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.


Sunday, May 17, 2020


Last January, as I was trying to decide what all costumes to make to wear to Costume College in July, it was a bit overwhelming. One of the events, the Sunday Breakfast, had a theme of the Gibson Girl Breakfast Parlour.
I don’t always want to make an entirely new outfit just to wear to breakfast, although you can wear it the rest of the day while going to classes, or the tea, which is another theme entirely. The last couple years I’ve been able to re-wear a previously made dress, or some kind of morning robe. I decided to just go with a wrapper this year, which looks kind of like a dress but is looser fitting. And it makes it easy to just throw your historical dress on later if you already have your underpinnnings on under it.
While searching for ideas and a time period, I came across a lot of interesting ones. These came up under the search for wrappers or tea gowns that I liked.

 The simple-ness of these cotton ones also appealed to me.
The Artistic Reform influence on the tea gowns are especially exciting. 

After seeing my friend, Mara’s version of this, I bought the LaMode Bagatelle Artistic Reform pattern. Its on the back burner now because I haven’t decided on the color or type of fabric I want to use yet. 

And in a timely bit of luck, my friend Adam Lid wrote a few posts about wrappers.
I’ve already made an 1860s wrapper, using Kay Fig #611. Ok, confession here. Its not finished yet. It needs some lengthening and hemmed, and front closures added. And sleeves, since that’s usually the last thing I sew on.  
Then I made an 1882 tea gown that I really liked, using Truly Victorian #432. I think its going to need to be enlarged a bit because it was already tight when I wore this a few years ago at Costume College. When I fitted my test muslin, I didn’t make it long enough to go over my hips and so it ended up way too tight. The watteau train is lovely in back.  

I also made a “Regency” one for Costume College a few years ago, using Butterick 5544, and wore it for two years there. I copied mine from one worn in the 1980s version of Pride & Prejudice. 

These are a few other patterns I came across or were suggested to me.

 When these conversations came up, a couple of my friends told me about the Folkwear pattern #208 Calico Day Dress wrapper that they had made.  Note-this is an out of print (OOP) pattern and Folkwear has reissued that number to a young girl's cloak, so you can only buy it on the secondary market now. Be prepared for sticker shock. They're worth gold now.                                     

They shared photos of their wrappers, plus I found some others online. 

My friend Lauren also made it, and then issued a reprint of a short version of it in her pattern line, Wearing History, as a morning jacket.  It only goes to a size 36” bust though.

I decided to go with the Folkwear pattern, and already had 8 yards of fabric in my stash I’d purchased a few years ago for an earlier dress. I bought it from Rosie’s Calico Cupboard in San Diego, CA, from her reproduction fabric section. I often see historical repro fabrics in quilt stores so its worth the time looking in those.
You can also find reproduction fabrics online and the price is about the same.
I’ve been saying all along that this was my 1890s wrapper but was told its actually closer to 1905. I think it was the ruffle over the sleeve cap that gave me that impression. Its kind of a generic shape so it can work either way.
The pattern only comes in S-M-L, so a maximum size of bust-34, waist-38, hips-42. It’s a loose-fitting gown that ties at the waist, so I figured I could add a few inches to the seams and make do. It worked except there's not as much to pleat in the front and back but it still worked out ok.                           

The instructions are well written with diagrams and self-explanatory. My fabric was 45" wide, and the pattern said to cut 3 for the skirt flounce. Except it was about the same width as the bottom of my skirt & had no real ruffle to it. So, I added one more. The only place I had problems with was the inside front piece that is supposed to be closed under the outside robe. I sewed it to the neckline as directed but when I close it, it’s not separated to close under the outside. I'm not sure where I went wrong with that but the outside is loose enough so I'm not worrying about it.
Also, while enlarging the pattern, I didn't make my yoke piece and ruffle longer, so it doesn't come down as far to the center as the pattern has. But again, it still works. I believe someone told me the front is only open to about the knees then sewn shut but I forgot to do that. So, I'm going to top stitch it closed.
This made up really cute and will be great to use in-between dressing at events, fashion shows, or just prepping to get ready for an event. 
As you can see, my sewing supervisor was very helpful. Most of the time. 

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