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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Holiday Dress

Happy Holidays!

For my last outfit of 2014, I wanted to make something simple for the Costume Guild holiday dinner.  I had bought a beautiful black taffeta skirt from Val, who was selling some of her costumes.  A quick piece to make to go with the skirt is the Truly Victorian polonaise.  However, since I have made this pattern several times, I wanted something a bit different.  I decided to make it up as I went along.

I bought four yards of a faux silk red patterned fabric for $2.50 a yard.  First,  I cut out the polonaise body, but not the sleeves.  I decided to draft my own sleeves.  I didn't want the usual facings that go with this pattern, so I bought plain red cotton and completely bag lined the entire thing.  Not only did it give this limp fabric some body, it finished off the hem around the front, back and neckline very nicely.

Here is the basic body of the polonaise.  Note:  My dummy half-Maude (because its just a torso on a bar stool) is too big in the chest so my dresses never close in the front.  I use her for height and draping.  She works great for making skirts, just not bodices.   

Next I started playing with the bustling on the skirt back. To do this, I turned the polonaise inside out and draped it over the back of Maude. I sewed three long ribbons to the inside waist band, center, left and right.   I then pinched up sections and pinned to the ribbon where I thought the poofs should be.  Once I had my pinches pinned, I turned the polonaise over to view the effect.   I adjusted the pinned sections as needed.   Once satisfied, I sewed the pinned on sections down.

For the front, I wanted to do something different for the bodice section.  I began folding the front of the square neck back, sort of like lapels, but this fabric is too limp.   I bought a small piece of black brocade and some matching buttons.   I made two sides to a square vest-like insert, and put in 10 buttons and button holes.  There was no pattern to this, so I started fooling around with placement. I put on the polonaise, and pinned the brocade insert to the front opening.  I then starting folding, turning and pretty much played with it until I found a V formation I liked.  I sewed the two front sections of the polonaise to the brocade insert.  On the inside, I cut away the excess fabric.

For the neck trim, I got inexpensive black ribbon which I pleated and sewed around the neck opening and down the V.   I had a scrap of red and white trim that I sewed on top of that. Next, I bought four yards of black pom pom fringe and put all around the bottom edge and up the front of the polonaise, and the three back pieces of the polonaise.  Finally, I added a black satin bow to the waist.

Truly Victorian sleeves are two pieces, an outer and inner sleeve.  I wanted one continuous sleeve that did not have two seams.  For these sleeves, I used for a modified straight sleeve pattern from a Simplicity dress I liked.  I made a pattern from an old sheet and basted it in the polonaise armhole to see if it would fit.  It worked!  For the cuffs, I used the rest of the black brocade, pleated more ribbon around it and added 1/4 inch red ribbon on top.
I ran out of time to put boning in, but that will go in soon.

Not too bad for a quickie project :)

Taken by Debbie Boyd

Cost breakdown:

$10.00  Red faux silk   4 yds @ $2.50         
$10.00  Red cotton lining 4 yds @ $2.50      
$4.00    Black brocade 1/2 yd @ $8.00         
$2.50    Buttons                                           
$6.00    Pompom trim 4 yds @ $1.50          
Black ribbon - stash
                    TOTAL                 $32.50


  1. Love the change-up in the pattern. It came out beautiful.

  2. Thanks! Your skirt made the outfit!

  3. Sorry I'm so late to this post, but I wanted to tell you how much I love your dress! Your creations are always so inspiring!

    I also have to ask, I am IN LOVE with the harlequin fabric your friend is wearing in the last pic. Is there any chance you can find out for me where she got it?