One Pattern to Rule them All: Making a “Jane Eyre” 1840s Dress from Simplicity 3723

One Pattern to rule them all; One Pattern to make them; One Gal to sew them, and with some changes, fake them!

One of the first project goals I ever set for myself way back when I started this blog was to see just how many different eras of dress I could squeeze out of Simplicity 3723.

I made three different ones between 2013 and 2014:

1: Mid-18th Century “Lady’s Maid” Dress
2: Bustle Dress (aka the future Lizzie Borden Costume)
3: Late 1850s-early 1860s “Civil War” Dress

I am a big fan of using something you are familiar/comfortable with as a starting point for creativity. Not everyone likes to dive into a new hobby or project head-first! If you start with something you are familiar with, you can make small tweaks over time, continually refining and changing it, learning along the way. That’s what Simplicity 3723 was for me. You can see the evolution of my sewing skills and styles in just those three dresses. Playing around with this pattern built up my confidence enough for me to branch out into other patterns, testing fit methods, and eventually doing my own (unabashedly reckless) drafting.

Simplicity 3723 is one of the simplest costume patterns that touches on four basic skills: gathering/pleating fabric to fit, attaching a sleeve to an armhole, inserting a zipper, and using darts to make a close fit– plus it’s often insanely cheap! On sale, you can buy a copy for $1-$5 and you can find second hand copies readily. From a historical costuming perspective, it also helps you learn how to wrangle large amounts of fabric in skirts, recognize a few key features of different eras (like collars, stomachers, sleeves), and begin making basic accessories like caps and shawls/fichus.
Though there are four “looks,” there are really only two base dresses: one with a darted bodice (Pilgrim and Prairie) and one with a stomacher/insert bodice (Colonial and Rococo). The more specific “looks” come from little add-ons, like the tall collar for the Prairie vs. the wide white collar for the Pilgrim.

Views A and B both share the same base dress, made from just 5 simple pieces.

Recognizing that, we can take the 2 basic dress types and change up the pieces and accessories to make even more options! Simplicity 3723 makes a great sloper– the sewing term for a basic, fitted pattern that has been personalized to fit your body so you can use it as the base for a variety of styles. These dresses aren’t Historically Accurate. Instead, it is designed to be Historically Inspired and quickly sewn, whether by machine or by hand. However, you can easily tweak the pattern to suit your accuracy, style, or fit preferences.

For example, my pink 18th Century Lady’s Maid dress was only my second costume sewing project– ever. It is far from perfect. I was using whatever vaguely accurate fabrics I could scrounge up. I was still learning the ropes of fitting and historical shapes. But you can see, even with my limited skill and knowledge at the time, I was able to make a presentable 18th century dress. I even sewed the whole thing by hand since I was terrified of sewing by machine. By the time I made my bustle dress version, I knew the construction wasn’t going to be Historically Accurate™, but I had begun to feel confident enough to start exploring with modifications and shapes, like using the polonaise swag pattern from the 18th century dress– View C– as a bustle “overskirt” instead. And for the Civil War dress, I had begun applying some historical techniques, like flatlining, plackets, and adding a hem facing, and I branched into drafting sleeves.

So Simplicity 3723 is a growth-chart of sorts for me. However, I’ve gained weight and moved on to other pattern methods. For 5 years, my (many) copies of Simplicity 3723 had sat mostly unused in my drawer, aside from its perfect one-piece sleeve pattern, which I used for many other dresses.

Before Covid 19 hit, the DFW Costumers Guild had planned on having a Romantic Picnic themed around the 1830s. I have long loved the 1830s! In fact, the fourth dress I had planned to make from Simplicity 3723 back in 2015 was an 1830s version. I just got distracted and never go around to it. However, with Romantic Picnic on the agenda, I decided to revive the idea.

