Well this milestone snuck right past me: The Pragmatic Costumer blog reached 1 million visitors recently!
Thank you, everyone! Wow! I am so honored and humbled that this many people have ventured into my weird little corner of the interwebs.
A quick compilation of all the costuming projects I have worked on this year
“Ever After” Renaissance Fair Dress
One of my favorite dresses I’ve made so far! You can check out the details by clicking here and visiting the full blog post about it.
The Procrastinator’s Purse/Reticule
I designed a quick, easy purse pattern so I could have some purses to match my dresses. I even made a free pattern for it!
1878 Mourning Dress
I finally have a historical “little black dress!” You can read the blog post about it by clicking here.
Christmas Bustle Accessories
I don’t have a blog post for this dress yet, but I sewed a new collar, cuffs, and bustle to transform my 1878 mourning dress into a festive Christmas outfit for the Waxahachie Christmas House Tour.
You can see a few event photos from the Tour on Flickr.
I hope to have a pattern for the bustle written up soon, since it was a very quick, simple, off-the-cuff design that worked surprisingly well. The hat is a cheap trilby transformed by trim– one of my favorite shortcuts for making bustle-era hats!
And that’s all I’ve sewn this year! It’s not a heck-ton, but not too shabby! I’m hoping to stash bust a bit more this coming year as I have quite a few fabrics hoarded away that I want to finally do something with. There’s a full list of upcoming events I need new clothes for:
January: Renoir Museum Exhibit Visit
The Plan: Make another set of accessories (collar/cuffs/overskirt) for the black dress to refine the pattern.
February: Napoleon and Josephine Tea
The Plan: I have my ketchup-and-mustard Regency dress from a few years ago that still fits, but I should probably make something more refined for a tea based on royalty, lol! Maybe I can fudge it a bit and squeeze in my 1820 dress ideas here, or perhaps this is the universe telling me to get my rear in gear and use some of that cotton voile I’ve been hoarding…or maybe it’s both…
March: First Annual Romantic Picnic
The Plan: already have my 24-hour orange plaid dress from last year, but I have at least 3 cute cotton prints I have earmarked for 1830s, so maybe I should dust them off and make ’em work! My family is visiting long-distance just to attend, too, and we’ve been working on gathering accessories and making outfits for everyone, too.
…and that’s as far as I’ve planned for now. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself or I get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. Anyone else do that?
Plus, it’s the start of a new decade, so I foresee at least one funky 1820s and one elegant 1920s dress on the docket.
Fashion Plate, 1823
The 1820s are when the Romantic Era’s BIG SLEEVE obsession started. The 1830s get all the credit, but if you want wild sleeves and equally wild hem decor, the 1820s are for you!
August 1922 Fashions
Artsy and classy!
I think instead of doing the slim, tailored 1920s dresses everyone always thinks of, I’m going to try something earlier in the decade, perhaps an evening dress. Dresses from 1920-1922 were still fairly long-hemmed and not so drop-waisted, so I think they’ll be much more forgiving on my fuller figure. Plus, I like 1920s sportswear–like a simple sweater and pleated skirt with a cute monogrammed pocket! That I might be able to thrift shop for.
Oh, I also hope to see some of you folks at future DFW Costumers Guild events!
The holidays are here and it can be a bit challenging to find gifts to give a hobbyist if you don’t share that hobby.
For a costumer, a good pair of sewing shears is always a welcome gift or a fresh set of sharp pins or a giftcard to the local hobby shop, but here are a few smaller, less obvious gifts that make great stocking stuffers for the historical costumer in your life.
These are general inexpensive common items that can be found in big box stores or online– stuff that might not pop immediately into your mind as a “costuming” gift, but that are infinitely handy for historical costuming!
1. Tinted Lip Balm (Average Price: $1-10)
Blistex’s Lip Vibrance is my absolute favorite (Walmart, $2.50). It has the perfect rosy pink color and is SPF 15. Plus, it has a tiny mirror on the tube! I also have Vaseline’s Rosy Lips (Dollar Tree, $1). It is more slick and glossy with barely any color, but it does a good job of keeping lips soft.
Lip balm is incredibly handy to have at outdoor events, especially in dry climates (or cold ones, as I discovered during a particularly chilly DFWCG Georgian Picnic). In addition, a little sheer tint gives your lips a healthy rosy glow without looking too made-up. A lip balm with a bit of color to it is an indispensable item I take to every costuming event!
There are a variety of historically accurate options available as well, like LBCC Historical’s 1772 tinted rose lip balm (Etsy, $10). Or, if you are feeling crafty, make your own from a historical recipe, like this one! Bonus points for making a homemade gift as well.
2. Black Safety Pins – (Average price: $2-4)
I buy my black safety pins at Walmart for about $2, but you can find them in almost any big craft store or online. I love them because they are much less visible on darker and matte fabrics! In the above picture, you can see the difference between the black safety pin and the regular silver safety pin on the very matte black linen I used for my 1878 mourning dress.
