Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cowl pattern review, by Dawni Callahan

I'd seen these cowls/neck corsets around and had fallen in love, but had no idea where to start. Well, where else to find something not found in the books at Joann's, but on Etsy. I found this pattern and it looked about my learning level (Beginner). I was thrilled when this arrived, until I opened the package, all of the sewing instructions, meager though they were, were all in French. I made my first one (option B) following what instructions I understood and cut the pattern pieces as drawn, but soon realized it was going to fit a small child, not an adult. I was glad I'd been using scraps leftover from another project.  Dang, this meant there was going to be some math involved in making this, dang. I measured my neck (right under my chin(s), mid throat and close to my collar bone), to get an average of what was needed to get around my throat. I then measured each piece of the pattern across the center, added the totals, subtracting for the seam allowances and found the difference. I divided this by the number of pieces in the pattern (x2). It ended up being about 1/2" per piece. I traced off the pattern, split it along the grain line, taped the split pieces to another piece of tracing paper, adding the 1/2" to the center of each piece. The pattern, itself, was super simple to put together, really intuitive, you just have to keep up with what pattern number is next. I used a mid weight velvet that was fairly stiff, so I didn't feel the need to add stays. You may want to use stays if making either collar out of a lace or a light weight fabric, like silk. Inlue of stays, I suspect a stiff trim would work as well, sewn to cover the seams and it would add a lovely detail.

Lessons Learned: I'd never used feather trim before and didn't realize, until it was MUCH too late, it needed to be hand stitched to the cowl. The glue holding the feathers inside of the ribbon base gummed up my needle something fierce, causing all kinds of problems. Again, I'm glad I was using scraps, because this was a lesson in doing a mock-up first before committing to an expensive fabric. I did not use grommets for the closure, but instead used snap tape. I did change the closure from the back to the front. I wanted to be able to get in and out of this with as little hassle or outside assistance as possible. I think hook-n-eye tape would also be an excellent option.

I'm going to wear this the the Dallas Central Library's Edgar Allen Poe Victorian Halloween event, in October. I can either be a representation of the "Raven" or just very witchy looking. It has a very elegant look and I'm excited to try this again with other fabrics. I'd be interested in incorporating it into a jacket pattern. But, maybe next time...no feathers

Thursday, May 1, 2014

DFWCG 2014 Fantasy Frolic Picnic

On April 26th, the Dallas Ft Worth Costumers Guild (DFWCG) held their fantasy-themed picnic.

The year before was the first time they tried this event, and although weather caused them to create two separate dates so those who missed it the first time could join in the fun, it definitely seemed to be a potential "keeper" for the group.

This time, a new location was chosen since the previous one was in a small garden that was a little crowded. The Colleyville Nature Center offered many different spots to choose from, in a very quiet and secluded area. There are trails, little bridges, open areas with ponds... so many choices for relaxing in the shade, playing games, or posing for photographs.

The day was very windy and sunny (not to mention a little warmer than some of us might have expected), so we picked a shaded place where tall trees would help block most of the wind and a little sun. We followed a trail to an area set up with wooden benches and what could be used as a stage -- perhaps some talented fairies and pixies might consider entertaining the picnic-goers next time? That was a nice way to set up our food and have a seat for some light refreshment and conversation! The breeze blowing through the trees seemed almost magical and soothing, making it the most relaxing time.

Due to the wind, many opted for simpler garments, and this event is perfect for anyone interested in seeing what the DFWCG has to offer. The theme is fantasy, and the sky is the limit with interpreting the possibilities!

We had an elf and a fairy, but we also had steampunk-inspired fairy hunters and explorers, and even a Neverland pirate! Many of the members were quite busy with so many projects, and they found the chance to wear costumes they had not worn in so long, as well as create new outfits from the various selections in their wardrobes.

Of course, photos were taken and you may view them in any of the following albums:

 Needless to say, picnics are a wonderful way to have a very relaxing and enjoyable time -- they are fast-becoming a favorite with many of the DFWCG members, and it is quite a fun time to see just "who" will join us for this particularly magical Fantasy Frolic!

Here are a few glimpses from that day:

We hope we "catch" you at this fun event next year! ;)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Event recap - Jazz Age Sunday Social

I have spent many years daydreaming about the fabulous 1920s and 30s parties held in other parts of the US, like the Jazz Age Lawn Party in New York and the Gatsby Summer Afternoon in Oakland. So I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that the Art Deco Society of Dallas had gotten together with Dallas Heritage Village to host the first ever Jazz Age Sunday Social. A number of members from the DFWCG had originally planned on meeting at the social to picnic and enjoy the festivities together, but unfortunately, many of our members ended up having conflicts and couldn't make it this year. However, this event was such a huge success that they have already decided to host it again next year, so I wanted to share some photos and a little recap of the activities so you can plan ahead and start making your own deco attire for 2015!

The turnout for this event was amazing, and it was such a charming scene around the bandstand as the musicians played and people danced, picnicked, and strolled around with their kids, dogs and wonderful antique bicycles.  

There was a costume contest in the afternoon, and I thought everybody did a great job of pulling together vintage looks from a variety of modern and antique pieces.  The winning couple had complimented their clothing with old bicycles, which was such a fun touch!

We also were able to tour many of the homes and the downtown buildings at Dallas Heritage Village, including the saloon where you can enjoy an ice cold root beer and relax while you play a round of cards or checkers. 

There were a variety of fun booths and displays set up along the street, so you could shop, peruse some deco-inspired artwork, make crafts with your kids, or check out the lovely antique phonographs.  

We also had a great time playing croquet.  There was a very nice (and patient!) gentleman there who taught us the rules of the game and some general tips for strategy.  It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but so much fun!

But my favorite part about the Jazz Age Social was definitely the antique cars! There were some real beauties there, and it was so much fun taking photos of them and with them. The owners were super friendly too, and they were happy to answer questions, show off the engines, and several kind souls even allowed us to sit in their amazing vehicles. The cars ranged from the 1910s to the 1930s and they made the PERFECT accessory for our jazz age outfits.  

One of the concerns that I heard from many of our costume guild members in the weeks leading up to the event is that they didn't have any 1920's costumes, or they weren't a big fan of that style. But one thing that stood out for me at this event is that 1910s and 1930s costumes would be equally appropriate, so there is really a wide variety of styles that we can all choose from.  The cars, music, buildings, and activities all fit perfectly with both Edwardian costumes AND Deco fashions, and I know that the people at the social would welcome any variety of early 20th c. costume with open arms.  

You can see more photos from our outing on my flickr, and I hope that seeing this will inspire you to start making plans for next year.  The first Jazz Age Sunday Social was a ton of fun, and I know it will grow to be even bigger and better in 2015.  Hats off to the organizers of this wonderful inaugural event!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Elegant Lady's Closet Drawstring Gown Review

If you are in a time crunch but still want something new to wear for the Georgian picnic, I can highly recommend Sensibility.com's Elegant Lady's Closet pattern, specifically the drawstring gown. I've made it five times now, and one of those times I made it in a week, with a newborn baby.

The thing I love the most about this pattern (aside from its sheer simplicity) is its very forgiving design. The drawstring aspect to it allows for a lot of fluctuation in weight of the wearer, so precise fitting isn't really necessasy. This trait also makes it ideal as a loaner when you want to entice friends along on a costumed adventure.

Additionally, if you wear a very "lifting" bra or good fitting sports bra, you can get a decent facsimile of the correct silhouette for the Regency period. I've totally cheated in this way, especially when I still had my little nursling. Ideally, of course, I prefer Regency short stays to get the perfect silhouette. However, if you're in a rush or want to do a quick one-off, then go for it. I also have worn this dress with a long, modern slip, and another time with a Victorian petticoat that I just hiked up to my under-bust with safety-pinned shoulder straps to hold it in position.

As for the pattern itself, the directions are clear and easy to follow, with useful illustrations. I’m a very visual learner, so the illustrations were key. Also, because her patterns are so often used, there are a lot of very useful resources on her website, like tutorials, videos, and other extensive tips and tricks.

Here are the samples that I myself have made…

First run through was in a light weight pink cotton:

Second was the one I put together super quickly, soon after my son was born. This one has an elastic neckline, which was done for the ease of nursing my little one:

And a full length shot:

Third was as a Christmas gift for my niece:

An action shot:

On the fourth go around, I took liberties and turned it into a chemise dress out of a very fine cotton voile. For this one, I simply added extra fabric to the front (bodice and skirt) and extra fabric to the skirt in the back to get the look I wanted.

And the fifth and most recent rendition, I followed a tutorial done by Mme. du Jards Atelier and made a spencer.

I've only made the dress with the long sleeves and the elbow length sleeves, but it also comes with a pattern for short puffy sleeves for another variation.

I've definitely gotten great use from this pattern, and highly recommend it to the beginning costumer for a great start in the Regency era. I also would recommend it to the more experienced costumer who is looking for a quick, simple gown in an era that they may not have done.

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 2013 Sewing and Pattern Swap Day

This past Sunday the DFWCG hosted a sewing and pattern swap day at the Central Market in Dallas.  We had a nice turnout of some fun and talkative ladies.  

While only one person in the group actually did any pattern tracing, we had quite an outpouring of patterns to choose to trace from and drool over.  And we even had an actual vintage pattern giveaway due to the generosity of Lori who was cleaning out patterns that once belonged to her mother.  I didn't see what everybody else got, but I know the ones I took home with me are Fabulous and I can't wait to catalog them!

In addition to the pattern theme of the day, we also had a grommet press on hand and we put that thing to work!  

In all of this pattern and knowledge sharing, we discussed how we all tend to have a problem with remembering what patterns we have at home and how fabric store pattern sales end up resulting in us purchasing duplicates by accident.  Some of our more techy folks have put together their own databases.  But we also learned that there is something much more simple out there.  It's a nifty new App that can be used to catalog all of our patterns (among other things) called Springpad.  Go forth and download!  Then tell us how you are using your Springpad.

Our next guild event is the Business Meeting on Sept 7 at the Dallas Central Market at 2pm, then on Sept 21 & 22nd, we will meet up at the Antique Elegance show for some shopping.  More details about what time and where exactly we'll meet up will be forthcoming, just keep a lookout on our Facebook and Yahoo e-mailing list for those announcements.

A Costumer Goes to Gettysburg, by Coleen Swafford

I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. I want to share with you some of my experiences leading up to the event, the event, and following it.


Now I thought I was pretty well informed about Civil War clothing and accessories. I mean I had researched and even presented a class on them to docents at a local historic village. But then I joined several forums a few months prior to the event and I was schooled.
  1. Costume is a bad word. Most of the people participating in this hobby (especially in the East) are hard core. These are their “clothes”. “Costume” denotes all sorts of horrible things such as polyester, zippers, and sunglasses. In other words “farby”. Clothing guildelines were published for this event several months in advances but the real 411 came from the participants themselves.
  2. If you ask for an opinion, be prepared to get one. More than once I witnessed as na├»ve people posted pictures of something they planned to wear and ask for opinions. They were then hurt when someone told them they needed more petticoats or the pattern they selected was wrong. I also found it interesting that the experts never posted pictures of themselves. 
  3. The difference between a hat and a bonnet. And yes Virginia, there is a difference. When I first joined the forums there were a number of “experts” stating that older women HAD to wear either fancy bonnets or slat bonnets. Being that I am not fond of bonnets myself, I was thrilled when someone produced several CDVs of older women wearing hats of various shapes and sizes (I love documentation). And while I am on the subject of head coverings, I will pass on what I learned several years ago about nets. A lady I volunteered with informed me never to use the word “snood”. That was for renn faires and 1940s. A Civil War lady wore a hair net. It was not as thick as a snood and usually the same color as your hair. This year I actually found instructions for creating a period appropriate hair net. Results are below. 


