Pizza and the Piggy Bank

Or: Where to Spend It, Where to Save It.

This past weekend I fringed a plaid wool shawl for the first time in over a decade. I find fringing relaxing. This may or may not be odd for the unraveling it is and can symbolically represent. As I neared it’s completion, I thought about how little it costs and how much of a simple impression improver it is. This length of wool turned shawl costs less than the price of a pizza. My mind has since wandered to the other things that cost less than a pizza yet add to and improve someone’s impression.

Now, I don’t want you to get me wrong. I don’t want encourage shortcuts and overly-improvising for the sake of authenticity. I do believe there are things you absolutely need to spend the money one, or spend a great deal of time learning the skills for.

Where do I think you should put your piggy bank?

  1. A good , custom fitted corset. You need to get yourself in front of a quality corset maker and expect to hand her or him $200. Your corset maker needs to measure you up and down as well as around and around. She/he also needs to know where you squish and where you don’t. Need to save a little here? Get yourself to a workshop with a very knowledgeable teaching staff. This isn’t going to be a class where everyone makes the same corset. Nope. It has to be custom draping for each beautifully unique body there. Plan on this being a multiple week class with a lot of home work.
  2. Shoes. Don’t waste your time on cheap shoes past your trial period. Cheap shoes a pain both literally and figuratively. They will hurt the feet and the pocket book. Plan to spend $150-250 for a decent set of authentic shoes or boots. Then plan to spend a little more for the proper care, storage and maintenance. I’ll fully admit care for shoes has been a learning curve for me. But, it is important keep them clean and not dried out. Find out where your local shoe repair is, so you can get the soles replaced when the time comes. If you are a full time interpreter, this may be every year.
  3. Millinery. Now, I am not just saying this because I am a milliner. Okay, maybe a little. But, the reality is cheap millinery stands out like a sore thumb, just as quality millinery can be spied across a meadow. Plan to spend $180-250 for a full decorated bonnet and $130-200 for a full decorated hat.

Are you wondering why the dress isn’t on this list? I think this is a garment you can work on for less if you can sew. With all the online destash sales so easily accessible now, it is possible to get an appropriate dress length of cotton for fraction of a store price.ive even seen nice silk and wool go for under $5/yard. Please, don’t use this as an excuse to pay a seamstress less. If you don’t sew, plan to pay your seamstress for her/his time, skill, and knowledge of period techniques 

Now, you’ve read this far. You really want to know about those “less than a pizza” purchases. Right?

For reference, I am figuring a pizza in my area runs about $25 once I get my favorite vegetables on it. It is imperative to notice these are not solely  Civil War era items. They are also in random order.

  1. Wool shawl with fringed edges. This will take 2 yards of light to medium weight wool in an appropriate plaid or solid. I suggest waiting for a sale bringing the wool to under $8/yard to keep this under $25 with shipping. Or, you can keep an eye out for someone destashing a wool you like. Plan one two movies on the weekend to fringe the whole thing, or one evening per side. Check out my earlier post on fringing.
  2. Market-wallet. While I’ve known about the 18th century market-wallet for a while, I finally got around to make myself some. Love them. I find they are incredibly easy to make and great practice of hand stitches. Two can be made from a single yard of medium to heavyweight natural linen.
  3. Petticoat. I am of the opinion that one can never have too many petticoats to choose from. Okay, maybe there is a limit. But, really a well starched petticoat can make a world of difference to the silhouette. Most of us within a few inches of average height can make a simple petticoat of four to five yards of quality muslin or pima or Egyptian cotton found on sale. Add another yard to get a couple pretty tucks. Good muslin, that with a strong weave and full,not limp hand, can be had for $2.50/yard on sale or with a coupon. Look for pima or Egyptian cotton for sale at or under $5/yard to meet our price goal. I am assuming you have a mother of pearl or China button in your stash. If not, that is 20-50¢.
  4. While we’re talking petticoats, I’ll add a wool petticoat to the list. Two yards of tropical to light weight wool is plenty for a warm wool petticoat. You may also want to a yard of scrap cotton from your stash for the waistband and a lighter weight panel at the top to gauge with less bulk. This project is most fun by utilizing someone’s destash.
  5. A Pocket. Be it a pocket under the skirt (18th century into the 19th) or in the skirt, a pocket gets things out of your hands. It will also eliminate the need to have something to carry something in. A simple pocket can be made from a half yard of linen or cotton, tape or the same fabric for the waistband. The embellishment can be as little or as much as you wish. As you can see from the link, you are not limited to embroidery on linen or cotton. Pockets were made from many materials, and often from scraps.
  6. Work pocket. Okay, maybe I am a little bias here. But, I do think everyone should have a work pocket, or sewing case, or housewife. Whatever period term you choose, you should have one. I would Love if you made one from my book Fanciful Utility, but I am happy as long as it is accurately made of correct materials. A work pocket is a great interpretive device. They are like a story all rolled up in fabric. (Hmmmm, this give me a post or maybe even a workshop idea.) 
  7. Sunbonnet. I have a slightly different perspective on why a sunbonnet is important. While I do find shielding the face from the sun important, I want you to have an alternative headwear piece in case it is raining or hailing or there is a windstorm. I don’t want you wearing your silk or straw bonnet out in these conditions. Hop over to for directions on how to make your own corded sunbonnet. 
  8. Okay, I have more to add. But it is the end of the week and I want to post this. I will add more and repost. 
Published in: on June 9, 2018 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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