Bliaut in the Snow

We’re in the middle of a nasty cold snap here in the northeast, and it made me remember that I never posted photos of my bliaut that we took way back in February during a snow storm.

You can see the construction notes for the bliaut in this post. It’s wool and linen and quite heavy, so it kept some of the chill out during this photoshoot… but not all. The wig I’m wearing is just a $10 ebay wig I bought years ago that I put on to give a fantasy/elven vibe. The photographer is my boyfriend, Dan, whose photo site you can see here.

Please enjoy the photos, and I hope you’re staying warm!

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What to Gift the Historical Costumer in Your Life.

If you’re a historical costumer, around the gift-giving season you may start getting questions from family about what you want for Christmas, and it can be hard to come up with a few ideas on the spot without feeling greedy. Conversely, if you have a friend or loved one who is a historical costumer, you might be trying to find some ideas of what to get them without them catching on.

With those things I mind, I thought I would put together this list of gift ideas that historical costumers would (probably) like. Of course, no two costumers are into the same eras or styles, so I tried to include a variety of useful as well as fun items at a variety of price points. I hope you find this list useful!

  1. Nice wooden hangers. Yes, seriously! Costumers need to have some way to store all of their frocks, and plastic hangers are often too weak, and we won’t even get into metal wire hangers. Nice wood suit hangers are usually the way to go, and there are even nice cedar ones to help keep the bugs away, and sometimes you can find ones with clips that can be used for petticoats or underskirts (just make sure the clips have rubber coated tips!). Here is a nice walnut set from Amazon.
  2. Neck kerchiefs from Burnley & Trowbridge. Sold mostly for 18th century reenactors, these large, fine, soft, and beautifully printed kerchiefs have become a favorite of costumers for other uses, like hiding a head full of curlers, wrapping up a Rosie the Riveter kind of hairdo, or just pairing with everyday outfits. With several different colors and patterns, it’s fun to collect a bunch! Find them here.
  3. Hat pins. Suitable for a variety of eras, hat pins can often be hard to find in modern stores, but they are a must with certain types of historical and vintage hats, and the fancier ones can make an excellent gift. Etsy has a good selection of both vintage and handmade hat pins.
  4. Hat boxes. Another item useful for storage, but one that can often be quite beautiful too, hat boxes are ideal for storing a costumer’s fanciest hats, but they can also be used to store ribbons and trim, gloves, fur muffs, reticules, and other small items that costumers always seem to have a lot of hanging around. You can sometimes find hat boxes in antique or vintage shops, but you can also find them on Amazon.
  5. Silk stockings from American Duchess. Suitable for 18th Century, but also fun to wear under Victorian and Edwardian gowns, silk stockings are a lush gift for any costumer looking to add an extra bit of fancy to their outfits. Find them here.
  6. Jewelry from Dames a la Mode. With a variety of earrings, necklaces, and rings from several eras, Dames a la Mode has something sparkly for everyone. Website here.
  7. Victorian Chatelaines. Vintage chatelaines are a highly sought after item, and the price for an intact piece is not for the faint of heart. But, there are some jewelry makers out there who are now making reproduction chatelaines for a fraction of the cost. Victorian costumers would love one of these to complete their kits. This seller on Etsy usually has a couple in stock.
  8. Fur muffs. Depending on the shape and style, muffs can be used with 18th century through mid-twentieth century styles. Ideal for cool weather outdoor events, some of them even have handy inner pockets that will fit a cell phone! Etsy has a variety of vintage real fur, as well as modern fake fur muffs, but keep an eye out at your local vintage store, too.
  9. Colonial Williamsburg tea chest. Most costumers I’ve met run on tea or coffee, so this fancy tea chest from historic Colonial Williamsburg would be a gorgeous and unusual addition to the costuming household. If you don’t keep tons of loose leaf tea stashed around the house, the chest could also be used to store jewelry or other precious items. Find it here.
  10. A season pass to your local historic site. Whether you live close to Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg historical sites, Fort Ticonderoga, if your costumer loves visiting the places where history happened, a season pass would be perfect for making sure you don’t miss any new exhibits, events, or reenactments.
  11. Tickets to historical events or conferences. There’s Jane Austen Fest in Louisville, Costume College in L.A., a garden party at Colonial Williamsbug, and Renaissance Faires all over the country. Immersive costume events like these are ideal for showing off outfits and meeting new friends. Keep an ear out (and keep an eye on social media) for events that your costumer might be interested in.
  12. A photoshoot. Costumers spend so much time perfecting their looks, and we don’t always get ideal documentation of them. A smart phone is still not a substitute for a professional camera. A photoshoot with a professional local photographer will make any costumer feel loved (unless of course he or she is known to be camera shy!). Or, take a few lessons and find a nice camera to rent/borrow and take the costumer out for a photoshoot yourself! That way you get together time, and beautiful outfit photos.
  13. Books of course! This one is a bit tricky, as you might have to scan your costumer’s shelf to see what they already own. Some of my personal favorite costuming resource books include The Tudor Tailor, Patterns of Fashion 1, 2, and 3, The Cut of Men’s Clothes, and Fashions of the Gilded Age. There are tons more out there, though, and some are more instructional and include patterns, while some are simply reprints of old Bloomingdales catalog or Harper’s illustrations which can be great for reference. All of these books can be found on, but I’ve also found useful books in a local used book store as well. You can see other titles that costumers are recommending here here and here.
  14. Lastly, there’s the old standby, Gift Cards. If there is one thing historical costumers can never get enough of, it’s fabric, so a gift card gives us the opportunity to shop without (or, with relatively little) guilt about how much that silk costs. Some of the best places to get historically-friendly fabric that offer gift cards are Burnley & Trowbridge, Wm. Booth, Draper, Renaissance Fabrics, (great source for linen), and Farthingales for corset and hoop/bustle making supplies. There’s also American Duchess gift certificates for shoes, Redthreaded gift certificates that can be used for corsets, corset patterns, or accessories, and gift cards to your local JoAnn Fabric, because costumers still need cutting boards, nice sewing shears, pins, fabric weights, and other supplies that might not be historically accurate, but sure make modern sewing a bit easier.

