2017 Costuming challenges – themes announced

On December 5th, 2016 the creator of the Historical Sew Monthly announced the themes for the 2017 challenges. I’m feeling very inspired by this next set of challenges, and in this article will brainstorm some of my ideas.

2017 costuming challenges

January: Firsts & Lasts – Create either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit.

Until the admins post about this challenge, I’m interpreting the first being the first garment -so the undergarments (chemise, stockings, etc) and lasts being the last items put on while dressing like belt, hat, handbag, etc…

Back of the Tellerbarret being worn (without the Goldhaube, which is why you can see my hair) (iphone photo)

My first German hat – Back of the Tellerbarret being worn (without the Goldhaube, which is why you can see my hair) (iphone photo)

This month will be Twelfth Night – an event where I’ll be hosting an A&S competition, will step down as Baronial champion, and will see friends become the next Baron & Baroness – their personas are both German.

I’m thinking for this challenge to make either a German hat, gollar, or both.

February: Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion – Sew something that pays homage to the historical idea of re-using, re-making and re-fashioning. Turn one thing into another. Re-fit or re-fashion an old gown into something you would wear again. Re-trim a hat for a new outfit, or re-shape a modern hat to be a historical hat. Re-purpose the fabric from an old garment (your own or a commercial one) into a new garment.

While I have lots of mundane clothing that needs to be re-made, none of them lend themselves to costumes at the moment… I’ll likely address this challenge by digging into my supply of “clothing to re-source” to make a new garment, accessory, or trim on a costume.

I won’t be attending any SCA events this month, so there are no targets for February.

March: The Great Outdoors – Get out into the weather and dirt with an item for outdoor pursuits.

My most recent Viking-age coat in black and white wool with blue silk trim

My most recent Viking-age coat in black and white wool with blue silk trim

My first go-to for costuming is Viking Age, so my first thought is another Viking-Style coat… however I now have three (two wool, one linen), so I don’t really need more of that style right now.

I want to think about some of the other costumes I want to work on, which ones I might wear to winter events (or outdoor camping events) and what overgarments would be relevant. None of my costuming eras do things like ‘outfits for horseback riding’ though a split-front Norman tunic would be the closest thing to that…

Winter war is in March, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend or not – and it’s an event with very little A&S, so I won’t feel the need to really dress up.

April: Circles, Squares & Rectangles – Many historical garments, and the costumes of many people around the world, use basic geometric shapes as their basis. In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and circles

My Finnish coil-embellished apron

My Finnish coil-embellished apron

So many of the early-period costumes I could explore would fit in here!  My first thought is another Finnish apron panel, possibly heavily embellished with coils, though I suspect as I move along into the year I’ll come up with other ideas too!

Silver Arrow is in April, a small event I’ve really enjoyed in the past. It’s largely indoors, with archery and things outside, so anything kind of goes for this one… I could go with an “indoor” costume, or one a bit more rough-and-tumble.

May: Literature – The written word has commemorated and immortalised fashions for centuries, from the ‘gleaming’ clothes that Trojans wore before the war, to Desdemona’s handkerchief, ‘spotted with strawberries’, to Meg in Belle Moffat’s borrowed ballgown, and Anne’s longed for puffed sleeves. In this challenge make something inspired by literature: whether you recreate a garment or accessory mentioned in a book, poem or play, or dress your favourite historical literary character as you imagine them.

Hmmm this is a hard one for me – I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. My first thought is to go to Shakespeare, and perhaps costume Juliet or something. http://www.shakespeareswords.com/Clothing might be useful here to give some context…   

Of course, talk of Anne of Green Gables makes me think of “The Lady of Shalott” which leads me to think of Authurian legend, and how I might interpret Elaine or one of the other female characters from the stories… based on historical information for clothing from English attire for the late 5th-early 6th century.

Alternately – perhaps a costume from a movie based on a book…?

June: Metallics – make something in silver, gold, bronze, and copper, whether it be an actual metal, cloth of gold or silver, or lamé.

Well now cloth of gold or silver is well out of my price range, and lamé isn’t appropriate for the costuming I do… I don’t have actual metal-working skills for a garment made of actual metal… so with this one I’ll go towards a costume in a colour like metal… a copper-coloured gown for instance – perhaps finish my Gold Houppelande? 

June will also be a REALLY busy month, with three SCA events I want to attend, so I might have to scale down the project for this month to something small and quick.

July: Fashion Plate – Make an outfit inspired by a fashion plate, whether it is a direct replica, or a more toned down version that fits the resources and lifestyle of the character you are portraying. If you want to stick to a period prior to the 17th century advent of fashion plates, either re-interpret a Victorian ‘historical’ fashion illustration as period accurate, or use an image from your period that depicts and idealised and aspirational fashion.

I think the woodblocks from the 1500’s German camp-followers would work really well in here. Alternately, the Alcega Tailors book might fit the bill, and I’d look at the sacque-back Spanish gown for this challenge?

I would also be curious to see how the Victorian illustrators imagined ancient Egyptian costume, and see if I can create a period-informed version… OR base a costume totally off the statues – which definitely are idealized and aspirational! 

