Theatrical Victorian Bathing Attire – Part 1

“By the Sea” – Theatrical Victorian Bathing Attire – Part 1

True Confession: I have a strange hobby – I cosplay as a college professor at steampunk conventions.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve traveled to conventions up and down the West Coast presenting slide history talks focused on 1850 – 1920.

This year, I’m doing something I haven’t done in many years. I’m going to make a costume to attend one of my talks!

“By The Sea”

This year, Clockwork Alchemy has a fun theme, the Aetheric Ocean.  For this event, I’ve put together two 50-minute slide-show talks.  The first, “By The Sea” is a survey of Victorian and Edwardian bathing customs and costumes.

As I have pulled out primary source materials, I’ve been bitten by the bug to make a historically inspired bathing suit to wear while I give the presentation. 

“By The Sea”
Costume Design: First Five Steps

  • Step One: Do some research – When I’m making a theatrical costume with a period impression, I always start with research. Since the slide deck is filled with period images, I’m already done!
  • Step Two: Cash Budget – When it comes to costumes, I always take a moment at the beginning to set a budget.  The first thing I consider is the cash.  For this look, I’m setting a budget of around $100.  I’m sure I’ll get to wear this ensemble 4 times, that’s $25 a wearing which is my goal for costuming
  • Step Three: Time Budget – Then I take a good hard look at what I can realistically accomplish in the amount of time I have available.  I have a three-week window before the event. I’ll take as many shortcuts as possible!
  • Step Four: Mood Board – Then I set up a mood board using Pinterest.  It’s just the easiest tool for whipping up a mood board.

  • Step Five: Sketch or Photo – Next, I will pick one image, or make a composite sketch of the features I want to include.  Since this is a period-inspired, theatrically made costume, I’ve selected a representative historic image to serve as my style guide.

Design is all about making decisions, since I’m my own customer for this one, I’ll spend a couple of days musing and thinking about what I’m going to make, how I’m going to make it within the parameters of my cash budget $100 and time budget 3 weeks.

In the next post, I’ll share my design brief and the approach I chose for getting this job done fast and under budget!

Happy Costuming!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
March, 2024


By Davina

Davina ~ Dawn Devine is a belly dance costume designer, dance instructor and author of more than a dozen publications on Middle Eastern dance.