Saturday, May 31, 2014

Faking it: Earrings for the 18th century court gown project

I was able to scratch another small bit off the epic To Do list that makes up my 18th century court gown project:  the earrings. The lovely person or people over at the Grand Ladies website where I first laid eyes on this painting of Queen Maria Carolina of Naples and Sicily describe "the only jewellery she is wearing are large pearl earrings with diamond surrounds."

Since this was her only jewelry, I really wanted to make sure that the earrings were just right.  It's a big dress and a big wig, so I needed something a lot larger than what I would normally wear.  Plus, they needed to be pretty decadent, since this was a queen I'm recreating here, and your standard costume jewelry might not cut it.  Cue the Google-fu and this is what I found:

Over 1/2" across and they fit the description to a T.  They were gorgeous.  They were perfect.  They were no longer on sale and cost $275!  Which is... no.  Hard limit, I cannot spend more money on the earrings than I did on the dress.  So, on to Plan B.  I'd been keeping an eye on the buttons and such whenever I happened upon a crafting store or website, with the hopes of being able to make something up on my own.  In amongst the wedding supplies at my local JoAnn's I found these lovely buttons:

I think I might actually like the look of these even MORE than the fancy expensive earrings.  The ivory tone makes them look so much older and, as they were flat backed and not raised, they would sit flush against the lobe of my ear.  And even though anything that's intended for "wedding" use is going to be stupid expensive on principle, a pair of these and a pack of earring backs came out to a grand total of $20, which is a far sight better than the alternative.

Here's how I made it work:

The supplies: buttons, earring posts with 10mm pads upon which to attach the buttons,
Jewel-It glue, large and fine wier cutters and safety glasses.

I folded up a tissue pad to set the buttons on so that I didn't scratch the faux pearly finish.  Then Iplaced the heavy duty wire cutters and covered the lot of it with a second tissue to discourage projectiles.  I needed the large cutters to work through the heavy shank on the back of the buttons, but it wasn't a clean cut.

So I used the smaller wire cutters to do a bit of fine trimming, but there was still a bit of a rough edge.

One of the must haves in my craft room is several old containers of clear nail polish.  You know how gunky that last quarter of the bottle always gets?  Well, hold onto it.  It's dead useful.  The thick stuff dries clear, makes a hard surface, is skin friendly and ultimately removeable, should it come to it.  I use it on all sorts of rough parts of costumey bits.

To attach the posts, I used Jewel-It glue.  The Jewel-It is good for this sort of project because you can embed your bits into it and it dries to form a sort of setting that's more secure than glue alone.  For this project, I used a toothpick to spread additional glue around and up over the edges of the disk on the post to secure it, then let it dry overnight.

The finished product.  Looking at the buttons in the store, I was really worried that they'd be too big.
While much larger than anything I'd ever wear normally, they weren't very heavy and, once paired
with the stupidly-sized wig and dresss, I think they should work just fine.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

HSF 9: Black & White - white Natural form petticoat

What it is: petticoat
Fabric: white cotton with lace and pin tuck lattice pattern, plus some plain white cotton for the back.
Pattern: Truly Victorian 170: Victorian Petticoats, View 2: 1877-1882
Year: Natural Form era, around about 1880
Notions: polyester thread and 1/2" cotton twill tape ties.
How historically accurate is it?  Close enough.
Hours to complete: 4-5
Total cost: No idea as it was completely from the stash.

When I got done with the black accessories to complete the 1920s outfit, I thought that perhaps I could squeeze in a white project to round the challenge out.  Costume College is coming up this summer and they're doing an under dressed breakfast full of wrappers and banyans that I'd kind of like to have a tea gown for.  I've had the TV432 1882 Tea Gown pattern for a couple of years now and it's about time I get around to making one up.  I've also had this funky lacey pin tuck cotton taking up space for several years.  I've always thought that I'd make up a bustle era underskirt with it to show it off, but no project ever really materialized to use it.

Fast forward to last month when All The Pretty Dresses showcased a petticoat with extra eyelet decoration down the lower half of the center front that was most likely intended to be seen under an open wrapper and I had my Aha! moment.  (side note, if you're not already following this blog, the author is cataloging extrant garments that come up on auction sites so that the informtion that they provide can be available long after the auction has ended.  SUCH a resource.)

Cotton eyelet petticoat, American Civil War Era on All The Pretty Dresses

I had just enough of the material to do the front panel and a ruffle at the hemline.  The last back panel has a plain cotton upper piece with a couple rows of piping, then the botton half was the last odd rectangular shape of the laced/tucked fabric, since the tuckes helped give it body and the lower back half is where I want the fluff to be.  There is an eight inch slit in the center back waist that closes with a drawstring.  The drawstring doesn't go through the entire waistband, instead being cut in two pieces and anchoring at the side seams.  This way, the front panel will stay flat and any gathering will happen in the back.  It ended up quite sheer in the front, which I didn't notice until I broke out the flash photography.  I might have wanted to flatline that front panel, in retrospect.  Instead, I think I'll just make up another plain white petticoat to go under it.

