“The Borgias” gowns – photos

It occurs to me that I never posted any photos of me actually wearing my Borgias-inspired gown from last Halloween.  That was mainly because the few photos I did get were really pretty bad.  Since I’ve now got two of these gowns to choose from (and my favorite new hairpiece, the half-wig), I threw them on today and did an impromptu photo shoot.

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We just went to a nearby small park for some not-really-fancy nature pics.


This is my favorite photo, for some reason.  I think I was trying to show off my shoes.  I wore my new red velvet 18th century heels, which aren’t even close to period accurate but I wanted to break them in a little.  I look super washed-out in this pic.

This gown needs some definite reworking.  I was in a hurry when I made it because I think it was like four days to Halloween, so I didn’t rework any of the original problems with the fit, which are mainly in the bodice.  It’s too long and too wide, for one, and there’s no structure to it.  I think putting an entirely new bodice on this dress would make it pretty amazing, but we’ll see if I ever get to it.

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My “Halloween Borgias” gown.  I’m really in love with this gown, despite its still not being quite finished.  It fits better than the other, for one.  That’s because I drafted the pattern better and structured it with canvas and boning.  I’ll cover that some more in the construction post for this gown, eventually.

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Some different views of the dress, and me showing off my shoes again – they match!

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And here’s me sitting on a step.  Hmm don’t I look excited.

There’s almost nothing I’m dissatisfied with about this gown – the only thing is the upper sleeves, which I think could have been constructed better in a different way.  It needs some more bedazzling (I never did get around to those pearls and trim I mentioned) but even if I don’t finish it, I like it the way it is.


In other news: I did finish my red Camellia petticoat today, as I hoped!  I need to take pictures and then I’ll have that in a post, and I’m starting on the dresses tomorrow.  Also, I’m currently (finally) in the process of getting some of my costumes up in my Etsy store, to clear up some space in my closet.


The Borgias, take two – first photos

I don’t know why Halloween makes me long for Renaissance fashion.  I did a Borgias-inspired gown last year, and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with it – for one thing, it wasn’t very Halloween-y; it was pink and blue.  I tried really hard to resist temptation to even make a Halloween costume this year, because I’m really behind on other projects as it is, but I gave in and started on one this week.  Here are some preemptive pics of the almost-finished product.

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I’ll cover the construction in the next post, but it basically went the same as my costume from last year.  The first two pics are before the sleeves went on, and I threw on my Ever After chemise underneath just to see how it looked (it was a tight squeeze, too.)  I’ve got some finishing touches to get done tonight – more trim and more pearls on the sleeves – but it’s essentially finished!  Not bad for ~3 days of work.

“The Borgias” – part two

There’s nothing like a deadline to create serious inspiration!  The problem I have a lot of the time with motivation is that I’m super-motivated for the first day, or two, or three when I start a project… and if I don’t finish the entire thing within that time, I completely lose it.  However, I do love to work against a deadline.  Maybe that’s why this costume came together so nicely for me!

So, at last post, my Borgias inspired gown (which I’ve taken to calling the “cotton candy” dress, because the color scheme is so garish XD) was in need of sleeves.  They were a pretty easy build.  I drafted a sleeve pattern for a full-length sleeve, which I made up of my own design because I didn’t find any pictures of any sleeves that I particularly liked, and would have enough fabric for.  I had a scant half yard of the blue taffeta for both sleeves.  Yikes!  They are kind of inspired by the sleeves on the dark burgundy velvet dress that Danielle wears at the end of Ever after (did I mention it’s my favorite?), the ones with the gold-thread quilting.  Plus, it is November in Wisconsin, so I figured that quilted sleeves might give the costume some extra warmth where it would surely be needed.


the sleeve I drafted.  I played around with the shape a bit until I got what I wanted, which was a straight sleeve that would tie to the arm hole of the gown, with a very pointed part at the shoulder.


quilting!  yeeergh!  I admire people who quilt, because I do not have the patience for it.  Just doing these two sleeves was enough for me.  I didn’t use a grid or any kind of marks for my design, I just eyeballed it, so it came out not exactly perfect.  But I think it lends a handmade feel to it.  I didn’t want it to be too perfect.



The finished sleeves, inside and out.  I slashed the elbows because i liked the look of it, and bound all the edges with the scraps of the blue taffeta that were left (and believe me, I was down to bits and pieces by the end.)  The “peekaboo” fabric is some white crepe-y jersey stuff that I found in a box in my closet.  It’s kind of scratchy and definitely not period accurate, but it had the right look of what I wanted.  Rather than making full sleeves, I just tacked some pieces on to the holes, in true theater fashion.  For one, I didn’t have much of the fabric, but also the sleeves were kind of a tight fit to begin with and I didn’t think a whole bulky sleeve would fit well in there.


This was the inside of the bodice when all was said and done.  I used another panel of the crepe jersey, with a faux-lacing of silver cord on the front of the bodice.  However, I don’t have a picture of that.  The whole thing doesn’t look too pretty from the inside, but hey, I was short on time.