Then the Pandemic hit. I suddenly had tons of free time, but no event or motivation…

However, my mom had also planned on going to the Picnic. It was her first historical dress project. When she asked my opinion on where she should start, I recommended Simplicity 3723, of course! She had sewing experience sewing darts, zippers, and gathering, so I knew that the pattern, while not Historically Accurate would make the process of creating her first Historically Inspired outfit much less stressful. She is much more principled and disciplined at sewing than I am, so she started and finished her dress for the event well in advance, rather than at the midnight-or-later-hour as I am apt to do. And guess what, she knocked it out of the park!

She made View A without the standing collar, which most closely resembles  early-to-mid-19th century styles, specifically the 1840s:

Left: Wool Dress, 1840s, Tasha Tudor Collection via Augusta Auctions
Center: Fashion Plate, April 1846, via The Met Museum
Right: Silk Dress, circa 1844, via Museum at FIT

Sophia Finlay by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, 1843-1848

Together with my sister’s green Butterick 5832 dress and my dad’s dapper top hat and vest (plus the fancy crystal-topped walking stick he made), my family was looking darn spiffy in their 1840s outfits!

A few weeks ago, I dug out some tobacco-colored fabric I’d bought on super sale years ago. I have a penchant for ugly brown fabrics, apparently. Anyhoo, it immediately screamed “Jane Eyre” at me.

The 1840s weren’t just calling, they were pounding on the door and standing in the yard with a boombox over their head…

Having gained weight, I had to start my Simplicity 3723 sloper over from scratch. To do this, I used the “half-n-half” method: I measured my front half from side-seam-to-side-seam at the fullest part of my bust. Then I measured the bodice front pattern piece on the tissue and cut the size that most closely matched, in my case, a size 22. Then I measured my back from side-seam-to-side-seam and measured the back bodice pattern piece to match: I used a size 14 because it was the smallest in the envelope I had (12 would have been ideal), but tapered the shoulder line so it matched the bodice front shoulders.

I fit my dress over corset. This is optional, but it vastly improves the historical look, as you can see in both my 18th century and 1850s version of this pattern.

I used thifted sheets to make two mockups until I was comfortable with the fit. It’s still not perfect, but I was itching to get to work on the dress proper.

One of the hallmarks of 1840s dress is either a very long, straight, plain bodice or a floofy, pleated, fan-front bodice like this:

Left and Center: Wool dress, circa 1843 via the Met Museum
Right: Portrait of an Unidentified Woman, circa 1845-50 via LACMA

Because Simplicty 3723 already resembles an 1840s dress, that means we don’t have to do many major changes unless you just like to make your life more difficult for the sake of fanciness…

Me? Attempting to overachieve? Never!

By the time I widened the pattern piece enough to get the fullness over the bust, my front bodice pieces were going to take up a whole yard!

I reeeeeeeally wanted that floofy fan front! But, alas, I tried a few different ways, but in the end, my fabric proved to thick and too scarce to pull it off.

So I resigned myself to just doing a smooth fitted bodice, which was much quicker, easier, and while not super fancy, looked nice. Like I did for my 1850s version of this dress, I turned the back zipper into a front closure. Eventually I’ll get around to installing hooks and eyes properly, but for now, my Jane Eyre dress is closed with tiny straight pins.

But lo and behold, I put on my bodice after merrily sewing it together and discovered it was slightly too large because I accidentally cut double the amount of seam allowance. My solution? Remove the extra width in the front with the world’s tiniest fan-front–just two pleats! Serendipity at its finest!

Inside-out view of my bodice, showing the pleats. You can also see the placket I added and the extra skirt fabric folded over at the waist. This is a period method for attaching a skirt to a pointed bodice. I could trim it off, but if I ever want to let the dress out to be larger, keeping the extra fabric will make it easier. Oddly, I found the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking to be most helpful figuring out how to do this, despite my dress being a full 100 years later in date. Here is an example of a one-piece early Victorian dress with the extra skirt material folded down around the point. Simplicity 3723 accounts for a small point in its skirt pattern already, if you decide to use the skirt pattern they provide rather than a rectangle panel like I did.

