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It’s Not Necessary to Be Mean: Snark in the Costuming and Cosplay Community 

I have been sewing for 15 years, and the vast majority of people I’ve met in the costuming and cosplay community have been kind, enthusiastic, and helpful, so for the most part I may be “preaching to the choir.” This post is directed at the small minority of people who might need a little help recognizing that some of their behaviors may have been unintentionally unkind, and to offer suggestions to people who want ideas on how to be more welcoming. This post is also directed at newcomers; I hope you will not be too intimidated to join us and have fun!

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCED:

You can always find something nice to say:
Even if it’s not an outfit you’d wear yourself, you can say “What beautiful fabric!” or “That’s a lovely color on you!” If you can’t think of a compliment, ask a question, such as “Did you use a pattern?” or “Have you been here before?” Show an interest in someone you don’t know because . . .

We need fresh blood:
Communities and hobbies die without new members. Don’t scare anyone away; it will ultimately hurt you in the end. Socializing exclusively with a small elite group might sound appealing, but it’s hard to rent an event hall or host a convention on your own.

Authenticity goals vary:
You may only hand-sew everything in period-correct fabrics such as silk and wool. That is great! I am genuinely impressed! However, some people may machine-sew in natural fibers or synthetic ones due to time, budget, or personal preference. Someone might have hot-glued an outfit together because they heard about a Halloween party last-minute. None of this is “wrong.” Everyone has a different goal, and don’t assume theirs is the same as yours.

Recognize the difference between individuals and entities:
Costuming snark for educational reasons, directed at movies put out by big-budget studios, such as that done by the hilarious ladies at Frock Flicks, is fine! Snarking at an individual person just to be exclusive is not fine; it’s snobbery.

Don’t offer unsolicited advice:
Would you approach a stranger on the street and tell them their shoes don’t go with their outfit, or that their jewelry is wrong? Hopefully not. So, why would you do that at a convention? (Telling someone nicely that their skirt is flipped up and their petticoat is showing is a different matter; that should be welcomed because it is something that can be fixed right away).

IF YOU ARE NEW:

Nitpicking is not about you:
Some people like to nitpick, and it reflects more on themselves than your work. Don’t take it personally. Turn a negative into a positive! For example, I once had someone criticize a 1 cm-wide area on the back of an elaborate outfit, and I took it as a compliment. If that person had to dig that deeply to find something negative to say, I must have done a good job.

Shyness is not snubbing:
There are a lot of introverts in the community. Someone may be aloof because they are shy, or experiencing sensory overload. They may also be “famous” and overwhelmed by the number of people they’ve had to meet and greet that day. Just because someone doesn’t engage you in conversation does not mean that they’re trying to be rude. If people aren’t being obviously mean, don’t take it personally.

Photos are not real life:
Just remember, most people don’t post bad pictures of themselves. Photos are carefully curated to show the best angles and flattering light, with nothing out of place, or even photoshopped. Don’t feel down if you have wrinkles in your sewing because everyone else looks “perfect.” In real life, fabric wrinkles because we have to be able to move.

Photos are not always representative of an event:
I’ve seen comments along the lines of “I can’t go to (random event)! Every single person there is dressed incredibly well!” It’s normal for flashy costumes to be photographed and posted more. An “epic” costume going viral doesn’t mean the rest of the crowd is dressed on the same level. Most wedding pictures feature the bride. Does that mean all the guests were wearing big white dresses?

Not everything has to be silk:
Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed for using polyester. Even though I make and love silk dresses, some of my best-received costumes have been made from dead dinosaur. Sometimes it’s just the right fabric for what you’re trying to make. Fit and styling are just as important as materials.

FOR EVERYONE:

Cosplay is not consent!
Don’t touch anyone or their stuff without permission. It’s a violation of personal space, and props and fabrics may be delicate. Many people will be obliging and let you pet their pretty fabric if you ask first! Costumers are makers and many are happy to discuss their project with you. Also remember, just because someone is willing to pose for a photo with you does not mean they have agreed to let you put your arm around them, or touch another part of their body. Always ask!

