For Halloween I made myself a Victorian/Edwardian-inspired mashup witch costume. I got large amounts of sari fabrics rather cheaply from a local person after they were used as party decorations, and even after distributing most of it to friends I still had a lot left over, and decided they were perfect for a bright Halloween witch. Since this was a costume I didn’t worry about combining details from various decades.
The skirt is a basic pleated two-panel skirt with seams on the sides. One seam has a pocket and the other has an invisible zipper. Since the sari is thin and I had so much of it I flat-lined it with more of the same.
The blouse and vest patterns are both from Black Snail Patterns on Etsy. They are the 1890s Late Victorian Day Blouse/Bodice and 1890s Edwardian Ladies’ Vest. Because this was meant to be a Halloween costume I took a “theatrical” approach to the construction and skipped a lot of the detailed and historically accurate instructions in the patterns such as creating facings, boning, etc. so I cannot comment on those. As usual, I did find the pattern pieces to be well-drafted and needed very little adjustment. My biggest cheat is I sewed the sleeves from the blouse pattern directly to the vest to make one garment. This saved me a lot of time, and also made the costume less warm with less layers!
Instead of making lots of buttonholes for my small gold buttons I did hidden hooks and bars down the front of the bodice and the buttons are decorative.
The belt is made from a scrap of the green sari fabric, paired with a vintage belt buckle. The buckle is actually plastic painted gold but looks pretty good from a distance!
I’m afraid I didn’t do a great job tracking the yardage since I had basically unlimited fabric, but I would estimate that I used 3 orange saris (since everything was 2 layers) and one green one. The saris I got were used and pre-cut and were 3-5 meters each. Thus, my rough estimates for project costs are as follows:
4 saris: ~$20 (yeah I got a great deal!)
25 yard roll of pleated grosgrain trim: $9.50 from Amazon, and I have a lot left. (The trim usually runs about $40 a roll but I’ve bought other colors through random price drops).
Gold buttons: free from a friend
Vintage buckle: ~$10? (I don’t remember).
Thread, hooks and eyes, collar interfacing, lining: ~$5 (stash and scraps from other projects)
Bodice pattern: $8.60
Vest pattern: $7.37
Printing costs: $5.56 plus shipping (I had my A0 patterns printed by PDFplotting.com and the shipping was bundled with other things)
Total: ~$45 for materials and ~$25 for patterns I will reuse
Some final thoughts:
This project was all polyester. The fabric was pretty enough it didn’t “matter” if it was silk and I hope this a reminder that costumes don’t need to be expensive.
Did you notice that I pleated the front of the skirt differently than I did the back? I didn’t until I put the waistband and zipper on, and I didn’t care to redo it! Here’s a reminder that maybe “mistakes” aren’t really that big of a deal and probably most people won’t notice.
I did some cheats to simplify construction. What works for you is what works for you, whether it is historically accurate, historically appropriate, historically adequate, or historically adjacent!
Thank you for reading!
My necklace is antique glass and brass from the 1930s and my shoes are from American Duchess.
I made an 18th-century inspired mashup of Belle’s iconic yellow ballgown and her hooded winter outfit from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
The costume has aspects inspired by 18th century fashion but is not a historically accurate reproduction particular to a specific decade. I was heavily inspired by Brunswicks (the hooded traveling outfits) but you can also see elements from robe a la anglaise gowns, caracao jackets, and side-opening petticoats.
The yellow fabric I used is a quilted cotton harvested from a king-sized bedspread! It saved me a lot of time quilting, but the material created some challenges: I had to employ strategic cutting in order to maintain symmetry in the stitch designs in the final costume, and to keep the finished edges in the skirt, peplums, sleeves, and hood. The winter-appropriate thick cotton batting meant to avoid bulky seams I had to carefully pick out excess batting in the seam allowance of each pattern piece while maintaining (or restitching) the lines of quilting stitches. Raw edges were also serged to prevent fraying and loss of batting. Interior excess seam allowance had to be sewn down by hand since ironing was insufficient to keep seams pressed flat. In addition, the pleated areas were too thick to fit into the sewing machine and had to be stitched by hand.
However, I really like how the thickness of the material gave the garment a lot of structure, especially in the jacket peplum.
The scallops were also a feature I liked.
I lined the hood with scraps of white silk dupioni left over from a previous project. It was hand-stitched in so I could keep the scalloping on the hood.
The jacket was decorated with realistic foam roses on wired stems that I trimmed and shaped with pliers to create a base for hand-sewing onto the jacket. Each rose is accented with red crystals I glued on individually using E6000 Fabri-Fuse glue, which I highly recommend. (This is not the regular E6000 glue. Fabri-Fuse is low-odor, dries quickly, and comes in a squeeze bottle with a sharp tip for detail work).
The yellow and white striped bows are made from vintage French ribbon with picot edging, accented with antique lace. Each sleeve has embroidered tulle lace, large red satin bows, and a rose.
The outfit was a combination of self-draping and Frankensteining. The main body of the jacket and sleeves used a heavily modified version of the Period Impressions 1780 Polonaise pattern, which I previously used for my Outlander dinner party dress. However, I took out some back seams and altered the sleeves around the elbow region. The peplum was created by holding and pinning material up to the upper jacket on the dress form until I got the length and fullness I wanted.
The hood doesn’t stand up by itself, so it’s being held up here by a piece of boning to show you the shape:
No pattern was needed for the quilted petticoat, which was constructed in the same manner as your usual 18th century petticoat with side slits. The front and back panels were pleated into twill tape that served as waistbands and ties. Because of the thickness of the material there were less pleats than usual and I left a large section of the front center unpleated to allow for the jacket to sit flat over the stomach.
Total: ~$161.73 (I’m not including the shoes or jewelry because those were items I already owned for other costuming purposes. About $40 of the total is a wig I can reuse, plus I had some left over materials, so I’m calling this project a win for my pocketbook!).
I had a lot of fun making and wearing this costume. I even entered it in my first ever cosplay contest and was delighted to be a finalist in the Cosplay with Singer contest this fall! Here’s a video of the costume in action that I made for the contest:
Enjoy this silly video of me trying to fit my large costume through a small space.
It’s not a secret I love the 1930s, and my usual daily uniform consists of a buttoned vintage-style blouse, high-waisted pants, and a cardigan. I originally purchased the Wearing History 1930s Day or Evening pattern intending to make solid-colored, long-sleeved, long-peplumed blouse for a fall outfit, but decided to start with the short-sleeved, short-peplumed version.
The fabric I used is a Liberty of London print that was a holiday gift. It’s a modern print with flowers and strawberries but I thought suited the 1930s pattern very well. The green buttons, chartreuse grosgrain ribbon, and white buckle were all vintage.
I did modify the pattern to allow for buttons since that’s my favorite style of blouse. The original pattern has 2 closure options for the center front: a hidden placket with snaps, or button loops and buttons. This means if you use the pattern as-is, your right and left fronts will meet in the center. If you decide to modify the pattern to have buttonholes, you need to take account adding enough ease in your fabric to allow for the overlap. You don’t need to change any other pattern pieces. Please also note that if you like the center bow in the stock images, using the pattern as-is may be a better choice.
My shoes are from American Duchess. The hat is an 18th century straw bergere that I trimmed with flowers and ribbon. The purse is a crocheted 1930s reproduction.
Another small modification I made was to take the shoulders in slightly. This is not an issue with how the pattern is drafted; I have narrow shoulders so that is a change I normally make for many patterns. The other consideration is that strong shoulders are historically appropriate for 1930s and 1940s blouses, but can be overwhelming on my smaller frame. I cut out the blouse and sleeves as directed, but at the attachment point I took a larger seam allowance in the upper half of the armscye. This allows for a slight reduction in both the bodice and sleeve without the need to redraft.
I lined the cape with a blue and black plaid fabric I got from a friend but constructed my cape in a way to make it reversible.
