Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Plaid Horror

Fabric / Materials: About a thousand old plaid shirts.
Pattern: Truly Victorian with some modification

Introduction: Setting the Wayback Machine to 2006, I made a hideous plaid evening gown for a friend. Recalling it, another friend commissioned a gown with a similar concept. It was dubbed the "Plaid Horror", and work begun on 1880s inspired thrift store chic formal attire. The skirts, both over and under, are adapted from Truly Victorian late bustle patterns. There are larger picture available on Just click the picture.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Black Victorian Peachskin Wardrobe Pieces

I've been busy re-organizing several things, and working on several commissions. The only thing I've really had time to photograph is this growing wardrobe of Victorian wardrobe bits made of synthetic black "peachskin" fabric. The overskirt is new, as are the 3/4 length sleeves. I was going for an allusion to mourning without following the actual constraints. Click the picture to see the page on

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Found an excellent pic from last year

Busy busy busy working on the Plaid Horror - photos soon to come. Also working on a few new black Victorian wardrobe bits.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Update for the Navy Blue Anglaise

I whipped out a matching navy blue silk charmeuse petticoat and a stomacher. Click the thumbnail for a full-length photo. I am now lamenting the fact that I had no decent interlining fabric on hand, but I think for a one-shot, it will work out fine. I intend to wear it like this only once before a full re-working of the bodice.

The only real problem here is the weight and flashyness of the buttons. The character I intend to wear it for detests ostentation. I may change out the silver buttons for black.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In Commission Land

Current projects:

1. 1560s Venetian
2. 1870s egglplant silk taffeta ballgown. Due November 4! AAARRGGHHH!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tentacles in New Orleans

The finished product! Fancy dyed lace, ruffles, sleeves on the bodice. Packing the stuffed tentacles into a suitcase was less than awesome. It took up half the space. The Lovecraftian masquerade costume was a big hit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene and Vinyl Tentacles

Nasty weather and staying in unexpectedly on a Saturday night, I started makin' stuff. I have a fabulous skirt that just needs a little extra something. I got the idea to make an ornament similar to the tentacle tail on the emerald green taffeta 1870s-inspired gown for New Orleans this year, but the thought of turning all of those tiny little tubes inside out and stuffing them with polyfill was in no way appealing. I opted instead to make flat sea snake-like tentacles about one inch wide on an identical base.

I must have watched 5 or 6 episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise while flipping tentacles and stitching them down. (Yes, I am a giant nerd.) Now I need to flip and top-stitch about 10-12 more tentacles for the top layer, and make a wasitband. I think this makes a fine alternative to other more cape-like ideas I had to provide some drape and drama to this costume.

Update 3:50 PM: Just a few photos of my tentacle process and some shots of the (mostly) finished product. Very H.R. Giger.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A near perfect match

My second attempt was much more successful. I filled a chowder pot with just enough water to fully submerge all of my materials, and then added 2.5 teaspoons of Rit Dark Green and Teal. I also added a teaspoon of salt. This seemed to do the trick pretty damned well.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If at first you don't succeed...

...dye, dye again. I know. I know. It's bad, but I couldn't resist. I hunted everywhere on the internet for hunter green venise lace and other trims. I found absolutely nothing, so I turned to dye. My first attempt on a bit of ivory venise lace came out very dark. I used 2 tablespoons of Rit's "dark green" dye, and a tablespoon of salt in very hot water for about 45 minutes. I think with some teal and less cooking time it would be a fine match to my fabric. The second go around I cooked for a lot less time, used 1/2 teaspoon less dye, and cooked for a a quarter of the time. The result was much paler. I guess I'll have to throw it in again.

I tried dyeing a small piece of one of my favorite tassel trims from JoAnn's in white. It took the dye beautifully, except for the threads it was bound together with. Those were still white while the trim itself was almost black. I tried again with an old scrap of sage green, and it took the dye much better.

