When I first started this blog, I was an unemployed costumer attempting to create period gowns and costumes with very limited means. Although now employed, I still try to be as thrifty as possible. I am still "The Broke Costumer"!

In addition to posts about the outfits I make on a budget, this blog includes short research articles on fashion, history, accessories, styles, or whatever interests me at the moment.

I hope you enjoy my journey into the land of inexpensive costuming and short articles.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas with the Tartan Twins

This year the San Diego Costume Guild went to the Harbor House in Seaport Village for our holiday dinner.  I have always wanted a red plaid Christmas Victorian dress, and this year I was determined to make one.  In talking with my friend Val, we both decided to do plaids, me in red and her in green.  Our first priority was to NOT look like a Christmas table cloth.  I suggested my favorite Truly Victorian pattern, 1875 Parisian Trained Skirt.  I have made it twice before, and love early bustle era.   We both agreed to use the 1872 Vest Basque, as we have made it before.

We decided this would be our secret project.  No one would see them until the dinner.  Our first stop was the LA fabric district in early October.   The first store I generally visit is Robert’s, as he is very reasonable, a nice person and has cotton fabrics.   We walk in the door, and within two minutes I had my red plaid!  A light wool blend for $3 a yard.  I bought 8 yards.  Off to find Val’s green.  We saw several, but nothing  jumped out at her until later in the afternoon.  She found a very pretty green about the same size as my squares.  Next we went to Target Trim and bought beads to put on the bottoms of the front aprons.  Here is a photo of us with our purchases.

 I always make my skirt first.   I love making skirts.  I dislike making bodices as I have such a funny curve its hard to fit myself.   Val likes to make the bodice first.  So, we each started at opposite ends.  We sewed together via internet chat and cellphone photos.  We would sew, send pictures and compare.  This skirt turned out heavy because of the wool blend fabric. It has an upper and lower front apron, side panels, and an upper bustle connected to a lower back train. The back pieces are connected to a heavy piece of twill tape or webbing.  The upper part is bustled.  Here is a photo after bustling.  Val suggested a big giant bow on the section that connects the upper and lower back.

I had the basic skirt done without the trim, and she had her bodice shell.  We got together on the weekend so we could work on our outfits and share.   We set up the dress form and put her bodice on my skirt to see how things were shaping up.    We decided that for our outfits, we would shorten the peplum in the back by three inches, and the front of the bodice one inch.    Val had a few yards of black taffeta which we used for the vest front.  Since the two front aprons covered the front of the skirt, we got simple black cotton for the front under panels.  We used the black taffeta for the side panels.  We then pleated some taffeta to go around the bottom of the front of the skirt and side panels.  We cut them 14 inches tall, and after hemming, the pleats were 12 inches tall.  we eyeballed the pleats and made them about 3/4 inches wide.  I took my beaded trim and went across the bottom of the upper front apron.  I decided not to trim the bottom of the lower apron because of the weight, and also you wouldn't really see it very well.  I used the beaded trim across the tops of the pleats on the black side panels.  I made side bows from the plaid to put on the black sides.

On to the bodice.  Val and I varied on the bodices to make them our own.  Hers had lovely black taffeta sleeves and a plaid collar.  Mine had plaid sleeves and a black taffeta collar.  I had enough left over beads to go all around the bottom of the bodice.  I had just enough beads left to go around the cuffs.  10 black buttons down the front, and all done!

We wanted hats to go with our outfits.  Val had a real cute hat she had bought for another outfit, and suggested we copy it to go with our tartans.  Val will be blogging about how we made them in a few days so check out her page soon           http://timetravelingincostume.blogspot.com/      

It consists of a foam base covered in panne velvet, a black velvet ruched  bow and part of a black feather boa!  It tied behind our hair with black lace ties, and had a black tulle drape on the back.  It was so tall and fluffy, a real fun hat! here is a photo of the hat taken by Joanne W. 

Now I will post some photos of the finished dresses.  

My daughter, Amy.

Joanne W pretty in pink.

Mr. L, who graciously bought Amy's dinner.  Thanks!

April D with her beautiful cape, hat and gown she made.
Catherine F in her darling flannel candy cane dress.

Cost breakdown:

$24    Plaid fabric          8 yards at $3                
$13    Black taffeta        3 1/3 yards at $4          
$4.80 Black cotton        2 yards                       
$3      Black buttons      10                              
$8      Black beads          4 yards at $2               
$1.50 Tulle for bustle    1 yard                        

TOTAL     $54.30

One ridiculously fun hat - $8!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The $4.00 Polonaise (or how to goof up a pattern)

Our costume guild held an 18th Century picnic in Balboa Park, at the international cottages.  The food was excellent.  Everyone brought food to share, and our hostess, Heather, made authentic dishes from the 1700s.  I decided to whip out an outfit for this.

I wanted to use the Period Impressions Polonaise pattern I have had for quite some time, and had never made. It was very easy! 

