A Ticker Tape Timeline of Panic: An 1890s Costume for Candlelight at Dallas Heritage Village 2014

The Panicked Plaid Walking Dress, circa 1897

After Georgian Picnic, I got to start my new job! It’s a bit more complicated than anticipated, but otherwise it is working out well. The only tangle is that Saturday hours are required. Many Guild events are on Saturdays, so I was worried I would have to miss the December events, Lantern Light and Candlelight. Lantern Light was actually a last minute event. We were invited on the fly to attend for free if we all come dressed in 1890s garb. I love the 1890s! And free? Everybody loves free!

When the schedule rolled out at work the following week, however, I was scheduled to work that Saturday. It broke my heart, but Lantern Light was off the table. The Thursday before the event, the schedule suddenly changed and I got the day off, but by then other plans had been made, so I still missed it. I was, however, now free to attend Candlelight. I planned to wear my 1856 day dress since I thought it was “Christmas-y” enough to fit the mood. Plus, December events are frequently frigid, so yards of heavy quilting cotton would be a welcome haven from the chill.

But the seed of discontent had been sewn by my missed 1890s opportunity and the unruly Texas weather only helped that discontent grow…

Saturday, December 6th
(7 Days until Candlelight)

The forecast predicts that the weather, which has been unbelievably warm for December, will continue to prove the existence of global warming throughout the week. Highs are listed in the low 70s through the following Saturday. I wonder if six yards of quilting cotton is the wisest choice.  I have that summery cotton 1890s dress that’s much lighter. Maybe wear that? No. It’s too spring-like. I want to be festive! There’s a new Walmart down the road with an awesome fabric department…no! There’s no time! Plus, my 1850s dress is super cute.


Maintain the course, Lizzie! You’re too deep in already, what with this new job. You don’t have time to make anything new. No more last minute sewing!

Becky is a busy bee at work and has no time to sew, so we troop over to the neighborhood Goodwill to put my Easy Edwardian thrifting tutorial into action. Hallelujah! The perfect lavender formal skirt appears! One flouncy silk shirt, pair of perfectly plum pumps, and a swanky sheer jacket later and we have the perfect basic Edwardian lady! We part discussing hats hats hats. I love hats…especially 1890s hats.

Sunday, December 7th
(6 Days until Candlelight)

O…M…G…This Walmart polysatin looks so fabulous! And look! A matching plaid! I need this plaid. It is sooooo 1890s!

The Delineator January, 1898

I’ll just stash them together since they’re practically made for each other. It’ll be a good project for later. Can I get some help in the fabric department please? Thank you. Is it okay if I start stacking bolts here? Fabulous!


Ahem! What? Nope! Nothing to see here! Carry on!

Monday, December 8th
(5 Days until Candlelight)

Wow, is my head stuffy! I hope I’m not getting a cold…

Tuesday, December 9th
(4 Days until Candlelight)

Yup. Cold. Dammit.

Wednesday, December 10th
(3 Days until Candlelight)

Becky is going Edwardian. Chris is (was) going in his blue Edwardian coat. I wanna match eras! A stupid idea this close to the event, but–themes! Plus, I have this awesome, festive plaid that is just screaming holiday without being too kitschy. Yup! Totes making an 1890s dress! Simplicity 4156 has lots of pieces, but I’ve made it before and I’ve refined the pattern to the point where it fits pretty well. Sewing the skirt would take up a big chunk of time, though. Time for some thrifty cheating!


I have a red satin formal skirt I used for my Edwardian hack, and it matches pretty well. I’ll just use the bodice portion and forgo the skirt. But housework first. I’ll start tomorrow.

Thursday, December 11th
(2 Days until Candlelight)

2:34 pm: Wow, work was a bear! I’ll just lie down for a short nap to recover. Better take some medicine, too. I should probably lay out my pattern pieces fir–ZZZZZZZZ….

