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Finally, a definitive explanation for drawers, pantaloons, pantalettes, and knickers!

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I asked the question in a historical costuming group about drawers, specifically what is the difference between drawers, pantaloons, bloomers, pantalettes, and knickers as relates to the mid 19th century. The amazing Liz Clark, an historical researcher, reproduction clothing expert and textiles genius referred me to a post on Buns and Baskets, aka How To Dress Like A Pioneer.

I won’t copy and paste the information because it’s someone else’s blog (please click through to read), but suffice it to say that drawers is the correct terminology for underwear in 1860. Pantaloons were men’s pants, pantalettes were underwear from the 1820s, bloomers were outerwear, and knickers were a lesser used name.

So there you have it! No excuses to call those long pants-like things under your period dresses anything but what they are, which is drawers.

See you in a couple weeks at Prado Park!

Prado Park – 12th Annual Civil War Event

We are excitedly readying ourselves for the 12th Annual Civil War Reenactment at Prado Regional Park, sponsored by the SCCWA. This wonderful event kicks off the season for our group every year and really is a lot of fun! This is a Boy Scout and Girl Scout event, so please be sure to click through to SCCWA for Scout information, registration forms and more.

This year, for Girl Scouts who come and visit us in Mrs. Brewer’s Parlour, we will have a special swap for girls to create. It is based on a lost 19th century sentimental craft called a Victorian Charm String. The history tells us that during the 1860s, girls began trading and collecting unique buttons and stringing them together. Each button should be different, and carry some special meaning. In some traditions, a girl would collect 999 buttons, and when she added the 1000th one, she would meet her Prince Charming. In other traditions, they were a bit of a competition between girls, trying to out-do one another in finding the most brilliant, most unique and most beautiful buttons.

These unique and wonderful strings of buttons are rare these days, but museums and private collections reveal amazing collections of wonderful buttons spanning 100 years in some cases. Some have buttons representing memories, much like a charm bracelet, others carry the buttons from wedding dresses, ball gowns, and other important milestones. For the Girl Scout swap, we will be offering a mini charm string for girls to wear, trade, and maybe even be inspired. You could easily adapt this for modern girls who want to collect fun buttons and trade them with their friends. We hope we will see you there!

Further reading on charm strings

Victorian Charm Strings reprinted from Bead and Button, 1995, via

Charm Strings by Jay Bailey, via the Oklahoma Historical Society

Victorian Charm Strings via Wellington County Museum, Ontairo Canada – with great photos and descriptions

Further information on Prado Park 12th Annual Civil War Event

Southern California Civil War Association website

The Battle of the Old Woman’s Gun


We will be at this event on October 11/12. Come out to this California history event and learn about our early history, before statehood and before the Civil War.

Come play with us!

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Come play with us!

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Just a quick update to let you know we will be setting up at the Vista, CA event this weekend – March 8/9. The event takes place at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum, 2040 N. Santa Fe Ave, Vista, CA. Call for directions 760/941-1791, or go to Gold Coast Festivals for more information! That link will take you directly to the Vista page. We are very excited to visit our friends, immerse ourselves in history, and teach doll making and home making to all visitors who stop by. Hopefully we will see you, too!

Mid Century Child’s Chemise

Mrs Marvel:

Here’s a little project I have taken on to create a period accurate suit of clothing for my 7 year old daughter. Check back for more as the project proceeds!

Originally posted on Notes from the Melody Maker:

I have finished the first installation of practice on the Mid Century Sewing Project as I referenced a couple posts back! The first item I decided to try was the child’s chemise from the Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s Historic Moments Girls Linens 1840-1865 pattern. While the pattern comes with a 30 page booklet, do not let this intimidate you, as it did me at first. It is packed full of helpful tips on making your garment as period correct as you want or can, plus complete instructions for three garments with a variety of options.

