Category Archives: 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume

Div III Progress: 10 Days To Go!

Over the past couple days, I’ve added a few more basic entries to the annotated bibliography, and I’ve created an extensive glossary of terms for fibers, fabrics, and materials. It’s really more than a glossary, with detailed descriptions for each entry, plus quotes from print resources, links to online articles, and cross-referencing links to other entries. The idea is that these entries collect references and resources in an ongoing way, to offer disambiguation and historical information as well as practical tips. The entries are closely matched to the fiber, fabric, and material tags which are listed in a menu on the right side of the site. In that menu is also a link to the Glossary Table of Contents, which contains links to all current entries in the glossary, tidily organized. There is also a base, introductory entry which covers broad topics and offers a mini annotated bibliography of print resources: Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.

I had not originally intended to spend this much time creating a glossary of terms, but as I started looking things up, I found that often sources conflicted with one another, and many terms have had different meanings over time. In order to create a genuinely useful resource, I needed to go deeper and make my entries more extensively – so I did. As I was creating this glossary, I remembered that this is actually quite close to the core idea of an early incarnation of my concept for my Div III.

Back while I was interning at Old Sturbridge Village last summer, I remarked that it was unfortunate that no one had written an annotated version of The Workwoman’s Guide – the way people do with classic literature. The person I was talking to, a Hampshire grad, replied that that sounded like a great Div III. I laughed and said that I couldn’t possibly do ALL that…but the idea stuck. And thus the total rebirth of my Div III concept began. For a while, I conceived of my Div III as being a multimedia set of online projects and articles, offering pieces of “translated” 19th century (and perhaps other period) sources, from the WWG and other sources. For instance, I wanted to create a set of short videos to be posted online that demonstrated different types of period stitches, which are often difficult to learn without being shown in person. Eventually I became more focused on the idea of written documentation, and creating an exhibit, but now I am morphing these ideas together.

This site will be in some ways an exhibit, in some ways written documentation, and in some ways a free resource for the public, offering practical information on how to go about reproducing vintage and historical clothing. One important component for me is that I’m not just offering my own knowledge; I’m also offering collected and organized links, quotes, and references to helpful printed information. Because there is a great deal of excellent information available, even just online, but it isn’t always easy to find, and it can be difficult, especially for beginners, to assess the accuracy and reliability (and even the practical usefulness!) of a given source. By collecting and organizing a variety of resources, I am able to offer my perspective on them, and also able to supplement what I know, what I have written, and what I have done.

Perhaps most importantly, I am setting up this site so that I can keep adding to it, and keep adding to it easily. Because I don’t want to graduate and drop what I’ve been working on; I have every intention of continuing with this research, these projects, and this site. And that is what I keep reminding myself of, every time I feel disappointed that I haven’t been able to do the entire heap of Div III project I’ve dreamed up. Especially considering that my committee has been trying to convince me to do less all along. It’s encouraging that with this site, I can plan on continuing this into the future, and the projects that have been left in the dust during the downscaling process seem a little less abandoned, because a future for them exists, here on the internet–possibly even educating someone about something!

The plan now is to keep building this site, as functionally as possible; to write up a paper overviewing my Div III to turn in by Monday; and to get a reasonable quantity of sewing work finished or at least to an interesting stage – all in 10 days. It’s not exactly a short order, but I think I’ve almost convinced myself that I can do enough that it will be a lovely, useful, full Div III; even though it won’t be as grand as I have dreamed.

In sewing news, I made a lovely faux bustle, the 1870s inspired faux bustle of pansy synthetic netting, for Sarah’s 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume. It took about an hour, and came out quite nicely. It’s not at all historically accurate, but since neither it nor the ensemble are intended to be historical reproductions, that isn’t a hindrance. It makes for a charming and very inexpensive fluffy shape to fill out the skirt of a pretty Halloween masquerade costume with nice historical lines.Now I’m going to work on some sewing (truly, a wild Saturday night!) and work on mentally evaluating what else I’m going to do in the time I have left. And work on my paper. Busy? Me? Of course not…


1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume of turquoise and purple


1870s inspired faux bustle of pansy synthetic netting

The 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume that I made Sarah for Halloween last fall is made from historically accurate Truly Victorian patterns, with an accurate corset which I draped using duct tape, but it isn’t made to be historically accurate; it’s made to be a fun, pretty, historically inspired Halloween/masquerade costume. But because it’s made from historically accurate bustle era patterns, it needs a skirt support. For Halloween, Sarah wore the costume over a borrowed bustle of not-quite-the-right shape, and an old cotton Civil War era skirt of mine, which I puffed and pinned to keep it from dragging on the floor (she is not as tall as I am), and to help smooth the lines of the bustle and create a softer, early 1870s shape. It worked shockingly well.

But in order to make the costume wearable on its own, without major borrowed components, she needed a bustle of her very own. I finally made just such a bustle…in April. Oh well! I used eight yards of 70″ wide pansy purple nylon net from, a piece of scrap ribbon, some upholstery thread, and a bit of regular thread. It took me about an hour, all told.

I measured out a length of net a couple inches shorter than the skirt, folded it evenly, and measured out the same length again. Leaving it folded in half, I cut off the doubled length from my yardage. Then I measured out another length of net, a couple inches shorter than a single side of the previous piece (so, probably  6 or 7 inches shorter than the skirt). Same as before, I folded that evenly, measured out the same length again, and cut off my new doubled length, leaving it folded. Now I had two big pieces of netting, folded in half. I laid them together along the folds, matching up the long (remember, this is wide netting!) folds. Then I pinned one end of the pair of folds to the arm of the couch, and the other end to a pair which I put in the middle of the room, basically stretching the netting out across the room. This made it very easy to run a gathering thread through both doubled pieces at once (by hand), using a length of upholstery thread.

After I ran all 70″ of gathering, I scrunched it up and used a quick whipstitch to secure all of it to the piece of ribbon, gathering all 70″ of all four layers into a space of about 15 inches. I didn’t want to make a full petticoat, only, well, a nice big butt fluff. After the base “skirt” layers of the bustle were secured, I basically bundled up the rest of the netting into one big bouf with a bit of a tail, and hand-stitched the whole mass, rather haphazardly, to the center of the “skirt” section. Because the netting is very lightweight, and the costume is very lightweight overall, the support doesn’t need to be very sturdy, or very determinedly poufy – just fluffy. And it succeeds in being fluffy!

Once it was finished, I persuaded Lyndie to try it on so I could see how it looked, and I was quite satisfied. Very purple, and very fluffy. On its own, it actually looks rather charmingly burlesque. It has yet to be worn with the rest of the costume, because I want to put some finishing touches on the costume first…and also sleeves…but I think it will do nicely. At some point, I think I’ll have to make one of these for myself (because a faux bustle is a good thing to have), and when I do, I’ll take photos along the way and make a more comprehensible tutorial. I didn’t try to take pictures this time around, because I was making it up as I went along and wasn’t sure what I was doing. But I like how it turned out! It makes for a charming and very inexpensive fluffy shape to fill out the skirt of a pretty Halloween masquerade costume with nice historical lines.

1870s inspired corset of lavender cotton sateen with black flossing


Intro: 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume