Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Costuming Year in Review - 2013

The very last day of 2013 is a good time to look back, as so many of us have been doing this past week.  Here are the costumes I made and wore in 2013:

A Grand Panier that turned out to be too grand. | A pair of Regency half stays I ended up never wearing.
The "Green Acres" 1880 bustle gown. | My stab at a Titanic dress for our annual April tea
A 1950s red-white-and-blue sailor dress from a vintage pattern. | The 1920s "Little Jersey Dress" for Gatsby
A new Elizabethan doublet for Valhalla Renaissance Faire. | The 1790s Curtain-Along Dress, at Costume College.
My last project of 2013, the "Cafe Promenade" 1879 tea gown.
My wedding gown for October. | The "Angel Wing Bum" to go under my wedding gown petticoats.
The Lobster-Tail Bustle Project. | A new corset
A 1920s charmeuse slip to go under a beaded gown. | Some PANTS!
A 1950s Derby Day dress made from a vintage pattern. | My "Pierrot" Halloween costume.
It's surprising to look back and see everything - I thought I hadn't sewn so much this past year, but that's a lot of completed projects! I didn't include the UFO's, of course, and there were quite a few that were conceptualizes but never even started. Such is the way this hobby goes, at least for me. :-) Now on to 2014, and all the projects that will hold!

Happy New Year!!
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

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My Giant Post of Wedding Photos

Chris and I tied the knot this past October, as you all know. I just recently received the photos from Matt & Jentry, the incredible photographers who shot our wedding, and I'd like to share a few of those with you...

Reno Wedding Rancho San Rafael
I wore a few special things with my gown - the locket is from the day I was born. The earrings are my mother's. The shoes are American Duchess (of course!) "Pemberlies" that i painted and decorated to match my dress.
Reno Wedding Rancho San Rafael Park
We went with an English country style, with overtones of blended cultures, to represent Chris' native England, and my American West. Our ceremony was in an English style garden, while our reception was at a very Western American historic ranch house.
The Entertainer Wedding Reno Tahoe
Chris with his best man, Greg, who came from England. Both are wearing English tailored suits, while Maggie, my matron of honor, and I both made our 18th c.- inspired gowns.
American Duchess Wedding
We were sewing up to the last minute, but the dress did get done. Based on my favorite gown from "Marie Antoinette" (2006), I made my dress in a redingote style, from pale green taffeta, with buttons embroidered with silver, by my mom.
A Floral Affair Wedding Bouquet Reno Tahoe
We complimented the already incredible fall setting of Rancho San Rafael park with gorgeous flowers provided by A Floral Affair. I was super impressed with the artistry of the bouquet, and could not have been happier with how the flowers tied in with our theme.
Country Wedding Shabby Chic Wedding

Vintage Wedding Country Shabby Chic
"The Entertainer," a wonderful local company, provided the decor - mismatched vintage chairs and tables, birdcages, old doors, and all manner of shabby chic paraphernalia.
Dee's Bakery Wedding Cakes Reno
The cakes were made by Dee's Bakery, and were each a different, but complimentary, design. We went with black forest gatteau, Chris' favorite, a lemon cake, and a cake based on Jaffa Cake cookies - orange, chocolate, and vanilla.
The attendance was small and personal - everyone was a family friend, or close friends. The top right is one of my favorite photos from the day - a friend's son got into the "Ferengi Finger Traps," which our wonderful officiant and friend, Mary, used in our "unity ceremony."
Matt & Jentry Reno Wedding Photographers
The day went by so quickly! We were thankful for the wonderful friends who made the trip, the great food, decor, and floral, the professional and friendly photographers who captured everything we didn't get to see, and the warm and lovely weather.
Photography: Matt & Jentry
Decor: The Entertainer
Floral: A Floral Affair
Cakes: Dee's Bakery
Food: Roundabout Catering
Location: Rancho San Rafael Regional Park
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Friday, December 27, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

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A Quick 1879 Bonnet from a 1950s Hat

1870s bonnet made from 1950s hat

I've had a lot of questions about the bonnet I wore with my 1879 Tea Dress.

I didn't have time to construct a late 1870s/early 1880s bonnet, and I'm not all that skilled at buckram construction anyway, so I looked into my hat stash to see if anything would work.

I found a hat I bought last year at a Steampunk event, but had never worn. It was originally a 1950s fur felt cap of some sort, to which Steampunky gears and whatnots had been glued. The color was perfect, and the shape worked when worn way back on the head, so I decided to decorate to resemble these inspiration bonnets:
The Met, 1870s
The Met, 1883
The Met, 1880
I used three feather sprays from the floral section of Michaels, and some ribbons and flowers from WalMart.  The large bow is wired ribbon with the wires left in, to create the big, sculpty loops that visually balance the feathers. The bonnet ties are wired ribbon with the wires pulled out. I prefer the look of wired ribbon because it tends to be less shiny and polyester-looking that non-wired options.

