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 16, 2012

The Half-Started Holiday Dress

My mother recently joined the Costume Guild, and is eager to sew Victorian gowns.  She bought some fabric in her favorite soft blue and grey colors.  Since she was familiar with modern sewing patterns, I gave her my Burda pattern 7880 to use rather than start her out on Truly Victorian.

Well, I guess its been awhile, because she cut out her dress size and NOT her pattern size!  She sewed the bodice pieces together, and it wouldn’t close.  She had made the underskirt first, plain with no embellishment.   She gave me the bodice pieces and plain underskirt, and she went out and bought more of the same fabric to start over.

I bought three yards of the crinkle poly taffeta at approximately $5 a yard to make an overskirt.  Then I thought about it.  I did not want the exact same dress as my mother, so I attacked the bodice with my scissors.  Instead of the high collared neck shown on the pattern, I cut a square neck.  I did not use the Burda overskirt pattern.   Instead, I used the Truly Victorian 303 Side Drape Overskirt pattern, which I love!!  Also to change it up, I cut about two inches off the sleeve length and added white lace around the cuffs.  

I decided to trim it out in white, as mom was using a grey braid for her trim.  I used about 4 yards of trim on the bodice, and 1 yard on the overskirt.   I used white flower shaped buttons down the front.

 I finished it enough to wear to the Costume Guild Holiday Party.  I did not have time to put the boning in, so that still needs to be done.  I want to find more of the blue the skirt is made from and add a row or two of ruffles around the bottom.

My mother and daughter joined me this year.   Here is a Three Generation photo of us.  My daughter is wearing a dress I made for her two years ago.  It is Truly Victorian pattern 216 - Parisian Trained Skirt with pattern TV 405 - Vest Basque.   Mom is wearing a Nataya dress with an added pink sash and underskirt.

Parisian Trained Skirt Pattern

Val and her beautiful dress

$15.00       3 yards of fabric for  overskirt
$  7.50       5 yards of trim
$  4.40       12 buttons
bit of white lace on cuffs from stash

Total        $26.90

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An accessory post until I get my current dress done!

I am obsessed.   With an ugly purse.  Its so ugly its cute.   Ok, its not really THAT ugly, just..... gaudy.  A little background first.

In the late 50s and through the 60s, there was a wonderful purse designer named Enid Collins.   Enid was originally a fashion designer from Texas.   She combined her love of fashion and design and created beautiful works of art in her purses.

She made wooden mahogany box purses and the canvas bucket bag.  The bucket bag had a wooden bottom, leather trim, and was made from linen.  The backgrounds were often matte-screened or painted by hand. They were covered in jewels and sequins, each a work of art.  They are one of the most sought after vintage accessory today, and can cost up to $200 for some of them. 

I cannot afford a real Enid Collins purse unless its a steal.  BUT, the Broke Costumer CAN afford an Enid knock off purse!  That is where my obsession starts.

 There were plenty of women in the early 60s who could not afford their own Enid Collins Purse.  So, the General Crafts Corporation began producing make it yourself "Enid Style" bucket bags.  Called the Fabulous Jewel Tone Handbag Kit, you could select from any number of styles in either a natural or black background.  I remember as a child my mother even made one!  Of course, now that I want hers, she threw it out many years ago.  Here is a photo of a catalog page which gives you an idea of what you could make:

I started seeing Jewel Tones in the antique malls, but the average price was between $40-50. still too expensive for me.  I started looking on Ebay and Etsy, and found many of them - and for far less money.  Depending on condition, you can get some quite inexpensively.  My first Jewel Tone purse was No. 909 "Sunburst" Bag.   I took it to Costume College and it holds a lot! I only paid $12 for it on Etsy.

My second Jewel Tone was a great find - a rare Black Cat bag, completely unmade!  It had all the original hardware still sealed in little bags, all the sequins and jewels and even the original white glue bottle!  The glue is yellow now, but its still liquid inside. One problem.  It had no instructions.   And so it sat.  I looked for almost a year on line for a picture of the finished bag with no luck.  I didn't know where to put all the bling.

I got lucky about two months ago, and FINALLY found someone on line that was selling one, and had taken up close photos of the finished purse!  I used Jewel It glue and followed the picture.  I used my Sunburst bag as a model for how to put all the hardware on.  Here is a photo of the instructions and bag she posted, and my finished bag.
My Purse I Made

My third Jewel Tone is one I saw and fell in love with at an antique store, but it was $40.  I searched on line, and found one on Ebay for $6.99.  Its called No. 906 "Butterfly". It needs help, poor ugly thing.  The canvas was filthy, the hardware seemed rusty.  Many jewels were missing.  I  bought it anyway.    When I received it, it smelled.  I took oxyclean and a tooth brush and went to work.   It cleaned the canvas up nicely.  The rust came off.  Now all I have to do is go to Michaels and get some jewels to fill in for the missing ones.   Its going to look great!