The cape is inspired by an antique cream and black one.
I made mine using a light-weight wool for spring/fall usage.
One of the cute details this cape has is the contrast on the collar, which I repeated on the lining to make it fully reversible.
This cape pattern is available in PDF format but is a gridded pattern you have to scale up. To save time I just printed the pattern extra large and taped the pieces together.
The closures are hidden under the back of the cape. The front pieces wrap around and you can finish them either by with hooks and bars or a ribbon bow. I had to trim a little bit off the ends because of my body shape. If you are large-busted you may need to change the size of the darts on the front wraps.
Overall, it’s an easy, good-looking cape and I plan to use this pattern again for a witchy wardrobe!
Like all the other Wearing History blouse patterns I made, I am quite happy with how this turned out. It is not a complicated pattern because there are not many pieces. There’s some leeway to adjust the fit by moving the buttons and buttonholes a bit.
The shoulders have a split which make for a cute detail. Plus there’s a belt in the back with a buckle.
I loved the way this blouse looked with the red cigarette pants, but I had enough fabric left over I decided it would be also fun to make matching shorts. This way I would have the look of a romper but the convenience of a 2-piece outfit.
I made my costume according to the Rebel Legion Jedi Librarian/ Archivist/ Historian Costume Standards but please note, I am not a RL judge and this post reflects my own experience making my costume and is not an official guide of any sort. This blog post will take you through the layers of my costume (with a dressing video at the end).
I used heavier fabrics like wool and cotton twill because I intend to use this for winter events; you’ll want to stick to cotton and linen if you plan to use it in warmer climates.
The bronze and blue colors I used are the same as Ravenclaw house colors, hence my Jedi name being a reference to a founder of Hogwarts.
UNDER TUNIC AND SKIRT
I made the under tunic out of a poplin fabric with slight stretch. You actually don’t need a full shirt; a dickey just showing the collar is sufficient. However, for warmth and laundering reasons I wanted a full shirt.
Any mandarin-collared shirt pattern will do but I used a modified Simplicity 8768 (affiliate link), simply because I already owned the pattern. It is the top half of View A. Instead of a zipper I put snap openings down the center front. (The pattern runs large so I had room for the overlap closure).
The CRL guide requires either pants or a floor length skirt. I opted for a navy cotton twill skirt with a very full sweep. The skirt is self-drafted, but if you have basic sewing skills you can make one. Mine is made from gored panels to reduce bulk at the waist, but if your fabric is not thick you can do a simple gathered skirt. Please note that if you are planning to wear this for Saber Guild or any activity that requires stuntwork, I recommend a full circle skirt for mobility reasons. You can’t do a high kick with a narrow skirt!
I’ve also seen that some people do sew the the inner tunic and skirt together, so you don’t have to fuss with waistbands if you prefer.
As before, I have a hidden tie closure inside the tunic, plus hook and bar closures on the outside.
The use of a coat weight wool for my tunic means it hangs beautifully like a real coat, and will be cozy for the winter!
BELT AND TOOLS
The belt is hidden under the obi, and is only used to hold up the tools. I’ve heard that these “tools” may be keys of some sort. They are actually optional items, not required for RL approval, but I think they add something interesting to the costume and are fun to make! Since the belt is not seen, I just used a modern belt.
My tools are based on the ones that Jocasta Nu wore in the Star Wars prequels.
Since I do not own a 3D printer I made the tools using items like broken pens and other items I had around the house.
The bulby thing used a wooden honey dipper (Amazon affiliate link). I drilled a hole in the top of the honey dipper, added a button cover and 2 pen parts on bottom, then added pairs of metal jump rings to the handle and top of bulb.
The stylus thing consists of 5 pieces from various pens reassembled plus half a jewelry clasp at the top.
Everything was glued together with E6000 and painted with Rub ‘n Buff. Key rings were added at the end and then I cut leather straps to hold them to the belt.