The bottom line is don’t be a jerk! We all had to start somewhere.image1-3.jpeg
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Decades of Style 1930s Beach Pajamas Pattern Review

My last completed project (actually done before Gatsby but not photographed until later) was a pair of 1930s beach pajamas, using the Decades of Style 1930s Last Resort Beach PJs pattern.PHOTO 7.JPG

When deciding if a pattern is good I have these criteria:

  • Is the sizing chart accurate?
  • Do the pieces fit together?
  • Does the finished item look like the pattern envelope?
  • Does the garment fit and flatter?
  • Do the instructions make sense?

Um, check, check, and check! I’ve used Decades of Style before and once again I’m impressed by the quality of their work and highly recommend this pattern.3015_webart_final

I did not make the jacket so I can’t comment on that, but the beach PJs themselves went together nicely. If you’ve made pants before this should be easy for you. It is a pair of high-waisted pants with a top that doesn’t have too many pieces. I made the backless version because I didn’t have a long zipper in the right color, but there is an optional triangle pattern piece for the back if you want to be able to wear a regular bra.PHOTO 8.JPG

I made a small change in that I made and used bias tape to bind the neckline and armholes, and added a bow. The pattern includes facings and I did not use those since I wanted decorative binding.

The pants legs are also really long! This is great for tall people, or someone who wants to wear high heels. I had to cut a few extra inches off my hems, but that is a very easy fix, and better than finding out near the end that the pattern runs short.

The pockets in the pattern are a nice touch (even if I accidentally made one of mine higher because I was sewing late at night)! They are a functional size, and are a cute detail.

Just for fun, this is a picture of a mockup I did in a flower fabric I picked up from the CoCo Bargain Basement. I just roll-hemmed the raw edges, but it’s good enough to wear around the house as a lounge outfit.IMG_3606

I used rayon challis for this project, so mine are nice and soft, just like real PJs!. I see this being a very comfortable outfit for a future Gatsby picnic, or the beach! IMG_4105.JPG

Project costs:

  • 8 yards navy rayon challis: $30.32 from Fabric Wholesale Direct. (You only need 3-4, but I doubled up because i wanted a thicker garment).
  • 1 yard red rayon challis: $3.99 from FWD
  • 4 cones serger thread: $10.36 from FWD. (Since I was doubling up the fabric I sealed the layers together with a serger during flat-lining).
  • 1 blue zipper: ~$1 from eBay (part of a lot)
  • Pattern: $27.75 from Decades of Style (including shipping and tax, bought during a sale)

I got the first three items from FWD in exchange for a tutorial on their website, so my actual out-of-pocket cost was less than $30, instead of $73.42!

I like this pattern a lot, and would love to make it again if I find the right print.

Summary: Buy this pattern from Decades, and see you on the beach!IMG_4445

1660s Cavalier Dress at Costume College (and Bonus: Hacking the American Duchess 18th Century Undergarments Pattern to Make a 17th Century Chemise)

I now have photos for my 1660s Cavalier dress from official Costume College photographer Andrew Schmidt, as well as a great group photo of the rest of my Cavalier ladies!IMG_4216-(ZF-7662-83598-1-001)

You can see my previous posts about this project under the tag “Cavalier” but if you keep reading I will discuss the things that went wrong with this project, and what I would do differently in the future, so you can learn from my mistakes!IMG_4217-(ZF-7662-83598-1-002)

I am very happy with how our group turned out, with the variety of colors, trimming, and hairstyles. Left to right, back to front: me, Teresa, Cate, Kim, Jessie, and Elizabeth.IMG_4211-(ZF-7662-83598-1-003)

I used the Nehelenia 1660 Baroque dress pattern. This era is completely new to me, and I have no experience with this shape of the bodice, so I followed all the instructions. This included making bound bodice tabs (similar to 18th century stays, seen below) to help distribute the weight of the skirt, and sewing all the bodice pieces of the fashion fabric together before attaching it to the boned interlining.IMG_2904

These steps may be period correct, but created some extra work and issues, so I have some comments about what I would do differently if I made another dress of this style:

