1850s · 1850s sewing · 1860s · 18th century · corset · Edwardian/Teens · Historic Costuming · Millinery · Personal · Regency era costuming · Underpinnings

Help Save YWU and Foundations Revealed!

Your Wardrobe Unlock'd: The Costume Maker's Companion

Foundation Revealed: The Corset Maker's Companion

Though less and less of my sewing these days is of the historic costuming nature (I’ve had to cut back on reenacting since moving to Portland), I still geek out over quilted petticoats, Edwardian foundation garments, and 19th century millinery –  and I know many of my readers here do, too! It is with this common interest that I implore you to become a member of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d and/or Foundations Revealed before they are forced to shut down due to financial issues.

Run by Cathy Hay, a professional costumer based in the UK, Your Wardrobe Unlock’d (YWU) and Foundations Revealed are the best resources out there for the historic costumer and corsetmaker, but they are at huge risk of not being available in the very near future.  Both websites pay professional and amateur costumers to write tutorials and in-depth articles covering all aspects of historic costuming and corset-making, and the way they do this is through monthly subscriptions (your first month is only $5.97). Sadly, their subscription numbers are not where they need to be in order to stay afloat, and that’s where we, as historic costumers and seamstresses, can help out. You can either subscribe to one or both to keep Cathy in business (you do get a better deal subscribing to both!)

Even if you’re not a costumer, there are some great articles about sewing in general, including Organizing Your Sewing Space, How to Fit Yourself (super helpful if you don’t have a sewing buddy to help with this!), and How to Sew with Ease and Pleasure.

For the vintage seamstress, Foundations Revealed has several articles and tutorials worth reading, including how to make several different styles of 1920s chemises, how to pattern and make your own seamed stocking with either a French or Cuban heel (!), and a tutorial on how to make a your own girdle (yes, you can make your own girdle! No more scouring the internets trying to find one that might fit!)

Thanks for reading my little internet PSA and I hope you will be inspired to subscribe to one or both of these fabulous websites! Seriously, there is no other resource like it out there on the web, and the patterns they have available for members alone are worth it. If you have a relevant historic costuming or sewing business, Cathy is also implementing an advertising program to help with generating additional revenue, and you can find more info about that here.

1850s · Reenacting · Reenactments

Queen Vickie’s Birthday and Black Chantilly Lace


I spent a lovely day in the 1850s up at Fort Nisqually for our annual May event, “Queen Victoria’s Birthday.” This year’s event was a little different, as we had an artisan fair, where reenactors were invited to sell some of their wares. I didn’t make too much on my costumes (Etsy, here I come!), but I did come home with this fabulous Victorian black chantilly lace jacket.

I call this my “Naughty Victorian” pose . . .

Isn’t it fantastic!?


It was Auntie B’s and she gave it to me on the condition that I would make her a new dress (of course I said yes).


I also tried on this fabulous cashmere repro shawl. I think I might just have to get it, look how well it goes with my outfit!

Of course, the day wasn’t all spent shopping and trying things on. My reenacting bestie, Nona, was able to make it, which was super fun. Here she is in the new chicken coop (isn’t it amazing with that woven roof!?), fearless among the fowl.


This is gonna sound really weird, but I kinda have a chicken phobia. I’m scared of being pecked, and their feet are hideous. I do like eggs, though, so I guess they have their value. 😉

Anyways, I’m headed down to Portland tomorrow for a vintage brunch, which I’m really looking forward to! I do need to get my beauty sleep, however. I tell ya, being this fabulous is exhausting!

1850s · 1850s sewing · 1860s · Dress · Finished! · Reenactments

The Spring Ball


Readers, yesterday was probably one of the best nights of my life. The combination of great food and friends, excellent conversation, amazing costumes, and fun historic dancing made the Spring Ball probably my favorite reenactment to date! I now understand what all those gaggles of giggly girls in Jane Austen novels are so excited about!


Anyways, I did finish the dress (and thank you all so much for your lovely comments while I was working on it this week!), although I was sewing up to about a half hour before I left. Making a reproduction ballgown in a week while also working full-time is something I definitely do not reccommend. But, it came out so fabulously and fulfilled a personal sewing goal of mine – to make a ballgown.