The CRL specifies the pouch must be suede with a drawstring closure. I found a suede pouch on eBay and then modified it. I punched extra holes and moved the cord so that the pouch would be gathered in the center front similar to Jocasta’s. I also cut a leather strip (slightly wider than the ones I used for the tools) and sewed it to the back of the pouch to give it a hanging loop. I swapped the wooden bead with a different closure I had in my stash.
If you want to make your own pouch from scratch, it’s a simple U shape. This is what it originally looked like before modifications:
OBI AND TABARDS
I would say that the defining feature of the Jedi librarian are the long tabards with the geometric designs. The original ones that Jocasta had were embroidered, but I’ve also seen people use upholstery fabric that’s woven with designs, or draw them on themselves with fabric pens or paint. I opted to make my own custom fabric using navy heat transfer vinyl flocking on to of bronze silk shantung. (At the time I made my costume I had not seen anyone else in the Rebel Legion use this technique for librarians, but I was approved and the CRL is vague about how to achieve the geometric designs).
I used a Silhouette machine (like a Cricut) to cut the designs after drawing them in the software. For those of you not familiar with these machines, they look like printers but with a thin blade instead of an ink jet. After cutting you peel away the excess material, apply it to your fabric with a hot iron, then remove the clear plastic backing. I used flocked HTV so the navy blue material had a velvety texture against the bronze silk. Here’s a test piece showing you what it looks like up close.
Here are some videos of the process.
My obi closes in the back with hidden hook and bars. To keep the tabards level I have them sewn to the obi.
As for more explanation about the pattern shape for the tabards/obi and what shapes are acceptable under RL guidelines please refer to my Generic Jedi post. A few important points:
There are no shoulder seams. The top portion of the tabards curve from the front to the back.
The tabards are angled like a Y. They will not sit right if you just try to have 2 very long rectangles. You can save fabric by hiding the seam behind the obi.
The exact dimensions depend on your height and size, but for me I started with a lot of 6″ x 36″ rectangles and cut off extra as needed. You will need 14 rectangles (2 top tabards, 4 bottom tabards, 1 obi, then double everything for a lining). This includes seam allowance.
The tabards and obi have 2 layers: sew them right sides together on the long edges and one short edge, flip right side out to sandwich the raw seams, then hem the remaining short edge to your desired length. The hemmed end hides under the obi.
I used silk shantung which is lightweight by itself, but got heavy enough with the addition of the appliqués. I recommend using interfacing if you use thin fabric because you will want the tabards to have a decent weight to not flap around when you walk.
To help prevent the tabards from slipping off my shoulders I have a hidden snap on each shoulder.
My boots are the same ones used in my Generic Jedi costume: “Gabi” boots purchased from Slimcalfboot.com during a sale. The CRL calls for “low-heeled and closed-toe shoes” for skirts and calf-high brown or black boots if you’re wearing pants. Zippers must be on the inside of the leg if present.
Finally, here is a quick video of me putting on all the layers! The 3D printed Jedi holocron is from 3D Pro Designs on Etsy. I put my hair up in a bun and have 4 vintage U-shaped hair pins sticking out.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Your cost will vary a lot depending on what materials you use. I used a lot of wool, silk, leather, and flocked HTV, which raised my costs, but I got my fabrics on sale and reused my boots, which lowered my costs. If you’re on a budget I recommend looking at upholstery or drapery fabric for materials that already come with geometric designs, and sticking to cottons for your tunics. I also got really lucky on a crazy deal for my wool, which should have been the bulk of my cost. I’m also a bargain hunter when it comes to cosplays and go looking for deals on eBay or other places instead of buying everything “new.”
Originally for Part 4 I had been planning to write about how I’ve seen a rise in boorish behavior from people bored at home during quarantine. (Some have decided to play gatekeeper and criticize cosplayers and historical costumers about their weight, physical resemblance to a character they’re portraying, materials, etc.) Instead I feel like this is the time to discuss a much more toxic form of gatekeeping: racism, whether overt or subtle, purposeful or not. The past several weeks, as protests mounted about the deplorable way Black people are treated, I’ve seen members of the costume community respond in a myriad of ways that range from helpful activism, to shrugging it off as not their problem, to racist acts or comments of their own about the Black Lives Matter movement.
