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1890s Bicycling Sweater Tutorial and Sewing Pattern

If, like me, you’ve long admired the 1890s bicycling or sporting sweaters but did not know how to knit, this sewing tutorial and pattern is for you, no knitting required!WCIH9664

I wore this sweater to the Reno Tweed Ride, along with a wool skirt and witch hat I made. (A tutorial for the Professor McGonagall-inspired deerstalker hat is in my previous blog post).IMG_3336

This lovely example is from the Met Museum. It features a heavy knit, giant upper sleeves, fitted lower sleeves, a turtle neck collar, and buttons.The Met Museum.jpg

I have made a simplified version with a similar silhouette using 2 yards of 59″ wide  “Telio cable knit” fabric from Amazon (affiliate link). It also comes in pink, gray, and blue. It’s not a real yarn sweater knit but it is inexpensive because of its wide width, easy to get, and most importantly it is chunky and not thin. If you want a more authentic look you can look for a real cable knit fabric in cotton or wool, but it will be more pricey because those come in smaller widths. (If you end up using a “real” knit it will be stretchier so cut a slightly smaller size of pattern).

This tutorial assumes some basic pattern drafting skills and also that you have a serger. (This will keep the knit fabric from fraying and also keep the seams stretchy).

The pattern pieces were drafted to fit a woman with a 34″ bust and 28″ waist (or slightly larger because of the stretch). If you are busty or have a soft belly I have an alternative pattern piece for the front that will fit at least a 36″ bust and 30″ waist, with some extra stretch for slightly larger measurements. (If you don’t fit these measurements I will explain what to do below as well).

All pieces include a 1/2″ seam allowance.

BODICE PATTERNIMG_4296

The pattern pieces for the front (red lines) and back (purple lines) of the sweater resemble a sleeveless top. They are mostly the same except the front piece is a little wider and the neckline is cut a little lower. If you are flat-chested or like a tighter fit use two of the back pattern pieces (and cut the neckline lower on one piece to make it a front). If you use two back pieces this will fit a 34″ bust/28″ waist. If you use the front and back this will fit a 36″ bust/30″ waist. This will fit larger sizes depending on how stretchy your fabric is.

For each piece FOLD YOUR FABRIC IN HALF and put the pattern piece on top, with the folded edge on the right. When you cut through 2 layers of fabric and open them you will have a complete pattern piece. Do not cut the fold!

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If you are slightly larger than the measurements you can scoot the pattern piece towards the left and add extra inches to the folded size.

If you are very different from the measurements you can make your own pattern by taking a sweater that fits you and tracing the main body as a guide. Remember to add seam allowances! IMG_5443

BODICE CONSTRUCTION

After you have your front and back, sew them (right sides) together at the sides using your serger. Repeat by sewing the shoulders together. (Note: on the extant sweaters the shoulders are not sewn together but fastened by buttons. If you prefer that look then you’ll want to not sew your shoulders closed at this part. You’ll also want to extend the top shoulder area of your front bodice piece to ensure an overlap, and serge the raw edges. I opted to sew my shoulders closed because my fabric is stretchy enough that the neck opening was sufficient).

For an extra fitted look (or if you’re wearing a corset) I recommend putting it on inside out, pinching out any excess on the side, marking it with chalk, and sewing and trimming the excess. Do this before you put on the sleeves or collar!

To keep the raw edges from fraying, also serge along the edges of your armholes, neck opening, and bottom hem. Turn up the excess length on the bottom hem and stitch down with your preferred technique (with your serger, zig-zag stitch on sewing machine, or straight stitch if you don’t mind losing horizontal stretch).

You should now have a sleeveless top.

UPPER AND LOWER SLEEVE PATTERN

Each sleeve consists of two parts: a large puffed upper sleeve and a fitted tube-like lower sleeve.IMG_4302IMG_4303IMG_4290

As you can see, the upper sleeve is huge. (The sleeves are the main reason I chose a wide width knitted fabric). If you are uncomfortable drafting a curved sleeve head based on the diagram above you can start with an existing large puffed sleeve pattern from your collection. Perhaps you have a Regency or Victorian dress pattern in your stash? Trace that puffed sleeve, then slice it down the vertical center. Pull the two halves apart. Further. Keep going. Yes, they really are that big. Then fill in the missing middle by tracing your new pattern on another (really large) piece of paper. If the sleeve isn’t tall enough to match the measurements given, you can also slice it horizontally and extend.

The lower sleeve is mostly a tube that tapers below the elbow. I have long slender arms; you may have to widen this part of the pattern if you have a more athletic build.