The vintage term for black lacquered metal pins is “Japanned.” In the Victorian era, they were used for mourning clothes, but black pins are incredibly handy for wearing with any dark costume were the glint of a silver pin would be glaringly obvious. Plus, you can never had too many safety pins!
3. Knee Socks and Stockings ($1-35)
It’s an age-old trope: socks for Christmas? Bleck! But to a historical costumer, stockings are the perfect stocking stuffer! You can’t go wrong with a fine pair of creamy white or black above the knee stockings, but you can go for funkier designs, too, depending on your gift recipient’s personality. I have another post about historical stockings here.
I have a wide variety of stockings from basic knee socks (Walmart, $3) to baseball socks (Academy Sports, $8) to trouser stockings (Dollar Tree, $1) to fancy clocked stockings (Fashions Revisited, $15).
I will say that I prefer a finer, even knit stocking, not necessarily sheer, just a smaller thread/stick size, like a modern dress sock. Chunky, textured, or coarse knits can cause rub spots in shoes…a not-so-nice situation if you’re having to walk around uneven ground outside all day.
You can find a huge variety of fantastic knee and over-the-knee socks online at places like Sock Dreams or Ozone Socks! For luxurious historical repros, there’s the American Duchess stocking line or Fashions Revisited.
4. Hair Donuts, Hairpins, and Hair Ties ($1-6)
Historical hair can be hard. A hair donut makes it easier! What on earth is a hair donut? A hair donut is just a puffy circle of fine mesh that helps make perfectly smooth buns easily. They are readily available from Dollar Tree, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Sally’s Beauty Supply–or just about anywhere you can find hair accessories– and usually cost just a few dollars.. They come in a variety of sizes and colors like blonde, brunette, black, and red to help blend better into the hair. You can find hair donuts in singles or in kits.
A packs of hairpins/bobby pins and hair ties in the right color to blend into the hair are also wonderful. Hairpins and hair ties always seem to vanish after a while, so getting extras are usually a very welcome surprise. I like Goody’s Ouchless hair ties, myself (Target/Walmart, $5). They come in a variety of natural hair colors.
5. Shoe Laces ($1-12)
This may be a bit out of left field, but shoe laces are very handy to have around the sewing room. They can become a drawstring in a skirt or purse and lace up a corset. Shoelaces with metal ends are especially nice and more historically accurate (The technical term for the tips is “aglets” and they have been around for centuries). Look for solid-color flat ones in the kid’s section which work great for purses or extra-long (84″+) round ones by the men’s workboots that are ideal for corsets.
6. Cute Paper-Cutting Scissors ($3-10)
Every seamstress has a preferred type of sewing shear, so if you’re planning to get them a new pair, ask them what type they prefer. However, for just a quick gift, it’s equally handy to get a pair of scissors for cutting pattern tissue, too. Find a fun pair! An all-purpose pair of scissors with a cute handle makes it easy to tell the paper-cutting scissors from the fabric scissors. You can never have too many pairs of scissors of all types!
7. Faux Pearl Jewelry ($3+)
Pearls are classic and have been treasured since ancient times. The great thing about a strand of pearls or a pair of pearl drop earrings is that they are timeless: they can be worn with any era of costume from Roman to Renaissance to Victorian to Retro. If you’ve got the budget for real pearls, kudos to you! But quality faux pearls are affordable and widely available anywhere that sells jewelry like Target, Kohls, Claires, etc. One of my favorite costuming necklaces is a $10 strand of glass pearls from Walmart.
8. Long Evening Gloves ($8-25)
In the past, folks generally wore gloves when they went outside no matter the season. Gloves have mostly fallen out of fashion in our modern world and finding vintage examples can be difficult. That’s why stretchy costume gloves are so great! Places like Party City and bridal shops generally have them year round in a variety of colors. Plain black, white, and ivory are the easiest to find and the most versatile, though if your giftee has a fave color, you can certainly find it online. They come in lots of colors!
9. Book Phone Case ($10+)
Lots of costumers like to use a cell phone cover designed to look like a little leather-bound book to hide this indispensable bit of modernity. I love my book phone case! Book phone cases are not one-size-fits-all, so if you plan to get one as a gift, make sure you know the model of your giftee’s phone. Unlike the other items on this list which you can find easily in stores, this one you’ll probably have to buy online. You can find genuine leather ones ($25-50) or faux-leather ones ($10-25).
Of course, each costumer is different, so not all of these gifts are 100% perfect for each person, but they might give you some ideas.There are plenty of other little gifts you can use as stocking stuffers (measuring tapes, pins, etc.) for your favorite historical costumer. If in doubt, though, just ask them what they want! They’ll be able to tell you more specific items.
HAVE A SAFE AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!
I’ve been neglecting to fully blog my outfits lately for which I humbly apologize. Since I’ve gotten out of the swing of things, this post is going to be pretty perfunctory. I need to work on getting back into the groove!
My friend Megan (you may know her as Mistress of Disguise) found out early in the summer that the Granbury Opera house would be putting on the Addams Family Musical. Of course, we had to go and we invited the whole DFW Costumers Guild to go with us! Nothing would suit attending such a production better than a mourning gown, so I immediately began sewing….in my imagination, of course!
