Thursday, October 17, 2013

Elegant Lady's Closet Drawstring Gown Review

If you are in a time crunch but still want something new to wear for the Georgian picnic, I can highly recommend's Elegant Lady's Closet pattern, specifically the drawstring gown. I've made it five times now, and one of those times I made it in a week, with a newborn baby.

The thing I love the most about this pattern (aside from its sheer simplicity) is its very forgiving design. The drawstring aspect to it allows for a lot of fluctuation in weight of the wearer, so precise fitting isn't really necessary. This trait also makes it ideal as a loaner when you want to entice friends along on a costumed adventure.

Additionally, if you wear a very "lifting" bra or good fitting sports bra, you can get a decent facsimile of the correct silhouette for the Regency period. I've totally cheated in this way, especially when I still had my little nursling. Ideally, of course, I prefer Regency short stays to get the perfect silhouette. However, if you're in a rush or want to do a quick one-off, then go for it. I also have worn this dress with a long, modern slip, and another time with a Victorian petticoat that I just hiked up to my under-bust with safety-pinned shoulder straps to hold it in position.

As for the pattern itself, the directions are clear and easy to follow, with useful illustrations. I’m a very visual learner, so the illustrations were key. Also, because her patterns are so often used, there are a lot of very useful resources on her website, like tutorials, videos, and other extensive tips and tricks.

Here are the samples that I myself have made…

First run through was in a light weight pink cotton:

Second was the one I put together super quickly, soon after my son was born. This one has an elastic neckline, which was done for the ease of nursing my little one:

And a full length shot:

Third was as a Christmas gift for my niece:

An action shot:

On the fourth go around, I took liberties and turned it into a chemise dress out of a very fine cotton voile. For this one, I simply added extra fabric to the front (bodice and skirt) and extra fabric to the skirt in the back to get the look I wanted.

And the fifth and most recent rendition, I followed a tutorial done by Mme. du Jards Atelier and made a spencer.

I've only made the dress with the long sleeves and the elbow length sleeves, but it also comes with a pattern for short puffy sleeves for another variation.

I've definitely gotten great use from this pattern, and highly recommend it to the beginning costumer for a great start in the Regency era. I also would recommend it to the more experienced costumer who is looking for a quick, simple gown in an era that they may not have done.

UPDATE 3/23/15:
Since writing this review, I've made it two more times. This one (#6) is modified into a drop front gown:

And this one (#7), on the other hand, is made pretty much exactly to pattern specs, using the short puff sleeves (I'm wearing the white chemise gown underneath):

UPDATE 1/31/2017

I've made it again, hah! It's just TOOO easy. This one (#8) was for the 2015 Georgian Picnic and I wanted a new dress:

And I made another spencerino (#9) for a fabric challenge:

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 2013 Sewing and Pattern Swap Day

This past Sunday the DFWCG hosted a sewing and pattern swap day at the Central Market in Dallas.  We had a nice turnout of some fun and talkative ladies.  

While only one person in the group actually did any pattern tracing, we had quite an outpouring of patterns to choose to trace from and drool over.  And we even had an actual vintage pattern giveaway due to the generosity of Lori who was cleaning out patterns that once belonged to her mother.  I didn't see what everybody else got, but I know the ones I took home with me are Fabulous and I can't wait to catalog them!

In addition to the pattern theme of the day, we also had a grommet press on hand and we put that thing to work!  

In all of this pattern and knowledge sharing, we discussed how we all tend to have a problem with remembering what patterns we have at home and how fabric store pattern sales end up resulting in us purchasing duplicates by accident.  Some of our more techy folks have put together their own databases.  But we also learned that there is something much more simple out there.  It's a nifty new App that can be used to catalog all of our patterns (among other things) called Springpad.  Go forth and download!  Then tell us how you are using your Springpad.

Our next guild event is the Business Meeting on Sept 7 at the Dallas Central Market at 2pm, then on Sept 21 & 22nd, we will meet up at the Antique Elegance show for some shopping.  More details about what time and where exactly we'll meet up will be forthcoming, just keep a lookout on our Facebook and Yahoo e-mailing list for those announcements.

A Costumer Goes to Gettysburg, by Coleen Swafford

I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. I want to share with you some of my experiences leading up to the event, the event, and following it.


