I know many of our faire patrons love to come attired in garb for their days at the faire. Whether dressed as a noble, a pirate, a fairy, or a gypsy (or a kilted storm trooper), being in costume is a huge part of the fun for many of you! We have lots of great costume shoppes where you can purchase armor, bodices, hats, or boots. But if you’re a creator, you might enjoy building your own costume. Whether you sew it or buy it, you’ll want to look great and be comfortable. I surveyed our TRF Performance Company on tricks of the trade. These actors wear their costumes twelve hours a day, seventeen days a season, in weather from hot to cold, sunny to stormy. They’ve stayed in garb through it all. Here is some advice they have for you:
1. Create a costume in flexible layers. For example, make your sleeves detachable. In the example above, TRF’s Lord of the Dance is wearing a doublet with detachable sleeves- see the laces dangling at his shoulder? Yes, it’s more work to set in grommets for lacing sleeve to bodice or doublet, but it gives you the option of wearing less on a hot day. Layers also make a costume look complete.
2. Get good, accurate measurements! It’s preferable to have someone do the measurements for you so that you can stand up straight! You may want to use a worksheet like the one at the bottom of this post. Be sure to put your name and the date on it.
3. Sketch your dream costume, then assess your budget and schedule! Things are always going to take longer and cost more than you expect, so allow plenty of time. It’s no fun to come to faire exhausted after pulling an all night sewing session, or too broke to buy beer because your costume went over budget!
4. Make an inexpensive mock up first. When you’re dealing with expensive fabrics like silk or leather, it can be devastating to cut out the pattern pieces only to discover the sizing is wrong or you need practice on a technique such as ruching. Doing a first run on muslin to work out the kinks can save your sanity and your pocketbook!
5. From the fairy godmother, speaking about reinforcement: “Cable ties can be used as boning. If you are well-endowed, consider steel bones. Bone the edges of garments that will be laced up. Best practice is to put a bone at the finished edge, mark lacing holes, the another bone at the other side. This prevents the edges from buckling.
Reinforce any area where you will be making lacing holes or placing grommets. Good things to use are PRESHRUNK cotton canvas or belt backing. A little interfacing added to the fabric edges in addition to other reinforcing is helpful.”
6. If you make a mistake, stop and fix it. You ignore it at your own peril, it will usually come back to haunt you later in the construction process.
7. A tip from the Queen: “I’ve found that using hooks at the top of the bodice and at the waist help when someone is trying to lace you up. They just hold things together enough for the lacing to not be a struggle.”
8. A cotton hoop skirt is the way to go. It holds up better and it’s easier to keep clean. The best one I ever owned was cotton with ruffles sewn along the boning pockets, so the boning was disguised under the dress. I found it at a vintage shop in Galveston, but here’s a link to a similar one: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/160528353518?lpid=82&chn=ps
9. Reinforce seams, but carry safety pins in case of an emergency!
10. Wear wick away under armor. And anti-perspirant between your thighs (ever had rennie chafe?)
From our own Winnifred Sanderson: “Last but not least: Have fun! Making costumes is a lot of work, but there are ways to make it enjoyable, one of the easiest is to team up with a friend.” Keep watching for costuming posts. Soon, I will give tips for shining at the daily costume contest!
I found this lovely blog from a historical costume seamstress: