One Pattern to Rule Them All: A Civil War Era Dress Made from Simplicity 3723 (Part 2)

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

Autumn Day Dress, circa 1855-60


After much procrastination, consternation, and perspiration (the sewing room upstairs gets rather toasty), I finished assembling my modified-for-the-1850s Simplicity 3723 day dress!


Hmmm….not so impressive.

While it looks pretty close to the envelope, if you think it looks a little “off” in that photo, you’d be right! This is a perfect example of how much undergarments matter. Simplicity 3723 is designed to be worn without a corset, but I fitted it over one for a more period look. However, since my corseted measurements and my uncorseted measurements happen to be exactly the same, I decided to take the opportunity to show how important proper undergarments can be. This is what the gown looks like without any petticoats, hoops, or a corset. It looks rather frumpy, doesn’t it?

You’ll also notice that even the pagoda sleeves, while lovely, look a little flat compared to what you’d expect. If you look at period photographs, you’ll notice that some ladies are wearing their wide sleeves alone, but most have fluffy while undersleeves filling out the cuff:


Daguerreotype portrait of a Woman, 1849-52
Worn sans undersleeves. Another later example here.

Handtinted Ambrotype of a Woman, circa 1855
Example of undersleeves from right around the time of my dress! Her undersleeves and collar are “Broderie Anglaise” (a type of homemade eyelet that was very fashionable in the 1850s). I like this photo a lot because she looks a bit like me. I even did my hair similarly. We’re history sisters!

Undersleeves, circa 1850-69
These are also decorated with broderie anglaise.

Undersleeves could vary from very fancy to extremely plain. For simplicity (Ha, ha! Jokes.), I chose to go with the latter. Making your own undersleeves is very simple! They are just two tubes of fabric gathered with drawstrings at the top and bottom. I used elastic cord for the drawstring because trying to tie drawstrings on yourself is impossible otherwise. Many undersleeves of the period had drawstring tops, but button cuffs for this very reason. However, I wanted something very quick and easy that anyone could make. By using elastic cord, I can dress myself.


I just measured the length from above my elbow to my wrist and cut that much off a bolt of 45 inch fabric, which I then cut along the fold, giving me two rectangles of fabric 18″ x 22.5.” This is about as “skinny” of a sleeve you can make. The fuller your dress’ sleeves, the fuller your undersleeves should be.

By 1858, hoop skirts were in full swing. I really want hoops, but right now, I don’t have the cash. Instead, I fit my dress over a cheap bridal petticoat I found in Goodwill for $7, a modest bumroll, and my “post-haste” petticoat.


Also: sock boobs!
I fitted the dress over a corset, but I didn’t put my corset on my mannequin because she is actually much longer waisted than I am and is nipped in and hard as steel in already!


My “post-haste” petticoat is just 3 or 4 yards of fabric with a drawstring waistband. it’s post-haste because I made it 20 minutes before an event in a panic! Now it’s been worn with everything from an 18th century dress to 1880s bustles!

So now:


Thanks in part to the heavy weight of the fabric, the final shape isn’t as defined and full as hoopskirts, but it’s still full enough to be period appropriate, especially for a common country woman. This fullness is actually perfect for 1840s, though! Now I know what to do for that decade when I get around to it.


The collar is just some soft net lace I had originally bought to make 18th century engageantes. I really wanted to use an antique collar, but I couldn’t find one the right size. This works well enough, though. I am really proud of how the tassels turned out. So much fun!


I notice a lot of pictures of museum workers standing by Victorian dresses, especially Queen Victoria herself, commenting about how tiny everything is. Well, it’s kind of an optical illusion. My dress looks pretty small compared to me, but that’s mostly thanks to modern clothes which aren’t fitted and cut across the body at the widest point. Also, you can really see just how much wide skirts make your waist look smaller by hiding your legs, which in my case are the skinniest part of my body. By hiding them, the eye re-focuses on the new skinniest place: your waist!

Before I could call my outfit complete, I needed a bonnet! No self-respecting 1850s lady, especially an ol’ married lady such as m’self, would be caught dead outdoors without proper headgear. Simplicity 3723 comes with a fabric sun bonnet pattern that’s pretty cute, but I didn’t want to be cute. I wanted to be petty, tailored, and stately in a modest-sized spoon bonnet that fit fairly close to my head. I also didn’t want to be too matchy-matchy. I had some dark blue ribbon that complimented the jewel tones of my dress and reminded me of this gorgeous bonnet in the National Trust Collections:

Bonnet, circa 1840-50
It’s dated a bit early, but simple enough that it could pass for almost any style between 1840 and 1860.

I used one of the many flower pot baskets out of my TV-intervention-worthy hoard as a base. As a few online tutorials suggested, I took off the top binding and soaked it in hot water for a few hours to try to remove some of the waviness in the brim. The basket straw is much thicker and brittle than hat straw, so I couldn’t get it as flat as I wanted, but slight waviness doesn’t seem to be a issue for these historical ladies:

Ladies of Davenport, Iowa,1863
My bonnet ended up being almost exactly the same shape as the one on the far left. Also: love that lady’s purse!

I rebound the edge with bias tape and in the process discovered that you never, EVER use “Amazing QuickHold” glue. Ever. It smells like skunk, makes the cat flee from the room in disgust, and causes the husband to ask many unflattering questions. It’s formulated to be thin, so it also soaks into fabric, leaving little frosted white patches when it dries. Do not recommend! I learned my lesson and went back to trusty old “craft” glue.


I would have sewn everything on, but once again the thick straw got in the way– and perhaps no small amount of pure sloth. I really do love my hat baskets, though. They’re really cheap, easy to obtain, and highly entertaining. If I mess one up, I don’t feel as bad as if I had invested in an expensive reproduction bonnet form or even a straw hat. When I found the flower choices at the local craft stores to be rather uninspiring, I made some cockades using this tutorial and added a tassel cut from the dress trim scraps to tie it together without being overly matching:


Bonnet cost breakdown:

2 yards navy ribbon – $4.75, eBay
2 yards mustard ribbon – $4.75, eBay
Hat basket – $1.59, Goodwill
1/2 yard net lace – $2, Hobby Lobby
2 yards pleated brown ribbon – $4.50, Walmart
Bias tape – $1.98, Walmart

Total: $19.57

Add some second-hand square-toed boots and I was ready to trundle everything out to my graciously obliging mother-in-law’s house for a photoshoot! Here’s everything being worn altogether:




??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

Dress cost breakdown

6 yards printed cotton – $17.82, Walmart
2 yards burgundy cotton – $5.94, Walmart
4 yards tassel trim – $15.96, Hobby Lobby
1/2 yard net lace – $2, Hobby Lobby
Cotton sheet for flat lining – $1, Thrift Town
Hooks and bars – $1.69, Hobby Lobby
Brown poly-cotton thread – $1.98, Walmart

Total: $46.39


Bonnet – $19.57
Bridal Petticoat – $7, Goodwill
Flat, brown leather ankle boots – $29, eBay (Talbots brand)
Collar brooch – Personal collection

Total: $102.50
(a bit spendier than I would have liked, but still cheaper than purchasing one pre-made!)

Aside from the still-too-small petticoat circumference, I’d say my foray into the 1850s was a success!

I think the biggest reason the outfit came together so well stems from the way I approached the project. Sure, I wanted to be a bit ornery and prove you could make something passable out of the barest of materials, but I mostly made this dress for myself, approaching the project as though I was making clothes, not a “costume.” I chose fabric, colors, and trims that I thought looked best on me, not just because they were historically appropriate or pretty on their own and I made sure that I could generally exist in it comfortably without feeling suffocated or weird. A lot of costumes I’ve worn in the past have always felt costumey, so they projected as costumey, too. While taking on a different persona can be fun, if you are historically costuming in general, you are still you, even if you are an accountant in Alabama portraying a fisherman’s wife in 17th century Spain. Naturally, you would wear what “they” would have worn, but you are also the one wearing it, so wear what you would wear, too!


Many thanks to Becky for allowing me to roam all over the back 40 and helping me take photos!

For construction details and the story behind this dress, check out Part 1.


One Pattern to Rule Them All: A Civil War Era Dress Made from Simplicity 3723 (Part 1)

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

Autumn Day Dress, circa 1855-60

I am not afraid to admit it: I have a not-so-secret love affair with 3723. Buying patterns for each and every specific era can be really expensive considering that patterns run about $15-$25 each. Simplicity patterns are no exception, but stores often run pattern sales for the Big 3 pattern makers. I got my copy of Simplicity 3723 for 99¢ during the Lobby of Hobby’s pattern sale. It’s the catch-all pattern designed to make basic “Pilgrim, “Colonial,” and “Prairie” style dresses using as few pattern pieces as possible, so instead of having to buy a different pattern for each era, you get a whole bunch of options in one. None of them are meticulously historically accurate by any means, but the shapes and styles are very easy to manipulate even for someone as ham-handed as myself.

Simplicity patterns get very little love in the historical costuming community, which is a shame. They may not be historically accurate, but they are readily available and in the case of Simplicity 3723, supremely modifiable– great for fitting practice and flexing your creative muscles! You can literally make a dress from almost any era with just this one pattern and plenty of chutzpah. One of my previous costuming projects involved transforming Simplicity 3723 into something a little more historically accurate for the 18th century:


My 18th century Lady’s Maid Dress from 2013

And more recently, an 1880s Bustle Dress:


My 1886 Day Dress from June 2014

Fit First!

 After making the 1886 day dress, I have pretty much refined the pattern to fit my torso properly. Most patterns are drafted for someone between 5′ 4″ and 5′ 8″ with an “average-length” torso and a B-cup bust. Some people are lucky enough to match standard patterns pretty well, but I’m broad shouldered, large-busted, and short-waisted, so no matter what, I always end up altering patterns to fit.
If you’ve ever been disappointed by how your costume looks after you’ve sewn it up exactly like the pattern said to do, it might be because the pattern doesn’t fit you quite like it should. The pattern shapes that come fresh out of the envelope are not absolutes! They are printed on paper not just for economy, but because they are designed to be cut, folded, and reshaped to fit you best. If you’re worried about ruining the original, trace the pattern pieces onto some cheap gift tissue or butcher paper so you can slice, dice, fold, and fiddle without fear. I encourage you to check out the many fitting guides you can find in books and online. For example, I have a simple pattern alteration guide from New Mexico State University saved on my desktop for quick access.

Hint: Pattern guides often leave this little tip out, but most modern patterns have armholes (armscyes) that are too low. Simplicity 3723’s are especially deep. If the armscye is too deep, it will make raising your arms difficult, creating a “bat wing” effect. Instead, the armscye should fit fairly close to your armpit. THIS SIMPLE PATTERN ALTERATION IS LIFE CHANGING! I will admit that I didn’t raise the armscye quite enough on my pattern. I only raised it one inch. On my body, Simplicity’s armscyes needed to be raised at least 2 inches. This handy guide explains how to get the right fit around your arm for an amazing fit every time. If you can get the armscye to fit right, you’ll be surprised how much better the entire bodice will look.

Since I plan to make many dresses out of Simplicity 3723 in the future, once I got the bodice portion to fit me correctly, I transferred the pattern onto some sturdy interfacing so I could use it over and over again without having to worry about ripping/overpinning/finding the cat chewing on the original tissue pattern. Now I have the basic building blocks for a whole wardrobe of fairly easy to make historical outfits!


Label the new pattern with the original pattern and piece number, any sewing marks, and what alterations you made. Adding a date created and/or the measurements is also helpful. Bodies tend to change over time!

One Pattern to Rule Them All Challenge

The glory of Simplicity 3723 is once you’ve got the bodice to fit, you can make tons of dresses from different eras by just manipulating a few key bits!  So, I decided to challenge myself by making a dress for every major costuming era as a way to stretch my costume budget, encourage more focused research, practice fundamental sewing/patterning skills, and encourage creative thinking (something that can be surprisingly hard in the midst of the unemployment doldrums).  I’ve decide to limit myself to no more than 5 pattern alterations for every project (aside from the ones for basic fit), so if anyone wants to fiddle around with the pattern, they can get similar results.

(These tweaks should also work for Simplicty 3725, which is the children’s version of Simplicity 3723)

The Inspiration

Simplicity 3723 includes a “prairie dress” pattern, View A. It’s based off of American pioneer garb from the mid-19th century mixed with 20th century fitting techniques, producing costumes very similar to those used in the beloved Little House on the Prairie TV series, hence the term “prairie dress.”

“A Christmas They Never Forgot” always made me cry when I was little. Still my favorite!

I’ve steered clear of “Civil War” and other mid-19th century costuming for a long time because, sadly, as one of the most popular reenacting periods, it can get pretty catty and cut-throat when it comes to historical accuracy. There are entire webpages and Facebook groups dedicated to “farb” shaming. In fact, the pejorative term “farb” originated in this particular era of historical reenacting.

Hoops showing? What a Farb!