To make the pleats, I literally just stood in front of my filthy bathroom mirror armed with a teacup full of pins and got to folding. Then I top-stitched the pleats down to make them stay.

The shallow V neckline and two simple rows of ruffles on the sleeves compensate for my rather plain bodice. Both things were stylish in the 1840s and both are simple additions to the basic 3723 pattern. Just trim the rounded neckline of the pattern into a V shape and for the ruffles, I cut four strips of fabric (two for each sleeve), hemmed one edge, and gathered them before sewing them to the sleeve while it was flat.

PRO-TIP: Trim your sleeves while they are flat! It’s sooooo much easier than trying to trim one once it’s sewn into a tube. Trust me!

For skirts, I always prefer to use one long panel rather than the multiple cuts Simplicity recommends. It happens that most 42-44″ cottons are just about right for a skirt length on me, plus using the selvedges at the waist and hem really cuts down on fraying!

NOT-A-PRO-BY-ANY-STRETCH TIP: In a time crunch or just lazy like me? Use the selvedge edge as your hem! If you selvedge is white/printed with color testing rather than being edge-to-edge printed with the fabric pattern, you can turn it up and do a little 5/8″ hem or add a facing. Another trick I’ve used before is utilizing the hemmed edge of a sheet at the bottom edge of the skirt!

I pleated rather than gathered the skirt into the waist. I used a piece of fabric 112 inches long and gathering that much is too tedious. Pleating is fiddly, but faster for moi. Plus, I like pleats in general.

I intended to do a slash placket like I did for my 1850s version, but I was a dum-dum and got so excited about my pleats that I didn’t realize I’d put the skirt seam up the front instead of the back…

PROFESSIONAL-AMATEUR TIP: A small, busy print helps hide seams and little mistakes. If you’re new to historical sewing, take a few minutes to look at Pinterest (I made a small board with examples) or a museum collection website like the Met Museum to familiarize yourself with the fabric colors and patterns popular in the era you want to wear. Some costuming folks look down on the quilting calicos, but let me tell ya, those fabrics have been an absolute joy for me to sew with: easy to find, easy to clean, easy to assemble, easy to hide mistakes with. Seriously, a nice, small repeating floral on a colored background is impeccable for this pattern.

Thanks to the busy print and the pleating, it’s hardly an issue. Crisis avoided!

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Seriously. Victorian costumes in particular are surprisingly forgiving. Wonky seam? Just add some fancy trim. Weird neckline fit? Cover it with some lace or a big ribbon bow. Fabric has a smudge because the Entenmann’s chocolate-dipped donuts were on sale? A brooch lives there now! Mistakes are opportunities for creativity, whether design choices or choice words.

Besides dog-ear hairdos, tunnel-vision bonnets, and fancy pleating, a classic bit of 1840s fashion is the pelerine. An 1840s pelerine is like a little cape/shawl/collar made out of the same fabric as the dress. They were used both for warmth and to protect the shoulders from the sun during the early part of the decade when off-the-shoulder and wide boat necklines were popular.

Right to Left: Via Augusta Auctions, via Pinterest, via the John Bright Collection, via Pinterest

Looking at the 3723 “Pilgrim,” I couldn’t help but notice how her oversized collar resembled a little pelerine….so I pieced together the last few little scraps of my fabric to make one!

I didn’t have enough of the antique grey ribbon to use on the pelerine, so to jazz it up, I used antique tape lace collar had been languishing in a drawer since 2014 when I bought it to put on my 1850s version of 3723. It was the wrong length to fit that dress, but fit the neckline of the pelerine/collar perfectly.

So here is my final 1840s Jane Eyre/Mrs. Bates look!

I decided I needed some last-minute lappets, so I just slapped some chunky lace on my head like a Victorian Unfortunate Biggins. Ain’t I gorgeous?

Yes, I am.

