Gearing up for Costume College 2018

This year is a bit weird.  I’m done sewing with a week left to go.  This never happens.

I’ve been reluctant to post about it on social media because so many people I know and love are still frantically trying to get projects done in time.  I feel like it’d be rubbing salt in a wound to complain that I don’t know what to do with myself.

So, instead, I’m starting a project that is a sort of “take it, or leave it” project; if I get it done, fantastic, if not, oh well.  I’ve been planning for ages to make the Decades of Style 1930s overalls.  I’m finally going to do it.

In the meantime, here are the plans for what you’ll see me in if you are looking for me at CoCo:

I’m shopping on Thursday during the day, but I’m still not sure what I’m wearing. Last year I tried for comfy but cute and was not feeling the comfy.  May just go for comfy this year, which for me is jeans and a T-shirt.

Thursday evening, I’m planning to wear my red fairy/fantasy dress (possibly with the corset and wings, but we’ll see if I’m up for it after a day of shopping).

Friday, I’m panning to wear my paid kaftan during the day.

Friday night is the ONLY new costume I made specifically for CoCo this  year, and I don’t have any photos of the complete outfit yet.  I made an 1890s skirt and shirtwaist.  I’d been planning this outfit for year and had the skirt fabric specifically earmarked for it.  It just so happened that last year at CoCo, I found and purchased a boater that matches it perfectly.  Given that the theme of the Friday night social is the Gay 90’s, this outfit just HAD to happen this year.  Here’s a sneak peak of the shirtwaist with a tie I made from leftover skirt fabric:

Saturday during the day I actually need to wear clothes that can get a bit messy.  This is also when I’d be wearing the overalls if they get finished.

This is the first year since my very first CoCo (1999? or maybe 2000) that I will not be attending the dinner portion of the gala.  I will, however, come down later wearing the red regency dress I made for an event earlier this year.

I’ve already purchased a new necklace and earrings from Dames a la Mode to bling it up a bit for evening wear.

Sunday, a friend and I plan on wearing our Hogwarts House Chore Skirts.

If you see me, please come say hi!  (If you are trying to get my attention, call out “Teresa” as I probably won’t respond to any of my online monikers.)

On a side note, I’ve tried to link all the patterns I used as I wrote about each outfit I’m wearing.  The only one I did not do this with is the fairy costume, as so much of that was sort of franken-patterned.  I think the base pattern I started with is the princess dress from Simplicity that came out when Lord of the Rings costuming was a big thing.

Is it really that there aren’t enough hours in the day…

…or am I just lazy?

Yep.  I’m a lazy blogger.

After teaching six classes per day, though, I seriously don’t have the brain capacity for anything even remotely productive.  Even the dishes don’t get done most days.

That being said, summer is coming, and my kids are going to be in a summer program three days a week.  Woohoo!!!

So, of course I have plans to do absolutely everything.  Clean and organize the house.  Make every meal from scratch.  Complete three major costume projects.  Sew clothes for modern, daily wear.  Clean and organize the garage.  Get caught up with blogging.  Read all the books on my to-read list.

I’m sitting here laughing at myself because I know that very little of this will actually happen, not matter how determined I am to stick to the plan right now.

My personal motivation over the summer is to create spaces I want to live and work in, so the blogging thing is going to take a bit of a back seat, but I promise that it will still be on the list, for whenever I manage to get to it.

A New Beret

I love my old beret that I made years ago, but it’s a tad on the small side when I’m wearing my hair up, which is all the time now.  I was hoping to use this same pattern this time around, but I couldn’t find the magazine that it was from, so I opted for a free pattern from Lion brand yarns.

I’m not quite as pleased with this one, but at least it’s large enough, and overall is fine.


See, enough room for the bun,  AND enough room for it to drape nicely on the side.

Stay tuned for version 0.5 coming up.  My mini-me wants one, too.

Regency dilemmas…

Here are my Regency short stays…that are still a tad too long.  I’m starting to feel like there just aren’t a whole lot of was for a plus-sized lady to be comfortable in the Regency.

No, not really.  I just haven’t met the right stays yet.

Over the Christmas holiday, I worked on a new pair of Regency stays (the long version).  My old ones were not only made about 40 pounds ago, but also about 15 years go, which means that they are pretty much falling apart.

Now, over the past couple of years, I’ve toyed with the idea of making transitional stays.  I even made up a set, but before I adjusted some of the quirks I didn’t like, I gained more weight and the darned things don’t fit.