This particularly strict and sometimes vicious attitude is one of the many ill experiences that caused my teenage self to abandon historical costuming for years. However, that experience (among others) led me to create this blog. Thanks to time, practice, and lots of new, more supportive costuming friends, I decided to give the 1850s a try; after all, my figure is pretty well suited for it! There are plenty of historically accurate patterns for this era out there, but when I confront a challenge, I like to challenge it back.

Simplicity 3723 is most definitely a “farb” dress by reenactor standards, but it was never designed to be perfectly accurate anyway.  The pattern designer, Andrea Schewe, created this pattern specifically with small-scale theater productions in mind that need to clothe lots of actors with few resources. View A  is actually pretty good straight out of the envelope (personal fit issues aside). If you need a mid-19th century dress for a school play, just make it up as directed and add fluffy petticoats for a convincing 1840s-60s character. The one-piece construction is historically appropriate as well as convenient, plus  there’s enough fabric in the skirt to cover a 90-110″ hoop skirt. However, I wanted something a little more distinctive. The 1850s and early 1860s are famous for wide skirts and equally wide sleeves. And, as you probably know by now, I love big sleeves!

There are tons of inspirational photographs and extant garments to choose from, but in my case, the fabric actually came before the dress was even an idea. I found this wild, but utterly perfect quilting cotton at Walmart for just under $3 a yard. It’s part of 2014’s “Circles on Stripes” pattern, which came in blue, green, and brown backgrounds. All the ladies at the fabric counter thought it was pretty ugly, but I chose the brown. At the time, I had no intention of making a Victorian dress, but it gave me the fabric fuzzies inside, so I knew I had to have it! I bought 6 yards.


I discovered a really nifty thing! If you go onto Walmart’s website, it’s horribly hard to look through their fabric listing, but if you really need extra yardage (as I did), but you’ve exhausted the supply at your local store, the website will actually tell you which stores still have your desired fabric in stock! That way, you don’t have to waste as much time driving store to store looking the hard way.

My particular pattern looks very similar to the ones found in this book of 1860s cotton swatches:

Swatch Book, circa 1863-68

It’s thick, as most quilting cottons are, much thicker than much of the cotton fabric available in the 1850s. In fact, the texture of my cotton fabric is quite close to Victorian dress-weight wool, which, as it turns out, was often printed with wild, bright patterns very similar to Walmart’s quilting fabrics! You can find quite a few photographs of ladies wearing eclectic prints:

Print Dress 1 print dress 2 print dress 3

Women in Print Dresses, circa 1855-65
This set of photographs is from an eBay auction.

Another must for the 1850s besides big bell sleeves is fringe and tassels!

Afternoon Dress, circa 1857
Okay, perhaps not quite so much fringe…

After looking at lots of designs and photos, this was the design I came up with:


One of the most important aspects of historical costuming is the shape of the waistline. The 1850s was transitional when it came to waistlines. The 1840s had really long, pointed waists and the 1860s were short waisted and rounded. Simplicity 3723 is long waisted with a slight point at the front, making it perfect for late 1840s and early 1850s. I’m naturally short waisted, so when I altered the pattern to fit my body, the waistline became more rounded with a slight dip in the front, pushing it closer to the late 1850s to early 60s.

To get the look I desired, I had to make the following alterations to Simplicity 3723:

(+1 skill point indicates something I’d never done before!)

1. Front Opening – The original dress pattern is made to zip up the back. To make the dress more historically accurate (and so I wouldn’t have mess with sewing in a zipper), I opted to make the bodice close in front with hooks and eyes. To be able to get the dress on, I added an 8″ deep lapped placket to the front of the skirt (+1 skill point!).

2. Dropped Shoulders – 1850s dresses had dropped shoulders, meaning the armscye didn’t sit at the top of the shoulder joint, but further down the arm (+1 skill point!).

3. Period Skirt Finishes – To get the most out of the fullness, I cut the skirt panels out of the full width of the fabric (in my case, 45″). Instead of gathering the waistband of the skirt, I used overlapping knife pleats. Originally, I was going to cartridge pleat it (another period method of fabric control), but after fiddling with it a few days (and ripping out yards of stitching), I decided knife pleating suited my tastes more. If you use 60″ fabric, your skirt can be made even fuller and you’ll probably want to use cartridge pleats to draw in the waistline. To help support the hemline, many Victorian dresses had hem facings between 4-10 inches wide (some even wider). I decided to go with a 5-6 inch wide facing.

4. No Collar – This is a small change. Instead of completing View A with a collar, I just left it off.

5. Pagoda/Bell Sleeves – I redrafted the sleeve pattern because nothing screams 1850s like sleeve swag! (+1 skill point!)

The Pattern


You only need 5 pattern pieces to make an 1850s dress!
If you haven’t worked with this pattern before, measure yourself wearing your undergarments of choice (especially if you plan to wear a corset) and choose the closest pattern size to your measurements. I recommend choosing a pattern size according to your bust measure, but generally speaking, this pattern is pretty true to size with a good amount of ease (2.5 inches in the bust) built in for the average, active wearer. As I mentioned previously, I performed basic pattern alterations to make sure the bodice pieces, mainly bodices pieces 1 and 2, fit my body. Buy some cheap fabric, second hand sheets work perfectly, and make a mock-up of the pattern to gauge where you’ll need to make changes to the pattern, if any.

Many 1850s dress have very low dropped shoulders. I have wide enough shoulders as it is, so I find dropping the sleeves to be a bit unflattering. I decided to drop the sleeve only two inches, which I achieved by adding to the shoulder of my pattern:


This is only an inches worth of drop which I tried for my first mock-up. I later extended it to two inches. Sadly, I didn’t get many action shots of this dress’s progress, for which I apologize!

The only other major change to the pattern pieces was turning the straight sleeve into a pagoda sleeve. I wanted a nice, fairly fitted upper with a generous lower bell that ended above my wrist, so I took the long sleeve pattern from View A and marked where the elbow was (this is where the flare would begin) and where I wanted the sleeve to end. Then I drew a gentle curve out about 3 inches between the two points. This hastily-drawn image explains it much better than I can:


It doesn’t take very much extra flare to make a really full sleeve. For extremely wide sleeves, you can begin the curve above the elbow almost at the shoulder line. I had to make a few mockups before I got a curve I liked.


Too much curve! This is what happens when the angle of your curve is too sharp and too wide.


For a front closure, I needed two separate halves instead of a single piece. So instead of placing the bodice front piece on the fold, I placed it on the selvedge. Make sure your skirt panels are the right length (remember that you may need to add some extra length if you are using hoops larger than about 100 inches) and to cut them the full width of the fabric if you are using 45″ fabric to get maximum volume. Otherwise, follow the cutting directions provided by the pattern. I also had to account for extra yardage for my sexy new, voluminous sleeves (about 2/3 yard extra). I flat lined my bodice using a thrifted cotton sheet. Sage advice: Flat line all your Victorian bodices. It’s not only period correct, it also makes  taking things in and letting them out so much easier!

