TC7 Paris Runway 1- Foundation garments Tuesday, Sep 13 2016 

In preparation for Teslacon 7, the grand journey to Paris circa 1884-ish, I’m designing several looks inspired by the period for the Teslacon Fashion Show. I decided to make three sets of corsets and bustles, and two or three new petticoats to serve as foundation garments for some of the looks.

The corsets and bustles were made from a champagne/golden taffeta embroidered with fluer de lis… so appropriate!


I made two double layer corsets with interior boning channels and closed fronts, and one triple layer corset with boning channels sewn into the layers, lined in ivory silk and with a front busk. A matching bustle accompanies each corset. I’ll keep the front closing corset and one bustle, and if one of my models from the Teslacon fashion show wants to buy their foundation set I’ll offer a good-buddy price.

I made my own bias tape for the edging, 1 1/2″ strips cut at a 45 degree angle.

Thought it would be lovely to make matching petticoats, but when I searched for this fabric online I couldn’t find it for less that $20/yd… and I just know I didn’t spend that when I got it… either at the Discount Textile Outlet in Chicago or at a JoAnn Fabrics with a coupon, I don’t recall.


In the meantime, the foundation garments for the Highborn Collection are done, and I’m on to the first gown!


Teslacon 6- The Evil Queen Tuesday, Jan 26 2016 

Corsets, leather and Evil? ¬†Read on…

With the usual craziness of the Halloween season, being one of the designers for Milwaukee Fashion Week’s Couture & High Fashion evening, and new outfits for Teslacon, it was a *very* busy summer and fall. It’s not an excuse for neglecting you, but it’s as close as I’ll come. So, what have I been up to? Here are the highlights:

Check out this article about my Milwaukee Fashion Week collection, “Retrospective”, here.

Two costumes (in 9 working days) for Halloween this year… Cersei and Jaime Lannister! Just the right amount of wrong ūüėČ ¬†More details to come in the next post, but for now, a picture:

cerseijaime (10)

Jaime and Cersei


And new outfits for Teslacon, as well as bringing two friends- and newcomers to TC- and dressing them for the duration of the con. Did I mention they entered and won the Group category of the costume contest while wearing my designs? Another picture for you:

tc 2015 (45)

The new outfits I created for my husband and I were a…. departure…. from our usual. For mine, I was inspired by the film Maleficent, and I wanted to create an outfit that had a darker tone but still incorporated Victorian elements, while playing to the year’s Teslacon theme (Wild Wild West, and Dark Circus) as well.

In the meantime, I had promised Jim a new frock coat and possibly a vest. I’d also cut out a new pair of pants for him, so I had to finish all of that- after Halloween, mind you- before starting my own outfit. I knew that once I started mine I would be unlikely to pull myself away to give proper attention to anything else. He ended up with the new pants in a fine dark grey and charcoal stripe, a vest in a striped purple woven material, and a dark grey waxed denim frock coat lined with the vest’s fabric, and patterned from an 1890’s frock coat from “Men’s Garments 1830-1900; A Guide to pattern Cutting and Tailoring”, by R.I. Davis. The results:

tc 2015 (3)

My own outfit would consist of a black and red striped silk corset (from an 1890-1900 pattern in “Corsets: Historical Patterns and Techniques”, by Jill Salen”, a heavily edited version of the “1887 Corsage w/Pleated Surah Vest” by Ageless Patterns, and a pair of black pleather pants of my own design. Additionally, I planned to tart up a black velvet and tulle vintage hat with some antique French millinery feathers, and make a ridiculously epic hairpiece to top it all off. Judge for yourself:

12419031_1082189425147972_2757030718993958500_o (1)

The Evil Queen

Continue to scroll below for details on red leather inserts, chiffon screened to look like muscles, and details on that hairpiece.


1887 Corsage w/Pleated Surah Vest

Inspirations for the new design:

inspiration (1) inspiration (2)

Jacket and sass above, pleather and split sleeves below.

inspiration (3) inspiration

I extended the jacket ¬†to make it full length¬†and created an under-skirt for it. I made the sleeves fuller, as I planned to open them and have the pleather/chiffon details underneath. I made piping and lined the jacket and both sleeves with it. Some personal design touches include the red leather diamond insert in the back, and a full 9″ of black leather encircling¬†the hem. The split sleeves with the chiffon and pleather undersleeves were also a personal innovation. The jacket was lined, boned, custom fitted for my corseted measurements, and fully edged¬†in handmade self-fabric piping.

The red and black silk corset was created by taking a 1/2 scale antique pattern, re-sizing it in Photoshop and printing, then modifying it to my corseted measurements. I used garter straps to create two tie-on “pockets”; a holster for a small LED-lit pistol that started life as a pirate-y butane lighter, and a sleek red leather pouch for holding money & ID, etc.

The pleather pants have a sailor-style front closure, wide waistband and matched curving seams along the legs. All the pleather I used in the outfit is embossed with a black-on black rose design.

But really, can I show you the back?

tc 2015 (8)

That is a red leather diamond, with the collar portion pattern matched to the back portion. Yes. And very fancy- I tore up a thrifted $6 red leather skirt for the fabric… it doesn’t ALL have to cost an arm and a leg!

I also incorporated hidden hooks and loops to enable the skirt to be “bustled” up, a look that plays peek-a-boo with the red satin lining. (Will have to add a bustled image later)

And the hairpiece, which was dark blonde with an elasticized attachment for over a bun. I took two red-to-black ombre hair falls that I’ve had FOREVER¬†(see proof) and twisted them into the blonde hairpiece, to create a massive and impressive final structure. I also used a hair rat I took a year to collect beneath the center of the hairpiece for added volume, but the majority is fake hair.

Some images of the hair, at the end of a very long day:

tc 2015 (24) tc 2015 (39)

I needed the hairpiece to be high enough to tilt my hat forward, and also for the bottom to be high enough off the nape of my neck so as not to interfere with my jacket collar.

The chiffon is screen printed with a red and black pattern that is reminiscent of muscles sans skin, and I used it to make the gathered sleeves spilling out of the jacket’s split sleeves, and headed by black fitted pleather “gauntlets”, a’la Maleficent’s battle costume sleeves.

tc 2015 (4)

This outfit was a lot of fun to make, and it was helpful to have the original vintage pattern to use as a starting point, though it barely resembles the original when all is said & done.

More to come soon, I promise ūüėČ





Corseted Edwardian Skirt, or Adventures With Dutch Pattern Translations Wednesday, Aug 12 2015 

I have wanted to created a corseted skirt for a time now, and meandered into a search on Pinterest along those lines, coming up with this:

11113633_391349101069026_6048540763192940002_n corseted skirt (3) corseted skirt (2)

So, this looks lovely and during a fabric shopping excursion to Chicago I found a delicious spring green fabric (unusual, I’m not a particularly “spring green” kind of gal) that prompted me to jump into this with both feet. Note, of course, that this pattern is in Dutch. And that the image quality is approximately 72 dpi, which is shite for printing. I printed an 8″x 10″ of the pattern and it was difficult to read, even that small.

The first challenge, besides translating the dutch, was switching the measurements from centimeters to inches. Not necessary, but I find it easier to work in imperial units… what can I say, I’m used to it. ¬†Several numbers were difficult to read, so I guessed at times- a six or a five, an eight or a three…. at times I ended up with a curve that didn’t quite make sense, so I went back and checked to see if the number was questionable, and replaced my first guess with the second choice.

It went pretty smoothly.  The measurements lined up pretty closely with my own, so I drafted the pattern as-is, after adding seam allowances.  The one adjustment I would make is giving a tad less generosity to the hip measurements- you can see in the images to follow, there is a visible line at the bottom of the corseted portion which I may still creatively disguise, but am dealing with for now. If it were just a tad smaller, I believe the line would flow more smoothly. Another layer of interlining or a thicker fabric may have also helped with this issue. Something to keep in mind when choosing a fabric- mine was pretty thin.

I also have not inserted pleated gores, as pictured in the last image… debating on whether to add them until after I decide on a hip-line cover-up.

For the interlining I used two layers of canvas and sandwiched the boning between them, and a thin cotton for the lining. If you know how to make a skirt, and how to make a corset, this pattern is not terribly challenging…. historically, however, it wouldn’t have been all too common for one person to have made both. Usually tradespeople had a specialty, and would have stuck with it…. corsets or skirts, linens or hats, shoes or hose, etc.

I was really slacking on taking pictures because this outfit was created in a fast and furious blaze of inspiration, but I lined the grommets on both sides with spring steel, made my own bias tape and hemmed each skirt panel individually so that if I chose to insert gores later I wouldn’t have to re-hem the whole thing. I also hand-stitched a beaded applique onto the bodice and did some (very little) decorative stitching at the seams… possibly more in the future. I would say this outfit is still officially evolving.

It was interesting, but knowing what I know NOW, I’d suggest checking out Truly Victorian’s 10-gore Edwardian princess skirt… beautiful, same look and period, with (knowing Truly Victorian) clear instructions and extensive directions on adjustments. Just saying.

So, without further ado, here is the final product- photo credits to Kathy Berger Photography.

springgreen (1) springgreen (8) springgreen (6)

For October: Victorian Skating Outfit, with much more in-progress detail!

Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice Nomination Thursday, Apr 2 2015 

Teslacon 2012


I did it! Thanks to all you wonderful readers who voted for me, I won the “Best Dressed- Female” category! Winners were announced at the International Steampunk Symposium in April! I’m thrilled to have received this honor, and will work even harder on future efforts… which you’ll see *very* soon!! ūüėČ


Exciting news- I have been nominated in the Steampunk Chronicle’s “reader’s Choice Awards”, in the category of Best Dressed Female!

If you’ve been following my blog, you know how much work and pride I put into my designs, so this is a great honor. ¬†If you’re inclined to vote for me, the link is here, but even if you don’t it’s worth the jump to check out all the other fantastic categories and nominees- ¬† Thanks so much!

(A note, you do have to register/log in,  in order to cast your vote.)

PS- Next outfit is almost done, Victorian ice-skating costume, watch for the post!

The Paroxysm of Fashion That is Teslacon Saturday, Nov 22 2014 

So, if you don’t know that I attend Teslacon in Madison each year, you must just come here for the pretty pictures. Which I’m fine with. ūüôā

However, I do go, and it’s a great time- for panels, music, (of course) steampunk storyline and character immersion, shopping, and ultimately for the people-watching.

From Victorian-era reproductions to astounding Dieselpunk contraptions, from¬†re-purposed Renaissance Faire get-ups to… *unique* Furry costumes, you will see it ALL.

An outfit I wore- a favorite of mine that I’ve worn to the last three Teslacons¬†but with new additions this year- was mentioned favorable in a blog post¬†by Geek Fashion Week that was (I acknowledge) much better at attributing photo subjects than I am about to be.

Now, I will humbly admit that in 2013 I unceremoniously leapt¬†from the table where my husband and I were having dinner with two friends, rushed across the room, nearly¬†tripping on my skirts, to stop a woman walking by in a ridiculously beautiful re-imagining of the black and white “wrought iron” Charles Worth dress…. only to realize I didn’t have a camera. Seriously.

I later also realized that, as this was dinner time before the ball, she was likely in her ballgown and I would -likely- see her later and did not in fact need to make a silly goose of myself.  But if I must be a goose, then it shall be for ridiculously beautfiul clothing.

For your edification:

The worth gown.

Click on the image below to see her blog post about this dress, and the other looks she sported over the weekend.

Nearly face-planted right in front of her. Srsly.

The re-imagining of the Worth gown.


















Her blog post says “I was moderately happy with how it turned out, although it was well received.”

I wonder if she was thinking of the chick in the blue and yellow dress who nearly face-planted in front of her.

For your further edification:

Afore-mentioned potential Faceplant

Aaaanyway, back to the point- There is a lot to see! I premiered my new gown as detailed in my post “Victorian Orient-Inspired Dress“, I brought out a “casual” safari outfit repurposed from thrift-store finds- complete with a flashy gun and holster made by my husband and I, and I made a Victorian style “ermine”¬†muff and mantle for the chilly part of the Journey to the Center of the Earth! ¬†I also wore a¬†bodice I made to go with¬†an existing skirt, essentially creating an all new ballgown this year!

Now, my own sphere of interest as a “maker” runs heavily towards straight neo-Victorian, with the dashes of steampunk left to gadgets and accessories. But¬†I always appreciate creativity and give credit where credit is due, at all skill levels.

So, without further ado, the rest of the post will be picture highlights from the weekend (click for a larger image)- some things you should know:

1.There were dinsoaurs! (and they drank tea… particularly the Tea-Rexes)

there were dinosaurs

2a.Lord & Lady Winslet, the Duke and Duchess vas Normandy, funded the mission to the center of the earth, presumably to find new stores of thorium, aided by an ancient navigational stone.


2b. Lord Bobbins dropped the stone.


3. We were surrounded by many unusual folk. Some had gadgets strapped to their backs.

stuff on backs

4. Some of the gadgets were on their shoulders, or heads.

stuff on shoulders

5. Some were covered in leather and brass.


6. Some seemed to belong to another universe altogether…

themed costumesDSC_0845DSC_0869DSC_0724DSC_0682

7. But either way, there were many explorers gathering artifacts.


8. Even entertainers!


9. And lovely dresses abounded!

lovely dresses

I must make a note here- the lovely dark-haired bundle of talent pictured with me in two of these photos, and featured in a third, is Heather Dawson, who operates “The Duchess Collection”, currently on Facebook and soon on a dedicated site. Simply beautiful work. Julie Feirtag,¬†in the third photo from the left, also had a lovely dress!

10. I had some wardrobe debuts:

our outfits

The center outfit wasn’t new, but styling it as a “Steampunk 7 of 9” was. I also made a fur mantle and muff for it, shown above in #2.

11.Some notable figures attended…


The Admiral


Steampunk Pope



Mark Twain



Amelia Earhart… and her questionably effective co-pilot



And the Tea Lady, sporting a new hat!

12. Did I mention all the FANCINESS at the ball??

the Ball

Well, I should have- it was a damn good time.

Event the dinosaurs wanted to see the pictures!


But in the end, it was really all about the Epic Primordial Flowers we found in the Center of the Earth. (yes, the pink thing is a primordial flower)


Thanks for watching! I’ll be back soon with another creation….. up next is a¬†velvet and satin double breasted 1880’s jacket!






Victorian Orient-Inspired Dress, instead of Florentine Costume Intensive Tuesday, Oct 21 2014 


The beginning of the second dress I made, now with the poorest choice ever for piping fabric!!

So, I had planned to do a series of posts about my experiences doing the Artistic Intensive in the Costume Shop at the Florentine Opera Company… I was terribly excited when they said I could participate! However, the absence of any structure and a distinct lack of communication led to, basically, a disappointing experience.

Upon arrival I was foisted upon a draper who said she’d never done anything like this before. After a day of stitching I asked about the program setup & was told that I was stitching in exchange for the experiences to come- stitch first!

As the costume shop portion of the intensive was finishing (circumstances kept me from participating during the week of production; my immediate relation of those¬†circumstances resulted in the implication that I was unprofessional), I voiced my concerns that all I’d done was stitching & hadn’t learned anything new, I was informed that I should be learning by osmosis, that “being in the environment is a learning process”.


The magic of osmosis!- Who needs syllabi, lesson plans or rubrics anyway?

Yes, and being at a sewing machine is usually a paid process.¬†Now, I didn’t expect a step-by-step learning process, as this was created in the veins of a “professional development program”, but I did expect some semblance of structure, just¬†something, from the term “program”. ¬†Turns out that they had never done the “Intensive” in the costume shop before, the closest they’d come was a split between costumes and wigs/makeup.


Yay internships!

I met some great people, and (in making 2 dresses) practiced some finishing techniques that usually aren’t a part of period fashion, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss. But it feels like a wasted opportunity because the program could be great, and it isn’t even a “program” in any sense of the word.


On to the new dress I’ve been promising you!!

Now, I happened to receive 13 yards of this beautiful, heavy, steel blue satin from my mom when she was visiting- she got it for a steal after seeing it and thinking of me! ¬†I took it to my sewing room and starting pulling out possible accent fabrics, and rediscovered 3 yards of an imported silk brocade in a deep gold dragon pattern that I’d bought years ago, with the original intention of making a gold silk corset dress. Good taste won out on that one, and there the silk sat for a very long time. But next to the blue satin it looked rich and, to make it even better, I had some perfectly matched dark gold “silkessence” from drapes I made in another life.

It was the beginning, and time to come up with a design. Though the dragon pattern would influence the direction, going in I simply knew I wanted to do a day dress with a high neckline.

My inspiration was drawn from a few sources; film, historical examples, even an online mention of a technique I’ve never used before.

Some inspiration pics:

inspiration (3) inspiration (1) inspiration (2) mcx-top-movie-dresses-moulin-rouge-de

The¬†first two¬†images are extant period pieces, the third is a reproduction of a costume from the film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, and the fourth is an image from the film “Moulin Rouge”. ¬†You will be able to identify the elements I borrowed from these looks¬†to create a clean design, pulling inspiration from both military styles and far east influences. ¬†For the skirt, I came up with an original trim design, and used a period pattern from a book.

book pattern

However, as you can see from this pattern, the back is a mystery…. from the instructions it sounds as if the back is simply gathered. I like to create visual interest in the back of my looks, however, and a gather just doesn’t do it for me. After much research, I discovered a little post about burnous pleats on Truly Victorian’s site. And it was the perfect addition- elegant yet echoing the lines of the pleated fan shape which would adorn the back of my jacket. Hooray! So what if I’ve never seen/made one before!

So, here’s the skirt process:

skirt (1)

With burnous pleats pinned in place.

skirt (2)

The waistband- french seams.

skirt (3)

Very important- my dress form is set to my  corseted measurements












skirt (5) skirt (6)

Complete- Note that the hem is done WITH the bustle that I intend to wear on the dress form! (I wasn’t being too picky with the hem because the trim going over it is about 4″ deep.)

Just look at the graceful drape of that pleat! You can also adjust the angle of that pleat so the triangles formed by it are larger or smaller. I really am just in love with that burnous.

