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.

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. 


  1. It looks so pretty, I love the matching trim on the hat! I use a fitted-to-me version of the period impressions polonaise pattern as my 18th C body block.

    1. Thank you Loren. I hope to do the same once I get it right. I started with a too small pattern and tried to grade up. Need more practice doing that :)

  2. Bravo, from this rogue's gallery. You get an "E" for effort and excellent in my book. First of all you dared sew the pattern, then you kindly shared your work and experience with sister cyber sewists. Kudos to you! :-)

    I enjoy learning and seeing with you wonderful gals are accomplishing. Keep 'em coming.

    Sewing thread hugs,


    P.S. Would you please consider "liking" my sewing FB page? I am working to get three more likes so I may get insights available when a page reaches 30? I am at http://www.facebook.com/sewandcro

    Thank you for your consideration.

    1. Thank you Lyric. I liked your page its wonderful!