All that was left was to sew some eyelets up the back, and hem the darn thing, all of which I did this morning when I got home from work at 5 a.m.  (Last-minute sewing is the only type of sewing!)  Then, when I got up this afternoon, I managed to whip together a kind of short cape to wear with the gown, because it was, indeed, quite cold outside today.  I’ll have some pictures of me wearing the whole ensemble in the next post.

Since it’s November (novel month!) I’ll be taking a break from sewing.  But I’d like to revisit this costume again when I have some spare time.  For one, I’d like to sturdy up all those tacked-on pieces, or maybe change the design of how I did it.  Also, the front of the bodice of the gown is dismally unadorned.  I did have some pink and silver trim, and some pearls I intended to slap on there if I had the time, but I ran out.  There are also some small fitting issues that would require a more thorough deconstruction (the bodice back, for instance, could be shortened an inch or two, and the straps were a bit too big.)  So I’ll put this costume on the shelf for some more work later on down the line.

“The Borgias” gown – part one

I didn’t have any plans for Halloween this year. In fact, I actively avoided making plans, or a costume, because of money issues and the fact that I thought I was going to be out of town for the whole week. Last week my plans changed. So I decided to test my skills and make a costume with ten days to go (six of which were spent out of town.)

So I went digging through my stash and my inspirations pics to see what I might come up with. My original plan, months ago, was to make a gown from the movie Ever After (my number one favorite,) but the one in particular I wanted to do – the red velvet “ruins” gown – was rather out of my budget and I knew as October crept closer that that wasn’t going to be a viable option. In fact, any costume that required purchasing anything wasn’t going to be an option. So a stash costume it was.

I’ve been really into the Renaissance (or Renaissance-esque) period of costume lately, and after doing some online searching, I was coming up with a lot of pics of costumes from the show The Borgias. I haven’t watched it myself (I started it a while ago but haven’t had much time for TV watching,) but the images of costumes, mostly Lucrezia Borgia’s costumes, made me drool. So I tore apart my stash, and came up with… next to nothing I could whip into that sort of costume. Until this:


I had three yards of this blue taffeta stuff that I believe was unused fabric from The Three Musketeers. I was having a hard time figuring out just what color this was, and was just throwing random pieces of fabric at it until I hit this combo. You can’t tell very well from the picture, but the pink shot silk really brings out the pink in the taffeta. It’s a pretty garish color combo, but hey, it’s a Halloween costume. So I went with it.


First order of business was drafting a pattern. I basically did that the same way I do all my patterns, and then threw it on the dress form to make adjustments. I was short on time and not in the mood for fussing with mock-ups (not that I usually do much of that anyway) so I guess I was just hoping for the best. But when I’m doing costumes for myself, I’m usually pretty good at just eyeballing it and getting things right. (by the way, that sloppy-looking thing you see underneath there is a then-unfinished under bodice that I was working on, which I’ll cover in another post.)


The bodice back, pinned. The whole bodice was in four pieces. I wanted the front to have mock lacing, but the gown to be back-lacing.


Originally I cut the bodice just longer than empire-length, but eventually I cut it down to empire-length mostly for fitting purposes. This is a before pic.

Then I took two and a half of the three yards of taffeta, cut into three panels, and pleated them to the waist. The extra half yard I needed for matching sleeves.




One section done. Phew!


Aaand, pleating complete! I honestly hate pleating. There are some tedious things about sewing that I don’t mind, but pleating isn’t one of them.

So, I got this far and realized… I hate pinned all my lovely pleats through both layers of my bodice. Yaaargh. I wasn’t in the mood to undo and repleat that whole thing, so I just sewed it together as is, and decided to cover the waistline with some ribbon or tape or something.


There, all neat and covered.


The gown so far. Please ignore the pile of mess in the background there. I’m working with limited space and unlimited junk at the moment.

Next post will cover the sleeves, which I’m working on. One is entirely finished and just needs to be attached. I have to attach a front panel and decorate it but I’m not yet sure how. Then eyelets in back, and hemming. I have high hopes of the whole costume being done by the weekend, because, well, if it’s not, than I just wasted my time all over. But I digress.

Ren Faire 2012 costume – yes, finally!

what?  it’s only been like three months since I updated this thing?! who knew?!

this summer completely got away from me.  in my defense, I’ve been so absurdly busy these past few months that I actually haven’t been working on my ren faire costume, therefore the lack of updates on that front is kind of legit.  I’ve been doing a lot of other stuff, though, so the lack of updates on the whole is just me being lazy and forgetful.

well, the faire is on saturday (yes, in two days,) and I’m nearly finished with my costume.  most of what I’ve accomplished has been over the past two weekends, because I’m a procrastinator like that and I always leave things to the last minute.


some pictures from construction, back in May.



the bodice on my dressform.  it fits on me much better than it does on the dressform, although it still is a bit too small – I tried to account for boob when I was drafting the pattern, but evidently I still underestimated.  still, I can squish myself into it, and it’s not uncomfortable – in fact, quite the opposite.  I’m glad I went with cording; the support is surprisingly comfy.

for some reason, it looks much more uneven on the dressform than it does on me (though it is a bit uneven.)