I dove into my stash to see what I could use.   Several months ago, my friend had a pile of fabric she was going to donate to the bargain basement sale at costume college.  She asked if I wanted any of the pieces before she donated the rest of it.  I spied a lovely floral that I thought would someday make a great 18th century piece.   I was thinking a caraco (short jacket style) could be cut out of the fabric.   It was made by Waverly, called Country Weekend.  There was a note pinned to the fabric that said 3 yards, which was good for a caraco.  I was going to  use the polonaise pattern and see how long I could make the jacket, after I had cut out the bodice pieces.  Imagine my surprise when I unfolded the fabric and there were four and one third yards there!

I have always said I am not the greatest sewer.  The next thing I had to do was grade up the pattern.  It was a size 10, and a 10 I am not!  I probably could have done a much better job, but having only one day to sew it, followed by a few evenings to finish up, well..... I could have fit it better.  I made a muslin from an old sheet and got it fitted as best I could.   Then I cut out the lining.  The lining fit fine!  I cut out the floral fabric, sewed it together, added the lining - and it didn't close in front!   What the heck happened?  In a panic, I made an extension piece to add to the front.   I put hook and eye tape down the front to fasten it. I was NOT happy with the insert, so I did some fancy cover up and added bows on top.  Here is a picture of the insert after I put on the hook and eye tape.  **Note - once the whole thing was done, the dress was loose!   I am going to cut the insert down to half of what it is now.  I can work on it some more and fit it better. No clue how that happened!

Attaching the skirt was a breeze.  Once the bodice was done, the skirt panels are just pleated and hand sewed to the inside of the bodice.

The only thing I did not like about the pattern was the way it was bustled in the back.  Two buttons are sewed at the back waist.  Two cords, 72" each are looped, and sewn underneath the buttons on the inside. To bustle it, pull the cords out from underneath and hook on to the buttons.   It just kind of droops in the middle and it won't stay in place. As long as you stand still, it stays arranged, but the minute you walk or sit, it shifts all around.  I decided I liked it better without bustling it with the cords, and just wore it down.   Now that I have time to fine tune it, I may just bustle it and sew in place from the inside and take off the cords.  I am sure the cords are period correct, but I have also seen the poofs sewn in place.  They won't shift that way, and I will feel better moving around.

The skirt.  A few years ago I made a cranberry linen Victorian outfit.  I wore it once and didn't really like it.  Rather than sit in my closet unworn, I decided to repurpose it.  The skirt was smooth in front and tightly pleated in the back with a slight train.   I took it off the waist band, and gathered the waist evenly all the way around.  Then I leveled off the hem.  Done!  

Next, a hat.  I have had this hat for about 4 years.  I did ruching around the brim and center, and attached a ribbon underneath to tie under my hair in the back.  I hot glued it (shhhhh! don't tell)
The only thing I actually purchased for this outfit was one yard of white cotton for the neckerchief for $4.  I cut a 30 inch square and folded into a triangle, and stuffed down my bodice.  It was too thick, so I cut off more.  Its about 28 inches square now.  It kept riding up and coming untucked.  There must be a trick I don't know about to keep it in place.  I did stick a few pins in which helped.

Here are the results.  I will be redoing the bodice to make it fit better. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

1960's Golden Artemis

Happy Halloween!  This year I went to a gods and goddesses party.  We each had to chose a specific mythological character.   I chose Artemis for several reasons.  She is also known as Diana and Cynthia, which is my name.  She is goddess of the moon and the hunt, and carries a bow and arrows.  I also do archery.  And I am a Sagittarius, who also carries a bow and arrows. 

I wanted to put a twist on my costume this year.   Since I grew up watching those great 1960s movies such as Jason and the Argonauts, Sinbad, Ulysses, Hercules, and even the later 1981 Clash of the Titans, I wanted to do a mod version.    I also wanted another costume to go with my long, red beehive wig. 

I had just watched Goldfinger again, so I decided to do 1960's Golden Artemis.  Groovy!  The first thing I did was to go on Amazon and find - GOLD gogo boots!   I found these, made by Funtasma. They are so comfy.  Of course, these will be part of some future costume :)    

Next, I wanted to find a simple goddess toga pattern.  I found several, but not a short one.  I finally found this one:  Can't beat that price!  Very easy, a front and a back, with elastic.

Next, I went to Party City to see what they might have.  I found a wood bow in the cowboy & Indian section.  I bought a little bottle of gold acrylic paint, and painted the wood.  It came with three arrows and I painted them too.  I wrapped the handle in gold ribbon, and also tied the arrows onto the bow string with gold bows.

The fabric was fun to buy.   I got 2 1/2 yards of liquid gold lame.  Took no time at all to zip out a shell.  It had to be lined (scrap sheeting I had) because the gold was super stretchy.  Here is the shell, trying on with boots so I can cut the hem.  A no sew hem!  No raveling. 