Now I just need to pick a fabric from the stash to use for the tea gown and I'll be ready to roll.  I'm a little hesitant, beause the blue and cream floral linen blend that I was eyeing for the project doesn't seem like it would pair well with a pure white petticoat.  Any thoughts on the matter?  Should I tea stain or lightly dye the petticoat to get an off-white/ivory color, pick a white-friendly fabric for the tea gown, or just say screw it and wear white and ivory together like the rebel that I am?

HSF 9: Black & White - 1920s Accessories

I didn't really have any projects on the to do list that would work with both black AND white, so I had to split it up a bit.  It turns out I had LOTS of small and medium projects that were one or the other.  So this fortnight was all about getting some of those smaller projects off the list.  The first thing that I did was focus on projects that would complete an outfit for my chartreuse leopard print charmeuce 1920s dress.

First up was a hat to kind of round out the outfit.  I've been on an ultra-short hair kick lately, and that's been making it where I've had to get pretty creative figuring out what to do with my head when I costume.  The cloche hat is awesome because it totally covers the head.  So not only do I not have to do my hair, it's completely irrelevant what it looks like.

What it is: cloche hat
Fabric: black wool felt and dark blue silk habotai for lining
Pattern:, modified to add in another triangular panel to the crown, up-size for an adult head and seam allowances added to allow for a lining.
Year: 1920s
Notions: polyester (construction) and silk (top stitching/embellishment) threads. 1 yard of 1 inch wide black silk satin thread.
How historically accurate is it? I'd say pretty close.
Hours to complete: 4, including adjusting the pattern to fit a grown up head.
First worn: not yet, but this is part of completing my 1920s outfit, so I hope to find an event to break that out for soon.
Total cost: < $10 Everything was from materials on hand, even though I'd marked that ribbon for for tying back my honey's 18th c hair.

I didn't have any black habotai laying around, so I used a bit of the dark blue left over from the MIL's
Acadian short cloak.  A bit of fudging on the challenge, but a white lining would not have looked nice at all.

What it is: poncho
Fabric: 1.75 yds of 51" wide black silk burnout (so most likely a silk/rayon satin)
Pattern: inspired by the tunic that's included in the Folkwear Monte Carlo dress pattern, but they didn't have the 3 yds I would have needed to pull that off, so I just made do with what they had.  Turned out MUCH simpler in the long run.
Year: 1920s
Notions: polyester (machine stitching to attach bias for neckline and prep hemline) and silk (for top stitching/finishing) threads.
How historically accurate is it? meh.  Close enough.
Hours to complete: About three.
First worn: see above
Total cost: Fabric was on sale, so about $12.

As you can see, the poncho is super thin.  It's not so much that I wanted something to keep me warm as I wanted something to kind of break up the top half of the Monte Carlo dress, which was fun, but not of a style that's very flattering for a pear-shaped human.  This way, you can still see the top of the dress, but hopefully won't focus on the boob-waist-hip ratios.  It also adds some flow to the top half to kind of balance out the movement and scope of the hemline of the dress.  The abstract garden design gives it just enough interest, without being too interesting.  And it's vague enough that the pattern on the back half being 'upside down' shouldn't be too much of an issue.

The construction was simple.  I just folded the yardage in half and cut a narrow oval for the neck, placing more of a dip in the front than that back.  The neckline was finished with a narrow strip of fabric cut from the ends.  Not a true bias, but the fabric was so light that it didn't really matter.  The front and back hemlines were cut in a shallow point and finished with a hand done rolled hem.  I left the selvedges along the side seams alone because I figured that there's nothing I could do to them that would look nicer or less obvious.  My only complaint is that the satiny bits of pattern tended to fray whenever they were manipulated, so a close inspection of the hemlines shows lots of tiny little threads sticking out.  Let it be a message to me to treat it VERY gently when it comes to washing.

I had kind of wanted to take pictures of the complete outfit, but I can't seem to figure out where the hell I put the dress.  Needless to say, organizing the costume storage is at the top of the list for projects to get started on this summer.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Recap from Figments & Filaments

In things that kind of blow my mind, we now have a costuming convention right here in Kansas City last weekend.  Figments & Filaments was a first year costuming convention whose goal seemed to be to draw together as many of the different avenues of costuming under one roof.  There was a heavy representation by the SCA and Ren Faire contingents, as well as a ton of steampunk.  Not too many of the recreationists (is that a word?  I think I'll declare it one) and definitely not the usual 'con costuming' vibe.  But this was great, because it meant that almost everything there was new to me.  I brought out mine and my niece's hanboks for the display gallery, which turned out really well.  I was surprised by just how many people recognized them as being Korean and were knowledgeable enough about them to have good discussions.