here’s the picture that will haunt me with shame.  ignore the awful half-assed lacing job and focus on the glaring unevenness.  now, I finished constructing this bodice sometime back in May, for the most part, and tried it on a number of times along the way to make sure everything was fitting okay.  and somehow, it wasn’t until this week, when I actually put the finished bodice on and laced it up, that I realized what (somehow) happened.  I don’t know where I went wrong.  the fit is still excellent and, in my opinion, it doesn’t look nearly this bad when I actually have it on myself (except for that weird tab on the left side.)  but the fact that it’s so uneven makes me itch.  I just don’t have time to take it apart and redo.  no one will see it, but that’s not the point. >_>

you can see that I cut off the extra-long tabs for lacing that I included, from research, in my original pattern.  I imagine their purpose is better served if the bodice is made with stiff boning, but with the cording, it served no support purpose and really just looked like a weird tail on the back, so I nixed it.


bodice with petticoat, and the gown front and back.  the gown needs to be hemmed still, as you see.  as with everything, the pieces look a lot better on me than they do on my form.  my waist is three inches smaller than the minimum my dressform will go, so the petticoat gaps on the form, and the dress doesn’t quite close all the way.  the gown is very simple and was influenced greatly by the techniques I found at The Tudor Costume Page.  it looks quite plain because I had trimmed it and it didn’t look very good so I took it off.  at this point I’m not sure I have the time to re-trim so I may just wear it plain.  also, there are sleeves, a la the gown I designed it after, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to wear them to the faire… it’s broken 100 every day this week so far and the heat wave here isn’t looking to abate any time soon, so I may have to go without.

also included in the costume are the shift and a caul.  I don’t have period shoes or anything like, but I’m kind of working on some shoe covers that may or may not be done/wearable by saturday, so who knows what I’m going to end up wearing.  I’ll be sure to have plenty of pictures from the faire so you can see what the outfit looks like when it actually fits properly.

so excited 😀 Ren Faire, here I come!

Ren Faire 2012 costume

I should have known that as soon as I said I wouldn’t begin any more big projects before the move, I would inevitably think up a big project that I just can’t wait to begin.  so here it is.  I’m planning to hit the Ren Faire this year, since I haven’t been in quite a few years, so naturally I have to dress up.

(love my crappy Skitch sketches, don’t you?)

the concept is not complicated: a shift, stays, and a bodiced gown.  as it will very likely be well over 90 degrees when I go, I opted for the lightest linen I could find at a reasonable price, instead of the more historically accurate wool.  the gown will be a mustard-yellow linen, a colour I just love, although I really wanted to make it in the green that I have pictured above – I just couldn’t find it.  I happened to find just under a yard of it in the remnants bin, however, so I decided I’ll just use it for the outer layer of my stays.  it will show a bit beneath the gown, which I like (though I just realized that I’m going to look like a medieval Packers fan with the green and gold… eurgh.)
the gown is pretty simple, nothing fancy – I don’t see the point in making a fabulous costume when it’s going to be hotter than the armpit of hell and will more than likely be covered in mud, horseshit, beer, and other Ren Faire effluvia by the end of the day.  I styled it after Danielle De Barbarac’s green work gown in Ever After, a movie I adore.  (I really, really wanted to replicate the gown down to the colour, but alas, JoAnn’s, no green linen.  sigh.)  a simple bodiced top, A-line skirt with pleats in the back, and tie-on sleeves.  (I’m going to be outdated a bit, as the Faire this year is set 1570’s, but oh well.)
I drew up the pattern myself from an image I found somewhere (I don’t know, it’s been saved on my desktop for-like-ever,) that I liked.  I pilfered a bunch of this tissue stuff from the garbage at work (after JoAnn’s, it’s my go-to for costuming supplies :p) because I thought it might be good for making patterns, and wow!  I don’t know what it is; it moves and drapes like fabric, but cuts like tissue, is transparent, and really strong.  it’s super-thin but doesn’t tear without making a cut first.  I just love it.  it comes as packing in the boxes of ink ribbon we get for our packing machine.  it’s fabulous.
I made the pattern a bit bigger than I thought I’d need, since it’s always easier to cut something down than it is to make it bigger, and because I’m planning on using cording for these stays instead of boning, so I figure that’ll take up a bit of volume.  since my costume is rather lower-class, I don’t really need that stiff cylindrical torso, and did I mention 90 degrees?  so yeah, no boning.
close-up of the tracing.  (can you tell I haven’t washed my fabric yet?  I know, I know, but I can’t use the laundry at night or the neighbors get pissed off, and I really wanted to get started, so I said screw it.  I really hope that won’t come back to bite me in the ass…)  this was my first successful go at using a tracing wheel, which up until now I had thought one of the most useless things in my sewing kit.  did I mention my pattern paper is strong?  yeah, I went over these pieces three or four times most of them (I kept tracing the wrong sides, ugh,) and that pattern is in great shape.  I began sewing the channels but I’d barely got started before the guy downstairs started banging on the ceiling, so that’s as far as I got today.  then I started on a bit of the cording, just to kind of get a feel for it and see how it will look, and I’m pleased.  I think it’s going to turn out nice.