Overcoming Negativity- Recaiming Joy in your Costuming

Have you ever been so overcome with what you see on social media that you feel inadequate?  Is it stealing your joy?

Do any of these feel familiar?

  • You see others get thousands of “likes” on social media when you’re lucky to get ten?
  • You see others make garments seemingly every week or every month but you can only make one or two a year?
  • You see people who make their business in this hobby and are jealous their work is what you love?
  • You see people make gowns in silks or with yards of trims, when you are struggling and can’t afford new fabric?
  • You see other people have friends in the hobby and you feel alone?
  • You feel like the critical comments outweigh the supportive ones?
  • You feel like everyone has those special accessories that you can’t afford and it makes you feel inferior?
  • You feel like everyone gets to go to events but you?

My friend, you’re not alone.  We have ALL been there.  It’s easy to let those negative thoughts creep in and ruin our hobby.  Sometimes you might want to throw in the towel. Sometimes you might want to retaliate and tell everyone and the whole world how unfair it is.  It makes you sad, frustrated, angry, resentful or jealous.

Those feelings are human.  It’s what we DO with those feelings that speaks who we are.

Here’s a few little tips that might help you:

You see others get thousands of “likes” on social media when you’re lucky to get ten.

This is more than it appears!  Social media is now the hot thing.  Everyone is on social media.  But not everyone started out on social media.  A lot of the “big name” facebook and Instagram stars started as bloggers.  Back in ye olden days, even before blogger, there were chat rooms, livejournal, and other “social media” type things- we just didn’t call them social media yet!  That’s how a lot of us old timers got to be friends.  But starting those public blogs were scary.  Suddenly everyone could see what we did.  We were vulnerable.  It was empty, because comments were scarce.  In short, those “superstars” now were in exactly the same place you feel like you are now- undiscovered, charting unknown territory, learning as they went.  And sometimes it was frustrating to write it all down and get nothing back.  It felt like no one cared.  But they kept plugging along and pretty soon blogs were big news!  It seemed like everyone started blogging.  And just as quickly as it took off it died.  Facebook and Instagram took their place.  The platform made it easy to sign up.  Easy to post photos.  Smart phone technology replaced the digital cameras and memory cards.  More and more people got drawn to costuming, and more and more people started their own social media accounts.  Just remember this-  your “likes” do not indicate your worth.  Don’t do this for the fame- do this because of passion.  Your passion will be contagious.  People will be drawn to you because you do your best work when you do it to please yourself.  Don’t worry about anything other than who you are and what you have to say.

It’s easy to get caught up only in what we see.  It’s so seldom what it appears.  Even if people have a seemingly perfect life on social media, there’s heartache, pain, anxiety, depression, financial troubles, and things we can’t see.  Nothing is an open book.  Try not to put too much weight in what you see online.  It ends up empty and disappointing.

You see others make garments seemingly every week or every month but you can only make one or two a year?

This is REALLY HARD.  I’ve been in this place since I’ve had a baby.  But, you know what? Every season in life has it’s challenges.  The best way I’ve found to make this work when life is crazy is to have a dedicated space.  When you know where your space is, you can grab a few minutes a day.  Cut out one night.  Then just take 5-10 minutes here and there.  Focus on the long term.  Think how amazing that dress will feel when it’s done.  Don’t lose sight of that intial excitement and it will help you to keep on going.  And pour all you can into those one or two things.  One or two exceptionally made gowns will make you happier than a dozen thrown together haphazardly.  Be proud of your work. You deserve a little bit of “you time”, even if it’s just five minutes here or there!

Also, don’t forget that a lot of gowns we see on social media are recycled old photos. I know I’ve shared gowns I’ve made 5, 10, or even 15 years ago for Instagram challenges.  So even if it looks new, chances are they’ve had it for a long time!

You see people who make their business in this hobby and are jealous their work is what you love?