That exhausts my ideas for now. I hope this helps someone with their holiday shopping a little bit. If anyone else has good ideas, share them in the comments!

The Gryffindor Natural Form Gown

It’s finished! Time for a blog post!

I conceived of this gown almost a year ago when, with Rufflecon still on my mind, Lauren of American Duchess posted a photo on Intagram with a vintage sweater that had scarlet and gold Gryffindor-like stripes. I thought it would be super cool to try to get a group together at Rufflecon representing our Hogwarts houses through historical clothing. My own house is Gryffindor, and I’ve been wanting to try Natural Form era for a while, so I thought it was the perfect time to try!

I started by looking at tons of Natural Form era fashion plates as well as the patterns available from Truly Victorian, and then I started sketching.


I decided to use TV428, the 1880 Jacket Bodice pattern and TV225, the 1878 Fantail Skirt pattern, and to draft my own overskirt based on some fashion plates. I decided to use silk for the scarlet and gold bits, and black cotton sateen for the base.

I started on the jacket at the end of August, and it progressed pretty quickly at first.


I wasn’t 100% sure what parts were going to be scarlet and which gold when I first started, but I hoped that as the base parts started taking shape I would be able to visualize what would look best. I decided to make the lapels and sleeve cuffs scarlet with the edges piped in gold.


I then had to start draping and layering to figure out what colors I wanted to make the underskirt and overskirt out of.


I realized the red looked better over the black, but as I progressed I continued having trouble figuring out what the overskirt should actually look like. I started in on the underskirt at least, and spent a good week or two just hemming and pleating the flounce to go around the bottom. Once I got it on however, I realized that I really did need a petticoat. I was going to be lazy and try to get along without making one, but the underskirt was collapsing a bit near the bottom and I was very unhappy with it. One quick petticoat later and it looked loads better. Lesson learned.

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Once that was done, my experiments with the overskirt draping started to look way better, and I proceeded with a little bit more confidence. I took cues from an overskirt pattern in Fashions of the Gilded Age and shortened it a bit to get more of the look I wanted.


You can also see the scarlet collar and sleeve cuffs in this photo.