So, here’s the dilemma.  In a Regency silhouette, I love the look that the long corset provides.  It smooths my fluffy abdomen so that I look a bit more like the columnar ideal and less like a marshmallow.  The problem is that, at least with the way I construct the corset, I have pretty limited mobility.  I mean, it’s fine for events where I’m mostly standing, like at a dance, but I absolutely can’t imagine sitting comfortably for an extended period, say at a picnic.

After making my new long stays (which look pretty darn good, but don’t really allow for much bending), I decided on a whim to whip up a pair of short stays with the same pattern.

I still have issues.  When a friend helped me try on the finished product, I told her it gave me “reverse muffin top.”  I think this is why most transitional stays have tabs–to gradually release the fluff.

At first, I thought I might try to fix it simply by shortening the stays, but since my tummy fluff pretty much goes all the way up to meet my bust, I’m now thinking that might not help.

So, I suppose I’m going to have to bite the bullet and create tabs.  Grrr.

Because I can’t JUST watch TV

I like to have one or two projects laying around that I can pick up while I’m watching TV.  During the early part of 2017, I was working on my quilted petticoat, and while I’d still like to add some detail to that, I’ve been much more in the mood for something simple.

So, I’ve been working on a few things here and there, such as the Wonder Woman shawl above, and a few other items below.

A mid-Victorian crocheted collar for a friend.

A lightweight shawl.

Next up, I’m working on a beret using yarn that I originally purchased with socks in mind, but again, socks are a bit too fiddly for my current state of mind.

A New Mid-Victorian Corset

Sorry I don’t have any finished photos, but they aren’t on my computer yet, and the in-progress photos really don’t do this pattern justice.  This is the 1860’s Gored Corset from Redthreaded, and it is gorgeous.  Based on my measurements, I purchased the XXL.  I ended up not having as much gap as I wanted, but the fit in the front was absolutely spot on, so I removed nearly two inches from the back panel and then reattached the lacing strips.  I have a feeling that if I had sized down, the cups would not have fit properly (I’m a D, sometimes DD) and that the hips would not have flared enough for my figure, so I’m definitely happy on that end and think the slight modification was worth having a fantastic fit.

This is before I removed the lacing strips and took out part of the back panel. Because the back panel is so narrow now, I do not have the diagonal boning.

CoBloWriMo Day 8: Vocabulary

My day job is in education which, like many professions, is rife with acronyms.  Boy, do we ever love our acronyms.  From CCSS, to IEPs, to NCLB, our jargon is not very outsider friendly and newcomers have a steep learning curve that they are expected to master rather quickly. There are even acronyms that have passed out of use that some of us who’ve been doing this for a while are still familiar with (SDAIE) and others that are specific to only certain schools (JMMS).

Historical costumers, or just costumers in general, seem to have been cut from the same cloth.  You might hear friends talking about being wiped out after attending CoCo2018, but they are already making plans for attending CC36.  They have a whole pile of UFOs they need to work on at home, but the DH needs a button sewn on his pants.  You’ll also hear a LOT of us talk about the affliction of CADD, which seems to affect costumers from everything from the SCA to the ICG and beyond.

Feel free to add your costuming acronyms to the comments below!


CoCo(year): Costume College–an educational conference held the last weekend in July in Woodland Hills, CA.

CC(number): Costume Con–a convention focused on both historical and scifi/fantasy costuming.  Changes location every year, but usually held in May.

UFO: UnFinished Object

DH: Darling Husband

CADD: Costume Attention Deficit Disorder (not intended to demean or offend anyone who actually has to deal with ADD or ADHD) refers to the seeming inability of costumers to focus on one project at a time.

SCA: Society for Creative Anachronism

ICG: International Costumers Guild


And, just in case you are curious about the teacher acronyms…

CCSS: Common Core State Standards

IEP: Individualized Education Plan (for students with special learning needs)

NCLB: No Child Left Behind Act, which was replaced with Every Student Succeeds Act.

SDAIE: Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (these strategies are still incredibly important, but they are not being addressed in staff development as SDAIE–we now tend to discuss them in terms of designated/integrated ELD instructional strategies)

JMMS: The acronym used for the name of the school at which I currently teach.

CoBloWriMo Day 7: Made for Someone Else

My ideal post for this topic would be absolutely blank.  But you know that’s NEVER how it goes.  As soon as people discover you sew, they start asking, and it takes more willpower than I had as a young 20-something to say no.

So, yeah, I’ve had my share of prom dresses, sun dresses, wedding dresses, but even the ones that I really wanted to want to make, I did with at least a twinge of resentment.

I don’t mean to be mean, but sewing is my hobby.  I do it for fun.  I have a more than full time day job.  When I come home and can manage to put work aside, I really want to be sewing something for me.

Then I had kids.  Talk about having your world turned upside down…on purpose.

So, pretty much the only people I now sew for (much stronger willpower and absolutely no problem being seen as a witch) are my now four-year-old twins.  Because, yeah, they are stinking adorable, especially done up in historical digs, and they are too young, so far, to tell me they don’t want to wear this stuff.  Eventually, I’ll have to draw a line, or they will, and there will only be new costumes for them if they are at least willing to help with the construction, but for now I’m kind of getting a kick out of making historical garments in miniature.


CoBloWriMo Day 6: Book Recommendation

I can’t.  I really just can’t.  You can’t seriously expect an English teacher who is also a costumer to recommend just ONE book.  Ain’t gonna happen.  I will, however, limit myself to the books that I pick up most frequently.

Most of my costuming library.

  1. The Cut of Women’s Clothes by Norah Waugh: This is one of the few books that I got really early on that I still refer to very frequently.  I like that not only is it a sort of overview of fashion over the ages, but that you get to see what the actual pattern pieces look like–how they were shaped and where seams were placed.
  2. Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradfield: This is the other book that I got when I first started that I still constantly turn to.  How wide were the skirts? What shape were the bonnets? Where were the closures?  So many questions can be answered in those sketches.
  3. Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh: Another great resource for determining shape and seamlines.  Incredibly helpful on boning placement as well.
  4. All of the Janet Arnold books as well as the Jean Hunnisette books.  I purchased all of these right around the same time.  Even when I’m not using them for the patterns themselves, I refer to them while working in order to double check shape and seam placement.
  5. Seventeenth-Century Dress Patterns, edited by Susan North and Jenny Tiramani: This book series seriously raises the bar for costuming resources.  Not only do you get beautiful, up-close photos of extant garments, but you also get a step-by-step breakdown of how the garment was constructed.  This was incredibly helpful when I was working on my recent 1660’s gown.
  6. Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790 by Linda Baumgarten and John Watson with Florine Carr: This one sat on my shelf for a long time before I was ready to really jump into historically accurate construction for 18th century.  During my last 18th century project, the book lived on my sewing table.

You’ll notice that all of my recommendations pretty much focus on books that contain patterns and are intended to help you with properly constructing a garment for a particular era.  I have MANY other books that I also go to for inspiration, but so much of that sort of thing is also available online nowadays that I don’t think they are absolutely essential pieces in my library, though I do still love browsing through them when I’m looking to start a new project.

A few more costume books as well as my crochet and knitting library.

CoBloWriMo Day 5: Origin Story

Eek, I’m only on day five and already falling behind, so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet.

I first learned very basic hand sewing when I was a child.  It was my mother’s strategy to keep me busy while she sewed.  By the time I was nine, I was sewing basic projects on her Viking sewing machine that had two different speeds so that I could plod away on the slow setting.

A dress my mother made for me (circa 1980, I think).

I continued sewing throughout my adolescence and even brought my little Kenmore to college with me one year.  I was still just making the odd dress or skirt now and then.  Nothing too complicated, and I still didn’t even know there was such a thing as historical costuming.

It wasn’t until my first year teaching, the 1999-2000 school year, that I stumbled upon a whole new (to me) world through the pages of the Simplicity pattern catalog.  I spotted their costume version of an Irish Renaissance dress (you probably know the one I’m talking about), and had this sudden thought that I could make the costume to help me introduce Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to my students.

My mother is wearing my very first attempt (see, I said you’d recognize that pattern), and I am wearing my very slightly improved second attempt (bet you recognize that pattern, too).

And, oh what a rabbit hole that one decision has led me down.  Making the costume made me want to wear it somewhere else.  I don’t quite remember how I found out about it, but I ended up attending my first Ren Faire the following fall.  Shortly after, I joined the Greater Bay Area Costumers’ Guild and started dabbling in all sorts of different eras.  I discovered the world of Costume Blogging while it was still in its infancy and still cherish many of the people I met then, even the ones I still have not met in person.

While I do miss the small, tight-knit community that we used to be back in our LiveJournal days, I am constantly awed and inspired by those who continue to be added to our numbers.

One of the things that I hope this month of blogging achieves for me personally is to help me reconnect with those who are continuing to blog on different platforms and to discover voices that are new to me.