Getting real here as a business owner in this hobby.  I know other small business owners, and it’s NOT what it looks like from the outside.  Things look glossy and pretty and clean on social media, but a LOT of us are working hard with not much back. It took me at least four years of constant losses before I started breaking even.  When you own a small business every second can be spent worrying and stressing about deadlines, how to make things work, what to do when a crisis comes up.  You have to endure hard comments because they don’t realize it’s just one person (or a few people) doing the best they can, and not a big venture.  There’s no vacation time, and if there is, it’s unpaid.  And one of the hardest things- you pour your heart and soul into it, but the reality is that someone won’t be happy.  You really can’t win everyone, no matter how hard you try.  And you can take things really personally because it’s your baby.  Long and short-  everyone started small.  Some are still really small, but look really big. And a lot of projects we make we can’t make because of inspiration, but out of duty to our business so you lose the hobby side of it- it all becomes work.  It’s tough, but it’s worth it.  It’s just not as fancy as people think.  There’s something to be said for a reliable paycheck and company healthcare.

You see people make gowns in silks or with yards of trims, when you are struggling and can’t afford new fabric?

Money is always a hard one, as this can be quite an expensive hobby.  I know I seldom can afford $15/yd fabric- so what I do is wait for fabric sales. I’ve gotten killer silks for $6/yd, cottons for $5/yd or less.  I’ve thrifted great wools, used curtains, used sheets for petticoats.  I get my notions at thrift stores and estate sales.  I’ve repurposed tablecloths and linens.  I’ve pulled buttons off of thrifted dresses and coats.  I’ve made hats from placemats.  And you know what- NO ONE KNEW.  Except it’s really fun to surprise them with how much you saved by being creative!  Being able to buy retail priced fabric is NOT an indication of your worth.  Use what you can- be patient in your quest- and be proud of what you did!

You see other people have friends in the hobby and you feel alone?

This is a BIG ONE for a lot of people.  It may seem like a lot of people have their friends group.  And some do!  But it wasn’t always that way.  I am thankful for the friends I’ve made in costuming and vintage- but when it started out I was a nerd in school and NO ONE liked old clothes.  You know what made it change for me?  Finding Livejournal in the early 2000s.  I looked like a total emo girl with crazy ripped band tee shirts and dyed hair.  But inside I wanted fluffy edwardian dresses, beads, and S curve corsets.  I started searching for other people like me and I found them.  I was shy. I was nervous.  I felt judged for how I looked. But that was ALL ME.  Internal feelings.  I was accepted with open arms, and I think it was mostly because I was passionate about fashion history and we all had that in common.  It may take a while to find your “tribe”, but you’ve gotta take that first step.  Say “hi”.  Try to find a local costume group or reenactment group.  Try to get involved.  And try to overcome those negative feelings of not being good enough, being new, or being anxious.  And if first you don’t succeed- those just weren’t your people.  There will be more.  And when you find them, it’s worth the effort!

You feel like the critical comments outweigh the supportive ones?

I’m guilty of this one.  I’m REALLY HARD on myself because I always think I could have done better.  It’s one of my main personality flaws.  So even if I have ten nice comments it’s the one mean one I’ll focus on. And I’ll chew on it, fester on it, let it ruin my day.  Reality?  Whoever said that probably has forgotten about me a long time ago.  Let it go.  Roll it off your back. And one of the easiest things, which can start out hard, is not to engage.  If they don’t have something nice to say just keep on moving.  You can’t win them all.  And don’t eat up your time and energy with those feelings of inferiority, anger, or frustration.  You have sewing to do! Go stab fabric with a needle instead ;) . And remember that you do this FOR YOU.

You feel like everyone has those special accessories that you can’t afford and it makes you feel inferior?

Heaven knows it would be amazing to afford those new accessories for your dream outfit.  But try to keep this in mind-  a bride gets a special dress and accessories for her wedding day.  Maybe she does the same for prom. But, really, most people don’t get to play dress up as a pretty pretty princess other than a few times IN THEIR LIFETIME.  We get to do it all the time!  If you don’t have a closet full of period shoes, or hatboxes full of hats, or a jewelry box full of jewels, DON’T WORRY.  Our sisters back then didn’t either.  If possible, put aside $5 here and there and save up for those extra special pieces.  Chose ones that can be worn with lots of different things.  And pulling them out should make you feel extra special and accomplished because you saved up for them and they make you feel happy and proud.  And if those are still out of reach, hit the thrift stores, learn to remake and refashion, and make do with what you can for now.  There’s no shame in that!

You feel like everyone gets to go to events but you?

The dream of my heart is to travel more. In fact, I’d give up my fabric money if it meant a plane and hotel in a far off place!  But really, the people who can travel and go to events are far, far less than you expect.  Most people can’t. Some people save all year for one trip.  Some go every other year because every year is too hard.

If travel is outside of your reality right now, I suggest making your own event.  Invite a couple of friends.  Go to the park.  Go have tea somewhere.  Go to the seaside.  Have a little gathering in your home.  In reality, the most intimate of events are often the best because they strengthen friendship’s bonds and make us get extra creative.

One last thing.

Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Am I doing this to make me happy?

  2. Am I choosing fabric that gives me joy or because I feel like I have to?

  3. Am I spending time on this because I really want to?

  4. Is this a choice and not a chore?

  5. Does this project make me feel fulfilled?

  6. If I don’t get social media coverage will I still be proud of this?

If the answer to any of these questions are “no,” take a step back and look at the big picture.  Get a heart check.

Maybe you need a break, need to switch gears, or need to let it go.  I’ve done it many times, and when I have I’ve felt freedom.


“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (Galatians 6:4- NIV)




17 Comments on Overcoming Negativity- Recaiming Joy in your Costuming

  1. Ahuva
    November 3, 2018 at 11:08 pm (6 years ago)

    This was really helpful and so relatable. I was thrilled when I discovered people online were blogging about something I was so passionate about and my friends always (lovingly) made fun of me for. However, I have been in a position where I haven’t been able to afford to do any historical costuming for a number of years now, so I am always both in awe of what people have created or collected and sad that I can’t do the same myself. I also have never taken any sewing lessons and just got into it one day by buying a pattern and some fabric and sitting down at my mother’s sewing machine. I’ve only made a few things and always feel inferior when I see the incredible things being made by all the historical costumers online who have years of experience making their work exquisite and historically accurate. And exactly as you said, I often wonder if I chose the wrong field because it looks so tempting to me to be working in historical costuming!

    • Lauren
      November 9, 2018 at 8:25 pm (6 years ago)

      I’m so sorry it’s been a tough season. It’s really hard to hold tight and wait sometimes. But have faith and hand on! I also know that many (if not most) of the costumers I know haven’t taken sewing lessons but are self taught or had family help them get started. It’s amazing what people can do with time and effort- it really isn’t any indication of our worth when we see what other people have done- we all have our own journey and our own gifts- even within such a niche field as historical costuming. Hang in there and hopefully soon you’ll be able to get back to those dream dresses <3

  2. Merrie Hightower
    November 3, 2018 at 11:35 pm (6 years ago)

    Thank you for this!

    • Lauren
      November 9, 2018 at 8:21 pm (6 years ago)

      You’re welcome! Thank you for reading!

  3. Ruth A Williams
    November 4, 2018 at 1:42 am (6 years ago)

    Thank you. Thank you. Inspiration at the start of a new week. I was fortunate to have the local newspaper feature a story about my work last week. I heard very nice feed-back from friends, but not one comment from my family ( 7 siblings and spouses). Not one. I sulked a bit, but later realized – this (art work and sewing costumes) is for me, for my visitors at events, for people who understand and appreciate what I portray. My family doesn’t fall into that group. I had to ‘re-catagorize’ them. They are not my audience, so their lack of response, though hurtful, was just disinterest, not critique.
    Please, if you have a heart for something, persevere. God intends for us to use his gifts. You will find a way, little by little sometimes. Be steadfast. Be thankful.
    Heirloom Inspired Art and Miniature Portraits by Ruth A Williams

    • Rebecca
      November 6, 2018 at 9:03 am (6 years ago)

      Oh, ‘re-catagorize’! That makes so much sense!

