Dawn's Costume Guide

Commercial Costume Patterns

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There are a number of commercial costume patterns you can buy in most any fabric chain store. Some of them have fantasy or medieval themed outfits you might consider wearing to an event or faire, or making up for stage use. I consider this a different kind of activity than a one-shot Halloween type costume you'll probably never wear again. Some of these patterns ask you to use very flimsy construction methods that are suitable for single-wear use, and which might make up quicker than some people can thread a sewing machine. If you're planning to use any of these for a wearable outfit, you MUST use a sewing machine instead of fusible webbing or glue.

In the past few years the pattern manufacturers have caught on to the growing market for historical/fantasy/Ren-fest costumes. All of them have put out new patterns (at premium prices) to vie for your dollar. Some of them are better than others, in my opinion.

Here is a brief review of some of the currently available costume patterns. This list is here to give you an idea of what is available in readily found commercial patterns, and which ones you can use if you are new to sewing and need a pattern to follow in order to make an outfit. I will also try to give you some hints on which patterns I find "authentic" enough to be used for events where that is desired, and to give you some tips on what to alter in order to make them more suitable for those "authentic" events. I don't cover all the details, and I won't document every costume because these are, when all is said and done, modern adaptations of historical dress and not the "real" costume patterns at all.

If you don't see a pattern listed here I didn't look at it and can not tell you anything about it's suitability (or lack thereof) for wear. Due to the increasing size of these reviews the patterns are now divided by manufacturer.

General notes about all patterns: These are all modern patterns. By this I mean that all of the patterns are designed for modern body shapes, with modern undergarments, using modern sloper templates. The patterns do not use historical cut and piecing, and are not designed to reproduce a historical aesthetic of body shape, and do not include allowances for historical undergarments which might be required to achieve a certain period look. Further, the construction techniques are designed for use with a sewing machine, and do not replicate hand sewing methods or historical finishing techniques.

Most of these patterns use modern fastenings such as snaps and zippers, or elastic.

Most of the patterns make up on the large side. You may find your outfit feels several sizes too large, particularly around the chest area. Fortunately it is easy to remove excess fabric if this is the case.

In most cases the patterns can be made reasonably historical in appearance by making some simple changes. These include the use of natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, silk, or linen, in earth tones or other subdued solid fabrics (not prints or florals) and the replacement of modern fasteners with hooks, ties, or drawstrings where appropriate.

Many patterns appear to be historically based, but are, in reality, a combination of historical features from different time periods, or are combinations of historical and fantasy styles.

With all costumes I strongly suggest finding a history book or an art book and locating one or two actual portraits of costume from the time period you are trying to portray, and comparing the picture with the pattern. This will enable you to select colors, determine appropriate trim and placement, and get an accurate feel for the look you are trying to reproduce.

All text and artwork copyright 1990 - 2001 D. Duperault. Pattern images used on this page belong to their respective manufacturers and are used for review purposes only. NOTHING on this site may be reproduced or distributed by any means without my written permission. This information offered in good faith, and worth only what you paid for it.
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Last modified on Feb. 4, 2003


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