By far, the most time-consuming thing was the bertha (which is the front swoopy thing on the bodice). I decided to make a tucked bertha, as I’d read that this was the most common style during the project. And since I got so many questions from the ladies last evening on how I made this (surprisingly, the guys were not interested in this, lol) I thought I would try my best to describe it, as in my mad rush to finish this thing, I forgot to take progress pictures. Anyways, I basically made a bodice facing piece that would go on the outside (those familiar with modern sewing techniques have, no doubt, encountered facings). I cut this out of cotton batiste, and then sewed rows and rows of bias strips of fabric to this. I then sewed lace around the edge, and finally, pinched the whole thing in the CF, so it looks like I have two swoops going on. This whole process is very similar to what Katherine did on her Eugenie project ballgown, which you can read more about here. The results are lovely, but very time consuming, and was the most labor-intensive part of the whole dress.


Now is the time when I must confess that this is not actual silk. I just couldn’t justify the expense of $20/yard silk taffeta for a dress I will probably wear once a year. Instead, this is a really good fake iridescent silk that – get this – only cost me $5 for all 6 yards of it. It was an amazing thrifted find last year, and the lace on the dress (6 yards @ $3/yard) cost more than the dress! With thread and notions added in, I probably spent around $30 total on this project. Not bad!


As for the accessories, I wore my grandmother’s pearl necklace (from 1943! Eep!) and the head decoration was made by one of the gals at the museum. I won it in January at the silent auction (when I knew I would be going to the ball) and the white and pink coordinate perfectly with the dress.

My plate also matched my dress, so of course we had to get a picture of that!

A plate is an accessory, right?
A plate is an accessory, right?

Anyways, I came home exhausted last evening and am still recovering today (the whole moving the clocks forward thing is defintely not helping!). My feet seem to be healing, they were quite sore from having danced almost every dance last evening. There were a shortage of gents (as there usually are at these types of events), so some of us gals had to pir up. Which inevitably led to more silliness and fun. 😉


As for my next project? I’ll be working on a reproduction 1940s novelty dress, so skipping ahead about 100 years in terms of fashion history. Should be a fun little project, with way less fabric!

1850s · 1850s sewing · 1860s · Dress · In-Progress

Sneak Peak: Ballgown bodice


Just a quick look at my current project – a Civil War ballgown! I’ll be attending my first proper ball this Saturday and I hope to have this done in time, which is proving to be difficult with how crazy things have been lately. Anyways, I still have the skirt to hem and pleat, and most of the bodice to finish, including the pleated bertha (top drapey thing) which is taking way longer to finish than I expected (of course). 😉 Hope everyone is having a nice week!

1850s · Holidays · Reenacting · Reenactments

Candlelight Christmas, 1859

Stringing popcorn!
Stringing popcorn!

Yesterday evening was my last reenactment of the year, Christmas at Fort Steilacoom. This event was a “candlelight” one, meaning that it took place at night, was solely 1st person (so, we stayed in character), and the audience was ignored. Not in a rude way, of course! The purpose in that is to make the audience feel as if they have actually time-travelled and are glimpsing upon the past.

Anyways, I wore my red wool basque (along with several other layers of wool), and green plaid shawl.


I had a really lovely time, playing the Colonel’s engaged daughter. We spent the evening lighting the Christmas tree (with real candles!), singing carols, and reading a letter from my fake fiancee. Oh, and after the event was over and all the spectators had left, we had an impromptu dance party. Yep, that’s how us reenactors roll.

I finally got my arse in gear and got my gits made (I ran out of time to complete them for last weekend’s Christmas event). I made both homemade gingerbread loaves using this recipe (the packaging is also Martha Stewart he hee) and Victorian needlebooks using the instructions in Fanciful Utility.


Speaking of Victorian needlebooks, head on over to The Sewing Academy if you’re interested in either making your own or winning one in a giveaway!

