Historical Costuming- Likes and Dislikes

Hello, my lovely blog followers!  I have so neglected my blog as of late that I’m actually surprised there are some of you who still follow me on here.  But I’m glad you’re still around!  My life has been a roller coaster since nearly the beginning of the year.  Big challenging life things, loss of one I held very close to my heart, and changes and things to adjust to professionally as well.  I have not forgotten the lovely old blog, I just had no time at all to spend dedicated to postings.  I hope to rememdy that soon.  In fact, my life suddenly started slowing down and I got smacked with a horrific virus, so while I’m over here coughing up a lung and staying home ill from work (which is not NEARLY as much fun as having a real day off for play), I got to thinking about things having to do with historic costuming.  You see, Costume College time is yet upon us again.  Where I usually like to spend most of the last six months trying to figure out what to wear I’m finding I have about a month to get all my outfits and gears ready to go… which is somewhat frantic, and somewhat fun all at the same time.

I know I post mostly pretty little inspiration images from the past, but every once in a while I’ve got to let myself out of the bag and share some (gasp!) opinions.  I know they are not shared by everyone, but let’s take a moment to be silly and indulgent, and share my personal likes and dislikes.  This time I bring you the Historical Costuming edition of my persona Likes and Dislikes, complied with some of my favorite costumes I’ve made over the years to illustrate.  This goes both into the making of and wearing of historical costumes, which I usually think of as anything portraying 100 years from today and older.


Like-  Feeling pretty in a costume.

Dislike-  Being called a “Pretty Pretty Princess.”

There’s this little thing going on around the costuming world that seems to divide the hobby into two camps.  There’s the “Historical Accuracy” club, then there’s the “Pretty Pretty Princess” club.  Surely, there has to be middle ground here?  I love historical accuracy.  I like getting the look right for the time period.  But for me it get to be “this is close enough”, and I think that tends to group me into the “Pretty Pretty Princess” group.  I love costumers from both worlds.  I like to look pretty accurate and feel pretty.  I may use modern technique and (gasp!) convincingly good looking synthetic fibres on occasion, but I like to have as accurate as possible of period cut and silhouettes but not put unnecessary pressure or stress on myself if I don’t get it 100% right all of the time.  But I hate being called a “princess”!!  That “title” was bandied about quite a bit when I was a senior in high school and I always hated it.  I have no illusions of grandeur,  I just like what I like and I want to get a good result.  So I think it’s fair that we can play a little bit in both camps.  Just don’t call me a princess, please.


Likes- Shopping for Fabrics in Person

Dislikes- Shopping for Fabrics Online

I’m totally spoiled and have the Los Angeles Garment District within distance to make it daytrip-able, so I love being able to hunt for fabrics in person.  There’s nothing like being able to feel a fabric in person and see the color accurately.  But there always comes a time when you need just a yard or two of coordinating fabric to  make your project work right, and it usually comes when the budget and time for fabric is very slim.  I stalk places online, but you just never know quite how it will feel or look in person.  So I go for online shopping for things that take few yards or I know I won’t need something to coordinate with it, or when it’s just a basic I need.  Otherwise, my online shopping finds always end in disappointment.  I know for my own sake I need to stay away from the garment district as much as possible, because I go crazy and never have the time to sew all the things I have fabric for.  And why is it that no matter how much fabric you have, you never have the right thing for your project?


Likes- Getting the period accurate silhouette with foundation garments

Dislikes- You have to make the foundation garment before you get to the fun part of making a costume.

Darn it, I’m now in my 30s and my figure it different. Which means I have to revisit making foundation garments if I want to make pretty dresses!  I HATE making corsets.  I think it’s SOOO boring!  But I like the silhouette I get with the right corset and other foundations that are needed for the period!  I think just about the only period underwear I like to make are Edwardian, because I can slap as much lovely lace on them that I want to.  Otherwise, sewing underwear and corsets is a snorefest for me.


Likes- Going to dress up events.

Dislikes- When my somewhat timid nature is misconstrued.