I could comment about the organization of this event but this article is about costuming so I’ll stick to that. Like most large events, you find the experts, the ones who are learning and almost there, the beginners, and those who don’t care.

Experts – At this event, they set up a civilian town in the middle of the battlefield (The Battle of Gettysburg was fought around and through the town of Gettysburg). To become a resident of this town, you had to submit a photo of your clothing and description of your persona. Being the insecure person I am, I figured I wouldn’t meet their standards and would just stay with my husband’s unit. However, on Friday, I had the chance to have a long talk with the village’s mayor. We were standing by a fence waiting for a battle to begin. I was explaining to a companion about needing to be approved to be a resident of “Gettysburg” and I told the mayor that I aspired to that. The mayor stepped back and looked me over from head to toe and told me that what I was wearing would have passed except for my glasses. I was wearing one of my work dresses with an apron and bonnet. I knew my glasses wouldn’t pass as I had opted to my new ones as opposed to my old wire frames. I was thrilled. I passed muster! That was as important to me as winning a costume contest.

One of the “experts” attending was Kay Gagney. This lady has designed civil war patterns for Simplicity. They held a fashion show and she presented several dresses she had made from Godey’s fashion prints and explained the use of each dress and when and where it was worn. I volunteered as photographer and was allowed on the stage with these masterpieces in order to photograph them. They were truly impressive.

Those Trying – I generally put myself in this class but a better example was the lady camped next to us. She was an older lady and wore a print skirt, white blouse and apron. She was also wearing a snood, tennis shoes and sunglasses. She was with me when I talked to the mayor and was very interested in his description of correct costumes. She had never been told what was right and what was wrong. I was sure that her impression would improve in the future.

Newbies – I feel sorry for newbies who do not have someone to mentor them in what is right and are left to the examples of Hollywood and the whims of unscrupulous sutlers. I watched one sutler swear up and down that the pink skirt and white blouse she was selling to a lady were totally accurate. I also heard a story of a soldier who bought what he was told was a “stainless steel” canteen. When his commander saw it, he informed him that it was a cheap tin one and accompanied him back to the sutler to get what he had paid for.

Those Who Don’t Care – My daughter’s friend fell into this category. She was there with her father and brother. She conceded to wearing a long skirt and white blouse but that was it. She wore shorts under her skirt and tennis shoes. And still she was better than the spouses who wore tank tops and shorts in military camp.

Post Event

One thing every successful reenactor or costumer knows is to “go with the flow”. You can’t control everything, especially the weather. You plan for contingencies and “make do”. Thus, I did not get to wear my new ball gown. It was raining, the dance was in an open sided tent and there were several inches of mud everywhere. I did get to wear the new day dress I made to the Fashion Show.The highlight of the week for me had nothing to do with fashion or costumes. It was watching the final battle, Pickett’s Charge. I found a spot to watch not far from the line of canon. It is impossible to describe: feeling the canon fire, smelling the black powder, watching 10,000 reenactors on the field and realizing that this was only a hint of the real thing. It made up for heat, rain, mud, ticks, and everything else.

Will I continue to do this with my husband? You betcha. I’ve already ordered black wool to make a dress for memorial ceremonies.

- Coleen Swafford

Monday, May 20, 2013

Time is up for rooms at the CLW 2013 Host Hotel

Please note that the Crowne Plaza hotel is now Completely Sold Out!

If you were still waiting to get a room at the hotel, I need you to contact me immediately so I can make a list for a neighboring hotel. We have been contacted about a discounted rate if we have several people who still need rooms. Please do not wait until the last minute to be put on the list as the event taking over the Crowne Plaza is potentially going to spill over to some of the other neighboring hotels as well.