I want more!  I want all of them!  But I have one rule.  I cannot spend over $15 for one.  Unless its the No. 903 "Pagoda" Bag.  I REALLY want that one, and I rarely see it for sale.  I may splurge on that one. 

EDIT 1:  My sister-in-law gave me this beauty for my birthday.  Love it!   (12-08-12) Jewel Tone Bag No. 912.  "Bouquet"

EDIT 2:  My sister-in-law does it again!  Look what she gave me for Christmas! (12-25-12) Jewel Tone Bag No. 905 "Flowers"

EDIT 3:  Boy these edits get better all the time.  I went to the swap meet today, and found a real Enid Collins bag called "Humdinger" for ONE DOLLAR!!! I think the lady selling was trying to get rid of grandmother's things and didn't know what she had.  Granted, the bag has a water stain and one large missing jewel, but I am going to try and get rid of the staining and I am ordering a genuine Collins replacement jewel for  the yellow flower petal.  I need to touch up the leather as well.   Here it is before the clean up.       (01-20-13)

Edit 4:   Here are my latest two purchases:   On 1-22-13 I won on ebay a genuine Enid Collins bag called "Carriage Trade" - for only $14.50!

On 3-3-13 I went to the Orange County Vintage Flea Market and found this cute Jewel Tone bag No. 907 "Sea Shells".  $15.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Costume College on a Budget

Another Costume College has come and gone, and wonderful memories were made again.  Its so nice to visit with people I only get to see in person once or twice a year.  The theme this year was Hollywood 1920 to 1955.   Yes!   Finally I can go to CoCo with no bustles, wigs, petticoats and polonaises.  I had six costumes, and they were all between $8 to $20!  Here is what I wore:     
Thursday Night Pool Party.   Five of us decided to go tiki themed. My friend Cat and I were in the LA fabric district several months ago, and we shared the cost of six yards of a cotton tiki print we found on sale at Island Fabrics (3 yards each).  I can’t remember the exact cost, but it was not more than $5 a yard (so about $15 for this dress).  Val got a similar Tiki fabric, and April and Joanne were lovely in blue and green tropical dresses. The theme of the pool party was Carmen Miranda, and there were plenty of ladies with "tutti fruiti" hats!

Friday Day. The Bottle Brigade!  This was a fun project that snowballed.   Joanne and I were shopping at Yardage Town one day and found the cutest retro bottle print.  There were two background colors, cream and pink.  I think this dress cost me around $20. Well, I was a natural for the pink and Joanne bought the cream.  I told Cat about it, and she said "I think I have that fabric too!"  Sure enough, she had it in the cream!  She also made hers up first and added some vintage blue rick rack.  She gave me some to put on my dress.  I then told April about our dresses and said she should get the pink to even us out.  She did!!  Here we are, a matched set.  (Note, after CoCo, a friend asked if she could be in the bottle brigade, as she found the same print in a turquoise background!  Yay!  Now we need one more blue to even us out.  Any volunteers?)  Cat made darling cigar box purses, and brought a ton of them up with us.  Look at our cute purses!

 Friday Evening.  Ice Cream Social.   I love Barbie dresses.  I have always wanted one with pink roses.  This dress fabric was only $1.50 a yard, so the whole dress only cost around $7.50! I lined the top with scraps, and wore a pink crinoline I got at a thrift store for $6 under it.  Joanne wore her lovely Regency gown to the social.

I used Vintage Vogue 1957 pattern number 2903.  Now, I tried to make this a week before leaving for CoCo, only working in the evenings.  I admit I rushed through it, and when I got to the sleeves, I messed up.  I was trying it on after sewing in the sleeves by pulling it over my head.  I got stuck.  Bad.   That dress would not go up or down, and my arms were straight up in the air.  I hollered HELP!!!   Jerry had to inch it up my arms to get me out of it.  Once out, after gasping for air, I threw it in the corner and decided not to fix the sleeves.  Five minutes later, I just ripped off the sleeves and made it sleeveless!  It fit fine without them.  Oh, and these cute pink shoes?  Joanne found them for me in a thrift store for $3.50.

Saturday Day.  Class Time.   Since I was wearing my pink crinoline under everything I was glad my class on Saturday was - making your own crinoline!  I wore my cherry dress, which was only $1.50 a yard so this dress was about $6.  This was retro 1952 Butterick pattern number 5033.   I wait until Butterick has their $1-2 pattern sales, and I just buy about 3-5 every sale.  I love pinup hair, so out came the Victory Rolls again along with a 40's hair net for the back of my head.  I actually popped into a 40's hair class just as they were discussing this very look!  This picture was taken in the hospitality suite which was decorated in a USO theme.  It was really cute!  Below I am with Val in her gorgeous Edwardian pink and white stripe Summer gown.