If you are reading this, chances are high that you are interested in cosplay, historical costuming, re-enactment, and/or vintage fashion. Chances are also high that your hobby has a disproportionately low number of BIPOC (especially Black and Brown) individuals compared to their presence in the general population and you’ve wondered why. Perhaps your local club or area is diverse but on a national level the hobbies are not. The reasons for this are too numerous and complex for a blog post but some of them are:
BIPOC don’t feel welcome. (This, and what you can do about it, is going to be the focus of this post).
Some hobbies are expensive and individuals from marginalized communities may have difficulty meeting the financial bar to purchase the costumes, materials, membership fees, or con badges.
Some BIPOC fear that their friends and family will think they are being frivolous or “acting white.”
You, as an individual, may not have any control over the cultural and social constructs that have led to #2 and #3, but you can do something about #1.
BIPOC are not stupid. You don’t have to be overt and put up a Confederate flag on the lawn to drive people away from your hobby. BIPOC look for little clues like how many other POC are in a club, what kind of “jokes” are shared and tolerated by the membership, or if an organization has any policies on discrimination.
I’m not saying you, Reader, are a bad person. But perhaps you have tolerated some bad behavior, that behavior gets seen, and those micro-aggressions are little drops that grow into a trickle that becomes a river that POC might look at and say, “You know what, I don’t have the energy to wade through that just to play a game.”
I’d like you to consider if you have done the following things:
Your friend says something racist at an event but you don’t want to “kill the vibe” by calling him out because you’re afraid it’ll make everyone uncomfortable.
When your Black friend asks for cosplay suggestions you only suggest characters like Black Panther, Blade, and Storm.
There’s that one guy at your Civil War reenactment or Viking camp out who’s a little too aggressively interested in “heritage” and has some weird rants about minorities, but you decide he’s just really serious about his hobbies and keep inviting him back.
Your family member comments on your Facebook album of con pics, “Hey it’s Black Batman” or “Mexican Wonder Woman” and you don’t say “No, it’s just Batman and Wonder Woman” because you figure why bother correcting him?
You see an Asian person wearing a costume you don’t recognize but automatically assume it’s a geisha or anime character.
You state “I’m not into politics” because you’re afraid of alienating your sponsors or fan base.
Some of your fans compliment you with “It’s great to see an actual white person do this character because so many people doing it just don’t look right!” and you simply say thanks.
When asked what your stance is on civil rights issues you give a vague, non-committal answer about how you think everyone is important.
You justify following a popular costumer on Instagram or Youtube despite a history of terrible behavior because you “just like their pictures” or “I’m a fan of the work and not the person.”
I’m not saying you’re an awful person if you did those. It’s natural to want to avoid conflict and sometimes you’re not in a situation where it is safe to confront someone in person. Perhaps you have a business contract you can’t get out of. However, those actions or inactions are seen and heard, and interpreted by people who might have otherwise been interested in joining up as a NOT WELCOME sign if they see it enough times.
What can you do?
If you see someone saying something racist, call them out. If they seem misguided, educate them. Maybe you can’t change their mind but someone else might see what you’re doing and know you’re not being complicit.
If someone makes an inappropriate joke tell them it’s not funny. If they insist, make them explain why it’s funny.
If a POC tries to join your club or reenactment don’t automatically try to steer them towards an ethnic character or persona because you think it’s “historically accurate.” Give them a chance to decide what they want to do.
If a POC does want to portray an ethnic character don’t assume they’re “trying to make a statement” or “want to be special.”
Speech, objects, and traditions that may have been accepted or tolerated in the past may be considered harmful in the present. Be aware that historical does not mean appropriate.
Google things on your own before asking your BIPOC friend to explain it; they’ve probably done it a lot and are tired of answering basic questions.
