Sunday, February 19, 2017

Skirt Supports

I've finished the undergarments for my new robe a la Francaise! I decided for this project I needed a new pannier. After a few attempts to craft something from scratch, I got over myself and pulled out Simplicity 3635 and some VERY yellow linen I've been sitting on for a few years. It's not my first choice in colors, but I didn't want to buy new fabric, so I went with it. The pattern is great and goes together really nicely, but you definitely do need to add a hoop to hem, as most everyone advises. To make the actual hoops, I first tried to use some plastic tubing from the hardware store cut to the full length given in the pattern.

Well that's not quite what I had in mind. It was too big and the tubing definitely wasn't stiff enough to support the shape. I've used the tubing before for a different kind of hoop, but it was clearly not the right option for this particular project. For the next try I settled on a period correct option - split cane - and I made the hoops smaller than called for to get a shape I'm happier with.

MUCH better
I also added little pillows to the top edges just to give it a little more omph where the skirt falls. To give the skirt even a little more poof, and to avoid hoop lines, I made a quilted petticoat. These were SUPER common in the 18th century, and there are plenty that were clearly made to go over hoops. Good enough for me! I definitely wasn't going to hand quilt a whole petticoat right now, so I bought a really inexpensive quilt and pleated it into a skirt. I removed the batting from the top few inches and stitched it to a cotton waist tape.

And finally, I started on the actual gown underskirt. I used one panel of the gown fabric, backed with some synthetic organza I had on hand to act as interfacing. The back is two widths of a nice crisp cream linen I picked up, which will all be covered by the gown later. Because my skirt was getting so big, I decided to do something like this to handle all the fabric at the top, rather than trying to pleat all of that into a waist band. The skirt panels are just rectangles.



To make this I attached the center front and back ten inches or so to a waistband, completely flat. The original had some pleats, but I couldn't get that to look right. For the draw string sections I folded over the seam allowanced to make a casing and stitched the linen tapes down at one end. In the middle there is a slit where I can pull the strings tighter. I can make them tighter or loser and spread the pleats out as needed, while keeping the front fairly flat. I'm really happy with this style!

Soon I'll start draping the bodice! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pink Stays

Confession: I made my first 18th Century gown in 2009. And I've never had a proper pair of 18th Century stays. Ever. I've had half-finished mock ups that I wore anyway. I've used my Elizabethan Effigy stays, but never a finished pair. Until now!

I started two pairs of stays last winter and never quite had success.

Looks promising but eeeeh Not good. Pretty Fabric though.....

The yellow stays are adapted from a Reconstructing History, I think? It's been awhile. They are too big and just generally don't fit right. No waist reduction. Not comfortable.

The pink stays are the a draft of the Finely Whale-Boned Corset c. 1750 from Jill Salen's Corsets. It drafted up beautifully, though I had to take it in a little. And they look just like the pair in the book and give a lovely long line down the front! But..they don't really fit. I wasn't getting any waist shaping. I'm not a tight-lacer by any means, but if the corset makes me look like a tube, it's defeating the purpose.

Both pairs went into the naughty corner and I got wrapped up in other things and didn't return to this project until this winter and hauled both pairs of stays back out. With fresh eyes I figured out what was wrong.

The pink stays, in particular, are too long for me. Way, way too long. I have a really short torso and apparently I'm in denial about it. For comparison, I got out my Effigy stays, which is definitely the best fitting corset-type garment I've ever made.

Waist shaping!
Oh. Yeah. Okay. THAT's where my waist is.
I put the yellow stays aside because I determined the pink stays were better and easier to fix (though I actually have some plans for them eventually). The type of tabs on this pair were easier to alter. I slit them higher and higher, little by little, until finally I reached my actual waist. I raised the waist almost 4 inches in some spots, which also solved the problem of the top of corset digging into my arms and sitting too high on my bust.