With that thought – perhaps even a Viking Age costume based more on the pendants than textile findings?

August: Ridiculous – Fashion is sometimes a little silly, and historical fashions can look particularly odd. Make something that was considered outrageous in its own time, or is just utterly ridiculous to modern eyes.

The 1500s German Camp-follower costume would definitely apply in the ridiculous category.

I also could see doing a Tudor-era cross-dressing costume – the codpiece and the huge shoulders in particular, and men in hose would be out of the norm for a modern man.

September: Seen Onscreen – Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.

Blue wool apron dress over a green wool underdress

Blue wool apron dress over a green wool underdress that I did for the Silver Screen challenge in 2015.

When the silver screen challenge came up before, I was really wanting to do the 1780s chemise a la reine – but I didn’t have anywhere to wear it (and still don’t). It’s still on my mind… though now I think I’ve used up all of the linen gauze in white I had thought of using for it. I still do have the pale blue though.. *ponders*. 

Alternately, it would be a good time to explore either more Italian garb (inspired by the many screenshots I’ve acquired on Pinterest of the Borgias) or a Tudor gown inspired by The Other Boleyn Girl. 

Summer crown and Harvest Feast will both be in September this year – I don’t know if Crown will be largely indoors or outdoors – or depending on where it is – if I can even go. Harvest Feast has a lot of indoor and outdoor components usually, so my costuming requirements will be pretty complex.

October: Out of Your Comfort Zone – Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before.

Really so many of the eras I’d like to explore would work in this category… I suspect that when October comes around I’ll end up splitting up either the remainder of September or the beginning of the November challenge into October.

November: HSF Inspiration – One of the best things about the HSF is seeing what everyone else creates, and using it to spark your own creativity. Be inspired by something that has been made for the HSF over the years to make your own fabulous item.

Ohboy… this is a rabbit-hole all in itself!

  • I adore Meg Furler’s confection-coloured 1770s gown – though I might be more inspired by the candy-coated colourway than the era (which I want to make for sure, but again… no where to wear) Chelsea Souder also did a 1770s gown which is also very inspiring… I just need to find a place to wear these kinds of dresses!
  • Corado Catany‎ did a gorgeous Italian 1490s in an amazing pink/gold/orange colour way that I would NEVER wear for mundane clothing, but have found I LOVE in my Ottoman costume… This inspires me to perhaps tap into some of those bright sari fabrics for a historical costume…
  • Corado Catany also did a beautiful Cranach gown… if I haven’t already done a Cranach gown by November – this might just be the ONE to inspire me…. right in time for Winter Coronation, (where I’ll step down as A&S champion) Yule or 12th Night 🙂 
  • Another colourway I adore is Lindsey Foster’s Viking Age ensemble in icy grey-blue, plum, and off-white. I could definitely see translating this colour scheme into a cotehardie or something…
  • Seah Breeze did a lovely chemise a la reine – again, I’d love to do this… but no where to wear this kind of gown. It reminds me that I could still do this with the white silk I bought… even though the linen is used now.
  • Åsa Petersson‎’s Italian gown reminds me that I want to do another front-laced Italian gown with hand-sewn eyelets (rather than lacing rings)… (though likely I’d go with a bolder colour scheme than her frothy light blue and pale gold costume (those pale colours would wash me out).
  • Åsa Petersson also did a 1900s outfit with a brown wool jacket and a long plaid bias-cut skirt.  I have NO where to wear a 1900s outfit… but I’d just wear this as day-wear without a historical context whatsoever! I don’t know if I have 3-4 metres of plaid wool kicking around in my stash… but I now REALLY want to make a plaid wool skirt with a coordinating jacket!

Samhain and Coronation are both in this month. I am required to attend Coronation, as it will be the place where the competition for the next kingdom A&S champion will take place (and I’ll either be running or helping to run the competition) and I’ll be stepping down as kingdom champion. I really want to have an outstanding gown/costume for court for this event. A really brilliant, highly embellished 1480s Italian gown would be wonderful, or a beautifully complex ‘stepped out of a painting’ Cranach gown would be wonderful…. 

December: Go Wild – You can interpret this challenge as an excuse to make something that incorporates animal print, or wild animals in some way, or to simply make something wild and over the top.

Lifting my hems to show off the Shalwar

My brightly coloured Turkish costume, lifting my skirts to show the salwar.

I loved the wild colour combination in my Ottoman costume, and I would like to do that again… I have some blue and pink cotton-silk blend fabric to possibly use for this.

I’d love to do an animal-print costume, though don’t think that there is any historical period where animal-print would be a thing… (at least not any historical time period that I would be looking at) I might need to wait for the admins to post their inspiration post for that! 

“Animal print” could also be interpreted as ‘fur’ – and I might come up with a use for some of the faux fur I’ve collected… perhaps a fur-lined Gollar for a German outfit? Fur trim on a v-neck Burgundian gown?

Wild and over the top – could also be the enormous Edwardian hat I have still in long-overdue progress (the wiring alone takes ages on such a huge brim)

Yule is this month – which typically has been an A&S-heavy event (though less so for 2016) and is entirely indoors. Once again I’d like to have a really lovely gown for court for this one…

My ever-growing costume wish-list:

(yeah.. some of these are still on here from the 2016 wish-list… and the 2015 wish list!)

