Costume College Planning

Costume College always seems to sneak up on me, no matter how much I plan. The reality is that I let business and life come before sewing for myself, and then try to make up the time in July, which really doesn’t work out so well. This year isn’t going to be any easier, since business is taking up quite a bit of time and I am also moving this summer.

I’m very excited that I’m teaching at Costume College for the first time this year! It will be a class about embroidery styles between 1500-1900, so I need to leave plenty of time to prepare materials for that. However, I also really want to have something fun to wear that day, so I don’t want to leave it to crunch time sewing in July.

I’m trying to be as smart as possible about what I plan to make. Sadly, I don’t think there is one single thing in my closet that really fits right now, so I can’t rely on past projects to fill out my wardrobe. Alise and I also have a trip planned to Williamsburg this fall, and would love to have a nice assortment of outfits to choose from. If I’m being realistic, anything I sew this summer has to work for both events, so I think everything I bring to Costume College this year will be 18th century.

I have two gowns that need new bodices made. The first is this cotton print that I only wore a few times before it was too big. I suspected that might be the case, so the skirt is only basted to the bodice, and I still have enough fabric left for a new bodice and then some. You can see a bit of that gown here, under the fichu I was photographing.


It already has a cream linen petticoat that I can wear with it, but I also plan to make a deep red one from linen I found in LA last year. Bonus, I think the red will coordinate with Alise’s black Curtain-Along dress that she has in the works, and we’re of a similar enough height that we can mix and match petticoats.


I also have some pink striped silk that has been in the to be finished pile for a few years. I cut it out at the same time as the print, but shrank out of it before I even made the bodice! The skirt is sewn and hemmed, so once I have a new bodice pattern ready, that should go together quickly.

I have a raspberry pink silk taffeta petticoat partially assembled, but I also bought more striped silk in LA last summer. If time allows, I’ll make up both petticoats so I can have some options with how it is worn. I’d love to pink the edge of the ruffle on the raspberry silk, but still need to do some experiments to see if it will be worth the effort. I’ve finally purchased a reproduction pinking tool on Etsy, and am waiting for it to arrive so I can start playing with it.


I also have the chemise a la reine that I started last year, which was entirely hand sewn up until I needed to finish the bodice and time was running short.  Again, it’s basted together, not particularly well, and needs reworking before I can wear it again. The bulk of the work is done and it’s a lovely sheer cotton-silk blend, so I’m really looking forward to it getting more wear!

There are two over gowns I’ve worn with the chemise a la reine, the yellow and raspberry one and the aqua striped one. One or both may still fit or could be quickly reworked, but neither does me any good without a gown to go under them. I wore both at Costume College last year, and while I don’t mind wearing them again, I don’t want them to be the only thing I have again.



The one entirely new project on my list is the petticoat and jacket out of plum/mulberry linen. My plan is to sew it entirely by hand, and it’s been nice to have a project I can carry to sewing days and work on while watching TV. It doesn’t look very exciting right now, since it’s still mostly just a stack of cut pieces.  The petticoat is sewn, and I’m currently working on yards of ruffles for the petticoat, so I’ll be busy for a while.


I also need accessories.  I’m planning to make an apron and fichu, hopefully from a new design that I need to make samples for anyway. I’m planning at least one ridiculously floofy cap, trimmed with silk ribbons. Maybe a new straw hat, as well, or a reworking of an old one.  My current wig needs reworking, I’m thinking about a second one, and I’d like to play with some powder and pomatum options for putting up my own hair under the cap. I have a couple new sashes cut out and partially hemmed last year, so should work on finishing those.

The plan for now is to finish all the petticoats first – raspberry silk, striped silk, red linen, and mulberry linen. I probably won’t pleat them and bind the waistbands until I know what size I’m likely to be in August. However, I think I could probably bind all of them in a day, so that’s not too bad. Then accessories, since they will fit whatever what size I end up.

I need to assess the underpinnings I made last year and see if any will work for this year, or if I’m starting from scratch again. I have one chemise, and should probably make a second or even third. Likely I’ll need new stays, since my last two pairs were just quickly thrown together and my shape keeps changing so they never fit for long.

Once I feel pretty confident about my measurements, the bodices will all be done in one fell swoop. That sound workable at the moment, so we’ll see how it goes in reality. I’m hoping I have at least 4 outfits for August, with at least a couple mix and match possibilities for extending them to a whole week in October at Williamsburg.




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