1860s Victorian Day Dress

The 1859 Ballgown skirt and 1860s Pagoda Bodice patterns are from Truly Victorian. There is also a 1853 Bonnet pattern from Period Impressions (not pictured). This costume is my favorite. It was a real joy to make.

I later made a ballgown bodice as an option for it. It makes a festive Christmas gown for something like Dickens Fair. I whipped up that tiny sleeper and lace bonnet for the kiddo when we went to a friend's birthday masquerade. Yes, I know. I'm going to have to pay for years of therapy later in life for making my son wear that bonnet.

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1860s Victorian Underwear

Undergarments for my 1850s upperclass dress, made from Simplicity 9769. I typically don’t go in for historic patterns by mainstream companies, but this is an exception. The chemise and bloomers are made up of entirely french seams and the corset fits like a glove. It’s one of the more beautifully designed patterns I’ve ever sewed. If you take this one on yourself, I highly recommend finishing the seams in the underarms of the chemise by hand rather than by machine.

I hand embroidered the corset with my own design. Because I'm crazy.

(I bought the hoop skirt. So sue me.)

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1850s Workdress

Same era, different class. I used the Isabella’s Work Dress pattern from Chile’n’Crackers. It’s an 1850s American working class pattern recreated from an extant dress. It’s a fine pattern though the sizing isn’t stellar, so make your toile first like a good girl. It’s not a novice pattern either, so if you’ve never sewn a dress before, don’t start here. They aren’t going to tell you when to tuck under raw edges or finish your seams. They assume you know how to make things like bias tape without instruction. Read ahead and employ your brain.

I modified the petticoat from a pattern over at Anticraft. I like my petticoats a little fuller so I did it in four layers going down to 12 yards at the bottom. Tip: use the fabric nap at the bottom edge to save yourself a really long hem. I added two rows of thin blue satin ribbon for fun.

I added an extra petticoat, an apron, and a soft cotton bonnet since these photos were taken.

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Regency-Era Drawstring Dress

Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Guide has a wonderful pattern review page which led me to Sense and Sensibility Patterns.  Huzzah for a day and age where independent pattern makers can be found online with the click of a button. Jennie Chancey of Sense and Sensibility Patterns gives good historical background notes with her patterns, and her instructions are well-documented and well-cited.

Should you be taking this pattern on, you may want to adjust the neckline. I plan to lower mine a good inch or two. For a modest girl’s day dress, this is entirely appropriate to the era. However, to be honest, I was less interested in looking like a modest girl from the actual Regency era and more interested in looking like Jennifer Ehle in Pride and Prejudice, so I threw propriety to the wind and showed a hint of cleavage. Why else go to the trouble of making the corset?

And if you are using this pattern for an evening gown, definitely lower the neckline. This would be far too much coverage for girl interested in attracting a suitor at a ball. If you are making this pattern and intend to wear it without a corset, you can skip the overlapping interlining, which is only there to smooth out your corset lines. Also, were I to make this pattern for myself again, I’d likely make the front panel a little wider so there would be more to gather, but that’s just my personal preference.

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Regency-Era Cross-Over Dress

I hacked this pattern together for a friend for a Regency event. The patterns I pieced together to achieve the final effect were as follows:

The bodice front was my own design. I drafted out the curves from the sleeve and bodice back pieces that I would have to fit it to and then started playing with muslin until I got it right. I can’t offer up the entire pattern because much of it is copyrighted material, but I can post my bodice front and bodice front lining pieces if there is an interest. Drop me a line if you care.

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Regency-Era Underwear

This pattern is Regency Underthings by Sense and Sensibility Patterns. The pattern gave several period-correct options for boning. The center front seam inside of the eyelets must be done with steel boning but the rest can be done with quilting or cording for more comfortable options.  I chose hemp cording and I’m pleased with the result. Sure, steel would give you more lift (more shove is more like it) but my corset is comfortable and if you’re going to be wearing it all day, comfort goes along way.  If you’re taking the cording option, you need a large darning needle and a bodkin. A C-clamp from the toolbox doesn’t hurt.Notes:

  • In notch we trust.  The shoulder straps seem a little funny when they are going on.  Cut these pieces cleanly and have faith in the notch marks when lining up the strap to the main bodice. It will work out. I also recommend notches or chalking the outside edge of all shoulder strap pieces so when you are putting it together, you can be sure you are sewing it on the right way.
  • Baste your gussets When sewing the gussets pieces into the front, I highly recommend basting the gusset piece in place on the wrong side first, and then top-stitching on the right side as per the pattern instructions. After you’re done, you can go pull out the basting stitch. I found that no amount of pinning held these little suckers down so they wouldn’t wiggle free.  I know it seems like an extra step, and no one wants to take an extra step on 12 gussets, but it’s better than reinforcing the corners of crooked seams, which I found myself doing more than once until I figured out this trick (i.e. following directions).
  • Awl’s well.  Don’t be afraid to really use that awl. Make those eyelet holes big. They’ll appear smaller after you’ve done the stitching. And instead of buying cotton cording by the yard, consider buying pre-made laces that have those nice hard little tips for threading.
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How a Hat becomes a Bonnet

I read somewhere that buying bonnets and then ripping them to pieces and making them over was a common pastime for young girls in the Regency era. When in Rome...

