Costumes, pretty dresses, The Princess Dress, Guinevere, Mr Darcy, Elizabeth, Victoria, Viking, Grecian goddess. There are so many things to choose from. What I find incredible about costume – as an art form, a hobby or a secret love – is that with the right fabric, the right approach and a little help from patterns, Pinterest, blogs or friends, you can transcend time and step into the shoes of hundreds of different people, and all it takes is a little bit of fabric and inspiration.
What to wear is a huge part of this event obviously, being that it is in fact a costume ball. And with that in mind I have put together all the things I can think of that might be of help:
1) Choose a period or theme
This can be anything from ancient times to distant future and all the little inter-dimensional offshoots in between (like Steampunk), as long as it is appropriate for a formal do. Remember this is a chance to break free from the strapless A-line one colour wonder that is so popular these days, if you don’t fancy a figure hugging sheer dress that only looks spectacular on a size 8 – maybe corsets and full skirts are your thing!
An easy way to do this (if you don’t otherwise spend your spare time thinking about it) is to go on Pinterest for several hours and enjoy browsing images of anything and everything you can possibly search for. Or Google a favourite TV show, movie or miniseries and find out what period it is and go from there. If you’re still not sure (or maybe fantasy is more your thing and it isn’t so straight forward) please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and I can help with absolutely anything! There is honestly no question too big or small.
2) Decide on sourcing the outfit
You have four options; buy, borrow, hire, or DIY (my personal favourite). If you are lucky enough to know someone with a wardrobe full of vintage or historical finery I highly recommend hitting them up for a favour! Ply them with wine and chocolate and promise not to make a mess and you should be fine.
If you’re going to hire there are several places you can consider:
- The Greytown Little Theatre costume hire shop open 10 – 1 Tuesday and Saturday, a wide array of costumes from several different ages, they can also hire out hoop skirts if that’s all you need
- The Costume Cave in Wellington *highly recommended*
- Jesters in Wellington – Not bad if you stick to the historical stuff
- Creative Show Off Costume Hire Wellington … They have some costumes, again stick to historical stuff
3) Buying An Outfit
When buying a costume there are a few things to consider.
Price – An historical outfit will cost several hundred dollars. If it’s cheap it isn’t going to look as good as it does in the picture, and may not fit you well, the fabric will be something along the lines of very thin satin or cotton and bits may fall off. However you can spruce it up a bit yourself, fix seams and get it to fit you a little better, and you may end up with something fun to pull out of the wardrobe whenever you feel like it
Size – Everyone knows finding something that fits well can be difficult when ordering from the internet. If you order from a US, UK, Australian or NZ store you will be ok with sizing – if you’re not sure you can contact them or order slightly bigger than usual as it’s easier to take something in than make it bigger. If ordering from a cheaper store or website based in Asia be VERY careful with sizing, a medium can turn out to be a size 8 and a large is no guarantee of anything. The more reputable the site the better. Google reviews of the website if you’re unsure.
Shops – You can’t beat walking into a real shop and trying things on before you buy them to see if the style and size suits you before parting with lots of money. The Clockwork Steampunk Emporium is located in central Wellington, they have a website where you can check out some of their stock and they are enormously helpful. Online you can go to places like Etsy where you will find handmade gowns of exceptional quality, read the descriptions carefully though, some listings may be for patterns, accessories or dolls clothes. Otherwise Google is your friend, there are stores in NZ like Wear It Out where you can buy a corset (the hardest thing to make next to a fitted jacket) that you could combine with a home made skirt to make something impressive for a little bit less, just remember to stick to ‘formal’ and you’ll be fine!
NB: Stay away from sites like Rosewholesale and anything that sounds similar, they pop up on Facebook and Google searches but they are basically a scam, and will not be sending you the outfit in the picture but a cheap shoddy knock-off that you’ll end up using as a rag..
If you decide to make your own outfit, keep reading….
4) Do It Yourself
When it comes to dress making this can be a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand it is a lot of fun having the opportunity to make your dream dress. Spotlight is full of cheap fabric and trims, and you can get patterns for anything from historical dresses to steampunk to cosplay these days. However it isn’t always the easiest thing to recreate the kind of outfits that were only economically feasible with slave labour, or extreme wealth, or extreme boredom.
Know what it is you want, what your abilities are and what resources you have and make a decision from there. Pinterest comes in handy again here as well, it has ideas, links to free patterns, examples of what other people have done and tutorials up the wazoo.
However making your own outfit will take time, if you have young kids you may be doing this in the evening when you would rather have a glass of wine and crash on the sofa before bed. On the other hand if you enjoy sewing, or art, or fabric or fashion, if you like making things with your hands and you can beg or borrow a few things in a pinch, then the fun of making your very own Best Ever Dress is definitely worth it.
And gentlemen, if you want to make something out of leather we can hook you up, if you have always secretly wanted to be Aragorn (when he was trying to woo Arwen rather than sleeping rough in the bush though ok) we can help you with that too.
Be brave! DIY! If enough people are interested we will be holding a few workshops in Featherston at the community centre with all sorts of wondrous things including overlockers and people with many years of experience swearing at fabric and patterns.
And finally keep an eye on our Facebook Page for handy links if you are making your own outfits, there are also many other places to reach out to including the SCA and various Steampunk groups which are all well represented on Facebook and chock full of people with knowledge and skills they are happy to share. So get out there and get creative!