Natural Form 1870s Bonnet

The whole project took an hour or so, and cost next to nothing. I bought the ribbons and flowers for a few bucks.  I was really happy with how the bonnet looked with the gown, and that I could finally put to use something that had been sitting for a long time.

Yes, there's fuzz and dog hair all over the thing, but hey...

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

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Review: Wearing History's 1879 Dinner Bodice E-Pattern

Last weekend I finished up and wore my new 1879 "Cafe Promenade" dress (or "Creme Brulee" or "Cafe Au Lait"), which I had quite a good time putting together over the previous few weeks.

The bodice was crafted from Wearing History's 1879 Victorian Dinner Bodice "Resto-vival" E-Pattern.

My favorite things about this pattern were that it was affordable ($7.00), instantly available, and that it was a truly original pattern directly from Harper's Bazaar, March 1879. Wearing History had done all the hard work of singling out each piece from the otherwise *insane* multi-pattern diagram, creating something that my modern pea-brain could cope with. To give you an idea, here's what it looked like in its original state:

Assembling the E-Pattern

This is the first time I've ever used an e-pattern, and was a little dubious at first, worried that I would get the scale on the prints wrong, or just not get through the taping together of so many sheets, etc.

I was surprised how easy it was. Wearing History provides easy-to-follow directions on how to print the pattern and assemble. Each page is numbered, and it's easy to see how the pieces go together.  I was impressed with the notes about the pattern, as well, though there are no construction directions.

Mocking Up

I was also impressed with how nicely the pattern went together. Points lined up as they should. Things were trued, and matched nicely. Wearing History notes that the center back pieces are longer than the side back pieces, at the hem, but I concluded, based on how accurately every other point matched, that this was entirely purposeful.
On the right - how the original pattern pieces went together. On the left side, my slicing and dicing
The turn-backs on the bodice didn't match up, and were way longer than they appear in the illustration. I found these tails to go down almost to my knees, which didn't work for my proportions. I was also confused by what to do in back - more turn-backs? leave straight? - as there's no back view for what it was originally intended to look like.  I avoided these weird bits altogether by cutting a new line for the hem, which was easy to do.
Turn-back weirdness
The bodice has quite a few pieces, making it easy to adjust to my size, which was a tad smaller than the original measurements (when does that ever happen!?). I took quite a lot of excess out of the armscye area in back, but I think that might have been a mistake, as I realized later that the sleeve is actually a drop-shoulder, rather than right on the shoulder, as it appears in the illustration.

This was my mistake - I ended up with the front bodice piece dropping off the shoulder, and the back being cut toward the shoulder blade. Weirdness, and not the most comfortable. If I made this bodice again, I would cut the armscye fully on the shoulder point.


Once I worked out my mock up, I cut the pattern from the silk/cotton fashion fabric, and a medium-weight brown twill I had in my stash. I flat-lined each piece together, then worked the front asymmetrical button closure, before assembling all the other pieces. The last assembly step was to do the darts, but what I *should* have done was add the boning to all of the seams before doing the darts, because I ended up "shrinking" the garment a bit too much, and having to let the bodice out at the buttons. No biggy, but a lesson learned for the future.

I worked the seam allowances according to bits from "Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques," a great book to have.
The pattern included a two-piece sleeve that was longer than the one shown on the pattern illustration - about mid-forearm length, with a cuff - which I liked, but I decided to go with a full-length sleeve instead. I frankensteined the included sleeve pattern with a two-piece shapes sleeve I knew fit, but in retrospect I perhaps should have just stuck with the original sleeve. I ended up with weirdness near the top of the sleeves in back, which I think stemmed from my misunderstanding the armscye design.


I really like this pattern. Despite changing bits of it, and going rogue on some parts (to my detriment!), I will definitely use this pattern again, and recommend it for advanced seamstresses. It's easy to assemble, affordable, and completely authentic. You'll need some experience to put it together, and I definitely recommend doing a mock-up, just like any historical pattern.

You can find all of Wearing History's patterns - print or e-patterns - at www.wearinghistorypatterns.com .