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Muster the Rohirrum!

This set is for a lord and lady of Rohan. Shawn’s costume is one that I’m particularly proud of. He looks quite dashing in it. These were created for a Middle Earth Festival held in Vacaville every year. In previous years, I had gone as a hobbit, but as I was pregnant with Luke in this picture, I had to come up with something more forgiving. Shawn’s costume came from Simplicity #4942. My overdress and underdress came from a highly modified versions of Simplicity #8735 and McCalls #M0286 respectively. Not well designed patterns, but I butchered them and rearranged them so they worked.

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Knights of the Old Republic

A little salvage, a bit of sewing, and hand-constructed light sabers by my true love. The kiddo's Yoda costume I designed myself and it took 1st place in the children's costume category at the county fair the following summer.

This is definitely the most comfortable costume I own and gets pulled out fairly often simply on that basis.

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Apprenticed to a Pirate

This is my Anne Bonny pirate costume.  The bodice trimming came from McCalls #M4107, though the bodice itself was cut from the tried and true duct tape method.  Should you find the need to make yourself a renaissance bodice, do yourself a favor and have a friend (a close friend) bind you up in duct tape.  The results are well worth the effort.  I opted for spiral wire boning instead of metal stays for this corset and while it gives you a little bit less of a push-up, it’s so much more comfortable that I’ll never go back.

Shawn’s Jack Sparrow costume was entirely his own doing and I can take no credit for it, but it’s so bad ass that I put up a picture of it anyway.

(My sword, pictured above is named Inbarati.  10 points if you can tell me why.)

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Timeslip versus The Atomic Chef

You think I'm a mild-mannered geographer, but that's just my alter-ego. Really I'm Timeslip, a super hero (of course). I travel through time, but I have to take the rotation of the earth into account when I do it, because I have a real problem with time travelers who don't own up to the fact that they are also teleporting to end up in the exactly location 30 years later. (Marty McFly was driving a Delorean so we'll cut him some slack.)

I know what you're thinking... But Shannon, the planet not only rotates around on it's axis but it also moves around the sun and the galaxy spirals through the universe and...

True, my friends. Too true. But you see, my powers are linked to the gravitational forces generated by the iron crystal at the Earth's core and my time travel is all in relation to that point. You see, my parents were brilliant geologists who were running a revolutionary deep earth drilling project, when something when terribly awry, causing an explosion of gases that left me both orphaned and genetically altered for life.

(I may have I've spent some time thinking this out.)

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Giselle, 28 days later...

The leo is made of a pre-tattered zombie fabric I scored at JoAnn's, worn over a bright red number to hint at barely contained entrails. The tutu is white netting, a couple of layers of white tulle, a couple layers of brown (yes, brown -- I found latté-colored tulle and then I squealed for all the world to hear), with a topper layer of cheese cloth.

Let me tell you about the cheese cloth because this was the epitome of fun. Cheese cloth, unlike its nylon-based tulle neighbors, is 100% cotton, so it holds dye well. Typically when I bring home fabric from the fabric store it gets carefully washed, dried to manufacturer's specifications, and pressed. The cheese cloth? I wadded it up, tied it in a couple of knots, wrapped a few hard-core rubber bands around it and threw it in a pot with two inches of Christmas tea for a couple of hours. While it was drying on the line, I grabbed big handfuls of the old, wet coffee grounds left over from my husband's Sunday morning coffee and hurled it on to the fabric in large chunky smears. Then I left it outside to bake in the june sun until it was crunchy and brown and remarkably pleasant smelling.

I may start doing this all the time, even when I don't have a zombie tutu to make, just for kicks.

There were a couple of iterations of the tiara before I got it just right. My husband went after the first one with a blow torch, and the melted parts were beyond awesome, but enough of the original plastic six-year-old birthday party style crown still showed through, and I had to face that it still looked like a tiara I wouldn't be caught dead in. And this is coming from a girl who owns five tiaras and frequently wears them around the house while doing the laundry. The ultimate winner was a wire number from the bridal section of Joann's, gutted with a pair of wire clips and pounded up with a meat-tenderizing mallet ("One more hit and that thing looks like it's going to fall apart," Shawn says. WHAP. "Perfect.") and then coated with some texturing primer black spray paint.

I did up some jewelry from the goth bead section at Michael's. My zombie earrings I'm actually quite fond of. I think I'll wear them frequently.

I topped the whole ensemble off with a few dead leaves, a handful of trout worms from the bait and tackle aisle at Big 5, and even (gulp) some makeup, and here she is. Zombie Ballerina.

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