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2015 Trek Patterns Update

Crossing the Plains, 1856

Crossing the Plains, 1856

Even though Trek is not a full-bore immersion history reenactment, you can utilize the functional clothing systems of the past to keep participants safer, healthier, and more comfortable.

In the Pioneer Pack section, you’ll find some helpful articles you can download, print, and share; or find the blog posts on Dressing here: Why Dress Like a Pioneer; How to Dress Like a Pioneer Man (or Boy); How to Dress Like a Pioneer WomanHow to Dress Like a Pioneer Girl, and How to Choose Pioneer Patterns. In the Pioneer Pack section, you’ll also find some free projects to get basic, needful clothing items made with actual historic shapes and techniques.

In the Pioneer Patterns article, some pattern lines need to be updated for 2015. Here’s a quick run-down of what’s reasonable to use. If it’s not on the list, there’s a reason! These chain-store-available Big 3 pattern publishers don’t generally publish fully accurate historic patterns, so the list includes styles that make for a Reasonable Historic Flavor, not full-out historic authenticity. They include Halloween costumes that are plausible for the 1850s, as well as non-dated patterns that might be adapted.

As always, use these patterns with 100% natural fibers only: light to medium-weight worsted wools, and light to medium-weight woven cottons predominantly, with some limited use of linen, and rarely silk.

With all of these Big 3 patterns, please wait for a $2 sale at a chain store. They have limited functionality in most cases, and paying $10 per family for them is not a good value. Before purchasing any of these on sale, look at the free patterns on this website, and other options for historical clothing. The Trek 2015 board on Pinterest has original images, original garments, and project links to help you.

Men & Boys

Simplicity 2895: Men’s Frock, Vest, and Shirt: of all the items, the shirt is the only one that’s plausible for the 1850s. The rest are more 1870s. However, it’s one of the only Big 3 patterns that even approximates a frock coat, and a large majority of young and grown men in the 1850s would own a good wool frock as their Sunday Best; many emigrated in the clothing they regularly owned.

Simplicity 4762: Men’s & Boy’s Vests: This is not historic shaping; vests of the period had collars that went all the way around the back of the neck, and didn’t generally have the pointed fronts. This will be plausible if the length is adjusted to come to the historic waist level (natural waist), and not be overly extended to meet modern trouser waists. (Period trouser waists sit at the true natural waist, very close to the bottom of the floating ribs.)

Burda 2767: “1848” Menswear: This is not fully historic shaping, but if the View A coat is done in good wool and fitted very closely to the body (it’s about two sizes to large on the model! Use period images from our Trek Pinterest set for a visual on the Real Thing), it’s at least plausible. The narrow-fall trousers are Quite Outdated for the late 40s, and even more so by the mid-50s (Trek Era), so skip that–a normal fly front, with buttons instead of a zipper, is more accurate.

Burda 7799: Men’s Vests: Again, not historic clothing (sensing a trend?), but the View A and B attention to a nice close fit, and plenty of buttons down the front, both conform to a more period style.

McCalls 7003: Men’s Costume: Not Historic–primarily in that the shapes are not fully historic, and the trousers are too short in the rise, making the vest too long for historic lines as well. If the trouser rise is moved higher, and the vest shortened in the body, it does have the full collar style that suits for the 1850s. Be sure to fit the body of the vest and coat well; wool is very common for the coat.

Women & Girls

In general, one-piece dresses in one fabric have the best historical flavor, and are the most comfortable to wear and move in. Go for a fitted look in the waist, at the anatomical waist, or the weight of the necessarily-full skirts will pull badly on the lower back.

Simplicity 2890: Corset, Chemise, and Drawers: These are actual historic shapes. The corset needs to be very specifically fitted to the individual figure to be safe during Trek, but it will also make a huge positive difference in comfort and back support!

Simplicity 9769: Corset, Chemise, and Drawers: Another with actual historic shapes, and the same notes as above. This corset is all shaped seams, and is quite simple for an intermediate sewist to adjust properly for individual figures.

Simplicity 3732: “Pilgrim” Dress: Make dress View B neckline (jewel neck), View A sleeve, removing all trim from both. Add another panel in the skirt for anyone over the age of 10 (this one is comically narrow without more), and hem to lower calf for teenagers, top of foot for women. Skip all the odd platter collars, skirt overlays, caps, etc. The sunbonnet is non-functional; don’t bother. Same notes on the children’s pattern version, 3725.

Butterick 5831: Dress & Petticoat: The dress is actually quite decent for the mid-century shaping. There’s no need for sew-in interfacing in any portion of it, and make the petticoat plain at the hem, with gathers at the waist. Be sure you’re using at least three full-widths of fabric for the dress skirt and petticoat. Cut all the skirts shorter, lower-calf length, for teenage girls. Refer to the Pioneer Pack projects for how to measure for the skirts you personally need.

 Functional clothing is so important for safe and comfortable trekking! Please put thought into the shapes you’re using, and take good advice from those who’ve used actual historic systems of clothing: the original Pioneers were not foolish, and their clothing systems really do work! Make use of vital aspects of that system to enhance a Trek experience.


5 Responses to 2015 Trek Patterns Update

    • Liz says:

      Coming back to reply loooong after the comment was sent, but: Folkwear’s Prairie Dress is unlike mid-century extants, and is not one I recommend for historical dressing. However, several small independent publishers have good wrapper patterns that are historical, including Laughing Moon, Kay-Fig/Figleaf, and Past Patterns, so there are some fairly unstructured options out there that work well for trek clothing!

    • Liz says:

      Sorry to answer so late! Folkwear’s Prairie Dress is not a mid-19th century style, so it’s not one I find representative of early Church history styles. However, Laughing Moon patterns has two lovely wrapper patterns out, so there are some good options for less-constructed modes of dress appropriate to the 1840s, 50s, and 60s.

  • Priscilla Karras says:

    This a very informative and beautiful website! I volunteer at a local museum and the volunteers
    are going to dress for our annual Pioneer Day. I love “History” . The information offered has been
    very helpful to me. Continue the “Great Work”. My younger brother (who is now not with us) with
    his wife and son was involved in a group called SASS, western dress and competition shoot-outs.
    His son continues the tradition with his wife. They use western dress historically.

    • Liz says:

      How wonderful to have a dressed-out Pioneer Day! That will be very cool for the visitors, as well as the staff. I’m glad the site is useful–do let me know if I can help in any way!

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