DP808243bYour Wardrobe Unlock'd™ is all about encouraging you to make better historical clothing. Part of the way we do this is through our Costume Competitions, which challenge and inspire you to show off what you've learnt!

You don't have to be a world-class costumer to take part! The point of the Competition is to get you trying things you wouldn't normally try, and to stretch you a little way outside your comfort zone, no matter what level of skill or experience you have, in a safe environment where we're all supporting each other. Some of you will be able to share your experience and ideas; others will show us your journey along a huge learning curve. Don't ever underestimate yourself and overestimate everyone else! Have a go!

There is a lot more to it than the competitive element. All entries are uploaded to the website and displayed publicly during our week of voting, to be celebrated, admired and supported by everyone. The comments give you a great boost of encouragement from like-minded enthusiasts, you give others the opportunity to admire and learn from your experience, and those of you with more confidence will get the publicity you might be looking for.

 "I took this contest to try out new techniques and it really helped me progress!" - Emilie Derville, France

"I loved having a set theme and deadline which made me actually start (and more importantly finish) working on something." - Anonymous survey response

"It is challenging, very inspiring, great source of eye-candy and fun above all."- Anonymous survey response


Please note some minor changes to the rules for 2016, given below in red.


For the 2016 Competition the themes are....

Theme 1: Unloved Fashions from History

(or The Styles That Time Forgot)

We're an inventive species and always ready to experiment with the weird and wonderful... but many fashions have been relegated to the rag bag of history. Some, justifiably so. Others just seem to have slipped from our collective memories, never to be worn again.

People often refer to the 1970s as the decade that style forgot. But throughout history, humankind has been subject to many a fashion faux pas. We all know about tales such as the Spencer jacket – an item created as a joke against silly fashions, which went on to become the iconic look of the Regency age - but there are others which were never intended to be a joke.

Womans Spencer Jacket and Petticoat LACMA M.2007.211.15a b 1 of 9 Bicycle suit punch 1895 Henry Howard Earl of Surrey 1546
Woman's Spencer Jacket c.1815 (LACMA. Public Domain Image.) 'The Bicycle Suit' 1895, Punch Magazine. (Public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons) Attributed to William Scrots (fl. 1537–1554). ([Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)          

Have you ever wondered why so few people re-enact the 1830s? Have you ever seen a reconstruction of a 16th Spanish court dress on a modern woman? Would your child appreciate a velvet skeleton suit, or a frilly 1890s smock? And imagine walking down the street today sporting six foot wide C18th panniers, chopines, a damp regency dress, or a huge C16th embroidered codpiece? Could you do the school run in a hobble skirt?

DP808243  Portrait of the Infanta Isabella  HobbleSkirtPostcard
'The Fashions of 1830' - Lithograph. (Met Museum, NYC. 1971.564.193, OASC license) Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, 1609. ([Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.) Satirical postcard, circa 1911. (By Uncredited. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

How would you react if your boss strolled into work one morning wearing a towering, powdered Macaroni wig? The déshabillé style seduced Charles II, but what happened when a lady stood up? And who on earth first came up with the idea that it would be great if we all looked like our head was being served up on a dinner plate?

  Philip Dawe The Macaroni. A Real Character at the Late Masquerade 1773 02 
Philip Dawe [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

66.146.2a f front CP4
 Little Lord Fauntleroy suit, c.1885. (Met Museum, NYC. 2009.300.3293a–f, OASC license.)

C18th panniers

Court dress with panniers, c/1750.
(Met Museum, NYC. C.I.65.13.1a–c, OASC license)


There is a good reason that some fashions stayed in the past - but we're also feeling sorry for those bits of fashion history which don't get much attention from costume makers. It's time to change that... and bring those forgotten, ignored and unloved fashions back into the limelight.

At Your Wardrobe Unlock'd, we think it's time to revive some of history's most unloved fashions. We want you to remake the things that no-one else has dared to, or that everyone else has forgotten existed. We want to see the weird and wonderful, and the downright hilarious. We're looking for extreme silhouettes, and examples where fashion dictated a complete morphing of normal human body shapes. We're seeking the garish, the oversized, and the out of proportion. We're looking for people who can bring back those fashions which time has sought to hide in the back of the closet.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to recreate an example of historic dress which you consider to be either unloved, forgotten, outrageous, impractical, extreme, ugly or just downright funny.


And to give you some initial inspiration, we've got a Pinterest board here...




Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun  Comtesse de CérèsTheme 2: Stepped out of a Portrait or Photograph

If our main theme is just not your thing, or you are already focused on making something else that's fabulous for this year and don't want to be distracted, then this category is for you!

Pick a period dress or outfit from a museum or a personal collection, either an actual garment or a painting or photo of a garment. Recreate it exactly, or interpret it to suit your figure/coloring/aesthetic, keeping in mind period fashion sense. You should look like you stepped out of a painting or a photo from the time.

When you send in your entry, please include a link or a photo of the original portrait or artwork that you are working from so we can fully admire your awesome creation!

(Remember, any inspiration image will need to be either your own or in the public domain for us to publish it on the site - otherwise we'll only be able to link to it. Easy rule of thumb: if it appears on Wikimedia Commons, we can use it!)