I started my weekend off with a lecture from Matthew Gnagy.  I can't even remember what the official title of his talk was, but it was two hours of everything from fashion education to historical costuming to tailoring for TV.  What really stuck with me, though, was how many Ah ha! moments I took out of his talk.  You know the feeling.  You've been working on something for months or years, plugging right along, when some little thing that you read or see somewhere just makes you go OH!  THAT'S how that's supposed to be done.  Weird shifted sleeve gusset things and the shoulder padding in suits were demystified.  As well as the concept of using trim as both a stiffener and anchor for gathering, rather than sorting out the garment, THEN applying the trim.  So lots of time cuts and the like.  There was also some great discussion about the history of (and the differences between) tailoring and dressmaking that gave me lots of thinky thoughts to ponder while noticing my own hand-sewing habits (good and bad).

I also attended a great show-and-tell about cotton and other textiles in Medieval Japan.  Getting to touch all of the fabulous fabric types and examples of the different dyeing techniques was a real treat.  Another surprising jem was the talk on the changes in military uniforms leading up to and throughout World War I.  A group of living historians from the Liberty Memorial came out and they had TONS of fun stuff to look though.  I learned a lot about the changes in warfare tactics and how the uniforms had to change because of it.

Saturday, I co-hosted an informational meetup for the Kansas City Costumers' Guild.  Which meant fully dressed first-thing in the morning.  But we had muffins, so that made it okay.  We got a lot of new faces pop up, so hopefully we'll be able to use that to help boost activities in the Kansas City area.  Our first post-F&F activity is a sewing circle at my house next weekend, so we'll see how it goes.

Saturday night was the fashion show.  I got V to wear her Poison Ivy dress again and I showed the kimono and obi that I made for my mommy.  Unlike the usual con crowd, a hotel full of historical costumers instantly zoomed in on the little details in the beading and embroidery, which was a lovely ego stroke for me.  They had a neat setup where they projected complementary images on the backdrop, which I thought was fun.

Lounging about in the halls, putting the finishing touches on my petticoat.
It's a bit warm, but oh man, the Mr Freeze smoking jacket is so comfortable.

Sunday morning was largely a wash for me, as we stayed up late the night before eating pizza and doing an MST3K of Man of Steel.  By the time that I rolled out of bed, I had to scramble to both dress and pack at the same time.  Luckily, I had slotted my 18th century getup for this, which required no doing of the hair and makeup.  Yay for caps!  I've got 8 different projects from the Historical Sew Fortnightly in this outfit, having just completed the short gown a few weeks ago.  I was tickled to finally have a complete outfit so that I could get some use out of the things that I'd been working on for the better part of the last year.

And the best part, they've just announced their dates for next year. APRIL 24-26th, 2015 at a new larger) hotel down in Overland Park.  It's three weeks ahead of Costume Con this time, so there should be plenty of wiggle room to do both .  So excited!

Saturday, May 10, 2014


A bit late getting this out there, but a few weeks ago, I got to do an impromptu road trip out to St Louis for Anime St Louis.  Now, anime cons are not my usual cuppa, but I had friends competing in the qualifiers for the World Cosplay Summit and I agreed to come out as moral support/gopher/roadie, etc.  The WCS, for those who've never heard of it, is a competitive thing for cosplay duos from a whole slew of countries compete to get a trip to Japan to represent their country in competition.  It was facinating to see costuming with a different purpose than what I usually get up to.  These were artists who really focused on embodying their characters and telling a story.  I'm more of a celebrate the craft of it kind of person, and only have a few character cosplays for the fun of it.  Don't get me wrong, there was pleanty of mad skills being represented, they just take it that one step farther.  All of the teams had elaborate props and stage setups, as well as well-choreagraphed presentations including everything from dancing to fight scenes!

Aren't they just amazing?

It felt like a bit of a waste to drive all the way across the state and not compete, though.  So I took a look at ASL's Masquerade info and they actually had no rules prohibiting non-Japanese source costumes.  Score!  So I brought out my Queen of Hearts costume and entered it.  A local friend also happened to have plans to be at the con, so I batted my eyelashes and G agreed to dress up as the King with me.  Now, these were never intended to be competition costumes, so I was unsuprised that out of 80 or so entries that we didn't get anything.  But it was fun as hell to play dress up for a different kind of crowd.  One thing I noticed that's different from my usual haunts was in how the average person interacted with me in costume.  Usually, I'd get someone say something to the effect of complimenting me on my costume by name in order to show that it was recognized.  But amongst the anime fans, I was addressed in character.  Like, to the effect of people holding doors and bowing and saying "Your Majesty."  Such a treat.  Note to self: more cosplay of royalty.  

Tsk, tsk.  Trying to pawn off the wrong color of roses.