I thought it looked too much like a regular dress, so I added a gold drape across the front.  It made all the difference.  Now for accessories.   I borrowed big hoop earrings from my sis in law, and three gold bracelets from my friend at work. I got white fishnets for $2 at the swapmeet.  I got  gold glitter nail polish, gold creme eyeshadow and gold tinsel eyelashes.  For the "crowning" touch, I found a gold leaf tiara in the Halloween store.  Here is the end result.
My brother Tom as Dionysus, god of wine

My sis-in-law Kathy as Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty

Joanne as Athena, goddess of wisdom

King Midas and his golden lady

My brother and me

$27     boots  (investment for another costume!)
$1       pattern
$8       fabric
$4       tiara
$2       fishnets

TOTAL    $42

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pagoda Handbag

A year ago I posted about Enid Collins purses and Jewel Tone Handbag kits.  My dream purse, numero uno on my wish list, was the black Pagoda bag.  All year long, I have been looking at flea markets, on Etsy and Ebay.  On the rare occasion I found it on line, it was way over my price range, $50+ for the finished bag.  I even bid on a few on Ebay, but again, it rose to over $50.  I thought I would never find one I could afford.

A few weeks ago while skimming through Ebay, I did a double take.  Someone was selling an unopened, shrink wrapped, complete 1967 Pagoda Kit!   It was listed in the embroidery kit section, not the purse section.  It had four days left and no bids.   I immediately put a maximum bid of $51.00 on it.  My bid was the first at $19.99.   There were no further bids on it until the last two minutes when someone put a bid in.  My auto bid came back with $28.00 - AND I WON!!!!

The seller even lives 30 minutes from me, so she mailed it to me Monday morning, and I received it Tuesday afternoon.  Tuesday night I cracked it open, eager to get started.  I am taking photos along the way.

 I opened the box and and checked out the contents.  The glue, over 50 years old, had turned brown, but was still liquid!  I won't use it, but will be using Aleene's Jewel It glue.    I read over the instruction sheet, which is starting to get brittle, and is browning.

Step one was to attach all the hardware to the purse.  I nailed tiny nails to secure the wooden bottom piece in.  Then I attached the clasp pieces.
The first jewels are attached!  It can get a bit messy with all the glue on tiny pieces.  I am afraid to use too little as I don't want the jewels to fall off.  I didn't do anything else that night, as I wanted what I did to dry.  So I had fun looking at the pristine catalog that was included in the kit!

Night Two:  Glued on the rest of the jewels.  Its turning out so cute!      

Night Three: The last step is to apply the gold braid on the roof.    This was the tricky part, as the cording ravels at the ends.  I dipped the ends in glue to keep them from raveling after I cut the braid.

Here is the finished purse.   My cell phone photos are awful, and this bag looks so much better in person.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Addition:   I won a second jewel tone kit - Zodiac, unmade and in the box, for only $17!  That will be my next project :)  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Marcus Aurelius said "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".  I greatly admire the beautiful creations of Arlene T.  I know her now, but back when I found this inspiration photo while surfing the net, I didn't know who made the original.  I just fell in love with it and saved it in the computer.  Look at this lovely day dress: 

I had it in my computer for over a year waiting for an event that required an Edwardian day dress.  In  April 2011 for our costume guild, I organized a Titanic Boarding Luncheon.  I posted the list of actual passengers for the members to choose from and made everyone badges of their passenger with their personal information on them.  After lunch everyone stood and introduced themselves and explained why they were on board, what class they were, and whether or not they survived.  This was my way of honoring the memory of those lost that dreadful night.

Anyway, I thought this was the perfect time to use my inspiration photo.  Being unemployed at that time, I had a very small budget.  on a road trip to Los Angeles fabric district, I found a cream cotton blend fabric with black and light tan thin stripes - for 99 cents a yard!!  I bought 5 yards, as I had not picked the pattern yet and didn't know how much yardage I needed, and at that price I was happy to have left overs.  I then had fun picking the trim.   I found a beautiful black floral lace for $1 a yard, a thinner black lace and some white lace, for 50 cents a yard.   So all total, I think I paid about $15-18 for this dress!  Its been a few years, which is why I am not breaking this one down.  But for under $20 I made a great dress.

I had the Edwardian Laughing Moon pattern from a previous dress, and thought I could change it up to look similar to the inspiration photo. Here is the pattern.   I made the blue dress without the over skirt, and added the  shoulder details from the the red, gold and white gown.  I used cream buttons up the back.    I didn't want to copy Arlene's dress exactly, so I did not add the lace under blouse or the trim covered belt.  Also, I made my skirt more column shaped rather than fuller like the original.

I wore the dress again a year later for the Titanic Exhibition at the Natural History Museum in April 2012, 100 years after the sinking.   Here are a few photos from that event.

I wore it again yesterday for our lovely afternoon at the Marston House.  We had a wonderful tour of the gardens given by our guild member Amy H. who docents there.  After the garden tour, we had a relaxing picnic on the lawn.  Afterwards, several of us continued on and took a tour of the  house itself, a beautiful craftsman style marvel, built in 1904.

Here I am again, although wrinkly from sitting on the lawn for a picnic.

Aren't my friends gorgeous? Once again, thank you to my Muse, Arlene, for this simple but elegant day dress.  I like it better than my fancier ones.