Advice · Events

Thriving at Historically Costumed Events

I had originally titled this post Surviving Historically Costumed Events but that just didn’t make sense. That was just too much of an oxymoron. I mean, if you’re doing something that you love then you shouldn’t have to survive it. Sometimes events can be a bit more difficult to take part in because you’re tired, stressed, or shy. But, I think that if we’re new or old hands at these events, we all want to maximise our enjoyment of them and not be tired, foggy brained, or feeling overwhelmed.

Hopefully, you’ll find a few of these tips helpful and you’ll be able to thrive instead of just survive your next event.


Get plenty of rest – getting as much sleep as possible before an event means that you’re going to feel fresher and that you should be less tired afterwards. I’m totally guilty of sewing to the last minute (and beyond) and when I have sacrificed sleep in favour of finishing my projects I haven’t felt as energetic and I’m not the most social human if I’m tired.

If you often find yourself sewing right up until an event then try to set yourself a deadline – all projects must be finished a week before the event, for example. If you do that then you’ve got a week to rest up and you’ll be able to put your best face forward because if you are wearing a beautiful dress yet feeling/looking like a zombie it’s not exactly something to instil confidence in yourself.

The Little Seamstress by John Faed
The Little Seamstress, John Faed

Drink plenty of water – or tea, if you’re not a huge fan of water. The more hydrated you are, the better you feel and if you’re flying to an event then, of course, there’s that issue of a very thirsty cabin that draws moisture from your skin. Also, being hydrated helps you to function better so you can learn all of the names of your new acquaintances or remember where you found that trim or other important details.


Eat healthy foods – you’re probably going to be faced with a lot of foods that are richer than what your body is usually used to so by eating healthy beforehand you’re giving it a bit of breathing room before assaulting it with cakes and scones and such. Also, like keeping hydrated, it’s going to help you feel really good and like you’re able to dance from dusk ’til dawn.

Also, we are probably all too familiar with the quick-and-easy-and-questionably-nutritious meals we can resort to while 100% of our focus is on finishing our sewing projects. If you have a partner or flatmate who is happy to take over meal prep for a week or so while you sew then that’s fantastic. If not, I would suggest batch cooking a meal so you can easily just grab and reheat for two or three dinners.


Plan ahead – work out what you are going to wear and make sure that you know everything that goes into that ensemble: undergarments, outer garments, headwear, and other accessories. Write yourself a list so that you can double check that you have actually everything ready to go. I love lists, and my packing lists often get quite detailed but it gives me peace of mind knowing what I have to finish making, wash, and pack.

And if you have time to have a trial pack at least a week before you leave then you’ll know how much room you’ve got, if everything fits, and if your suitcase meets any weight restrictions. It’s also a good idea to have a dress rehearsal before an event as well to double check that your outfits fit properly or to check if anything needs fixing. It’s very stressful to discover half an hour before an event that something is wrong and then end up trying to ‘make it work’.

Waiting at the Station James Tissot c.1874
Waiting at the Station, James Tissot c.1874

Come up with a Game Plan – if you’re new, or shy (or both), come up with a game plan before you go. When I first put myself out there in Oamaru my plan was to find a half-filled table and ask if a seat was free. It would have been so easy to sit down at an empty table but I knew that if I wanted to meet people that wasn’t going to work. As it was, I met two incredibly lovely ladies who looked out for me and introduced me around.

Even now I practice ‘small talk’ before attending events so that I’m not stuck standing with someone looking like a deer in the headlights while wracking my brains to find something to contribute to the conversation. Fortunately, being a historically costumed event, it’s quite easy to stock up on an arsenal of questions and comments about fabrics, patterns, and sewing, etc.

Remember that everyone is different – everybody has different tastes, skills, abilities, experience, and knowledge. We are all at different stages in our historical costuming journey and as such, will all look different. It can be hard, starting out when you’re suddenly surrounded by dresses made by those with years of experience, but that’s no reason to think any less of what you have created. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and I really admire that you’re giving it a go and showing up to take part.

The Dinner Party Sir Henry Cole
The Dinner Party, Sir Henry Cole


Take time out – obviously, if your event is just something like a high tea then this doesn’t make sense, but if your event stretches over a couple of days or more then this is a great tip especially if you’re an introvert. I am quite introverted so I definitely benefit from ducking back to my accommodation for even ten minutes. I get to recharge my batteries and then when I rejoin everyone else I can handle being social again.


Take photos – so that you can remember just how much fun you had and all of those amazing scenes that you saw. Sometimes having a camera in hand, and an idea of some photos that you’d like to take can give you that push that you need to approach those well-attired people whose outfits you’ve been admiring. They might even like to request an emailed copy if they like the shot.


But, most importantly, just try to relax and enjoy yourself. If you’ve managed to put in the hard work ahead of time then you definitely will have a less stressful journey to your event and will be able to switch from ‘real life’ into ‘event’ mode much more easily. And, take it from a shy, introvert who was so stubborn about attending the Heritage Celebrations in Oamaru when she knew no one – you will have a wonderful time and meet so many amazing people who you’ll quickly be able to count as friends.

4 thoughts on “Thriving at Historically Costumed Events

  1. Thank you so much for this! I’m likely going to a historical costuming convention this summer, and being that I will be going alone, and also one of the youngest solo attendees (I’ll be 18 at the time), I’ve been a little nervous. Any advice for packing for historical dress events (I’ll be taking a plane) would also be greatly appreciated! Love the blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow, that’s exciting! I can totally understand your nervousness but most historical costumers are very friendly and absolutely lovely so you’ll probaby leave with lots of new friends =)
      I travel by plane to a couple of events that I attend so have had some experience of trying to pack everything and stay under the luggage allowance. I love mixing and matching pieces to get different outfits out of a few items so that helps, and if anything can pull double duty then that’s a bonus. I also have a practice pack to see how everything fits and to work out any issues beforehand.
      I hope that you have a wonderful time! 😊


  2. I found the advice of the ‘Victorian Wardrobe’ ladies useful. Especially the tip that for ladies, Evening Wear exposed the skin, shoulders, and hinted at the swelling of breasts. If older, lace could hint at the assets.
    Day Wear was very modest and covered the lot.


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