(And I’m not the only one!)
(Though, honestly, this crochet cap with chenille dangles is pretty baller)

I also owe a huge thanks to both American Duchess and Mistress of Disguise aka ClusterFrock. In addition to my corset, I am also wearing two petticoats — an Ugly Puffer based on Lauren’s blog post here and a wonderfully ruffled cotton petticoat made by Megan— that absolutely help transform this dress from sad flat frump to sassy plump frump!

Ugly Puffers also make fantastic scarves.

If you’ve been a fan of the Simplicity 3723 series, thanks for your continuing support. One of the highlights of my life is when I get a comment or message from someone who saw a project on my blog and felt inspired to give it a try! Now that I have updated my measurements and have a new 3723 sloper, I hope to pick the series back up, finally completing the projects I had planned 6 years ago.

Better late than never! Stay tuned!

Note: This pattern is available under a couple of different names, including Simplicity 3723 (standard misses’ sizes), Simplicity 3725 (girls’ sizes), Simplicity 2354 (extended misses’ sizes, OOP), Print On Demand EA235401 (extended misses’ sizes), and It’s So Easy H0113 / S0321 / S0705 (Pilgrim and Prairie only, in girls and standard misses, OOP). The pattern pieces are similar across all these patterns, so and tweaks I make should be possible regardless of the pattern number you are working with.

Calculating the “Cost” in Costuming

Investing in the Hobby: Is it worth it?

Dress made of £50k for a promotional.

When you begin a costume, there are a few major determining factors that dictate how your project will proceed. You must have in mind an era or character that you want to recreate, like a 1942 army nurse,  Jessica Rabbit, a Civil War widow, Zelda, an 1570s Italian, etc. While this might seem like the greatest determining factor of a costume, in reality, nothing looms over a project so largely as a budget.

My grandmother and I had a phone conversation a while back, and I mentioned my latest sewing projects and plans. She admitted to not having sewn anything in a few decades. She asked how much fabric cost.
“I usually buy cheap fabric that costs between $1.50 and $6.00 a yard,” I told her, “but a quilting cotton could easily run $8-14 dollars.”
I could imagine her shaking her head as she told me, “I used to get patterns and yardage for about 50 cents. Now, it’s often so much cheaper to buy things already made than it is to make it at home.”

In 1959 (when this pattern was published), 50¢ had the modern purchasing power of approximately $4.10 today.

That brief–but informative–moment on the telephone prompted me think a little harder about the actual cost of my hobby. Granted, the vintage price of a pattern or fabric wasn’t subject to modern inflation, but fewer people sew their own clothes these days than ever before, turning fabrics and patterns into luxury hobby goods rather than household staples. A firm project budget is a must!

There is big difference between a set budget and the actual cost of a costume. Budgets should be set before the costume is even begun. Ideally, a budget should be a fixed number, but sometimes you go over, but often you might find yourself happily slipping by under budget! Cost, however, is ultimately a fixed number. It is the amount you spend making your masterpiece (or novicepiece, as is often my case). The concept seems pretty straight forward, but after costuming for a few years, cost can become a fuzzy grey area.

I’ll use perhaps my “cheapest” costume, my 18th century maid’s outfit, as an example.

Calculating the Cost of an Individual Costume

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1. Fabric

Usually when you calculate the cost of a costume project, the most natural thing to do is figure how much you spent on fabric bought specifically for that project. For example, my Simplicity 3723 dress involved the following materials:

6 yards of pink faux-linen-whatever from Walmart – $6.00
1 embroidered crewelwork-on-linen sample – FREE!
1/2 yard floral print decor remnant from Hobby Lobby – STASH!
Recycled cotton sheets for lining – STASH!
_____________
Total: $6.00

I was fortunate (or unfortunate, as the stuff turned out to be a wrinkly nightmare) to find some faux-linen-whatever at Walmart for only a dollar a yard, and the floral decor remnant was from my stash, as was the cotton sheet. The cewel-work sample that became the stomacher was sent along as a free gift with another sample I bought. When it comes to fabric calculations alone…HOLY COW! A DRESS FOR $6?!

