V289: Where to Wear – How To Throw Your Own Costume Events

Ladies attending the 2012 Titanic Memorial Tea, at a local tea shoppe called The Isles

Hi All! Today I’m going to answer another question I get often – where to wear the splendid creations we as historical costumers just can’t stop ourselves from making.  Most often the issue is that there doesn’t appear to be a costumer’s club, group, guild, or society, in your area, but never fear, I’m here to help you get such a thing going.

When I moved back to my home town of Reno, Nevada, in 2009, I was determined to start a costumer’s club similar to the ones I enjoyed so much in the San Francisco area.  It seemed like a daunting task, and I was even discouraged by several people who said it would never work.

Does this sound familiar?  Well here’s how to start:

My partner in crime is my mum

1. First, find a partner in crime.  It can be your best friend, your mom, whoever will dress up in costume with you.  One person is a geek, but TWO people are a CLUB.

2. Next, create a blog and a Facebook page for your new club, and start inviting anyone you think might be interested, in your area.

Examples – The Great Basin Costume Society blog; the Great Basin Costume Society on Facebook.

Be sure to post your mission statement in both places, to entice people to join.  You will have a little group following along in no time.  Also be pro-active about posting flyers in fabric stores, local college campuses, coffee shops, anywhere that will let you. Then…

This was our first official Great Basin Costume Society event

3. Throw a Getting-To-Know-You party.  Our first meeting/event/thing for Great Basin Costume Society was a luncheon at a local coffee shop/bakery/restaurant.  Everyone was invited to come in the costume of their choice.  The invitation was sent via Facebook, and attendees were encouraged to tell and bring their friends.  Over twenty ladies and even a few gentlemen came, and so was born our club, e-mail list, and most importantly, awareness of a group of like-minded people.

Costume clubs are event-focused, but events don’t have to be a huge deal.  Start with small things:

  • Tea parties at local tea shops or cafes
  • Picnics on the lawns of historic sites
  • Visits to museums, historic homes, points of historical interest
  • Holiday get-togethers at a member’s home
  • Crash other local events – we crash Valhalla Renaissance Faire, The Tahoe Gatsby, Sugarpine Living History Day, and Hot August Nights (vintage car show) every year.

When you crash an event, such as we did here at Sugarpine Living History Days, you don’t need a big presence, just a group of good friends – people will ask you about your clothing, and may even want to join your club.  It’s like a virus.

Before you know it, you’ll have all sorts of people coming “out of the woodwork” to come to your cool costume events, and you may even end up jump-starting a scene in your area, for instance…

High Desert Steam, another local Reno club focused on Steampunk, just wrapped the second annual Steampunk Ball in nearby historical landmark Virginia City.  The ball this year was double the size of last year, with well over 200 guests, all dressed in wonderful steampunk fashions.  Next year it will be even bigger!

High Desert Steampunks who came out for a photo shoot event, just for fun.  This is what we’d call a “core group.”  They come to everything steampunk, heck, they even march in parades in December, that’s how into dressing up they are.

So don’t be afraid! Remember, you only need one partner in crime to get started.  If only a handful of people come to your first event, don’t be discouraged, and throw a second event – more people will come.  By your third event, you’ll have a healthy club going, and next thing you know, you’ll be throwing huge shindigs at your local historic opera house.

Who are these people? I don’t even know! but they came to the Steampunk Ball and that’s the point.

Why will you be successful? Simply this – people love to dress up in costume.  They LOVE it, and are only looking for an excuse to do it.  They’re sitting in their living rooms *right now* wishing somebody would come along and put on a smashin’ costume themed tea.  That person is you!


  • Stephanie Lynn

    October 16, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    I'm working on encouraging a couple of my friends to become partners in crime. I've gotten a nice group of people who dress up with me at our local Renaissance Faire but hopefully we'll get to do some other events during the year too!

