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, August 29, 2020


 What do you do when you don’t feel like sewing, or have any enthusiasm to even try?

You plan.  So, I’m just going to show you some pretty pictures and fabrics, and that will have to suffice for now. Who knows, it may inspire me to do something. No promises but maybe some baby steps.

While my 1860s Project has fizzled (in truth, I am doing some cartridge pleating on the 3 skirts but haphazardly), I went forward on planning my 1830s Project of cutting and sewing 3-4-5, maybe 6, at a time. I’m undecided at this point which of my plaid silk taffetas I want to attack first, so it may just be 4.

First thing I did was gather all my dress photos that I wanted to make and decided what style to do. I’ve done about 4 of the pleated front bodices, so I want to try a crossover style, and a V-neck style. I’m a little tired of the off-the-shoulder styles. AND I want to be able to close them IN FRONT!!

Oh heck, let’s just throw in a mourning dress, and maybe an archery dress, although I don’t do archery but I can carry an arrow around with me.

And trust me, I have enough fabric in my stash, including some solids, to make all these plus a few more.


It’s the necklines that are going to confound me. I’ve got a couple different patterns I haven’t used yet but none are quite what I want, so it’s going to take some altering.

This Period Impressions pattern 1837 Day dress has a front seam that could be changed to be opened, and it’s got those cute sleeve finishes.  Past Patterns #806 Lowell Mill Dress, also has cute sleeves and I bet I could change the front to a front closure but don’t like that straight neckline.


Surprisingly this Butterick 5832, which was copied off an 1841 extant dress, could be used for the V-neckline. I haven’t pulled out the pattern yet so I don’t know if it’s actually pleated in front or if that’s an overlay. And I might be able to extend it to make it a crossover, like this 1838 extant dress. It’s got cute sleeves too. Then someone pointed out View C on this Laughing Moon pattern #103 that has a crossover bodice that might help in my construction, even though its 1890s. As more ideas come in for doing this, the more excited I get. It takes a bit of the scary out of it. 


Speaking of scary; I keep saying I want to make those gathered/smocked sleeves but when it comes right down to it, they look scary. I haven’t found any directions yet how they do those. I’m assuming you cut out the humongous sleeve, then cartridge-pleat/smock wherever you want it, either from the shoulders down, or mid-upper arm, then sew the sleeve seams together. Inquiring minds want to know. I don’t know of anyone who’s tried them yet. I think possibly just gathering them down and putting a ruffle around the bottom might work too. This extant dress shows off the smocking very well. I would also LOVE to find fabric like that. I can’t believe how brilliantly colorful it still is. And again, this makes me want to go fabric shopping, for yet MORE fabric. 

And now, let's talk pelerines! I have a couple antique ones but have been thinking about making some myself. This one from the series Gentleman Jack, looks like one I would enjoy making, and that bonnet included.

These antique ones would be good shapes to try also. Its easier to add ruffles to these than to find an embroidered fabric you could use.

I ran across this one on Pinterest. It has a wide ruffle but finished with a delicate lace trim.

These two are interesting, both from 1837, and the longer one would be fun.

The trick to making these is to shape the pattern to have a curved neck. Otherwise it bunches up around your neck. This photo of the one I own shows that shape. I’ve since done a repair on the little tear with as tiny stitches as I could possibly do, so it wouldn’t tear further. I only wear it for short periods of time, or for fashion shows.

I may have some extra fine cotton voile in my stash somewhere to get started on one of these. And the easiest one to start would be using the pattern I made off of my antique one. Small hand projects seems to be the way to go these days as they don’t seem to be too overwhelming. I’ve still been hand sewing 18th C kerchiefs and selling them almost as soon as I post one, so I’d like to give the 1830s ones a try too.   







  1. Wow, ambitious! I love the pink green cream plaid. Can't wait to see what you make.

    1. Probably the first plaid dress photo I added here. It makes my fingers itchy to start.

  2. Ooh, yummy ideas and I love the cross-front look. It's beautiful and practical. And those fabrics!

    Same unwillingness to sew here. I feel like the squirrel in your picture: nose encased in a fluffy, cozy tail is the place to be.

    Very best,

    Natalie in KY

    1. Hi Natalie! I keep hoping that something will ignite a fire in me, and I get going again. I feel a little flame so it may be working. Take care, and stay well, Val


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