Category Archives: Costuming

Sewing in the Dark

I have been working on some thread covered buttons for my new outfit and have come to a bit of a revelation. I’ve found that sitting at a table in the dark with only a desk lamp for illumination has really helped me get better at making these damnable things. As I was sitting here this evening a painting I remember seeing in the past came to my mind. It is one where a woman is sewing at night using a pitcher of water as a magnifying glass. I always assumed that this was a seamstress trying to get some extra work done in the evening. But what if it were simply the fact that sewing this way is more efficient? Especially if one is working on fidgety little things like thread covered buttons or lace. I know that I have found this to be the case and that’s my revelation. Sewing in the dark like this has really helped me focus on what I am doing. It has also made it easier. I’m not constantly straining to see what I am doing. At some point I am going to have to do some research to see if this is the case. If you have any insight into this please leave a comment below.

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Diary of a 17th Century Dutch Outfit – The Proem

I am going to be teaching at a local Academy in November so that means that I just have to have a new outfit! I am embarrassed to say that it has been far too long since I treated myself to one.

Copyright – Rijksmuseum

 This dashing fellow is Lt. Lucas Jacobsz. Rotgans (detail from Thomas de Keyser’s The Militia Company of Captain Allaert Cloeck, 1632). He cuts a fine figure doesn’t he? His outfit, althouhg a bit dated in 1632, was popular in the Netherlands in the 1620’s and nowhere else it seems. I’ve always been particularly drawn to the style of this ensemble so I think that I will try my hand at making it.

As I stated in a previous post the first step is always to do some research.

Oh who am I kidding?

The first step for me is to do a lot of research!

I can’t help it.

I’m a research junkie.

Fortunately, being the junkie that I am, most of the research for the outfit has already been done so completing the outfit on time shouldn’t be a problem.

I won’t bore you with all the research now (that’s material for another post) but if you have any information about Lt. Rotgans’ outfit please feel free to leave a comment below.

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6 Tips to Make Sure Your Fist Garb Doesn’t Suck

My first SCA outfit was horrendous!

I joined the SCA in the Fall after Braveheart came out and really wanted to dress as a Highlander of the 1290’s just like Mel Gibson. I went out and bought a large chunk of ‘tartan’ material and long socks. I made a basic T-tunic shirt and topped it all off with combat boots that I had at the time. I looked just like one of Wallace’s men. The problem was that it was all wrong! I won’t dwell on the particulars of my errors but they did help lead me to the following tips for new members of any historic group.

1. Do some research

Back in ’95 the Internet wasn’t the wealth of information it is today. Nowadays you can get a pretty good idea of what you want to make within an hour or so of surfing.

WARNING: not everything you will find on the Internet is correct. Be wary of what you read. The more recent the information the better chance that it is going to be correct.

If you know what timeframe/geographic area you are interested in try to find a webpage for a Living History/ Re-enactment group that covers it. They will usually have guidelines and/or picture galleries on their sites.

2. Make sure the pattern is correct

This flows out of doing research. Nothing looks worse than an outfit that is put together incorrectly. Make sure the seams are in the right place, the waist is at the appropriate level, the sleeves aren’t too long/short, etc. There are some great books and suppliers of patterns out there.

For my first outfit I had cut the sleeves too short and wore the belted plaid too high. I looked like I had borrowed my little sister’s school uniform.

3. Make the natural selection

This should go without saying but avoid synthetic materials at all costs! Cotton is good. Linen and wool are better. Whichever group you are joining might also have restrictions/minimum standards on what you can make your outfit from.


Unless you are an experienced seamstress/tailor you should try to keep your first outfit simple. Don’t try to recreate Lord Muckitymuck’s Accension Day outfit on your first attempt. Keeping it simple also has the added benefit of keeping the costs down as well.

Keeping it simple will also save you from ruining that nice new Renaissance or Elizabethan outfit with meters of nasty, cheap, metallic trim.

5. Put your best foot forward

I know I’m probably channelling SJP here but nothing ruins an outfit faster than the wrong pair of shoes. Please no sneakers. This may cost you a bit more money but it will be worth it. The Internet has plenty of sites where you can get decent reproductions or where you can find instructions on how to convert modern shoes into passable pair of historic looking ones.

6. Cover up

People don’t wear enough hats. For most of history men and women covered their heads and you should too.

This is just some of the advice I wished I had been given before my first foray into historic costuming. Do you have a favourite piece of advice for new costumers? Maybe a picture or description of your first attempt? If you do please leave a comment below.

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