    • Wendy

      October 16, 2012 at 6:55 PM

      What part of Pennsylvania do you live in? I haven't had an opportunity to take my interest in costuming beyond research on the internet, as none of my friends are interested and I don't know of any groups in my area. I live in Pittsburgh, so if I'm near to you I'd be really interested in joining!

    • Unknown

      August 29, 2016 at 8:07 PM

      I just set up a Chesapeake Clothier's Guild page on facebook for those of us in the region to organize and get together. 🙂

    • Hilary M

      July 26, 2019 at 7:37 PM

      Wendy, I'm in Pittsburgh! I don't make any of the costumes myself at this point, but I do have clothing representing a few different eras (1750s-ish, 1820s, and 1840s) and plan on expanding. There is a Jane Austen Society chapter in town, but I'm not sure how many costumed events they do.

  • Steph

    October 16, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    My Jane Austen Society group in Connecticut is beginning to do more costumed events and is even going to hold its first retreat next summer–and I couldn't be more excited! Before the organizers announced this plan, I was a bit disappointed and toyed with the idea of starting a Regency group myself. I still think it's a good idea, but I'm content for now with the costumed event plans of my current group.

  • Cation Designs

    October 16, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    I think for me, the problem is I don't even have a potential partner in crime! If I did, I would have started one already 🙂 Still, I like these concrete steps for when/if I do find someone to do this with!

    • Anonymous

      October 17, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      I didn't either. But, I started talking about my interest with aquaintences at work and discovered 2, one of which was willing to start a club with me. If you know you besties aren't interested, start talking to people you only know a little bit.

  • vintagevisions27

    October 16, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    This is a great post, thanks for sharing! My boyfriend has become my perfect partner in crime. (We met at a reenactment, oh and he likes fabric shopping! Yeah, he's a keeper! ;)) Anyway, we were talking recently about getting a living history group together in our area to visit historic sites, etc. We're planning on another scenic train ride – this time with wine tasting! Anyone want to join us? 😉 http://www.adirondackrr.com/saranaclake/featuretrains/halloweenWine.html

  • Joni

    October 16, 2012 at 9:41 PM

    There aren't even any local events to crash here in Indiana. It's sad as heck. I can't be the only Hoosier who owns crinoline petticoats and lusts after my own set of Regency short stays. Actually, it's occurred to me recently that I should get involved in my local sewing guild (even though I am under sixty, ha ha) and that might be a good way to discover likeminded people.

    The idea of forming a club on my own (or mostly on my own) is intimidating, to be sure… but the idea of trying to break into an existing club (if one existed here, which it doesn't) is probably even MORE intimidating. I've heard horror stories about snobbishness and infighting, and the last thing I want is to be shunned because my shoes or hair are wrong or because (gasp!) I used a serger instead of sewing everything by hand.

    On a somewhat related note, DH has decided that we must go to Colonial Williamsburg for spring break next year. Cue excited squee, especially when I found out that you can do costumes (even if you're not a kid). I'm planning to make myself the full kit – stays, panniers, gown – it will be my first time sewing historical things for an adult (though I've done a fair bit for American Girl dolls). Is there anything I should know about attending CW in costume? Do you have to get special permission? Do people look at you funny?

    • Lauren Stowell

      October 16, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      Hi Joni – yay CW! You don't need permission to dress up – in fact, many of the staff were excited to see visitors dress up in their own creations. People don't look at you funny because they think you're part of the show, BUT they WILL ask you things like…where are the bathrooms? Do you need a ticket for this? When are the carriage rides? When you tell them you don't know, you're just visiting, they are surprised and curious and think you're really cool :-). Lots of people will want to take your picture, too, especially with their kiddies. 🙂

    • Beth Klimek

      October 16, 2012 at 10:14 PM

      Hi Joni! I lived in Indianapolis until just a few years ago, but I have to assume you and I are not the only Hoosiers who love costuming. I know there are several Civil War events around the state as well as a Ladies Side Saddle association and some active SCA groups. Those might yield some potential partners in crime for different eras. If I still lived there I'd happily help start a costume guild or club, but I'm in the DFW area now.

