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February 04, 2010

Some Places to Rent a Costume

I am constantly being bombarded with questions from folks new to the vintage dance scene about "Where can I rent stuff". I have generally dodged the question, since I have seldom been impressed with what is available from retail costume rental places, and the movie shops are expensive and intimidating for the uninitiated. I worry that any recommendation will be perceived as an endorsement, and in my limited experience, I have yet to find a rental place I could give my unqualified endorsement.

However, the fact remains that there are countless newbees out there who want to join in the fun, don't have the time or skills to make stuff themselves, and either can't afford a costumer or can't afford to wait for a costumer.

Continue reading "Some Places to Rent a Costume"

Posted by Walter at 07:24 PM | Comments (1)

August 04, 2008

Recommendation: a Place for Victorian Men's Stuff

I don't usually make plugs for specific businesses, but today I make an exception.

I just attended the Costume College, and there I found a frock coat of proper cut, a tail coat of proper cut, a pull over shirt with a soft standing collar (perfect for the 1850s & 60s) a summer weight vest and my wife found some very nice lace up boots.

Continue reading "Recommendation: a Place for Victorian Men's Stuff"

Posted by Walter at 06:27 PM

September 07, 2006

1920s Etiquette - Bad Form in Dress

This is the second installment in the "Art Deco Etiquette" series, which takes as its core, the weekly column "Conduct and Common Sense" by Anne Singleton, which was printed in Vogue and the Washington Post. This article is of particular interest, not only because it catches Miss Singleton at her most waspish (and amusing), but also because it gives some idea of 1920s notions of appropriate dress and coiffure. This one comes from September of 1926.

Continue reading "1920s Etiquette - Bad Form in Dress"

Posted by Walter at 06:44 AM

June 23, 2006

19th Century Working Men--Where to get the stuff

Some men are talented tailors. Other men have talented women who are willing to make costumes for them. Others have neither advantage--but fortunately, if all you need to do is dress up like a ranch hand, farmer, ditch digger, railroad worker or what ever, you can get all sorts of historically correct, moderately priced and well made stuff "off the rack" with nothing more than a credit card (with money, all things are possible).

Continue reading "19th Century Working Men--Where to get the stuff"

Posted by Walter at 12:05 PM

June 22, 2006

19th Cenutry Working Men--Dressing the Part

A week or so ago, I was participating in my usual monthly living history at Los Encinos State Historic Park ( It was June in the San Fernando Valley, it was around 100 Degrees Farenheit, and I wasn't doing too badly. I reflected on the fact that in my "Ranch Hand" garb, I was wearing probably the best gear any European could wear in the sweltering desert that is Southern California--and I was also entirely historically correct.

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Posted by Walter at 10:23 AM

May 12, 2006

In Praise of the Wrapper

Many living history programs, which focus on domestic life in the second half of the 19th Century are faced with the dilemma of women who want to, or are supposed to be in 19th Century costume, but who are not willing or able to wear the elaborate underpinnings that go with fashionable ladies' attire, such as corsets, petticoats, bustles and the like.

Many more who are willing to give it a try lack the sewing skills required to produce one of these rather complex dresses.

There is a solution: it is called the "wrapper".

Continue reading "In Praise of the Wrapper"

Posted by Walter at 01:23 PM | Comments (3)

April 20, 2006

Historical Hatiquette

The subject often comes up at living histories and vintage dances of when to wear hats and when to remove them. While the stuff they told me in the Army of "Hats on outdoors--hats off indoors" is not a bad rule of thumb, in historical practice, it wasn't always that simple.

Continue reading "Historical Hatiquette"

Posted by Walter at 12:57 PM

April 12, 2006

19th Century Clergy and other "Characters"

I recently received an email asking for suggestions on what a Methodist minister should be wearing in the Civil War era South.

I referred the questioner to a page in my "Gentleman's Page" website which shows a 19th Century clergyman, but his question does raise an interesting and broader ranging question: what if the questioner wanted to portray a Baptist preacher in an ordinary business suit--how would anyone know, without him constantly introducing himself, what he was portraying?

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Posted by Walter at 08:23 AM | Comments (2)

April 07, 2006

Men--What to Wear to a Jazz Age Ball

Brothers, you have it pretty easy dressing up for a formal event set in the 20s, 30s or 40s. Men's formal wear hasn't changed much in the last eighty years or so. However, there are some details that make your tux shop stuff into proper historical attire.

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Posted by Walter at 09:09 PM | Comments (6)

March 22, 2006

Vintage Dance Costume Suggestions

The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers have put together a helpful guide to what to wear at Vintage Dances.

It can be found at

Posted by Walter at 07:25 PM

February 28, 2006

What to Wear to a "Costume Optional" Vintage Dance

Most of the vintage dance events around here say things like "Historical attire suggested but not required" or "..admired but not required". The problem is, what does it mean to someone who doesn't have the historical costume. Sure, it's not required, but what is?

This may vary depending on the event, but with nearly every event, a man in a coat and tie would not be out of place, nor would a woman in a long dress.

An observation made by the Social Daunce Irregulars on their website is that it is best, if you are not currently deeply into historical costumes, to NOT wear a costume to your first event, but take the opportunity to see what others are wearing and also see if you like this vintage dance stuff. It would be an awful shame to spend hundreds of dollars on a costume and (1) see from looking at others that it was a crappy costume or (2) decide that you don't really like this vintage dance thing after all, and you have now flushed hundreds of bucks down the toilet for a costume you will never wear again.

Posted by Walter at 07:35 PM

February 17, 2006

What Makes a Good Living History Costume

Historical correctness, simplicity and appropriateness are what make a good costume for a living history interpreter.

Historical Correctness
In terms of historical correctness, it should, of course, be cut in a manner that is right for the time and place being portrayed. That should go without saying, but I have seen too many hoop skirts in 1880s portrayals and bustles lurking about the Civil War.

Continue reading "What Makes a Good Living History Costume"

Posted by Walter at 09:15 AM