I knew this would be a process of trial and error, and I hope it yields gorgeous results.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Corset's Bad Reputation Lecture

I've done some work on the structure of my upcoming program on corsets at the museum. I want to make sure I cover misconceptions and people's major questions.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


I got some fabulous (and cheap) 4 inch venise lace from eBay, and I happened upon a five year old skull brocade 1880s bodice forgotten at the bottom of the fabric trunk. I made it with an old character of mine in mind, but I could never get the buttons to fit right. One day a few weeks ago, I performed some minor outpatient surgery and replaced he buttons with bound boned edges and a row of hooks and eyes. It fits much better, but I decided it needed more embellishment. I still may add some five inch bullion fringe to the back, but I need to track some down. These are not the greatest pictures, but not bad considering the fact that they're cell phone pictures in bad lighting.

I brought several projects to work on for our week at the beach, but neglected to bring thread. Finally today I picked up some thread at a dollar store, and I was able to attach the lace. I just picked up some venise lace just under 2 inches wide for the neckline and the sleeves. I adore venise lace. I see much more in the future of the tentacle dress, but I need to get moving on a commission for a 1560s Venetian gown.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tentacles Progress

I added copious amounts of bullion fringe to the pannier overskirt as well as the bodice. I think it adds texture and a level of interest that it lacked before. Finding trim in hunter green has been difficult. I may end up experimenting with dye. I'm going to try it with some venise lace I had lying around and a bottle of Rit from JoAnn's.

The bag is for my hotel key card, wallet and cell phone. The little green jeweled embellishments I took from a pair of fancy flip flops that I destroyed through wear a few years ago. Something told me I would find a project for them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tentacle Hat with Gator Claws

In Louisiana last year, I acquired a few gator claw keychains that I intended to make hat decorations out of. I took apart the hat from the Ruby 1880s Ensemble that got taken apart and re-invented for this costume. The gator claws are delightfully creepy. I hot glued a pin back to one of them, along with a shank button and small cloak clasp in brass. I may have to attach matching buttons to the bodice now that I see the color combination.

Click the picture to take you to my actual website, and you will find a fully clickable image map with links to full size high resolution photos.

For Sale

For Sale: Wraith the Great War, A Pirate dress, a Victorian gown, and the Peacock Jacket:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tentacles Pannier Overskirt

Penelope had some more green taffeta lying around from a nearly 5 year old early attempt at late bustle. I cut it up and tried to approximate the Truly Victorian 1880 Pannier Overskirt pattern as best I could. I didn't have nearly enough fabric, but what came out was pretty darned close. I'm not 100% happy with it, but I have a few ideas. The pattern calls for a line of gathering where I just matched two dots. I may un-do it and go a bit closer to what the pattern dictates. Any thoughts?

Update Saturday July 2, 2011. I re-did the overskirt to look more like what the pattern actually calls for, and I must say I am happy with the side view, but not the back entirely. I think I may have to add that balloon effect and more than a little green 3-inch bullion trim to weigh it down.

Pale Green 1880s Ensemble for Sale

For Sale on Etsy. Click the picture and check out my etsy shop.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tentacles! - Revisited.

I had a little bit more of the dark green acetate taffeta lying around, and I thought the Tentacles looked a little bare and in need of embellishment. Step one was a gathered ruffle about 7 inches wide before hemming. I used three lines of stitching for a nice tight gather, and zigzag stitched it to the 1878 fantail skirt, hanging down about two inches lower than the hem. The skirt was just a bit too short upon examination of last year's Halloween pictures.

I'm looking out for some dark green venise lace about 3 or 4 inches wide. So far, all I found was an esty seller who seemed to be all out. I wonder if I buy just plain white, some bridal shop can dye it for me. I might also need some velvet ribbon or an inch-wide row of ruching out of the same taffeta to hide the edge of the ruffle. To me, Victorian-inspired Lovecraftian creature costumes look better with heavy embellishment.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Victorian Vinyl: Too big?

I had some fun figuring out the zipper. I had to cut it down about half an inch, and then stitch the top teeth by hand to create a stopper, as I cut off the one that it came with to get the correct length. It works well enough, but The fit looks a little wonky in the PVC. I may need to take it in a little. Should I futz with it, or just leave it? Where can I take it in?

