Shear Madness Quarterly Challenge #6: “Twisted Historicals!”

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The fifth Quarterly Challenge is over, so it is time to start thinking about the next ones.   They are:

6.  “Twisted Historicals” – Costumes made using a historical genre as a base.  A Betty Boop Elizabethan, Steampunk Victorian, etc.  Must have a historical shape to it.  (January 2015 – April 2015)

7.  “The $50 Challenge” – You can spend no more than $50 on a costume.  Show us your frugality!  (April 2015 – July 2015)

8.  “As Seen on TV…” – The media recreation challenge!  You must recreate a costume from a movie or TV show as closely as possible to the original source material.  (July 2015 – October 2015)

9.  “Slap Some Gears On It” – Costumes inspired by the Steampunk genre.  Gadgets, gizmos, pith helmets, goggles, modded Nerf guns and all the other Steampunk stuff you can think of!  (October 2015 – January 2016)

10.  “The Adorable Alert Challenge!” – Costumes for children.  Baby Hobbits, miniature Jedis, tiny Princesses and wee little Superheroes.  No pets and no serial killers, please.  🙂  (January 2016 – April 2016)

11.  “The Way You Wear Your Hat” – The headwear challenge!  Anything you can put on your head counts.  Hats, wigs, headbands, horns, crowns, you name it!  (April 2016 – July 2016)

TO CLARIFY:  All materials must be FINISHED within one year of the the start of the challenge.  So for the “Twisted Historicals” challenge (Challenge runs from 1/2/2015 to 4/1/2015), the dates of construction allowed would be 1/2/2014 – 4/1/2015.  It doesn’t matter when you STARTED the outfit – the main focus is the FINISHING date.  

Challenge #6 starts January 2, 2015 and runs till April 1, 2015.  The rules of the challenge are:

1. The outfit must have been FINISHED within the time period of 1/2/2014 – 4/1/2015.

2. 75% of the outfit must have been made by you.  25% of the outfit can be purchased/sourced/thrifted by you.  We want to see your crafty creativity!

3.  The outfit MUST have a recognizable historical silhouette.  And by historical we mean any date prior to my birthday year, 1971.  (Because I am vintage.)  It doesn’t HAVE to be made using period techniques, but the overall shape of the outfit should be historical.  How you choose to “twist” it is up to you.  Camouflage Elizabethan?  Yes.  Doctor Who Flapper?  Yes.  Bodysuit done in brocade fabric?  No.  Not unless you can directly relate it to a historical garment.

4.  The outfit cannot be a duplicate of an outfit that is advertised in a store unless the store outfit was an inspiration and yours is radically different.  No knock-offs of other people’s work, please.  Everyone is entitled to their own ideas, and we want to see yours – not a copy of someone else’s.

5.  You need to submit 1-5 photos to Laura on FB or at no later than midnight CST on April 1, 2015.  Please also include a photo or link to any inspiration images, and a brief description of why you decided to create this particular outfit.  Include any problems you had to solve, any new things you tried and any creative solutions to problems that you came up with.  Photos are VERY IMPORTANT and can make or break an entry.  Judges like to see costumes on actual people, if at all possible.

6.  Contestants can share the progress of their outfits on their blogs, or on the Shear Madness page, but it is NOT required.

7.  Contestants can sign up at any time.  Simply send your name, the kind of outfit you are creating, and a valid email to Laura via FB email any time prior to April 1st.

8.  HAVE FUN.  This is not something we want you to agonize over.  This is to be a fun and inspiring challenge for you as a costumer.  And if the entire thing doesn’t get finished, oh well!  Submit what you have.  We just want to see what you were working on!

9.  If you have a question about an outfit concerning it’s suitability for the challenge, or the time period it was made during, send Laura an email and she will let you know.

The judges will review the entries and the winners will be announced on April 4, 2015.  There will be 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes awarded, as well as honorable mentions as chosen by the judges.  All winners will be given a Shear Madness logo with their winning placement for display on their blog/website.  The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will receive Shear Madness trophies of an undetermined design.

This admittedly awesome trophy in standing in place of the ACTUAL Shear Madness trophy until I get out the E6000 and make one.

This admittedly awesome trophy is standing in place of the ACTUAL Shear Madness trophy until I figure out what is inspiring me this time.


The 1st place winner will receive a six-month membership to Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, the online Costumer’s Magazine!

ywu logo

The 1st place winner will receive a pattern from the lovely Margo Anderson of Margo’s Patterns:


The 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will all receive 2 yards of mystery fabric each to aid them in their next twisted endeavor!