    • Veda Deville

      January 4, 2013 at 5:04 PM

      Hi Joni! Whereabouts are you in Indiana? I live in South Bend, and would LOVE to start something with you if you are close. I was thinking that the closest things I would get to are all in Chicago.

    • Vintagegal

      January 25, 2013 at 6:43 PM

      Joni, I am in South Bend as well. I have just dipped my toe in the water with a Steampunk group in Indy-Circle City Aerodrome(they have FB page). Next weekend they are having LOTS of events! There will be the opening of the juried art show on Friday night (one of my hats is in the show)in conjunction with the First Friday thing going on in downtown Indy. Then on Saturday night there is a masquerade ball. Check out their page, and join up. I am sure you will meet other costuming enthusiasts, and maybe eventually plan some other era events.

  • Anonymous

    October 16, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    I'm planning to make my son an 1870's morning suit for Mount Tabor Historical Society's 20th House Tour next year. And I'm expecting to have enough weight off to look fairly decent in a bustle dress by then. This coming April, I committed to do a craft demo in 18th century gear– craft unspecified– it'll be either fashion dolls or lacemaking. I really like the black Felicite, and want to make a gown of it, providing I can squinch into my fat stays by then.

    And then there are the doll dresses… I am struggling with the back pleats on a pink silk 1770's French court dress. Pat Winship

  • Irene

    October 16, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Sounds like a brilliant idea. I have a look around, although I don't fancy my chances.
    I live in The Netherlands, Europe. If anyone from The Netherlands reads this, do let me know.

  • Danine Cozzens

    October 17, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    What a great summary! We did this in the San Francisco Bay Area back in the 1980s before there was an internet, just posting flyers and spreading word of mouth. By all means seek out existing groups in your area. Needlework groups, historic houses, vintage dance or English country dance for Regency. Many people are interested in more than one era. For early 20th Century, check historic auto clubs and ragtime music festivals. I always encourage people to patronize teas at historic sites; these are fundraisers, and people will appreciate your coming in dress appropriate to the house. Let the merriment continue unabated!

  • KittyKatt

    October 19, 2012 at 1:48 AM

    Thank you Lauren,

    Your posts are marvelous, as always. The ideas that you posted for growing a fledgeling group look like they will help to jump start an existing group, too. Our particular costume guild is aging, but we do manage to pick up a few folks here and there. Using your networking tools may help us to grow again and encourage the younger women to come and hang out with all of us middle aged old ladies! 🙂


  • jninecostumes

    January 20, 2014 at 1:51 AM

    Thanks for the encouraging steps to starting a costume club. Probably would work with any niche interest a person has.

  • Highland Miss

    June 14, 2014 at 1:41 AM

    I live in the indianapolis area and would love something like this! I'd love a group to share this interest with, I even have the suggested tearoom nearby and would enjoy making new like-minded friends. Special thanks for the great advice on getting started.

  • Emileigh

    May 20, 2015 at 6:08 PM

    Man, I live in southern Missouri and would LOVE to start something. I currently have no reason to make historical clothing… but I WANT to have a reason! I'm going to google things and try to find a partner in crime!

  • Unknown

    October 27, 2015 at 3:00 AM

    I have searched for this for a week since I am keen on starting up a group in Minot, ND…which is certainly a task. Oh well, I hope something pans out!

  • E

    May 4, 2017 at 3:58 PM

    I would love to start a group in Boronia/Knox in Melbourne, Australia, but I'm not quite sure how to start, though your guide certainly helps.

  • Unknown

    April 10, 2020 at 4:59 AM

    What would you suggest for someone under 20 who either can't afford or can't organize their own events/don't live in an area where historical costuming events are prevalent- what would you suggest? I live in Maine, and am having trouble finding anywhere to wear historical costumes. If I can't wear them, I won't want to spend hundreds of dollars and hours making them- so I feel stuck.


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