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 · 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!

1860s · Reenacting · Reenactments

First Civil War Reenactment AAR

Children learning about history!

I’m back from my first Civil War reenactment! It was an incredibly interesting experience, watching the battle and hearing and seeing so many muskets and cannons go off. The field that the reenactment was held in was just so gorgeous and quaint, with an antique barn (where a fashion show was held!).

Anyways, I spent my time in the Confederate camp, mostly in the Dressmaker’s Shop, working on a commission:

I wore my tan wool skirt (which was totally a mistake with the muggy weather we had) and what’s called a “whitewaist,” which is a sheer cotton bodice that was fashionable in the early 1860s. I made this whitewaist back in 2008, but since I only do about one late 1850s/early 1860s event per year, it doesn’t get much wear.

I also planned with “Historic Baby” (aka Alanna) who is the daughter of a reenacting friend from Oregon.

And of course, special thanks to my fake auntie for taking me along with her!

Aren’t her accessories just fabulous!?

All in all, I’m really glad I went and wouldn’t mind going back again next year. I met some incredibly lovely people and had a fabulous time. That being said, Civil War Reenacting just isn’t for me. I realized this weekend that I like reenacting in a historic house setting where the buildings are already there. Because there were no actual Civil War battles here in WA state, the reenactments inevitably have to involve encampments with tents. And it’s just amazing the time and effort that goes into finding antique and reproduction items to use in a camp and then set everything up and take it all down. I have great respect for Civil War reeanctors in this regard.  But, just having to show up wearing a costume at a historic site that has the bildings there is just more appealing for this young reenactress on a budget. 😉

Alright, back to sewing. I have 2 commissions I need to finish this week, and then I can finally sew things for myself. Look forward to that! 😉

1860s · Musings

Things I learned from watching Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter


Sewing progress has been slow and tedious over here at Chez Anna (more about that later this week), so I took a break yesterday (with my fake auntie!) to go see a very interesting film that’s just come out, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. The history lessons I learned from this were astounding, that I just had to share!

  • Abe Lincoln’s mom died from a vampire bite. Thus, he became a vampire hunter.
  • Before she was married, Mary Todd did her own shopping. At the general store. In a ballgown.
  • People in Springfield in the 1830s were wearing clothing styles of the 1850s. They were *that* fashion-forward. 😉
  • Abe & Mary Todd only had 1 son, Willie…. He was, of course, killed by a vampire, which is why Mary Todd fled the White House.
  •  After Mary Todd fled the White House, she went to the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, so that she could personally kill the vampire that had killed her son. Also, she was never crazy or fat, but quite sane and thin, despite being married to a vampire killer.
  • Oh, and all of the Confederates were vampires. Every single one. Thus, all of the silver in the Union had to be confiscated in order to make weapons to destroy them.

Anyways, despite lots of a few historical inaccuracies, I actually really liked the film. It was incredibly entertaining to see our 16th president hunt vampires by twirling around an axe, and a nice change of pace from all the genteel Jane Austen costume dramas I’ve been watching lately (and if you’re a fan of costume dramas, too, then you must check this out. Trust me, you won’t regret it). 😉