If you're interested in writing an article on these new themes to help the members prepare for the 2016 Competition, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

Quick Links

Planning your Competition entry
Skill Categories
How to Enter



Planning your Competition entry

We've already published some articles to help you with planning your entry:

Project Planning for Success
Tackling Ambitious Projects
Photographing Garments in the Studio
The Commons on Flickr - A great resource for photos (remember, all photos must be either public domain or your own, unless permission is obtained).



Skill Categories

Entries will be judged in three separate skill level categories:



Winners in each category will receive:

Runners-up in each category will each receive: 


How to Enter

Mary Charleson 1915You will not need to send the garments themselves to us - our members are located all over the world and we'd be as heartbroken as you would be if your clothes got lost or damaged in the mail. In any case, we're not going to judge them: YOU are!


Photograph the clothes you make; we'll use these photos and your description as your entry. Your permission to use those things on our websites is granted by entering them, but the copyright on the photos and text remains your own.

You can enter a maximum of five photos, which will need to be attached to your entry email. One of these photos can be replaced with a brief video.

Dress diary (optional)

Keep a 'dress diary' on your blog if you have one; we'd love to link to it. This is optional, but the great advantage is that you can include as many pictures as you like on your blog, over and above the five picture limit for your main entry, and we'll link to it. Remember to use a tag so that voters can access your complete dress diary at once without needing to sift through other journal entries!

If you're not familiar with the term, a 'dress diary' is simply a blog that you keep during the making of an outfit. It documents how you made the garment(s), what problems you came across and how you solved them, including any making-of pictures, and all your triumphs and tribulations during the project. They're great to look back on and they help us all to learn from each other's experiences.

Your Entry Email

In order to enter we need to receive your entry email by 5pm EST on Monday February 1st, 2016. The title of the email should be 'YWU Competition' and it should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The email will need to contain:

Your entry will be uploaded to the website, giving our members and the public the opportunity to see your work. The winners will then be decided by a vote among all the members and YWU team.




  1. You will need to be a Your Wardrobe Unlock'd member on the closing date in order to enter.
  2. You may enter only ONCE in the competition at Your Wardrobe Unlock'd, but you can enter the simultaneous competition on Foundations Revealed in addition to this [new rule for 2016].
  3. No purchased, rented, or inherited costumes may be entered; the entry must be your own work.
  4. Writers are welcome to enter, but they must not enter a garment or outfit that has been the major feature of an article or articles written for us.
  5. Joint entries of up to three people are welcome, provided that you are all members on the closing date. The skill level of the group is defined as the skill level of the member who was most involved in construction, or the most experienced member if it really was an equal joint effort. You will need to decide on a spokesperson. Prizes for joint entries will be awarded to the spokesperson to divide up as s/he sees fit. All members of the group will be able to use the 'Winner' icons, and any prize subscriptions will be split - four months each for a three-person entry, for example, or six months each for a two-person entry.


And Finally...

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - especially useful for those annoying issues that only come up when you're halfway finished!

Amy Keeling
Good evening. I just found your site via pinterest. I am subscribing after I send this. Last month I found the 1817 green walking dress fashion plate on Pinterest and decided to re-create it. I have all the elements (tassels, fabric, etc.) Now I find it on your site. My question is, has it been done before on a competition? Also, if not, can I use it since it is not a portrait but it is a fashion plate. Either way I am starting it soon, it would just be fun to compete with it. Thank you. Amy
Re: competition / 1817 green dress
Hi Amy - it's Polly, the Editor, here. Sorry for not replying sooner but we've only just discovered a glitch in our system has not been alerting us to comments and questions on the site.
In answer to your query, I can't find any previous entries of this gown... but even if it has been done before, there's nothing to stop you having a go. It's sometimes very interesting to see other people's interpretations of the same garment, and I know this approach has been used to great effect on Foundations Revealed too, with people trying different versions of the same corset pattern. Please - go ahead! We'd absolutely love to see what you're making!
Many thanks, and the very best of luck,
Polly Aron

J Wolfe
Competition questions
Hi, I had sent an email about a week ago and haven't heard back. My questions were about if the garments had to be full scale, or if they could be made for a 1/4 scale doll. Also, I had a question of how you would like an outfit redrafted from vintage ones reprinted in a book to be attributed under the new rules. Thank you!
Re: Competition Questions
Hello there! Apologies for not replying sooner but we've just found out a glitch on our site has not been alerting us to comments and questions.
To answer you, your outfit can be made for a doll and certainly, competition entrants have done this in the past.
About attribution - it sounds quite convoluted so please can you ensure full details of the book are included as well as a quote from the book about how they attribute the patterns. I would recommend you pop web links to each of the sources (vintage patterns, book, plus any online sources you may have also referred to) so our readers, the people voting for your entry, have a really clear idea of where your inspiration came from.
Thank you, and we wish you the best of luck!
Polly Aron

non members voting
I am a member of both organizations. However where can non-members go to vote? Do they go to your website or somewhere else? I finished my costume Dec 24,2015. I'm ready to send all the info needed, but friends have asked about the voting. I didn't know. This has been a great experience for me and I'm very proud of what I have accomplished.

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