Saturday Night.  The Gala!   This is where I repurposed an old gown.   Years ago, I attended the Masquerade of Jareth Ball in a black and white gown.  (see picture) I was pondering what to wear walking down the red carpet Hollywood style.  I needed to be glamorous.  I have always loved the photograph of Audrey Hepburn in black gown and tiara, and decided I would take that modern “prom dress” and turn it into a 50's ball gown. So, I borrowed one of Val’s tiaras and Cat did the cutest updo for me, with a side curl down one side.

                                            On the skirt of the dress were white diagonal strips going around.  I took them all off. I bought $1 a yard black tulle, about 6 or 7 yards, and gathered it around the waist of the dress.  For the top layer I splurged and got a few yards of sparkle tulle at Walmart at $3 a yard.  I then softened the bodice with two layers of tulle.  The topper was my mother’s white fox stole. Bad Cindy.  But everyone at CoCo wears fur, so I made an exception.  Walking with Vanessa as Rita Hayworth in her black dress and white fox, and Cat as Jean Harlow in her beautiful white bias dress and stole, we were quite elegant.

Sunday Day.  Hollywood Awards Tea.   I love my tea dress.  I hit a sale at Frock You, a vintage clothing store here in San Diego.  It fit great and was only $23!   I got the shoes on clearance for $10 at Burlington that were a perfect color match.  Cat’s white flowers in my hair and pale pink gloves made a perfect tea outfit!

 You can see from my picture how tired I was by Sunday, but I love this dress!!!  Joanne looked lovely in Regency.  This was the perfect ending to a wonderful week at Costume College. 

This year I was the assistant tea mistress to Val, who did a great job planning this year's tea.  Next year's Costume College theme is Cavaliers with a touch of Pirate - and I will be tea mistress next year.  Gee, wonder what my tea theme will be????

I also had my Marie Antoinette tea gown in the costume display exhibit, so people were able to see it that didn’t go to Myth Masque ball!

I had a wonderful weekend, and enjoy reading other attendees’ blogs and stories.  You can read Val's blog at timetravelingincostume.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

For All You Dr. Who Fans Out There!

My family has been planning since last Comic Con to attend this year's Con as Dr. Who characters.  My brother Tom has a screen accurate 10th Doctor suit, coat, shoes, tie, glasses, sonic screwdriver and several other items unique to the Doctor. My nephew Brian has an awesome 11th Doctor suit.  My daughter Amy, with long red hair, naturally became Amy Pond!

My sister-in-law Kathy chose Rose Tyler, dressed in 50's from the episode The Idiot's Lantern.  A trip to the fabric district in Los Angeles yielded the pink sequined fabric and pink crepe backed satin needed to make the dress. This was a delayed Christmas present for her from me.  Kathy purchased the jacket, the shoes and made screen correct jewelry.  I used a strapless ballgown pattern for the dress, shortening the skirt length.  At the first fitting, we discovered it was too long waisted and the skirt was not full enough.  So much for that pattern!  I took the skirt off and shortened the bodice by about two inches.   I also cut wider panels and added them to the skirt to make it fuller.  A zipper down the back (real fun to do in sequins) and an underskirt with a tulle slip and it was done!  To finish the look, Kathy bought the pink sunglasses - and a blonde wig which she had styled just like Rose's hair!  Kathy is a natural brunette, so seeing her blonde was a bit weird but she pulled it off wonderfully.  A bit later she switched from the pink pumps to pink tennis shoes so she could walk the exhibit hall.   

 I decided about last October to be a Clockwork Droid from my favorite episode The Girl in the Fireplace. My brother is a wonderful maker of gadgets and electronic equipment (such as a steampunk time machine, a working R2D2(still in production) and other marvelous mechanical things!)   So for my birthday, he made me a screen accurate Droid weapon!  In case you don't have any idea what I am talking about, these Droids (and Dr. Who) have travelled to Madame du Pompadour's time where the episode takes place.  Therefore, they have disguised themselves as best they can as members of the French court.  Here is what they look like. 

The arm piece/weapon looks like this:  Poor Madame du P!  My brother made me the one on the left.  Luckily I already had a similar dress, as one of the first costume I ever made was a Marie Antoinette dress for a tea in her honor.  I added the long white gloves and jester mask, which my mom bought me from the internet and gave to me as a gift.  The wig I used was originally a Victorian wig, but I only wore it maybe twice as it is not really my color.  So out it came, and I ratted it all out.  Here are the results of our family effort.

Attacking Vyxsin from Amazing Race
The pattern for this dress is Simplicity 4092.  Very easy to make, but I think the pattern has been discontinued.  The fabric was inexpensive polyester, probably no more than $2 a yard.  The trim was made with dark brown ribbon which I got for 33 cents a yard.  It was long stitched down the center and then ruched.