Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Exciting News!, Lady Victoria of Essex

“Phryne Fisher” Wanna-Be

What does it take to look like Phryne?Pinterest #2_e22bb57d35235ff862bac9a5ffcb95fb

I wanted to know, so I started to research “the look.”  The historical costuming club to which I belong, frequently has held, or participated in 1920’s era gatherings.  This was special however.  My well known twin, Lady Victoria of Essex, was asking me to look into the possibilities of getting something together in time for summer.  She was coordinating attendance with The Brits for the All British Field Meet in July of 2018.

This is no minor activity.  This is a distinguished showing of classic thru contemporary British motors.  Her image was likely to be captured with Bentley, Rolls, Jags and more.  Whatever I came up with, needed to be suitable for my famous twin.

With limited sources for fabrics in Seattle, either a trip to California or New York seemed to be looming in the future.  NOTHING I had checked on from etsy or ebay had enough yardage for the pieces that need to be created.  Now what?

A road trip to Oregon seemed my next best choice.   A mutual friend of ours had mentioned a location near the state line.  The she and hubby were heading there to shop in preparation to gather fabrics for a King Henry VIII outfit.  Good golly, surely a 1920’s outfit would be easier?

So early in the day, I hopped into the carpool for the 3hr ride, arriving to a magnificent warehouse.  Oh the delights found indoors!  Within the hour, 2 entire garment sets of fabric had been cobbled together – top and matching pants, fabric for a duster, silk dress and matching silk lining with handkerchief bottom hemline, plus another duster.  Amazing fabrics. Wonderful colors.  Prices not to be found anywhere in the Seattle area.  The efforts of our friends and the king outfit… still a work in progress.

The trip was well worth it!  When does sewing commence?  When an inspiration pattern arrives by mail.  Should be soon.  I will post efforts as we go along.  Can’t wait to see Lady Victoria all decked out as she strolls with her bodyguard at her side.  Should make for some stellar images…

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Patterns we've used or reviewed...

Victorian Bustle Era Dress

What else conjures up the image of a Victorian bustle dress better than an outfit complete with ruffles, lace, extensive pleats, swagged overskirt and plenty of trim?

With impending holidays looming in the near future, this historical costumer decided to tackle the construction of a bustle outfit (or dare I say two?) in time to be all festively decked out with ample “junk in the truck”!

Having already visited several fabric/textile stores in the general Seattle area, I had scoped out and then purchased, my stash.  Additionally, I had attended an estate sale, managing to pick up wooooonderful Pendleton wool fabic in smaller yardage quantities, but I think I can make it work.  Victorian fashions after all, seemed to be about as colorful as the homes in which they lived!

So where to begin?  Fortunately, Lady V already has a beautifully constructed corset, originally designed and built by the famous Marie Cooley of  “The Fitting Room”  Over this would be a corset cover (just bought a pattern for a new one!), followed by, ta-daaaah, “The Bustle”.

What exactly IS a bustle, say you?  Most simplest of terms, it’s the cage, wires (padding too), contraption, covered in fabric, which holds all the subsequent layers of the outfit away from the body.

For my complete outfit, I chose to work with patterns designed by the sisters from “Truly Victorian” patterns. 

The photos I am showing you here, are of pattern TV101.  Laying out the pattern was very easy and the instructions to put the item together, were also very straight forward.  With very little exception, I think that even a novice could understand the directions enough to put this together.

To make life easier and so that I had sturdy wire to use, I ordered the correct lengths of wire from Truly Victorian.  These arrived with the ends of the wire beautifully covered with “tips” to protect my fabric from fraying, due to the stress of being bent and straining to pop flat again.

One of the big challenges of the garment, was to sew down channels for the wires to travel within.  I used a wash-out-able, pink marking pen to designate where I’d need to stitch down the channels.

My friend, Miss Bobbie, who had already created the same garment before, advised me to use heavier fabric as my base, to help lessen the wear from wire from punching through thinner fabric.  The only place where I have used this heavy fabric thus far, is in the triangular back section which will house the bustle wires. 

Keeping this in mind, I chose to use a left-over, flat-fold item that appears to be white duck, twill, or possibly denim as my base.  To create the channels, I chose not to cut strips of fabric.  Instead, I purchased enough length of corset bone channeling, plus enough for turning and double-thickness for the ends.

Lickety-split, this part of the project went together  quickly.  Now it was on to preparing the length of fabric which would become the ruffles to cover and hide the structure created by the wires.

The bottom flounce and subsequent back ruffles, are all created from white eyelet.  The flounce has a 3″ hem.  I also clean finished all the seams using a French seam method.

On the inside, I was instructed to sew strings, ribbons, tape to hang down loosely inside the structure.  These would be tied together eventually (left to right), forming the “u” of the cage needed for “Da Look”. 

As you can see, I used ribbon instead of string.  The type is flat and has the little “bumps” along each edge.  My reasoning (tho I might be incorrect in this assumption) is the more texture = better traction to hold the bow the ribbon gets tied into in order to hold that “u” shape of the wires.

Next up: Ruffles.  Good GOD Margo!  How many yards are we talking about?  I sewed all the 13 strips, end-on-end together. For a moment, I thought it stretched as long as my house is wide.  Then I clean finished the “hem” edge of the entire long strip.  At this point of assembly, I’m tired.  I either need medical attention, caffeine, or assistance from the mathematical and carpentry genius – Sir Harry of Essex – to help me measure and cut the long strip of fabric into the pattern specified lengths for each layer of ruffle (there are 7 of them in my case) used.  At least the pattern designers were smart and started with the longest ruffle first, or we might’ve committed hari-kari… (wink)

Like a knight on a white horse, the shy Sir Harry rode in to save the day!  He whipped out his reading glasses.  Firmly grasping on the fabric and tape on one end, he worked to measure the accurate lengths before snipping them.  One by one, I then ran a row of basting stitch on the unfinished long edge.  Working together, we then proceeded to pull the stitching up and pinned each layer to the correct position on the back over panel.  What a guy!

One question we figured we’d face on Monday was, “Sooooo, Sir Harry, whatcha do Saturday night?” 

To which his reply would be, “Oh, I was busy sewing and pinning ruffles on a bustle….”  What would you give to be a fly on THAT wall???

The panel went together quite well and easily.  The far edges of each layer were then caught into the clean-finishing along each side of the panel.  Very clever, very tidy!

I had added the waistband at one point in the process.  Realizing how much stress is put on a waistband’s hook-and-eye closure and the likelihood of the fabric being stressed (okay, I’m fat….), I opted to make it out of the same heavy twill fabric together with the fashion fabric. Turned out well, we think.

Once I have all the pieces of the Victorian bustle outfit completed, I will post photos of each garment on-body so you’ll have a better idea of how they will work together.

Now, I’m on to sewing the “underskirt” of silk, as the next step in the project.  It’s quite beautiful fabric.  Has that one-way it’s beige and another-way it’s burgundy sort of weave.

Oh, Sir Harry – I’m gonna show you how to help me make a “poof” in the skirt….

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Exciting News!, Patterns we've used or reviewed...

What Women Wore in 1910

So you’re doing research what people wore in 1910?  Interested to see what you too, can make as a custom hat, befitting the era?  I’ll show you.  My example is probably intended for someone of a higher status in society, but the results are quite lovely.

To begin with, yours truly has been a very bad reporter in recent months, but I hope I shall be making up for lost time!

In a previous post, I had informed you of a workshop provided by Somewhere in Time, Unlimited, wherein the attendees were encouraged to build a hat from scratch using buckram, wire, beautiful fabrics, trim, and decorations.  The workshop was quite affordable and Miss Mary was a terrific instructor.

My hat’s inspiration came from an image I’d spotted in the New York Public Library collection of images.  Someone had sent me the image, saying how it reminded her of Lady Victoria’s style.  Oh, how I immediately fell in love with the design! 

So, being a good historical costumer, I promptly brought a copy of the image, blown up large, to the workshop to learn how to recreate the hat. 

