About Me

Hi! I’m Liz.


I am a scholar and folk artist who enjoys learning about the lives of historical and literary characters beyond their textbook descriptions. Researching historical context occupies a large chunk of my time when I am not performing my library duties. A habitual, almost obsessive collector, I love gathering vintage, antique, and handmade costumes as well as creating a few limited pieces of my own. Understanding history is the key to understanding humanity and conserving what small pieces of our past we have left–be it a shoe button, family bible, or vase– will help educate future generations about the “why?” and “how?” of culture. This blog was spurred by that love, and by the desire to make history and its costumes more accessible to the general population: those who are just entering the world of historical costuming and those looking to learn more. As a wobbly seamstress myself, I strive to do my best with my limited skills and means. I do not aim for perfection in my craft, but I strive to constantly grow my knowledge. I hope that my sewing experiments, research, and tricks will help others enter the wide, wonderful world of history, crafting, and costuming. All are welcome here, no matter your skill level, accuracy aims, budget, or preferred era.

You can contact me easily via The Pragmatic Costumer Facebook page:

the pragmatic costumer facebook

Click Here!


Costuming is my hobby. I am not a reenactor nor am I a professional seamstress for hire, so I do not do consultations or commissions. However, I am happy to answer other questions if you have them! This blog has grown along with me, so there may be older, outdated research in a few spots. I try to catch most of it, but without censoring myself. This blog is a record of my journey from clueless plebeian to slightly-more-informed plebeian and I am so excited to have others join me on the road! If you haven’t already, please take a gander at the Pragmatic Manifesto and the Costumer’s Code. If you are looking for something specific, I recommend using the Search Bar and Category Menu to the right to help you navigate through the myriad of rambling pages.

54 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Hello Liz, I just subscribed to your lovely blog. I am a graphic designer developing a product, and have come across a historical image on this blog. I believe it’s authentically an old image and public domain (hope so). I want to send it to you in the hope that you might be able to tell me it’s source. I am trying to get a higher res. image. I do not see the option of an upload on this thread. Would you kindly contact me so that I can send the image to you for id.? thank you very very much

    1. Most of the images on this site are from elsewhere on the internet or are my own photos. If you right click (or click and hold on a mobile device), you can find the image’s url by choosing “View Image.” If you can paste the image url here, I can tell you where I found the image and any history I have on it. You can also contact me via Facebook where you can upload the image in a message so I can see it: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Pragmatic-Costumer/286342218062090

  2. Hello Liz,
    I ran across your blog in an effort to learn more about the design of waistcoat buttons. I’m an avid button collector and current editor of the Texas State Button Society Bulletin. After reading your blog and researching deaths head/leek buttons, I find that you’ve provided a great start for an article. I was wondering if I could have permission to use some of your info – or better yet – collaborate with you on writing an article? I managed to find a few of these buttons in my own collection but had no idea about their origin or how they were made. I’m looking forward to hearing from you and excited to know more about these buttons.

    1. Hello, Pam!
      I am by no means an expert on death’s head buttons, but you are more than welcome to use my short article as a base for your own. Much of the info in my article is considered “common knowledge” level, but I am an avid researcher. If there is something you would like to know, I’d be more than happy to help you look for it! What sort of specific information or resources are you needing?

  3. Thanks for your reply, Liz. I reread your article and I was thinking that there might be more on who made these types of buttons and how they came to be. I actually have one that was made with human hair. I think I can take some photos of the ones I have and maybe compile the common knowledge that’s out there and point them to your blog if that would be ok.

    I just now cruised through more of your blog and clicked on Stuart crystals. In my 16 years of collecting, I’ve NEVER heard these buttons called Stuart Crystals. They are called breeches buttons to us. I had no idea that there was more history to these as well! I know that buttons are an important part of costumes/costuming, but this information is very interesting and important to button collectors too. Unfortunately, what you have on Stuart Crystals is more than I’ve ever heard about them. I don’t mean to get off on another subject – but I’m intrigued by your blog. Thanks for providing some great historical information on these items. I just might have to write an article about your wonderful blog. :) Either way, I will keep you posted as I progress. I’d like to run it by you before I publish if that’s ok. It won’t go to press until December so I’m a few months out so I might not catchup with you for another month or so.