SLEEVE CONSTRUCTION

Sew the long edges of the lower sleeve (right sides) together to make a tube. (Again, use your serger for the sleeve construction to avoid fraying).

Sew the straight edges of the upper sleeve (right sides) together to make a giant um, thing. Serge all edges of your sleeve openings now because it may be too thick to put through your serger once it is gathered/pleated.

Gather the bottom opening of the upper sleeve so that it fits into the top part of the lower sleeve and sew the two parts together. You should now have something resembling a chicken drumstick. IMG_5459

When worn, you will push part of the lower sleeve up so that the bottom of the upper sleeve hangs over it, like the next photo:IMG_3032

Pleat the top part of the upper sleeve to fit into the armhole of your top. The direction of your pleats is a matter of personal preference, but just make sure you mirror them on the other sleeve. IMG_3298

Put on the sweater, push the lower sleeve to the desired location as described above, and mark where you want your sleeve to end (at the wrist).

Fold up the excess at the end of the sleeve and stitch down to have a finished edge in the same way you did the bodice hem.

COLLAR PATTERN

The turtleneck collar is based on trapezoids. Fold your fabric in half and put the shorter edge of the trapezoid against the fold and cut out your shape, ending up with sort of a hourglass drum. Do this twice.

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COLLAR CONSTRUCTION

For each piece you are going to fold it down the center horizontally, right sides together (so that it is inside out). Sew the side seams and then flip it right side out. The top doesn’t need to be sewn because it was on the fold. Serge the bottom (long edge) shut.

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Pin the collar pieces to the neck opening of your bodice. The front and back collar pieces are going to overlap on the sides where you put your closures. You will want the front to overlap the back on the outside. Sew the collar pieces to the neck opening, right sides together so that the serged seams are hidden inside when worn.IMG_5494

For closures you will add buttons on each side of the collar. The number will vary depending on the size of your buttons. IMG_3361

I put hidden snaps on my collar because my knit was too thick to put through the buttonholer on my sewing machine, and I was not about to make buttonholes by hand! If you’re not as lazy as me or you have a thinner knit you can certainly make buttonholes for your buttons.IMG_3037

Now you are done and your 1890s sweater is ready for a Tweed ride, historical costume event, or even everyday wear as history bounding!

PROJECT COSTS:

I paid $23.06 including shipping and tax for 2 yards of “Telio cable knit” fabric from Amazon (affiliate link). The buttons, snaps, and thread were items previously purchased cheaply and/or in bulk so my total cost was about ~$25 for this project. Obviously, your costs will differ depending on what kind of fabric and buttons you buy, but this is to demonstrate that a historical sweater doesn’t need to be expensive!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I hope this tutorial was an understandable and accessible way for people who cannot knit (or don’t have the time) to make an 1890s sweater. If you make one with my tutorial please comment below or send me a message on Instagram @freshfrippery and let me know!

For those of you brave souls who actually want to knit your own, there is a knitting pattern for an 1890s sweater by Kelsey Patton on Ravelry. 

For now I am wearing my sweater with a wool skirt but I have plans to make some bicycling pants in the future.

Have fun and go on splendid adventures with your sweater!

I am happy to provide all patterns and tutorials for for free on my blog. It is absolutely optional, but if you would like to donate towards my domain registration and the data costs of hosting the many photos on my site, consider buying me a “coffee”: https://ko-fi.com/freshfrippery.  Thank you!Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 9.28.46 PM

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Professor McGonagall-inspired Deerstalker Witch Hat Pattern and Instructions

Professor McGonagall is my favorite character in the Harry Potter books/movies, and I love her tartan hat with the little ear flaps. I recently made my own and got some requests to share the pattern so here you go!IMG_3350

The hat has flaps on the ears that you can wear down or tied up. My hat is made from wool left over from a matching skirt that I made. The nice thing about this project is that it doesn’t require a lot of fabric and can be made from scraps.

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This hat sits on top of the head (and the pieces are sized for my 22″ head). If you want the hat crown big enough to cover your head you’ll need to resize the pieces a bit.

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This is the movie hat for reference.

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PATTERN PIECES AND MATERIALS

The hat uses several simple shapes and in the sections below I’ll describe how to draft and assemble them. I apologize in advance that I have a lot of pictures of the pattern pieces and finished item, but not the construction process since I made this at night right before a trip. However, construction is pretty straightforward! The pattern pieces include a 3/8″ seam allowance.