Now fast forward to August.  The members of Somewhere in Time, Unlimited (a historical costuming group based in the Seattle, Washington area of the United States), were invited stroll the vast grounds of the LeMay Car Museum in early 1900’s attire.  Lady Victoria of Essex chose to represent 1910, exactly.  The LeMay Car Museum is the largest privately owned collection of vehicles.  Although there is a new facility under construction, many of the cars, trucks and unusual equipment are still housed in two locations – Marymount and the LeMay Estate.  I digress.

When I was planning the structure of the hat, I took into consideration that I wanted to have it come out almost to the width of my shoulders.  I’d need a LOT of heavy buckram and at least one pass around the edges with thick wire.  My teacher voiced her concern whether this was a good plan.  I push onwards.  Weeks were now invested into the construction. 

Navy blue ultra suede fabric made the hat plush and gave it depth to the onlooker, as if real suede had been used.  Hand sewn fabric roses were stitched in 2 sizes to mimic the roses in the “inspiration” image.  A super large satin bow created out of fine quality satin and back-supported by 2 layers of interfacing and 1 layer of Wonder Under, gave the bow the stability to form giant loops on the back of the hat.

After having assembled the multiple layers, stiching into place the many fabric roses, the large bow completed the festoons.

My dress is actually a 2-piece outfit, using thrift store found and reclaimed fabrics!  Again, I turned to vintage images for inspiration.  Since there aren’t any dead-on patterns out there presently (for what I wanted to create), I turned to what I had already in my collection of patterns in the hopes of doing some creative alterations.

The bodice of my outfit was fit EXACTLY to my form, first in muslin over the corset, then cut and sewn in the final cotton fabric.  The skirt is a version of a Butterick pattern I used for my alterations.  In the original pattern, it suggests 2 layers of fabric for the skirt. 

I decided that I wanted to have the lower layer to be pleated.  My first attempt was to borrow my friend’s pleater, a cardboard sort contraption which many quilters use.  Didn’t work well with the thickness of the gold fabric.  In the end, I had to hand pleat the entire length of fabric, pinning it at 1.5″ with a 1/2″ or 3/4″ return.   Together with the gray-green fabric over the top, the skirt has beautiful movement when walking, whether at the LeMay Museum, or in a parade!

Here are the images taken at the LeMay Car Museum grounds. 

I hope you enjoyed these images.  If I can be of any help to you or answer questions, feel free to contact me.  Very best of luck in creating your own beautiful outfit!  LadyVictoria “at”

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Upcoming Workshop

Victorian & Edwardian Hat Decorating

It’s that time of year when historical costumers are invited to participate in a number of centennial parades and festivities. 

Can’t much do it easily at other times of year because weather in Seattle is unpredictable, even if we DO settle for “mostly cloudy and partly sunny” forecasts or wind up with showers.  We are after all, talking about The Evergreen State!
Back to hats.  If you are within driving range of Seattle, Washington and have interst in decorating a Victorian or Edwardian or other hat of your choice that you already own, we (of Somewhere in Time, Unlimited) would LOVE to invite you to come participate in a creative afternoon of hat decorating, entirely FREE!
Here is a link to the details:
Would you be brave enough to participate in a parade with us?  I can assure you, it is a wonderful feeling.  The audiences are generally VERY thrilled to see people portraying a different era.  Even my husband Sir Harry and his gentlemen stride happily along side, tipping their hats to the ladies and waving as we go along.
If you like hat decorating, you might also be interested in hat PIN making, also one of our upcoming Workshops.
Stay in touch.  Happy to add you to an email list if you’d like to receive info on the Design Studios or Workshops in 2010.
All the best for lovely hat results!
Lady Victoria of Essex
Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!

Ghost train a-comin’?

WEB 026 MarjorieIt was as if I had stepped back into time and was reliving 1909 all over again.  The day was hot.  Really hot.  Dust blew on the wind across my shoes and into my face as I and others walked across the hard ground before stepping onto the platform. 

Other passengers yet, were already waiting there in heat of this June day.

Depot Days 045

We were headed for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYPE) going on in Seattle.  The group had assembled from all over the world, literally.  There was a doctor from London (Essex) England, a woman coming from Alabama named Suzanna, and there was me, Elfriede Schratzenstaller of Bavaria Germany. 

I was heading to Seattle thru the United States in order to meet up with my distant relatives who had safely made the journey before me and had started a beer brewing business just outside of Seattle.  There were many fields of hops growing in the Kent and Puyallup Valleys. 

ritaAtCleElumMy little dog’s name is “Willy”, short for Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.  I am a very long way from home and Willy’s company has been reassuring for me.

Neither Willy or I speak much English, but know enough hand motions to have made it this far.  We are now about a half-day’s journey outside of Seattle and the end of a long ride is close to an end.

Now flash forward.  Here we are all gathered at the South CleElum Station.  The lot of us are recreating the experience as the travelers would have had 100 years ago on their way thru this historic station which welcomed visitors to Washington State from all over the country and beyond!

Depot Days Telegraphers & Harry 035As part of our day, we interacted with talented Telegraphers who actually used equipment to send historic telegrams this day. 

There was a young “runner” who acted as delivery boy at the station, also in full costume and historical attitude.

Messenger Joey running

“Mr. Mark” was not only the MC at this point, but he was dressed as one of the conductors for the old railroad while others yet, dressed as the engineers.

WEB 009 Group SceneAfter a delightful lunch served up in the now air-conditioned station, we wandered back outside for a second look.  Gone were the famous rails that brought the crowds to and from Seattle.  In their place was now an interpretive walk. 

WEB 025 CabooseOver yonder, a lone car stood next to one of the historical buildings, seeming to call for the other cars, locamotive and caboose which were missing.  If you listened carefully, you could hear the tweet of the steam engine’s whistle and just swear the train was coming around the bend headed once again for the station!

What happened to the train?  As is the case of many of these powerhouses, they were sent to the wayside.  It is now finally, the next generation is looking back and yearning for a slower, quieter time of history when there were genteel men and women traveling along side perhaps some of the more unsavory members of the community, but all dressed in such incredible attire.

Want to see more pictures and learn details of the day?  Please go out toWEB 002 Harry visit Somewhere in Time, Unlimited (SITU – home page).  We are a historical costuming social group that holds 4 parties (Events) per year and participates in numerous community organized events (Dress-up Opportunities) during the year.  We’d love to have you come along sometime to enjoy the fun.

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you hear the wail of that lonesome whistle near Cle Elum, Washington.  It’ll just be thunderous ghost steel headed for a beautifully restored Victorian South Cle Elum Station!

Depot front

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Exciting News!

1920’s Speakeasy. The Possum sent me…

Shanghai LilyThis Sunday, March 30, 2008 Somewhere in Time Unlimited has cooked up a wonderful event for its members and friends – “Shanghai Lily’s Speakeasy”.

The highly creative “back story” is that Lily ran this Speakeasy in the seedy part of town just outside of the City of Seattle’s reach.  The woman had great music, food and of course, the hooch was smuggled in despite Prohibition.  The Georgetown cops would “bust the place” on a regular basis looking to catch her having hooch on site.  Aaaaah, that’s where the imagination really comes in!

SITU has hired “The Chicago 7” featuring Marc Smason and Joanne Klein as the band.  Additionally, there will be dance demonstrations done by the University of Washington Swing Kids.  Participants in this event are encouraged to come in 1920’s attire and bring a potluck item that would work well with the theme.

I shall post photos out to the Somewhere in Time, Unlimited website after they become available.  Be sure to check back under “Prior Events” on the site to see if Shanghai Lily’s Speakeasy has been uploaded.

Wish you were here…
Auntie Rita in the lush and green NW corner of the USA!

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!

Victorian Dress – Is it for you?

So you’ve been curious about Victorian dresses, attire, corsetts, hats and the like have you?  Ever wonder if you could wear the garments comfortably in today’s world? The costumed historical events group I belong to (Somewhere in Time, Unlimited) which is based here in Seattle is making plans to attend the Victorian Festival over in Port Townsend, Washington.  We’ll have the usual amount of ladies in attendance, but many husbands will be coming along as well.  I can hardly wait!!!

