I’m coming to Costume College! (for the last time)

The 1921 Daisies & the Devil's Handiwork dress

If you’re going to Costume College 2019, and have read your class schedule in detail, you may have realised that I’m teaching (yay!), but also wondered why I haven’t mentioned it publicly, like I have in previous years.

Yes, I’ll be at Costume College, and I’m very excited to see everyone, and to be teaching the following class:

Body Ideals & Corsetry: 1900-1930

11-1 on Friday (not 3-5 as shown in the book)

(and am very sad they didn’t pick the other class I offered them, on the history of the suffrage movement across the world, in all its form, and its complicated relationship with fashion, because that was going to be a great class, but ah well, more time to socialise and go to other people’s awesome classes).

But going this year is also very bittersweet. Unless there is a huge (and completely unexpected and unpredicted) alteration in the global situation, it will be my last Costume College ever.

Shortly after booking my tickets and registering for CoCo I realised how bad the climate crisis is.

Given the severity of the situation, and the threat climate change poses to the continuation of almost all life, I no longer feel I can justify flying for business and pleasure.

Obviously this has not been an easy or enjoyable decision to make. I’m still struggling with the consequences of global warming, and feeling a huge amount of guilt about my trip.

I almost decided to not go at all, but the trip will also allow me to see my sister, who I haven’t see in years – and that’s important.

I’m going to talk more about climate change, and what it means for me as a person, and a costumer, but I’m not quite ready.

For now, I’m focusing on having the most wonderful trip possible. I’ve committed to going, I must make the absolute most of it!

And if you’re going to Costume College, I hope you also have an absolutely wonderful trip. And do come and say hi to me while we’re there.


  1. I think you’re making an admirable decision. And it can’t have been easy.

  2. Gillian Stapleton says

    That’s very brave of you. You are always an inspiration.

  3. Christina Kinsey says

    You are right about climate change, anything we can do as individuals will help. The internet may not be perfect,but it means people from opposite sides of the world can keep in touch without having to travel thousands of miles.
    I always look out for your posts, always enjoy reading them

    • Elise says

      My thoughts exactly: the rise of awareness that excessive travel harms the earth, and the increasing ubiquity of online communication can work hand-in-hand to nurture relationships while nurturing the earth. Great reminder that we can all do better.

      Your posts are always wonderful–even the bittersweet ones. I imagine that you have given a lot of thought about travel due to your international life and your deep connection to cultivating life on earth.

  4. Lillianne says

    I enjoyed your class so much in 2017 and am planning on attending this year’s class and will certainly say hi! I am also struggling with the same decision travel-wise ….

  5. Steph says

    I would like to hear more of your thoughts on this!

    I’m in Australia and we have just voted in a government without any sensible policy on the climate crisis (and in fact full of “sceptics”). It’s very depressing. I think we cannot rely on government to make any effective change, and not quickly enough.

    It is up to us as individuals, and through non governmental groups and businesses, to make change.

    I enjoy the online sewing/vintage/historical community, but some practices that seem common in it really don’t sit comfortably with me, and I haven’t seen them addressed much if at all.

    Thanks for your thoughtfulness, and good luck with your journey!

  6. Snow says

    I deeply respect you for considering the climate the impacts of your air travel. However, I do hope that you will consider the benefits of each potential trip rather than instituting a blanket ban on travel. First, long-haul international flights are more carbon-efficient than short commuter flight. Second, many airlines offer carbon offsets that can be purchased. Third, and most relevant, is that the people who really should be considering reducing their air travel are the people who travel short distances by air multiple times a month. Traveling by air for an hour long meeting or to give a single talk at a conference (and not particating in the meeting on a more committed level) rarely makes sense, in my opinion. If you are occasionally flying somewhere so that you can engage with people for several days in a more meaningful way than is possible virtually, the travel may be worth it.

    I’m a climate scientist and that community has been talking about this for a number of years. The ones who come out and say that no flying is the only option are often the loudest voices in the room, but many of us have done a lot of soul-searching. For myself, I decided that flying occasionally makes sense because personal interactions are really important (professionally and socially). When I travel now, I commit to being fully-engaged in the reason for my travel.

    • Elise says

      You are right that there are many aspects and nuances to travel. We should also remember that travel has significant benefits: especially the power to greet new cultures and decrease racism.

      I have also read about “love miles”, that is the journeys people take to receive much-necessary hugs from loved ones. I think they general consensus is “less travel to and fro, and more time once you are there”. Not always possible, of course.

      But in setting an intention, “this will be my last”, maybe Leimomi will give herself permission to be fully present and immersed in the journey. And it is a kindness to give yourself “one more time” is neat.

      Anyhow, your response is really cool to read. It’s considered and cogent and intentional. Thank you for contributing.

    • Hi Snow,

      Thank you so much for weighing in as a climate scientist. That’s really helpful to know about the short flights.

      I chose no flying because it was the biggest thing I could do as a person to limit my carbon footprint (except for the other bigger one, where I didn’t get a choice). We’re also about to buy an electric car – and since NZ’s electricity is almost all renewable, that means no carbon footprint from driving. And I’m practicing cycling, which I haven’t done in 20 years, so I can cycle to work. That old adage about only having to learn to ride once is NOT true. And I’m getting involved in tree planting initiatives. I don’t create a lot of carbon already, but I do have a voice, and if, by doing something rather drastic myself, I can use it to make people change their own lives, in small or big ways, I do feel the sacrifice is worth it.

      I have thought about this a lot. I’ve said I’m giving up travel for pleasure & business, but I am still travelling for family – almost exclusively to visit my parents in Hawai’i. My reasoning behind that was that my parents are older, and they really need me. It’s not fair on them to not go. Additionally they live a lifestyle that is probably carbon negative (permaculture farmers with solar power), and if I spend three weeks with them in the middle of winter (when I’m creating the most carbon here in NZ) I can lower my own footprint to offset my flying, and do things to help them with the initiatives around eating locally and sustainably, which is lowering their whole island’s carbon footprint. So it’s worth it.

      If I could find other places where I really felt I was having the same effect, I’d definitely fly for that. 🙂

      I already buy carbon offsets for all my flying, but I feel like we need SO MUCH less carbon, and we really have to do something big to disrupt the system, or we don’t have a chance.

      But maybe I’ll end up deciding we don’t have a chance anyway, and that I might as well have fun before it all implodes :-/

  7. natalie says

    Dear Leimomi,

    Bravo on your decision! It’s no fun, but…bless you.

    Like Steph, I am concerned about costuming habits that can be wasteful. How about if we talk about it and show what we can do?

    After discussing this with another costumer some time ago, I went full-on re-use. Old curtains become fabric fodder, so do old sheets and linens and old clothes I’ve outworn. I purchase vintage fabric, notions, and passementerie, though have always done so because it’s such cool stuff. Some of my favorite costumes have been made over and retrimmed repeatedly. Lengths of lace used for collars and cuffs aren’t cut, but the extra folded and hidden, and I pick lace and trim off one dress to go on another. Mockup fabric is reused.

    Surely there are quite a few of us recycling, reusing, and just using less overall. Let’s talk about it and encourage it in our own hobby. My blog isn’t heavily read, but I’ll post about it…

    Very best, and again, bravo for speaking out and making word and action one,


  8. Steph says

    theguardian.comThis is an interesting article, and shows you are not alone!

    Of course, this is much easier to do in Europe than in Australia and NZ, but it doesn’t mean we can’t make some careful choices.

    I’ve flown overseas 8 times in my 50 years and as an adult I’ve prioritised less frequent but long trips which allow for slow land-based travel (cycling, which I also relearned in my 30s- you will love it!). Domestic air travel- maybe double that number of trips and lots of low-carbon local, walking and cycling holidays.

    These are my deliberate choices, made in line with my values, but I have not been able to communicate this to family and friends. Even the most loudly-eco-conscious see me as a failure – financial, probably, but maybe also of imagination or organisation.

    So articulating these issues from any platform is great!

  9. Elise says

    Steph, well, I think that you are great. So there!

  10. Thank you for your courageous decision. I have also decided not to fly again. It’s a strange, sad feeling, but the right one I think.

    I look forward to future posts about costuming and the environment – ive been concerned recently about how to keep participating in the hobby fully, when I know fabric production is often polluting. I use 2nd hand textiles often, but sometimes you just need a big new sheet – and ive had little luck sourcing more ethical suppliers as a hobbyist.

    Best wishes x

  11. Maybe COCO should consider doing talks via Skype or some such, so that you can still teach but be at home. Not everyone wants hands on classes and discussions are wonderful for that. I hope there are more options for such things, though I’m in Canada and attending COCO is so expensive and I haven’t had the opportunity to go, let along meet you.

    PS: Maybe you could have some online talks or live videos? Thank you for all the awesome creating you do!

  12. Debora says

    I hope you can share your clothing of Suffrage research. (Or if you have, I’ve not had a chance to do a deep dive in your site as I’ve only recently discovered it!)

    Your thoughts on air travel and climate change are appreciated. I too have only recently come to the realization that I will (and am) seeing severe climate change in my lifetime. It is no comfort to realize that I’ll likely be dead anyway by 2050 from old age, but now the possibility exists that it will be from climate change instead. I was taught as a Girl Scout, oh so many years ago, that I should leave a place cleaner than I found it. I will not be doing that when I leave the planet.

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