Vintage Sewing: Simplicity 9136, Girls Pioneer Costume

This weekend the kid (my awesome step-daughter, who is in 6th grade now) told me that she has a school dance coming up, and they are allowed to dress from any era of their choice. So what’s her preference? Westward ho, America! She intends to wear a blue dress that her mom has, and asked if I would make a bonnet and apron to go along with it.

I knew I had a number of patterns in my stash that include bonnets, and at least one for an adult-sized head. After digging around my disorganized stash for a while, we found exactly what we needed!

Simplicity 9136

Simplicity 9136
I used the bonnet pattern from view 1 of Simplicity 9136, a costume pattern issued in the 70s. According to the vintage pattern wiki, this pattern was also issued in the 80s as Simplicity 9516. The bonnet could/should have been very straightforward, but I made a few modifications that added a bit of extra time. Note: I sewed the brim of the bonnet first, which just made sense to me— that way it was ready and I didn’t have to switch between crown/brim/crown. The pattern calls for only a single layer of fabric for the crown of the bonnet, and because the kid chose a rather lightweight fabric, I felt like we need a little extra weight to it. The instructions call for the raw edges of the bonnet to be finished with bias binding, but instead I decided to fully line the bonnet. It was very straightforward— I stitched the neckline/flap piece, with the 3/8” seam, with right sides together, stitching to the small dots. I clipped the corner to the dots, then turned the pieces right side out and pressed it, as shown below.

After the bottom/flap piece is sewn, I topstitched a piece of bias binding on the inside/wrong side of bonnet, through both layers of fabric, as a casing for the 1/4 elastic that gathers at the neckline. This is written in the instructions, but I’m mentioning it since it looks a bit different because of the lining. I used a bodkin for inserting the elastic, and seriously, I love these things! If you don't have a bodkin, get one, because they are awesome.

I sewed the 3 gathering stitches on the main fabric and lining fabric separately (you can see that in the picture above, where I showed the lining stitched in place, before I sewed the casing), and gathered them independently. After the main fabric was gathered I pinned it into place on the completed brim, matching notches to even out my gathers and such, and sewed the 5/8" seam.

View from wrong side, showing the lining sewn to underside of brim
Once that was done, I pinned the lining in place by folding the seam allowance  under ~1/2” instead of 5/8, and let the lining fabric extend past the main fabric/brim seam. I machine sewed the lining to the brim, which added a row of stitching on the right side of the brim about 1:16” past the main fabric seam. There were a couple of times I had to use the seam ripper because I’d caught the main fabric of the bonnet crown in my lining stitches...

...but overall I was more pleased with the results than if I had used a single layer of fabric and bias binding to cover the raw edges. Here's the view of the clean finish on the inside:

The last step for the bonnet was to add ribbon ties, but the kid felt like matching fabric ties would be better. I made a couple of skinny fabric tubes, pressed them flat, knotted the ends, and sewed them in place. You can see the final/final bonnet at the top, but here's a picture of it without the ties:

The apron was drafted to her measurements and preference, so I didn’t bother with any pattern. In summary, I used one width of 45” fabric, cut to the length she wanted (natural waistline to knee). I turned the woven selvedge edges in by 1/4”, stitched the down, and sewed a 1 3/4” hem.  I cut a waistband of 17” in length, added interfacing to one side, and folded in the raw edges on the sides, then sewed the gathered main fabric in place like one would for a skirt. I sewed some straps, tucked them in, and folded the waistband over stitching everything down.

The only picture I took during the apron-making was this one shot below, because I want to say THIS ROLL OF 1" WIDE INTERFACING IS AWESOME! I picked up two big rolls of this at the bins (Goodwill outlet thrift store, where everything is purchased by weight) and it was so handy for the apron straps. I want rolls of pre-cut interfacing in various widths now.

In all, the kid was super pleased (seriously, she has thanked me like 5 times!) and it felt so good to get back in my sewing room and get something done. I’ve had a real mental block about sewing, and this was the perfect project to remember that I *can* sew, and even enjoy it. I think the past year has been sort of challenging for me for various reasons (a miscarriage on Christmas last year, hormone issues, ensuing sadness, heavy work stress, etc), but these past couple of months have been some of my happiest/easiest in a long time. Life feels good again. Also, I’d be silly to leave out how overjoyed I am that the kid actually asked me to make something specific that she wanted. She went through my stash and picked out two fabrics, ultimately deciding on the one she did because it had more white and she thought it would be a nice contrast to her blue dress.

I’ve waited so long for this opportunity—honestly, it feels like my whole life, if only because my mom was amazing and sewed clothes for me, and I’ve always thought that if I’m going to be a mom that I want to be just like her. I’ve never had the joy of making Halloween costumes for the kid, because she’s always with her mom for Halloween and they sort all of that out (and her mom is a handy person too— knitting, sewing, etc). I’m glad I got the chance to sew this silly pioneer bonnet and apron and feel a bit closer and more useful to her.


  1. BODKIN.....neat tool. Thanks for this tip...because using a safety pin really stinks. Also nice work!


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