My family loves history. The girls often dig through old clothes (and some not so old) to find “costumes” for playing. Tailorbear is especially fond of creating “hoop skirts” by layering bath robes and fleece throws. It never occurred to me that we could make a hoop skirt for her. It also never occurred to me that we could make other period piece historical costumes.
Apparently my daughters are not the only ones who like to dress up in historical costumes. Amy Puetz, herself a homeschool graduate and lover of history, has written a book, Costumes with Character. At Amy’s website, Golden Prairie Press, you can read a bit more about Amy or check out some of the other books she has written such as: Ten Girls from History and Uncover Exciting History.
This 72 page full color book covers 11 time periods in American History. Using a “simple dress” you sew collars, bonnets, and other accessories to complete each period history costume. In addition to sewing instructions, the book also includes a history section for each time period focusing on fashion history. The book also includes recommend resources (both books and movies) for learning more about each of the historical time frames. Costumes with Character is available as an e-book (PDF format) for $21.95 or print format for $37.00. You can view a sample on the website.
In addition to the Costumes with Character book Amy has created a Patterns book to go along with it. Originally only available in PDF format, Amy just released the Pattern Book in print. I think having the Pattern Book in print format would have made a positive difference in our ability to use the product. (Please note, the patterns are in both the printed book and the PDF but they must be enlarged. I think it would be helpful to have the Pattern Book, but it is NOT necessary.)
Turtlegirl (age 15) and Tailorbear (age 13) wanted to try this product. Both of them love dressing up and both of them love history. Turtlegirl was particularly interested in the Sailor Costume and Tailorbear loves the hoop skirts from the Civil War Era. Unfortunately, the girls do not possess the necessary sewing skills at this time.
The girls picked out a couple of pieces to try. We used this as a learning experience for sewing. First you must wash and then iron your material before cutting out the pieces. It's also a good idea to “finish the edges” to reduce fraying at the hem.
Turtlegirl ironing the old white sheet she will use.
Turtlegirl beginning to zigzag stitch the raw edge.
Tailorbear takes her turn at sewing
Thoughts from Turtlegirl: “I really liked the variety of accessories you could make. I especially liked the ‘Another Idea’ section because it was very helpful and easier to do (most of the time) than the original ideas. I like how I get to sew the accessories. I love the idea of a simple dress being used for all of the different time periods. I enjoyed the ‘history section’ because I wanted to know how people ‘back then’ did the fashions and why. I wish some of the things were easier to sew, though, because I’m not very good at sewing. I did enjoy sewing what I could.”
Thoughts from Tailorbear: “Had they had a few more time periods, such as medieval, I would have liked it better. I am really excited that you can make a whole bunch of costumes out of one dress. I am inspired to learn how to sew more and take her ideas and apply them to other time periods. I am also looking forward to being able to make an hoop skirt.”
Turtlegirl did not have a “simple dress” so she followed the book suggestion of using a long sleeve top with a skirt. She really wants to make the sailor costume. The actual sailor collar and pieces are too difficult for her at this time so she used the “Another Idea” option for the Sailor collar. In the picture below she models it.
We all love the Elegant Dress from the Young Republic era and thought it would be great to try. We already had a skirt that we could use for an underskirt and we found these piece of ruffle trim that looked perfect for making some make shift lacy cuffs. BooBear made the skirt a few years ago but the instructions she used are nearly identical to what is in the book. The girls pinned the skirt up from memory and I noticed that they pinned the sides. It should be pinned in the front and not at the sides, but she still had fun!
My Bottom Line: I found this book extremely frustrating to use as a PDF. I am not an accomplished seamstress and I found it difficult to keep scrolling through the instructions. Perhaps if I had a print book that I could flip back and forth I would not have been as intimidated with the sewing. I love the idea of the book: use one simple dress as the base and add pieces to create historical period costumes. I also found it frustrating that for “young adults” it is a “one size fits all”. A chart is included for adjusting the patterns for younger (smaller) girls but there are no instructions on how to make it larger. (I can look at the chart and deduce that if the reduction is by 6%, that perhaps if I can increase in increments of 6% I can make it larger but it is not even suggested!) For some of the pieces, such as cuffs and bonnets, this is not an issue but for items such as the vest it could pose a problem. My 13 year old will not be able to use any of the vest type pieces as patterned because the “age 16” pattern is too small. The book says the the sewing is “easy” and the “step by step instructions are clear” however, they were not easy or clear for us. I think for those with sewing experience this might be clear and easy to use. I would recommend this book in print format and recommend it for those who can sew well and are interested in historical period costumes.
NOTE: Amy is currently having a sale. This sale ends SOON (9/1). Amy sent out an email with this message:
Right now I’m having a back to school sale on my website, so if your readers are interested in the book now would be a good time to buy. The sale is going on from now till September 1, 2012. http://amypuetz.com/store/
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