Preparing costumes for Dickens Fair 2014

I’m a little bit of a costuming nerd. Maybe an intermediate nerd. What started with historically accurate Halloween costumes in grade school turned into working at Renaissance Faire in high school, and Victorian costuming for Dickens Christmas Fair soon after that. Having a mother who could plan and sew a costume with a bit of research helped, and I inherited her sewing machines, fabric, and books along with some clever costuming mojo.

I dragged my kids to Medieval, Renaissance, Victorian, and Civil War events over the years. My daughter loved it, later wearing my old costumes and looking fabulous in them. My son, not so much. He still refuses to even talk about it. This morning he informed me that he hates safety pins.

Trying out the new petticoat with old corset and hoop skirt. There are safety pins involved. Lots of safety pins.
Trying out the new petticoat with old corset and hoop skirt (2013). There are safety pins involved. Lots of safety pins.

Thomas isn’t much of a fan, either, but I did talk him into going to a Victorian ball with me last year, and we had planned to attend Dickens Fair in San Francisco. Unfortunately those plans derailed when I ended up in the Emergency Room of a local hospital instead. But hey ho! things worked out in the end.

skirt_daisy_cindy Last night I took out my old costume and tried it on over my jeans and a t-shirt, then pulled it all off to take some measurements and see what needed to be fixed on the skirt and petticoats. While my back was turned, the girls decided to take a nap.

dickens2The green velvet skirt front is from my very first Renaissance Faire costume… circa 1987. It’s been creatively reused a few times since then. The back part is a large square of plaid Pendleton wool (similar to this one), possibly as old as the velvet, that had been in my mother’s stash until she died. The wool is gorgeous stuff and flows beautifully when I dance. Not that I get to dance much. Thomas doesn’t like dancing.

Yes, I’m teasing you, dear. Prove me wrong.

Today I’m fabricating some ruffles from plain black scrap kimono silk, because I can’t costume without throwing in SOMETHING kimono-related. And guess what I’m using for a small bum roll/mini bustle? And obi makura, of course. One of those little tie-on pillows that holds up the taiko drum shape of an obi. If I don’t find a reasonably Victorian handbag to use, I might even make one from some old obi fabric, but I’m afraid that might clash with the otherwise Scottish theme of the costume.

Well, maybe. We’ll see.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Carol Silver says:

    I’m trying to make a costume to attend my first Dickens Christmas Fair. I saw your skirt and wondered what pattern you used. I found some beautiful curtain panels I’d like to use for my skirt. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Carol,

      No pattern at all! I improvise a LOT of my costumes. If you’re in the Bay Area and would like to come by and browse through my costume library and talk about ideas, I’ll be available in early November for a Costume Coffee Klatch. How does that sound?

      Carol Z

      1. Carol Silver says:

        Hi Carol Z,
        Thanks for the invite, wish I lived closer, but I live in Santa Clarita (So CA) but on several occasions I get to join my husband for work in No CA. In December my husband is going to be working at “The Tech” in San Jose to work on their IMAX projector, so I suggested we extend our visit to attend the Dickens Fair. Right now I’m working on making a skirt from curtain panels, which I hope will look similar to the skirt you posted. I’m very much into Steampunk, but I’m hoping to pull off a good combination of the two styles for this venue. Open to any suggestions.Thanks again for your correspondence.
        Carol S.

      2. In that case, I’d say use the resources listed on the Dickens Fair site for a start. They are pretty basic, but they are helpful!

        Pinterest is a treasure trove of inspiration. Here’s a board I created for my Dickens costume research:

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