Update: I took in the darts in the front for a much tighter fit, but I think there is still more I can do to make this perfect. Also, I may add some kind of tail or ruffled embellishment off the back to cover the open lacing panel the skirt has. Better?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sewing Vinyl

Sewing the vinyl went a bit easier than I thought until I came to the sleeves. That was approximately as difficult as I thought it would be. I got through one before I started giving serious thought to sewing the second one in completely by hand. No sooner did I got both in place then I realized they were ever so slightly too tight. I'm going to stretch them a bit and see what that does, as it's a mere fraction of a inch. I really don't want to re-cut them. I also don't want the ugly sausage effect on my arms.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Victorian Vinyl

I love the juxtaposition of period lines and ultra modern, nigh futuristic fabrics and themes. I guess we can call this an off-road adventure in Victorian cyber-goth. The plan is to use the pattern from the tentacle dress and proceed from there in shiny black PVC. This got started because I'm cheap. I have been daydreaming about a Meschantes vinyl corset for over a year now, but I can never seem to scrape together the cash. I got the idea instead to make a ballgown type bodice to go over my existing red corset. I even mashed two sleeve patterns together and did a little trial and error to finally come up with a non-puffed sleeve for this 1870s-inspired off-the-shoulder bodice. The vinyl and lining are all cut out. Now I just need to decide if I want the hidden zipper in the front of the back. Any opinions out there?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Navy Blue Anglaise

The silk charmeuse is gorgeous, and moves beautifully. However, I used a really crappy inter-lining, and the fit is awful at the shoulder and neckline. I think the white stomacher is a little too much white, and I will re-cut the bodice entirely with a cotton interlining.

I think it is time for me to say goodbye to the JP Ryan Anglaise pattern. The damned thing just never fits quite right at the shoulders and neckline. My next attempt will be with the "Period Impressions" pattern.

This thing also needs some serious sleeve flounces and about a mile of venise lace.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Costumes for Sale AND Taking New Commissions

A costume closet clean-out featuring Goth boots, a steel boned black corset, a pirate coat, a Chinese-inspired ballgown, and a sewing machine.

Also, I am taking commissions for costumes for this year's convention season (and beyond). I specialize in the 18th-19th centuries, but I can do a lot of things. Go take a look at for a few ideas.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Essex Regency Ball

Me and my mom at the Essex, CT Regency Ball. I made mine out of an "art silk" sari, and hers out of a scandalously little amount of sage green silk charmeuse. The pattern is a mish mosh of the JP Ryan Anglaise pattern I have used many times, and the sleeves from an 1870s ballgown bodice. The rest is loosely based on an illustration in Janet Arnold.

Both gowns went together quickly, and were easy to wear. My mom is so skinny, I didn't even bother with stays for her, and she has good enough posture and carriage that I don't think anyone really noticed. I wore 1770s stays, but really wished I hadn't. If we end up doing another Regency event, I can maybe justify making pair of stays from the period.

It's amazing how much easier it is to move your arms in a puffed sleeve. Trying to do the waltz in a fitted 1880s long sleeve was less fun.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Navy Blue Anglaise

For 7th Sea, but sort of for reenacting, I started a navy blue silk charmeuse robe a l'anglaise with a cream silk twill stomacher and petticoat. The cream silk twill is understated elegance incarnate. It is this gorgeous grayish pearly cream color that looks like it's softly glowing. The charmeuse is really floaty and moves very dramatically. I got a sweet deal on it on ebay from a seller named "happygoodbuy".

The gown is a full 3 yards, and the petticoat too. I was going for something vaguely reminiscent of an 18th century navy uniform. I was also giving thought to attaching epaulets so I can wear all of my naval bling with it.

Next step is to put buttonholes in the stomacher and trim the angle on the front so the stomacher lines up correctly. I mis-cut the angle on the front, but that's not such a huge deal. I may end up ordering more fabric for self trim and facings, but now for some creative scrap arrangement.

Update: 11:35 pm - I dragged out the mock up and cut facings around the neckline so the white from the cotton lining would not show. The was not difficult, but tedious none the less. I re-cut the angle on the front, and with any luck, the stomacher will fit in as it should. I got 15 little pearly buttons.

It's more of a Victorian asthetic, but I think it will work. Inside out it has an unfortunate resemblance to a sailor suit, but having the facings there (right side out) will enable me to keep the dress free of trim. Without the facings, I would likely have used ruching to hide the white poking out from the lining. The character I intend to use the dress for is not exactly the frills and lace type, so the simpler the better.