Materials:

  • Tartan/plaid print fabric (wool or cotton flannel)
  • Fusible foam interfacing
  • Regular fabric interfacing or stiff cotton organdy
  • Lining fabric
  • Ribbon or twill tape for ties and inner binding
  • Small comb
  • Thread, etc.IMG_3438

THE CROWN

The pattern:

The shape is a big cone. The center of the cone (which will be the front of the hat) is a little longer than the edges (which will be the back of the hat) since the crown tilts backwards a bit. To draft this shape you can draw a giant circle with a 19″ diameter, and then cut out about 1/3 of it as a starter shape, then use the measurements in the diagram below to help you get close to the final shape. The other option is to draw a triangle with 8.5″x8.5″x16″ triangle and then add the rounded part on the bottom. IMG_3439

Assembly:

Cut 1 fashion fabric, 1 lining, and 1 interfacing. For the lining I used a scrap of nylon (but any thin fabric is fine). For the interfacing I used single sided foam stabilizer which gives your crown some stiffness and structure. I use Bosal brand (Amazon affiliate link) In-R-Form, which is designed for purses but makes nice hats.IMG_3046

Iron lining to foam interfacing first; I’ll refer to it as “lining” from now on because it’s become one piece. Sew the back seams of the lining together (right sides together) to make a cone shape and trim excess bulk from the seam area. Sew fabric into cone shape the same way and flip right side out. Put fabric cone over lining cone and stitch bottom edges together to create your crown.

THE BRIM

The pattern:

The shape is a modified circle with a hole in the middle. To draft it draw a 12″ wide circle (or trace a large plate). In the center draw a 5.25″ wide circle (or trace a bowl). Cut out and discard the inner circle. Draw a curve on the sides like a butternut squash; this is to allow you to pull up your earflaps later. (Fold the pattern in half and cut both sides at the same time to keep it symmetrical).IMG_3442

Assembly:

Cut out 2 brims from fashion fabric and 1 brim from interfacing. You’ll want the brim to be thin and a little floppy so do not use the foam you used for the crown. I used some stiff cotton organdy because I had that available, but you can use other kinds of fabric interfacing.

The goal is to end up with a donut with the interfacing inside, so layer your pieces in this order: fabric, fabric, interfacing (with fabric right sides together).

Stitch the outer edge of all the pieces together, then flip inside out from the center hole in order to have the fabric facing out and the interfacing sandwiched in. Then topstitch the outer edges (for neat finished look) and topstitch the inner edges (to keep the layers together for the next step).

Sew the bottom edge of the crown to the inner edge of the brim, making sure the raw edges of both pieces face into the hat. Trim extra bulk from the foam if needed.

THE EAR FLAPS

The pattern:

The ear flap is a tongue shape. You can draft this piece by making a 4.5″ x 5.75″ rectangle and curving one end. (Fold the rectangle in half length-wise and cut off a rounded corner to make sure it’s symmetrical). The straight edge is the side that will be sewn to the hat.IMG_3443

Assembly:

For each flap cut 2 fabric and 1 interfacing (4 fabric and 2 interfacing total). The ear flaps should be soft so use a very thin and light interfacing, such as the lining to your hat. The assembly for each flap is just like the brim. Summary: put the fabric right sides together with the interfacing on top, sew together on the outer edges, flip right side out, topstitch all edges.

Stitch one flap to each side of the hat underneath the brim. This should be along the area where the brim curves in. I recommend pinning the pieces to the hat and trying it on to make sure the flaps cover your ears before sewing down. Sorry I forgot to take a picture before I sewed in the binding.IMG_3447

To cover up the raw edges inside the hat, hand-stitch in a ribbon, twill tape, or bias tape. I used a 1-inch wide music print twill tape because it was cute, but actually this is too wide and will cause ripples like my hat. If you want a smoother appearance a 1/2 inch ribbon is preferred.

Since this hat sits on top of your head, for security I sewed a small comb in the front.IMG_3448

THE HATBAND AND TIES

The pattern:

The hatband is just a long finished strip. Cut a long rectangle 22 inches long x 2 inches wide.IMG_3449

Assembly:

Sew down the long edges, right sides together, making a tube. Turn right side out and topstitch both long edges. Sew the small ends together to make a big circle. Put the band on the base of the crown and tack down in several places next to the brim to keep it from falling off.

Here’s a top view to show that the top of the band is not stitched down, just the bottom.IMG_3446

For the ties cut 2 pieces of ribbon or twill tape and stitch to the ends of each earflap. I plan to mostly wear my flaps up so the the tape is stitched to the side of the flap that will not show. For an extra neat appearance you can sandwich the ties into the flaps during construction, but if they are sewn to the outside you can switch them later.