I am glad I made this as a practice run because I made a few mistakes and some decisions on construction about half way through the project. First off, I learned how to make the run and fell seam, an historic technique that encases raw edges inside a seam and adds greater strength to seams…

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Extending the life of a dress

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Our 19th century counterparts were very good at using every resource until it was completely used up. They didn’t have a local Walmart or Target available to run over and buy a replacement. Stores were sometimes a full days ride away from home, and so they stocked up on certain things, and used and reused things diligently. In their day, it was called “being frugal.” These days we have rebranded it for school kids and we call it recycling.

In a woman’s repertoire was the ability to remake dresses from one fashion to another, or to update a look with new trims and decoration. In particular with children’s clothing, it was important to make them last as long as possible because children grow! If you ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder, she refers to Ma “turning” hers and Mary’s dresses. This involved removing the skirt from the bodice and turning it so that the hem became the waistline. This would hide worn hems and keep the skirt looking fresh. Children’s clothing was also often made with growth tucks and extra wide seams so the clothing could be let out as the child grew in height and size. When tucks were removed, a pair of faded lines would show and the part of the fabric that was inside the tuck would be a bit darker than the part exposed to washing and sunlight. To help disguise this, trim was frequently sewn over those lines.

Today I want to show you one method to making your child’s reenactment dress last a little longer. I bought this dress when my daughter was 4 1/2. She has worn it through two full seasons and I expect she will wear it through the current season. When I first bought the dress I took up 4″ in growth tucks, they have all been let out but the dress is still a bit short. Because it fits her nicely through the body, I wanted to add length.

Old drawers

Old drawers

Since this is all about reusing and recycling, I started with a pair of drawers I had that developed a tear that could not be repaired. The drawers have nice lace and are gently ruffled. I cut off the lower portion of each leg and threw away the rest. Next, I decided to use two of the three bands of lace to extend the length of the dress. I carefully cut close to the edge of the lace.

Careful trimming

Careful trimming

Once I cut away the lower portion, I cut open one seam. Because the drawers were made with a serger, to eliminate bulk, I cut away the entire seam, and I was left with one long piece. The hem of the dress is 78″ and each individual section of the lace was 50″. So, I next sewed the two sections together, making one 100″ long piece. I determined I would sew just next to the edge of the lace and placed it on the inside of the hem.

No, I didn't pin it

No, I didn’t pin it, naughty naughty

I made sure that the edges met at the end, stitched them together, then finished sewing the lace onto the skirt. Because my daughter is tall, I am quite used to adding length to her dresses and pants. If you aren’t, be sure to carefully measure the exact length of the skirt hem, then measure again. Cut your lace with enough to make a 1/4″ seam, then stitch it right sides together. Finally, sew it to the skirt. A tip for measuring the exact length you need is to pin the lace into place and baste it, then cut the length. You would have to remove the basting and I would never take this extra step. It depends on your comfort level and sewing experience.

Voila, 4 extra inches!

Voila, 4 extra inches!

Now, a friend mentioned to me that if I added a bit of lace to the sleeves it would look more like I intended to have that white ruffle all along, so I used the third piece of lace from the drawers to do just that. I cut away every bit of fabric and seams possible while still retaining about 1/2″ of fabric above the upper edge of the lace. I did this because the sleeve is an elastic gathered sleeve. (Yes they had elastic, yes they used it.) I couldn’t stitch right on the edge of the sleeve because of the casing, hence the extra 1/2″. I removed the elastic from its casing, then pressed the sleeve nice and flat.  Next, I attached the lace to the inside of the sleeve.

Ungathered sleeve

Ungathered sleeve

Finally, I added the elastic back into the casing. Because our dress has a belt it will hide the faded lines from the bodice tuck I let out. This much extra length should get my daughter through at least this year, maybe even one more…fingers crossed!

Dress with extended life!

Dress with extended life!

The next time you are tempted to sell the current dress and just buy a new one, try channelling our ancestresses and their frugality. A little bit of time and some scraps could save you a good $50 – and that’s $50 more toward YOUR new dress, don’t you know! :-)


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