An internship; A corset Thursday, Aug 7 2014 

I am a big fan of education. I love learning. Much to my surprise, I also love teaching. (and miss it very much, in fact, quick shout out to my SHS kids!)

So when I received an inquiry about an internship from a very eager and talented young lady, I was inclined to figure out a way to make it happen, despite my schedule being all sorts of all over the place this summer.

Emma, the young lady in question, was in need of a Renaissance Faire-style bodice (I use this term instead of “corset” for various reasons, but for the purpose of this post they are interchangeable).

I decided to propose a one-day internship during which I would walk Emma through the process of creating a Faire bodice, pointing out important factors about patterning, cutting, finishing, etc. along the way.

She was thrilled by the prospect, and the date was set.

With only one day, I thought it best to do some prep work…

I had a few appropriate fashion fabrics and some cotton canvas that I pre-washed (always!).

I pulled out an old bodice in the style we were going to use and, with her measurements, created a paper pattern sized for her.

Goths in the sun, oh no!

My bodice from the Early Years of BRF had tie-on shoulder straps and laced up the sides and back.

I ironed the fabrics and had them ready to lay out, and had a few color choices in bias tape ready.

Checkered fabric- fun!

When she arrived, we got right to it, and we made good progress. We cut out 2 layers of cotton canvas lining, between which the boning would be sandwiched. When this was done it was time to cut out the fashion fabric… this particular pattern was a multi-colored check which I suggested turning to a 45 degree angle, making the squares into diamonds and creating a fun harlequin-esque look. She loved this idea, and I explained that we could do so because we had a strong base with the two layers of canvas and changing the grain of the fashion fabric alone wouldn’t change the way the garment would lay (if we angled all three layers, it would stretch in ways we would not want because it would then be cut on the bias).

Another design choice was the center seam, which allowed us to created a very flattering chevron pattern in the front and back. (Side note, if you have more fabric available to play with, you can match up the stripes of color exactly and impress your friends! We did the best we could with .5 yards.)

After all pieces were cut, we planned out the boning channels and drew them onto the lining in chalk. A zigzag stitch was used around the edges to keep all pieces in place. The channels were stitched through all three layers.



Next we added the boning, primarily 1/2″ plastic coated spring steel. We did use 1/4″ spring steel at the 2 sides, to provide extra strength where the grommets would be pulling on the fabric. (A lesson learned the hard way; I really like to lace myself up tight!)

Once all channels were sewn and boning inserted, we pinned and stitched bias tape around all the edges. This can be challenging, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. I would suggest sewing it on by hand if you’re unsure, or at least starting with the back pieces, so any dodgy areas will be less apparent.

Then all that was left was marking and applying the grommets. I highly recommend using quality 2 part grommets and a setter that requires a hammer… one piece grommets with the little squeeze setter just aren’t very sturdy. You can get everything you need (individually or in kits) at They’re affordable, high quality, and are not reimbursing me to say so- I’ve been using their supplies for YEARS (we won’t get into how many years… plenty!)

I think Emma enjoyed the grommeting the most. (Fun with hammers!) Just remember to use ear & eye protection- it’s a loud process!

In the end, we were right on schedule and had a lovely, sturdy custom bodice with more boning and better quality materials than most, if not all, for sale on the Faire grounds.

Emma did have some sewing knowledge going in, which does help, but I believe if taken one step at a time, a project like this can be within anyone’s reach!

Our final product:

internship (3)

internship (1)













And, Emma in full garb, wearing her new creation:



A Renaissance Couple, Re-done Thursday, May 29 2014 

Switching gears for a moment… Let’s go back to the Renaissance as summer- and the Renaissance festival season- approaches. I’ve made two sets of upper-class Renaissance costumes, one in red and one primarily in blue.  My very first post outlined the making of these two outfits, and promised details to come. The red set began with a lovely, heavy combed cotton and progressively became fancier as more details were added every year.  The blue set, with green and bronze accents, were designed and created as-is, with only a couple of additions over the last few years (such as a chain of office and a tooled leather mug strap). In this post I’ll review what I learned from making the red outfits, and how I applied that to the process of bottom-up construction of the blue set. PS- Yes, we are a couple, and our outfits go together, match, coordinate, whatever. Some people can’t seem to get over that. I made them at the same time and therefore you’ll get information on both women’s and men’s Renaissance clothing construction. Bonus. The red set-