If you make a mistake, apologize. If someone tells you that your post is hurtful or has negative connotations, don’t double down and say “That’s not what I meant” or “That’s not how I’m using it.”
Familiarize yourself with the terms “performative activism,” “virtue signaling,” and “gaslighting” and why those actions make others uncomfortable.
Don’t pretend that because you are religious, have a history of charity work, or “don’t see race” you’re exempt from wrongdoing or criticism.
Also remember that people can change. Someone that made some mistakes in the past and thoroughly disavowed their former selves can be congratulated instead of continually dragged through the mud. There’s no incentive to change if you are still vilified after changing. Of course, this only applies to specific, genuine apologies and not “sorry you were offended” non-apologies. This also does not mean that as an ally you should expect your BIPOC friends to applaud every little thing you do; that would be exhausting.
Being excluded from a hobby is trivial in comparison to some of the other awful things happening in the world at the moment, and I am not a scholar or expert on race matters. I’m just a costumer that’s seen some things and want to stick to speaking about what I know. However, the point remains: Treat others as human. Don’t be an ass. Listen to your friends when they say they are hurt. Don’t talk over marginalized people with your own irrelevant anecdotes. Sharing a hashtag doesn’t absolve you of responsibility.
As an Asian American and a resident of a diverse area I tend to experience micro-aggressions because of my skin color (mainly online or when I travel), but I do not experience some of the particular and horrifying things Black costumers and reenactors encounter. I am definitely not as eloquent and informed about this subject as I’d like to be and would prefer to defer to other more appropriate voices. For more information about the Black experience in America and discussion of problematic behavior: Cheyney McKnight of Not Your Momma’s History is a wonderful historical interpreter and educator who has a website, Instagram, Youtube, and Patreon. Please feel free to suggest other POC costumers who strive to educate others in comments below. Thank you for reading!
(This post was originally written at the beginning of June, but I didn’t feel it was the right time to share then, when so many Black voices were struggling to be heard. I hope this is the right time now, not because the struggle is over, but because I’ve been seeing non-BIPOC individuals asking what immediate, relatable, and specific actions they can start taking now in their lives among the people they encounter and to make their hobbies more welcoming).
I had some gray and pumpkin-colored knit fabrics in my stash so when I saw that pattern I thought it was the perfect way to use up some fabric. This was a sewing pattern, no knitting knowledge required! Plus it has pockets! (I decided to color block my pockets. That is not in the pattern; if you like to keep things simple you may find it easier to make solid pockets as instructed).
Because this is a pattern using stretch knit fabric I recommend that you have a serger. If you are very determined to make it you could probably zig-zag everything tightly. This pattern is meant for knit fabrics; I don’t know how it would look with woven fabrics.
This is a reproduction of an antique pattern from the 1920s so it came in only one size (42″ bust). This was not my size so I had to grade down from the pattern to make it fit me. I also found the sleeves too baggy on me so I also had to slim them down. The pattern does not have a lot of pieces (back, fronts, collar, sleeves, pockets, waist tie) so if you have knowledge of grading you can manage it just fine. I am 5’6″ and did not have to adjust the overall length.
Depending on the width of your knit fabric and your size you’ll need about 2-3 yards to make this cardigan. (Please see the size chart on the pattern listing). The knits I was using were very thin and fine so I had to self-line and double my yardage. I used 2 yards of the pumpkin fabric, all lined with gray fabric. My collar, cuffs, ties, and pockets all used some gray as well. I had scraps left over from both colors; I would estimate I used almost all of the 2 yards of pumpkin and about 3 yards of gray. (If you are using a thicker knit you won’t need to line so your yardage would be half of what I used).
This pattern is listed as “expert difficulty.” My personal opinion is that the construction is not very difficult but the reason why this is not a beginner pattern is because it comes in one size (42″ bust) so you will have to know how to grade patterns if it is not your size. (Luckily it is an open front cardigan so it can run big and has room for error!) The other reasons why Wearing History lists her “Archive Couture” patterns as advanced or expert is because some of her patterns (plus the instructions) are reproductions from antique patterns, which assumed a certain level of sewing knowledge and did not do illustrated step-by-step instructions like modern patterns.
