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!!!


  1. I love your dress! It came out beautifully! You make me want to make a plaid bustle dress for myself. :-)

  2. Thanks Deb! I think you should go for it. Several friends did plaid this year and I love them all.

  3. Its a plaid virus that's going around. Very contagious. :D

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  5. Looks Gorgeous and now I want to buy that pattern and try it myself!