Costuming my Kids

Despite having access to an experienced in house seamstress (me), my children have rarely asked me to make them costumes.  For three years straight, when she was five to seven years old, my daughter Charlotte was a cat for Halloween.  It was a costume that required only a black leotard, cat ears headband and some face paint.  Up until last year, my son Ben wanted to be various Star Wars characters, using store bought costumes.

Still, I have made some costume pieces for my children.  For my daughter it was a dress to wear to the Bristol Renaissance Faire.  We don’t go to the Faire often, averaging about every other year, so we like to make the most of it.  When Charlotte was eleven she decided she wanted to dress up for our visit.

Charlotte and Her Bow and Costuming
This girl loves her bow something fierce.

I showed Charlotte a dress idea I had pinned on Pinterest.  It’s a reconstruction of the dress worn by Kiera Knightly in the movie King Arthur.  She approved the design and we headed out to the fabric store.  I guided her to the kinds of fabric that would work and she picked out the color.  We chose an olive green cotton drill. It was heavier than what was used in the pattern and movie costume, but I wanted something solid and a bit more hard-wearing.

The making of the dress was ridiculously easy.  While drapey tunics use a lot of fabric, I love them for the ease of construction and customization.  The belt was made from ribbon I had on hand, with a snap fastener as a closure.  That day at the faire she had a great time swanning around, shooting arrows and eating turkey legs.  She’s outgrown the dress now and I have it packed up.  Perhaps one day there will be another child eager to use it for dress up.

The Family at the Faire
See what I mean about loving bows? Stephan decided to dress up as well.

Ben’s costume story is more recent.  Last year he decided a week before Halloween that he wanted to be Purple Link.  On such a short deadline I ended up buying parts of the costume and sewing the rest.

The leggings and shirt came from the girl’s section at Target.  I used a Simplicity “Indian” costume pattern that I had inherited for the tunic.  Both tunic and hat were made from purple broadcloth I bought.  The belt was made of brown cotton drill from my stash as well as yellow and brown felt I had on hand.  I used hot glue to tack the Velcro fastener for a closure.  The hat was made from a self-drafted pattern.  The whole costume took a couple of days.

Ben as Purple Link
My little agent of chaos sure does know how to rock some leggings. <3

He was pleased with his costume, even if his classmates didn’t know who he was supposed to be.  And Ben has kept the shirt in his regular clothes rotation, always a plus.  The various costume pieces have been worn since during play and pretend time.

I am certain these won’t be the last costumes I sew for my kids.  We have plans to join a boffer LARP that runs in Colorado once the move is finalized.  That will require costuming for them.  And there are still plenty of Halloweens to be had.  I do hope I’ll have a bit more time for sewing the next time, though.

Client Spotlight: Chris Gerrib

Chris Gerrib is an author I met a few years back at a convention.  He contacted me in February of 2015 about a commission for a writing cruise he was going on.  There was going to be a Regency ball one night and he wanted to go in costume.  He was looking for a naval frock coat with epaulets.

Naval Frock Coats
Providing pictures and research helps your costumer get as close as possible to what you want, with the least amount of back and forth. Be a good client. Be like Chris.

Chris is the kind of client I love.  He provided me with pictures, research and was clear on what he wanted.  After some back and forth we had a plan.  For the frock coat I used the 1795-1820 Men’s Tailcoat Pattern from Rocking Horse Farms. For the pants, Chris picked up a pair of painter’s pants.  And for the cravat I used a Burda Style pattern I already had on hand.

As with any costuming project there were alterations and changes that had to be made for fit and personal preference.

The painter’s pants were a cheap alternative to making trouser’s from scratch.  All they required was removing the tool loop on the outside and hemming. However, going with them meant forgoing the high waist that is period appropriate. With the lower waist line, a good portion of the his shirt would be visible.  We discussed a couple of options to cover the gap, like making a waist sash, a solution that was used by some at the time.  Eventually we settled on lowering the front of the frock coat.  This required extra time and fiddling with the pattern, but it kept his costume pieces to a minimum and kept the lines clean.

Chris Gerrib Frock Coat Front
Frock coat front showing off the floofy cravat.
Chris Gerrib Frock Coat Back View
Back view of the coat. Check out that trim!

