Monday, September 10, 2012

"How do I make an Elizabethan Costume?"

Vicki: Elena! I am taking Shakespeare for my creativity elective and there is a required project to be completed by the end of the semester on whatever we want on a topic related to Shakespeare's time period. Soooooooo, I am thinking about sewing a period correct dress! :D Very ambitious I know, but if not an actual dress (we have to present it to the class), a presentation on clothing from that era. Any reading suggestions?

Me: A period correct dress doesn't need to be that scary, however. If you did this one with some modifications I can tell you about (I've made it AND restructured it), it would be very doable, you'd just need patience. That's the secret to sewing elaborate things. Patience. Honestly an hour a day can get you a better finished project than doing the whole thing in one weekend.

As for reading... it might be hard for you to get your hands on the really meaty stuff, but maybe I could scan the relevent pages of the reference books I own?

Vicki: This is awesome! I reeeeeally want to sew this dress, but my concern is cost and time. I would have to really be committed to putting enough time in each week. I would have to have the dress done by December 12th. Approximately how much did it cost you to make this dress? And what kind of modifications are we talking about? Also, if you could send me relevant pages on that time period that would be amazing!!!! I am so excited for this project! 

Me: Oh you can do the fabric cheap. That's one reason I like this costume - because most of the yardage comes from the orange fabric and that can be a plain anything. Seriously you could do it with a cheap costume satin or taffetta or whatever is on clearance. Use a cupon, order from someplace cheap like, or whatever. Then the bodice, under skirt and sleeves can be the same fabric, or three different pieces. So you could splurge on one, and then find cheap textured fabrics for the other two (which are only a yard each or so).

The most expensive part of this is if you do the hoopskirt and bone the bodice. DON'T. You don't need it for your project, just use a really stiff fabric for the inner layer of your bodice (a canvas or something) and see if a friend will loan you a hoopskirt or if you can find a cheap one at a thrift store. For the trims, don't worry about the big heavy stuff on the skirt.

You don't even have to do the trims they suggest for the sleeves, although you can get a great effect from those cheap $1 ribbon spools.

Finally, the skirt calls for two layers, an underskirt (the cream) and overskirt (the orange). Don't worry about the full underskirt. Just do the front panel, and tack it to the two nearest seams of the overskirt. If you get cupons from JoAnns or your nearest fabric store, don't buy all your fabric at once. Go in once a week and use a new cupon to buy just one thing for that week. You can see finished pictures of the one I did here. I'll see what I can do about those scans! Confessions of a Seamstress: Renaissance Maiden in the Snow

Vicki: I am getting so excited about doing this!!! You are amazing, Elena! Love you! You're like a walking-history-fashion-seamstress-encyclopedia :P 

Me: Thanks Vicki - I try! XD And if you do it, I expect you to do a guest post on my blog about it. XD

Vicki: Yes, ma'am! Another question: what's the differance between Tudor and Elizabethan fashion? Because I found this dress that is labeled as Tudor and this dress which is labeled as Elizabethan. 

Me: Difference is time period. Tudor fashions cover the reign of the Tudors, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward IV, Jane I, and Mary I, or roughly the years 1475 - 1558. The "Tudor" dress you pulled up would have been very typical of the styles of Henry VIII's court in the early 1500's.

Elizabethan fashion covers the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, 1558 - 1603. Shakespeare, of course, lived during the later half of Elizabeth's reign and the beginning of James I's reign, when we get into Jacobin fashion.

Vicki: Oh okay, gotchya.That's too bad though, because I like the Tudor fashion better :P 

Me: I agree! Tudor fashion is what got me into costuming in the first place. This is one of my earliest pieces, I was 13 when I did it and only a very strong obsession could explain how I managed to finish it!

Vicki: I remember that post! I am still trying to decide whether or not to sew the dress. I am going to try to price material today to get a rough idea of what it will cost. The time commitment is what is really scaring me. I know it is doable to get it done by the deadline, but it is just the commitment of working enough on it every week that I am not sure I would do well with. We'll see, though! (because I reeeeeeeally want to do this)  Oh, and I'm a little stuck. The dress that I found on Simplicity is differant from the one you showed me. I can't find the one you showed me (pattern 8881) for sale. Is the current simplicity pattern I showed you accurate? 

Me: It's probably okay, but I wouldn't be able to refer to my own copy and experience to help you if you get stuck. HOWEVER, they are selling 8881 on Amazon still, so you could get it there!

(This is a real conversation I had with my friend Vicki last week, and she was kind enough to allow me to reproduce it here so that others could learn from the knowledge as well. Hopefully she will make the dress and share her story here!)

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