Here is the tab trim, more on that later, maybe. ūüôā



Now that the skirt was done, I could move on to the jacket. I had my plan- I would start with a pattern I’ve used before, for the summer dress and for the blue and yellow dress, but alter it to make it high-necked, and create a hidden front closure beneath a decorative panel. ¬†So I pulled out the pattern & began making adjustments.

bodice 1 bodice 2

The left image is the original, and the right is the new one, before the mock up. I made some anticipatory adjustments based on my previous experience with this pattern.

bodice 3 bodice 4

And still had to make adjustments- I took too much from some waist seams and not enough from the back/chest area. (I had lost 30 lbs since the last time I’d used this pattern) On the right, the adjustments were made to the pattern before cutting out all layers (with a rotary blade, it’s hard to get accuracy through multiple layers with scissors). And then, fun:

bodice 5 bodice 6


I flatted every piece- the fashion fabric, lining and interlining, because I had decided to sew the jacket with exposed finished seams, for easy future alterations (which is good, because a few months later, I’ve lost about another ten pounds and need to take the waist in a tad). Flatting the pieces keeps them from moving around/stretching independently of each other as you sew them, ensuring all your edges line up.

bodice 7 bodice 8


The first fitting went well, if a little full through the hips. It was imperative to create the front closure, though, before doing any further fitting.


bodice front 2

Skipping a little ahead here (I forget to take pictures when I’m making a lot of progress, which is why there are virtually no images of the long, complicated process of the trim going together). I put in a zipper, facing one side of the hidden front with blue. (If I did it again, I’d probably face both sides with blue¬†just because it looks nicer, but practically speaking, no-one will ever see it.) I used the gold silkessence on the front panel, gathering a double thickness to be sure it wasn’t too thin.




bodice front bodice front 3

Sewed it in, shaped and pressed the bottom- those are simply two triangular shapes pleated inward. I attached the front panel at the far side with several hooks and thread chain eyes. I also made some bias tape for the hem and cuffs, and custom piping for the skirt hem and silk sleeve bracers.

front closure custom piping cuff bands


To make the bands, I took measurements across the width of the front panel at the correct heights, reinforced the silk with interfacing, drew the bands, cut, stitched, pressed, then placed them onto the bodice.





front closure 4 front closure 3 

front bands front bands 2

Like so.


(At this point, yes, the front pleat points were uneven & driving me nuts, but I resolved not to fix them until later. Who knows, maybe it wasn’t that bad?)

I made the fan for the bodice back, interfacing both the fashion fabric and the lining. Just a simple rectangle. I’m keeping the folds pinned in place when not being worn, to keep them crisp.

back fan (1) back fan (2) back


Finishing touches, added a hat, and there you go!

hat (2)hat (3)hat (1)

I purchased a felt hat base in the right shape from Zulily (it was not advertised as a base, it was being pushed as a finished hat… with some black ribbon and a piece of netting hot glued onto the grey felt base), and made a pattern from it to cover it in satin. As a matter of preference, I don’t use glue in making my hats- I stitch it all. I added a length of millinery wire to the edge as well. After the covering was on, it was really just draping some gold fabric and curling the 10 ostrich feathers.I had an adorable old pin that I fixed up with enamel paint, and after everything else was done I added a couple chain stitch loops at the sides for securing the hat with bobby pins.


hat (5) hat (6) hat (7)


And one of my former students modeled it at the Milwaukee Public theater’s 40th Anniversary “Metamorphosis Steampunk Circus” fashion show, along with myself and another student.




Intermission- Steampunk Circus of Metamorphosis Monday, Sep 8 2014 

I have a new post- featuring a NEW DRESS- coming up soon, but in the meantime, you can see one of my older creations in action in this news segment discussing the upcoming celebration of the Milwaukee Public Theater’s 40th Anniversary!

I hope you enjoy this little intermission…

Steampunk Circus Fox 6 segments

A teaser:



PS- The new dress will be featured, along with a grand ballgown inspired by a Worth gown for the Russian Imperial Court, in the Metamorphosis Fashion Show the same evening!

Photo shoot and New Website-! Tuesday, Jun 24 2014 

Big news this month!

I organized a photo shoot for my entire collection of Victorian and Edwardian gowns, and it was a great success.  The gowns were showcased perfectly by my stunning models and captured wonderfully by our talented photographer.

Photo shoot credits and thanks:

Photography: Shelly Wittstock Orlandini

Models: Rebecca Brummer, Heather Dawson, Lina Pashkova, Melissa Simonis

Token Victorian Gentleman: James Opalewski

A pretty epic image from the day of shooting:

Out for a stroll

Victorian Photo Shoot


To see details on these gowns, and the other half (there were 10 in all), you can go to my NEW SITE!

Yes, that’s the other half of the exciting news- I have a site up dedicated to my Victorian/Edwardian sartorial pursuits. For those of you who are stalking me, you already know that my Twilight site is more of a personal portfolio showcasing a variety of costumes, artwork and corsetry as well as linking articles I’ve been featured in and interviews I’ve done.

There are tons of pictures, so go check it out & share with anyone you think might enjoy some eye candy!

Now, for those of you who actually *are* keeping track, you’ll notice a new outfit- the striped dress with lavender there in the middle of the picture- that does not have a blog post yet.

That is my bad…. I wasn’t as vigilant about photographing during the process of making it, but I WILL post what I have, as well as the pattern I used and my inspiration. ¬†Also details on making the hat, because that involved (omg) making silk roses in 3 sizes. So, that’s coming, but this is the big announcement for today, and takes precedence.

I hope you enjoy all the pictures!

Gothic Victorian Costume Tuesday, Apr 8 2014 

This costume was quite cheap to make- the striped material was from the clearance rack at the fabric store, the jacket was a thrift-store find, and the other fabric and buttons were pulled from my extras bin or purchased on sale or with a coupon (40% off, just sign up for their mailers at JoAnne Fabrics).
It was inspired by the very first outfit we see Gillian Anderson wearing in “The House of Mirth”, stepping out of the mist, sihouetted by the steam hanging in the air of the train station. ¬†It’s not a copy, but I wanted to capture the romance of the lace jabot, the drama of the tailored jacket with its tiny waist, the luxurious touch of velvet and the hint of mystery imparted by the net veil.

My black and grey striped material was synthetic, I believe a striped polyester, and was very easy to work with. I went back a couple weeks after buying it but was unable to find more. ¬†The velvet jacket was probably from the 70’s, purchased at the thrift store, and had a nice sheen and a notched collar. ¬†I added some darts to really curve it around my (corseted) waist, and I cut the hem in order to give it a more Victorian shape, finishing it with bias tape. ¬†I added some fancy buttons and a couple bands of trim down the front, and that was done!

Gothic Victorian jacket

Gothic Victorian jacket

The lace jabot was purchased from the Victorian Trading Co., but I still needed to make adjustments- even pinned to the jacket at the base, it was too flimsy and tended to bunch up and move around on me. Not good if that is serving as your “blouse” beneath the jacket. ¬†So I created a base from two layers of cotton duck and handstitched the lace over it….. wait, no, I was impatient, I used a fabric glue. Either way. Problem solved! ¬†Honestly, this wouldn’t be difficult to make, if you can find some 2″-3″ lace that you like. All you need is an oval base large enough to cover your desired area, which is attached to a band of lace for the neck (even the store-bought one fastens with velcro at the back), and then stitch on overlapping layers of lace down the base, going from the top down.

The skirt was more involved. Again, I didn’t use a pattern. I had a dressform set to my measurements (corseted), and I draped a full-length A-line skirt. The back half I draped from some random black material I had- I wanted to conserve material and the entire back would be covered in rows of ruffles anyway.

I also made extra deep darts at the back of the skirt to make room for a cage bustle, and then I got to laying out myremaining striped fabric and measuring for a full row of hem ruffle and four evenly spaced rows of ruffles down the back. I cut them, finished the edges & then gathered them.

Now, this is before I purchased my ruffler foot so I gathered them all by making a line of large machine stitche along the top & pulling one thread to gather the material along the other thread. In this case, doing it by hand may have been best anyway, as my yardage was limited and it’s difficult to guage how much length you’ll lose with the automatic gathering of the ruffler foot. Once the rows were done I pinned them in place and sewed them in place (no-one will see the top of any of the rows, as the highest one is hidden under your bodice/jacket).

Gothic Victorian costume

Gothic Victorian costume

Oh, I made a hat too ūüôā
There was a dumpy old pilgrim hat that had nothing to lose in a remodel, so I separated the crown from the brim as a first step. I re-cut the crown to be shorter, and added a sassy curve to the bottom. Then I reduced the width of the brim. I replaced the wire edgeing around the crown and brim, recovered them in a semi-matte black satin, and reattached (sewing and gluing) the brim to the crown. ¬†The scraps of striped fabric remaining went into trimming the hat, along with an actual vintage milliner’s pair of raven wings (taxidermied, I’m assuming, though it’s not my forte) and a ridiculously big, sparkly, rhinestone vintage button (also a thrifting find).

For a costume with minimal expense, I’ve had a lot of good times in it already!

Gothic Victorian Hat

Gothic Victorian Hat


Creating Victorian and Edwardian Costumes- From thrifting to historical patterns Sunday, Jan 26 2014 

I’ve been trying- for the last two years or so- to keep better track of my process while creating new outfits by documenting it with pictures. ¬†This blog is an extension of those efforts, published with the thought that someone, somewhere might be interested in knowing how or why they were put together.

I’ll spend a few posts reviewing some projects I’ve recently finished (the last couple of years), and they will include projects from scratch, from patterns, draped from inspiration pictures and created from reimagining existing clothing.

I hope you’ll find it interesting, and for contrast I’ll start with 2 outfits in this post- a very ornate costume built from scratch using historic patterns, and a simpler yet beautiful outfit created from two old dresses.

Victorian dress and Edwardian Tea Gown

Victorian dress and Edwardian tea gown. Image credit on left: Cloud Orchid Magazine.

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The humble beginnings of the tea gown.

First, the Edwardian Tea Gown. I found this old circa 1970’s dress- likely a bridesmaid dress-with long sheer sleeves and a frumpy ruched neckline. However, it was full length, the colors were right and the fabric was light and pretty, and it was a great fit without any alterations. Well worth $5. The primary adjustments I made to it were removing the sleeves and creating a square neckline.

Not long after, I rescued an old wedding dress from the same thrift store aisles, dejected and rejected because its masses of beautiful cotton-blend lace were stained and ripped in one section.

The rescue was brief though, as I just harvested all the lace and discarded the rest. I began draping these lace pieces over the dress.

I’d just like to say that the dress was feeling very pretty, and very familiar, but it was only at this point that I searched online for some Edwardian design inspiration, and discovered that this dress was well on its way to becoming a close relative of Rose’s (Titanic) “swim dress”. Which I was just fine with- I really admire the costuming work done in that film.

Swim gown

The “swim gown” would have been perfectly acceptable for an informal tea or as a dress for receiving daytime visitors at home.

After estimating the amount of lace at my disposal, I cut, pinned and hand-stitched     the pieces to the dress.  It was looking quite Edwardian, but it needed a wide belt. I       found a length of satin in a good accent color to make a wide sash for the waist.

(On a   side note, I am considering sewing the front half of the belt to the dress to keep it from shifting, BUT, if you decide to do this, you may want to cut the front portion on the bias to make it easier for the fabric to mold to a tight fitting bodice.)

And that was pretty much it- I went to Etsy to find some oval cabochon frames and purchased a few cameos separately to insert in them, and I put a cameo on the center of the belt and one on each shoe, like a shoe clip.

But you can do a lot with a couple of dresses and some inspiration!

Tea Gown for Teslacon 2012

The finished Tea Gown, minus a couple of accessories.


Look at those details! What a great pattern! If they were included, that is….

On the other side of the spectrum…. my next outfit was begun by laying out bolts of fabric into pleasing combinations, and mixing and matching them with various patterns I had bought myself for Christmas (I always know just what to get me!). ¬†I settled on Ageless Patterns #1687. I tend to like simpler, tailored lines paired with highly detailed, clean decoration, so the wide band of pleating on the skirt as well as the double points on the polonaise and the bustle detailing really appealed to me, along with the notched collar styling on the bodice.

PLEASE note here: It is not stated when you purchase the pattern, but all you get is the basic shape pattern for the jacket- NOT the bustle detail, not the double pointed polonaise- and the basic pattern for a period skirt (not the shown skirt but one similar), NOT the pleating at the bottom, the trim around the edges of the whole thing, the trim around the cuffs, nothing. When I contacted the seller, she stated that Victorian clothing is all about decoration and those “decorative elements” are not included in the pattern. I’m sorry, but those are major aspects of this dress, not just decoration.

Additionally, for those of you that look to patterns for guidance (imagine that!)- BE WARNED- this is how the instructions for this pattern read:


In fact, here’s a pic of the “instructions”.

Ageless Patterns 1687 "Instructions"

“One peace each”, really? Really. Wow. Such effort.

Now, if you were searching patterns online and ended up on their page, you may purchase it thinking you’re getting a decent pattern with decent instructions. ¬†However, if you (and why would you, really) go to the home page of the site you’ll see this caveat:
Seam allowances, markings, straight of grain and ORIGINAL sewing instructions have been added.  THE SEWING INSTRUCTIONS ARE AS THEY APPEARED ON THE PATTERN AND IS WHAT THE CUSTOMER GOT BACK THEN.  Sometimes the patterns have more description and are short on sewing instructions. I have done my best to include all pattern pieces.   Please read all instructions on the pattern before purchasing fabric and cutting of the pattern.  All patterns are sewable, just use your head, a little common sense and patience and your garment will turn out just fine.

So, now you can feel inadequate because you should be able to make sense of an all caps run-on paragraph if you just “use your head”. Well, I was able to figure it out (and actually informed her of a mistake on her pattern), but everyone has different levels of experience. And it was very annoying. “What the customer got back then”… well, times they have a-changed, how about updating the pattern to reflect 125 years of advancement? I mean, is it really so difficult to put a TINY bit of effort into this, after you’ve marked the grainline and seam allowances could you provide a few modern sewing hints or, heck, just PUNCTUATION to help us out a bit? After all, after the initial effort, you just run it through your printer & ship it off.

You’d think I was being unreasonable…. that is, unless you’ve ever seen instructions for a Truly Victorian pattern….gorgeous! Step by step, tips on resizing and trims, it gives you the information you need to tackle an advanced project, and the flexibility to customize it! (PS- I’m not getting paid by any company or group to do endorsements, but I’ve used three Truly Victorian patterns and it’s been a pleasure every time!)

Truly Victorian pattern instructions

They include detailed instructions on resizing vintage patterns, step by step methods for construction, and even instructions on various types of trim you may choose to add to your garment! Imagine that.