  1. No tabs! Anyone who has made stays knows how time-consuming it is to bind them! Since my skirt was a lightweight taffeta, I could have skipped the tabs and pleated the skirt directly to the bodice and saved a lot of time. (I would not recommend this for a heavy skirt like velvet or brocade). Dressing would have been much easier too, since I would have had a one-piece dress to slip over my undergarments. Instead, I had to make sure the front tab was over my skirt, while my back and side tabs were underneath my skirt, while my bum roll was over my bodice back tabs but under my skirt. It took some help getting dressed!
  2. Do not finish the fashion layer before sewing it to the interlining. I had some problems with wrinkling in the bodice. I think it would have helped if I sewed the fashion fabric to the interlining, and then sewed each pattern piece together (the way 18th century stays are made). This would have reduced the wrinkling and wiggling. I talked to someone else at the  Gala who was also wearing a 1660s gown, and hers was so smooth! She said she sewed the bodice the way she would a pair of stays.
  3. Maybe skip the cartridge-pleating. I love tiny cartridge pleats; they look delightful and neat. I am glad I did them for this dress, but for speed in the future I would probably do larger pleats to save time. I ended up spending so much time on them that I was not able to do my eyelet closures before a medical procedure made it impossible for me to sew, and recovery took longer than expected so I had to be sewn into my dress at CoCo! (I can’t remember the last time I showed up at an event without closures, but it’s a humbling reminder that life sometimes intervenes.)

Some of my problems may have been attributable to my use of silk taffeta instead of a thicker silk satin, but I wanted to use what I had in my stash, and the skirt was so light and lovely to wear.

I made the jewelry out of giant acrylic pearls, strung with fishing line. Glass pearls would have been lovely, but very heavy, and since I was going to pin the drape directly to a silk taffeta dress with a silk gauze neckline, I wanted it lighter.

Bonus: Hacking the American Duchess 18th Century Undergarments Pattern to Make a 17th Century Chemise)

I promised a pattern hack in the title, and here it is! This 17th century dress required an off-the-shoulder chemise, which I did not have. I also did not want to draft one from scratch, so I hacked the American Duchess 18th Century Undergarments pattern (Simplicity 8162). This is what the original pattern looks like:8162

Ignoring the ruffles, you have a body panel with a shoulder strap, a sleeve gusset for the underarm, and a square sleeve that is folded to form a tube.IMG_2634.JPG

However, what if you fold down the shoulder strap, shift the sleeve and gusset down, and double the size of the sleeve piece to make it fuller? (Previously you cut a square that became a tube, now you cut a large rectangle that becomes a square).IMG_2639.JPG

This is the shape you get:IMG_2644.JPG

Add a drawstring neckline, and you get an off-the-shoulder chemise!IMG_2648.JPG

Please note, my sleeves are a bit shorter than what you see historically. A proper 17th century chemise would have had much longer and exaggerated sleeves. I made these shorter for several reasons:

  1. I plan to reuse this with other gowns where a billowy chemise sleeve would be inconvenient.
  2. The portrait I am using as inspiration has an exposed chemise sleeve made of finer materials than the linen I used, plus little ribbon ties; thus I made false sleeves that can be attached to my black bodice that will allow for nicer fabric and no need to fuss with tying bows each time I wear it.

So, if you do not have the reasons enumerated above, you should quadruple (not double) the original sleeve pattern into a giant square, not a rectangle.IMG_3853

(Yes, those are green and purple crayons because my child left them next to my computer and I was too lazy to go looking for nicer writing implements).

Final reckoning:  Let’s tally up!