    • Lauren
      November 9, 2018 at 8:21 pm (6 years ago)

      Congratulations on being in the local paper! How thrilling! I’m so sorry your family didn’t say anything. I admit, that would make me sad, too. But you’re right that it wasn’t a critique. Sometimes even people closest to us don’t know how we work- either our love language or or hobby.
      Thanks for the encouraging message to persevere! Sometimes we need to hold on and have faith.

  4. Joan Kuiperbak
    November 5, 2018 at 10:33 pm (6 years ago)

    Thank you for this. Been a bit down lately after having to withdraw from 2 fun sewing events but this is a real pick me up. Good advice: just spend a bit of time (just as much as you can) in the sewing room and have some fun. Just being able to have some fun can a blessing!!
    Thank you

    • Lauren
      November 9, 2018 at 8:20 pm (6 years ago)

      It’s so hard to say “no” to things that look fun. I’ve had to really limit what I can do with a toddler and it’s hard sometimes to see photos of things we didn’t get to do- but I know there’s other joys in this season of life I wouldn’t miss out on. I hope you’re able to find more time for the things you enjoy- and such good advice just spending time for fun!

  5. Rebecca
    November 6, 2018 at 9:00 am (6 years ago)

    I’m one of the two-dress-a-year people and this was such a helpful article. Thank you!

    • Lauren
      November 9, 2018 at 8:18 pm (6 years ago)

      You’re very welcome! <3 . Thanks for reading

  6. Laura J Olson
    November 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm (6 years ago)

    I was a Civil War reenactor (civilian) for some years in Michigan and enjoyed starting that hobby. But many negative critical people in the hobby started stealing my joy. Even on social media. It was rude, many times inaccurate of them and just plain not well brought up. I tried to refrain from getting in the spat, but I did bow out, because of constant issues. It did steal my joy. I had even progressed with creating clothing and was part of a sutlery. However, I can to realize I was not having fun anymore and wanted a different hobby. So I dropped it. I bowed out gracefully and that is enough for me.

    • Lauren
      November 9, 2018 at 8:18 pm (6 years ago)

      I’m so sorry you had such an negative experience. It must have been so hard! It takes bravery to move onto other things sometimes. <3

  7. Black Tulip
    November 11, 2018 at 3:01 pm (6 years ago)

    Thank you for this. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down, and it’s really helpful to have someone else remind you that you’re doing this not to compete or to meet other people’s expectations, but simply because you love it.

  8. Tracy
    November 12, 2018 at 11:21 am (6 years ago)

    Another great one! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Janine K.
    November 15, 2018 at 9:21 pm (6 years ago)

    Thank you very much for your inspiring words and the encouragement. Sometimes I was thinking… why I do this? Why wasting my money. But then there is the fulfilling feeling of happiness, when something is ready.
    We should be proud of what we are doing, no matter what other think.

  10. S
    November 20, 2018 at 6:10 pm (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the great post. As someone who suffers from perfectionism and social anxiety at times, these words ring true for me. Plus ‘Go stab fabric with a needle instead ;) ‘ made me chuckle out loud. Mostly I don’t post pictures to social media but I love all seeing all the pretty things people make. and I love engaging in the discussions. I have learnt that making things for my own enjoyment is the best way to conquer anxiety and perfectionism. I would love to go to more events, but living in Australia means we have a relatively small population who is interested in historical costuming, and travelling is not really an option at this stage of my life, so I am content to live vicariously for now. I think. One of the things I am focussing on is incorporating more vintage touches into my everyday clothing because it’s the fine details that draw me to historical clothing. It also allows me to express my quirkiness in little ways every day.

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