Frequently Asked Questions
About Margo's Patterns
Here are a number of questions about our patterns. If
you have a burning question to ask us, and you don't see it here, don't
hesitate to email us.
Would a costume made from this pattern be right for a
That depends on the play, and on the director's vision
of it. If it's Taming of the Shrew, maybe. If it's Julius
Caesar, probably not.
I'm not playing a noble. Can I use these patterns to
make middle-class costumes as well?
Yes -- the only real differences between middle- and upper-class
clothing of the time were the materials and the level of trim. (Though
middle-class women were less likely to wear a farthingale under the
skirt.) A really good example of this can be seen in Andrea Scott's
"Pumpkin Dress." As always, the clothing of the middle class
imitated the cut of the upper classes, and the cut of the clothing was
not regulated by sumptuary laws. Margo has a
set of instructions to adapt the
Ladies Ensemble patterns for lower-class usage (view here), or you
may purchase the Working Woman's
Aren't corsets terribly uncomfortable?
Badly fitted corsets can be terribly uncomfortable. That's
why our Elizabethan Underpinnings
manual gives detailed instructions on fitting it to your body -- so
you won't be uncomfortable.
I borrowed a friend's corset to go to Faire one weekend,
and it felt awful. She's the same size I am -- is my costume going to
feel like that?
No. A corset fitted to someone else -- even someone of
ostensibly the same dress size -- won't be the same as a corset fitted
to you. When it's done right, it's not bad.
What kind of support can I expect after buying Margo's
Most of what might be called "technical support"
is handled through the Margo's Patterns Yahoo group. If you have a question,
an idea, or even just comments, you're welcome to post them to the group.
Margo checks the list regularly -- usually several times a day -- and
often you can get an answer within a few hours. In addition, if Margo
happens to be away (we do go places or do other things sometimes!),
the chances are good that someone else on the list might have an answer
that'll work for you. The list has a lot of very skilled and knowledgeable
costumers, but there's always room for more. (People who don't have
Internet access can always send their questions via postal mail, but
it will naturally be slower.)
Do I have to buy the patterns before I can join Margo's
Absolutely not. Anyone is welcome to join, and ask any
questions they want, either before or after they buy the patterns.
Do I need to be an expert seamstress to use your patterns?
No. It's true that we recommend them for sewers of intermediate
and above skill levels, but our manuals provide a wealth of techniques,
explained and illustrated so that anyone can learn them. For proof of
this, read the story of Edna
Kimbrell in our Gallery.
Do I need to spend a lot of money to make a costume from
No. You can spend a lot of money, or you can do it very
inexpensively. It depends on what you have on hand, how lucky you get
with good prices, and how elaborate you want to get with the costume.
To see what can be done for very little money, read about the Iron Dress
If I buy your patterns, can I use them to produce costumes
The patterns are intended for private use only. You may
not use them for commercial production without licensing. Please read
our Copyright page for more information. If you want to arrange a licensing
agreement, our terms are very reasonable - contact
Looking around, I see that some of the big companies
are offering Elizabethan patterns for a lot less money. Why shouldn't
I buy them instead of yours?
First off, some of them are pretty bad -- more suited
for Halloween costumes than serious historical reproduction. A select
few are pretty good as far as they go -- but we let you go a lot farther.
Here are some of the differences that set ours apart:
- We don't take any shortcuts, and we don't adapt it to the modern
design esthetic. (For example, making a woman look curvy, emphasizing
the bust -- nice to the modern eye, but it's not an Elizabethan silhouette!)
- Our patterns are derived from the best historical sources available,
and will help you create the best, most accurate costumes you can.
- We provide a lot more instruction than any other commercial patterns
you can buy -- in the three packages that comprise the Elizabethan
Lady's Ensemble, you get a total of over 300 pages of manuals, with
over 900 technical illustrations. Nobody else even comes close to
that. (In short, we not only give you better patterns, but we make
you a better costumer!)
- We give you a lot more options than anyone else -- not just how
to make one costume. Look over the detailed descriptions and illustrations
in the Elizabethan Lady's Ensemble. It's not just a costume -- it's
a complete wardrobe, from the underpinnings out.
Why hasn't someone else done this before?
Maybe they thought it would be too involved, too demanding,
for the average costumer. And maybe it is -- but maybe they underestimated
the number of costumers who want to go the extra distance to get it
right. Rather than "dumbing-down" the costumes, we thought
we'd educate our customers. It seemed like a good idea to us.
