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.

CoBloWriMo Day 4: Favorite Era

It seems like one of the first, and most frequent questions I get as a costumer is “What is your favorite time period?”

It’s a simple enough question, but so difficult to answer.  Most of the time, I demure and simply say that I’m a “Jill of all eras, master of none” although that’s not quite true.  I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve gotten better and more prolific in some eras.

Mid-Victorian is one of those eras, though that’s mostly because I have far more opportunities to wear these dresses.

For a similar reason, I’ve made quite a few 18th century costumes, although it hasn’t been until my most recent quilted petticoat and jacket that I feel I’ve started to become more historically accurate for this time period.

But, when I think about the question seriously–which dresses do I really have the most fun planning and constructing–I’d have to say that my current favorite is the naturalform silhouette.

*Note: There’s a dress missing from both my mid-Victorian section and my 18th century section.  I couldn’t readily find a picture of either dress without other people in the photos.  Also, I’ve put the photos in the order in which I constructed them so that you can see the progression as I honed my craft.

CoBloWriMo Day 3: Extant Garment, but not

Okay, so I’m going to cop out of this one today.  I’m just not at that point in any project where I’ve got images of an extant garment on my mind.  Frankly, I rarely use extant garments as inspiration, but rather already have an idea, painting, photo, or fashion plate as my starting point.

Since I don’t have something pretty to blog about, I decided to do some modern sewing today and show that off instead.

I recently purchased the Miramar Dress, Top & Tunic pattern from Scroop Patterns (which I wrote about yesterday morning, thinking I might get to this soon).  Yesterday, I printed the pattern, assembled the pattern pieces, and washed my fabric.

So, once I sat down today to actually sew this, I discovered some absolutely amazing things about the pattern.

First off, I actually don’t remember the last time I worked with a knit…oh, wait.  I have a dim recollection of wrangling some stretch velvet back my Lord of the Rings costuming phase.  There’s a part of my brain that is definitely convinced that working with knit fabric is vastly different from what I normally do, and is vaguely afraid of those differences.

This pattern is definitely designed to allay those fears.  The instructions begin with suggestions for how to stitch the garment depending on what sewing machines/stitches you have access to.  The pattern is literally only TWO pieces with only five seams to sew.  Once the majority of the seams are sewn, there are incredibly excellent instructions on how to make any needed alterations before finishing the garment, including how to bring up the neckline (which is a HUGE plus for me–I hate too low necklines).

Luckily, I have a serger that is fantastic with knits, so the majority of the top was put together in about half an hour.

Unfortunately, I do not currently own any ball point sewing machine needles.  Dun, dun, dun.

Cue sewing hysterics and cursing.

When it came time to sew the hems on the sleeves and bottom edge, I had to rethread my needle no less than a dozen times.  I was very near tears and cursing like a sailor.  If it has been later in the evening, I probably would have poured myself a glass of wine.  As it was, I really wanted to get this done before going to pick my kids up from preschool, so I powered through.

Anyway, if you are looking for an incredible alternative to a t-shirt, get yourself over to Scroop Patterns and buy this pattern.  It’s a digital download, so you can start on it immediately!

For now, I’m out of fabric that has the required four way stretch, so I’ll need to go shopping, plus I need to pick up a ball-point needle…or, wait.  I think I might actually still have some stretch velvet left over from my Elvish phase…

CoBloWriMo Day 2: Current Project

Well, you’ve caught me at an odd time with this one.  Since I just came back from Costume College, it means I’m sort of in between projects right now.

I just finished my Ter Borch gown:

I’m in the middle of adding a page to the blog with a write up on the research and construction process.

I suppose I’m sort of still working on my 18th century quilted petticoat, but I’ve worn it twice as is already and can’t really work on it while it is so hot at home.

And I haven’t really decided what to work on next.  My son has been requesting a “pirate” outfit (18th century costume) since I didn’t get his done before going to the pirate festival and then got wrapped up in the sewing I needed to finish for CoCo.

I also need to do some modern sewing with work starting soon.  I recently purchased the Miramar Dress, Top & Tunic pattern from the Dreamstress and would like to make up a few of those for work.

And if I don’t make myself a decent apron soon, I’ll no longer have any modern clothing without cooking stains on them.  I’m thinking that the apron might take precedence since I need to make a few batches of plum jam this week with the plums from my tree.