Yes!

Well, sort of.

You see, I am a miser–or perhaps, more aptly, an accountant– when it comes to my purchases. For example, while the crewelwork and sheets were genuinely free (my parents had purchased the sheets for me five years ago as a college gift and I had worn them out), the floral remnant I could remember paying $10.64 at Hobby Lobby about a year prior, thanks to the paper label I had kept it wrapped in. Even though it wasn’t purchased exclusively for this dress, it was still an integral part in the costume.

Pictured: Not my stash.
My stash is nowhere near this organized.

Stash and scrap fabrics are an interesting case because so often we forget how much they cost.  Does it need to be included in the “cost” of my costume if I use it even though I purchased the fabric so long ago? Obviously I spent money on my stash fabrics at some point and even my penny-pinching side can’t remember the cost of every fabric in my stash. Could I count four yards of expensive embroidered silk taffeta as “free” if it’s been sitting so long in my closet that I can’t remember what I paid for it? That’s a tricky question. Basically, if I think the stash fabric would cost under $5 to buy new, I ignore the cost just for the sake of my sanity. Otherwise, I try to list a fair price.

There are also trims to consider, like the lace engageantes sleeves I made which, though removable, are basted to the dress and an important piece to complete the look. So my cost calculation should look more like this:

6 yards of pink faux-linen-whatever from Walmart – $6.00
1 embroidered crewelwork-on-linen sample – FREE!
1/2 yard floral print decor remnant from Hobby Lobby – $10.64
Recycled cotton sheets for lining – FREE!
2 yard of lace for the engageantes – $10
_____________
Total: $26.64

2. Notions

Paper box with linen measuring tape, circa 1790-1810

All these fabrics and trims aren’t held together by angel dreams and unicorn tears. Sewing requires notions. I have a large collection of threads, bias tapes, and other sundry items, but do I include them in my calculation of cost? Notions are just like stash fabric. Often, we have collected them over a long period of time and can no longer remember their cost. Some, like spools of thread, can be used across multiple projects. However, notions (especially if you consider buttons or ribbon to be notions) and other structural materials like boning can add up fast, not to mention the cost of the pattern itself!

6 yards of pink faux-linen-whatever from Walmart – $6.00
1 embroidered crewelwork-on-linen sample – FREE!
1/2 yard floral print decor remnant from Hobby Lobby – $10.64
Recycled cotton sheets for lining – FREE!
2 yard of lace for the engageantes – $10
22″ zipper from Walmart – $2.55
Size 10 sew-on snaps – $2.97
Zip tie for boning the stomacher – FREE!*
Thread – $1.55
Simplicity 3723 pattern – 99 cents*
_____________
Total: $34.70

*As a general rule, if I calculate that I spent under 50 cents for the individual item, I do not count it, but I had to purchase a whole pack in order to get just this one 1/2 inch wide zip tie. If I never use the rest of them for other projects, I basically just spent $6 to buy boning for this one costume.  Also, the pattern was on sale at Hobby Lobby. On a regular day, Simplicity 3723 costs $10-17, depending on the store.

This is the money that I personally invested in this particular dress. It’s not the $6 dress from earlier, but it’s still plenty cheaper than buying one pre-made. You can’t find a mass-produced costume for that cheap, especially not one custom made just for you.

2.5 Equipment

This category is tricky and I’m only going to briefly go over it. Hence the “2.5” designation.

Almost any hobby requires you to invest in a few basic tools. The most basic tool for sewing is a needle. A good, sharp pair of scissors is another, as is a lot of pins and a flexible measuring tape (or 5). All other sewing equipment is just a variation of those three tools. These basic tools can be purchased for only a few dollars: needles are a dollar or two a packet of 10 or more, a box of pins might cost another dollar or two and a flexible measuring tape costs about the same. The most expensive is the scissors for $8-10. So for a handsewer’s start-up, the initial equipment investment can be less than $15!