All winners (including the Honorable Mention winners) will have their creations featured in the header on the Facebook group page from April 4 to July 4, 2015.

The judges for this challenge are amazing costumers.  Each has an extensive background in historical costuming and are excited to see what you create for the challenge.

Judge #1 is Margo Anderson, owner of “Historic Costume Patterns” also known as “Margo’s Patterns.”   You can also find her on Facebook:  Margo’s Patterns/Historic Costume Patterns.  “I’ve been sewing for 52 years, since I was 5.  I spent many years making custom wedding dresses and costumes for Renaissance Faire performers.  In 2001 I launched my business, making historically accurate, extremely detailed sewing patterns for the late 16th century.  I’m about to release an Italian woman’s pattern.”  Margo is one of the very first historical costumers I ever met, and she remains one of the kindest and loveliest to this day. She is one of the very best cheerleaders of historical costume that you would ever meet, and I consider her patterns to be the Gold Standard.

Margo says:  “This Elizabethan noblewoman’s  gown was one of my favorites because it was one of the first ones I made for myself after I started making money at my craft, so I could afford to buy good materials.  Before that,  the expensive materials were for my clients and my own costumes were made by applying skill and ingenuity to things I found on sale tables and at garage sales. While that was a great way to develop my artistic side, it was really satisfying to finally be able to buy the good velvet!

Unfortunately the colors didn’t really work well on me, so I sold it and it’s now enjoying a second career as rental stock.”

Margo's Velvet Elizabethan

Margo’s Velvet Elizabethan

Judge #2 is Cathy Hay of Your Wardrobe Unlock’d and Foundations Revealed.  “I trained as a high school Mathematics teacher, and for many years I sewed professionally, but now I combine the two to support and inspire the work of corsetieres and costume artists worldwide with the award winning, unique online magazines Foundations Revealed and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d.

These give me the time, the space and the funds to work on deliciously impractical costumes such as the Peacock Dress , a once-in-a-lifetime Worth recreation that I pledged to tackle in 2011 in return for charitable donations for projects in Haiti. The fundraiser amassed $20,000 and I am currently working on making the dress happen as part of a bigger umbrella project in collaboration with an embroidery house in India and the team at Kedleston Hall in the UK.

I am a member of both the Costume Society in the UK and the Costumer’s Guild West in the USA, and I teach most years at Costume College. I live in a historic cottage next door to a fairytale mansion in a magical woodland in the UK.”   Cathy is one of the most inspiring costumers I know.  She isn’t afraid to tackle big, crazy projects, and the end results are usually exquisite.

Cathy says:  “The sinuous curves of Norah Hawker’s elegant, asymmetrical 1908 dinner dress can be found in Nancy Bradfield’s Costume In Detail. A number of modern makers have attempted it, but with four maddeningly gorgeous sketches and no pattern, getting it right is a conundrum. In 2013, a breakthrough: my good friend Marion McNealy tracked the dress down in a small civic museum, so that at last it could be deciphered. Through a combination of studying the original gown and reconstructing drafting technique from a Edwardian manual, I came up with my favourite dress to date in 222 hours, over a period of eight weeks. (Photo by Tavan Photography)”

The 1908 Dress.

The 1908 Dress.

Judge #3 is Katherine Caron-Greig of The Fashionable Past.  “Katherine is a slightly obsessive historical costumer who hand sews and reads pattern drafts for fun. Her favorite periods vary, but always seem to go back to Regency and the 1920s. She started costuming in 2001 when she was bored online and found out that people actually sewed historical costumes. She thought, “I can do this,” bought a sewing machine, started a website that will likely never be updated again at, and later a more frequently updated blog at She is more commonly known by her cat Koshka’s name than her own.”  You can see many of her costumes at her Flickr account.  Katherine is one of those people who doesn’t just make 100 dresses a year (it really does seem like she hand-sews 100 dresses a year), but is someone who truly wants others to learn from her triumphs and mistakes.  Her tutorials on her blog have saved my butt many a time.  She is a delight.

Katherine says:  “I chose this costume because although it’s a copy of an original 1920s dress, its unusual shape for the period–tight bodice and hooped skirt–seemed to fit in with the spirit of this challenge. It also shows a little of my costuming insanity, as the skirt was hemstitched on a vintage machine, and I covered 180 beads with silk thread. Grumbling the whole time, of course, that in the 1920s you could have bought them already made.”

The 1920's dress.

The 1920’s dress.

So mark your calendars for April 2, 2015 and get your creative juices flowing!  A second post will be coming soon with examples of various twisted historical costumes!


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