Exciting Weekend!

On Saturday, I was up in Lowell, MA for the Northeastern Region of the CSA’s symposium, where I presented a paper that is the foundation for my thesis.  My presentation was about…us!

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I’m so happy to say that “Being In Two Places at Once: The Paradox of Authenticity of the Historical Costumer Subculture” was really well received by the academic community.  In my paper, I explored the historical costumer subculture against the paradigm of postmodern fashion theory, raising questions about accuracy versus authenticity.  I couldn’t have done it without all the lovely costumers who so kindly allowed me to use their photographs to illustrate my points…THANK YOU to all of you!

For those who are curious, here is my abstract:

Historical costumers belong to a postmodern subculture comprised of those who engage in the research and creation of historical dress and identify with others who do the same, culminating in various end results such as reenactment, living history, or a simple promenade. Historical costuming is based on two fundamental principals: the imitation of historical fashion and the reconciliation between the present and the past. In their attempt to dress in the style and manner of a bygone era, are historical costumers able to fully replicate the fashion of another time, or does authenticity evade them regardless of their efforts to master it?

Using historical costumers’ self-published websites and blogs, the nature of the subculture is studied against the social and psychological paradigm of postmodern culture. From the construction of the costume to the wearing of the creation, the choices historical costumers make regarding historically accurate materials and construction methods will yield a costume that falls on varying points of the scale between simulation (a faithful copy), and simulacra (a copy for which there is no original). Historical costumers as a subculture have not yet been fully studied in academia, and this research serves to open avenues of research on the subculture, including social perceptions of beauty, aesthetics, and taste; the possible influence historical costuming can have on contemporary mainstream fashion; and how the research performed by historical costumers can have incredible academic value.

Historical costumers toe the line between artificially immersing themselves in a moment in time that is not their own and living in the postmodern present, where the ephemeral quality of fashion can exist across all eras.

I’ll be presenting the same paper this weekend at the LIM College symposium.  If you are near New York City, I’m scheduled to present on Saturday afternoon.

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I just returned from another terrific Costume College.  I’m refreshed and teeming with grand costuming plans for next year!  Write-ups on what I made and wore in the coming days as the photos begin to trickle in.

But until then, I’m happy to plug some speaking engagements I’ve got lined up for the fall:

Thursday, August 8, 6:30 P.M.: An Acquisition of Higher Delight: The Pursuit of Beauty, 1790-1820.  I will be giving a presentation at the Morris-Jumel Mansion on early nineteenth century aesthetics.  This overview on style, cosmetics, hairstyles, corsets, gowns, and accessories precedes a Regency Dance Workshop the following Saturday.

September 28: Costume Society of America Northeastern Region Symposium, Lowell, MA.  I will be presenting my paper Being in Two Places at Once: The Paradox of Authenticity in the Historical Costumer Subculture.

October 5: Fashion: Now and Then: Meaning, Media and Mode, LIM College, New York, NY.  Another presentation of Being in Two Places at Once, this time a little closer to home!

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The Strawberry Shoes


My 18th century shoes had been in a dire situation for a long time! I have a pair of black Fugawees, which I love, but I actually prefer to wear them with everyday clothes than with costumes. I had also tried covering shoes using Loren’s fantastic tutorial and had made two pairs using the Dyeable Grace model, but they are more or less…sloppy. So I knew I needed a beautiful high heel to wear with my pretty new dresses in France.

Then this lovely shoe kept popping up in my Pinterest feed:


Shoes, 1740-1760, Hampshire City Council Museum

And I remembered this glorious silk brocade I had seen in the Garment District:


And thus, an Evil Plan was born! I once again used Loren’s tutorial, but with much better workmanship this time. For the base, I used a dance shoe from Apple Dance Shoes. The heel isn’t perfect, it’s a little too skinny, but I could always go back and thicken it up with some Sculpey and cover it with fabric. But I’m pretty happy with the results. I just wish I had some honest-to-goodness shiny shoe buckles–those are just oval buckles I found for cheap in the Garment District. The brocade was a beast to work with, as all the fibers making up the strawberry motifs are not secured at all. If I do these again, I might consider stitching around each strawberry to secure them.

But I’m pretty happy!





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The Green Satin Fitted Back Gown




Of all the costumes I made to wear at Chateau de Pys, perhaps this was the most finicky.  Sometimes your planning, scheming, researching, and fitting don’t line up to get you the costume you envisioned!

I bought this green silk satin for a song a few months ago, a random lucky find in the garment district.  I had grown a little tired of making solid-colored silk taffeta gowns and wanted to try a different weave.  The satin is a little to stiff to work well for the fluffier styles of the end of the 18th century, but it could work really well for a fitted-back gown.  The shininess of the fabric would be smashing for an evening dress, and I wanted a silhouette other than an evening francaise to mix things up a bit.  Because I had successfully made an en forreau in the past, I decided it would look really pretty with the silvery smooth fabric.  And it did!