???????????????????????????????I cut 6 inch wide strips of fabric across the width (45 inches) of my fabric and sewed them together to create the hem facing. For the front placket, I cut a bias-cut rectangle twice as long as the opening and about 2 inches wide.


Assemble according to envelope, but instead of inserting a zipper in the back, sew the two back pieces together and leave the bodice front open for hooks and eyes. I added a modesty placket so if there is any gapping, it will be much less noticeable. Since that created an overlapping closure, I used bars instead of eyes:


Modesty placket


Front opening

To make the placket for the front opening, I followed this surprisingly simple tutorial from Sense and Sensibility patterns for a slash/lapped placket:

I bag-lined the sleeves with some cranberry cotton, using the scraps to make some pinked-edged ruffle trim for the sleeves. After everything was assembled, I sewed on some showgirl-worthy tassels. You’ll notice that my original drawing had a square design on the bodice. On paper and my dress form, a square looks great! On me….not so much. So I took inspiration from this dress (really, its the pelerine, but it counts!) and went for a much more flattering  sweetheart design.


Obligatory “Kitty Helper” picture!

 So after, two months and three sewing machine needles later (don’t ask), was my 1850s dress successful?

Find out in Part 2!

One Pattern to Rule Them All: A Bustle Dress Made from Simplicity 3723

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

Bustle Dress circa 1886

Ah, Simplicity 3723! I am not afraid to admit it: I have a not-so-secret love affair with 3723.  It’s the catch-all pattern designed to make basic “Pilgrim, “Colonial,” and “Prairie” style dresses using as few pattern pieces as possible. None of them are historically accurate by any means, but the shapes and styles are very easy to manipulate even for someone as ham-handed as myself.

Simplicity patterns get very little love in the historical costuming community, which is a shame. They may not be historically accurate, but they are readily available and in the case of Simplicity 3723, supremely modifiable– great for fitting practice and flexing your creative muscles! You can literally make a dress from almost any era with just this one pattern and plenty of chutzpah. One of my previous costuming projects involved transforming Simplicity 3723 into something a little more historically accurate for the 18th century:


My 18th century Lady’s Maid Dress

It’s the heat of the summer again and I felt like I needed another Simplicity 3723 project (maybe it’ll become a summer tradition, who knows?). I’m more penniless than ever before, so I had an extra level of frugality to wrestle with, but I was feeling ambitious. I needed a bustle gown and I figured I could whip one up in a jiffy if I played around with the pattern pieces a bit, and by golly, I was right! With a few tweaks, I was about to create a fairly decent bustle silhouette!

Sadly, in my haste, I neglected to add extra width to the shoulders, so I didn’t fit into the dress at all. A lovely lady in Germany offered to give it another chance, so off went Bustle Dress #1 to a new home! After a good cry and a few months/projects later, I was ready to try again. This time I made sure that I fitted the shoulders properly! That’s one of the glories of this pattern: the pieces are very simple to alter.


When I finally get all the alterations right, I trace my new pattern onto interfacing (the sew-in kind, not the iron-on). It’s strong, durable, won’t unravel and is hard to tear. Label the new pattern with the original pattern and piece number, any sewing marks, and what alterations you made. Adding a date created and/or the measurements is also helpful. Bodies tend to change over time!

Luckily, I had bought the whole bolt of faux suiting and found some more green velour at Walmart, so I could stick to my original design and stay within budget. Huzzah!

The Design

Simplicity 3723 doesn’t have a “bustle” option. Indeed, it’s well nigh impossible to find a decent all-in-one bustle dress pattern from the Big 3, mostly because bustle dresses are often large swathes of fabric carefully caught up into shape using tapes, gathers, drapes, and a strategically placed gore or three. All these large tissue pieces mean that a full bustle dress pattern is very bulky and hard to fit into a regulation Big 3 envelope. However, by choosing the right pieces and fudging them a bit, you can make View A (the “Prairie” style dress) into a fairly nice bustle dress for Steampunk or theatrical purposes!


I’m notorious for not following pattern directions, but for this dress, I decided to limit myself to no more than five pattern alterations (aside from those needed for fit):

1. Front Opening – The original dress pattern is made to zip up the back. To make the dress more historically accurate (and so I wouldn’t have mess with sewing in a zipper), I opted to make the bodice close in front with hooks and eyes.

2. Separate Skirt – Unlike Simplicity 3723’s dress, bustle-era dresses usually didn’t have the skirt attached to the bodice.

3. Bustle Shaping – In order for the dress to sit smoothly over a bustle without the hem of the skirt hiking up in the back, the back of the skirt needs to be longer and rounded.

4. Add Skirt Gores (or would they be darts of sorts?)- To keep the large amount of fabric in the skirt from bulking up the waist, bustle-era skirts generally had triangular gores cut out of the top so there was less fabric to pleat or gather.

5. Bustle “Overskirt” – To emphasize that luscious booty!

Step 1: The Pattern


Making a bustle dress out of Simplicity 3723 only takes 8 pattern pieces. Measure yourself wearing your undergarments of choice (especially if you plan to wear a corset) and choose the closest pattern size to your measurements. I recommend choosing a pattern size according to your bust measure, but generally speaking, this pattern is pretty true to size with a good amount of ease (2.5 inches in the bust) built in for the average, active wearer. As I painfully reiterated earlier, I needed to make a few additional alterations to make the pattern fit. I like to use the basic “Pattern Alterations Guide C-228” published online by New Mexico State University, but many other similar pattern altering guides are available online and in sewing books. Since the bodice pattern is so simple, it’s very easy to manipulate even if you’ve never done pattern alterations before.

You’ll notice all the pattern pieces I used were from “View A,” the prairie-style dress. The other two pieces are the “apron tie end” that I used as a waistband pattern and the “drape” pattern from the “Colonial-style” dress which would become the bustle overskirt.

Step 2: Layout

This is where most of the magic happens–and the key to making those all-important changes that will turn this into a bustle dress.


Something like this, depending on your fabric.

Once I had all my pattern pieces in order, I needed to lay them out on the fabric. Since I wanted my bodice to be front-opening, I didn’t lay the bodice front on the fold as instructed (though you still can; you’ll just need to cut it apart at the fold afterwards). To make the collar open in the front as well, I simply put the center back on the fold instead of the center front. A bodice looks much better when it is lined, so I cut the exact same pieces out of a nice old cotton sheet!