Pattern from Wearing History: $5 from her Etsy; it is on sale for now
5 yards of rayon/poly/lycra rib knit: $26 plus $5 shipping from Fabric Mart.
If you are looking for something comfortable to wear around the house I highly recommend this pattern! I’ve already been looking at my stash and thinking I can make another one for wearing at the office or with dresses.
Note: You may have noticed that my cardigan is used as an example on the Wearing History Etsy listing. The photos are used with my permission. I paid for the pattern myself, and was not paid to make this blog post.
At the event I wore the pants without the extra skirt panel, but for a future wearing I plan to use this versatile garment with the skirt panel buttoned in (which makes them surprise pants!)
I used 20 silver-colored metal shank buttons that have been in my stash for years. I think I paid 25 cents a button a long time ago and have been saving them for a project that needed 20 buttons! I got the wool for a great bargain too ($20!)
The blouse was up-cycled from a second-hand cotton dress! I removed the skirt and used the extra fabric to make new sleeves and cuffs (replacing the 3/4 sleeves), extend the hem of the blouse, and also line my vest. (It would have been even less work to just cut the skirt off a few inches below the waist seam, but it had a lot of gathered material that would have created bulk below the split riding pants).
For my other accessories I wore American Duchess Tavistock boots, vintage fringed sueded gloves with studs, a wool hat with a silver emblem I got from Poshmark, and a pleather pouch from Amazon.
The pouch (Amazon affiliate link) had slits in the back for threading the belt through to wear as a hip pouch, plus internal loops to wear as a purse. It’s “old-time” enough that I think it’ll end up in other costume ensembles!
Some notes about the Wearing History pattern: It comes with a short and long version of the skirt. Since I had limited fabric I cut the shorter version and was able to get a vest out of the scraps. (I used 3 yards of 54″ wool). The pants are unlined.The skirt panel is faced with self-fabric and contains all the buttonholes while the buttons are sewn onto the pants. There are two options to attach the skirt panel. You can have one side sewn into the seam of the pants (which means you won’t lose the panel and you can make half as many buttonholes) or you can have the panel completely removable. If you have the panel attached you fold it over to one side and button it down. I opted to have the panel completely removable because my self-faced fabric folded over would have meant 4 layers of medium-weight wool and more bulk than I wanted. (If you use a lightweight wool or other fabric you don’t have to be concerned about that).
The back of the skirt has an inverted box pleat that you can stitch down the center back seam. I did not do the stitching, in order to make the back more skirt-like.
The pants are very full so even if the skirt is buttoned in place in the front there should be plenty of range of motion due to the extra fabric in the sides and back.
Pattern difficulty is “advanced” according to Wearing History. This is because this is a reproduction of an antique pattern from 1919-1920 and assumes certain basic knowledge. Wearing History has added some really helpful notes, but this is not the kind of modern pattern that has step-by-step illustrations. You should know how to make and attach a placket for the opening and the facings on the bottom hem. (These are rectangular pieces you make yourself from scraps, and are not included in the pattern).
I am an experienced costumer maker and have made pants before, so I did not find this pattern particularly difficult, but it is not a beginner pattern for sure. I highly recommend this pattern if you are experienced or an ambitious intermediate seamstress. It was definitely fun to wear with the rest of my guild!
In February my local costume guild went to see an exhibit of James Tissot paintings at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, and we dressed up in bustle gowns. The exhibit was wonderful and it was lovely to see my fellow costumers.
My shoes are American Duchess Tissot shoes that I dyed blue and made shoe clips for out of my fabric scraps.
The blue trim is pleated grosgrain ribbon, which I put on the collar, cuffs, belt, and skirt flounces. I made my hat using a palm fan (more on that later in this post)!