Victorian mourning clothes have some intricate rules depending on the decade, but for the average person, it boiled down to two things: Black and Not Shiny. Silk and wool bombazine or crepe are the hallmark fabrics of mourning, but I didn’t have the budget for those. I needed something affordable, matte, black, natural, and most importantly, cool and breathable to combat Texas’s infamous swelter (yes, even in October it reaches 100). Cotton, of course, first comes to mind. But I own a black and white feline that sheds like a hay wagon in a hurricane, and having experimented with black cotton before, I didn’t look forward to wearing a hair magnet. Instead, I had linen dreams and a polyester budget!
The Hair-icane and Great Destroyer of Tissue Patterns
But, lo! What’s this?! A sale at Fabrics.com? And look: Linen/rayon washer linen in black (it’s a bit more expensive now that the sale is over, but still worth it, I think)! I loathe to buy fabric online, especially in a case like this where weight and drape matter immensely. Yet the siren call of a superbly rated linen-rayon blend was just to tempting to pass up! So at 1:45am on the morning of July the 10th (as the email receipt so kindly reminds me), I grit my teeth and dropped $50 on 7 yards of fabric.
It hurt, fam. Not gonna lie. Oof! But when it arrived….holy bananas, was this stuff the REAL DEAL. Wow! It’s gorgeous. It does that smooth “fwump” thing that linen does with a touch of rayon slinkiness. It’s not matte matte, but has a subtle sheer similar to worn polished cotton. Plus, it’s pretty opaque. I was GIDDY….and terrified to cut it.
To distract myself from the thought of ruining my precious fabric, I turned my attention to buttons. I knew I wanted black glass buttons, preferably antique. I spent 3 WHOLE DAYS in antiques stores looking for them and I found lots and lots of beautiful Victorian black glass buttons. I wasn’t even looking for a set—just something that spoke to me. But you know what? Victorian buttons are tiny and I’m not. I kept getting flashbacks to the giant 1970s Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing that had a section about proportion in choosing designs. As a stout-by-Victorian-standards gal, I decided 30 tiny buttons up my front was not only too much work, but also not entirely flattering/suitable for the very plain design I had in mind. I needed buttons with heft, yet a subtle demure quality and a sophisticated goth-girl edge for less than $20 for a set of 15. Tall order? Yes. But the Czech Republic doth provide!
I highly recommend these buttons. Absolutely fantastic quality, scale, and design, plus extremely quick international shipping.
Buttons in hand, I continued to procrastinate–in my usual fashion– until the week before the event. So I grit my teeth once more, rolled out my fabric, laid down the ducktape dummy pattern I used for my Dickens on the Strand dress nearly a year before, and prayed that my corset could handle the extra ten pounds I’d shored up between then and now.
I picked up my shears.
I took a deep breath.
I cut the fabric.
I had no design in mind other than “Natural Form/Long and Smooth over the Hips.” I was going in blind. I just cut, sewed, and prayed it would fit. And at first, it didn’t.
It is not perfect, but it was wearable. I didn’t plan for a V neck, but the original high collar design did not work and a jewel neckline was unflattering, so I folded back the edges and tacked them down. I miscalculated with my new buttonhole foot and placed my buttons too far back, so they are off center and a tight squeeze. I wasted a whole day trying trim ideas that were all for naught and the trim I did choose I ran out of halfway through.
But I made it work!
I wailed. I gnashed. I threw it on the floor in a fit of rage. But I had no time for a pity party, so, I pinned and hacked it into submission.
And realized it looked like a 1940s suit jacket in the process…
The little skelecorn is not HA…in this universe at least. ;)
The final trim design is a three/four layer design. I had a tiny length of antique moire ribbon with a white picot edge that was my inspiration. I had just enough for the collar. To fake the look for the cuffs and skirt panels, I cut strips from the cream-colored sari scraps leftover from making my Ren Faire dress and laid a plain black ribbon over it. The fluffy, pinked black sheer is leftover scrap from my Moonflower bustle dress. The fluffiness is both trendy for the 1870s and perfect for hiding my mile-a-minute machine sewing. The collar and cuffs are designed to be removable so I can just snip the giant basting stitches holding them to the dress and swap them out for other designs.
The skirt is my Midnight Madness Standard Skirt: two panels of the 54″ fabric pleated down to fit the waistband. The very modest “bustle” back is made by cutting the back panel extra long and pleating up the excess into the side seams (similarly to how I pleated the sides of the Croissant Dress). The waistband itself is merely a length of grosgrain ribbon. I ran out of time to finish trimming it. Hopefully I will find the motivation to make a row of pleats for the hem. I ran out of time to make a full overskirt. Instead, I slapped together the little side “petals” last-minute since I felt the skirt needed some white to tie it into the trim on the bodice.
I was still sewing things together when I went to Megan’s house to get ready and we barely made it into our seats at the theater as the curtain rose, but we did it! A few other DFWCG folks joined us as well. We had a good time watching the play, a pleasant walk around the unexpected bonus fall art fest outside, and tasty German food at the Schnitzel Haus! I would definitely go back again.