My ties are 18 inches long each so that they can also be tied under the chin. If you don’t plan to have the extra versatility you can make them shorter. I used a linen twill tape I had in the stash because it matched my wool, but a wide ribbon would look cute too!

IMG_3351The flaps can be worn tied up but do not meet in the back.

Your hat is now done! Go forth and have witchy adventures in the woods!IMG_3293

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Do you like this sweater? I’ll be posting a tutorial for it too, no knitting experience required! Please subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram @freshfrippery to make sure you get notified when the tutorial is posted!

All patterns and tutorials are provided free on my blog. I don’t charge for them but if you would like to donate towards my domain registration and data costs of hosting the many photos on my site, consider buying me a “coffee”: https://ko-fi.com/freshfrippery

Thank you!Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 9.28.46 PM

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Linen 1930s Beach Pajamas and a Vintage Robe for a Miss Fisher Tea Party

A group of friends and I had a Miss Fisher tea party at Pardee House, a historical home in Oakland, CA. We dressed in 1920s and 1930s clothing (or later decades if one preferred), and booked a tour of the home and a delicious tea afterwards. It was a lovely experience and I highly recommend Pardee for anyone in the area.

I wore a newly made set of linen beach pajamas using the “1930s Last Resort Beach PJs” pattern from Decades of Style, paired with a true vintage 1930s rayon robe. (Thank you Sara for all the outfit photos).IMG_2109

My green glass necklace is also vintage. My shoes are from Royal Vintage Shoes and my hat is from eBay.IMG_2110

I’ve used this pattern before and really liked it. (You can see my previous set of PJs and pattern review here).IMG_2113

I made the garment from some peach-colored linen that I had left over from another project. The trim on the neckline, back, hem and ties are orange “rococo” trim. There is a zipper in the lower back and two large pockets in the front.IMG_2115IMG_2020IMG_2025

I faked having short hair with this little clippy tool. You put your hair through the flexible center, roll it up, and then secure with the clips.TDJT1497.JPG

I felt like Miss Fisher exploring a mystery in this photo!69457657_421578011804782_4825319839214075904_o

The food at the Pardee tea was so good and plentiful, and beautifully presented with all sorts of floral garnishes. RETO9820.JPG

Here are a few of the beautifully dressed ladies who were there with me: Natalie, Kelsey, Mena, Sara, and Jessica!69853869_421578128471437_8476538088061927424_o.jpgIMG_2107

Pardee Home is quite charming; I highly recommend a visit!69368379_421579175137999_5823233556041695232_o

Beach PJs project costs:

  • 5 yards trim: $6.60 from eBay (part of a larger order including shipping)
  • Pattern: $0 (used before)
  • 2.5 yards linen fabric: $25.50 from fabricmart.com (part of a larger order including shipping)
  • Zipper: $0 (salvaged from another item)
  • Thread: ~$1 from stash

Total: ~$33.10 (cool, comfortable, chic, and cheap!)

 

His and Hers Roman Costumes

My local costume guild had an event called “Nectar and Nectar and Ambrosia: Day with Dionysus on Mount Olympus” at a winery where Roman and Greek costumes (both fantasy and historically accurate) were encouraged. I challenged myself to make costumes for both myself and my husband in the span of a week, with materials I already had at home. In the end, the outfits really only took a few hours each (with the use of a serger) and a lot of the materials I used were leftovers from other projects or unwanted items people were giving away for free (so this was a budget and eco-friendly endeavor!)IMG_1198.JPG

Please note, these are historically-inspired, but ultimately fantasy costumes. They were good enough for the party I went to, but this is a costume tutorial, not a scholarly article. =) IMG_1236

Roman Women’s Outfit 

Roman tunics can be rather simple. I got this diagram from a friend and made a short-sleeved version of the bottom figure. As you can see, it is basically a giant tube sewn at the sides. At the top there are areas where you stitch together to make neck and arm openings.IMG_0308

You then add a belt to create the shape at the waist.IMG_1398

I stitched together parts of the top to allow room for my head, and used some decorative gold buttons I got from a friend. IMG_1400

I was gifted a beautiful embroidered silk sari by a friend who was moving and destashing. The sari had a number of snags and holes that I was perfectly fine with for a fantasy party outfit. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked for a ballgown, but hidden in lots of folds it was fine! The sari also had some areas of sheer netting and beaded flowers which are not historically correct for the Roman era, but good enough for me!IMG_1409

My sari was 6 yards long, but not wide enough to cover the full length of my body. IMG_1422For the simplest sewing, get a very wide fabric (55″ or so) or a solid (so you can use it lengthwise) so you don’t have to have a waist seam or worry about pattern-matching. Since my sari was only 44″ wide and most of the nice embroidery was on the long edge, I had to piece together mine with a waist seam hidden by a belt.IMG_1424

The final width of my top (measured across the embroidery) is 25″ plus seam allowances but of course this will depend on your measurements and how long you want your “sleeves.” (I also have narrow shoulders and limited fabric so I didn’t have a lot of gathering in the front).

