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18th Century Costumes at the Legion of Honor

Yesterday I saw the “Casanova, The Seduction of Europe” exhibit with the Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. It was full of incredible artwork, and even antique garments on display. I highly recommend it! I spent the last few weeks working on a new outfit to attend the exhibit instead of blogging about it, but it I will post more about the construction details once I get the last bit of trim on (which did not arrive in time). I wore my new mauve silk Italian gown pinned shut, as is historically correct, but will be changing it to a hook-eye-and opening. (I was paranoid about marking up the silk so I wore it a bit loose).

Many of the photos in this post are used courtesy of John Carey Photographic Imagery. Thanks John!

I love how this photo reminds me of candlelight!

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Photo by John Carey

This one is outside the museum.

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Photo by John Carey

Here’s a few full-body shots from my phone:IMG_6848IMG_6850

My shoes are 18th century black wool Dunmores from American Duchess (affiliate link) and the earrings and necklace are from In the Long Run Designs. My fan is an antique. IMG_6852

There was much gossip and court intrigue with my fellow Taffeta Sisters, Kelsey and Natalie.IMG_6955

Some of it was of a highly shocking nature!IMG_6868

There were many gorgeous costumes in attendance.

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Photo by John Carey

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Photo by John Carey

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Photo by John Carey

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Photo by John Carey

 

There was unavoidable 18th century rump shaking.

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Plus other silly shenanigans.

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We enjoyed the stunning artwork, costumes, and artifacts on display.IMG_6814.JPGIMG_6829IMG_6805

I felt quite at home with the paintings. =) Many more photos have been uploaded to my Flickr account so please take a look!

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Photo by John Carey

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Steamtorium Undercorset Belt and Teacup Holster (Steampunk Project and Pattern Review)

My most recent project is a steampunk utility belt with swivel hooks that accessories can be attached to: a teacup holster, a pouch, a fan pocket, and some skirt lifters/chatelaines. These items were made with two patterns from the Steamtorium Etsy shop: the under corset belt (which includes the pouch, fan pocket, and chatelaines) and the teacup holster.IMG_6440

And here it is without the teacup and fan.IMG_6442

Although this was designed to be a steampunk accessory, which would probably work quite well for a Wild West event I have this year, I think it would make a great sewing utility belt too!  I might wear this to a workshop some time. The fan pocket can be used for scissors, various tools can be clipped to the chatelaines, the pouch would hold small items, and I have to stay properly hydrated while sewing, of course. =) My favorite item is the teacup holster!IMG_6411

There’s a pocket for your saucer, a pocket with a secure snap strap for your cup, a pocket in the back for teabags, and some loops on the side for your spoon.IMG_6410

My first thought when I got these PDF patterns was “Wow! Step-by-step instructions clearly illustrated by color photographs!” The pattern is not a difficult one, but has a lot of steps and small parts, so the pictures help a lot, especially if you are a visual learner.

The belt pattern is multi-sized for 27-45″ waists, and the fan pocket comes in 2 sizes, while the rest of the accessories come in one size. Here’s some more examples made by the pattern-maker:

All the accessories are detachable and can be moved around because of a swivel hook and D-ring system.IMG_6429.JPG

You can wear this at your waist or hips.IMG_6439

Tips for easier sewing:

  • Don’t use a fabric that’s too thick! I used a heavy upholstery because I liked the pattern, but some of the straps are narrow and very difficult to turn if your fabric is thick. If I made this again I would use a lighter brocade or twill.
  • Read all the instructions carefully first before cutting out the pattern pieces. I ended up cutting some extra pieces that weren’t needed. (For example, if you make the teacup holster to be worn with this belt, and not your own, you will make small D-ring straps, instead of big loops, but both kinds of attachments are provided).
  • The pattern instructs you to sew ribbons to each end of the belt to tie it together. If you want to be able to swap the ribbons whenever you like, you can put eyelets or grommets into the ends, like I did. (This is the only change I made to the pattern).
  • Get sewing clips. Some parts of the project requiring sandwiching together many layers of fabric, and it’s much easier to clip them together instead of pinning.IMG_6352.JPG

Pros and cons:

  • Great, detailed instructions!
  • There are a lot of pieces. This not a difficult pattern, but it can be time-consuming. Don’t do this the night before a convention! I would recommend pinning the pattern to each fabric piece you cut out so you can keep track of all the small pieces.
  • Related to above, there are a lot of materials, and give yourself time to source all of them. In addition to your fabric you will need swivel hooks, D-rings, O-rings, foam batting, fleece batting, interfacing, ribbon, and thread. There’s a detailed materials list in the pattern.
  • The belt is made of 6 pieces of fabric (3 on the front and 3 on the back). I suspect this is so that the pattern pieces can fit on an 8 x 11″ paper, and so you can save some fabric yardage. However, if you have thick fabric you will have bulky seams, and it’s hard to match patterns. I think having an option to tape the paper pattern together to make one larger pattern piece to cut the belt out would be nice.
  • Very responsive customer service! I found a small typos/omissions on some pattern pieces, but Sherry, the pattern designer, said she would fix them right away. I think by the time you read this review the version in her Etsy shop should have all the updates!

Project cost: I normally provide a tally of the costs, but it’s a little hard in this case because a lot of the items are from my stash, or you use small pieces of it (like the foam interfacing),  and some of the hardware is sold in a large pack. (For example, you only need 1 snap, and it comes in a pack of 10). I’d estimate that if you were to buy everything from scratch it may cost $30-40 depending on the fabric and the type of hardware, and you would still have a lot of materials left over.

Final thoughts: This was a fun project to make, the patterns are good with clear instructions, and I recommend them!

Note: I was offered this pattern for free by Sherry Ramaila of Steamtorium, but I wasn’t paid for this post. All opinions are mine, and I used my own fabric. Thank you Sherry for the pattern!

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2017 Costuming Year in Review

Looking back, 2017 was a busy sewing year!

My biggest project was my Napoleonic court dress, train, and diadem, worn at Costume College. I spent much of the first part of the year working on it.IMG_3396-(ZF-3567-92908-1-002)

My 1660s Cavalier gown was also a big project. I made a bodice, skirt, chemise, bum roll, and jewelry. I’d like to revisit this to fix a few minor issues, or possibly retrim it with metallic lace.IMG_4216-(ZF-7662-83598-1-001)

I also made an 18th century plaid dress and wool petticoat for an Outlander-themed dinner party in May. Although the dress and fabrics are simple, I found it very flattering because of the fit (and the giant bum pad!)IMG_2037

I made some 1930s beach pajamas, which were really fun! I’d like to make another one in a nice print some day.IMG_4445

Although I technically finished my Tudor kirtle and smock last year, I didn’t get a chance to wear it until this year.IMG_4336

I also made a Crimson Peak-inspired ensemble for a spooky Victorian Halloween tea party. There are a few little more things I want to do with this costume before it’s really “done” and I take some better photos.IMG_4696

I made a 1940s blouse using a Wearing History pattern, and started some other vintage projects that I haven’t posted about yet.IMG_3702

I up cycled a 1990s dress into a steampunk 1890s blouse, and I’m in the process of making a matching skirt!IMG_5696

My final project of 2017 is a lace 1920s dress, plus a silk slip to go with it, that I made right before New Year’s. I haven’t blogged about it yet, and didn’t do any progress posts because it was a quick project! I have a post planned with a pattern and tutorial for both the slip and the dress, so stay tuned!IMG_5929.JPG

Wow, when I list everything out it was a busier year than I thought! I already have plenty of ideas and events planned for 2018. Happy New Year everyone!

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

Crimson Peak-Inspired Costume at Spooky Victorian Tea Party

I recently attended a “Spooky Victorian Tea Party” hosted by the GBACG, and wore an outfit inspired by Edith Cushing’s picnic outfit in the Crimson Peak movie. When I saw the movie in theaters I immediately fell in love with that creepy hand belt!06a80c2771674a757c37cc5248095268

The belt buckle is meant to mimic carved ivory and the belt is meant to be hair, inspired by mourning jewelry.IMG_8541

I didn’t have time to blog the research and progress, so this post is going to do double-duty. Here is Edith with a beautiful pleated blouse, silk taffeta skirt, a fancy belt, a fugly hat, and a handsome man (Sir Thomas Sharpe).picnic-dress1

My outfit was inspired by, but not a cosplay, for a few reasons. First, I’m using my own hair instead of a blond wig. For reasons of time and cost, I wanted to be able to reuse my ensemble with different accessories for a historical costume like a suffragette outfit. For practical reasons, I could not get the exact same kind of lace on the blouse, and didn’t plan to drive myself crazy looking for it. Finally, I hate the taco hat.