Why should I buy your patterns rather than those from
other small costume pattern makers?
We're not going to knock the competition. Some of the
other pattern publishers are quite good, and some are personal friends
of Margo. But even if we assume theirs are as rigorously researched,
as thoroughly tested, and as carefully drafted, we still have a few
things to tip the balance.
Like we said above, nobody gives you as much instruction
as we do. In addition, compare what you get for your dollar: You can
buy several Elizabethan corset patterns in the $10-30 range. Some may
be very good, some not so good. Or you can buy our Elizabethan Lady's
Underpinnings package for $32, and get two smocks, a farthingale, bum
roll, and a partlet -- a lot more than just the corset.
In addition, our patterns are specifically drafted to
work with the rest of the ensemble, to create a complete wardrobe. (For
example, the sizes are consistent throughout the ensemble!)
Some specialty pattern manufacturers offer documentation
in the form of small facsimiles of period portraits. Why don't you?
There's a gray area of copyright law there. According
to some interpretations, the likeness of a historic portrait belongs
to the current owner of that painting - usually, a museum. If we were
to start printing unauthorized copies, we could get in trouble. If someone
else chooses to take that gamble, that's their busines. We'd rather
keep it simple and not take the chance. (Besides, if we expect others
to respect our copyright, we should start by doing it ourselves.)
Why are the patterns printed on tissue, instead of a
good, sturdy paper?
Our patterns are printed on tissue for the same reason
the big companies use it -- weight and volume. (The actual printing
of the patterns is done for us by one of the big companies, in fact!)
If we printed them on a thicker paper, the packages would be much heavier,
and they wouldn't fold nearly as small -- storage, handling, and shipping
would cost us -- and you -- a lot more. The patterns would have to be
shipped in a sturdy box, rather than the envelopes we now use. (Incidentally,
the manual gives suggestions for transferring the patterns to a heavier
paper, should you choose to do so.)
Is it possible to rebuy the pattern pieces themselves
without the manuals?
I'm sorry, we don't sell the sets of tissue sheets separately.
We have to buy those in lots of 1000, and every one we sell as a replacement
is one we can't sell as a complete package for full price, so it's prohibitive
for us to do so.
We can replace individual pattern pieces that are lost
and damaged. Usually there is no charge for a small one, since we create
a PDF of the piece and email it. This works for pieces up to about the
size of four 8 1/2 x 11" sheets that can be taped together. If
a piece is larger than that we can get it printed (on bond, not tissue)
and mail it. the cost of this depends on what the printer charges, but
it's usually under $10 for all except really large pieces like skirts.
We can also provide replacement manuals, for any of the
previous editions as well as current ones, for a fee.
Is there a way I can see what your products are like
before buying the patterns?
Yes! There's a sample pattern and instuctions for a simple
coif on the website. Visit the Bonus
Hats page, where you can download actual size pattern pieces and
What are your long-range plans for Margo Anderson's Historic
Well, we plan to keep adding to the catalogue as long
as people keep buying our products. We won't always limit it to the
Elizabethan era, but we'll try to fill in some of the gaps -- that is,
to concentrate on areas where there aren't already a lot of good patterns
available. (Don't look for us to do American Civil War patterns any
time soon!) Above all, we intend to make sure that every package we
release is the best that's been done for that subject.
Do you expect to grow the business to be a giant company,
like McCall's or Simplicity?
No. They're selling to a huge market, at a low common
denominator. We're selling to a specialized market, much smaller and
much more difficult to do. It's like the automobile business -- General
Motors, through their many divisions, offers anywhere from thirty to
seventy models in a given year. Ferrari offers three, maybe four, in
much smaller quantities, at a higher price. GM makes a lot more money,
sure -- but we'd rather be making Ferraris.
What is Margo's favorite color?
Aubergine (a really dark, almost-black purple; the color
of eggplant). If you want to really impress her, make up her patterns
in aubergine velvet. (Note: This is not going to tip the scales for
you in any competition that she judges!)
Isn't purple reserved for the King or Queen?
No, that's a common costuming myth, which has been encouraged
by Faires who want the Queen to be instantly recognizable. The actual
sumptuary laws of the time state that purple silk was reserved for the
Royal family. Nothing was said about purple wool, linen, or burlap.
And, while the actual Tyrian purple was rare and expensive, there are
many shades of purple that are easy to achieve naturally -- as anybody
who's picked blackberries knows.