So if you have very wide fabric and are not super tall, 1 yard each of fabric for the front and back of your tunic is plenty for many people. Add a few more yards for your palla and you are Roman!IMG_1408IMG_1411.JPG

I didn’t have a lot of left over fabric after cutting the tunica, so my “palla” is too short to be fully wrapped around me properly, so I tucked one corner into my belt, then draped it over my opposite shoulder and arm. For reference, mine ended up 76″ x 44″ but I recommend a longer one if you want a fuller look.IMG_1370.JPG

I think the ripples look quite nice when they hang just right.IMG_1244

My belt was made from some soft woven ribbon from a gift box. I sewed some gimp braid down the center. The braid was left over from another project. For those of you keeping track, that means so far everything was free!IMG_1410

For accessories I wore pieces from an Indian bridal jewelry set I already owned. I wore the necklace on my head with some large earrings and bangles.IMG_1280

I put my hair up and also made a false braided bun with leaf pins that I already owned.TMPR6435.JPG

Underneath the dress I wore a full-length slip (that I actually got from a swap party and mended), plus some Roman-looking sandals from Target.

Roman Men’s Outfit 

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My husband’s tunic is constructed similarly to mine, except it is shorter and has longer sleeves. He also doesn’t have peekaboo shoulders because the sleeve seam is sewn shut, but the neck hole is made the same way. Originally his was 1 yard wide, but he ended up wanting even longer sleeves so I had to add some rectangles of fabric at the top sides like a t-shirt. His is made from white cotton I had leftover from my Gibson Girl petticoat project. I sewed trim across the sleeve  and shoulder seams and neckline before hemming the sleeves. Extra trim was tied around his waist like a belt. IMG_1791.JPG

For the first time my husband’s outfit cost more than mine! (Although still it was only about $10 of materials).

I had originally planned to drape some colored fabric around him with a brooch, but he declined the extra layer of fabric since it was a warm day. He also wore sandals from Target. It took us a while to find the largest pair they had in the women’s section. =)

It was a fun event with creative costumes on a beautiful day with friends like Natalie and Kelsey.IMG_1181

Kelsey and Todd as Caesar.IMG_1187

Adrienne and Elizabeth as Artemis and Diana.IMG_1209

I’m tempted to make more Roman outfits now. This was easy and comfortable, and rather flattering for just wrapping fabric!VMOB9427.JPG

Twinkling Lights Space Dress with LEDs

I am excited to show you my space dress, which had hidden LED lights I could turn on to make a twinkling galaxy with stars! I wore this last weekend to a private evening event at the Lawrence Hall of Science.JJPQ1221

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For the bodice pattern I used Vogue 8789, a 1950s dress pattern, but modified the skirt to be longer and slimmer. IMG_9752

I have used this pattern a number of times and like how easy it is to put together. The front and back of the bodice has 2 pieces each with darts, and the neckline facing just flips inside.IMG_9754

The space fabric is an embroidered galaxy-themed mesh. Since it’s transparent I flat-lined it with opaque black peach skin fabric for the top. For the skirt, I needed to maintain some transparency to let the lights show through, so the skirt is lined with a semi-sheer black chiffon. IMG_9758

Underneath the skirt I wore a petticoat with the lights sewn on in a random pattern. That way I could wash the dress separately. (It’s easier if you attach the lights while the finished petticoat is on a dress form, rather than trying to sew the lights to the fabric first). I made the petticoat about a foot shorter than the skirt of the dress because I was afraid I’d accidentally put my foot in the wrong place and trip on the light strands. (This is why the lights don’t go all the way to the bottom of the dress).IMG_0244

The petticoat is just a large rectangle gathered at the top with an elastic waistband. (Use a wide elastic at least 1 inch wide, otherwise the weight of the battery pack will make the petticoat sag). My battery pack had 3 AA batteries. I’ve seen some that use coin-sized batteries that are lighter, but this is what I happened to have on hand.IMG_0249

The side seam of the petticoat had a pocket for the battery pack, plus a snap to close it. The 3 sets of wires from the battery pack connected to the 3 strands of lights I had on the skirt. (Multiple strands allows you to have them twinkle because they are not all blinking on and off at the same time). I could also have them on continuously all at once.IMG_0246

I got my lights and battery for free, but it is easy to find “LED fairy lights” on Amazon and other sites. Look for battery-operated lights and long strands so you don’t have to use too many. I have not purchased this particular set on Amazon (affiliate link), but if I were to make this again I’d upgrade to these lights that have a remote control!

