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Madrigal costumes

debio | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi, this is the first time I have ever come to this site.  I have enjoyed reading the posts very much.  I am an art teacher who also sews, and I am wondering if there are others out there who make Madrigal costumes for the upcoming Christmas season.  In our little town, our school’s Madrigal dinner is a huge event and there are a few of us who attempt to make creative and mostly authentic Madrigal costumes.  Being isolated in a rural community is hard when you’d like to share information about this kind of specialized sewing.  Is there anyone else who enjoys making these Renaissance costumes for both girls and the guys? 


  1. Teaf5 | | #1

    There have been many posts about period costuming as well as theatrical costuming, so you are certain to get many responses.  In the meantime, do a search of the archives for "costumes," and you can read a lot of interesting and informative posts on the subject.

    In our town, the high school madrigals are a year-round group that wins national and international competitions.  The costumers have very specific guidelines and rules; perhaps some of them are listed online from the various associations.  If you don't need such strict guidelines, you can also check historical costume/ historical dress books in libraries and bookstores for inspiration and suggestions.

    A fun part of madrigal costumes is the glorious colors and embellishments, so have fun!  A more practical consideration is comfort, wearability, and interchangeability--you might want to consider how one garment can be used for different singers or one singer as he/she grows, as well as whether the singer will be warm enough or cool enough in the performance space.  A well-made madrigal outfit can be a treasure that many people can enjoy at faires, costume parties, and dressy parties for years to come.

    1. debio | | #5

      Thanks so much for the tips!  I have been making these costumes for 12 years or so and have made over 20.  It has been an interesting process.  I have invested in an historical costume book and there are several here at our library.  I used to have to make the costumes from wedding gown patterns and made up sleeves and the like, so the new madrigal costume patterns are somewhat helpful.  Never make them like they show on the envelope, though, eww.  I have a friend who also sews them and we try for a combination of authenticity with practicality.  We never use 2 full skirts, and other ways of multiple layering for the heat factor during performance.  We generally don't have a lot of seperate pieces, either, for their ease of dressing!  But we try to make the costumes look like they are authentic and use appropriate trims and fabrics- no gold lame!  When I get a minute I will do that archive search.  Thanks for your comments.

  2. ldm55 | | #2

    Hi - I must have bought just about every Simplicity Renaissance gown, went a little overboard, but I love Renaissance style.  I made one costume, much fun, and added little extras, padded trim on the shoulders, covered buttons and thread loops to hike up the polonaise.  I used peacock colors in satins and charmeuse.  I wished I'd gone a little more authentic in color and fabric choices.  I also wish I had more excuses to wear the costume.  it was much too hot for the Halloween contra dance I attended last year.  Good luck with your project. 

     - Lisa in Western Mass

  3. Mtodey | | #3


    I just joined this site and found your question interesting.  I am in the midst of making three Madrigal costumes for my daughter's HS Madrigal coming up on Dec. 1.  I am excited for this year since my daughter is Queen.  I will be making her's and the king's costume as well as one of the other girl's.

    I have a question.  What is a reasonable amount to charge for doing this?  I do sew for others but am expanding beyond hemming pants and minor alterations and am unsure of how much to charge per hour for my services.  I live in the mid-west so I know that it would not be as much as the coasts or big cities.  Any mid west seamstresses out there with opinions?


    1. debio | | #4

      That is such a hard problem, what to charge for the dresses.  You can never get what time you put into them!  I charge $100 for the construction of the dress, we do live in a more "poor" area, where the average house is less than 100,000 to give you an idea.  Prob. I could charge more in a more urban area.  I consider it a labor of love!  I made 3 dresses one year, and that is the last time I would do that.  1 is plenty and 2 is alot when you are the art teacher.  Congrats on your daughter being the queen.  They are so excited by things like that.  Do the students at your school own the costumes- pay for their own- or do you have school owned costumes?   SOmetimes kids will donate their outfits to the school when they graduate.  I made a gorgeous blue one with a cape for a boy who donated it to our choir director who is going to wear it himself this year.  I was honored! 

      1. Mtodey | | #6

        Thanks for the input on how much to charge. That has to be the hardest part of having a sewing business.
        Our high school has a "Madrigal" closet with a fair number of costumes the kids can choose from. This is the second year I am involved and it seems that most of the girls prefer to have a dress made but the boys are OK with using what we have. Some of our costumes are quite old and need to be put away for good but we do have some really nice ones that students had made and then donated. I recently acquired some 1960's vintage velveteen prom dresses that fit the styling. We are adding sleeves and embellishments to make it more renaissance looking. Last year it was only one other mom and myself doing most of the work. This year we are lucky to have at least 5 other moms who enjoy sewing and are helping us.

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