Plus there is an old hotel called the Nutt House!
And just a week later, I got to re-wear it for Halloween!
Now I have a “little black dress” that I can jazz up with fresh cuff and overskirts as the occasion demands. Super excited for the mix’n’match possibilities! With a few bustle-era events on the horizon, I’m hoping to wear it again quite soon, which should prove much more gentle on my wallet and sanity that scrambling to sew something from scratch each time an event pops up.
This post is a bit of a weird ride– from Charles Dickens to Trolls to Britney Spears. But you could get a great hat out of the deal!
I should have written this post almost a year ago when I went to Dickens on the Strand with Mistress of Disguise back in December of 2018, but I really fell off the blogging wagon and didn’t. So, finally, here’s a blog post about my costumes for Dickens on the Strand 2018– beginning with my thifty hat makeover:
While it’s not the most flattering hat on everyone, the trilby (commonly misidentified as a fedora) comes in a vast array of materials and sizes. In fact, after ballcaps, beanies, and cowboy hats (here in Texas at least), the trilby is the most readily available male hats. You can even buy them at Walmart for less than $10.
I have a massive love of hats! I have at least 30 of them, some of them vintage, some new, and many modded for costuming. Some of them are also my husband’s hats, like his tricorn, cowboy hat, and numerous old fedoras/trilbies. However, both fedoras and trilbies have gotten a sour reputation recently because of their association with internet trolls and creepy pick-up “artists.” Due to these bad stereotypes, my husband hasn’t been wearing his old trilbies as much anymore, so they were just gathering dust in my closet.
But did you know that fedoras actually started as a popular unisex, feminist fashion in the 1880s and trilbies are perfect for transforming into Victorian lady’s hats? Yes, indeed! So when I needed a last minute hat to go with my flannel 1880s bustle dress, I decided to take the trilby back from the trolls and give one of those old hats a new life.
During the 1870s, bonnets began to be replaced by hats as the fashionable form of daytime headgear for ladies. The ancestor of the modern fedora was actually created in the 1880s as a hat worn by all-around badass Sarah Bernhardt, who wore the first fedora during a play called, well, Fedora!
I couldn’t find a photo of Sarah Bernhardt in her original Fedora, but here she is in a different cool hat. You can see how you could easily make a similar hat by modifying a modern fedora.
In 1894, The Trilby hat was invented and also got its name from the hat style worn in the theatrical production, but the trilby was worn by a male actor and has thus been a man’s hat from the start. However, the shape shows up in women’s hats of the previous decade, making all our currently-much-maligned trilbies the perfect base for last-minute-panic Victorian bustle hats!
Natural Form Era hats. The Vintage Dancer has an excellent article on 19th century ladies’ hats! Click the fashion plate above to visit.
Lady’s Hat, circa 1885 via the Met Museum
I took trimming inspiration for my last-minute trilby transformation from 1880s hats like the lady’s on the left.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any in-progess pics of my Dickens on the Strand hat because– in my usual fashion– I made it literally the night before Megan and I left for Galveston! However, I did absolutely nothing to the base hat, just trimmed it (haphazardly).
I used 1 roll of cream-colored ribbon from Walmart, a netting remnant, and pinned an antique silver dime brooch to the front.
Now, there is a secret to every successful hat…and I’m going to spill the beans just for you.
As I have stated before, this is just a plain old man’s store-bought trilby. Even under all the trimmings, it’s still very visibly a modern trilby…probably because it’s a good two sizes too big! It’s my husband’s, so it’s an XL hat made to fit a 6′ 2″ dude. If I just plop it down on my head, it’s so huge it engulfs half my noggin!
Yet, most modern hats– even ones sized correctly for your head– sit far too low on the face. If you’ve ever gotten photos back from an event only to discover your face is all shadowed over and hidden by your hat, it’s because modern hats have very wide, deep crowns to sit far enough down on your head to keep them in place at the expense of your forehead.
But don’t worry, you still look fabulous!
Historical women’s hats, however, were designed to perch on top of elaborate hairstyles, particularly buns. Often, they hardly touched you head at all, sitting entirely atop a nest of fluffy hair instead.
Even if a hat had a deep crown, it often had an interior fabric “cap” or drawstring ring that kept the crown from swallowing your head.
Some well-designed modern hats still use this feature. This is the inside of my favorite modern “church lady” hat that I wear for Edwardian costumes. You can see the drawstring ring inside that adjusts to fit your head so the enormously tall crown doesn’t eat your face.
Any of these things can be done to modify a modern hat to fit in a historical manner. In the case of my trilby-turned-Victorian hat, I didn’t have time to put in a fitting ring, but I did have plenty of hair to stuff into it. This kept it aloft.
In fact, the true secret to historical hat success isn’t just the hat itself: it’s the hair under it!
Properly styled hair– even if it’s the most simplistic version of a period style– instantly takes you from hat rookie to hat champion!
To demonstrate this better, here is a series of hasty, terrible bathroom selfies I took.
Let’s start with a modern trilby I have that actual fits me correctly:
If you want to use a trilby to make a Victorian hat, I recommend starting with one that actually fits, or one slightly too small.
As you can see, it fits much better than my big brown one! But with the deep hat crown and modern hairstyle, the farthest back in time this hat takes me is high school in the early 2000s. No thanks!
BRING IN THE HISTORICAL HAIR!
This is my go-to basic hairstyle. It’s my collarbone length hair pulled up in a simple bun and then my beloved “curl loaf” slapped on the front. Nothing fancy.
This style is perfect for the 1880s and 1890s, but it can carry you from the late 1870s to the 1910s if you really need to. Plus, it works especially well with hats! The bun gives you something to perch your hat on so it stays off your face, and it give you something to safely stab hat pins into to keep everything in place. The curls up front also help lift the crown of the hat away from your face and, if you’ve got strong features or a large face like me, the curls peek out from under the hat a bit to soften your face. Plus, the hairstyle looks good on its own, in case you have to remove your hat.
Now that you’ve got your hair in place, you can play with how you wear your hat! To instantly take a trilby from modern to old-fashioned, wear it on the back of your head for a more bonnet-like appearance:
A fashion plate from the late 1870s showing bonnet-like hats worn on the back of the head to take trimming inspiration from.
You can also wear the trilby backwards so that the curled part of the brim is at the top of your head to help disguise the modernness even more. Covered in trimmings like puffy bows and feathers or covered in fabric to match your dress will further transform it!
Covered in lace and fabric, a modern trilby could be used as a base for these 1870s bonnets! Notice how these bonnets/hats are sitting way up high on a giant mound of hair, as was fashionable in the 1870s. The hats aren’t even touching their faces or necks. Worried you don’t have enough hair? Don’t worry! Most Victorians used plenty of hairpieces to make such fab hairstyles.
Another way to wear it is perched up on your hair completely, tilted forward a tad. Rather than disguising the shape of the trilby, this angle shows off the full shape and works well for the more tailored looks of the 1880s:
Of course, wearing it this way also puts your hair on display more, so make sure the back is nice and neat (unlike mine, ha!).
So many trim options! From the 1870s to the 1880s.
No matter how you choose to wear it, however, you will want to trim it. Depending on your trilby’s material. you might be able to get away with a few ribbons or spray of flowers, but the Victorians loved trims and, as you can see in the fashion plate examples, the base hat is often buried under a mound of bows, lace, feathers, flowers, and other crazy-fun whatnots! So get creative and go wild with the trims!
For my 1880s dress, I wore my/my husband’s giant trilby perched on top of my head. It was so huge it still kind of ate my head, but it worked perfectly for a last-minute hat with not a lick of hat blocking required! Plus, it was inexpensive. Since I recycled an old hat, I only had to spend money on the ribbon, which was, like $3. I guess if you wanted to count it, the $10 brooch was the biggest expense, though I had that on-hand, too, or it could easily have been replaced with a big button. Is this method perfectly HA and the pinnacle of design? Ha, no! But all-in-all, it worked just as I needed it to!
HAPPY COSTUMING, M’LADIES! ;)
So I am the queen of procrastination and when I made my Renaissance Fair dress last month, I realized the night before that I had nowhere to put my “modern necessities,” i.e. my cellphone, chapstick, safetypins, and the like.
Drawstring purses are pretty easy to make and there are tons of variations ranging from a simple square folded over to more complex bags with flat bottoms, and fancy linings. I have made simple drawstring purses mere minutes before I had to be out the door, but this time I had a few hours. Plenty of time for a slightly gussied-up version! All I knew is that I wanted something shield-shaped that could fit my book-shaped cellphone case and other sundries. This is the final result, which I’ve dubbed THE PROCRASTINATOR’S PURSE:
I was originally going to do an exhaustive walk-through of how to draft your own pattern for one from a piece of US Letter (A4) paper…
…but then I decided to save y’all the trouble and just make a PDF version you can download and print from home!
To maximize the size, it does go all the way to the edges of the paper, so your printer at home may cut off the top and bottom a bit. Just draw it back in. I am no professional pattern or instruction drafter myself, so don’t worry about getting it just right. This is the Procrastinator’s Purse, not the Perfectionist’s Purse!
I put two shapes on the pattern for you to choose from: a sharp triangle bottom (solid line) and the curved shield-shaped bottom (dotted line). Seam allowance is already accounted for. This pattern can be sewn with a 1/2″ or regular 5/8″ seam allowance. It’s just up to your personal preference and how much room you want.
The first time I made this purse, it took two and a half hours because I was just making it up as I went along and I added trim. Now that I know what I’m doing, the plain striped version I whipped up for this post took only an hour to make!
If you want to add any trim across the front of your purse–like I did for the yellow and black version of this bag–sew it to the right side of your fashion fabric first before proceeding with the next steps.
Step 2: Pair each fashion fabric piece with a lining piece. Put the right sides together. Use a pin to mark where the top line of the drawstring stitching goes on each side.
Step 3: With right sides together, sew each fabric/lining pair around the squared top edge starting above the pins marking your drawstring. I recommend backstitching at the beginning and end of your stitch line for strength.