Now I thought I was pretty well informed about Civil War clothing and accessories. I mean I had researched and even presented a class on them to docents at a local historic village. But then I joined several forums a few months prior to the event and I was schooled.
  1. Costume is a bad word. Most of the people participating in this hobby (especially in the East) are hard core. These are their “clothes”. “Costume” denotes all sorts of horrible things such as polyester, zippers, and sunglasses. In other words “farby”. Clothing guildelines were published for this event several months in advances but the real 411 came from the participants themselves.
  2. If you ask for an opinion, be prepared to get one. More than once I witnessed as na├»ve people posted pictures of something they planned to wear and ask for opinions. They were then hurt when someone told them they needed more petticoats or the pattern they selected was wrong. I also found it interesting that the experts never posted pictures of themselves. 
  3. The difference between a hat and a bonnet. And yes Virginia, there is a difference. When I first joined the forums there were a number of “experts” stating that older women HAD to wear either fancy bonnets or slat bonnets. Being that I am not fond of bonnets myself, I was thrilled when someone produced several CDVs of older women wearing hats of various shapes and sizes (I love documentation). And while I am on the subject of head coverings, I will pass on what I learned several years ago about nets. A lady I volunteered with informed me never to use the word “snood”. That was for renn faires and 1940s. A Civil War lady wore a hair net. It was not as thick as a snood and usually the same color as your hair. This year I actually found instructions for creating a period appropriate hair net. Results are below. 


I could comment about the organization of this event but this article is about costuming so I’ll stick to that. Like most large events, you find the experts, the ones who are learning and almost there, the beginners, and those who don’t care.

Experts – At this event, they set up a civilian town in the middle of the battlefield (The Battle of Gettysburg was fought around and through the town of Gettysburg). To become a resident of this town, you had to submit a photo of your clothing and description of your persona. Being the insecure person I am, I figured I wouldn’t meet their standards and would just stay with my husband’s unit. However, on Friday, I had the chance to have a long talk with the village’s mayor. We were standing by a fence waiting for a battle to begin. I was explaining to a companion about needing to be approved to be a resident of “Gettysburg” and I told the mayor that I aspired to that. The mayor stepped back and looked me over from head to toe and told me that what I was wearing would have passed except for my glasses. I was wearing one of my work dresses with an apron and bonnet. I knew my glasses wouldn’t pass as I had opted to my new ones as opposed to my old wire frames. I was thrilled. I passed muster! That was as important to me as winning a costume contest.

One of the “experts” attending was Kay Gagney. This lady has designed civil war patterns for Simplicity. They held a fashion show and she presented several dresses she had made from Godey’s fashion prints and explained the use of each dress and when and where it was worn. I volunteered as photographer and was allowed on the stage with these masterpieces in order to photograph them. They were truly impressive.

Those Trying – I generally put myself in this class but a better example was the lady camped next to us. She was an older lady and wore a print skirt, white blouse and apron. She was also wearing a snood, tennis shoes and sunglasses. She was with me when I talked to the mayor and was very interested in his description of correct costumes. She had never been told what was right and what was wrong. I was sure that her impression would improve in the future.

Newbies – I feel sorry for newbies who do not have someone to mentor them in what is right and are left to the examples of Hollywood and the whims of unscrupulous sutlers. I watched one sutler swear up and down that the pink skirt and white blouse she was selling to a lady were totally accurate. I also heard a story of a soldier who bought what he was told was a “stainless steel” canteen. When his commander saw it, he informed him that it was a cheap tin one and accompanied him back to the sutler to get what he had paid for.

Those Who Don’t Care – My daughter’s friend fell into this category. She was there with her father and brother. She conceded to wearing a long skirt and white blouse but that was it. She wore shorts under her skirt and tennis shoes. And still she was better than the spouses who wore tank tops and shorts in military camp.

Post Event

One thing every successful reenactor or costumer knows is to “go with the flow”. You can’t control everything, especially the weather. You plan for contingencies and “make do”. Thus, I did not get to wear my new ball gown. It was raining, the dance was in an open sided tent and there were several inches of mud everywhere. I did get to wear the new day dress I made to the Fashion Show.The highlight of the week for me had nothing to do with fashion or costumes. It was watching the final battle, Pickett’s Charge. I found a spot to watch not far from the line of canon. It is impossible to describe: feeling the canon fire, smelling the black powder, watching 10,000 reenactors on the field and realizing that this was only a hint of the real thing. It made up for heat, rain, mud, ticks, and everything else.

Will I continue to do this with my husband? You betcha. I’ve already ordered black wool to make a dress for memorial ceremonies.

- Coleen Swafford

Monday, May 20, 2013

Time is up for rooms at the CLW 2013 Host Hotel

Please note that the Crowne Plaza hotel is now Completely Sold Out!

If you were still waiting to get a room at the hotel, I need you to contact me immediately so I can make a list for a neighboring hotel. We have been contacted about a discounted rate if we have several people who still need rooms. Please do not wait until the last minute to be put on the list as the event taking over the Crowne Plaza is potentially going to spill over to some of the other neighboring hotels as well.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Costumers' Lost Weekend 2013 Hotel Update - Very Important!

This last week has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.  We've had some great announcements and some surprises.  Thankfully though, even the surprises already had contingency plans formulating due to word getting around about what we are doing and other businesses wanting to get involved.  I hope to be able to make more exciting announcements in a week or so, but for right now, the most important business involves hotel room reservations at our host hotel, the Crowne Plaza.

As you all know, we were given a very nicely discounted rate for our event attendees to encourage overnight stay at the hotel.  What you may not know is that we were only guaranteed a small number of rooms at that rate as a complimentary gesture.  These rooms are not bound by contract.

According to my contacts at Crowne Plaza, we no longer have the luxury of waiting until June to reserve our sleeping space in the hotel.  We will be sharing the hotel with a large event which has reserved all the remaining space.  As such, once our rooms in our complimentary block are sold, there will be no more discounted rooms available.  In addition, there may very well be no rooms available at the Crowne Plaza at all.  And if that wasn't enough, because our room block is complimentary and not contracted (contracted room blocks mean the DFWCG guarantees the purchase of that number of rooms and is responsible for paying for the rooms not rented in the block), we run a risk of having our complimentary room block sold out from under us the closer it gets to our event date.

Have you made your reservations yet?

If you have not made your reservations yet, please be aware of the following changes:

  • June 7, 2013 is still the final deadline for reservations on the discount code DCG.  After this deadline there will be no more rooms given out at a discount.  
  • May 15, 2013 is a new deadline for a guarantee for our rooms in the discounted block.  After May 15th, the Crowne Plaza may exercise their right to sell rooms in our block to people paying full price for the other event.  There is no guarantee that they will or won't do this, but please be aware it may happen.
  • The Friday night complimentary block was much smaller and is already sold out.
  • Once we sell out our rooms in the complimentary block, we are not guaranteed to be able to acquire any more rooms, even at the full price rate.
  • Full price rate is $139-$159
When making your reservations, if you have trouble with reserving over the internet, please call the front desk directly at 972-980-8877.  If you still have trouble reserving a room, request to be transferred to Priscilla Johnson.  Then, please e-mail me to be put on a reservations waiting list.  I will then respond to you with information for the contingency plan I am working on now at the Residence Inn next door.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

You asked for it, we got it!

When Costumers' Lost Weekend began as tiny hope and then developed into determination, the CLW committee put out a survey of the kinds of panels our potential attendees wanted to attend.  Far and above the other requests, hat making panels were the popular choice.  Not just one kind of hat panel, but several kinds of hat panels requested several times over.  Unfortunately we couldn't make a hat panel happen last year.  But this year we have delivered!

Sharon Sullivan of Dream Hats fame has graciously agreed to teach us the basics of buckram hat blocking.  If you've attended All-Con, or Anime Fest, or Fen Con in Dallas, then you've likely seen Sharon's work in person.  You can also see her hats year around at Dallas Pin Up in Deep Ellum.

Follow her Facebook page for all sorts of hat inspiration photos and also for pictures of her adorable cats.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Costumers' Lost Weekend 2013 Parties

One of the most fun parts of Costumers' Last Weekend is getting to know our fellow costumers.  Several of us already know one another from regular local events, but there are many folks who come and go from our events who we are just getting to know, or who are visiting the area and we may only get to see once per year.  Socializing and networking with one another is such an important part of being a part of a supportive creative community.

This year instead of hosting one nice evening party and a Sunday brunch, we are adding on another social activity designed specifically for us to casually get to know one another before the panels get started on Saturday and we're hustling back and forth between our rooms and the class area.  This is something we almost did last year, but we weren't sure how many people would be staying in the hotel on Friday night.  At this time, we are planning to host this get together in the hotel bar area downstairs.  However, if it turns out that we were able to secure the hospitality suite for Friday night, we will host the gathering there.  Keep an eye out on our schedule to see what time we expect to start mingling on Friday night.  You don't have to be staying in the hotel in order to attend and there is no RSVP.  Just show up whenever and however you are and have a good time.  We'll have board games out to play and I imagine some of us will be crafting as well.

One of our favorite events from last year was our Saturday evening Mourning Party.  Our costumers really pulled out all the stops for a grandly dressed party of happy faced "mourners".  For 2013, we really weren't sure how we could top that party.  But in looking back all these years over our original requests for parties that we could never afford to throw, one request kept jumping out at us - a Masquerade Ball.  So we said, "why not?"  We already had offers for a few decorations, so again, "why not?"