5:53 pm: Whoa, I did not mean to sleep that long. Time to meet Becky at Hobby Lobby for hat decorations. Feathers! Flowers! Fabrics! Trims take the most time to shop for, at least in my case, plus, you can never have too many ostrich plumes!


Chopping up a cheap Christmas wreath yields the perfect touch of Christmas cheer for my hat, too.

Friday, December 12th
(1 Day until Candlelight)

10:00 am: Probably should not have slept this late…


<abject panic and flailing for about 2 hours>

Maybe I’ll just wear my 1856 dress after all. But that would be quitting. I ain’t no quitter!

3:40 pm: Hmmm…I don’t really want balloon sleeves this go-round. Mutton sleeves sound better. Internet tutorials to the rescue! There are lots of methods, but I need to stay simple. The easiest two are the vertical slash for a very full, tapered sleeve and the curved slash that concentrates that fullness at the top:

Leg of Mutton Sleeve Pattern Diagrams, circa 1940
The vertical slash method is on the bottom.


Leg of Mutton Sleeve Pattern Diagrams, circa 1940
The “Gill” method is on the left.

They produce very similarly shaped results, but I don’t like the amount of fullness the vertical slash method creates down the length of the arm when used for long sleeves (for short puffs it should work just fine). Both would be correct, but the more fitted forearm of the “gill” method is much more flattering. The sleeves take almost a full yard of fabric by themselves!


I would have gone bigger, but there was no time to do another mock-up.

4:50 pm: All pattern pieces cut! I scrounge for lining and end up having to line the sleeves in cotton rather than net, so they won’t puff as much as I like. If you can, flatline mutton sleeves with net if your fabric is soft and drapes. Crisp fabrics usually don’t need it, depending on how you want the final result to look. Another option is to make 1980s-esque shoulder pads. I had time for neither, so my sleeves flop a bit. Oh well!

5:50 pm: Time to go to dinner with the family and go to Journey to Bethlehem at church.

9:40 pm: Chris drops me off at the house on his way to Magic the Gathering.

1:15 am: There’s so much to do! The lapels are giving me lots of trouble because I’ve worn out the needle and I have no more! Chris has the car way across town, so buying a fresh one is a no-go. I hand crank the needle through the thick lapel interfacing, which works great….until I realize I’ve just sewn one lapel backwards! Crap.


2:27 am: Wailing and gnashing of teeth.

3:15 am: Chris picks me up after Magic the Gathering and we buy fresh needles from Wally World.

4:40 am: Bed.

Saturday, December 13th
(The Day of Candlelight)

9:00 am: Alarm goes off.

10:00 am: I decide I needed to make life even more complicated by adding a faux belt front to the bodice insert. I bought the buckle off eBay about a month ago for a few dollars. I didn’t really know why I bought it at the time, but it works perfectly. Must have been fate! Also the hand of fate: I have a red silk shirt from Goodwill to recycle into a belt that pretty closely matches the skirt color.


11:30 am: Insert done. The collar came up an inch short, but there is no time! Hide it with a brooch…

12:05 pm: The peplum requires a ridiculously long piece of facing. I don’t have time to hand-tack it to the lining. Iron-on hem tape that sucker!

1:25 pm: Sleeves done.

1:30 pm: Wait, I was supposed to be curling my hair this whole time?! Noooooooooo! I forgot!

2:00 pm: Becky arrives and we get her all gussied up.

3:15 pm: Chris is hollering at me from downstairs that we need to go and I am still sewing feathers on my hat. Also, he has decided to go in his western vest rather than in his more formal vest and one button has fallen off. Sew it on while stuck in Dallas traffic.

4:55 pm: Arrive late, but look oh-so-fabulous! (Sorry for making you wait, Jen!)

1910s and 1890s

1910 on the left, 1897 on the right!


Our cozy little group, complete with a pair of handsome gentlemen!
Photo courtesy of Festive Attyre (and the woman who so kindly took the photo for us!)