There is also a hidden wand pocket in the seam on the right-hand side of the overskirt that perfectly fits my Ollivander’s hazel wand, but I didn’t get any photos that demonstrated it! Then it was time to Gryffindor it up by adding gold trim. I spent another good week or two hemming and pleating gold flounce. I was also originally convinced I was going to cover the jacket buttons in scarlet, but once I got the overskirt finished, I realized the outfit needed more gold to tie it together, so gold buttons it was. I did the button holes by hand, because I still don’t quite trust my machine not to ruin the button holes and therefore ruin the item. But the button holes still don’t look the best because not matter how many I do, they always seem to come out a bit messy.

Then I took some dark apartment shots (I really need to stop doing everything in dark fabrics so that they don’t photograph in my apartment).



I wore it to Rufflecon this past Saturday. I was hoping to do a group photoshoot with other historical House outfits, but unfortunately no one else was able to get theirs together in time. So I took some worn shots in the famous selfie bathroom, and my friend Nina took a very dramatic photo in front of the hotel’s artwork backdrops.




I tried to cobble together a “chatelaine” out of Hogwarts jewelry.


I also made the hat, which I posted a bit about before. But here’s the finished product:


I made the corset that I’m wearing underneath as well, but I will do a separate post about that later. Eventually I’d love to put together a nicer chatelaine, and I need to adjust the length of the petticoat because it was peeking out the bottom a bit. I’m also still a little unsure about the overskirt, but I’m quite happy with the fit of the jacket at least.


Rufflecon Harry Potter Challenge Update

Rufflecon is this coming weekend! If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably seen that I’ve been (anxiously) working on my Natural Form era, Gryffindor-inspired gown, and I’ve just finished! I will be wearing it on Saturday of Rufflecon, because the handmade contest is at noon that day. I hope to see some other people there in historical Harry Potter outfits! A sneak peek of my outfit is below.



Robe à l’Anglaise Photoshoot

Two years ago I made a robe à l’anglaise out of the Waverly Indienne curtain fabric. I documented the project here, but I didn’t have a proper kerchief, cap, hat, or shoes at the time and wasn’t satisfied with the photos I was able to get of the gown. Since then I’ve acquired the rest of the accessories so I recently set up a meeting with a photographer to get better photos. We went to the local National Park where battles of the Revolutionary War were fought, and I love how everything came out!

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The amazing photographer is The Nerdy Monkey.

I’m hoping that in the future I can get nice photos like these of more of my gowns. They spend so much time just hanging in my closet, I’d love to be able to show them off more.

Thanks for looking!


Small Project Catch-up

I keep dithering about making a post about my Costume College experience. I didn’t take many photos, so I can’t just do a photo dump. I’m wondering if people might want to read a wordy, first-timer’s experience-type of post that is more about what it was like, rather than what I saw? But that will take a while to write up, and meanwhile I’m backed up with sewing, so I will have to keep putting it off for a bit.

For now I’m just going to post about the smaller projects I’ve been working on recently (when I say smaller, that usually means “not a full outfit” in my mind, but some of these are still quite time-consuming).

The first is a Victorian Hat that I am making to wear with my existing Victorian gown as well as the Gryffindor gown that I am in the process of making. This is my first foray into millinery and I’m using the Truly Victorian V551, 1880s French Bonnets pattern. I bought buckram and millinery wire from and used the same black cotton sateen that makes up the vest portion of my 1887-ish gown, and will make up the jacket of my Natural Form Gryffindor gown.

I hand-sewed all of the wire to the buckram, and learned that you have to take frequent breaks to avoid pinching a nerve while trying to pinch the wire to the edges of the buckram while you sew.


Once I got the wire sewn on I covered the buckram with fabric.


And then I attached the crown to the brim:




I still need to line the crown and then add trim to the outside, but I’m happy with how this turned out, for my very first hat. I’m going to make two hat bands for this, one in each of the trim colors of the gowns that I intend to wear this with, so that I can interchange them to match both gowns.

Another project that I started back before Costume College, but haven’t gotten very far on is an embroidered Tudor coif. I received a pattern for an embroidered coif for attending the Jamestown Conference last year, and I got the urge to try it out after making a plain coif earlier this year that I found, frankly, too boring.

