"SCA Upcycling: Costuming on a Budget" by Lady Jeanne-Marie la Verriere.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
NOTE: This is the handout from a class taught in Austin, Texas, so some of the stores and locations mentioned are local to here, but with some searching you may find similar stores in your location.
SCA Upcycling: Costuming on a Budget
by Lady Jeanne-Marie la Verriere
There are two ways to consider how to plan out a garment:
1) Must be virgin materials of specific weight and content (Kingdom A&S, Laurel's Prize, etc.)
2) Must fit into a budget with some leverage with regards to fabric content and weight
Also, consider time vs. money……do you have the time to do all the embellishment (embroidery, beadwork, etc.) yourself or do you need to purchase previously embellished fabric?
For those who fall into category #2 and who have the time to do their own embellishments, there are many options available that most people never consider. The first cost-cutting technique that has worked and continues to work for me is: utilizing 'used' fabric.
'Used fabric' is what I consider fabric that is being repurposed. It once was used for something else, and now it's going to take on a new life as an SCA garment or accessory. My favorite things to 'harvest' used fabric from are table cloths and old curtains, be they the house/ apartment kind or theatre. Oftentimes, you can get lucky and find these in linen or with a really beautiful, period-looking brocade, but even the solid colored ones can produce wonderful results. Another great place to find smaller pieces for specific uses are with large clothes, ie. Robes, jackets, large garments. Many is the time I have torn apart a wool jacket to cut strips for making my own trim or cut up a silk blouse to create a partlet or unraveled a sweater to use the 'thread' for my embroidery.
The second cost cutting technique involves becoming a fabric-hunting Sherlock Holmes. Craigslist, eBay, the local classifieds, etc. are all great places to find out about fabric-snatching opportunities. Check for estate sales, fellow sew/ crafters thinning their stash, fashion designers and fabric stores going out of business, etc. Recently, cruising along Craigslist I found a listing for a fashion designer going out of business. I called to make an appointment to view his collection of fabric and sewing machines and got a time slot for myself and two friends. By the time we left, I had managed to buy a large bag full of metal shank buttons (at least 100 of large gold and 60 of small copper) for $10, 6 yards of extremely high-end brocade for $50, and as a gift to me he threw in 12 yards of white Egyptian silk for $10. For $70, I had easily walked away with over $275 worth of high quality fabrics. My friends purchased their own fabrics plus sturdy, high-end industrial sewing and serger machines for about 30% of their initial cost.
Cruising the web fabric stores can also yield insane savings. Most of the better ones have mailing lists which you can sign up for to receive a special email containing coupons and information about upcoming sales. While it may sound like you are just signing up for spam, some of these can really yield great results. One of my favorite online stores boasts daily sales for mailing list folk only, and frequently they will run a sale that puts my favorite SCA-worthy fabrics at least 30%-40% off with free shipping on orders over $35. Couple that with a quick web search for a 'coupon code' and you can walk away with fabric yields that will make you feel like you've committed highway robbery. My best 'robbery' to date……I snagged 2 length's of quality linen, 6 yards each in different colors plus 4 yards of designer summer wool for under $40, shipping included.
Let's not forget our SCA fabric merchant friends as sometimes you can find a great deal there. Think of the SCA fabric merchant as someone who has already done the ground work for you….they have already shopped around, found the best SCA-useful stuff, and are offering it at usually decent prices. After all they are fellow SCAers, and while they do know what they have, they also understand that to sell their wares they must offer them at an attractive price. I personally am VERY in favor of supporting local and SCA small businesses, and if they are selling something I know I can't live without, chances are good I will buy it without a second thought. That said, make sure that you peruse the fabric being offered with a careful eye. Is there enough yardage for what you are going to need it for? If not, chances aren't good you will be able to find more. If the price is below what you can afford, ask the merchant politely if they can go any lower. If they can't, at least you know the fabric you like and want exists and you can be on the lookout for it at a later date or when you are a bit more flush.
Last but not least, take advantage of your local fabric stores. JoAnn's, Hancock, Hobby Lobby, etc. are all stores that carry fabrics of different weight and content and most will list these on the bolt. Pay attention to sales and watch for coupons. Also, don't discount their 'clearance' section as you can sometimes find treasures shoved in between the ugly knits and sequins. Be aware of 'fashion seasons' as typically during the spring and early summer is when the fall and winter fabrics go on extra sale (wools, suitings, etc.) and vice versa. Also, check with your sales person about any specials or 'insider tips' she can provide you……did you know that JoAnn's will discount the 'end of bolt' cut at least 50% if not more? Ask her to measure the piece, and then do the math (ex. The total piece is 1 3/8th yards and you want the entire piece for the best price. Ask for the 3/8th piece, use a coupon on it, and tell the sales person you will take the yard remnant at a discounted price. You now have the entire piece for the lowest price possible.)