Seriously, it looks like the tostada they give you at Chevy’s on your birthday. Edith even looks embarrassed to be wearing it in this photo.uvkYG7X

In another part of the movie, Edith wears the same skirt with a jacket and a boater. Isn’t that hat so much cuter?IMG_4591

I made my own with a bit of hat surgery, and decorated it with butterflies since those are a theme in the movie.IMG_4627

The costume was on display at FIDM, and a friend went to take photos and report back to me whether the silk taffeta in the skirt was bronze, copper, or pink because the promo photos were inconsistent.

By the way, if you have eagle eyes, or you’re just obsessive like me, you’ll notice a flaw or heavy crease in the silk running between the second-to-last two buttons. This did not happen during transport to the museum. Look again at the pictures I posted above; they are in the movie!IMG_9064

The verdict was bronze. Luckily, another friend was having a garage sale and I got the perfect shade! (In progress photo below).IMG_4495.JPG

I apologize for the poor quality of my photos from the day of the party. The lighting in the tea venue was not the best, and I had just my phone to take pictures, so the colors are darker than they are in real life.IMG_4696

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Both my patterns for the skirt (“Fan-Skirt about 1890”) and blouse (“Edwardian blouse”) came from Black Snail Patterns on Etsy. It was my first time using them and I recommend this company highly!  I made some small modifications, but not many. I love how the back of the skirt falls.IMG_4714

I did not have time to make a new organdy petticoat and had to make do with some petticoats suitable for other silhouettes, so next time the skirt should be fuller.IMG_4715

I used a pleated silk chiffon over a base of cotton gauze for the blouse. I overlaid this with lace, and dyed all three materials with tea.IMG_E4682.JPG

And surprise, my creepy sister-in-law Lucille was at the party! I do hope she was not the one who prepared the tea.IMG_0026

The food (at Tyme for Tea in Niles, CA) was delicious, and the champagne generous!IMG_4742

This costume is still a work in progress. I have the following things planned:

  1. Make the belt. The belt in the movie is made of braided hair. I tried to make my own with a big French braid but it came out very lumpy and thick. It was so unflattering that the morning of the party I decided to just use a plain black belt instead. I will try again with tiny braids sewn to a backing.
  2. Replace the skirt buttons. I used some very thick molded vintage Czech glass buttons. They were lovely, but very heavy and pulled on the front of the skirt and made it collapse. I will have to find some lighter buttons.
  3. Fix the blouse back. Because I have narrow shoulders and a small bust I took in the shoulder seams. I accidentally took too much without accounting for what it would do to the upper closures, so I have a little pulling and gapping between the upper buttons. I’m not sure yet whether to fix this with a modesty panel, more buttons, a little boning along the closures, or a few hooks and eyes.
  4. Replace the lace on the cuffs. I used some black lace appliqués, but I think they are too heavy-looking, and would like to find some delicate black flowers similar to what I have at the collar.

Normally I would do a tally of the costs, but since this outfit is not really done, I will save that for when I truly finish! For now, here is a resource list.

I’m looking forward to wearing this at Costume College with the fixes!IMG_4782

A Tudor Kirtle and Smock at a Renaissance Faire

Last year I made a Tudor kirtle and smock using patterns from the Tudor Tailor. (You can see my previous construction posts here).

However, due to rain and mud the Renaissance Faire I was supposed to attend with my friends got canceled. Finally, nearly a year later I got to wear my kirtle!IMG_4336

This is a lower-class garment, so there is no boning. The smooth front of the bodice is achieved with 2 layers of canvas sandwiched between a layer of worsted wool and the linen lining. I think my back is a tad long, hence the wrinkling, but I’m still pleased with the overall fit of my first kirtle. There are slits in the side to access my pockets.IMG_4342

I am wearing a blackwork coif commissioned from Romantic Recollections, and Stratford shoes from American Duchess (affiliate link).

And like all good faires there were beautiful ladies (Amanda, Samantha, Kelsey, and Natalie) . . .IMG_4265

dashing gentlemen . . .IMG_4348

court gossip . . .IMG_4401

the Queen . . .IMG_4393.JPG

and codpiece parasol jousting (Elizabeth and Lynne).IMG_4380.JPG

This was my first Ren Faire (really!) and I had a great time. I’ve been to lots of other historical events, including SCA, but not a Ren Faire before so this was a new experience. I’ll be back!

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).

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This was a long post, so thanks for reading!