I spent a couple of hours carefully tracing the embroidery pattern onto my piece of linen by taping everything to my glass coffee table.


I thought I would work on it as an airport/in-transit project while traveling out to Costume College in July, but I was too distracted to actually work on it. I started it once I got back, but haven’t gotten very far yet.


I’m having trouble with French knots and need to practice them more before I can get very far.

On top of those and my Gryffindor gown (and the new corset I need to wear under it; more on those later), JoAnn Fabric is killing the spooky Halloween fabric game this year, so I picked up a couple of prints to make new skirts.


I spent a morning earlier this week putting together a simple tea-length skirt, box-pleated into the waistband.


I lined it with some red poly satin that I had left over from a project years ago; you can’t see any of it, but I like that the hidden bit of red gives this an extra vampire-y feel. I still have to put a zipper and tab closure in this, but I will probably end up safety pinning it on myself for the next year before I do that, because I am excessively lazy about closures.

So that’s all that I have pretty pictures of at the moment. Other things I’m working on that you can look forward to seeing soon include:

  • medieval cowl with liripipe hood
  • new Victorian corset
  • ~*Gryffindor gown*~!!
  • some more embroidery

Tudor Waistcoat and Kirtle

After the Jamestown Conference last year I really wanted to make a Tudor-era waistcoat and kirtle. The ones I saw people (and mannequin displays) wearing at the conference were just so sleek and tailored looking, I loved the style.

I started by drafting the waistcoat pattern from The Tudor Tailor last July; I also decided that I was going to completely sew the entire garment by hand–a first for me. The instructions were easy to follow, though I had a bit of a mishap where I kept ending up with two left sleeves and had to unpick all of my handwork (twice). I didn’t take many progress photos because the fabric, dark navy wool left over from my bliaut, does not want to photograph at all.


The shell, before inserting gussets and lining.


One of my gussets, done with the tiniest stitches I could muster.

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All finished except for closures.

I finished the jacket back in January, but the finished jacket still didn’t look like much. By then I was already planning to go to Costume College 2017, so I realized the next logical step was to go ahead and make the kirtle and bring the set to Costume College to wear.

Again I decided to stitch the entire garment by hand which, now that I had finished the jacket, was not quite as intimidating, but still a bit daunting. I again used a pattern from The Tudor Tailor. I found the kirtle instructions a little less clear, because their pattern offers several possible closure options/locations, and only one set of instructions for all of them.

After their “No Bones About It” session at the Jamestown Conference, where they discussed the fact that their research has shown scant, if any, evidence of boned bodices in kirtles prior to 1600, I decided not to put any boning at all in my kirtle bodice. I wasn’t quite ready to start experimenting with paste buckram, though, so I used scraps of twill and upholstery fabric to interline and stiffen the front of the bodice.


The white fabric was pad stitched to the interlining before the interlining was basted to the shell.

I then found myself constantly second-guessing my next step and whether or not the fit was going to be okay, so it took me months to get very far on the bodice.


It sat in this state forever before I decided what step to take next.


I finally folded over the seam allowance and whipstitched it down before putting in the lining

I lined the bodice with leftover linen, finishing the hem of the bodice before pleating the skirt and stitching it to the bodice hem.


I’m still not sure I attached the skirt properly, but I did the best I could with the bulk of the wool.


Before hemming and trim.

Once the skirt was on, it sat for a while longer because I was nervous about putting the eyelets in and getting the fit wrong. Once I finally decided where the eyelets were going, though, they went in very quickly and I was able to finish the rest of the work in just about a week. I trimmed the bottom of the skirt with a bit of velvet ribbon that I bought from the Simplicity booth at Rufflecon.




Closeup of my eyelets.


With the jacket (which still doesn’t have closures).

No matter what I do, the set seems to look awkward on my dress form, so here are some slightly blurry mirror photos of it worn until I can wear it out for better pictures.





To my relief, the set fits my actual body much better than it fits my dress form, and it’s also surprisingly comfortable to wear (I may or may not have been sitting around in it while writing this blog post).