Sketch of the pattern I would subsequently develop

Sketch of the pattern I would subsequently develop


  • Edwardian walking suit – skirt
  • Edwardian walking suit – jacket
  • Edwardian walking suit – blouse
  • Edwardian walking suit – hat
  • Option: Edwardian walking suit – purse

I started the Edwardian costume before my weight loss, so the skirt I started is likely far too large now. I might need to alter it, or re-cut it entirely 😦  I also don’t really know if I have the opportunity to wear the Edwardian anymore, as the event I was planning on making it for has kind of faltered.


  • Purple dress (UFO from the 2014 yellow challenge)
  • Cocoon coat (that purple devore velvet?)

Like the Edwardian costume, I don’t really have a place to wear a 20s era costume at this point.

(Icelandic/ Finnish) Viking Age

  • Basket-bag
  • naalbinding bag, shawl
  • Heavily coiled Finnish apron (stretch goal)
  • Finnish herringbone linen under dress
Finished Italian Reta

Finished Italian Reta

1480s Italian Renaissance

  • Blue and silver under-dress with silver lacing rings
  • Overdress to coordinate with blue-and-silver under dress
  • Large-scale damask over-dress (currently ivory and black, possibly over-dye)
  • Red and gold damask over-dress


  • Simple ‘everyday’ kirtle
  • Petticoat (red?)
  • Gown (stretch goal) to coordinate with French Hood(s)
  • Finish 2 French Hoods

Other UFOs

  • Victorian red velvet suit (another that probably doesn’t fit anymore)
  • Gold silk Houppelande (needs new collar)

1500s German camp-follower

  • Gown in navy & brown perhaps?
  • Coordinating amazing starfish hat
  • Coordinating gollar (need to figure out acceptable colour schemes

German Cranach gown

  • Ideally red and gold.
  • If not red and gold, whatever other wool I have.. and gold.


I don’t really have anywhere to wear a Victorian costume right now though….

  • Clara Oswald (Doctor Who) Victorian dress
  • Victorian polonaise

15th Century

  • V-neck Burgundian gown

    buckram base with extra support at centre-front

    buckram base with extra support at centre-front

  • Truncated henin like the one I made for Kadie

Other dream-projects/thoughts

  • 1940s style rain poncho (may be too late)
  • Articles towards the Steampunk in Tokyo or Indian Steampunk costumes?
  • Late-period sack-back Spanish gown
  • 1780s chemise a la reine
  • Red silk Bliaut with fancy trim
  • Starched linen ruffled veil
  • Linen garb that can double for mundane summer wear
  • Regency gown and over-dress/coat

Ideas for costume challenges for the Historical Sew Monthly 2017 themes:

Month Theme Ideas What I made
January Firsts & Lasts German hat or Gollar for “German by 12th night” (or both?) German Renaissance Gollar 
February Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion Not sure right away, likely use used clothing for an accessory, garment, or trim on a costume. Split-brim German Renaissance hat
March The Great Outdoors Overgarment for Italian costume?
Split-front Norman tunic?
1920s cocoon coat?
April Circles, Squares & Rectangles Heavily coil-embellished Finnish apron panel?  Black and red Viking Age style coat
May Literature Juliet?
Elaine of Isolat?
Movie based on a book?
June Metallics Gold Houppelande?  Red and gold Italian over dress
July Fashion Plate German camp-follower after wood cuts?
Sacque-back Spanish gown?
Egyptian after Victorian fashion plates or extant statues/etc?
Viking age after pendants?
August Ridiculous German camp-follower?
Tudor menswear x-dressing
September Seen Onscreen 1780s chemise a la reine? (Marie Antoinette)
Tudor? (Other Boleyn Girl)
Italian (The Borgias)
Egyptian? (Tut TV show)
 Egyptian costume
October Out of Your Comfort Zone Many of the other eras I’d like to do this year – German, Egyptian, Tudor… likely split some of the elements from September or November with October’s challenge.  Very early Viking-Age apron dress
November HSF Inspiration Cranach gown?
Italian gown?
Sari-fabric costume?
Inspired by a colourway?
1900s outfit?
 1900s Plaid skirt
December Go Wild Brightly-coloured Ottoman outfit/garment to add to my existing outfit?
Fur-trim/lining on German gollar? or V-necked Burgundian gown?
Pony-printed gown?
Pony-printed Byzantine gown 

In previous years I’ve had a LOT of ideas for the beginning of the year, and far fewer as the year went on – but this time around it seems to be the opposite… with more ideas for later in the year than earlier.

Want to join?

Want to join in all the fun, share your progress, and get help and advice from other costumers? Join the HSM on Facebook too: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HistoricalSewFortnightly/

One comment on “2017 Costuming challenges – themes announced

  1. […] Spanish gown OR for 2016 I missed Tucks and Pleats, Gender bender,  and Historicism. OR for 2017 I missed Great Outdoors (cocoon coat?) Literature (not sure) Fashion plate (German wood cuts?) and […]

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