And that's not even as high as it ended up. 
So that's why my tabs are so dinky and weird shaped. I slit them so much higher and then shorted them over two inches in length, so the shape of the original draft change a lot. I also ended up splitting the side-front tab into two tabs so it spread out better over my hip. The whole thing would be more elegant if I had taken the length out in the pattern stage and adjusted form there. But they are functional and it worked, so I'll take it!

So here's the final result! I still need to find some better ribbon for the front lacing and straps (it really should be cream colored rather than white), but they are very comfy and give me the right shape. The boning channels are machine sewn, but everything else is by hand. The seams were whip stitched together and then covered with linen tape. The binding is regular old purchased bias tape (I'm lazy, what can I say). I did about one million lacing holes in the front and back. I'm so glad I did the ones in the front, because I made that part a little small and being able to loose the laces improved the fit. I could probably loosen it more.


 The one weird thing about this pattern, not the mistake I made, but the actual pattern itself, is that the back is really low. If I made these again, I would raise it several inches. I should have also slit the tabs higher in the back, but they are still comfy so I'm not too worried about it. Here are some detail shots.

Regular lacing holes for the back. 
Itty bitty ones for the front!

It's pretty laid out flat too!

Overall, I'm really pleased! So what comes next?

 Maybe something like this.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year in Review

  In 2016, I...

Dressed up as Harry Potter!
Pretty good right?

Got injured while skating. Kind of a lot.

Yeah that's not what my ankle usually looks like.
That's June and Jessica. 
Went to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival!

But this actually. 
Played some roller derby.

Photo by Daniel Whitaker
Made a Regency corset, petticoat, and dress for my love. 

And a duct tape double!

Went back to an old project. 

More on this one soon!
AND, best of all, I GOT MARRIED! In my living room. It was perfect. 

Oh and I changed the name of the blog. More to come. 

See you in 2017! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gala Gown - Costume College 2015

Hey! It's summer here in Academia Land and I finally feel like I have the time to finish up my Costume College wrap up!

I wanted something big and bold for the Gala. I have a really fancy robe a la francaise in an unfinished state, but it wasn't really speaking to me at the time. So many people do 18th century so well and I didn't think my dress would be particularly stand out (and oh boy I was right, there were so many STUNNING 18th century gowns there). Also there are other events I can occasionally attend that are 18th century themed, and I wanted to take this opportunity to make something I normally don't have a chance to wear.

In recent years, I've gotten rather obsessed with the 1890s. The huge, shaped skirts and enormous sleeves just really speak to my flamboyant side, I guess. So I started looking at 1890s ball gowns.

We have a winner! From The Met
Everything about the style of this dress is just glorious to me. Huge skirt? Check. Weird fluffy sleeves? Check. Asymmetry? Check. I wasn't particularly crazy about the color scheme though. This shade of pink isn't my thing. I'm not really sure where the idea came front, but I pretty much immediately set my heart on using acid/absinthe green and black. I had some trouble finding a color that was just right, when Jen Thompson of A Festive Attyre came to my rescue and picked up the perfect green silk taffeta  on my behalf. My hero! The sheer black is black silk chiffon (from Dharma trading?) and the lace came from Lace Heaven (I think? It's been awhile…).
Photo by Kendra Van Cleave
Photo by Kendra Van Cleave
Detail shot from my first fitting at home.
Dinner selfie!
This dress was such a blast to wear at CoCo! Someone asked me if I was meant to be Jennie Jerome and while that wasn't what I intended, I decided that I definitely was after that! What a fascinating woman.

I draped the bodice, drafted the sleeves, and the skirt is Truly Victorian's 1895 Ripple Skirt. I can't recommend this pattern highly enough. It was so much easier than trying to draft something that large. I flat lined it with synthetic organza, and I'm wearing two petticoats, a bum pad, and a corset drafted from Period Costumes for Stage and Screen. My accessories are last minute Amazon purchases (thank you, Amazon prime!). Aside from the curly bangs, the hair is mostly a wig I styled before I left. 

Ugly underwear. It functioned, more or less. 
I have to confess, though, I'm a little disappointed in how the dress photographed (for reasons that have NOTHING to do with my generous photographer). Part of it is that most of the pictures came later in the evening and I was a little rumpled and shiny in the face. I also am just not super comfortable posing for the camera and I seemed to be making some odd faces. I guess next time I should practice! The skirt looks a little limp (more on that below) and the hotel lobby lighting is…not awesome. I think it was better in person! 

I also would do a few things differently with the actual dress. My bottom layer petticoat was just made from regular cotton and it wasn't nearly stiff enough. Cotton organdy next time! The second petticoat helped, but it probably could have been fuller and stiffer as well. The skirt also had some issues after I assembled it - the organza flat lining shrunk a little when I pressed it and that left my seams a little wrinkly. Oops. That's kind of a rookie mistake I should have seen coming. I also never got the waist of the dress fitted as tightly I would have liked. There are definitely some perils to solo sewing. Some day I would love to make a few tweaks and find a place to do a new photo shoot of this dress. 

But over all, I loved prancing around in this gown and my love for the 1890s continues. I definitely want to do this era again.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Venetian at Costume College

Yes, this is indeed another post about my damn Venetian dress. It has seen some revisions since I last posted about it, all because of a painting that came in a Facebook group I'm a member of.

Go look at this painting. Go look at it now. Or the rest of this post won't make sense.

It's a painting of a noble lady brushing her hair in what appears to be a state of undress by Bernardino Licinio. I'm going to admit that I actually gasped when I saw this image. She's wearing a white gown with no front opening and no sleeves. The fabric of the dress appears to be tiny pleats or some kind of ribbed fabric. To my eye, it is slightly padded to create a smooth and slightly rounded shape over the torso.

My speculation is that this could be a sort of under gown that will mimic a chemise when a ladder lace gown is placed over it. It would provide support, padding, and take some of the strain off the gown. The skirt of the under gown would act as a petticoat, and you could put another petticoat on underneath it without any visible waist band issues.

This painting is not definitive proof of anything, but is some back up evidence to some ideas I've been wondering about. My experiment with a sewn in stomacher that laces in at the side worked pretty well, but it was no practical at all.

It's a miracle I never got stuck in this contraption.
I've thought for a long time that it would make WAY more sense for some of these gowns to be laced over a supportive under gown, like they were doing in many other regions in the Europe during the mid to late 16th century. I don't think this was always the case, though. I think there are a lot of images where it probably IS a gown laced over a chemise. But there are other gowns that have a lot of structure and a rigid body shape that I think would be very difficult to get without more serious support and padding underneath them. I also know that with my figure I've had trouble achieving the silhouette I want.

What I wanted.
What I got.

I also had an issue with the way the shoulder straps sat on the original dress. They were too tight and uncomfortable. I also felt like they weren't set quite far enough on my shoulder for the very wide set straps of the Venetain style. I took my completed gown all apart and made an entirely new under gown to wear under it. 

The changes I made ended up involved a lot of piecing. I didn't have the fabric to cut an entirely new bodice, so I added fabric to the interlining in the back with top stitching and I reinforced it with some extra buckram. I wanted to change the straps to match the angles found in the pattern from the Juan Alcega tailoring book from 1589. It's a sharp acute angle in the front and more straight up and down in the back. I had hopes that this would help the straps stay up and achieve a more comfortable fit.

Front. The new piece is on the left, the original on the right. These pieces I did have to re-cut.
The back piece. The altered strap is on the left and the old one on the right. You can see how much I altered the armhole.
 When that was done, I built the under bodice. I took a new pattern off the altered bodice pieces and cut it from that. Most of the interior padding was recycled from the old stomacher and stitched to a new bodice piece. I altered an old skirt and lined it with it felt to make it full and made it into a dress. It laces on the sides with hand bound eyelets. As before, no parts of this gown have boning.

The middle section is the padded part.
The completed under dress. Look at the shape!