Clip the corners before turning the pieces right-side-out. Iron the pieces flat, turning under the seam allowances about 2 inches down the sides. This will make sewing the drawstring channel easier. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of this step, but if you scroll down to the picture in step 5, you can see the leftover fold marks.
Step 4: Sew the drawstring channel. The channel I put in the pattern is 1/2 inch wide. This is top-stitched, so your stitching will show on the outside of the bag. Pick a color of thread that blends into your bag (at least for the most part).
Step 5: Once you’ve got both drawstring channel stitch lines done, make small snips in the seam allowances so you can iron it flat. Do this to the seam allowances on both the fashion fabric and lining.
Once you’ve snipped the seam allowances and ironed the two halves of the purse flat, put the two halves together with the fashion fabric sides together.
Step 6: Stitch the two purse halves together starting below the bottom of the drawstring channel. Backstitch at the start and end of your stitch line for extra strength. Be careful not to sew the ends of your drawstring channel shut!
This purse is not bag-lined, so it will have “raw-ish” edges on the inside (remember: this is the Procrastinator’s Bag, not the Perfectionist’s Bag!). To minimize fraying and add strength to the seam, I zig-zag stitched close to my original stitch line and trimmed away the excess fabric for a neater finish (especially if your fabric wants to fray like my faux-silk did).
Turn your Procrastinator’s Purse right-side out and iron.
Step 7: Cut two long pieces of ribbon and thread them through the drawstring channels on each side of the bag.
28 inches is a good length for your ribbon, though if you like longer, more luxurious tails, you can cut yours 32 inches long. You will loose about 2 inches of length trimming the ends later, so keep that in mind.
For this demonstration purse, I used 1.5 inch wide poly satin ribbon from Walmart, which is about the widest you can fit into a 1/2 inch boning channel. For my first yellow purse, I used 3/4 inch wide ribbon elastic (the type used to make headbands and hair ties). I like the elastic because it holds the “scrunch” at the top of the bag better than the smooth ribbon, but it does make your bag bob around when you walk and it will stretch the more stuff you carry.
To get the ribbon through the channel, I folded it over a few times and put a safety pin through as a makeshift bodkin.
The following steps are optional ones I did to achieve the look I wanted. You can do all sorts of things to personalize your Procrastinator’s Purse depending on how much you procrastinated. Have a few hours left? Add some beading. Have a few minutes left? Just tie your ribbons together and get in the car, girl!
Since I had an hour left, here’s what I did to my purse:
Trim the edges of the ribbon diagonally. This removes the pinhole left by the safety pin and will help keep the ends from fraying. To weigh them down, especially if you used a lightweight synthetic ribbon like my Walmart poly one, tie a simple knot an inch or two back from the end. You could even add beads (like the large-holed ones used for add-a-bead jewelry) if you wanted to gussy it up for evening-wear!
Tie the ends of the other ribbon together to form a carrying loop.
This purse is very deep, which is great if you have a large phone or plan to really stuff it full of souvenirs. However, all that stuff puffs out the point, distorting the nice shape and leading to a lot of inelegant and frustrating digging around for tiny things at the bottom of the purse.
To alleviate both these problems, I squared off the bottom with a line of stitching 1.5 inches up from the point. I marked a optional stitching line for it on the PDF pattern. This stitch line can be moved father down, too, if you want a squared bottom, but your phone/fan/etc. needs a bit more room.
And for a last bit of pizzazz, I added a dangle to the point of the purse. For both purses, I used an Indian wedding earring from a pair that I found at a flea market.
AND IT’S DONE!
This purse is big enough that everything in the above picture– cellphone+case, chapstick, 40″ strand of glass pearls, vintage cigarette-turned-business-card case, safety pins, hairpins, and fan– fits inside:
Huzzah! Now I have one version that matches my Renaissance dress and another that will work with my Regency and Edwardian dresses!
It’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty, practical project for the ambitious Procrastinator!
If you make your own Procrastinator’s Purse (or any drawstring purse), pop over to my Facebook Page and send me a picture so I can see it!
I wasn’t feeling too keen on celebrating my birthday this year, but my sister decided to pay me a visit! She’d never been to a Renaissance Fair and Scarborough Fair in Waxahachi, Texas is only an hour and a half from where I live. So to Fair we decided to go!
Last year I wore my Game of Thrones inspired dress:
However, we would be going the last day of the final season and it just seemed odd to be wearing it out and about when most Thrones fans would be at home celebrating/mourning the end of an era. Honestly, I didn’t really feel like getting caught up in a discussion about the show…I just wanted to wander and enjoy hanging out with my sis and my husband. Plus, it’s a cool dress looks-wise, but it’s not a cool dress temp-wise!
I owe my life to that hand fan!
This was taken before I added the neckline trim and got the belt I originally wanted.
After tackling one of my childhood dream-dress patterns, Simplicity 4244, a few years ago, I had gotten all nostalgic for the other patterns that had set my heart aflutter waaaaaaaaay back when.