Now that we have an idea about how to get started, let me briefly discuss some 'don'ts.' These 'don'ts' are places where you usually won't find a good deal or are places that can not offer you a discount.
'Mom and Pop' fabric stores and Pro Shops like Silk Road, Fanny's Fabrics, and other such non-chain stores have amazing fabrics and beautiful trims and notions. However, they do not offer discounts and rarely if ever have sales. They do not reduce their prices because they don't have to….their clientele are professional fashion designers or interior decorators who can purchase from them using their credentials to ensure a low price for their clients. Unless you are friends or family with a pro, these places are best left off your radar. While their items are mouth-wateringly beautiful, typically you won't be able to afford their prices.
Specialty stores like Austin Sew & Vac and other repair or knitting/ textile shops do have fabrics that will make anyone drool with envy, but their selection is specific and limited. You won't find sales or deals here because fabric isn't their main source of income….servicing expensive sewing and embroidery machines or selling specialty yarns keeps them plenty flush. You might be able to find something occasionally, but the chances are so rare I usually don't waste my time.
Now that you know where to shop, the next step is to get organized! You have been given your mission, you understand where to get your tools, but do you know what your end result is going to be?
Plan your garment down to the last button…..print or make a sketch of your final look and be specific as to color, fabrics, accessories, etc. My method involves first looking through my list of period paintings online to find something that sparks me. (If the new garment is for a themed event, sometimes I need to do some research outside my persona to find the right look.) I study it with as much detail as I can….where do the seams go, what is used to fasten everything, will I need a veil, do I have shoes like the person is wearing, am I planning on changing anything to accommodate SCA tradition or heraldry, etc.? Once I have a 'game plan' then I can start searching for my 'ingredients' to complete my look.
Some things to consider when organizing your 'game plan':
1) Think about where you are going to be wearing your garment. Is this for a themed event? Outside or inside? Will you be dancing (avoid making a train on your dress!) or will you be working in the kitchen as the Feastocrat (no long sleeves, make an apron!)
2) Is this garment something you are just going to be wearing day to day, or will you perhaps want to enter it in a competition? If its just every day wear, you can probably get creative with your fabric content and no one will put up a fuss. If you are entering the competition, keep in mind that judges are expecting period fabrics and methods and your hot pink linen-rayon blend sewn together using that fancy spiral stitch on your sewing machine is going to raise eyebrows (and not in a good way, lol.)
3) What are you going to wear as accessories? Do you need to construct a corset to wear with your garment? Are you using real or faux fur? Consider the finer details before making your final choices.
Planning your SCA wardrobe on a budget can be a fun and challenging adventure. Just remember to remain vigilant, stay organized, and know what you want. Do not settle for anything less than what you need, and always keep an open mind about where to find your next fabric steal.
Thank you for attending this class, I hope you enjoyed attending as much as I enjoyed teaching it!
Where to find 'Used Fabrics':
· Goodwill, lots of locations near you
Sometimes the prices can be a bit much, so tread carefully. However, if the price is right, SNAG IT!!
· Thrift Land, 512 W. Stassney Ln. Austin, TX 78745
They only take cash, so leave your credit card at home.
· Thrift Town, 5726 Manchaca Rd. Ste 240 Austin, TX 78745
MY FAVORITE!! I love this place…seriously, GO. Best of all, every week they offer 50% off a certain color or price tag!
· Texas Thrift Store, 5319 N IH 35 Austin, TX 78799
Another good one! This place is my go-to place for shoes and embellishments. Best of all, certain tags are 30%, 40%, and 50% off depending on what week it is.
This is a beginner list, check online for 'thrift stores austin'
Jeanne-Marie's secret tips:
*Take apart necklaces and bracelets for beads.
*Look for beaded clothing that you can take apart for the beads or cut into strips for trim.
*Cheap wicker flower baskets make great hat forms!
*Think outside the box…..could that brass lamp stand or candlestick be taken apart and used for parts?
*Check the belts and handbags for decorative metal findings and belt buckles.
*Eveningwear often will yield rhinestone buttons and beads that can go on hats, coronets, or made into jewelry.
Copyright 2010 by Michele Reichek, <txcolorandstyle at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.