Next I obviously need to put hook and eye closures in the jacket; I tend to put them off because they’re so tedious. Then I also need to make a coif to finish off the look. I have a pattern for an embroidered coif that came with my Jamestown Conference registration packet, but as I won’t be able to complete the embroidery before Costume College next month, I’m going to make a plain coif for now, and leave the ambition for later.


Sewing Injuries, or, Why I Regret My Eyelet Pliers

A couple years ago, before I learned how to do hand-bound eyelets in my garments, I bought a pair of Dritz Eyelet Pliers. I thought they would neaten up my eyelets on laced bodices (not historically accurate ones), and at first they did. The first few rows of eyelets came out much neater, with the metal eyelets set more securely in the fabric, than they did when I used to use the anvil eyelet tool.

But after the first few rows, the eyelets just got progressively messier. It became harder and harder to line the anvil side of the eyelet tool up with the open end of the eyelet in a way that would open the eyelet neatly to grab the fabric and secure the eyelet. Finally, my mother borrowed the tool to make her Ren Faire bodice and in trying to show her how to use it properly, I ruined a few eyelets and the ones I did get set in did not feel secure. We finished her costume as best I could, and then the pliers were buried in my sewing box because all of my projects since then have needed hand-bound eyelets for historical accuracy.

This year, I need a new Victorian corset. The one I used to wear under my Victorian gowns was an old plastic-boned thing that I made eight years ago before I dove seriously into historical costuming. It really wasn’t doing anything for me, but I was too lazy (and intimidated) to make a real one. The plastic-boned lame-o finally died last year after an ill-advised 7-hour be-costumed work shift during a bout with bronchitis (wearing several warm layers+sitting in a desk chair for long periods+heavy coughing fits=plastic bones molded into 90 degree angles). I finally realized that I needed to make a Victorian corset for real.

I bought the corset kit from Corset Making Supplies that includes the Laughing Moon Dore corset pattern, along with all of the necessary coutil, busk, steel bones, and grommets. Firstly, the instructions that came with the pattern are very lacking, but I’ll save that for another post. I was able to muddle through just fine, getting the shell pieces sewn together and the busk set in. When the time came to insert the grommets, I took some time to decide how I was going to get them in. I didn’t have a specific grommet tool, but the eyelet pliers have instructions on the card for small eyelets as well as large two-piece eyelets, so I thought they might work for the grommets as well. I tested a spare grommet on a bit of fabric and though I had to apply a lot of pressure on the pliers, the grommet seemed to set in very well. Because I was suddenly raring to go on the corset, I decided to proceed with the eyelet pliers. I set in 12 grommets over the course of an afternoon, taking breaks between grommets because the force I had to exert was hurting my hand a little, but nothing too bad.

I quit for the day after I had put grommets in one side of the back opening. At the time my hand felt fine. But that night while I was getting ready for bed, the muscles in my palm suddenly started spasming and then seized up, basically giving me a Charlie Horse in the palm of my sewing hand. I had to go to bed with a heat pack wrapped around my hand to try to get the muscle to relax. The next day my hand was swollen from the time I woke up until after dinner time. I could also feel it straining when doing things like buckling my seat belt and picking up books.

I couldn’t sew at all that week and I had to be careful with certain tasks. Even now, more than two weeks later, I keep getting weird little involuntary muscle twitches in certain parts of my hand, especially if I’ve been holding my phone or a pen for a while, or sewing, or typing. I feel pretty stupid for not realizing that I was injuring my hand by using the eyelet pliers on the grommets, but setting the grommets was working, so I just kept going.

I’ve since been told by a couple different people that even the grommet-specific pliers are not that great, and people actually prefer the die and anvil grommet tool if they don’t have a grommet press that they can use. The presses run upwards of $150 or more, and I use grommets so infrequently that I’m not ready to invest in one of those yet. However, while JoAnn Fabric has a grommet die on their website for only 6 bucks or so, it’s the wrong size, and the other sets that I can find are $24 or more. I don’t understand the price discrepancy, so I haven’t bought anything yet to finish my corset. It’s just been sitting on the sewing table because I don’t know what to do about the grommets at this point.

Basically, I’ve learned that 1. small metal eyelets are the worst and I’m never using them again 2. hand-bound eyelets are obviously the best (reasons include: they’re stronger because you’re opening the weave with an awl, not cutting the fibers; if they start getting loose you can just stitch them a bit more; they come out much neater; bonus points for historical accuracy) 3. grommets are an acceptable, though not HA alternative, but I need the right damn tools next time.