I like going to dress up events and talking to folks.  I love geeking out about costumes and vintage clothing.  But I have to fight pretty hard to overcome my shyness and somewhat timid nature.  You know that whole introverts vs. extroverts thing?  I’m totally in the first camp.  The interwebs makes it easy on us introverts, because we can say our peace and post pictures, etc, but we can then back away from it and keep petting our kitties and hiding out in our houses.  I only half jest.  But in reality, I have been told more than once by now dear friends that when they first saw me they thought I was a snob, and then when they actually talked to me they realized I was just shy.  How sad that makes me!!  I have since found that other shy types have had similar experiences.  I’m learning to be more outgoing as I get older, and once I’m confortable I’m quite a bit of a ham, but it takes a while to gain that confidence.  I don’t understand why there are many of us who have no problems putting on some big outlandish costume, but then when we actually have to talk about things our tongue gets tied.  Have you ever tried hiding out in the background in a bustle dress?  And yet we forget what we look like and retreat to our same ol’ social habits.  So if you ever meet me in person, don’t think anything of it if I’m shy or don’t introduce myself first. It’s not that I don’t want to meet you- it’s just that sometimes I don’t know what to say to get the ball rolling.  But I have learned with time, that when in doubt, we can always talk about our hobbies, and I love asking questions about how people made what they wear.

Which brings me to…


Likes- Admiring other’s costumes and talking technique

Dislikes- Snarkiness or unsolicited advice

I LOVE love love admiring and looking at other people’s costumes.  If I get the nerve up, I love to ask questions and drool up close at all the beautiful details.  Ask Colleen, of Costume College, how costumer’s greet each other and she’ll show you.  We look, we fondle fabric, we pet trim, and then we look each other in the eye and give a big hug.  Haha!  It’s so true!  But what I don’t like is observing or hearing snarky comments some people make about other people’s costumes. It makes me sad and hurts my heart.  Once upon a time I thought it was amusing, but thankfully, for a long while since, I found that all that snarkiness just came from a jealousy or a need to boost up ones self, knowledge and skill.  It’s sad.  I’d much rather encourage and see people grow and learn and keep on going and doing their thing.  We all had to learn.  So instead of being snarky from afar, or in comments, or giving unsolicited advice, learn to be gracious and help each other out.  There, I’ll get off my soap box now.  But wouldn’t it be so much more fun to play dress up if we didn’t have to worry about what other people were saying behind or back (or, to our face, or in our comments?)


Likes- Playing with Trim

Dislikes- Finishing

The thing I love the MOST about a dress is when it’s almost done and I can play with all the trims I want to make or put on a dress.  I love LOVE doing self trims and pouring over books and period sources to figure out how and where the trims would go.  Especially on early bustle dresses from the late 1860s to early 1870s when trim was THE THING.  But I HATE doing finishing steps, and usually I have to do that before I sew on on trim.  Hems! Blech!  Snaps and hooks and eyes! Blargh!  There has been many a time I have had a skirt permanently fasten with safety pins at the waistline.  I can make a whole darn dress but when it comes to five minutes to sew on that fastener- forget it!  And boning! Snore!  I have putting boning in Victorian bodices.  If I can get away without it I will.  And now you know my dirty little secrets.  At least two of them ;)


Likes- Getting all dressed up and ready to go out the door!

Dislikes- And then remembering you have to put your shoes on!

Shoes and then corset.  But I always forget that.  It’s hard to put your darn shoes on after you’ve been corseted.  Nuff said.


Likes- Planning how I’m going to make a costume.  The design bit.

Dislikes- Having to enlarge or make a pattern, especially if I’m in a time crunch.

I love patterns.  I have an abnormally large pattern stash.  But no matter how many patterns you have, they all need some finessing to get them just right.  None ever fit straight out of the packet, and the more I learn about period cuts and construction, the fewer options I have for ready made patterns for exactly what I want to make. There are some tried and true patterns I return to time and again (like Truly Victorian, which I used to make the outfit above), but some of them I’ve sewn so many times it almost feels like cheating to use them again.  But I really dislike having to draft a pattern once I’ve got my design I want squared away.  Le Sigh.  I truly am a designer in spirit.  I dislike making patterns.  There, now you know another little secret ;)  I do, however, LOVE draping.  Too bad there’s not more opportunities when time allows for it!


