Bloomers, though not strictly period, are often worn beneath one's skirts. As well as
providing modern modesty, bloomers help avoid chafing and heat rash! Since this garment is
seldom seen, many folks have indulged in crazy prints, bright colors and otherwise blatantly
non-period fabrics. The only sugggestion I have is to stay with 100% cotton or linen for comfort
& breathability. I prefer narrow elastic, but wide elastic can be used...so can a drawstring,
but I find it *very* difficult to tie & untie a waist cord with skirts, bodice, etc. in the way.
Some ladies make more period crotchless bloomers to solve this problem but I prefer more...um...security.
To create a bloomer pattern, You will need:
Most of these measurements are obvious but many folks have never encountered the "rise"
so here is a simple way to get that important measurement.
- Waist measurement
- Full hip
- Full thigh
- inseam and outseam to desired length
- calf measure (or wherever the bloomers end)
- Rise (Direct Distance from waist to crotch)
- back to front between the legs
Now for drafting the pattern. You can use paper, muslin or pellon for the final pattern,
but you may wish to try it out on newspaper until you are pretty sure you have it right.
Don't worry, though, because these are a loose fitting pull-on garment, there is a big margin
of error...so this is an excellent first pattern drafting experience. Start with a rectangle
one half of the full thigh measurement plus 2-4 inches wide (ease and seam allowance) by the
outseam measurement plus 1/2 inch more than twice the width of the elastic *and* the twice
depth of any desired ruffle at the bottom and another 3-4 inches ease. (Casing, hem and seam
allowance). This sounds tricky, but really isn't. (Honest!) If you have an outseam mesaurement
of 30 inches are using 1/2 in elastic and want a three inch ruffle at the bottom, you take 30
and add 1 (twice the width of the elastic), then add 1/2, then add 6 (twice the ruffle) plus
4 inches of ease to get 41 1/2 inches...see? Not as hard as you thought!
Okay, now you have a
rectangle about the correct size; this is how you make it into a pattern for bloomers.
Measure across from the upper left corner one quarter full hip plus 2 inches and mark. Measure down
from upper right corner rise plus one inch *plus* the width of the elastic; mark. Now from
the first mark draw a curved line towards the second, the first part straightish and curving
more as you approach the second mark...sort of a reversed "J" shape. (You can also trace the
curve of a comfy pair of pants or pj's to get this right.) The curve should be about 1/2 the
between the legs measure plus the seam allowances. Measure up from each of the bottom
corners the depth of the ruffle plus elastic width, add a 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Mark this on both
edges and draw a dotted line across the bottom of the rectangle. This is the fold line
(not the cutting line!) for the hem. From this dotted line up, measure the depth of the
ruffle...this will be the sewing line for the first line of stitching that will hold the leg
elastic. Now measure up just the width of the elastic from the sewing line. This will be the
second line of stitching that will form the casing for the elastic. Ta Da! You now have a
basic bloomer pattern!
(Note: if the fabric you plan to use is bulky, or you simply want less fullness in the leg,
you can taper the inner leg part from the lower part of the crotch curve to the casing stitch
line, then straight down from there...but be sure that the width of the leg is at least one
half the fullest measure of your calf plus an inch of ease!)
Okay, now you are ready to test your pattern on cheap cotton muslin.
There are two ways to cut bloomers with this pattern. The first I will discuss is to place the
long straight edge on a fold and cut it out-leaving the long edge alone; repeat. This yeilds two oddly shaped pieces of fabric. The second way (which can use less fabric, btw) is to place the pattern on a double layer of fabric (right sides together is easiest), cut all around and repeat. This yields four pieces of slightly less odd shape. Whichever method you choose, the next step is the same.
Right sides together,
match the top corners of the curved seams of two seperate panels and sew down from the waist.
Clip seam at curves as shown, press open. Repeat for second curved seam. If you used the first
cutting method, you will have a sort of deformed tube (yes, it will turn out, don't panic!);
if the second you will see a recognizable pant shape starting to form. The next step will be
the same for either method of cutting you chose.
Right sides together, match the lower curved seams and pin. If the first cutting method
was used, when you line up the seam correctly, it will now start to resemble pants.
(See! I knew you could do it!) Start from the pin and sew down the first leg, then start
from pin again and sew other leg. Press seam open.
If you chose the first cutting method, skip the following step and move onto the next.
For those who are still with me, match outer long edges, right sides together and sew from the top down to close the outer side seams. Press open.
Now there remains only to make casings at waist and legs and insert the elastic. At the waist, fold over (wrong sides together) the width of the elastic plus about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Press. Stitch the width of elastic plus 1/8 from the fold, remembering to leave an opening for inserting the elastic! Repeat for leg openings, except the first line of stitching should be the depth of desired ruffle from fold and needs no opening. The second row of stitching should be the elastic width plus 1/8; leave an opening. If you want to add lace or trim to the legs, do it now.
Okay...nearly finished! Take a piece of elastic cut to your waist measurement plus 1/2 inch and thread it thru the wasit band casing. Don't let the other end slip thru! Pin and try it on, adjust for comfort. (Remember your waist will be compressed by your bodice/corset, so a bit snug is better than too loose!) Sew the ends together, being careful not to twist the elastic. Sew the open in the casing shut. Repeat for legs, being sure the elastic is not too tight to slip over your lower leg. Legs swell in the heat and with walking, so if you aren't sure about how snug you want the elastic to fit, better to be a bit loose than too tight!
Now you are ready to use your fancy fabric and add your beautiful bloomers to your garb collection.
Any questions? Comments?