So I really don’t think I’ll be using my eyelet pliers again. I’m sad that I spent the money on them and was so excited, only to realize the small metal eyelets you can find at the fabric store are really no good for anything. I wanted to write this as a follow-up to my previous post on using the eyelet pliers, at the very least to let people know that repeated use may change results over time. But also to let people know that I’ve gone over to the dark side of hand-bound eyelets and you should join us here; they’re really not that scary. Definitely way less scary than causing muscle spasms in your sewing hand by abusing the eyelet pliers.


18th Century Pocket

While I was at Rufflecon wearing my polonaise I realized that I really needed a pocket to keep my phone and things in while I walked around the con. I had been teaching myself a little bit of embroidery since the Jamestown conference last year anyway, and I thought a pocket would be a good first project to work on. I looked up examples of extant pockets online and rather than copy anything exactly, I sketched out my own free-hand design.



I stitched it on a scrap of linen left over from lining my bliaut. The embroidered face is backed with a second piece of linen so that I don’t catch the back of the embroidery as I put things in and out. The back of the pocket is muslin because I had run out of linen scraps that were big enough.




The binding and ties are more linen scraps. I actually still have to finish sewing the ties, but since the pocket itself is done and it’s been a while since I posted, I thought I should upload it now. I’ve also finished my Tudor waistcoat that I started over the summer, but I can’t get the damn thing to photograph well, so I’m probably going to wait to post about that one until I finish my kirtle so I can post about them together.


Rufflecon Harry Potter Challenge

I was scrolling through Instagram earlier this week when a post by Royal Vintage, the American Duchess vintage sister-brand, caught my eye. In it, Lauren made a comment referring to the fact that her 1930s-style sweater was in Gryffindor House colors. My mind made several leaps, and suddenly I was challenging Lauren and Abby to a Harry Potter-themed historical project which I now present to you, if anyone wishes to take up the challenge.

For Rufflecon this October I will be making a historically-accurate (as possible) Victorian Natural Form-era gown in the Gryffindor House colors. I’ve invited Lauren and Abby to make Natural Form-era gowns in their Ravenclaw House colors, and I’m opening this up to anyone who is planning on going to Rufflecon and is interested in historical costuming: make a historical outfit in your House Colors and come show it off!

While it would be fun to see a whole bunch of Natural Form gowns in House colors, I don’t want to limit it so much that people interested in other eras can’t participate. So if you’re into Regency or Renaissance or Georgian or Edwardian, this is open to you, too! When I brought this up to my Facebook friends I saw mention of German Renaissance Hufflepuffs and 18th Century menswear Slytherins, so what about Regency Ravenclaws or medieval menswear Gryffindors? It will be amazing to see what interpretations people come up with!

I don’t want to put too many rules on it, because this should be a fun project, but there are a few guidelines:

  • Your outfit should reflect your own Hogwarts House (you can be sorted on Pottermore if you haven’t already).
  • Try to make your outfit as historically accurate as possible! Since this is for fun, no one is going to exclude you if you use polyester taffeta for your Victorian outfit or machine stitch your medieval gown, but the special spin on this challenge is historical rather than steampunk, fantasy or lolita HP outfits, so try to make your outfit look as historical as possible!
  • Obviously anyone interested in this can make a historical Harry Potter themed outfit, but if you want to participate, I absolutely encourage you to look into attending Rufflecon. I want to get all the challenge participants together for a little meet and group photo at Rufflecon (details tbd once Rufflecon schedule is up) and it will be exciting to see how many participants we can get! (plus Rufflecon is a blast and such a welcoming, supportive environment for alt-fashion gurus, so come check it out)

So that’s it; my challenge has been issued. I’ve had gown and trim combinations turning over and over in my head for days now, and I want to throw all of my other projects aside to start working on this.

If you want to participate and if you have any questions, please contact me on Instagram or Tumblr @mylittlewolfie. I’d like to try to keep track of people who are participating so that I can let people know where and when we’ll meet up at Rufflecon.

Good luck!