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.


Monday, April 25, 2016


In the past I have been amazed and entranced by costumes that my friends have made using modern Simplicity or Butterick patterns that had the lines for a historical dress. I’ve never been able to see that, just like those who can go to thrift stores and pull out stuff to make them. I’ve been there where I’ve said I could never do that. But I’m learning to never say never. You just have to give it a try, or find someone to teach you, or teach yourself. We’re not baboons. We have brains, and we can learn. But don’t get me started on reading pattern directions.
I love it when I see something that inspires me, and I wanted to share one of those somethings. My friend Joyce, who runs a group of ladies who go to tea in historical dress, put together an outfit for our Titanic tea on the Queen Mary last week. It was a purple skirt and jacket with a blouse, and she looked perfect. She had wanted something that was comfortable to wear and had little time to put it together. I kept trying to get photos of her so I could remember it later. And I finally got her to pose and open it a bit for me.

Of course I had to ask what pattern she used, and she said it was a kimono jacket and sewed up in a few hours. Kimono sleeves have no armholes. So it’s mostly all of one piece. And she used a modern McCall’s #6802 pattern for it but lengthened it to how she wanted it. The edges were trimmed in black velvet. Her skirt was the Truly Victorian # TVE 30 Single Panel skirt.

I’ve always loved the skirt and loose jacket look of many Edwardian outfits, and this just grabbed my attention. So I went looking for the pattern and in that hunt found a couple more that have possibilities, Simplicity 1318, with a really nice curved front, and McCalls 7333, that has a nice wide lapel but has a hood which could be made without it.

This last one, McCalls 7290, fulfills my dream of having something like what Renee Zellweger wore in the Beatrix Potter movie that was a long sweater coat. Of course now I can’t find a photo of it.   *not that it EVER gets cold enough in SoCal that I could get much wear out of it*

But think of it- if you’re not too adept at using historic patterns, or the originals are so tiny there’s not a snowballs chance that you could use it, or they’re too expensive, BUT you’re comfortable with sewing modern patterns, here’s your answer to something historic-looking.

But wait! There’s more! Something about Joyce’s jacket kept wiggling at a memory I had of another era’s dress, something that this would also work for.
It was this 1914 ad from a McCall’s catalog for a couple patterns, and in the corner I saw this and started me thinking that these dresses were no more than a skirt with a loose jacket tied around the waist. It was quite an eye-opener for me when I was thinking it was more complicated when it wasn’t.
And, so what about these from 1912-1918?

Now that I’ve opened your eyes, get thee to a pattern sale at JoAnn’s. I own them all now, bwahaha! 


  1. You are right, I think historical pattern for historical wear. I love the last photo, the red and white one. Hmmmmm.....

  2. One Pattern to Rule Them All...

  3. We usually have to use modern patterns to make period looking garments for the children of the ladies in our group, and that's mainly because there are so very few historical or theatrical patterns out there for kids. We may have to re-draw the necklines, lengthen the skirts and adjust the sleeves, but we make them work.


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