    Thanks again for your insight and permission to work from your info as a base. I’ll be in touch.


  4. Hi Liz
    Matty here. I am a PhD Student and would love to know the book you read to find out about silk and shattered silk. Would like to read some more.

    1. Hi, Matty! I did not gather all this information from one source, unfortunately, so there is not one catch-all book that I can point you to. There are many links in the article that you may find useful. If you need a specific source for a thesis or other academic paper/application, you might try “Textile Conservation” by Frances Lennard and Patricia Ewer or contacting a textile preservationist/restorer directly.

  5. Hi Liz,
    Am an avid collector of 18th century dolls, so do get in touch if you are ever down near Brighton.
    Love your blog. It is great

  6. Great site!
    As a collector, I must ask…. Would you happen to have any antique shoes you would like to sell? Always looking!

    1. I don’t have any antique shoes for sale. Sorry. :( Do you have a website for your collection? I may not actively collect shoes myself, but all costumers love to research and drool over beautiful antique shoes.

  7. I stumbled across your blog, and am so glad I did! A retired elementary school teacher, I do re-enactments for the Civil War and Edwardian periods. Your ideas have already inspired me. Thanks so much for sharing them. I look forward to reading more.

  8. Hello

    I’ve been a keen follower of your site for some time. I’ve just started a blog on corsets “why a corset”. I’m not going into construction, or selling – just why we have worn corsets for so many years, and continue to do so. It’s at


    I’d like your permission to use one of your images. Why not post a message on the blog – noone else will see it as I moderate all comments. OR use the address that you will see linked to this post!


  9. Nice site… I landed here becauseI am writing a comment on two Rembrandt painting very much in the news these days: “Maerten Soolmans en Oopjen Coppit” full size standing paintings of 17th century Amsterdam couple… Now I am interested in a detail (for some special reason) being the material of the rosettes worn both by the gentleman and the lady and the silver white lines in the dress of the gentleman. My guess is that silver-thread is used here… The rosettes are made of ribbons says one of the few texts that goes into any detail on the dress of these two, Fashion and Fancy: Dress and Meaning in Rembrandt’s Paintings By Marieke de Winkel page 63 and 64.
    You can find them online at: https://books.google.nl/books?id=WEQy3xkbU9cC&printsec=frontcover&vq=Oopjen+Coppit#v=onepage&q=Oopjen%20Coppit&f=false

    Nobody details the materials of these “rich rosettes of ribbon” and to me it looks like silver threads have been used…

    I would like to hear your opinion on this… a reasonable size reproduction that allows you to study the dress a bit can be found at: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maerten_Soolmans_en_Oopjen_Coppit

    My interest are about the use of silver in the Netherlands and its meaning right after the state pirate Piet Hein Heyn) capture of the Spanish silver-fleet in Cuba in 1628.

  10. Hi! Love, love, love your blog! I also love that you LOVE stockings!

    Have you come across anywhere that sells 1900-1920’s style stocking anywhere? I would love to embroider them. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  11. Could you make the black and yellow soccer formal dress? My daughter loves it and wants to where one to prom. Black and purple or black and white. How much would it cost?

    1. Carrie, I am not a professional seamstress, just a hobby costumer, so I don’t take commissions. I would recommend looking for a local seamstress or checking Etsy for someone who could make a prom dress for your daughter.

  12. Love your site. I do some research on antique and estate jewelry for my husband’s business (usedjewelrybuyer.com) and have found your site most useful. Thank you!

  13. Hi Liz, I just found your blog tonight when googling “gibson girl costume”. I’m ridiculously excited to check out more of your posts. I have always had a love of history, American in particular, and am thinking of dressing up as something historical and fun for Halloween. Last year I was a 19th century saloon girl and this year I may go as a gibson girl. I just love your blog because everything seems so do-able. I’m not a seamstress and am definitely not willing to spend $300 on a costume so I can’t wait to read more here (love how much actual accurate history you’re including) and learn from you. On the history topic – any specific books on historical fashion that you would recommend? Thanks!