Also, in a random little note, this is my 100th post here on anna in technicolor! I’m thinking a giveaway may be in order. 😉

1850s · Finished! · Millinery · Outerwear · Reenacting · Reenactments

A black straw bonnet for living history day

So, despite my self-imposed reenacting hiatus, I kinda slipped this weekend and attended living history day at Fort Steilacoom.

These things are like crack, I tell you!*

In my defense, they really needed more women to bring the fort to life, so I was one of the two women there (I played the daughter of the Colonel, the other gal played my mother).

One of the bedrooms at Fort Steilacoom.

Fort Steilacoom is a bit different from Fort Nisqually (where I usually reenact) in that it is an American military outpost, as opposed to a (mostly) recreated British trading post. Another difference is that Steilacoom is only open select days out of the year, and, as a result, severely underfunded. The museum is right next to a mental hospital (we often joke that when the patients there see us and remark that there are time travelers outside, they’re not joking), which completely gutted the area in 1872 that now there are only 4 of the original buildings standing.

Anyways, the heat in the building wasn’t working (no surprise there ;)) and it was quite chilly, so I wore my red wool basque, tan wool skirt, 3 petticoats, long johns, wool socks, and, of course, my cage crinoline (I really don’t get enough opporotunities to wear this!).

I also wore my new straw bonnet!

The straw form is from Vivian Murphy (aka the Mantua Maker), but I did trim (aka decorate) it! The lace is from Fine French Laces, and the curtain, ties, and bow are from a silk Ann Taylor blouse I thrifted. 😉

The only photo I have of me during the reenactment itself was one taken by Carol, this red-headed older lady that works with the historical association for the museum. She came back an hour later with an 8 1/2″ by 11″ print of it. When she gave it to me, she told me that I could use it for my “publicity.” Too cute!

*Full credit for the connection between reenacting and crack goes to Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz.

1850s · 1850s sewing · Dress · Finished! · Reenacting · Reenactments

Smoke gets in your eyes (aka the reenactment)

Well, I’m back from a full weekend in the 1850s! It’s amazing how pooped I was this morning. As I’ve mentioned before, this is the only event that I camp out at, and, as a result, it requires a lot more planning and prep work than the typical reenactments I go to. So, I expected some tiredness as a result of the fabulousness that was this weekend, but not as much as I got!

I actually made 3 new dresses: a wrapper (which is like a mid-19th century robe) which I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures of, a lavendar sheer dress:

and my blue print work dress:

The blue work dress definitely got the most wear, and I’m really glad that I went with the short sleeves as it was hotter than Hades this weekend.

I spent most of my time in it hauling wood, looking after twins, and cooking over an open fire, where I got a lot of smoke in my eyes (hence the title of this post, it’s not a reference to the Mad Men pilot!) and mouth and had coughing attacks. As a result, all of my clothes smell like campfire, and they’ve been airing out all day today.

But, it was all worth it to get to play with historic babies in costume!

Anyways, I’ve decided to take a break/hiatus from reenacting and historic costuming for a while, and focus on some other hobbies (like finally learning the ukelele that I got as a graduation gift back in June!). I’m just a bit burned out by reenacting right now, and am really dying to sew something that I can put a zipper in! Anybody else ever get burned out from a hobby before?

1850s · 1850s sewing · corset · Finished! · Underpinnings

New corset, and off to the reenactment!

I seem to be showing you guys a lot of corsetry this week, huh? 😉 Anyways, here are just a few quick photos of the corset I finished yesterday. And no, I didn’t start it this week. 😉 It’s the same one that I was working on last year when I posted this tutorial on how to take a pattern off of a corset. I finally got boning (from a very nice fellow reenactor!) that was the right size to be able to finish it. So, this week I finished it by putting in the remaining boning, inserting the grommets, sewing the twill tape along the edges, and lacing it up.

Also, a very big thanks to everyone who offered costume drama suggestions on this post last week! I’m still wading through them, although I did get David Copperfield. However, this week, I mostly sewed while watching my new obsession, Boardwalk Empire. I am just in love with the show’s 20s costumes, and Michael Pitt (who plays Jimmy Darmody) looks *so* much like my ex, that it’s both incredibly entertaining and slightly creepy at the same time. 😉 It was even creepier back in April when Michael Pitt was at the museum on one of my intern days filming a movie, and he sort of gave me this dead-on glare. Anyways . . . .