Red Renaissance costumes

For my husband I made a long Germanic-style doublet and a floppy hat. The pants were being tucked into boots and he’s not much one for poufy pumpkin pants or slops so we went with adding some trim to a pair of black linen pants. Add a white shirt and we were set! My outfit consisted of a square-necked bodice that laced up the back and a cartridge pleated skirt with forepart.  A long chemise was the base, and I bought a Paloma hat and trimmed it myself. Both outfits had basic black gimp trim from the start and matching pouches with loops to keep them attached. The center of my bodice and the forepart were this beautiful black and red diamond patterned fabric. Additions: I added panels of the diamond fabric to the front of the doublet and added more ornate trim to jazz it up some, while my skirt got a couple more bands of trim. I also made a new hat for him using the same fabric (he would have needed one custom made anyway- big noggin), and I added tiny beads and “pearls” to the diamond fabric of my outfit. (bodice one year, forepart the next… I don’t love beading) I also hand embroidered/blackworked an authentic pomegranate pattern onto the front of our chemises and hand-stitched lace edging onto the pleats of our neck /collar ruffs (I used black lace for his and gold metallic lace for mine). One year I made an elaborate feather fan with black ostrich feathers, peacock feathers and a fancy dowel I spray-painted gold. My necklace was inspired by period pieces but handmade by me, in the double drape style at the front of the bodice.  I also made and beaded a snood for beneath my hat.

Picture by Pendragon Photography

Red Renaissance Costumes with many updates

Renaissance jewelry

Renaissance jewelry (I made it all), blackwork and embroidery (also done by me, by hand, omg).


My workspace

The new outfits: I decided to make a new set from scratch, from shirts to hats. Because, why not? But seriously- it had been several years of adding new things onto old outfits and I felt like I had made a lot of progress in my design skills. I wanted to see what I could do now, and I had the space (my sewing room at work) and time (2 months between the end of the school year and the beginning of the Faire season) to do it. I made a new shirt, pants,hat, pouch and doublet for his outfit and for mine a new hat, chemise, NEW CORSET, bodice, underskirt with forepart, overskirt with cartridge pleating, and little decorations on my shoes. And now, lots of pictures! (With (hopefully) interesting notations.   My outfit progression:

Renaissance corset

Three layers of fabric for the tabbed corset cut out from pattern

Renaissance chemise

Pleated antique lace for collar and cuffs of chemise

Renaissance undies

Chemise and corset on dressform

It was fun using vintage lace for the pleats on my chemise ruff and cuffs, despite some discoloration from age on the lace- I think the effect is worth it.

Cartridge pleated skirt

Cartridge pleating- the easy way!

Renaissance Cartridge pleats

Cartridge pleats- purchased from the drapery section at the fabric store.

A note on the cartridge pleats- using the drapery pleating trick not only saves you time and looks perfectly authentic, but it also saves some yardage because the sewn in fabric bulks up the pleats.

Forepart and underskirt

I made the forepart part of the underskirt, which goes over the petticoat and hoopskirt. I added a “peek-a-boo” panel of the forepart fabric at the bottom.

blue skirt front

After the cartridge pleating was done, I attached a waistband and measured the front opening to make sure it would lay flat

Cartridge pleats- done and DONE!

See, doesnt that pleating look great? And still plenty of fullness in back.

The front lower edges of the skirt should be rounded to avoid their flaring out. This can also be mitigated by making it possible to attach the overskirt to the underskirt. I did this by inserting grommets into both and then using ribbon bows to prettily line things up. But all along the length of the skirt, one good gust of wind would expose my white underskirt… so I created a folded panel of fabric which, when attached by means of hidden snaps to the overskirt, would give the impression that the green fabric just goes on and on, because I’m just that wealthy.

Renaissance skirt details

I decorated the forepart, finished the outside edges of the overskirt with trim.

Renaissance skirt modesty panel

For modesty- This folded fabric panel attaches the overskirt to underskirt by way of snaps, to avoid wind-induced fashion mishaps.

Check out my cute lil sketch

And a hat too.

Renaissance blue velvet riding hat

Blue velvet riding hat- before the trimming

Full disclosure, one of my students really wanted to help with this, so I let her do quite a bit of the shoe adornment herself :)

Prepping the shoes for adornment, complete with inspiration picture.

Renaissance booties

Gilded buttons and all.

blue renaissance bodice lining

And don’t forget the bodice itself, which was full of ambitious design ideas!

blue renaissance bodice fitting

And now reverse-engineered, with fashion fabric and piping, for a fitting (yes, the actual fitting moment included the blue skirt)

Hmm. It would appear that those are all the pictures I took of the bodice in progress. So without further ado, moving on to HIS outfit! I put boning in his doublet because it is period, and it helps the doublet to keep its shape. I also put in grommets at the waist of the pants and bottom f the doublet so the two can be laced together, keeping them in place even more securely.

but if you do, remember to add the seam allowances back in at each split point!