My recommendation is, if you haven’t fallen in love with a particular pattern from Ageless, STOP right there, and go to Truly Victorian (or buy a Truly Victorian from Ageless, as they somehow sell other people’s patterns on their site, but I would prefer my money go straight to the TV people who put an effort into making the pattern user friendly).

My 1880's skirt, lined, with box pleating

I used a steamer on the velvet to revive the crushed areas- it works, and improved the look 100%!

Well, that was a little off-topic rant!  Back to it-

The first step was the skirt- I had a decent amount of this beautiful tan (I think a silk blend) velvet, and I used that as a skirt base. I lined it with a midweight satin and sandwiched a reinforced waistband between the layers. I like to put 2-3 grommets in either side of the waistband back, as it allows the skirt to be adjustable (this outfit can actually be worn without a corset, though I’D never do THAT!).

Since a broad band of pleating was going on the bottom I didn’t worry too much about the hem, and sewed in some horsehair braid to help the hem hold the folds of the skirt away from the body a bit.

The pleats…. oh, the pleats. For some reason I decided to make box pleats. 4 yards of 18″ wide, 1.25″ deep box pleats, from a shimmery tan “silkessence” polyester material from JoAnne Fabrics. I cut the strips at the width I wanted, sewed them together lengthwise, finished the edges, and then started with the pinning and ironing.

My dear sweet husband assisted with pinning the finished length of pleating to the hem at the correct length with the corset, bustle and shoes I planned to assign to the completed outfit.  I hand stitched the hem on, to keep the meeting of the two fabrics totally smooth.

Box pleats

I love the box pleats, and I hate them. You understand.

* I also stitched the pleats closed by hand with very large stitches, and took the thread out just before the first time I wore it, to keep the pleats sharp.  I decided that I should also have a velvet covered button at each pleat. That was fun. (see my post here for a covered button pictorial)Another note- if you add a little dot of hot glue between the front and back of the covered button as you close it up, the chances of the cover falling off sometime in the future are greatly reduced. I hope.

Always hem while wearing the underwear and shoes you always plan to wear with it- it makes a difference!- My Renaissance outfit needs heels with the Elizabethan corset, while with the Victorian corset I must wear flats. Different corsets emphasize the resting waistline at differing heights.

1880's jacket

From the side

1800's jacket front

Front view of the jacket

Next was the hard part- the jacket. I did mockups for fit, and it’s a good thing- I lengthened the sleeves and the waist in back, and took up the length of those front polonaise points.

I didn’t want to cover as much of the skirt as the polonaise does on the pattern- not after all that pleating! ¬†I created the jacket block and lined it. I used the velvet for the lapels and a band of trim down the buttoned front, and used covered buttons in the same fabric here as well.

This went well- I reinforced the front jacket band so I wouldn’t get any pulling or bowing from the individual buttons.

Vintage lace on 1880's jacket

I applied the vintage lace with a spray glue, then handstitched it on permanently.

The pattern comes with a cutout for a dickie, or false vest. I used the silkessence again, and some ridiculously beautiful vintage lace.

A spray glue adhered the lace to the fabric well enough for me to use a zig-zag stitch at key points to attach it permanently. (I tested the spray-on fabric glue first, of course) Handstitched the dickie to the inside of the jacket.

I cut the bottom points of the jacket front with some extra length on top, to create that double point seen on the pattern cover, and cut two rectangles big enough to span the distance from one side to the other.  I pinned, repinned, and marked where the pieces would be attached to the main jacket.

Ball trim at hem of 1880's jacket

The ball trim with the “less gold” band of trim.

Then it was all about planning the trimming- I splurged on a gold ball trim and matching band of trim for the jacket hem, but once done it all looked too gold next to the tan of the velvet, so I changed out the band of trim while keeping the balls… it looked much better.

My husband said he couldn’t see a difference.

The sleeve cuffs weren’t too difficult, I made some knife pleats for the edge and sandwiched them between the fashion fabric and the lining.

Pleating at cuffs

Just plain old knife pleats- and the buttons are decorative.

Trying it on when all was done, I felt like something was still missing. And my arms are really long (thanks dad!), so I still felt like the sleeves were short-ish.  My solution: $5 tuxedo shirt from the rummage room at the Miller & Campbell costume shop + scissors = a striking addition to the collar and cuffs of my outfit.


In the full outfit, misbehaving.

To finish the outfit off, I added a pair of mother of pearl opera glasses (online auction win) and a coordinating hat (found the velvet base resale, perfect color match, and had it trimmed at The Brass Rooster). Oh, and gloves, of course.

This costume, though just shy of garnering the Teslacon 3 “Best In Show” title, did attain the win for the “Historical Master” division and garnered me the cover and a 4 page spread with interview in Cloud Orchid Magazine’s 2-edition coverage of Teslacon 3.

I’m very happy with it, but it was a LOT of work!

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