  • 10 yards of 35″ black silk taffeta: $49.90 + $8.75 shipping = $58.65 (Yay for fabulous sales from FabricMart!)
  • Nehelenia pattern: $23.96 including shipping (I ordered with a few other ladies and split the postage from Europe)
  • Lining and boning: $0 (left over from my 18th century stays project)
  • 2 yards linen (for chemise) and 1 yard silk gauze (for bodice neckline): $23.94 including tax and shipping from Dharma Trading (I ordered double that but am setting the rest aside for a different project, so I’m halving the cost)
  • 1 yard silk cotton blend for lower sleeves: $17.99 from Amazon
  • 120 giant pearls: $11.28 from Aliexpress
  • 2 brooches: $5.40 from Aliexpress
  • 2 “small spiral corkscrew” cheerleading/Irish dancing hair clips: $43.11 including shipping from eBay seller american_costumes
  • Ribbon, thread, hooks and eyes, polyfill for the bumroll, etc. from stash ~$5?

Total: $189.33

So the silk was cheap, but all the extras added up! Normally I do not count accessories and hairpieces, but in this case they are very specific to this era and the portrait inspiration, and they’re not very versatile for other eras.

Finally of course, as always, my shoes are American Duchess. They are the Pompadour French Court Shoes in black (affiliate link).

Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 9.55.04 PM

This was a long post, so thanks for reading!

Costume College Recap (Part 2)

If you missed it, Part 1 (Thursday/Friday) of the Costume College Recap can be found here.

On Saturday I took several classes: Fashions of Versailles (Rise Reading); The King of Fashion: Paul Poiret (Adam Lid); and Intro to Arduino, Sensors and Programmable LEDS.

For the daytime I wore something quick and easy, a vintage 60s wool cheerleading uniform that fit the theme. I accessorized with a modern band hat and gogo boots.IMG_3208

Ginger looked lovely in green Regency!IMG_3222

Molly of Avant Garbe looked lovely in her Eliza Schuyler-inspired gown.IMG_3217

And I ran into these two cuties that were just finishing breakfast! Ashley (of fishnetvanity) and Twila (of twilatee).IMG_3212

Elizabeth (peachassassin) was #bigpimpin in her brocade outfit.IMG_3232.JPG

Saturday night was the Red Carpet and Gala dinner. There were so many incredible costumes I could not capture them all or post them here, but please see my Flickr album for more!

I wore 1660s with my Cavalier ladies (Teresa, Jessica, Elizabeth, Cate, and Kim). I loved the variety of colors in our group! (I’ll post more about my outfit later, with construction notes and what I want to change for the future!)IMG_3298.JPG

Natalie (frolicking_frocks) wore an amazing Cersei dress with embroidery she did by hand!IMG_3283IMG_3260

We couldn’t resist taking photo in our matching villainous black and chest jewelry.IMG_3308.JPG

Christine (of sewstine) and her husband wore these incredible silk frock coats! Christine sewed the outfits and did hundreds of hours of machine embroidery! Be sure to check out her IG account for more photos. I could not do the outfits justice with my camera and poor lighting.IMG_3322.JPG

A group of us (me with Christine, Bunny, AJ, and Gloria) posed for a photo to prove we are all different people. Yes, we are constantly referred to by each other’s names at CoCo. IMG_3409

Elvis (really Jez) was in the house!IMG_3446.JPG

Kelsey (irreverentvintagegirl) was in a gorgeous vintage 60s evening gown, with perfect hair and makeup.

Christina of the Laced Angel wore a Hamilton extra outfit and Curtis looked dashing in his banyan.IMG_3310.JPG

Jessica had an impressive reproduction of the coronation gown for Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Be sure to read her summary here!

The girls of American Duchess looked splendid as always, with Lauren in her Robe a la Turque and Abby in a frothy pink and white 1760s Robe a la Francaise.IMG_3265IMG_3268

Breanna of Mothball Fleet was adorable as always.IMG_3286.JPG

Rebecca was a stunner in blue!IMG_3405.JPG

After a long day and evening people started collapsing into cupcakes on the ground . . .IMG_3442.JPG

Or into sleepy kigurumis like Lauren.IMG_3441

The next day we woke up early to make it down to the Bargain Basement. I got so many lovely things there I will have to make a separate post later. I was too busy with shopping and my classes that I didn’t take many photos.

First I took an amazing lecture from Leimomi Oakes called “Tapa Cloth and Tiki Attire: The Pacific Influence on Fashion.” After a quick lunch break I went to my limited class “Making the Phantom Bustle” with Christina DeAngelo, and then later her great overview lecture “Beyond the Lobster Tail Bustle,” where she provided many examples of bustles.