This dress is a bit hard to photograph in action, but here is an outdoor shot at night. You can visit my Instagram to see a video of the dress blinking.IMG_0108

I wore shoes that I dyed and rhinestoned. IMG_9767.JPG

My solar system necklace was from ThinkGeek.IMG_0250.JPG

DRESS PROJECT COSTS:

  • 3 yards space fabric: $33.57 on Aliexpress
  • 5 yards black chiffon: ~$7 from Fabricmart Fabrics. (I bought it during a $1/yard sale and bundled it with other items for shipping).
  • Thread, zipper, snap, etc. from stash: $2
  • LED lights: $0 (I got them for free but otherwise I’d spend ~$12 on Amazon)
  • 3 AA batteries: ~$1

Total cost: ~$42.57 (or ~$53 if I had to buy the lights)

If you make a space dress of your own I’d love to see it! IMG_0152

Taking Control of Your Costuming Happiness (Part 3 of the Good Costume Manners Series)

This is Part 3 of a series! If you haven’t read them yet, Part 1 is “It’s Not Necessary to Be Mean: Snark in the Costuming and Cosplay Community” and Part 2 is “Good Intentions Don’t Excuse Bad Behavior.”

I’ve previously discussed good costuming manners towards others but with this post I’d like to discuss something a little more personal: approaching this hobby in a healthy way by taking personal responsibility for and control of your costuming happiness. This means shutting down the brain weasels of self-doubt and giving up on unrealistic expectations for yourself and others.

Please note, nothing in this post should be construed as encouragement to be unkind to others because you think “See, it’s their responsibility” and “They’re just whiners.” The point of this post is to encourage people to let go of some baggage and have a great time regardless of where they live or how experienced a cosplayer they are. More sewing, less crying!

Let’s Talk About FOMO

Social media makes it really easy to see what other people are doing and feel they are having fun at conventions and parties without you, resulting in FOMO (fear of missing out).  This feeling is natural and common and nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes I see beautiful event pictures and think “Wow, I wish I could have gone to that!” However, what is not healthy is to take your feelings to one of two extremes I’ve seen:

  1. Getting depressed because you think nobody likes you.
  2. Being angry because the event wasn’t public.

1.  Getting depressed because you think nobody likes you: If you were not invited to an event, it is quite possible that the venue had space restrictions, the hostess wanted an intimate event because she didn’t have the energy to wrangle a huge party, the organizer had a small budget, or this was just for members of a club. Please don’t take it as a judgement as to whether you were “good enough.” Think about which is more likely: someone didn’t have a big enough house to invite everyone, or they specifically singled you out for exclusion? When you say it out loud I hope the latter sounds silly and you understand there are many reasons why not everyone can be included, and they weren’t directed at you.

2. Being angry because the event wasn’t public: Imagine you had a pizza party at your house and your boss found out and was upset he wasn’t invited. Your response would probably be “Um, I wanted to have a party with my friends. I’m not obligated to have the whole town over for a BBQ.” Now think: why would that change if everyone was wearing funny clothes? Lately in the costume world I’ve seen a trend towards destination events, themed weekends, fancy dress birthday parties, and other intimate social gatherings. I’ve also seen some people get upset about private events and accuse the organizers or attendees of snobbery and exclusion. Not only is this often hurtful and untrue, it will not encourage people to invite you in the future. If you willfully misconstrue and misrepresent the neutral behavior of others as malicious, you are exhibiting the behavior you accuse others of.

No one can invite everyone to everything. Sharing a hobby does not entitle you to be included in every event your fellow hobbyists organize. If someone decides they want to have a small 1940s tea party or a casual evening get-together in their hotel room at a convention they can. It doesn’t mean that they are being mean. It means they had limited seating or they didn’t want to share a house rental with strangers. It is not personal, and not being included is not a judgement on you, your self-worth, or your skill as a costumer. You don’t have to feted at event to be a “real” costumer; just by trying to costume you are being brave and creative!