My buttons were made using vintage fabric over vintage covered button kits. (The bodice actually closes with hooks and bars and the buttons are decorative). I prefer this technique because it means I can adjust the fit more easily and I don’t have to make a lot of buttonholes!
I recommend the Black Snail pattern. It consist of a bodice with an attached “apron,” a skirt, and long sleeves. The bustle effect is achieved by having ruffled flounces on the apron and skirt, and by having hidden ribbon ties underneath the apron.
The pieces all fit together well and the sizing chart was accurate. I was impressed that even the very large pieces of the skirt panels fit together, which means the pattern was graded well.
The sleeve is an 1870s two-part coat sleeve with a seam down the elbow and another seam on the inside of the arm. It is loose-fitting and appropriate to the era, and the fullness of the sleeve head needs to be eased into the shoulder of the bodice.
I made some simplifications to the Black Snail pattern in order to speed up the project:
I did not bother making a skirt placket and facing for the underskirt, since the top half is covered by the apron overskirt anyway.
The pattern calls for the back half of the underskirt to be cartridge pleated into the waistband. I did regular pleats since the top would be hidden.
I cut my flounces using the straight grain instead of on the bias like the pattern calls for. This is so I could use the selvedge instead of hemming the many yards of flounced fabric. However, this meant that my flounce stripes are horizontal instead of diagonal so you should cut on the bias if you prefer the diagonal. (The other reason why I used the straight grain is because I had limited fabric and the bias cut takes up more yardage).
The bustle effect comes from gathering up the apron overskirt in the back with twill tape. The pattern asks you to sew pieces of tape to the bodice then sew buttons to strategic parts of the overskirt that get attached to buttonholes on the tapes. In order to skip making the buttonholes I just used tapes on the skirt as well to tie to the bodice tapes.
Just a warning: if you purchase the pre-printed pattern please make sure you have large paper around your house. There are some pattern pieces where you are told to extend the piece by up to 15 inches. (This was done by cutting a piece through the middle, inserting some paper, then drawing lines to connect the original pieces). I had to do this for a number of the larger pieces, and I didn’t expect to do so much assembly for a pattern I did not print at home. I’m not sure if the reason behind this was to save paper costs, but I would have gladly paid a little more for the pattern to avoid the extra work.
Here’s some photos I took of the dress in progress so you can see what the apron looks like up and down.
Black Snail recommends 11 yards of 51″ wide fabric for this dress. I only had 9 yards of 42″ fabric but made it work by using straight grain flounces instead of cutting my flounces on the bias like the pattern recommends.
Underneath my skirt I wore a “phantom bustle” (made during a class taught by Christina Deangelo) and two antique petticoats.
On top I wore this custom silk brocade late Victorian corset by Redthreaded. I own several other pieces by them and they are all very well-made. They offer both ready-to-wear and custom sizing and the owner Cynthia Settje is committed to great customer service and fair treatment and wages for her employees.
My hat base was made by me using a palm fan I had around the house! I trimmed it with leftover fabric from my dress, some leftover floral trim from my 18th century shepherdess outfit, and a little bird I got from the craft store. (I am wearing glass intaglio earrings from Dames a la Mode).
The fabric is a long pleated rectangle with pointed ends.
When I said palm fan, I literally meant a palm fan.
I soaked it in water to soften it, cut off the handle, and molded it around a bowl.
After it was dry I machine-sewed the ends together and trimmed off excess.
Voila, a hat base!
For my hair I wore 3 false hair pieces: a large braided bun, a crown braid, and twist hanging from the bun.
I used a remnant of pink ribbon I had around the house to trim the hat, but I think for a future wearing I’d like to replace it with a much wider and longer ribbon.
Project costs (not including undergarments and accessories):
Oh it’s already February! I feel like the winter holidays happened recently but it’s already past the time I should be tallying up my 2019 costuming year in review! Each year I’m pleasantly surprised at the amount I’ve been able to make; I attribute a lot of this to the fact that if I can machine-sew or serge I will to save time!