This is Christina telling us not to hit each other with dowels in the limited class.IMG_3455

Kelsey looked wonderful in 18th century!IMG_3456IMG_3463

I dressed casually on Sunday because I had class and tear-down of my costume display, but here is a bonus picture of me with Breanna in matching clothes from Wearing History, checking out of the hotel on Monday.IMG_3469.JPG

One of the last costume pictures I took at CoCo was of Nicole (silk_and_buckram) and Lauren (markslauren) in bright green. What a way to end another fabulous CoCo!IMG_3460

To those of you that I met at Costume College, welcome to my blog! If you found me through my Instagram account (@freshfrippery) thank you for following! I got lots of new followers and I’m still sorting through which accounts are legit and which are spam, so please send me a DM there if I met you in real life and haven’t followed you back. Thank you!

Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 2)

The dress is nearly done!img_1061

I’m excited that this is nearly complete, with just a few minor things to do. It’s taken a little longer than I thought! Sewing is about learning from your mistakes, and I’ve been doing some learning.

Lesson 1: It’ll stretch more than you think

I accounted for a bit of the stretch of the mesh fabric when cutting out the skirt, but underestimated how much more it would stretch afterwards. I was afraid I was being too careful and the skirt would be a little too short, but after I attached it to the bodice and let it hang for a bit, the heavy beads dragged the skirt down to a length that would have required stripper heels instead of dainty Regency slippers to manage.

Due to the scalloped border I couldn’t hem the fabric at the bottom of the skirt, so as much as it pained me to undo all the hand-stitching I removed the skirt, cut off some excess at the top, removed even more beads, and reattached it.

Lesson 2: What looks good on the dress form doesn’t always look good on you

Redoing the skirt gave me the chance to also redistribute the gathering. Originally I had made the front flat to avoid the dreaded pregnant Regency look, and focused most of the fabric on the sides and back. However, once I put the dress on I realized the extra beading on the sides made me look a little wide and boxy. Here are some quick shots with my phone showing before (left) and after (right) without petticoats.

Because of the peculiarities of my figure (mainly the shape and size of my ribs and chest), the version on the left looked better on the mannequin, but not particularly well on me. Normally, to reduce bulk at the waistline I would have cut tapered panels, but could not do that with the beaded fabric. I also wanted it to be fuller than the lining underneath. Since the beaded layer is essentially a gathered rectangle there’s a bit more bulk around the empire waist than I would like, but the new version with redistributed fabric is still a little more flattering on me than looking like a sugary green rectangle.

Although most of the examples of Napoleonic dresses I’ve seen have a flat, columnar front, I did find this extant dress worn by Empress Josephine that is gathered all around.regency1

Lesson 3: Working with sheer, beaded fabrics will double your sewing time.

This bag represents only a portion of what I had to carefully unpicked from the seams,  darts, and placket panel. There are plenty more that ended up on the floor or hiding in the corners of my house. My next dress will definitely be made of solid fabric!img_1032

To minimize snagging on the mesh, instead of hooks and eyes I made covered buttons and loops for the back closure, and added a placket. (Yes, I had to remove all the beading on the fabric used to make these buttons too).img_1018

I think smaller buttons might have been a better choice, but that size of button-covering kit was what I had on hand, and I do like having them large enough to have a different pattern on each.

Lesson 4: If you hoard it long enough it will come in handy

Years ago, when I started sewing, I bought a spool of “invisible thread.” It was actually beige nylon and not as invisible as clear fishing line, so I never knew what to do with it until I obtained beige netting fabric! (I’m not kidding when I say I think I’ve had the spool for nearly 15 years).

The beaded motifs are staggered in a way that I had to cut through a few of them to make the center back seam, and the beige nylon thread came in rather handy for putting the two sides together. (I hand-sewed two rows of stitching for extra security).IMG_1043.JPG

I would  have loved to do a slight train on the dress, but the fabric I had was not wide enough. I will have to make up for it with the velvet court train for the rest of this ensemble!

