Last summer when I tried on the 1970s bride’s maid’s dress I have used for years for Renaissance Festival, I . . . ahem . . . couldn’t get it zipped. Sigh. My age is catching up with me. The last time I attended the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference, a number of the historical and fantasy writers came to the banquet in costume. Hmm. I’m promoting a book set in the sixteenth century. A new dress could do double duty for Ren Fair and ACFW. Life is always more fun when you dress the part.
The Simplicty pattern for a Tudor costume costs $17.95! This missionary lady is too cheap for that. I found instructions on a website and succeeded in making the undergarments without a printed pattern. But when it came to cutting into that beautiful blue drapery fabric (that I bought at Jo-Ann’s 50% off sale with an added 10% off total purchase coupon!), I wasn’t so confident. I planned to alter the sleeves and the skirt. After all Colin’s family is low-level gentry. This is not apparel for the court of King Henry VIII. Did I really need to buy a pattern I was going to change anyway? But it is the bodice, with its boning and canvas interfacing, that is so tricky. I broke down and went to buy it. The only pattern in my range of sizes had a torn envelope. I figured when I got to check out I would suggest that deserved at least a 10% discount. I didn’t ask. The computer rang it up at $1.99. I had to laugh at God’s sense of humor.
Mornings were spent at my computer. Afternoons went to sewing. We live twenty minutes from the nearest town, population 650. Believe it or not, the town has neither Walmart nor Target, so running out of supplies is a big deal. I started with no less than two partial spools of navy thread, but before I finished—no thread! So I worked on cream sleeves and the underskirt (lined with felt so the front stands stiff) until my next trip to the city.
Lacing holes were a pain. Teasing the hole big enough to slide the grommet in, but not so big that it couldn’t grip fabric on all sides, left my fingers sore. I had trouble coming up with a ninety-six inch shoe lace until I realized--that's a skate lace! I had an extra pair in my skating bag. Of course, I couldn't try the dress on for a fitting until the eyelets were done, and then I needed someone around to lace me in. These dresses were not designed for the independent-minded. Praise God for the invention of the zipper
At last the day of my book launch arrived. I forgot the bum roll so my dress hung a bit limper than it should. My shortcut attempt at a farthingale (undergarment with hoops) was not entirely successful since the hoops slipped out from the safety pins and poked in odd ways. My mother-in-law sat at a library table stitching the veil to the French hood while guests arrived. I didn’t get the crown on until the next day.
If you sew and are thinking of making a sixteenth century costume yourself, here are some things I learned making the gown and the undergarments.
1/8/2015 06:15:01 am
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LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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