However, most folks who sew will want to invest in a sewing machine. I sew on a Singer Simple machine. It was a gift, but would cost about $100 to buy new. Machines require special machine needles which, ideally, must be changed at least once a project and purchased to suit the type of fabric being sewn. Some people like also having a serger to finish edges for them or an embroidery machine. Those can run into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Others, like myself, content themselves with investing in lot of excellent pairs of fabric scissors. I have pinking shears ($20), regular fabric-only shears ($15), and two or three sets of thread-snips scattered around the craft room ($10 each). Some folks prefer cutting their fabric with a fancy rotary cutter instead of scissors. A good seam ripper is another must-have tool ($3). I probably spend more time ripping apart seams than sewing them!

My basic sewing equipment arsenal adds up like this:

Singer Simple – FREE-ish! (gift, but $120 new)
3 bobbins, button hole foot, needle threader, lint brush included with machine
Invisible zipper foot (a recent acquisition) $11
Sewing machine needles, pack of 5 – $6
3 boxes of pins – $6 ($2 each)
Fiskars fabric shears – $15
Fiskars pinking shears – $20
Fiskars thread snips – $30 ($10 seach)
3 flex measuring tapes – $3
Innumerable hand-sewing needles of various sizes – $5 (rough estimate)

_______

Total: about $220 if I had to buy it all over again

While the start-up can be initially expensive, these tools are used for every project, so their per-use cost rapidly decreases the more projects you do with them. I have used my scissors so many hundreds of thousands of times that I don’t even consider them as a cost for a costume. At most, the per-costume use cost would be a few cents. But if you are just starting out in the hobby or starting a costuming business, the cost of your sewing equipment is an important budget consideration.

3. Time

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Sewing at 2am is standard practice.

Material costs are one thing, but the time required to turn those materials into a piece of wearable clothing makes a custom costume more expensive. My costume took lots of hard work to make. I handsewed 90% and it took me over a week. I sewed about 4 hours a night for 8 days, so about 32 hours. That’s like working an average day job! At my current day job, I made about $12 and hour. If I carry that value over to all my time, by working 32 hours, I have have done $384 worth of work!  If you sell the costumes you create, keeping track of the time invested in your items becomes especially important. While you may not get the equivalent of $12 an hour, you don’t want to undervalue your time either! This is why custom clothing items are so expensive compared to the mass-produced clothing you buy in Walmart or even department stores. A home crafter or even a small co-op cannot match the production costs of a giant factory filled with specialized machines staffed by workers paid pennies by the hour.

I don’t think “paying myself” for something I do as a hobby applies to this dress because I made it for myself, but putting a price on the physical labor does make you appreciate your own handiwork infinitely more.

However, even if I put aside the hours of work involved in making my dress, I still haven’t reached the actual cost of my costume!

SAY WHAT?!

4. Support Garments

I’m not just wearing the dress I made, I’m wearing undergarments as well:

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Though I did not sew my undergarments myself, my costume wouldn’t be the same without them! My costuming undergarments include a corset, tank top, and button-front skirt. Even though I wear them with everything and don’t include them in any costume’s cost calculation, I technically did pay for them at one point:

Corset – $75
Tank top: $3
Second-hand skirt: $3

I wear these so often that if I apply the “divide the cost by number of times worn” rule, the cost of the most expensive item, my corset, comes out to only about $1 a day. But if someone else wanted to recreate my look from scratch, they would have to invest the whole $75. The same goes for homemade stays. To buy fabric and boning to make them also costs money. Even my stash-made pillow panniers are made of material I once had to purchase.

5. Accessories

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Accessories are another sneaky cost, but they can elevate a costume from cute to full-on fabulous! For this particular costume, I splurged on my beloved American Duchess Pompadours. I dyed and trimmed them for pizzazz. I have a favorite pair of stockings to wear with them as well. Up top, I used vintage baby bonnet to cover my bun. Even though my grandmother gave it to me in a box of linens, it was still marked with a $4 price tag. I also threw on some vintage faux pearls for charm; these belonged to my sister and were promptly returned. So to me, they were free!

American Duchess shoes – $92
Shoe dye – $12
Antique metallic ribbon – $18
O Basics stockings – $8
Vintage bonnet – FREE! / $4
Vintage necklace – FREE! (or $5 if you hit up Walmart)

Total it up!

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So here is the new calculation based on every single item in this outfit:

6 yards of pink faux-linen-whatever from Walmart – $6.00
1 embroidered crewelwork-on-linen sample – FREE! *sent along with another I paid $24 for
1/2 yard floral print decor remnant from Hobby Lobby – $10.64
Recycled cotton sheets for lining – FREE!
2 yard of lace for the engageantes – $10
22″ zipper from Walmart – $2.55
Size 10 sew-on snaps – $2.97
Zip tie for boning the stomacher – FREE! *$6 for the pack
Thread – $1.55
Simplicity 3723 pattern – 99 cents*
Corset – $75
Tank top: $3
Second-hand skirt: $3
American Duchess shoes – $92
Shoe dye – $12
Antique metallic ribbon – $18
O Basics stockings – $8
Vintage bonnet – FREE! / $4
Vintage necklace – FREE!
_____________
Total: $249.70
OR
if you include the $384 time investment:
$633.70

I’m not going to lie: that’s a lot of money. Looking at the breakdown now, my dress seems like a poor showing for $250, much less $634! Would I pay that price for it? No. But remember, the actual dress only cost me $34.70! Everything else is an investment. My corset, stockings, shoes, and all the other separate bits are reusable. There may be thread left on the spool, the rest of the zip ties get used up the way they were intended (did you know that zip ties can actually be used to tie things together? Who’d have thought?!), and the leftover bits of fabric get added back into the stash. That is why when a costumer lists the “cost” of their final outfit, they do not include those sorts of items in the math.

While keeping costs down is the goal of many home costumers, you will ultimately spend money and, more importantly, time. There’s just no way around it. That’s why setting a budget and making smart investments is so important. Even a $35 dollar historically accurate pattern is justifiable if you have the skills to make it properly and/or make multiple pieces from it. Use a $10 dress pattern once and you paid $10; use it twice, and now it was only $5 per dress! The more you make, the better you will get and the cheaper the pattern will become. Find pieces that multitask or that you can refashion later when you get tired of the old version. Borrow and share pieces amongst your (trustworthy) friends. Recycle as often as you can!

The most important thing to remember about cost is that you are investing in your hobby. Keeping yourself busy with something you enjoy is the best therapy in the world, even if you get so frustrated with your machine you want to smash it with a hammer and throw it down the stairs after it gets all tangled up with an impossible amount of red thread in impossible places…

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Experience speaks!

I costume not because I’m particularly talented at it, but because I love a challenge just as much as I love pretty clothes. To me, making costumes is like earning a series of giant, wearable achievement badges. More than once I have turned down a beautiful fabric because I couldn’t afford it or my current skills would not do the fabric justice. I may miss out on the perfect print, but I don’t think it’s a huge sacrifice to go with a cheaper fabric that I feel comfortable making a mistake with. You name the mistake, I’ve probably done it! However, I usually don’t stress too much if I purchased plenty of fabric at a good price. I could buy a $10 box of chocolates that will disappear in a few hours and mysteriously reappear around by waist a few weeks later, or I can buy $10 worth of fabric and puzzle a dress out of it. Even though I love candy (and dessert in general. Oh, the cheesecake!), investing $10 towards a new dress much better than spending $10 towards growing out of one.

Is costuming worth it? Yes.
Is it for everyone? Well, it could be. :)

Whether you make or buy your own costumes, what matters most is that they make you happy!