The most complex change, though, was the skirt:


In order to get that bump at the back that would make the dress curve over the bustle without the hem hanging funny, you have to have a curve at the back. Piece 5 is actually the front skirt piece, but it has that lovely curve already built in. I used it for the back of the skirt instead!

What I did:

First, I flipped piece 5 so it was on the selvage instead of the fold, then I extended the curve out until it met the fold.
Piece 5 is shorter than piece 6, so you have to extend the bottom of the piece to match the hemline.
Piece number 6 is going to be the front of your skirt. I only cut one copy of 6 because I didn’t want too much fullness at the front.
I cut a 12 inch long triangular gore out of the center waistline of piece number 6. I made mine about 5 inches wide at the top, but how wide you make yours depends on your waist size and how full you want the front of your skirt. Smaller sizes will need larger gores, otherwise there will be too much fabric at the waistline to gather/pleat down to the proper size!
I used piece 16 as a guide to cut a waistband for my skirt. I cut it 2 inches longer than my waist size to allow for finishing and overlap for the closure.

I decided to leave my skirt unlined because my fabric was fairly heavy. However, most skirts from the period are lined and lighter fabrics definitely benefit from a lining!

I chose to make the collar and drape out of a contrasting (and very annoying) green velour contrast fabric. I only cut one drape. It doesn’t look that impressive when it’s flat, but when you sew it together, it’s amazing how much fullness it has!

Step 3: Assembly


The draped overskirt is attached to the bodice. It’s not period, but it makes getting dressed a cinch!

Sew the bodice according to the envelope, but close the back seam instead of leaving it open for the zipper and leave the front seam open to add your hooks and eyes/invisible zipper/buttons. I attached the velour drape around the back, using the front darts as my stopping points. Sadly and rather embarrassingly, I ran out of hooks and eyes, so I couldn’t close the bodice all the way to the point! Whoops! Let’s  just say it’s an artistic design element, shall we?


I’m 5 feet 5 inches tall (41 inches waist-to-floor) and I didn’t alter the pattern’s skirt length. In 2 inch heels, it hits just above my toes in the front.

The skirt I pleated instead of gathered because 1) pleating was the preferred method of fabric control in the 1880s, 2) it isn’t as bulky as gathering, and 3) pleating is just easier for me. In order to get a bustle skirt and not just a plain trained skirt, you actually attach the curved side of the back skirt panel to the waistline instead of the straight side. It makes a little “pooch” for the bustle to fit under and keeps the hemline even. Often, heavy skirts with lots of fabric in them have a tendency to collapse around your legs at the hem, tripping you up and generally looking a mess. The Victorians loved full skirts, so to combat hem collapse, they faced their hems–sometimes up to 12 inches deep! I didn’t go nearly that far. Instead, I just used some 48mm Wright’s bias tape hem facing. It’s stiff, easy to sew, and bends nicely around the curve of the skirt. I wish I’d found some black or even green hem tape, but all Walmart had was white. Still, it does it’s job admirably!


Step 4: Decorate!

Bustle dresses usually have tons of trims, so feel free to go nuts decorating. When in doubt, add more trim! My finished dress looked very much like a uniform– camouflage colored, square shouldered, and stark– so I decided to keep it that way. Plus, I’m broke, so lots of fancy buttons, passementerie, and the like were pretty much out of my reach. I had a swathe of green velour left from making the drape, so I cut some strips from it for decoration. Normally, I would sew the trim on, but since this velour stuff is a knit, it was hell to sew. In a moment of frustration, I broke out…THE HEATBOND.


This stuff is super vintage, too. It’s probably only a few years younger than I am!

It worked surprisingly well.The velour didn’t stretch and shed and it kept the crisp lines. It’s not as neat and tidy and sewing it on, but if you’re pressed for time or patience, the stuff can work miracles.


To get the velour tabs on the shoulders just right, I ironed them on while the dress was on the dressform. That way, I didn’t create any weird creases and I could fiddle with the positioning.

The Finished Dress:

(and some poor-quality photos)






A silly pin-up picture showing my insufficient hooks and eyes and the giant feathery poof on my impromptu 1940s-hat-turned-bonnet. What a tart!

For undergarments, I wore my swanky new corset from Hourglass Attire, a cotton tank top, a white hippie skirt, and my homemade bustle:


The bustle is just a stuffed fabric crescent that I drafted from, of all things, the sleeve head:

101_7695 101_7697 101_7700 101_7705

Then, I added ties and a circular, ruffled tablecloth I found at the thrift shop, creating an utterly ridiculous, yet surprisingly effective, bustle in just the right size:


Cost Breakdown:

1880 old fashioned
Dress and bustle:

5 yards polyester “suiting” – $15, Walmart
2 yards obnoxious green velour – $6, Walmart
Queen-sized cotton sheet – $1.99, thrift shop
Heatbond – FREE! (Thank you, Reva!)
(Not enough) hooks and eyes – $1.69, Hobby Lobby
Brown poly-cotton thread – $1.98, Walmart
Ruffled cotton tablecloth – $1.99, thrift shop

Total: $28.65

While it’s certainly not re-enactment worthy or particularly flashy, it’s easy to wear, fun to make, and I didn’t have to buy any new patterns. So, I’d say the Simplicity 3723 Bustle Dress experiment was successful!

Saucy Chartreuse: 1890s Walking Suit for Frontier Fort Days with the DFW Costumers Guild

Making Sunday’s Best out of Walmart’s Worst

I mentioned that I’d found a chartreuse shirt at the thrift shop recently. Well, the timing couldn’t have been better because I was invited to go to the DFW Costumers Guild’s Frontier Fort Days train ride. I could have worn my Mrs. Mauve dress, but I didn’t want to deal with the huge sleeves in the wild Texas wind, so a new dress was in order– short order!

I had found some super-cheap cherry blossom print cotton at Walmart in the clearance section for $2 a yard. It was love at first sight, even if the first 4 yards of it had snags all over the place!


Japonism was hugely popular in the 1890s. These cherry blossoms are perfect! I think I actually squealed when I found it, but I don’t clearly remember. I do remember hiding the bolt so no one would take it while I finished grocery shopping, though….

Since there were only 7 yards of the cotton print and one full dress would take 6.5, I had to use every last bit, even the snagged parts. I cut the lining and enormous back skirt panels from the chewed-up bits. The pleats hide any little nips perfectly! The pristine fabric was saved for the skirt front and bodice.

I used Simplicity 4156 again (my Precious), but I modified it a lot. So much so, in fact, that I really had no idea what the dress was going to look like in the end because I’d deviated not just from the pattern design, but my own design as well!

