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, November 4, 2012

A Mourning We Will Go!

My friend Val and her husband invited Jerry and me to spend time in Lake Tahoe the last week of October.  Being a hop, skip and a jump from Virginia City, I suggested we spend the day there for Halloween and dress in Victorian mourning gowns.  Jerry would do a photo shoot of us in the cemetery.  My dilemma: I had no mourning gown, and we were leaving in three weeks!  What could I make super quick in a few hours each night?  I relied on my favorite pattern - Truly Victorian’s Polonaise.  This is the same pattern as my earlier post Peppermint Delight, but the look is completely opposite.  

I had no time to go to LA fabric district, so I searched the local fabric stores for something black with a small and subtle pattern.  After the fifth store, I found a 100% cotton eyelet (the no holes kind) for approximately $5 a yard.  I got five yards.  I was just going to wear a regular long skirt I already had, but it was not the correct style and period.  While digging in my stash for lining for the polonaise, I found something I forgot I had.  Mom gave me 5 yards of black twill a few years ago!  YAY, I can make a free skirt!  So I got out the Truly Victorian skirt pattern, and whipped it out in two nights. 

A tip for heavier fabrics: It was impossible for me to run a gathering stitch and try and pull it to make the bottom ruffle.  In order to make the ruffle even all around the bottom, I used the “divide and pin” method.  First, place a pin in the front, back, left side, and right side of the skirt hem.    On your ruffle piece, do the same.  Line up the four pins, and pin the two together.  You now have four big loopy things hanging off your dress hem!

Find the center of the loop and pin it to the center of the skirt hem between the two previously placed pins.  Keep doing this all around until you have divided and pinned everything down.   You will have an equally spaced ruffle!

I found some black eyelet trim, and Val had some small braided trim for me to use.  This went around the neckline and bell sleeves.   On the skirt/ruffle join, I made a pleated trim from left over scraps from the polonaise.  I also made bows for the elbows and peplum out of scraps.  I did buy a dozen buttons, and yay!  They were 25% off. $2.70.

Luckily I had black accessories already, so that part was easy.  Here are a few photos from our day in Virginia City.

We had a fantastic day.  After the cemetery shoot, we wore our dresses around Virginia City all day.  We were asked to join in their costume parade!  We actually got to step off first, because we had a ghost tour to go to at 5:30.   We kept in costume in the ghost tour too!  Isn't Val's 1850's gown lovely?

After driving for hours on Friday to get home, we attended Dia de los Muertos procession in Old Town.  We wore our gowns again, and we both discovered we brought home Virginia City Cemetery dirt in our skirts!

Cost for this dress:

$25.00  5 yards black eyelet @ $5 yd  
$  6.00  2 yards lining @ $3 yd  
5 yards for skirt fabric - free!
$ 2.70  12 buttons   
$ 5.60  4 yards fringe trim @ $1.40 yd    
$ 2.50  2 yards eyelet trim @ $1.25 yd    
$ 2.40  4 yards braid trim @ $.60 yd

TOTAL    $44.20


  1. Wow you both look amazing. I love how you made the dress so cheaply, well done!

  2. LOL! I was just going to comment on how dirty our hems were when I saw you mentioned our cemetery dirt! And I still say bustles are much more attractive on us.
    I had a great time, and need to write my blog too.

  3. My favorite photograph is of you at the tombstone in that desolate, barren cemetery. Just absolutely amazing.

  4. Robin, that's my favorite too! And of the over 200 photos he shot, that was the first one he took.