Photo (filtered B&W) courtesy of Festive Attyre


Photo (filtered B&W) courtesy of Festive Attyre


Becky made her hat from a sun hat that she covered with velvet and trimmed with silk hydrangeas and sequined ribbon. Her first Edwardian hat-making project ever! The sequins caught the light so well.


Edwardian hats are large horizontally while 1890s hats are large vertically, so I went for big, tall feathers and flora. Like many 1890s hats, I put a big V shaped bow at the back to create the “setting hen” look that was popular at the time.

Festive 1890s Hat Cost Breakdown

Wool hat base – $18.95, Go-a-Hat
Fabric for band and bow – Scraps, so free!
Various greenery from dismembered wreath – $4.95, Hobby Lobby
Red feathers – $1.99, Hobby Lobby
Cream plume – $3.99 Hobby Lobby

Total: $29.88


Photo courtesy of Festive Attyre

Panicked Plaid 1890s Dress Cost Breakdown

3 yards navy polysatin – $6, Walmart
1 yard plaid cotton – $1, Walmart
Red silk shirt for belt- $2.15, Goodwill
Gilded brass belt buckle – $4.49, eBay
Red formal skirt – $5.49, Goodwill
1/4 yard interfacing – A gift, so free!
White beaded purse – Technically it’s my sisters, so, um, free?

Total: $19.13

You might notice something missing from this list: fasteners! indeed, there isn’t a single fastener down the front of the bodice! It’s held together by the belt, brooch and two strategically placed straight pins, but thanks to the fit and front pleating, you can’t even tell. Not bad for being totally on the fly!


Happy Holidays!

Much to My Chagrin: Why It’s Been So Quiet Around Here

I’m not Dead nor Costuming Comatose…just more Penniless than Usual!

As embarrassing as it is to admit it, I am currently unemployed. Being such, I find that I have an abundance of time on my hands that any other normal, employed person would kill for. Plenty of time, therefore, to do whatever I please: sew, paint, collect, and the like. I have taken advantage of this time by painting a few more portrait miniatures and bolstering my small, but satisfying Etsy shops.

Tineseile on Etsy

Vintage Renaissance style and antique Victorian jewelry for costumers, living history participants, collectors, and jewelry lovers, plus my OOAK historical handicrafts

Raoul – Christine’s Locket
A double-sided locket inspired by “The Phantom of the Opera”

Erik, the Phantom – Christine’s Locket
I’ve been filling the quiet house with a haunting sounds of the original 1986 cast recording, sewing along with it, doing dishes while singing, and finally being inspired to paint it!

A Million Stars
Antique French Cut Steel Buckle in my Etsy shop: Tineseile

Vintage Pocket Watch Mechanism in my Etsy shop: Tineseile


Vintage jewelry, clothing, and kitsch from 1940-1980 (plus some interesting crafting supplies!)

1950s Atomic Flower Earrings from my retro Etsy shop: Atomic Amelia

Retro Pin with Pink Purple Rhinestones from my retro Etsy shop: Atomic Amelia

It’s been rather slow, mostly, I suspect, because like myself, everyone out there is struggling a little more than usual. If you find something you like, just enter PRAGMATIC in the code box at check-out for either of my shops and you’ll get 10% off anything you desire! I usually don’t like to use my blog as advertisement space, but my costuming and painting endeavors are funded solely on what I make on Etsy. Mama needs some new sewing machine needles and acrylics!

In reality, I have completed little of what I want to/should get done. I have an exciting project I’ve been plugging away at for over two months now, but I’m hardly as far through it as I should be. I’d drooled over Simplicity 4156 since high school. It’s out of print now and horrendously expensive, but back in November, I managed to find a copy at a manageable price. Then I let it sit for two weeks, terrified of even unfolding it, afraid of soiling its rare, complex glory:


After reading an interview with the indomitable Andrea Schewe herself about this very pattern, I got the guts (or the gall) to finally dive into it–nevermind that it is the most complex pattern I have yet tackled alone! Here are a few various progress and construction photos:


My first toile. The first one I prematurely shortened and it didn’t fit one bit! I have a “petite” torso, so most patterns usually need to have the distance between the bust and waist shortened. As later pictures show, it turns out the the bust on this pattern was actually already low enough, but the shoulder-to bust difference is what needed to be shortened.