    1. Hello and welcome! Edwardian Gibson Girl costumes are super fun! Hopefully you will have better luck with the big puffy hair than I. :P As for books, there are so many! If you are looking for research only, like for shape, color, and design inspiration, I recommend things like Dover Books, which have volumes like “French Fashion Plates of the Romantic Era” and “Fashions and Costumes from Godey’s Lady’s Book.” If you are looking for more in-depth manuals covering techniques, I like Francis Grimble’s books quite a lot! I have her “Fashions of the Gilded Age” series and I love it! There are tons of books out there, so I’m going to recommend checking out Goodread’s Practical Historical Costuming list, which has many of the books you will find historical costumers talking about most often: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/16346.Best_Practical_Historic_Costuming_Books

  14. Hi Liz,

    i’ve been racking my brains for where I have met you before and when searching ‘green dress dyed with arsenic’ I hit on and remembered your blog. I think we may have done the PGCE at the same time a couple of years ago. Anyway, I absolutely love hearing your insights in class and will bring in my two historical pieces that I have which you may like to see.


    1. Hello, Susanne! I am glad you liked my arsenic in Victorian life post, but I have not attended any classes, costume related or otherwise, since college in 2011. What does PGCE stand for? Is it similar to Costume College?

  15. Good afternoon Liz. I’d like to send you photos of a couple of paintings I received from my mom as part of her estate. My dad brought them back from Germany following WW2. I’m trying to date the clothing (and thus the paintings themselves) as there are no signatures visible on the paintings. If you can help, please let me know. Links to the paintings are below.


  16. Thank you for providing such interesting and readable information about the utility of the corset. I didn’t know I was interested in fashion until I read what you have to say about it. Fascinating stuff!

  17. I have just ;looked at this site for information on how to get historical curls! Really helpful, thanks for all the photos of the different effects, I am going away to practice.

  18. Hey Liz.
    I just happened onto your site—FUN! I found your 18th-century shoe photos on Pinterest and started investigating. I’ll read more of your stuff later.

    Just wanted to say, it looks like an interesting blog. I shared your shoe post on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/diybohemianstyleblog/ This is my companion FB page for my own blog https://diybohemian.com/

    I am commenting as Cindy Ann Lowe Davis, writer—my writer portfolio.

    Blessings, Cindy, creator of DIY Bohemian

  19. Hi Liz, I am a student in Prague doing what my teacher calls ‘The Curator Challenge”. We received a purse as an object, which we found out was a Neoclassical Purse, and are learning about its history. Your blog was very useful and gave us a lot of information, yet we don’t know how to cite it. Can you please help us out? Thank you so much.

  20. In the pirate coat you made for your husband (I think) do you have a pattern piece for the cuffs? If so could you send me a picture? I’m trying to add some to my coat and his look good.

  21. Hello!
    This is in response to your Facebook post from June 14, about the phenomenal ‘Victorians do the 18th century’ dress you found on Pinterest.
    It looks like the dress is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, as accession number 53.90a-b. The link, (if it goes through) is https://collections.mfa.org/objects/581088. MFA has interpreted the petticoat as an 18th-century original. :)
    P.S. I can’t post on Facebook, only read it, hence a blog response to a Facebook post. ;)

  22. I swear, this blog has more useful content in each individual post than the entire sewing section at my city public library. You are an amazing teacher and I can’t wait to try and apply some of your tips and techniques to my own (still very amateur!) sewing efforts. Also, I hope you’re doing well– the most recent post I saw seemed written very much from the Pandemic Slough of Despond (which I find entirely too relatable even now a year later), so please know I’m sending much affection. I’ve definitely been struggling with phases of creative stuck-ness due to anxiety/despair/etc, and I really appreciate that you’ve got me feeling excited to dust off my poor sewing machine and make something ruffly. <3

    1. You are exceptionally kind! Thank you for visiting my ancient blog (sorry for any missing pictures). I am still stuck in stasis, so no new things yet, but I am so glad to hear you’ve gotten some creative fire a-burnin’ for costuming! If you make something, I’d love to see it! Happy sewing!

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