For Costume College, I made a new partlet from silk organza and styled a wig. I used a few braided styles from portraits as an inspiration and styled my own bangs in the front section to get something close to period.
Very close to the Lady in White I think!

The under gown set up was much easier to get in to and wear than the internal stomach situation. It was, however, not easy. The trick to getting everything to lay nicely was many many pins. I pinned the chemise into the under bodice neckline before I put it on. Some helping hands pinned the partlet to the under bodice for me and lace it up all up. For Costume College, I ended up removing the attached skirt because I wore a second Elizabethan outfit, and I didn't want to cram two padded petticoats into my suitcase. My petticoat was also pinned to the bodice. Then the gown itself was pinned to the under bodice at the shoulder straps.

This is what was going on underneath.
 This rather elaborate set up did mostly keep the sleeves up, but it was not particularly easy or comfortable. The straps were still not fitted particularly well and it was difficult to move. Because the straps sat so far off the edges of my shoulders, all the weight of the gown was on my waist and it was very uncomfortable. Not to mention not being able to move my arms because the straps were so tight and binding. I only wore it for a couple of hours before I had to take it off. I also did have problems still with the front edge of the bodice buckling with no boning to support the lacing. But, overall, I was very happy with how the gown looked!

What I wore the rest of the night.
So that's it for this gown. I only have the tiniest of tiny scraps left, so the odds of me remaking it again are slim. But I have some ideas on how to improve the fit of the strap situation for future gowns, so there will be more experiments about that in my future!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Costume College Derby Girl

The Costume College weekend was everything I dreamed of and more!  I met lots of new people, spent time with old friends, and saw so many beautiful costumes. I'm going to take you through the weekend costume by costume over several posts, but if you want to see all my pictures right now, of me and lots of other people, check out my album on Flickr!

This is a bit out of order for a recap, but it's my blog, and I do what I want! So I'm going to start with my Retro Derby Girl Costume! It only seems appropriate.

I based my costume on images of early roller derby from the 1940s and 1950s. All derby at the time was played on a banked track, had very different (and flexible) rules from modern derby, and was very theatrical. It wasn't quite as fake as it became in the 70s and 80s, but it wasn't necessarily "real" in the way the sport is played today. We don't do fist fights or hair pulling, for example. It was still fast-paced and hard hitting like modern derby, however. And probably way more dangerous because they hardly wore any safety gear.

From my research, the standard early roller derby uniform was some kind of striped shirt - either crew neck or rugby style -  high waist satin shorts, leggings with built in knee and hip padding, and white skates with white socks. And, don't forget, a full face of make-up and styled hair! I do actually still wear make up when I play derby now, but I don't do drawn on lips and Elizabeth Taylor-inspired hair like I did for this outfit.

Note the differences between Retro Derby and modern derby under the Women's Flat Track Derby Association: 

Why are only some of them wearing helmets?!

Helmets for all! And wrist guards! And knee pads! And elbow pads!
Photo by Keith Stanley of Quick Draw Sports Photography.

I purchased the rugby shirt and satin shorts from eBay and made some minor fit alterations. I bought the leggings and added the padded "leather" sections with vinyl and cotton batting from my stash.  I had to unstitch the seam of the leggings to get the padding sections on and, wow, was that whole process a pain. I do not recommend sewing vinyl to small pieces of stretch fabric.

I couldn't find a record of any particular team colors from this period (to be honest, I didn't look very hard), so I just went with a color scheme that I liked and was easy to purchase. 

Derby Girls: Never afraid to take up space.
Putting the numbers also turned out to be a huge pain because I didn't get it professionally done like a smart person. I ended up appliqueing them on, which was probably more period but also annoying. It looked good in the end though! Since I could not skate in the hotel, I carried vintage skates from eBay with me (and used them as a purse).

36 inches in a yard, get it??
I wore this running around the event on Friday during the day. It was really fun for me to wear, but I'm not sure that people really "got" it. But I was pretty pleased anyway. I think this will get a repeat at Halloween!

Much, much more from Costume College to come!