Likes- Feathers and Old Paper

Dislikes- Allergies!

It’s been nearly a year since I was aware I had allergies, and this will be my first Costume College with my awareness of my allergies to feathers!  WOE!  If you haven’t gathered, by the photos I’ve shared, I LOVE feathers.  They make hats that much more special.  But I am sadly now aware I’m allergic to both feather and the mold that grows on old paper, vintage clothing, and vintage fur.  Alas!  I’m still battling the allergies and going in for my allergy shots, so hopefully one day I can indulge slightly in my loves more than I have so far.  But if you’re wondering why I haven’t been posting as much in the way of original source material or listing vintage patterns as much on Etsy, now you know why.  I can do it with my ever so elegant Darth Vadar-esque face mask on, and sometimes without, but with my hyper sensitivity to these things, it’s often better to just do without.


I had fully intended to make it to number ten, but I’ve run out of things to say.  Instead, I’ll give you my version I made of a meme that was circulating on facebook a year or so ago.  That says enough ;)

Can you relate?  Do you have your own likes and dislikes?  Let me know in the comments below!

15 Comments on Historical Costuming- Likes and Dislikes

  1. Stephanie
    June 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm (11 years ago)

    #3 I don’t mind corsets but I dislike chemises and other undergarments….which is why I still don’t have a chemise for my Edwardian stuff and why I’ll probably end up with wearing a modern cami under all of my other period undies.

    #4 It must be something wrong with extroverted peoples’ brains because people think I’m snobby too just because I’m shy. :(

    #6 Yes! Hate on closures and hems and other evil things! I loathe hooks and eyes the most so I try to avoid doing them whenever I can.

    #8 I don’t mind having to adjust patterns as much but I dislike making muslins espeically when I have to fit it over a corset. So much work!

  2. Katie
    June 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm (11 years ago)

    I actually really like shopping online but that might be my agreement with #4 coming into play. Someone described me as “quiet” in-front of my husband and he laughed! He’s commented several times that once I know people I don’t shut up (in the nicest way, he knows he’s worse).

    re #5: I ran into a costumer IRL a couple of weeks where I brought this up as a reason I was afraid to attend Dress U. She assured me that they weren’t all like that but it still hangs around.

    I still absolutely love your 1870s Plaid dress- and not just because Green and Gold has a special place in my heart.

    And thank you for not making it into a trends list like BuzzFeed tends to, this is much more positive and enjoyable!

    • Isabella
      June 4, 2013 at 4:06 am (11 years ago)

      At Dress U, I have only once heard a snarky comment – and he very much deserved it (he was stealing from venders and doing other very uncool things). The vast majority of costumers that come to Dress U are of such a level that there wouldn’t be a reason to snark their outfits. They are all well sewn and wear well. Now, if you show up in a chainmail bikini with nothing beneath it or two pieces of fabric stuck together with safety pins at the shoulder, then, yeah, you’ll probably get snarked.

      • Lauren
        June 4, 2013 at 10:34 am (11 years ago)

        That’s great! It seems to me that things seem to be getting much nicer in general in the costuming community than I experienced in years past. I think that perhaps some of it comes from that we are able to form bonds with one another through so many online avenues now? Whatever the case, I’m so glad that the majority of us just want to have fun and play dress up :)
        I haven’t been to Dress U but it looks like a bunch of fun!

  3. Andrew Schroeder
    June 3, 2013 at 2:30 pm (11 years ago)

    Likes: Historical costumes
    Dislikes: Actually having to sew them.