But you’ll have to take my word for it.  Looks like I didn’t get any shots of the back of the gown!


That may be for the best, however…there were fitting issues galore with this costume.  Because I was in a mad rush to finish sewing between the end of spring semester and flying off to France, I never actually tried on this dress before wearing it.  When I put it on at the chateau, the waist was too big by a whopping three inches!  I ended up doing an emergency alteration and just pulling the front robings a little tighter in towards center front.  And that was Good Enough for the First Wearing.

I made this using Katherine’s excellent tutorial on draping a fitted back gown on a mannequin that is not you-sized.  Although I had horrible fit issues with this project, those were because I’m generally pretty bad at draping and possibly also because of my holiday calorie bonanza (I did the fitting back in January).  I would definitely use Katherine’s tutorial again and hopefully improve my draping (lack of) skills.


The original design idea for this gown was to emulate a Laduree box with soft gold accents.  But when I saw a pink rococo trim I could get at discount, I changed things up and made it a spring masquerade dress instead.  The satin curls pretty heavily, so in order to have self-fabric trim I had to choose something I could tack down on both sides, so I just used strips of gathered fabric held down by the trim.  The separate stomacher has small, non-functioning buttons.

I’ll go back and do a little bit of editing to this piece before I wear it again.  Of course, I need to start with re-fitting the bodice and getting the bulk out.  I will also remove the flounce at the petticoat front and replace it with more gathered satin.  I think it would improve the cohesiveness of the trim design.

Sadly, I don’t seem to have any more photos of myself in this gown–bummer!  Hopefully more images will surface from the chateau-mates soon.  More photos will come when I edit the dress, anyhow.

I made a Pinterest inspiration board of robes a l’anglaise with separate stomachers here.

Up next, a VERY special dress!

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The Cross-Barred Sacque


Here we go–write-ups on the costumes I made for a fantastic stay at Chateau de Pys, a glorious chateau in France I shared with eight costumers I love dearly.

When I decided I needed a third sacque in my costume closet, I wanted it to be a little different.  I had made two already in solid colors and it was time I branched out into a sort of figured fabric–specifically, a cross-barred pattern.  I searched high and low for a suitable silk, and was completely smitten when I found this taffeta at Fabric Guru.  Who doesn’t want a plaid 18th century dress!


Can we all admire Sarah’s perfectly frizzy wig?

Although I used my first sacque (created at a workshop led by Janea Whitacre, so I knew the fit was proper) as a guide, this sacque gave me a little more headache with the fitting.  (Perhaps it’s the new set of stays I made–bizarrely, they make me stand with a sway back, my belly thrust forward, so my posture is incorrect.)  I added bust darts this time, which I didn’t need to do with my other two sacques, but the dress still fits rather loosely, even when laced as tight as possible in the back.


I will admit that the best part of working with the cross-barred pattern is that it worked like a perfect grid!  I know I am built asymmetrically, but frankly, I couldn’t resist just making the dress perfectly symmetrical and lining up the seams with the pattern.  It made things go so much easier!


For trimming, I decided the cross-barred dress at the Kyoto Costume Institute was rather right on, so I added lace up and down the front robe openings, complimented by ruched stripes of taffeta in a serpentine pattern.  Bows at the breast and elbows in a contrasting olive green finished the look.


I decided to wear the sacque drawn up a la polonaise, which I think is such a charming look.  I love wearing elegant sacques as evening wear, but I think they are absolutely darling as daywear, too!  I styled this with my hedgehog wig and a flat hat.

I collected some images of cross-barred costumes on this Pinterest Board.

I’ll be back soon with my next costume!

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Sneak Peak

Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it?  Spring semester of school was a doozy and kept me quite busy–but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t finding time to sew!  I just spent a glorious week with a group of costumers in a chateau in France, and I have a whole new wardrobe to write up about, which I promise to do when I get home.

ImageUntil then, a sneak peak!


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It’s beginning to look a lot like…the 1920s?

Now that fall semester is over, I’ve enjoyed hitting the pre-Christmas sales, and I can’t help but notice there’s a lot of 1920s going on out there! And I don’t mean drop-waist dresses and Louis heels–ready-to-wear is giving a nod to quirkier moments from the 1920s.

For example, this quilted skirt from Anthropologie, which looks to be a reimagined version of this Lanvin dress from ca. 1924:


And Elsa Schiaparelli’s famous 1927 Cravat sweater, brought back to the mainstream by  J Crew (available in the of-the-moment chic oxblood hue, too!):


I wonder what other vintage-inspired treasures I’ll find tomorrow!

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