brooch to the neck of my chemisette, & topped it all with my flat straw hat. It was a warm day when I wore this, and I was very comfortable.


  1. I have to say, your ensemble turned out 'bloomin' great! Love the color! I see you're sporting a pair of those dandy Robert Land boots. Are your's side lacing or elastic?

    I have a never worn pair of the side lacing in cream with black foxing at the toe and heel that have been gathering dust in my closet for the last 5 years or so.

    Now that I've gotten my weight issue under control I want to start making some dresses and finally give those boots a walkin' but I'm wondering just how comfortable they are. They're so stiff in the brand new stage. Do they soften up, and if yours are side lacing, are they as much a pain in the bloomer as I'm thinking they're going to be to lace?

    1. Robin, thank you! Yes, those are very dandy Robert Lands, and they side lace. They're very soft and comfortable. I have a soft arch support inside them since they're pretty flat and am able to walk quite a few hours in them comfortably. When I wear them with my Bloomers, I pull the pants on, lace the boots, hook the Bloomer ankle cuffs closed, THEN put on my corset. Makes it much easier to lean over w/o the corset. But even w/o the Bloomers, a good rule of thumb is ALWAYS put your stockings and shoes on before you put on your corset.

  2. Dear Val,
    Well, my goodness, did that bloomer ensemble ever turn out well! The fabric is terrific, and the brown makes such good sense. Have to love it.

    The neckline is so handsome and goes very nicely with the manchettes on the sleeves. Glad it got done enough for the talk; bet you were grooving along pretty fast during the last hours :}

    Very best,


  3. This is so cute! You are great at putting trims and ruchings on and so fast now. Must learn to do that.

  4. I can't wait to get the pattern and I'm looking forward to your talk at CoCo this year.


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