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. 

 
Oops?
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!

Shiny!
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!