Many of them happen to be Andrea Schewe’s Renaissance patterns from the late 1990s and early 2000s:
I remember coveting all the patterns in this catalog. My sister and I played the “Wishbook” game with it: “That one’s mine!” “Well, this one’s mine, then!”
The star of the Renaissance collection was the “Ever After Dress,” which, for those of you that have been missing out on a slice of fairytale wonderland, is based on the dresses from the movie “Ever After:”
The original trailer in all it’s 1990s cinematic glory! This was my favorite movie to watch at my Nana’s house when I was a kid.
The costumes in the movie aren’t Historically Accurate™, but they are based on late 15th and early 16th century dresses, mostly Italian despite being set in France, but once again, they were aiming for ✨Historical✨, not Historical™, so don’t stress over it too much. Frock Flicks has a nice overview of the film costumes if you’re curious.
“Thou art welcome to direct your gaze hither, Sire.”
Isabella of Naples Duchess of Milan, wife of Gian Galeazzo, by Raphael, 1480-90
“Verily, sir, I am here for naught but the food.”
Portia and Brutus, circa 1486-90
The movie had fantastic costumes–most famously the “Just Breathe” masquerade dress (and my favorite, Rodmilla’s green gown):
Simplicity, already high on the peak of the Renaissance Fair pattern boom, leapt at the opportunity. Andrea Schewe was commissioned to recreate the look for a pattern which soon became one of the most famous costume patterns from the Big 3:
Oh, how I pined for this perfect princess dress!
The Simplicity Ever After dress pattern was really popular for wedding and fair gowns through the early 2000s and it turns out this pattern has not one, not two, but SIX versions that have been printed over the years…each with a totally different pattern number! The design itself, however, remained unchanged.
In the Misses’ sizes, the first release was Simplicity 0657 then 8735. It sold so well that Simplicity asked Andrea Schewe to sew new samples for the re-release’s envelope front, Simplicity 3812:
The re-release cover. I like Views B and C much more here. I never cared for either in the original samples, but in the new fabrics, the details really show up and I love the gold version of View B especially!
These patterns only went up to the largest standard Misses’ size, either 18 or 20 depending on the release. But this pattern was so immensely popular that Simplicity did something so rare and wonderful that it’s basically a unicorn and I think it deserves a sparkle effect: EXTENDED SIZED PATTERNS UP TO SIZE 32W!
This is an accurate pictorial representation of my brain when I discovered 9228 and 5294 on eBay.
(Made with Gify)
Besides the regular Misses’ sized patterns, Simplicity released 9228 and later 5294, both of which were available in sizes 18W to 32W. That’s up to a 54″ bust measurement! One of the constant troubles with costume patterns from the Big 3 is that they do not offer larger sizes. I was so excited to find not only did this pattern get offered in larger sizes, the samples they made were styled to look like the Misses’ size envelope as well (so often “Plus Sized” versions of things are styled completely different from the regular sized things instead of adapting the design to be proportional to the increased size while maintaining the original look).
Sadly, all these patterns are Out of Print, so the envelops are only available second hand. However, Simplicity has recently added the Misses/Regular size version to their Print-On-Demand service as EA381201…but not in the extended sizes.
So, if you want one of the extended sizing patterns, you must scour the ‘net if you weren’t lucky enough to pick up a copy when it originally was in stores. Because they’re out of print, they can be kind of spendy, but I found a copy of 5294 in the 18W to 24W range for a reasonable price. I immediately snapped it up! It was worth the investment 100 fold!
This is the back so you can see the glorious measurement chart! Also the yardage….holy cow, the yardage! The few older online reviews I found mention this dress is a fabric and trim hog and they were all 110% correct! The dress is worth it, though, IMHO.
Pattern in hand, I set out trying to find a suitable fabric.
Now when I say suitable, I’m not talking suitable for a Screen Accurate Reproduction® or Historically Accurate™ dress. While lovely, I didn’t want to make it out of taffeta or velvet. When I say suitable, I mean suitable to survive the blazing Texas heat! Bonus points if I could also combat the heinous humidity that’s been plaguing us during an abnormally wet spring.
Linen would have been the HA™-ish solution. While not exactly court gown material, it’s wicking and the most breezy of all the fabrics which is why it has been favored in hot climes for centuries. But, I had neither the cash to buy the stuff nor the patience to deal with its tendency to wrinkle more than a raisin at the slightest provocation.
After squishing my skirts into a hot, humid car for an hour and a half (which would set the wrinkles like a nice, steamy iron), I would certainly emerge looking not unlike these grapes or a crumpled paper ball…
Instead, I decided to make the dress out of cotton because it’s breathable, but also cheap, comes in a wider variety of prints, and wrinkles waaaaaaaay less. I wanted to find a brocade or embroidery-esque print to mimic the wild silk fabrics I saw in paintings. I was especially keen to find a nice mustard yellow. Yellow’s not “my color” (being a pale dishwater blond), but I love it! And the patterns I found were just fabulous!
Visitation (Detail, from Tornabuoni Chapel, Florence) by Domenico Ghirlandaio, circa 1485-90
Portrait Of Giovanna Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio, circa 1488
Found another History Sister and she’s wearing a bangin’ brocade! I decided to copy her look a bit, minus the spaniel-ears. I save that look for my early 19th century dresses.
