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The HSF ’14: Challenge #13: Under $10

The 13th challenge in the Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014 (due Tuesday July 15th) is about frugality: make something with materials that cost Under $10 (using US dollars as the de-facto standard).

Frugality is a particularly historically appropriate theme, as seamstresses throughout history have striven to make as much as possible, with as little money as possible.  For most sewers, every garment had to be carefully budgeted and saved for, and every bit of fabric would be used, and if possible, re-used.

Even the most decadent of seamstresses practiced frugality: we know that Madame de Pompadour (whose clothing expenditure far exceeded Marie Antoinette’s) had petticoats with fancy silk fronts, and cheap coarse linen backs, to save on expensive silk.  And Worth, the epitome of 19th century sartorial luxury, made a practice of using the selvedges of his fabrics in his designs – utilizing every bit of fabric.

While I doubt that many of us would be able to make something Madame de Pompadour or Worth worthy for $10, I still can’t wait to see what we do come up with.  What each participant will be able to make for $10 will depend on their own area and stash, their sewing goals, and what period they work in.  Some of us will use gift fabric, some of us will use scraps from our sewing bin, some of us will buy exactly $10 worth of materials, and some of us will repurpose something that would once have been far more expensive.  Even the littlest, simplest thing, it beautifully made, researched and thought out, can add immeasurably to the effect and accuracy of an outfit.

Here are ten things that I’ve made for under $10 over the last year and a bit for the Historical Sew Fortnightly.  Some are thanks to the generosity of others who have helped me out, some are thanks to lucky finds with cheap fabric, and some are simply made from materials that are both period accurate, and generally affordable.

#10: My 1770s red linen paniers – made for exactly NZ$10 (about US$9 at the moment) thanks to a lucky find with the linen and cane hooping being quite affordable.  And (excepting the cotton tape rather than linen) they are perfectly period accurate.

1770s paniers the dreamstress.com

At #9, the Ettie Mae 1930s Hooverette dress cost me $9.50 to make, thanks to some good fabric sales.  I see 1930s inspired quilting cottons (granted, they aren’t period accurate) on sale on US websites all the time, and it takes so little fabric to make most 1930s patterns, so it’s an easy, cheap option.

1930s inspired 'Hooverette' wrap dress thedreamstress.com

#8 is for my Flora’s Secret 1790s shoe refashion, which it turns out only cost me $8.30, because I actually bought the shoes for $6, not $8.  Refashioning shoes is cheap and easy, and very effective.

ca. 1790 shoe remake thedreamstress.com

#7 is another refashion – this time the Fedora to Cloche 1920s remake.  At $7, it’s the perfect way to finish off a 1920s or early 30s ensemble.

Modern straw fedora reshaped as '20s style cloche

#6 is my late 18th century ‘brown’ linen shift, in at only $5 (maybe $6 if you count the thread).  Now, I’ll admit that this one was pure luck.  It’s not often that you find a shift worth of period accurate linen for only $5 (though it has happened to me more than once (my nettle smock cost exactly the same amount to make), so perhaps it isn’t that uncommon!)

Late 18th century 'brown' linen shift

#5 is for my $4 18th century bergeré, from a simple, cheap, easy to source sunhat and a bit of leftover fabric for puffs.  And I wrote a tutorial!

18th century inspired bergere

#4: Courtesy of a lucky find at an op shop, I was able to make my 1930s Smooth Sewing trousers for only $3.  The fabric was a lovely rayon, but it’s a fabric that I’ve seen at NZ op shops many times, and always reasonably priced.

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

#3 cost me $2, for my 1780s bum rump.  Sure, it’s not period-perfect, but it’s pretty reasonable, and you probably could use scraps from period project to make one for under $10.

ca. 1780 bum rump

#2: My 1920s ‘Little Bit of Red’ cloche, a steal at $1.50.  Simple straw hats turn up in op-shops in NZ all the time for under $5, and with a few bits of ribbon or some fabric scraps you can easily have a fully trimmed hat for less than $10.

Little bit of embellishment hat

And finally, #1 is my early 19th century pineapple reticule, which cost me exactly nothing, because it was all from scraps from other projects that had been in my stash for years, and almost all of us have access to scraps which can cheaply (and accurately) be used to whip up a little something.

Pineapple reticule thedreamstress.com


So whether you go all out and make something that cost a whole $10, or manage to make something fabulous for nothing at all, best of luck creating an item that celebrates the frugality and ingenuity of our historical antecedents!

An 1860s maybe mourning bonnet

Another Historical Sew Fortnighly Challenge down.

This time I made an 1860s bonnet to wear with my Greek key afternoon dress.

An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com

I was roughly inspired by this bonnet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bonnet, 1862, American, straw,  Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.15.9

Bonnet, 1862, American, straw, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.15.9

I started out with a simple hat that I’d unsuccessfully reshaped a 1920s cloche.  It was just too big for my head to work.

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

So I cut off the back and trimmed down the sides.

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

The original idea was that I would use pale pink ribbons, but they simply didn’t look right.  And it turns out I didn’t have any black lace in my stash that worked (how is that possible?).  So I ended up going with palest grey rayon ribbon and a silver and black lace.

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com


Obviously the silver didn’t look right, so I had some fun on the sewing machine:

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

I pinned all the ribbons on the hat until it looked good:

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

And then there was lots, and lots and lots of handsewing.

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

I’m really pleased about the lace – I picked it up over the weekend at Fabric-a-Brac, and the pointed edges ech the edges of the black lace beautifully (I’m having a brain blank and can’t remember the technical name – one of those days).

And here is the end result:

An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com

All the muted black and grey makes it look quite subdued.  It could possibly be a half mourning bonnet, but I haven’t researched whether un-dyed straw was acceptable for half-mourning in the 1860s.  I’ll look into that, and if it doesn’t work for half-mourning, I’ll add some cerise flowers.  That’s how I’ll wear it with the Greek Key dress in any case.

An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com

The Challenge: #7 – Tops & Toes

Pattern: None, just fiddling with shapes until they matched period silhouettes.

Year: 1860-4

Notions: One straw hat, 10 metres of pearl gray rayon ribbon ($1pm), 3 metres of silver and black lace ($1pm), 4 metres of vintage lace (50 cents the lot), lots and lots of thread.

How historically accurate is it?  My construction techniques are half period perfect and half completely mad.  The materials are pretty iffy, but I do think the overall look would pass pretty well in 1862.  60%?

Hours to complete: 6.  It was supposed to be a simple, quick project, but grew.  A lot.

First worn: To wash dishes. I was trying to take pictures, and got distracted.  It’s not a good bonnet for washing dishes as it happens.  The ribbons rather get in the way.  I’m sure it will be much better outside on a fine day!  

Total cost: $13.50

An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com
An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com

Rate the Dress: Bottle Green Riding Habit

Last week I showed Élisabeth Alexandrine in a mad hat and a bizarre fabric dress and a robe.  Many of you found the hat just wee bit weird, but the suggestion of the outfit as a masquerade costume for Nanny Ogg tilted the balance in its favour (and besides, it was rich and elegant and fashion forward), and the rating came in at exactly 8.5 out of 10.

This week’s Rate the Dress was chosen primarily because the mannequin and presentation are strong contenders for the creepiest costume photos ever.  I’m not sure it quite beats the staging of the plunging Regency frock for dreadfulness, but I could equally see it as a Dr Who villain!

So yeah, no points for the mannequin.  But what do you think of the riding habit with its gold trim and high standing collar?  The gigot sleeves and back pleated skirt?  Perfect sartorial elegance for a day with equines, or too stiff and formal?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

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Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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