I decided to insert all sorts of piping into his doublet. It’s a pain, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Blue renaissance doublet

Looks easy, right? Ugh. Lining with boning and outside with piping. 

Blue renaissance doublet punishment

And then I added a REALLY big piece of piping. Just to punish my sewing machine.

Now I actually do have something to add here- I was torn on how to attach the velvet ribbon. I felt that machine stitching it would be heavy looking, and very difficult to keep even along the edges. But I’ve had issues with fabric glues discoloring and showing through on the surface. So I chose to add pearl beads… sewing them on at regular intervals is decorative, but actually attaches the ribbon to the doublet. I added some carefully chosen points for some fabric glue, and voila!

Blue renaissance doublet back

MOAR stuff- how about pearls? Grea


blue renaissance doublet epaulets

And figured that I should really add more stuff to it, like individually piped graduated epaulet panels.

blue renaissance pants

I can’t forget his pants! Although I did up to this point with the camera. 😦 Well, they were basically plain breeches that I added piped and lined strips of blue to. Then of course the waistband and over-the-knee cuffs were banded in blue as well.

This was beyond dusty... I don't even want to know. Just- gross.

And a hat for him as well! Re-imagined from an old “pilgrim” hat.

blue pouches

New pouches to top things off…with belt straps the blue one has longer loops to hang from, as it attaches to a special waistband strap on my blue overskirt and I didn’t want it to interrupt the line of peplum on my bodice. )

The Grand Finale! Done with everything, and here are some pictures. I apologize for skimming over some items, like the snood, the bloomers, the finishing of the bodice, the men’s shirt (thought it’s really just like a women’s chemise but shorter)- when I chronicled the making of these items, this blog was still just a sparkle in my eye. **On the circular hand fan** This is a period style of hand fan… I found the tutorial (three years ago when it was made) online, and cannot find it to link to it now. If there IS interest, I’ll do a special post addressing its construction, and I’d probably add in the ostrich fan construction along with it.

Showin' ankle....

Blue Renaissance outfit details

Modesty panel will get made one year...

Blue Renaissance outfit details from the back

that brown ostrich plume was a lucky find!!

The two outfits together. A side note on my chemise- I ended up sewing a snap to the inside of the standing collar to keep my ruff widely parted. The cabochon on my bodice is new old stock, put into a frame from etsy.

Elizabethan Underwear Part I: The Corset Saturday, Mar 23 2013 

An Elizabethan corset, despite what you may find online, doesn’t go on the outside of your outfit any more than your modern day bra does.  *Could* you wear just your bra, or put your bra over your shirt? Yes, but it would probably have some of the same effect then as it would now.  The corset goes over your shirt/chemise and under your bodice. ImageCan you simply bone your bodice and wear it instead of both? Yes, but that will imply that you (or your character, if that’s your thing) doesn’t have the money for proper garments. So lower class costumes are perfectly at home with combining the two garments. You would definitely add straps in that case. The shape, however, would be the same.

The shape of the corset is conical, rather than the curvy waist nipping image we usually have when thinking about corsets. The idea was to create a straight line from waist to bust all the way around (this goes for men’s corsets too). The corset could restrict the waist- sometimes by quite a bit- but since it ended at the waist this could get quite uncomfortable, digging into the soft flesh above the hipbone.  To counter this, some corsets had tabs at the bottom that would flare over the top of the hips when worn. This also helped to distribute the (considerable) weight of the farthingale, petticoats, underskirt and overskirt from the lower back.

To attain the proper shape corsets were heavily boned. You can access a free, easy to follow pattern for a custom Elizabethan corset online at

Measure yourself carefully- decide how many inches you would like to take in at the waist, think about the size of your chest and whether that might require an extra inch or two of height at the top, or if a desire for more lower stomach coverage might warrant another inch or two at the bottom front.  I suggest making a mock-up if you adjust measurements at all, so you get a good feel for how it will sit on your body. If you do add to the top or bottom, be sure to angle the line back down to the suggested underarm curve or up to the hip curve- you’re only adding to the front or back!

ImageMy last Elizabethan corset included the fashion fabric, lining and an interlining, and I boned it more heavily than others I’ve made.  I laid all three layers together and did some large temporary stitches around the edges and across the body. This kept all the layers from shifting while I marked and stitched the boning channels.

I did add tabs, as I tend to do some waist-nipping. You can add tabs separately or you can cut them with the corset all in one piece. Though you have to reinforce the edges with at least double stitching, I like the all-in-one method better- it feels more stable and there’s less messing around with multiple pieces of fabric at a sensitive curve like the waistline. For my upper and lower edges I placed grosgrain ribbon at the seam allowance edge, good sides together. Then I turned it over to the bad side of the fabric and “stitched in the ditch”. This, while in my head seemed like it would be faster and easier, was a lot of tugging with tight corners and the end result really only looks good from the outside.  I think I may have saved myself time and a headache if I had hand-stitched the backside of the grosgrain ribbon down. But, both methods work. Here is a picture of the finished product:Image

As you can see, the inside is not as neat as I’d like. However, no-one else will see the inside, so your finishing is your secret!

For the center channel, you may notice I used a heavier bone. It’s extra wide and extra thick. You can purchase these online at corset supply stores, but I happened to find mine at a resale store, in a back support corset/brace from the fifties or sixties.  It never hurts to check alternate sources of supplies! I’ve also harvested boning from old corsets and bodices that were worn out. Just beware if the bones are very bent- even if you can get them straight again, the rust resistant coating may be compromised.

ImageGrommets: You should use two part grommets, and the ones from most commercial fabric stores (even the two part ones) are not great for corsets. Order some from a corsetry supplier or see if a local leatherworking store has some. There are mutiple finishes and *sizes* so make sure your hole puncher, grommet setter and grommets are all the same size. Also, when you measure the holes for your grommets, be sure to include the width of the grommets itself (e.g. If you want 1″ between grommets, and each grommet is 5/8″ wide, making holes 1″ apart will result in many, many grommets set very, very close)


The last tip I have is to be thorough and painfully precise when placing boning channels around your grommets. Use a ruler, mark your lines. If the bones butt right up to the grommets you’ll get the least amount of pulling, and the longest wear from your garment.

PS- Why grosgrain instead of bias tape? It looks more period and it stands up better to the stress that a corset is subject to.

Below you can see the exterior and interior of the finished product:Image

The Elizabethan Silhouette Tuesday, Feb 12 2013 

The Elizabethan Sihouette

Virtually any modern time period is easily recognized through the silhouette & lines of the clothing; the upturned chest and full skirts of the 1950’s, bell bottoms of the 1970’s, the lean lines of the flapper dresses in the 1920’s.

The same is true as you look further into the past- each time period (speaking primarily in a Eurocentric viewpoint here, of course other continents and cultures have distinctive styles) has its own definitive look.

The Elizabethan silhouette is very unnatural and, like many fashions up through the 1950’s, the attainment of the correct line depends on foundation garments.

It’s all about the underwear.

The image at left is early/mid Elizabethan and is characterized by the conical bodice shape and full hips on the woman, and the short “pumpkin pants”, close fitting doublet and tight hose on the man. Both feature a ruff at the neck. The woman’s hair is worn up, in the heart shape which Elizabeth wore & many others emulated. The man wears a soft hat with a brim.

The necessary undergarments for these silhouettes include a corset, bumroll and hoopskirt. A corset for both women and men was not unheard of- after all, both men’s and women’s bodies were expected to achieve similarly unrealistic shapes.

*Two notes here on swapping foundation garments across time periods*
Sometimes it works, other times, not so much.
1.To substitute a classically Victorian shaped corset for the Elizabethan one would ruin the shape…. the former was all about curve and shape and creating a tiny waist, whereas the latter was focused on a straight, conical line from the waist to the bust.
2. Similarly, the size and shape of the hoopskirt is important. The shape is like a bell and flared somewhat subtly…. a large “southern belle” style wouldn’t achieve the same look.

My next posts will describe the construction & other particulars of the undergarments mentioned here.

Peacock Blue Renaissance Couple- Upperclass Friday, Feb 8 2013 

Peacock Blue Renaissance Couple- Upperclass

2005 was the year of the red and black Renaissance costumes. After making additions and improvements on them each season, I had come to an end point. It was time for new outfits, and I had six more years of experience to pour into new design ideas.
I made completely new costumes, including new bloomers, chemise and shirt, corset, shoes, hats, underskirt, overskirt, bodice, fan, pouches, doublet and pants. I will eventually be posting details on the making of these costumes.


**** Update****

See details at this post!