You Can Host Your Own Events

People in metropolitan areas may be blessed with more venues and opportunities, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have an event of your own where you live. Please consider that when you say “There’s nothing going on where I live” do you really mean “I want someone else to do the work and I can just show up”? Sometimes if you want something to happen, you have to get the ball rolling. An event doesn’t have to be elaborate to be fun. Pick a theme and make a restaurant reservation and post on Facebook with an open invite (and tell your friends to bring their friends). Your area may be too rural to attract a comic con, but it doesn’t mean you can’t host a picnic or a day at the beach for fellow fans of a movie, book, time period, style of clothing, or other interest.  Don’t underestimate the interest a simple picnic can generate! The recent 1830s event I went to sold 50 tickets in the first hour.

I’d also advise you to scale up slowly. For your first event choose something inexpensive that doesn’t require a lot of cash from you, so you don’t get stuck losing money if a few people drop out at the last minute. Have everyone buy their own movie tickets and collect money up front if you have to pay a deposit or reserve a block of seats somewhere. Once you’ve established a core group or gauged local interest you can dream bigger (but you don’t have to; small events are fun too because everyone gets a chance to know each other).

Also check the costume policy for a venue in advance. Some places do not allow costumes because they don’t want guests to mistake you for an employee or paid performer, which is very reasonable.

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Adventurer’s Meetup: Dress in steampunk or explorer costumes and have a scavenger hunt in your town.
  • Downton Abbey House Tour: Find a historical mansion in your area, get in touch with the docents, and ask if you can arrange a private tour for your group in exchange for a donation. Have everyone dress in Edwardian or 20s clothes.
  • Medieval Melee: Gather at a park dressed as a knight, princess, wizard, orc, etc. and bring a foam pool noodle as a weapon. Hold court, declare war, pick sides, and fight. Have a potluck feast celebrating the peace treaty afterwards.
  • Victorian Beach Day: Wear old-fashioned Victorian bathing suits and have fun at the ocean or lake, whether you actually go into the water or not.
  • Anime Breakfast Club: Dress up as your favorite anime character and visit a diner. If this becomes a regular event you could pick a movie to watch and discuss at monthly breakfasts.
  • Dapper Museum Visit: Find a museum with an exhibition for a particular artist and dress in the clothing of that time period.
  • Seafarers at the Aquarium: Dress as a pirate, sea captain, sailor, or Jacques Cousteau and marvel at the sea life.

There’s No Conspiracy Against You

There is no costuming Illuminati. There is also no global cabal of people who hold secret meetings to vote on who’s cool and who’s not. Most people are way too busy fretting over their own cosplay to worry about yours, and if they are a big enough jerk to say something they’re really saying something about themselves and not you. (See my comments about nitpicking).

I’ve been involved in sewing (historical costuming, cosplay, or vintage) for close to 17 years now, and the vast majority of people I’ve met have been nice and welcoming, and just so excited to meet another person with the same weird hobby. I’ve made so many great friends! If you are new please keep in mind that chances are you will also make friends if you are open to it. Put out good energy and you’ll get the same back. If you show up to an event expecting to have a bad time, you’re going to have a bad time. If you snub everyone because you’re expecting them to snub you, you’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is a fact of life that some people will not like you. (Many others will!) Sometimes someone will not like you for a silly reason, such as resembling an ex-boyfriend, your ability to wear a color they think they can’t, or because they misheard something you allegedly said. Why obsess over something you have no control over, from a tiny fraction of the people in the community? Hold your head high and carry on with your hobby.

That being said, there are some nasty corners of the internet. For your mental and emotional health, avoid wading in those cesspools. Don’t go looking to see if you’ve been posted to troll forums. Do you really need to know what a 13-year-old edgelord thinks of you, your body, or your costume? Block someone who’s being a jerk and move on.

The Internet is a Blessing and a Curse

In some ways costuming is easier now than when I first started. The internet and e-commerce websites have created a lot more indie companies selling historically accurate patterns, individuals offering 3D-printed props, specialty wig and cosplay suppliers, and small businesses selling niche items like reproduction shoes and jewelry. Museums are putting high resolution photos of their garment collections online. There are educational podcasts and tutorials and lots of inspiration available on Instagram and Pinterest.  All these readily available resources mean it’s a lot easier to put together a “good” costume. It has also increased the pressure to put together a “good” costume right from the start, and every time afterwards.

For people with savvy or resources their first attempts might not be the same as yours. We all start somewhere, but that starting point is different for everybody. The end point is also different for everyone, often by choice. (Remember not everyone wants to be screen or historically accurate!) It’s not a contest or a race. Use the internet as a resource, but not a rubric by which to judge yourself or others. Remember that Instagram is highly curated and people repost outfits, and not everyone posts the things that didn’t work out. Don’t let the algorithm fool you into thinking that everyone else is constantly making epic outfits all the time.