JacketWhen I first started looking for patterns, I went to the usual suspects of Butterick, Simplicity and McCalls.  I also was given a nudge to consider a pattern company called “Truly Victorian” and now I’m SOLD!  My garsch have these ladies gone to town with what can be done.  You MUST check out their website and look at the cool photos of beautifully sewn garments.

Originally, I thought of the bustle-era when I think of “Victorian”, but I quickly realized that I could wear Civil War era garments or even styles out to around 1900. 
Brown JacketI figured with my waistline and backside, I probably shouldn’t think about adding even more shadow in the form of a bustle, so I’m going for the 1896-ish look.  This means huge puffy sleeves and a walking skirt – far easier when you have to do a lot of walking or need to stuff yourself behind a steering wheel of a modern vehicle!

If you want to come join us for the Victorian Festival, give me a shout via email.  We hope to be going to tea, watching the fashion show and doing a tour of the wonderful homes while there.  You might be able to hook a ride with one of us heading over on the ferry.  Some are planning to stay overnight so they can participate in the gala dance at night.  Check out the website for more details: and click on “Dress Up Opportunities”.  I hope to have things posted there after 2/20/08.

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Exciting News!

Sewing Circle – THIS December Weekend!!!

Now that Christmas is over, my costumed historic events group has agreed to come together for another sewing circle.  It’s planned to take place at my friend Bobbie’s home, here in Seattle, Washington for Saturday December 29th, 1-6ish.

She’s asked us to swing by for treats, tea and a hot discussion about what she’s going to sew in time for the Burns Night festivities we’ve planned for the end of January.  Seems she hadn’t planned out her costume just yet and was looking for input from us after we’ve looked at her cool books.

For those of you “in the know”, you will remember me speaking fondly of Bobbie who has been taking design classes thru Seattle Central Community College.  Wow!  The course as she describes it, is not easy at all!  Good thing she’s a crack student and is doing her darn best to keep up with all that young talent in the group….

If you have any interest in coming to the Sewing Circle and would like to participate in the frivolity of it all, feel free to email us directly for driving instructions. 

Due to hackers looking at websites for email addresses, I am going to write this in a cryptic way, but you’ll get my point:  Bobbie  at  Email her or give her your phone number and she can give you the full 411 on things.  Yes, there will be sewing taking place, so if you have a costume where you need help, you’re looking for an idea, or you’re interested in coming to our next event, DO COME!

Happy “Spritz Cookie” smiles from Auntie Rita in Seattle, located in the lush and green NW corner of these fine United States!!!

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!

Scottish “Aaaaaargh!”

So, I’m new to the blogging thing, but as a member of SITU in Seattle, I decided it was time to attempt putting a simple blog together for those of us interested in reconstructing past eras!

This January 2008, Somewhere In Time Unlimited is holding one of its more gala events – The Winter Event which this year happens to be: “Bonnie Bobbie Burns, We Love Ye Still…”  Guess what we all should wear?  Thankfully, I had sewn a costume last year for myself for a different event, so “I’m” handled.  It’s my husband who is next in line for costuming treatments!

I’ve priced out wool, imported and domestic.  Checked into different patterns for kilts.  I’ve even gone online to look what it would take to buy a kilt on e-bay.  I’ve got a couple of months to try to pull this together, but I thought perhaps if there was someone out there in the blogging world with some pearls of wisdom, I’d be interested in hearing it.

The event should be a real blast.  The organizer has a fabulous meal planned for the participants (fully catered mind you), a piper and a Scottish dance group to entertain us.  The location, although in the basement of a neighborhood church, is going to be transformed into a lovely setting reminiscent of an old Scottish building.  Okay, squint your eyes and work with me here….

I see yards and yards of tartan being purchased and decorations for The Grand Hall.  Look to this blog come end of January and I’ll be posting a photo or two. 

In the meantime, if you’re interested in what our group is doing or photos of past events, hop on over to for a quick look.  My computer has been buggy for the past few days (yup, the Tech Department is on their way), so forgive me if you see any broken links.  I’ll be jumping on those after the weekend.

Fond smiles from Seattle in the lush and green Northwest!  Rita