The original Simplicity 4156 design


My first draft design: smaller puff sleeves and no lapels, standing collar, or peplum.

Originally, I was going to pair the grey fabric with some buttery yellow velvet, but when I put the two next to each other, it just didn’t work. Then, on a whim, I tried the chartreuse shirt…MAGIC! So I redrafted the design again:


Design draft #2

I omitted the lapels and stand-up collar, and didn’t have to fuss with a peplum and facing, so the bodice was a breeze! The sleeves, however, were a hot mess:

I took TONS of in-progress shots…all of the finished sleeves. Yeah. Just the sleeves. Mostly because I was so glad to be done with them!

I used Ol’ Trusty, my favorite sleeve pattern again. Usually sleeves fit too tightly on my upper arm, but bag around my wrist because my arm is very muscular up top, but twig-like by the time it reaches my wrist. Perfect for 1890s sleeves, but I used applied balloon sleeves instead of drafting a tapering mutton chop sleeve. I just like the look better, but golly, was it a pain! I had to resize the fitted sleeve about three times and re-sew the puffs twice, once because I sewed one on inside out and another because I caught up some of the pleats. Since I wasn’t using the huge, original sleeve-puff pattern included in the envelope, I drafted my own complex sleeve-puff pattern which involved calculus, cracking the Da Vinci code, and blood sacrifice….

Actually, I just took Ol’ Trusty, figured out how far down I wanted the puff to go, then traced around the entire thing 5 inches out:

sleeveAnother one of my highly-technical illustrative masterpieces displaying my intense pattern drafting (and computer illustration) prowess.

It wasn’t elegant and likely could have been done much better, but it worked! I’m usually not much for cuffs, but the sleeves (even with the puff) were much too plain. I cut some triangular cuffs out of the chartreuse silk and was delighted to discover how Starfleet-eque they looked! Two covered buttons later, I was promoted to Lieutenant:

Starfleet Forever

Ah, tiny touches of geekery…

I tacked back the collar with some matching covered buttons to tie the look together. Since I had omitted the lapels and collar, the bodice was rather plain on its own. I had some lovely, drapey lace I had bought to make into 18th century engageantes, but the lace was just a tad too limp in my opinion, so I’d stashed it. However, it was just right for a jaunty jabot, so I upped the haughtiness level of the bodice with a swag of smarmy lace:

Smarmy” and “lace” aren’t usually paired together, but jabots always make me feel like one of those pretentious rich ladies or an Edith Wharton character. It’s like a costume’s costume: I’m playing the part of someone playing a part!
…I think my English Major is showing…

So at the end of day (a rather late end to the day, too), I ended up with something that, while slightly reminiscent of my original design, was much fancier than I originally planned on making:


I used every last bit of the chartreuse shirt! All that’s left are tiny bits and strings scattered everywhere throughout the house thanks to the kitten.

I really, REALLY highly recommend the Simplicity 4156 to intermediate costumers, or even ambitious beginners, in need of an 1890s pattern. The basic pattern goes together well, plus it’s easy to manipulate, fit, and redesign by mixing and matching the pieces. It is currently out of print (a tragedy! Please reprint it, Simplicity!), so it is expensive. It goes for about $35 online, but I was lucky enough to find a copy for $10 from a theater costumer closeout sale, so there are bargains out there!

Construction Notes

The front closes with hooks and eyes and I used 1/2 inch wide cable ties to bone the front, sides, and center back which helped the fit immensely!

For coolness, I didn’t add a full-sleeve interior lining.

My dress form is about 2 inches longer in the waist than I am, so pardon the gap! I am much stockier than Simplicity the Dress Form is, so the bodice actually meets the skirt when I wear them.

I also need to add a waist tape and some hooks and eyes to hold the bodice and skirt together, but I ran out of time. This dress is my new “event” dress, though, so I have lots of time to finish it up for the next go-round. For the train ride, a few strategically placed safety pins in the bodice held everything together nicely!

This braid was in my stash for YEARS because I had no idea what to do with it. It’s really shiny (the picture makes it look less so, but it’s 1980s costume-jewelry gold) and stiff, so it holds the hem out nicely without being too heavy. Plus, it was cheap. I remember paying something like $2.50 for 10 yards of the stuff!

To get the hem to flare out in the 1890s lily shape, I used some gaudy metallic upholstery braid. The green and yellow 1890s dress in my collections used two rows of cording around the bottom to the same effect. Other options include: crinoline (horsehair), cotton duck/canvas, interfacing, and/or lots of fluffy petticoats!


No walking outfit is complete without a hat, so I decorated a thrifted straw sunhat with the leftover lace, a black feathered bird ornament, and a pleated fan shape made from the cuffs of the chartreuse shirt:


I’d originally bought this hat to wear with an 1860s dress, but I decided at the last minute I needed a big sunhat since I didn’t have a parasol. Boy howdy, am I glad I took a sunhat! I would have been (even more) red as a beet by the end of day if I hadn’t. Sun protection is important, folks!

I also made sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes.


They started off as metallic pastel 1980s shoes, but I painted them last-minute with some cream acrylic. They flaked a bit in the creases, but overall, they worked well. I plan to remove the acrylic and repaint the shoes with some proper leather paint later.







I need a good pair of taupe pumps! These are nice because they have a low heel and make my feet look fashionably long and skinny despite them being wide and duck-like. They are almost comfier than a pair of tennis shoes…almost!

A little scuffed and flaky after walking all afternoon on the bricks, but no blisters, no bunions, and no sore arches!

My sister’s elegant ivory purse and an antique silver locket rounded out the ensemble:

This beauty is currently listed in my Etsy shop.

We all had an excellent time at Frontier Fort Days in the Fort Worth Stockyards, surveying the longhorn cattle parade through the streets behind columns of Civil War era troops,  attending a mortar (cannon) loading and firing demonstration, and, in my case, ordering a burger and fries:


Dressed a decade too early for the hamburger. Just call me food-fashion forward!


Chris investigating the artillery.


A lumbering lot of longhorns!


Some of the lovely ladies of DFWCG representing every decade from 1870 to 1900.

Jen of Festive Attyre took tons of photos of the event and everyone’s handsome costumes. You can find them all on Flickr:


See more pictures here!


The Walmart Fabric Trio!
Each of us made our dresses from Walmart fabric finds.
(Photo by Festive Attyre)

It was 90+ degrees outside (32° Celsius), so I was really glad I took a hat and fan! By the end of the train trip, we were all madly fanning ourselves, glad to be back in the air-conditioned coach. Despite the afternoon heat, I was actually quite comfortable until I sat in the “parked-in-the-sun-baking-all-day” car!

Me and my no-fuss frizz both fizzled out!

All in all, a good, old-fashioned day out with the gals (and some handsome cowboys)!

Dress Stats:

7 yards of cotton print – $14, Walmart
Chartreuse silk shirt – $4.50, Goodwill
Cream silk knit shirt – $4.50, Goodwill
Queen-sized cotton sheet – $1.99, Thrift Town
1/2 inch cover button kit – $4, Joann Fabrics
Hooks and eyes – $1, Hobby Lobby
1 full spool of thread – $2.99, Hobby Lobby
5 yards gold braid – $1.25, personal stash1 yard net lace – $4.99, Etsy

Total: $39.22

If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (or willing to meet up), the DFW Costumers Guild is an open group that welcomes historical and fantasy costumers alike. You can read more about the group, read the guild blog, and get details about future events on the DFW Costumer’s Guild website or Facebook page!

How to Hunt for Antique Costume Bargains on Etsy

Sharing My Secrets!

Stuart Crystal Breeches Button, circa 1690-1700

Stuart Crystal Breeches Button, circa 1690-1700, found online for $40
One of my most prized possessions and the oldest thing (besides rocks) that I own!

A good magician never shares her secrets, but even if I’m a wizard at bargains, I like to see antiques treasured rather than trashed–so secrets I shall share! I lurk around eBay and Etsy, scouring page after page of items, hoping to find something in need of saving. Etsy is a relatively new market to me. I have eBay-ed for over 13 years, but Etsy runs in an entirely different manner. The searches are a little more nebulous and while the format is very welcoming and easy on the eyes, true bargain hunting on Etsy is much different than any other shopping experience (for better or for worse!).


Step 1: Pick Your Prey

Etsy is a huge place and isn’t as strictly categorized as eBay. Sellers are pretty free to choose what category they list their items in. Etsy’s antiques are relegated to the “Vintage” category. This category is huge and merely browsing it can take forever, so it is best to go shopping with a particular type of item in mind, for example “cateye sunglasses” or “Victorian bodices.” You want to keep your search terms pretty general at first, so you can get a feel for what sort of items are available. Two-word searches are best. For example, I searched for “antique shoes” in the Vintage category:


Click image to enlarge

Etsy defaults to sorting search results by “Relevancy.” A computer analyzes tags, keywords, descriptions, and search hits on items and sorts them accordingly. This pair of shoes appears near the top of the results because it had my search keywords in the title. However, many other items may use “antique shoes” somewhere in their description yet aren’t even shoes (like the ‘antique’ silver bead that has horse ‘shoes’ on it). My search also returned 3,863 items, roughly 97 pages of stuff! That would take forever to pick through.

Sometimes you get lucky, though, and find something on the very first page of search results. You’ll notice I’ve circled a great find already– a pair of Victorian heels:

Victorian Embellished Slippers, circa 1890: $75

The pictures are a tad over-exposed, but the shoes are quite nice for their age. Though a little worn, they are still eye-catching. However, at $75, this particular pair is too expensive. I could change the sort method to “Lowest Price” results first, but that doesn’t narrow down the sheer amount of items.

Hint: Check Out Other Keywords

When deciding on keywords, it’s wise to try a multitude of combinations like “antique boots” “antique heels” or “Victorian shoes” since many sellers vary their tags or mislabel something Edwardian as “Victorian” or “Art Deco.” In fact, you can find tons of bargains if you look through mislabeled items because the seller often doesn’t know exactly what sort of treasure they have, plus there will be less visitor traffic and therefore less competition!


Step 2: Set a Budget

To find a bargain, you first must know what is considered a bargain. Shop around and browse the general search items to figure out what sort of prices sellers usually charge for an item. Etsy is more like a consignment shop than a thrift store, so prices will be a little higher than eBay or your local rummage sale, but believe me, the bargains are there!

Once you have an idea about how much items generally go for, you can set a realistic budget that allows you to shop while keeping your wallet intact. For example, I’m interested in antique shoes from before 1925. Most antique shoes on Etsy are going for about $150– so far above my budget that I start seeing stars!
Knowing this, I can settle on a realistic bargain budget. I know that there will be plenty of shoes at $100 or even $80, but I’m super shopping, so I settle on $50 and under. In order to keep all those luscious $150 antique pumps from tempting me, I can use Etsy’s price capping tool to weed out the items that are out of my budget (goodbye, beautiful brown pumps! I bid you a fond farewell…)


Click photo to enlarge
Also: that totally unrelated Barbie shoe necklace is fabulous…

You’ll notice I didn’t just set a cap price, but also a lower price limit of $15. Using a lower cap helps weed out smaller items like “antique shoe” clips or “antique shoe” figurines that would be priced lower than most shoes on Etsy. For vintage and antique clothing items, $10 is a good lower limit. Lower limits for smaller items like “Edwardian lockets” or “vintage scarves” aren’t wise because these smaller items can vary wildly in price and you don’t want to miss anything!

Using a price limit almost halved the number of applicable items! Still, there are over 1,700 items left to search through. But hark! Once again, I circled a pair of shoes on the first page of finds! These actually appeared in the first search in the same spot, but now that the distracting brown bling shoes are out of the equation, this pair of leather boots takes center stage:

Leather Boots, circa 1890-1910: $49.95
Clever seller! If you sell on Etsy, take a hint from this shop and price your items just below common thresholds, like $9.95 instead of $10 or $19.45 instead of $20. That way, when people search using price limits, your items will eke into the search results.

I already have a pair of lace-up boots, so these aren’t really what I have in mind, but golly, what a lovely find if you adore Edwardian boots!


Step 3: Narrow Your Search

You can narrow your search further using a multitude of methods: choosing sub-categories to search through, adding more keywords like colors, or varying your search terms like I described earlier, etc. But, one of the greatest, relatively unknown Etsy search features is this little guy:

Can you see him? It’s not a fleck on your screen; it’s a dash! In the Etsy search box, the dash acts like a minus sign, ignoring items with keywords you select. In my antique shoe search, I’m running into a lot of wooden shoe lasts. They’re really cool, but they aren’t shoes, so I can remove some of them from my search results by adding “-wood -wooden -last” to my search box:


Click to enlarge
Finally! A much better sampling of shoe items!

I used both wood and wooden since the search box only targets words exactly as you type them. If I only subtracted wood items from my search (“-wood”), and a seller is selling a wood last, but describes it as a “wooden shoe form,” it will still show up in search results.
You can go pretty crazy with keyword subtraction. Seriously:


When you start narrowing down items, it’s easy to get a little subtraction-drunk, so be careful not to subtract too many keywords. In my antique shoe search, I run into a lot of figurines and pincushions in spite of my lower price limit of $15. I can get rid of “-figurine” and “-pincushion” and “-pin” without affecting the selection of shoes. Many shoe figurines are glass. If I subtract the keyword “-glass” from my search, however, I might cause shoes with glass beads or glass buttons to vanish from my search, too! It’d be a shame to miss a great shoe just because you nixed one of the words in its description!

During this third round of searching, I discovered another lovely pair of shoes on the very first page! This time, it is a pair of gorgeous late-teens/early-20s heels:

Black Pointed-Toe Louis Heels, circa 1910-1925: $49.99

These are pure fabulous! These will definitely go in my “Favorites!” I never stop at the first page, though. Onwards!


Step 4: Check Things Out

Stopping at the first page, unless you found EXACTLY what you were looking for, is like taking one lick off an ice cream cone then promptly throwing the rest away. In order to be a bargain hunter, you must dive right in! As you start going through pages, mark items that strike your fancy by “favoriting” them or opening them in separate tabs so you can search without losing your place (right-click on the link and select ‘open in new tab’ from the menu to open it in a fresh tab). When it comes to the search-sorting method, the default setting  “Relevancy” is a relative term. There may be a totally relevant item buried under 25 pages of not-so-relevant items! Keep subtracting search terms as you discover items that don’t mesh with what you’re looking for. If you get overwhelmed, stop and chill! Unlike eBay or other auction sites, Etsy listings last months, not days, so you’re less likely to miss out on an item because of a time crunch.

Another important factor to consider is condition. Many lower-priced items are in rougher shape than their more expensive counterparts. Some things are just dirty or suffering from neglect and can be brought back to life with a little care, like these shoes I bought last year:

Wedding Boots Before and After Conservation

Before and After Basic Conservation Efforts
These 1830s-40s satin boots were purchased for about $90. I gave up three months of candy and craft supplies to save up for them. Totally worth it!

Other items are beyond repair, but may be good for parts or “study.” Sometimes I get tempted to buy an item that’s clearly beyond hope just because I feel so sorry for it, but unless it’s truly extraordinary, I have to pull myself back and move on.

Here are a few amazing antique shoes I discovered in my search this time around:

Single Leather Boot for Display, circa 1890-1900: $25
And I quote: “Looking for a new home and new flowers!”

Leather Mary Janes, seller-dated 1910: $39
These look pretty rough, but with a bit of gentle restoration, they could be much prettier!


Late Victorian Leather Boots (Pair), seller-dated 1900: $44.99
Beautiful condition and with that classy fitted ankle!

Child’s Edwardian Leather Mary Jane Shoes, circa 1890-1900: $29.50
Absolutely adorable, complete with bows and original buttons!

When you’re browsing, remember to look well at pictures. Etsy encourages its sellers to take artsy photos of their items, but some of the best gems can be found if you remember to look at the darker, offset, less-professional photos. Don’t be afraid to click into someone’s main shop page, either. Sometimes one bargain leads to another!


Step 5: Negotiate!

If you don’t find what you like in your price range and you have the willpower, try searching $10-$20 over your budget and see what pops up. If you find something you like, don’t despair! You can favorite it and save up some more cash, or you can try for a more immediate solution: bargaining! Yes, the true bargain is found using Etsy’s Contact the Seller function:


Old and New Styles of Etsy Contact Buttons

This is where eBay and Etsy truly diverge. While Etsy’s prices are usually higher, the way the site is set up allows customers to actively communicate with vendors. For example, here is a pretty, but battered pair of early 20th Century pumps:

White Pumps, circa 1910-1925: $69
As per the seller: “Deliciously Decrepit Antique Wedding Shoes”
The seller knows these shoes are collectible, but also acknowledges that they are in terrible shape. If you plan on restoring/conserving such an item, you should let the seller know. Many people, myself included, would rather see an item well taken care of than languishing in storage and are happy to give up a few dollars in exchange for that peace of mind.

They are priced at $69– almost $20 over my $50 budget. If I wanted them badly enough, I could contact the seller and make an offer…perhaps $45 so there would be some wiggle room for back-and-forth dealing. It takes some practice, but negotiation is a skill every bargain hunter needs to develop! One good rule of thumb is to offer $5-$10 less than you actually would be willing to pay without being insulting. It’s a very fine line to walk! If the two of you can’t agree on a price, thank the seller for their time and go back to searching. If you successfully negotiate a price, pay promptly and leave a nice thank you message. Being courteous will always get you far, especially if you like the shop and wish to make another purchase in the future. Just as you can “Favorite/Heart” items, you can also Favorite/Heart shops you find great treasures from!


There are plenty of great vintage and antique artifacts floating around in the web for reasonable prices– all you have to do is find them!

Peachy Late Victorian/Early Edwardian Bodice, circa 1890-1900: $38
So gorgeous!

Victorian Watch Fob and Seal, circa 1870-1890: $35
An especially fancy gift for the gent who has everything!

(Sorry if this article is a little tl;dr. I get a little too passionate about thrift shopping sometimes…)

Find of the Month: Stuart Crystal Breeches Button!!!!!

September 2012

I’m crazy for Stuart Crystals. They’re tiny, old, glittery, sentimental masterpieces: all my favorite characteristics of an object! However, I never dreamed I would ever be able to hold one, much less own one. Besides the fact that they are exceptionally old, they’re fairly scarce since they were only made in England between the 1650s and 1730s. All these factors add up to one well-deserved, but hefty price tag!

Going broke for Baroque!

There was no way I could afford one of these beauties, not without winning the lottery or selling vital organs, or so I told myself.

I was scanning the internet for a set of Victorian button for the Gabby dress when I found this:

OMG! OMG! Was it, maybe? Yes? Could it…?!

It was listed for $40. The seller called it a “18th century rock crystal breeches button” and only listed the dimensions (1/2 inch), but I had to have it. When I bought it, I thought it was empty–no hair, no cypher, no colored foiling. When it arrived, it was scratched, yet underneath you could see that it actually did have a little trefoil cypher inside which you can just barely make it out in the original scan!

Stuart Crystal Breeches Button, circa 1690-1700

Cut Collet Detail

Silver back of the Button

Trefoil Cypher (off-center)

For being over 300 years old, it is in remarkable shape. It has lots of surface scratches and has lost pretty much all of it’s foil color, but I love it–squealing like a giddy school girl– love it!

I am beyond thrilled to own this tiny piece of British history.