I used a suiting blend for the coat.  Wool would have been the historically appropriate, but as the cruise was going to be in the Caribbean we nixed the wool for the sake of avoiding heatstroke.  Going with a suiting also reduced material costs, and gave us more options to work with.  It took a couple of fittings to get the redrafted front right.  It wasn’t just a matter of lengthening the entire pattern, only the front needed adjustment.  But getting it to align with the side pieces and the tail at the back required some work.

Chris Gerrib epaulet construction detail
Binder clips are one of the most useful non-sewing tool out there.

I used this tutorial for the epaulets.  The base was chipboard cut from a notebook.  I covered the chipboard with white cotton, and then used gold fabric paint to cover the entire thing before adding the trim.  At first, I used snaps and hooks and eyes to attach them to the coat. This proved problematic in real world conditions, however.  It was hard to attach them by oneself, and they would come loose when Chris walked around.  He brought them back later for me to replace the fastenings with Velcro.

I used plain white cotton for the cravat.

All in all Chris was pleased with the final costume.  It hit all the points he wanted: appropriate for the event, comfortable, and flexible enough that he could use it for other events (there was talk about altering the buttons and epaulets for a steampunk look). He received many compliments on the outfit.  What do you think?

Chris Gerrib in full naval frock coat attire
Very dashing, indeed!

Looking to fill your Kindle with science fiction? Check out Chris’ novels on*

The Mars Run by Chris GerribThe Night Watch by Chris GerribPirates of Mars by Chris Gerrib

*These aren’t affiliate links. I just like to support friends’ work.

Wouldn’t You Love To Love Her?

It started with a late night Facebook post:

"I'm thinking of making a series of bustles all named after Stevie Nicks songs."

I was half joking, half serious.  My friends, however, were way serious.  People immediately started suggesting and calling dibs on songs.  Their enthusiasm was contagious and I responded with how I saw the various songs translated into fabric, lace and trim.

Today I sketched out the ideas.  Up until now I’ve been making bustles from fabric I have sitting around the workshop.  I throw the scraps together and then document the result.  Plotting out a bustle from scratch, without having limitations in place of existing fabric, was a bit daunting.

Fortunately, I had caffeine and an extensive Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac music collection to see me through the drafting process.

I present to you those bustles.  Right now they only exist on paper, but if anyone wants to commission one I’m ready to bring them to three dimensional life.


Landslide Bustle Draft

This one is pretty self explanatory: blue and white satin with drapes and a pleated jabot.

Gold Dust Woman

Gold Dust Woman Bustle DraftThe Green Fairy is a *%#@! Tattered Bustle

Okay, don’t let the sketch fool you, this bustle really would look cool.  I’m taking a page from another bustle I made: The Green Fairy is a *%#@! Tattered Bustle.  I think the tattered, layered look fits the song.  The gold netting would give it even more “foof” and an even messier look.


Rhiannon Bustle Draft

I bought myself some fancy watercolor pencils last weekend and was really excited to use them on these drafts.  They’re awesome.  However, they’re not really useful when I’m drawing just black or white bustles.  This song has always had a raven feel for me so I want to incorporate that into the bustle.  I have black crushed taffeta listed because I like the texture of it, but I might instead go with a two toned black and green taffeta instead.  I spent some time on research into feather trim this afternoon.  Raven feathers are a no go, of course, so cock feathers are probably the way to go.

Stand Back

Stand Back Bustle Draft

Because this is such a strong song, I want to do something different with this bustle.  I features a drape, which I’ve used before, but also a short bustled “skirt”.  And due to it’s link to Prince, it has a purple and black palette.  As you can see from the swatches, it’ll be a bit difficult to match the two purples, so I might just stick with the two toned taffeta on the top. and drop the damask flocked taffeta.  Both the drape and the bustle will be edged with black lace.

Edge of Seventeen

Edge of Seventeen Bustle Draft

White Swiss dot cotton (along with the canvas flounces) would help keep a floof in the bustle.  The bow would either be out of the same cotton or satin.  The feather trim would probably be more cock feathers.


Tusk Bustle Draft

I need the stiffest netting I can find for this bustle.  Gold studs will be set in throughout the flounces.  This will be an angry, dramatic bustle.

The Chain

The Chain Bustle DraftThe chains on the bustled short skirt might be a bit on the nose, but I can’t help it.


Dreams Bustle Draft

I got really good at drawing cascading flounces while I worked on these.

Seven Wonders

Seven Wonders Bustle Draft

It’s going to be tricky to find the right kind of lace for this.  I thought of going with rainbow hues, but I don’t want it to come off as twee.