I actually added sleeve flounced, but I may take them off again. They kind of spoil the whole simplistic understated elegance thing I had going on.

Update 10:33 am Sunday - Trimmed blue gown and hemmed it. Next up is fussy finishing work, and ripping my way through thirteen buttonholes. I want to drive through this project quickly because I have three more to get done before the second week of may! I have my 1812 Sari Ballgown, my mom's sage/olive green silk charmeuse 1812 ballgown and a commission for the museum. Busy busy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Corset Myths

What do you know about corsets in the Victorian era? How much is our perception of them shaped by the movies we watch? What is your idea of corsets and corseting in the 19th century?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Corsets - Tool of Social Control or Just Underwear?

I'm working on a research project at the museum for a potential lecture on popular misconceptions regarding corsetry in the late 19th century. It feels good to be back in the library. I have a trip to the old alma mater to do some more serious academic research in the near future.

You know the heroine in every adventure movie that takes place in the past ever? The one who 'can't breathe' when she's laced into a corset? She is lame. I have always thought such scenes were cheap ploys aimed at modern audiences designed to get them to sympathize with her and view her as "fiesty" and dynamic.

Was the corset in the Vicorian era in particular a tool for social control? Or was it just underwear? I plan to examine how it is used in popular imagery in our own time, and how it would have been viewed by everyday folks in the 19th century in addition to the criticism laid down by physicians and feminists alike.

It seems everyone has an agenda where the corset is involved. Let's see if we can find the truth somewhere in the middle.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Victorian Ballgown Bodice Trim

I added ruched self-trim to the neckline as well as bullion fringe and tassel trim to the bottom back edge. Some tassel trim around the already lace-edged sleeves makes it even more dramatic than it was before. Next up, buttons and hooks and eyes for the front.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The result of near constant daydreaming

Fabric: Eggplant Purple Silk Taffeta


- Underskirt: 1878 Fantail Skirt TV 225
- Overskirt: 1880 Split Pannier Overskirt TV 328
- Bodice: 1875 Ball Gown Basque Bodice TV 416

I had a sample of the most beautiful deep eggplant purple silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics. I have also been inspired by SG's recent foray into Victorian natural form. I have decided that I want to do a natural form ensemble for New Orleans this September. It packs up smaller for air travel than late bustle, as much as I love my lobster tail cage bustle. After much doodling and near constant daydreaming on the subject, I have decided to move forward with it.

Several rows of texturally interesting self trim, beaded tassel braid from the home dec section of the fabric store, and possibly some black venise lace, I intend to dazzle with this project. It also has the added bonus of not requiring a new corset or new underpinnings.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow Day Accidental Obsession

More snow, more snow and more snow resulted in this 4 gore 1880s underskirt with three layers of trim. I plan on making a matching overskirt and ballgown bodice for Baltimore this April.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Uncharted territory - 1812!

Teal 1812 Ballgown | Fall/Winter 2010

Fabric: Teal acetate taffeta embroidered with a gold vine pattern

Pattern: Draped by me.

For a fundraiser for a CT fife and drum corps this May. I started with the JP Ryan Anglaise pattern I have used so many times before as well as a peek into Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. There were some fitting issues. The modified Anglaise pattern I used ended up a little too big over my 1770s stays. My friend, SG over at Penelope's Needle commented that the gathering at the neckline had a a bit of a list to the starboard.

With some help from SG, fitting issues were solved. I ended up gathering the sleeves in rather than pleating them. To cut down on bulk, I decided to not gather the lining. Just pleated ever so slightly at the bust.

Chinese New Year Dress

This dress narrowly avoided getting racked in the closet indefinitely. I finally finished it, tried it on with and without the corset. I came to the immediate conclusion that it needed boning in the back to avoid puckering. In went the cable ties, but it still did not fit. I am not sure how it happened, but there was a 2 inch gap in the back at the top.

I also accidentally fell in love with this black and white Chinese dress.

I was about to abandon it for good when a friend happened to be over the house. A friend who needed a dress for the very same event. Lo and behold, it fit. I'm glad the effort I put into it was not wasted, and could be appreciated at the event.