This year we will be adding the Hospitality Suite across the hall from Maple to the party area on Saturday evening.  That should give us more space and a better separation of the party theme areas.  We're adding a Silent Auction and we'll have light snacks (in the Hospitality Suite Only).  We're also bringing back the craft table where we'll have some little masks to decorate while we socialize.  And of course, our photo area will be returning again so we can all get wonderful pictures of our outfits.  I can't wait to see what everyone wears for this!!!

If you have any decorations you would like to loan to the Masquerade Party, please contact Maggie.  All decorations will need to be dropped off prior to 5pm on Saturday and you will be expected to take them back with you no later than Sunday at Noon.

Parties summary:

Friday evening - Friday Night Meet & Greet
Saturday evening - Masquerade Party
Sunday morning - Brunch on the Orient Express (RSVP coming soon)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

No Rain on Our Parade


It was a close call, but we lucked out and the thunderstorms rolled in earlier than was originally predicted.  We were afraid we might have to rain check our Picnic with the Pixies, but by 10am we were just dealing with cloudy skies and the occasional sprinkle.

Unfortunately, the weather brought in all kinds of nasties that prevented many of our usual suspects from attending, but we had quite a few new faces joining us and so the turnout was quite good in spite of missing our regular friends.

This was our first time hosting an event at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens.  Since we have active members from all the far flung reaches of the DFW Metroplex, we are always looking for event locations that are easier to get to for everyone.  I am so happy that we have found this garden!  It is central to most of our active members, it's a Beautiful spot, it's Free, we can bring our own food in, and as an added bonus it is dog friendly.  In fact, we enjoyed this location so much that we are contemplating making it a regular site for casual sewing and photo social picnics.

The place in the gardens we chose to use for our picnic was where the covered pavilion is located.  It is a lovely little pavilion with stone seating and a nice podium table where we could pile up all of our food.  Speaking of food, we had quite the spread to munch on!  Pretty much everyone brought something good to eat.  We even had a full gluten-free section as one of out attendees had special food requirements.

At a All-Con this March, we reconnected with some friends in the Ball Jointed Doll community.  They were interested in the idea of bringing their elven and pixie dolls to the picnic to photograph with us.  I'm glad they were able to make it out.

Those sweet dolls were so much fun to play with!  And I understand that the dolls had as much fun posing and playing as we did.

The photo ops weren't just reserved for the dolls.  A few of our attendees worked on their Regency period posing as outlined in Scene in the Past's blog about Regency poses.

As usual, we turned out to be quite a photogenic bunch!

Here's what other attendees had to say about our picnic.

Scene in the Past

All photos courtesy P. Crandall Polk and Jennifer Thompson.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Costumers' Lost Weekend 2013 Panels

One of the best parts of our Costumers' Lost Weekend is that we can finally get together and learn things from one another via our  panels.  This year is going to be even better with our Sunday workshops.

Panelists are beginning to think about joining us at CLW in the Summer.  One thing they have all asked the Committee is "what kind of panel would you like?"  Well, that is my question to you.  If there is a certain kind of panel you would like to see presented, please let us know and we will see if we can find someone who is able to present it.

CLW Panel Survey

And if you have a panel that you would like to present to our attendees, please go ahead and submit your application.  If by chance we do receive more applications than time to present, we will hold the extras for the following year, or see if we can add a class day to our Guild Calendar.

CLW 2013 Panelist Application

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Picnic with the Pixies

If you follow the going's on of the DFWCG, you may have noticed that we sure do love a good outdoor picnic.  For several years now, our Georgian Picnic in the Fall has been quite the success. When we organized our first Georgian Picnic in 2009, we had no idea that it would be so successful that it would gain a permanent place in our event calendar.

This spring, we have decided to double up on our picnic fun.  On March 23, 2013 we will be gathering at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens to have a Picnic with the Pixies.

Eventbrite - Picnic with the Pixies

Picnic with the Pixies is an outdoor fantasy costumed event for all ages.  We plan on playing some fun games and since it is a picnic, feel free to bring some food to munch on.  And as always, costumes are encouraged, but not required for participation.  

In case you missed our fabulous 2012 Georgian Picnic, many of our atteendees wrote recaps of the event:

Festive Attyre

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia's Video

Maggie of Padawain's Guide and The Costumer's Guide to Movie Costumes

The Aristocrat

We survived the Titanic (well, most of us!)

The DFW Costumers Guild donned their Edwardian finery and adventured to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History's Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. Our boarding date was Saturday, January 12th and all but one of our passengers survived the excursion. 

We were a spiffy group and enjoyed our boarding experience. We later adjourned to La Madeleine’s for refreshments.

Look for our next outing! We'll be joining a Safari to the wilds at the Fort Worth Zoo on Saturday, February 23rd!