I still need to bind the raw edges inside, do a little bit of final fit adjustments, snip loose threads, etc. to clean the dress up before I wear it to take photos.

My to-do list:

  • Buy materials for the court train: I’m looking for a rose cotton or silk velvet
  • Make matching shoe clips for my American Duchess Pemberly slippers (affiliate link)
  • Make a Regency diadem; I already have the materials ready!
  • Make a reticule out of leftover pieces of the beading. (I have no more of the green chiffon except some small scraps, so I may make the base fabric match the velvet train).

Read part 1 here.

img_1062IMG_1070.JPG

Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 1)

My current project is a beaded Regency court dress using Butterick B6074 as a starting point. Here is a sneak peek of the bodice; I took this picture before closures were added.img_0973

The dress consists of 3 layers: a sheer netting with beads, sequins, and faux pearls; a seafoam green chiffon interlining, and a cotton voile lining. I don’t know if the seafoam green is historically correct. Most of the extant Napoleonic court gowns I’ve seen are white or ivory, with most of the color in the embroidery and the sumptuous court trains.  However, I love that particular shade, and the way it looks against the bronze sequins in the netting. (The fabric is from Fabric Wholesale Direct and has gold embroidery, with round and cylindrical seed beads, round and leaf-shaped sequins, and round and oval faux pearls).img_0802

I did find this portrait of the Empress Marie Louise in what appears to be a light blue gown.lefevre_maria_luigia

Because the fabric I’m using for the outer layer of the gown is sheer and beaded I am trying to minimize seams. It keeps me from cutting through too many motifs, and saves me some time since I have to remove all the beads and sequins from each seam to reduce bulk. I altered the pattern by combining the two should strap pieces into one (eliminating the shoulder seam), and redrafting the back bodice and side bodice pieces to be one. The placement of the seams are no longer quite correct, but it did make sewing easier. I also raised the back because it is very low cut and my stays would have shown.IMG_0887.JPG

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Because of all the beading, and because the foot pedal of my sewing machine is having electrical problems, this gown is mostly hand-sewn. Thus, it is taking a while, especially since I am super paranoid every time I have to cut into this precious fabric!img_0998

Tudor Kirtle (Part 3): Kirtle and Smock

Tudor Kirtle (Part 3): Kirtle and Smock

I finally had some sun and a weekend at home to take some pictures. I had 4 garments that were finished and not photographed, including this kirtle and smock. I made the kirtle earlier in the year for a faire I ended up not being able to attend, so I don’t have any pictures of it worn yet.img_0729

The kirtle is made of a blue worsted wool and lined with a linen-blend, which was also used to make the smock. Both garments are made with patterns from the Tudor Tailor.img_0731

The kirtle has spiral lacing on both sides. I chose to have the openings on the side to increase the versatility of the kirtle. I can wear it as-is, or with other clothing over it.img_0734

The back has a rounded neckline.img_0739

Parts 1 and 2 discuss my construction details.

The smock is rather straight-forward, and is really a series of rectangles of varying sizes. Most of the time was spent on the collar and cuffs, so if you wanted a plain one the sewing would go very quickly.

Final project costs:

  • 4 meters blue worsted wool: $104.88 from Aliexpress. (I probably could have made this out of 3 meters, but bought 4 to be safe. I still have plenty to make sleeves).
  • 6 yards Kaufman handkerchief linen/cotton: $45.17 with tax from Fabric.com. (I used this for the smock and lining, and have enough left over for a 18th century chemise).
  • 10 yards linen tape: $10.40 including tax from Britex Fabrics.

Total: $160.45

This is a bit more than my usual projects, but wool is not cheap (even though I felt I got a decent deal on the fabric), and I have plenty of materials left over for other projects.

I would like to make a pair of sleeves and a partlet to wear with it. I already own a few other accessories, such as a straw hat, my gorgeous American Duchess Stratfords (affiliate link),  and a beautiful blackwork coif commissioned from Romantic Recollections!img_0744screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-3-21-45-pm