The corset is made from 2 layers of cotton sateen, which I think may have stretched during the making, as I had to take a tuck in on both sides to get it to fit better. And it’s not as rigid as my other corset, which I think may take some getting used to. But, overall I’m pleased with it and it’s nice to have another corset to use that doesn’t have boning popping out. 😉

Hope everybody has a lovely weekend! I’ll be offline all this weekend, as I’ll be attending my first Civil War Reenactment. I’ve done so much sewing and cooking and packing this week, that I’m looking forward to 2 days of sitting in the shade in costume with some fabulous people. 😉

1850s · 1850s sewing · Commission

Crafts of the Past Weekend

What I’ll be doing this weekend!

Just a quick little post to let you guys know that I’ve been selected as a “visiting artist” this weekend at Fort Nisqually for their new “Crafts of the Past” program. Basically, I’m getting paid to sit around in period costume, sew, and chat with the public about my sewing. How awesome is that!? Anyways, if you’re gonna be in the Tacoma-region this weekend, come say “hi!” You can read more about the event here. The fort did a really lovely write-up about me, and I’m so tickled by it and humbled by this opporotunity I’ve been presented with.

Also, there are still lots of items available in my Spring Cleaning Blog Sale! All the wool fabric is gone, but there’s a ton of patterns, reenacting and vintage clothing, and other fabrics available.

Alright, have a lovely weekend, everybody!

1850s · 1850s sewing · Dress · Finished! · Reenacting · Reenactments

Reenactment: Queen Victoria’s Birthday Celebration

This past weekend was our May reenactment, Queen Victoria’s Birthday! I always look forward to this reenactment – the ladies are so well dressed, and it’s a chance to celebrate the refinements of the British Empire out in the Pacific Northwest.

I finished the little girl’s dress just in time for this event! Despite it being a little too big in the bodice (although for a growing girl that’s ok since she’ll be able to grow into it), I really like how it turned out and Janelle just loved it. She actually told me that she would wear it for every single reenactment she attends at the fort (and then I quickly replied that she didn’t have to wear it when it was really hot since it’s made out of wool).

Janelle in the new dress I made her. Look at her little model pose! I’m definitely having a good influence on her.

So, we both wore plaid Pendleton wool dresses during the day, and weren’t too hot (luckily!)

I also had a first-person presentation in the afternoon (for those non-reenactors, first-person is sort of like method acting where you become the character and speak as them) since I was portraying the wife of the Chief Factor (esentially a manager) of the fort. Despite being a “reenactor” for several years, I don’t necessarily consider myself an “actor” (or, actress). So, delivering a monologue as someone else was slightly nerve-wrecking, but luckily I had notes to read off of (since, despite being a history major, I’m really awful at memorizing lines).

My reenacting bestie, Nona, was also able to make it to the event and we had so much fun catching up!

Nona playing croquet. Isn’t her outfit so fabulous!? I definitely need a red dress now.

Oh, and finally, something really interesting happened last week. I’m currently in the midst of writing a 20-page research paper on Living History and Reenacting for my Senior History Seminar class (which partially explains my lack of blogging). Anyways, I was going through one of the books entitled “Living History Museums an Historic Sites in the United States” and decided to see what they said about fort Nisqually under the “Trading Posts” section. Lo and behold, a photo of Nona and I! I mean, how often does that happen – doing research for a paper and discovering a photo of yourself in one of your source materials!?

I brought the book with me to the reenactment, and of course Nona and I had to get a photo of ourselves with it!

Next month’s reenactment is a 19th century cooking contest and I’m already scheming up what to make after coming in 4th last year. I’ll be entering solo and cooking over an open fire all by myself for the first time (since Nona will be off to Indonesia for the month for a fabulous adventure), so of course a new dress is in order! I’m thinking something more working-class with a crazy mid-19th century printed fabric. 😉