The second toile. You might remember this photo thanks to this rant.
Surprisingly, I got the most “hate” mail I’ve ever gotten (indeed, probably the first quantifiable) about that post. Apparently, I am neither busty nor skilled enough for my problems to be worthwhile! However, I have dealt with both ill-fitting bodices and ill-intended messages before, and both were attended to as decorously as possible.


“Worthiness” of my bust-fitting issues aside, the construction of the bodice allowed me to add and subtract as needed easily (still not 100% satisfied, but I can at least close the front). This is a shot of my second toile that I have sliced and pinned in order to find out what pattern changed needed to be made. I didn’t want to apply any alterations directly to the paper pattern since it’s such a wonderful, rare addition to my collection!


After one last toile test, I felt comfortable enough to cut my fashion fabric. It’s a cheap pink poly-something that cost $1 a yard at Walmart. Lovely hand feel, but as you can see, it’s a little unruly. You can glimpse one altered bodice piece on the left that I cut out of white tissue paper so I could use it again in the future. The slate-blue piece is a skirt panel and just below it (and nearly as large)  is the balloon sleeve pattern!


Massive! I removed 6 inches after discovering they didn’t drape well with my armscye alterations. They’re still parachutes, though. Fabulous, fabulous parachutes!


Outer shell halfway complete. I couldn’t find a velvet that was the right shade (though Linnie from Linnie Darling was kind enough to send me swatches), so I settled for an odd, but soft faux suede that Chris found for $3 at Jo Ann’s. It’s really thick, but it sews nicely.


Simplicity doesn’t always print the clearest instructions, but I figured them out eventually! The collar pattern wrapped around the neck and closed at the side, but that left one side of the bodice unattached so it would need bias binding and snaps to be presentable. After sewing it, I realized it just wouldn’t work for my neck, so I ripped it all out!


Using the original collar (which was fortunately marked with a center front and back), I drafted a center-closing collar like the one on my bright red 1890s blouse. This collar is very, very tall! Instead of using rigid boning, I cheated and used strips of commercial bias tape–which has a similar stiffness to horsehair canvas– and some *gasp!* iron-on adhesive to make soft vertical “bones” around the entire collar. It worked perfectly! I’m thinking about tacking the tips back for some added comfort and flair.

Right now, I’m working on the most complex part of the entire operation: those enormous sleeves:


I decided to go with “Ol’ Trusty,” my favorite sleeve pattern, rather than the arrangement proposed by Simplicity 4156. There were too many interior seams in the original, but Ol’ Trusty has only two pieces and mimics Victorian sleeves much better. I had to lower the height of the cuff, though. The pseudo-suede is just too thick to fit over the elbow comfortably. I’m not as enamored with the lengthened puff, but it will be much more comfortable!

One is already complete, but midway through the second one, my sewing machine went completely bonkers and now eats thread no matter what I do–like really eats it: the upper thread winds all around the bobbin housing. I’ve done everything from changing needles, to adjusting tension, to taking the bobbin case out, lint cleaning, re-winding the bobbin in every possible way, trying new thread, re-threading everything, different test fabrics…pretty much all the things that should fix it. Whatever the cause, it is now out of my range of expertise, so I might need to find a reputable sewing machine repair shop if I can hunt one down. I suspect that the timing may be off. I’m letting the machine “rest” for a while. It’s amazing what a little time and a bit of fresh fiddling can fix!

Anyway, that’s what’s going in the Pragmatic workshop. I promise to get back to posting more regularly in the next week!