Basic Bloomers

Bloomers 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.

Rise measurement
To create a bloomer pattern, You will need the following measurements:
  • Waist measurement
  • Full hip plus 4-6 inches
  • Full thigh plus 4-6inches
  • Outseam from waist along outside leg to desired length, plus 6-8 inches (for ease, casing and small ruffle).
  • Calf or leg measure (wherever the bloomers will end) plus at least 2 inches, more is ok.
  • Rise (distance from waist to crotch) plus about 3-4 inches for casing and ease.

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. Sit down on a firm chair or stool, then measure the distance from the "true waist" to the seat. This distance is the rise measurement.

Once the pieces are cut out, all raw edges should be finished to prevent fraying. You will need to either overcast with zig zag stitches, serge or pink (cut with those funny looking zig zag shears).
Note: I don't recommend using fray check for this as it tends to harden the edges and make them scratchy.

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. The width should be one half of the full thigh measurement plus 4-6 inches (the extra is for ease and seam allowance). The length should be the outseam measurement plus about 6-8 inch for ease, the elastic casing at the waist *and* the twice depth of any desired ruffle at the bottom (see the bottom of this page for a picture). If you are making these for a child, you may want to add another 3-4 inches for growing room, the bloomers will just blouse more or you can make a deeper ruffle.
This sounds tricky, but really isn't. (Honest!) If you have an outseam measurement of 30 inches are using 1 inch elastic at the waist, and want a three inch ruffle at the bottom, you take 30 and add 2 1/2 -3 inches for the casing at the waist (you can adjust this for the width of the elastic, but add at least twice width of the elastic you will use at the waist), then add 6 inches (twice the ruffle depth) plus 4 or more inches of ease to get about 43 inches...see? Not as hard as you thought! Remember, this is a very forgiving garment, so if you make it a bit long, it'll be okay and you can adjust the length if needed.

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 right corner one quarter of the full hip measurement plus 2 inches and mark a line straight down. (Even though you used the Hip measurement, this will be the waist of your bloomers. You need the hip measurement to be sure you can pull them on!)
Measure down from upper left corner rise plus 3 inches to allow for enough fabric to fold over and make a casing for your elastic; mark a line straight across. These two lines will intersect so you can use them to draw the crotch seam.
Here is the tricky part: Now from the first mark draw a line down towards the second , the first part straightish and curving more as you approach the second mark...sort of a "J" shape. Note: You can also trace the curve of a comfy pair of pants or pj's to get this right.)

From each of the bottom corners measure up the depth of the ruffle plus a bit more (1/4 to 1/2 inch) than the leg elastic width. Mark this and draw a dotted line across the bottom of the rectangle.
Note: 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 a bit more 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.

Note: if the fabric you plan to use is bulky, or you simply want less fullness in the leg, you can measure from the right side of the rectangle along the stitching line and mark at half the calf measure ment plus at *least* 2 inches. Then draw a line from the lower part of the crotch curve to the casing stitch line to taper the inner leg part, then straight down from the stitching line...but be *sure* that the width of the leg is at least one half the fullest measure of your calf plus 2 inches for seam allowances and ease!)

Ta Da! You now have a basic bloomer pattern!

Cutting layout method 1There are two ways you can use this pattern:
The first method avoids a side seam along the outer leg, so there are fewer raw edges that need to be finished. Fold your fabric right sides together and place the long straight edge (outseam) on a fold and cut it out-leaving the long edge alone; repeat for second piece. Once unfolded, you will have 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, cut all around and repeat. This yields four pieces of slightly less odd shape. Take two of these and (right sides together) and sew along the long straight edge. Press seam open. Now you have two oddly shaped pieces, just as for method one.
cutting layout method 2
Method 2:Sew side seams
Sew curved seamsSew curved seams Whichever method you chose, 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, press open. Repeat for second curved seam. You will have a sort of deformed tube (yes, it will turn out, don't panic!)

Sew inseamsThe next step is also the same for either method of cutting you chose:
Right sides together, match the lower curved (crotch) seams and pin. 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. You can reinforce the center by sewing back and forth (back tacking) if desired. Press seam open.

Now to make casings at waist and legs and insert the elastic. At the waist, fold over (with wrong sides together!) the width of the elastic plus about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Press. Measure from fold the width of elastic plus at least 1/8 and stitch, remembering to leave an opening for inserting the elastic!

casing for ruffle

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If you don't want a ruffle, you can just repeat this for leg openings, adjusting the casing to the width of your elastic. For a ruffle, you fold the depth of desired ruffle from fold and the elastic width plus 1/8; sew the first line of stitching at the ruffle depth, this line of stitching needs no opening. The second row of stitching should be above the first by about 1/4 inch more than the width of your elastic *and* you will need to leave an opening for the elastic. 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 waist 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 or corset, so a bit snug is better than too loose!) Sew the ends together, being careful not to twist the elastic. Sew the opening in the casing shut. Repeat for legs, using you calf measurement plus 1 inch, 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?
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