Friday, March 30, 2012

Attention to Detail

This semester I'm taking a class in living history. It seemed like a natural choice after living across the street from Colonial Williamsburg, spending 15 years in the theatre, and transitioning to historical costuming. However, we had our dress rehearsal yesterday and so many little things were just driving me crazy. I guess it goes back to the two schools of thought on reenacting I've encountered. My dad is the kind of reenactor who says "farb" and demands handsewn buttonholes, whereas my husband is just happy to fire a musket. I understand both views, but I guess I'm more of the first kind. I'm a detail person. I notice when little things are wrong and they bother me until I fix them. I can do that when I'm stage managing, but it's difficult to go around and tell your classmates all the things they're doing wrong. Especially since this form of living history doesn't emphasize accuracy of dress. Still, if you do the research and put thought into it, you don't have to be a costumer or spend a fortune to put together a decent historical look. Some of these kids aren't even meeting the lowest standards of historical costuming for the theatre, much less reenacting or living history.

Coming soon, I'll go over closet costuming for historical interpretation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pause Button

On Monday I got back from vacation and found a huge pile of stuff on my plate. So much stuff that - especially with school starting - I'm going to have to put something on hold. Unfortunately, it looks like that's going to be my sewing (until I can get rid of something else, anyway). I still need to post pictures of the final Regency undergarments and I'm only half done with my costume backlog, but my next project (a Regency dress) will have to wait. However, I do have lots of things to look forward to when I get started again. On our grand tour of visiting friends and family in Virginia, Eric and I spent some time in Colonial Williamsburg doing the tourist thing and I brought back some goodies from the bookstore.

So many patterns, so little time!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Classes start on Thursday and here I have all my books in a row and I'm ready to go! Can you guess what I'm studying based on these titles?

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Victorian Corset from Simplicity 5726 (2009)

After I finished Eowyn's Shieldmaiden Dress a costumer friend of a friend of my mom's said that it made her want to teach me how to make a real corset. I haven't seen her since, but I'm sure she'd be glad to know that in 2009 I left plastic boning behind and did it.

I found the fabric years ago on the discount upholstery pile at G Street Fabrics and after I made some Ren Faire garb from it, I saved a yard. When I decided to make my first corset, I was glad I still had it! The facing fabric is backed with coutil and the corset is lined in black cotton. I think I made a muslin for this, but I must not have paid it much attention. The final corset is fairly large on me and the bust is too big even with the back overlapping. Practically, this means that I can't wear this corset without something underneath it. The pattern was pretty good and explained things well, but the Silverado corset pattern just fits me so much better.

At the 2009 Maryland Renaissance Festival. You can
see how my mom was able to lace the corset
completely closed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hogwarts Wear

In light of tonight's premiere, here is a look back at the various pieces and outfits I've worn to Harry Potter book and movie releases over the years. Unfortunately, I won't be going tonight at midnight and in costume. It's not really something that one can do alone.
This is the pattern I used to make my wizard's robes
in  2003. They were my first real costuming project.
The first event I went to was the midnight release of Book 5 at a local bookstore with my friend Christine. At the time, I was under the mistaken idea that I was a Ravenclaw and wore my robes with a blue plaid skirt and white button-down. Before the next release (Book 6) I made t-shirts for Christine and myself. 
The front of the shirts I made: I'm in Sirius denial...
Padfoot Lives!
During the previous year I had also found an ankle length size 12 pleated grey linen skirt in the costume storage at my high school theatre department. It came home with me one day, where I took it in and hemmed it into a schoolgirl skirt.

Movie 5 was the next midnight premiere I did with friends. I loaned out my robes and kept it simple with a white button-down and my grey skirt. By this time I had realized I was a Slytherin, but my red hair was somewhat of a Gryffindor I borrowed a tie.
Me, as Lily Evans, prior to the summer 2007
premiere of "Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix."
Dueling against Bellatrix Black before the movie.
Later that same summer, I dressed up again for the midnight release of Book 7. This time I loaned out my skirt and decided to get my Death Eater on!
Assaulting innocent muggles in my living room.
The last time I dressed up was for an evening screening of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." I drove 2 hours to be able to go with friends, this time opting to be Ginny Weasley.
Ginny Weasley in 2009
 While I will drive 2-3 hours to go to a costumer party or a midnight release, the distance has gotten a bit too extreme now that I'm in Texas. I was blonde last year, so I contemplated showing up by myself as Luna Lovegood and just walking around really spaced out, but it's not really much fun if you don't have people to go with. In any case, I'll be set next time I need to dress up for a Harry Potter event. Except I should probably break down and buy a Slytherin tie.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eowyn's Shieldmaiden Gown (2003)

This was my first major costuming project and I'm still pretty proud of it. That's not to say that it's not without problems, but the final product was fairly impressive for my skill level at the time. I made this dress to wear to the midnight premiere of The Return of the King, having been inspired by glimpses of it in the trailer for The Two Towers and Katherine's recreation. I also used her instructions for drafting the corset. 
Me, wearing the dress the night of  The Return of the King premiere.
This dress consists of three parts: the corset, vest, and chemise. I made the vest using Simplicity 9888, which I'd fortunately already had on hand. The pattern is intended for knits, so I added a zipper up the center back to close the vest. I used three rows of Fishhooks on each side to make a cap sleeve and trimmed the neckline with Waves. The fabric for the vest and corset is a faux suede from Warehouse Fabrics. This was the first project where I encountered my neckline issues, which you can see I corrected in the vest with a dart on either side.
The corset is quilted all the way around and boned with plastic featherweight boning (this was LONG before I discovered the wonders of steel). It is also trimmed with Fishhooks and features hand-sewn eyelets for the back lacing. The chemise is the only part that I'm not really happy with, but the fabric is gorgeous. I based it on a bliaut pattern from Patterns for Theatrical Costumes by Katherine Holkeboer and underestimated the amount of fabric I would need, thus the sleeves came out a little wonky. I was also working so close to the wire that it was never hemmed properly - just basted.

I learned a lot of skills from working on this project, which I still use today; pintucks, hand-sewn eyelets, drafting, pattern resizing - all kinds of things. I just wasn't ready to tackle embroidery at the time.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Elizabeth Bennet's Green Spencer Jacket (2004)

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice"
Keeping with our Regency theme, here is the 2nd half of my high school regency wardrobe. I actually adapted a pattern to make this jacket and used left over materials from Arwen's Blood Red Gown (you'll read about that next week). Thus, the jacket is blue velvet, not green, and lined in red satin. I altered the Regency bodice pattern from Patterns for Theatrical Costumes by Katherine Holkeboer; raising the neckline, cutting the center front, and adding the collar. Because I was using a bodice pattern, the waist is a bit higher than I would prefer and the sleeves are a little tight at the wrist. However, that didn't prevent this jacket from entering my everyday wardrobe when I was in high school. Unfortunately, now I can't even close the front frogs.

The jacket front on my dress form. You can see the red lining peeking out.
The jacket back. I guess the collar is a little wonky.