Category Archives: pioneer costume

Sewing pioneer clothing

The Author is currently on a three-day handcart trek.  One of the requirements for the trek is to dress in period clothing.  While some sources recommend just shopping your local thrift store and finding clothing to modify, I’ve never had great luck shopping thrift stores and I knew I could come up with what we needed through sewing.

Here is our pioneer ready to hit the trail:

Some of my inspiration for this outfit came from a pattern: McCall’s 9424.  The bonnet is directly from the pattern.  I used a stiff craft interfacing on the brim since previous bonnets I’ve made have been a bit on the floppy side.  This one was going to be used on the trail, I wanted something sturdy enough to provide good sun protection. 

The blouse is modified from the pattern.  I shortened the dress pieces to a blouse length and cut two inches off the width of the front and back pieces, so they’re a little less gathered when attached to the yoke.  I also added a couple inches to the length of the sleeves.  I found this allowed for a little bit deeper casing than the pattern calls for and a bit less stress on my part when threading the elastic through.  I hope the unbleached muslin looks period enough.

I also used the pattern to make a dress, but it was packed away before I thought to get photos.  I’ll have to grab an after photo for that one and explain my modifications.  The apron was an old one I made years ago for a pioneer-themed activity day.  It still fit and The Author decided that would be one piece I wouldn’t have to sew this time around.  It was a bit shorter than I would have liked, but I’m just glad I had the foresight to add a nice deep pocket the first time around.

The skirt was made from a couple yards of excess fabric I had on hand.  I just cut it to length and used the selvage edge instead of a bottom hem.  I cut a waistband slightly larger than her waist (about 1 1/4 times her waist measurement) and gathered the skirt onto one edge.  The other edge of the waistband was folded over and sewed down over the gathered waistband seam to create an elastic casing.  Yes, an elastic-waist may not be true period, but I try to avoid buttons and buttonholes whenever possible, even with my one-touch buttonhole setting on my sewing machine.

You can’t see it, but under the skirt is a petticoat of unbleached muslin.  For this I cut two panels from 45″ wide fabric in my desired length.  Sew the selvage edges together for side seams.  Cut a piece of 1-inch wide elastic to the waist measurement plus 1/2″.  Overlap elastic ends and stitch to secure.  Divide elastic into quarters and mark with pins.  Secure elastic to top edge of petticoat at side seams and center front and back.  Sew elastic to skirt with a zigzag stitch, stretching elastic between pins and pleating excess fabric to fit as needed.  We found it is most comfortable to wear with the elastic on the right side of the petticoat.

Any questions, please ask.  Hopefully someone else can find these ideas helpful in preparing for a trek.