Ritratto di Gentildonna (Portrait of a Gentlewoman) by Leonardo Boldrini, circa 1490s
However, most of the colors we associate with the Renaissance period are rich jewel tones like wine and navy. I found tons of beautifully patterned fabrics, but only in darker colors like emerald or black. I had just about caved to a black and gold design until science gently placed its practical hands on my shoulders and shook me back to sanity: I needed something light colored and less likely to absorb heat and cook me alive.
Then, I found this nifty fabric online:
It doesn’t show well in photos, but the dots and outlines are metallic gold.
Minka giving my new fabric the Cat Butt Blessing.
And it reminded me a bit of Eleanora di Toledo mixed with medieval heraldry:
Early 15th century, a bit too soon for my dress’s style.
(PS, I found this image on a great Hungarian blog about hennin)
Cheap it wasn’t after shipping, but not any worse than a quilting cotton from a certain chain fabric store beginning with J–about $7 a yard. It’s a great cotton, though, lighter than a standard quilting cotton, but thick enough not to be sheer.
The envelope recommended 5 1/4 to 5 3/8 yards of 52″ wide fabric. I had 6 yards of 45″ wide fabric…with a one-way design…
It was a very, VERY tight fit.
I had to reduce the skirt width a bit to get the enormous gored skirt pieces to fit on the fabric. I thought about ignoring the gores and just using the full rectangle yardage, but I didn’t know how that would work with the pattern’s peaked front. In the end, I made it work. THANK HEAVENS. The slight reduction didn’t seem to affect the drape of the dress too much.
If you want to make this dress out of 45″ fabric, you will have to reduce the width of the skirt pattern or piece your fabric because the pattern pieces are wider than 45”.
This dress in general takes a lot of fabric and trim. Each skirt is 4+ yards and the huge sleeves are over a yard each on their own:
Giving my 1890s sleeves a run for their money in the poof department!
Shoutout to Mistress of Disguise for graciously offering her help selecting a complimentary fabric. I thought about using the cream organdy sari for the underskirt as well as the sleeves, but after cutting the sleeves out, I didn’t have enough left. Fortunately, the original mustard color doesn’t look too bad on me despite my pastiness.
I was so proud of myself: I got the dress to a wearable state well over two days in advance of the event! So much better than my usual method of “Wait until the day-before to do everything and let the panic inspire you!“
Yes, those are my DnD Barbie dolls in the background. Yes, I have weirder nerd hobbies than rage-sewing ✨Historical✨ costumes. Yes, I do own a vacuum and wastebaskets, I swear!
At that point, it was mostly untrimmed. Kinda boring. The basic dress shape of this pattern is nice, but it is really the trimmings that elevate it from nice to WOWZA. Trimming took quite a bit of time getting everything placed just so– almost two days. Altogether, it took a week of four-hour sewing sessions to get the dress to its current state. I admit I was still sewing when my sister got here, but I got it done enough for Sunday’s Scarborough trip!
Still need to make the tie-on sleeves at some point.
The previous day was rainy and we were sure the ground would be soaked and sloppy, especially the parking area which is just an open field. I wore my not-so-pretty boots in anticipation but to our amazement, the sun had dried out most of the muck. The sunshine also meant that my choice of a light-colored cotton fabric paid off! I was warm, but not uncomfortably so. It was the perfect blending of science and fairytale with a Happy Ever After ending!
To keep cool, I took a fan and, most helpful of all, picked up an $8 paper umbrella from Hobby Lobby’s party section. 100% would recommend! Between the parasol and marinating myself in sunscreen, I didn’t even get sunburned!
To hide my modern necessities, I got a cheap little faux-leather book case for my phone and made a simple drawstring purse from scraps. A few other little accessories like my favorite braided gold necklace, antique brooch, and a decorative bun-roll (made last minute by wrapping trim scraps over one of those tubular mesh hair rollers) rounded everything out:
My sister wore the teal version of Amazon’s “Renaissance Dress” which is a good option for anyone looking for a fast, inexpensive costume that’s easy to wear, plus it’s flattering on a variety of body types. It has ties in front and back for an adjustable fit and comes in a huge selection of colors. It costs about $50. She was quite pleased with the quality. I made her a flower crown to go with it as a belated birthday gift.
Flower crowns are beautiful, easy to make, and fun to wear. You just need some flowers of your choice, a hot glue gun, and a wide fabric-covered headband!
Chris even got in the festival spirit of his own accord! He wore his punk-rock kilt, grabbed a cap and belt, and even joined the dulcimer lady for an impromptu public duet!
We took in the hilarious shows, the magical musicians, ate overpriced-but-tasty food, and cheered for the jousters (I’m kicking myself a bit for not getting a picture with the slightly villainous knight Sir Joseph, whose colors I happened to serendipitous be wearing). The fair was fab and there were lots of fairies and tieflings and elves running around for Fantasy weekend.
Great sewing pattern, great fun, great family–it was a good way to spend a belated birthday!