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, January 2, 2014

New chemises

It seems each year I say this: I need new chemises. Petticoats are apparently on the thin side too but I have enough to get by.

Sometimes they appear; sometimes they don't. I've given up hope that they will magically appear and with all my projects going on I just end up wearing the same ones that are in need of replacement. I have one sturdy antique one that gets worn occasionaly but I'd rather make my own. One year when we drove to Palm Desert to use up a week of our timeshare we were going to lose if we didn't, I used that time by bringing my sewing machine with me and cut out and sewed two chemises on my "Assembly Line", while hubby was golfing. Hmm, methinks we need another week to burn up, don't we dear?
I just got Jennifer Rosbrugh's Historical Sewing newsletter this morning and it reminded me that yes I did need new ones. Especially after my more recent ones were shredded in front by my new corset after they got caught in the front hooks. Granted, I had used a very very thin cotton; what was I thinking? But that's how you learn, by your mistakes.
And what did I do on the first day of the New Year? I started cutting out two new 1830s dresses. No chemises on the cutting table.
Until I got that newsletter in my email box this morning. Thank you Jennifer. The newsletter contained information on fabrics to use for them.
Hmmm, now that I'm reading it, she's announcing a Victorian undergarment online class in a few weeks. She's on Facebook too.
For the most part I haven't had any problem wearing the various ones I have for any time period as long as the neckline didn't show above the dress I was wearing. But in the last couple years I've made a lot of square neck dresses that those don't really work for, except my 1770s one. Even the ones that can be pulled down on the shoulders still show above that low square neckline.
In the past I've made ones from Kanicks Korner for my 1770s dresses, and they have a very wide open neckline that can be pulled in tighter with a ribbon, although that ribbon always seems to get lost inside its channel.
For my Victorian dresses the first ones I made were from Truly Victorian. The neckline and armholes were just finished off with beaded eyelet trim. At that time the split drawers were a foreign animal to me, and didn't come into my life until almost 10 years later.
Next I made a couple from Laughing Moon's pattern, which after I made it I found out the armholes had a tendency to be too narrow, and that's a major problem with me. But the neckline is really sweet.
Over the years I started collecting patterns for the underpinnings for all the eras I make. One of my favorites was for a bodiced petticoat for my Regency dresses, using LaMode Bagatelle's drawstring neck dress. It's a great replacement for the stays of that period. 
And here's where I found out I had a LOT of these patterns while digging around this morning for this blog. 

 Have yet to make corset covers but should.

When I first mentioned I needed a square neck pattern, I bought a pair of the TV combinations but the length from neckline to crotch was too short and uncomfortable so I'm waiting for a new pair. So someone suggested using an earlier time period pattern that had a very wide square neckline, Simplicity 2621. I bought it on sale and its sitting here next to me, ready to go on the pile to be cut. 
As I continued digging in my pattern stash I found this Past Patterns #002 that was given to me. The neckline isn't as deep as I'd like but it's for 1840 and is a little closer to the time period I want. I think I'll pull that out and take a closer look at it too. 
Now I'll go read Jennifer's article and see what I have in my fabric stash for them. 
While searching on Pinterest for pattern ideas, I can across this and had to share. 
Happy New Underpinnings Year to you!


  1. ROFL! I love that postcard!

    Happy New Underpinnings Year to you, too!

  2. I've used the Making History corset cover pattern, I made the one in the lower left corner. My daughter actually used it as a chemise under a corset she use to wear. It was pretty easy and she liked it.

  3. oh I like seeing these undergarments and they would be fun to make, but I don't wear the one piece I even have.

  4. Oooooh! New "unmentionables"!! Ok, then underwear....How utterly fun!!! Can't wait to see them all!!


  5. Hehe! I felt a big kick in the backside when I read Jennifer's post! I really must make myself some nice new underpinnings :)

  6. Tis the season to be thinking about undergarments, I guess. :) I am currently working on the Laughing Moon chemise for the first time. Can you explain what exactly you mean by "the armhole was too narrow" and how you fixed it. I just finished the yoke and am working on the tucks now. I would love to learn from your experience while I still have time to make adjustments.

    1. The circumference of the armhole was very narrow, and if you don't have narrow arms, it will be tight. If you have larger arms like I do, it will be extremely uncomfortable. So my suggestion is to measure your circumference and make any adjustments if needed. Mine was already sewn and done before I heard about this, and I just pulled out some of the seam allowance to open it up a bit.

  7. Thru 6/14/14, (10am-5pm, T-Sat)
    FIDM Gallery Orange County
    17590 Gillette Ave., Irvine, CA 92614 (949) 851-6200
    Corsets from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection highlights these unnatural fashions between the 1760s and the 1820s. Whether conically shaped with rigid backs and flattened breasts or rounded hourglasses with sloped shoulders and cinched waistlines, garment silhouettes followed the dictates of these concealed undergarments. This exhibition covers sixty years—from the Ancien Régime, through the French Revolution, during the age of Napoléon, to the era of British Romanticism.
    Rochelle, ATAA


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