Wearing History's "Resto-vival" patterns can be found here

The 1879 Dinner Bodice is here.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

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Christmas Tea at the Brewery Arts Center, Carson City, NV

This past Saturday good-sized group of us Great Basin Costumers invaded the Brewery Arts Center in Carson City, for their afternoon High Tea.  There was no set period for costume, just a "come in whatever you'd like to wear," and so we had Steampunks, Civil War folks, a couple bustle girls, and an elf. :-)

I finished my 1879 gown just in time, putting the last stitch on the hat around midnight the night before.  I'm happy to say that on its first outing, the gown wore quite well.  I *loooove* Natural Form. I think it might be my new obsession - I already want to make another one!

Natural Form Bustle Gown

Bustle Dress Natural Form 1879 1880

After the tea, several of us wandered down to The Nugget for the Battle Born Civil War Reenactor's annual Christmas Ball. We had a lovely dinner, danced a few lovely dances, and in general had quite a nice time (although I didn't get any pictures, sorry!). I didn't change into 1860s evening attire, oh well. The BBCWR are a very accepting, fun-loving group that would never look down on such an anachronism.

It was a lovely day, a lovely evening, and now back to the sewing table for the next project!
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Friday, December 13, 2013

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Photo Shoot: Downton Abbey Glamour at the Cobb Mansion, Virginia City, Nevada

Downton Abbey dresses

I've been sitting on these photos for quite some time, leaking them out little by little, but I think it's high time now for a little photo story...

With Downton Abbey fresh in our minds, we set out to capture the glimmer of the fashionable past, with 19teens evening gowns in an opulent setting, the gorgeous Cobb Mansion in our local historic town of Virginia City.

Titanic Dress
The black and white photo is my favorite photo I've ever taken. I think Tori looks like a super-elegant 1950s Dior model!
Our beautiful models were Liza and Tori. You'll recognize Liza from our Summer "Gibson" photo shoot, but this was Tori's first experience in front of the camera. She did great!

Downton Abbey Photo Shoot

The gowns were creations of both Liza and myself, paired with Astoria Edwardian Shoes in black, and Gibson Edwardian Shoes in ivory. Photos are a mix of both mine and Chris'. We had a good time putting this one together, and were lucky to be well-received at the Cobb Mansion, which we'll certainly be returning to. :-)

I hope you enjoy!

Edwardian Titanic Dress

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

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Introducing "Stratford" Elizabethan Shoes for Men and Women

Renaissance Shoe
I'm so happy to present to you "Stratford" Elizabethan Shoes, the product of blood, sweat, tears, and a great collaboration with Francis C. Classe, an excellent historical cordwainer (shoemaker) and footwear historian.

We're running a pre-order on Strats, through January 1st. During that time, you get a swish $20 discount, and if you're in the USA, you get free standard shipping too.

Edit: The men's sizes unfortunately did not sell, so we have had to cancel them. Only women's sizes 6 - 11 are available now. Sorry, guys!
Elizabethan Shoes

Stratfords come in black or oxblood red 100% leather, are lined in leather, and have one heck of a thick leather sole. They lace closed with a t-strap, and have a 2 inch, custom-made heel.

Of course, the coolest most cool thing about Stratfords is that they are our first "Signature" shoe, and feature Francis' signature down the insole. Francis, who has spent years researching and learning how to make these shoes, also gets a share of the profits. Together we've created a gorgeous reproduction that benefits everyone - you the costumer, the international costuming community, and the artisan himself.

Please place your pre-order for Stratford at
and help us reach the minimum number of orders needed to make Stratford a reality!
Stratford Renaissance Shoes

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013


1879 Tea Gown: More Progress, and Bustling Up on the Deadline!

I haven't been working *flat out* on this dress, but I have been making steady progress each day. I'm thankful to have not hit any huge snags (yet).

I'm not finished with the skirt and apron completely, but I wanted to get the bodice mostly there, one so I could at least have a top to wear to the tea on Saturday, and two because the bodice has priority on my limited about of trim, and if I do run out, I would rather the apron lose out than the bodice.

The interior of the bodice - it's lined in twill, and the seam allowances are trimmed, notched, and catch-stitched down to the lining, to keep them flat. No boning yet.
So far I haven't added boning, but I have fit the bodice on my own body, which is why it doesn't look like it fits so well on FrankenLilly.  I have a longer waist.

I compiled one whole sleeve earlier today, and realized when it was all finished that I sewed the false cuff on backwards.  Since this post, I bucked up and ripped the whole thing off to put it on the right way, then did the second sleeve. I feel so much better about the cuffs now.  I can't let something that blatantly wrong stay that way, even if I'm short on time!

Front view of the bodice, with the fur trim just draped on to get an idea how it will look. I haven't decided on any additional bodice trim yet - I do like it kindof clean-looking through the body.
Onward! I have a lot of finishing to do!
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