Have Reasonable Deadlines

It’s not fun for you to be crying the night before or morning of an event because you are still sewing. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time you have, and start early if you can. Remember:

  • Done is better than perfect.
  • Most people won’t notice the “flaws” you do. If they do, why are they that close to your personal space?!?
  • Machine sewing is ok. Polyester is not always bad. Glue can be used judiciously.
  • You don’t need something new for each event. You can change up an outfit with different accessories if you want a fresh look, but remember that in historical times clothes were costly and worn repeatedly. If anyone has the gall to sneer at you for “wearing that old thing” remind them that it is historically accurate to re-wear outfits, wear homemade items that varied in skill, and refashion older garments into newer ones.
  • Done. Is. Better. Than. Perfect.

It’s Okay To Take a Break

If your cosplay hobby does not make you happy, ask yourself why are you doing it? Are you doing it for your own fun or to impress others? Are you staging elaborate photoshoots you find exhausting in order to gain followers on Instagram? Don’t forget to have fun with your hobby. Self-validation is much more satisfying than validation from a fickle audience.

Even if you’re doing it for yourself, it’s easy to have burnout if you are constantly churning out costumes, or you have other things like family and school that need your attention too. It’s okay to take a break, whether it’s a brief time-out for a project that’s not working out, or a longer period of weeks or months to regroup and regain your joy. It’ll still be here when you return.

You’re not obligated to attend every event or make something new for every event. Consider this official permission to say no to yourself or others.

Well, That’s Easy for You To Say

You might be reading this thinking, “Well it’s easy for you to feel confident when you have a big wardrobe and a group of friends to do cool stuff with.” I am not Athena who sprang full-grown from the head of Zeus. I had to start out knowing just a few people and having very little sewing experience at my first events. Here’s a few of my early costumes compared to my more recent ones.B207D332-8271-4A75-8AF5-D2ECF40802EB.JPG

(I wish I could find a photo of my first costume: a “medieval” dress made of tablecloth fabric with shiny Christmas trim on it. It was off-white with ill-placed red embroidery and more than one woman offered me a tampon).

Compared to now, some of the earlier outfits have questionable fit or materials and styling issues, but back then I didn’t let a lack of polish stop me from having a good time! I have nice memories from every event represented above. It took me a long time to get to where I am now (and I still have room to improve) and some people get there faster, and that’s okay. (Shout out to those amazing high school and college students that sew like pros; I see you and I’m proud of you!)

My comfort with costuming didn’t occur naturally; I wasn’t a “cool kid” growing up. I’ve had glasses, braces, severe eczema, corrective shoes, speech problems, and a limp. I was, and still am rather clumsy.  (I am sitting here writing this while drinking a chocolate shake that may or may not have ended up where I intended). But I believe in “fake it until you make it,” not giving up because someone else is “doing it better,” and surrounding yourself with awesome, encouraging friends. (You ladies know who you are and I love you!)

I believe in self-fulling prophecies, and I am determined to have a good time. And so can you.

People like you and admire your costumes more than you know, and your “weird hobby” makes you interesting.

And remember what RuPaul says: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

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1830s Dresses at the Romantics Picnic

This past weekend the Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild held an 1830s-themed picnic, and I finally got to wear the 1830s cotton day dress I made a few months ago. Before the picnic I got dressed and took a few photos at a friend’s house.IMG_8621

I reused some accessories (like the bonnet and pelerine) from my 1830s silk dress ensemble, paired with a new moire ribbon belt and carved shell buckle. IMG_8618.JPG

Thank you to my friend Kaila who helped me get dressed, and wore a lovely silk gown that day.IMG_8609.JPG

Also joining us was Mena who had the most epic frilled cap!IMG_8622.JPG

The picnic was at Ardenwood Farms and it was a lovely day with a good turnout of wonderful costumes! I was impressed by how many people embraced the silly hair and giant sleeves of the 1830s. (The following group photos are all by Lori Clayton, used with permission). IMG_8431jkl

There were lots of charming ensembles in a variety of colors.IMG_8449IMG_8442IMG_8437

There were also a few gentleman in attendance (not all pictured).IMG_8399

And some of us got sassy showing off our corded petticoats.IMG_8441

The picnic spread was delicious.IMG_8634.JPG

Overall I had a lovely day out with friends! (Photo below by Sara of La Dauphine).from Sara McKee.jpg

The rest of my photos can be found on my Flickr album. IMG_8627