  4. Andrea
    June 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm (11 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing your feelings? I don’t know if I consider myself a historical costumer any more. I think it’s been 10 years since my last costume. Back then, I was a dedicated member of the authenticity club. My main focus was Elizabethan England. I refused to use any pattern that didn’t come out of a Janet Arnold book. I even made my own starch for my and my husband’s ruffs. I think I share all your likes and dislikes, except 2. I LOVE making corsets and believe me, Elizabethan ones aren’t fancy. I did them all by hand, too. I find it soothing the handstitch all that channeling while watching tv, like knitting. I also love to shop online. Because I belong to the authenticity club, I became an early adopter of online fabric shopping. Back then, I sewed only with linen, wool and silk. I may live within walking distance of the famous G Street Fabrics, they were always out of my price range. I think I buy 75% of my fabric online.

  5. Jill
    June 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm (11 years ago)

    All I know is you are so darn talented! These outfits make me sigh and swoon with admiration! Hope you are feeling better soon!

  6. wacky tacky
    June 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm (11 years ago)

    Great post! Even though I am not a historical costumer, I can relate to many of these. I LIKE shopping for fabric with a full wallet and no particular ideas in mind. I majorly DISLIKE fabric shopping when I know what I want but can’t find it. I LIKE dreaming, drawing, designing. I DISLIKE sewing. I LIKE thinking I’m awesome for making something really simple. I DISLIKE the jealousy I experience when I see all of your awesome photos and inspiring creations. I’m glad you’re getting your allergies figured out and I’m glad you’re well enough to post your thoughts and opinions. Keep ’em coming!

  7. Janey
    June 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm (11 years ago)

    I was going to say what Andrew Schroeder said! I love to dress up, dance, act, talk, play, etc. in historical costume. But I hate sewing and I’m simply terrible at it. I wish the magic dress fairy would just come to my house and drop off a bunch of perfectly-fit period gowns.

    One thing you didn’t mention that I’ve noticed is how very supportive the costuming community is for beginners. I’ve gotten so much online and in-person help from people who know what they’re doing and I am tremendously grateful for it.

    Also, all your photos are simply wonderful and I covet every one of your dresses!

    • Lauren
      June 4, 2013 at 10:36 am (11 years ago)

      Ah! That should have been my #10! That is SO TRUE! Our online community is so fantastic now. It also helps a lot of us get new friends and acquaintances so going to those events isn’t quite so scary since we know people at least through online!

      Thanks very much :)

  8. Laurie
    June 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm (11 years ago)

    Oh I can relate so much to what you wrote, especially the introverted part! Between my shyness and my humble attempts at making costumes, I doubt that I’ll ever attend Costume College or any other such events. I’m glad that you and others post your pictures of all of you in your fantabulous costumes! The costume pictures you shared in your blog were much enjoyed and a great addition for this post!
    Laurie…a quiet blog reader ;)

  9. Laura
    June 4, 2013 at 6:49 am (11 years ago)

    Oh my goodness, I loved your #4. I went to Costume College for the first time last year and being among all those strangers was so overwhelming! People think that because you like wearing “funny clothes” means you MUST be outgoing and all, but that is not always the case. Although I’m not technically shy, I am quiet. I’ll sit by myself in a corner for hours and never introduce myself. I came back from CC and hadn’t met a single person. I have promised myself that next time I am able to go I will make at least one new friend!

  10. garofit
    June 4, 2013 at 11:55 am (11 years ago)

    Beautiful roundup of your amazing work, and may I just say, photo no 5 makes me dream with eyes wide open…

  11. Laura Morrigan
    June 4, 2013 at 8:42 pm (11 years ago)

    I sort of know what you mean about talking to people. I am very extroverted when it’s people I have things in common with. I can talk about books about magic, Victoriana, Steampunk and Gothic for hours, same with movies, and of course costumes, although I don’t know that much and am not that great at it myself yet, I love to know about it, and it gives me joy. I can hold conversations about these things easily. But give me topics like modern pop music and I will tune out, wincing. It’s mostly about finding people you have things in common with. I can be an extrovert with these people, but I come across as very introverted otherwise.

    I shudder at the idea of being picked on in the future by costume purists who find my student budget sewing not good enough, but in the end, this is my life, my Neo-Victorian style is a part of who I am and I wear Victorian and Steampunk inspired things every day if I can, so who is anyone to judge me on my life?

  12. gabriela g
    June 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm (11 years ago)


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