Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Costume/Sewing list

I actually like going through the list of what I actually made each year, although it very rarely seems to line up with what I PLAN to make.  Only a few things crossed off from last year's wishlist: the yellow striped Regency, poison polonaise, brown marseilles cloth petti and embroidered jacket.  Unfortunately, I have lost quite a bit of steam in the last few months.  I've been busy, tired and depressed, nevertheless it's heartening to see how much I did this past year (especially given boy illness/injury) and that gives me a bit of a push to do more.

Finished costumes
18th C  brown embroidered jacket
Yellow striped Regency gown
18th C gold and white striped jacket
Aqua floral 18th C polonaise and matching petti
Brown Marseilles cloth 18th C Petticoat
Poison Polonaise
Blue and white striped seaside bustle gown
Black and white polkadot bustle gown
Red and white striped "Sweeney by the sea" bustle gown
Harlequin bustle Fancy Dress costume
18th C tan silk breeches for H
18th C "cotton candy" gown
18th C pink organza petti
Little Red Riding hood for little A
Sonic Hedgehog costume for C
Angry Birds Bomb Bird costume for little H

Finished accessories:
18th C muff
Seaside bustle matching hat
Harlequin fancy dress mini-bicorn
Red Ridinghood for me

Finished stuffies:
12 Angry Bird Bomb Birds
2 Angry Bird Orange Birds
2 little kid bird plushies
1 Sonic the hedgehog plush

Didn't quite finish:
Eyelet bustle - need to just finish trimming and front fastening
Homes Bustle - need to alter neckline a bit then do fastening

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Debbie Reynolds Auction part 2

The second Debbie Reynolds auction of old Hollywood costumes is set for Saturday December 3, 2011 at 11:00 am PST in Beverly Hills. There are some more iconic costumes, like Marilyn Monroe's green Bus Stop costume, and some things fellow costumers might be interested to see, like Ryan O'Neill's 18th C costume from Barry Lyndon. In fact fans of old Hollywood style period films are in for a treat because this auction is full of 1940s-does-Victorian costumes.

You can download the beautiful full color catalog for FREE here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Homes dress

Worked a bunch on the Homes Dress today.  The bodice is nearly done, still need to finish the facing and do the front fastening.  And I've got one sleeve almost finished.   But I've got to go to the fabric store before I can finish up the bodice since I really don't have the right buttons.  I've got some great black Victorian buttons but I'd had to use the originals on a pseudo-Victorian movie costume, ya know?  I used my perfect pleater to make the pleated trim on the collar and cuffs and that turned out very well.  I was lazy and just made knife pleats instead of the box pleats used in the movie.  Actually, I take it back, it's not all laziness, I tried both but found I liked the way the knife pleats looked better despite it not being accurate.

C'est la vie.  I find I'm more concerned with things being the way I want them to be than accuracy these days.  The roses I bought at Michaels look far better than my original arrangement on the hat so I'll be adding those to the band of black flowers I already had.  Then once the dress is done it's onto the dolman.

I've got a some good leads on the dolman, I think a frankenpattern will work but, unlike the TV bodice which I'd made several times before and therefore didn't need it, I'll need to make a muslin before I can get cracking on it.  And I still need to find the fabric.
Huh.  I just checked out the video again to get a handle on what was going on with the doleman and it's actually much more fitted than I thought, really more of a long fitted coat with no back to let the bustle poke out.  Kinda nice for me because I think that's a lot more flattering!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Progress on Irene Adler

My Homes homage is coming along nicely so far.  I've nearly completed the skirt, it just needs hemming and a fastening.  It's not as complicated a back draping as I might like (or as the original) but I simply didn't have enough fabric to do much more than I've done, and that was a bit of a stretch!

I also got out the hat I had in mind and played around with trimmings for it.  I got this back in the early 90s in the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco and wore it all the time for a while there when the "granny" Victorian look was in.  It originally came with hat band of large faded pink parchment roses attached to a ribbon, but I've taken those off for this project and replaced with a hat band of black roses and pinned on a few hot pink ones from my stash to see how that looked.  Again, not exactly like the Homesian one, but I think it's heading in the right direction.  I think I'll go to Michaels and get a few different colored roses to make it a little more like the movie one...

I've already started perusing Hunnisett's outwear book that has a bunch of scaled patterns of dolman's in it.  I think I can draft/frankenpattern something together that looks like Adler's dolman without too much trouble.  I'll need to make a trip to the garment district for the fabric for it though, I don't appear to have any tone on tone black brocade in the stash.  ;) 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Another homage: Sherlock Homes

I've always liked this rather flamboyantly bright pink gown Irene Adler wears in Sherlock Homes and thought, given the new movie is about to come out, that maybe I'd try my hand at something similar.  and go to see the movie in costume!

As with the Sweeney Todd By the Sea gown I'm not aiming for a screen accurate repro, but more of an homage using fabric from the stash.  I have a scant bit of fuchsia silk faille I got a while ago (the same that Koshka used for this dress btw) that I think I have just enough of to make a version of her outfit using the  late Victorian 5 gore skirt and the cuirasse bodice as my base patterns.  And hilariously enough I have a similar hat already, I just need to add a few more pink flowers too it.  And if I run out of time I'll wear a black cape, otherwise I'll make a black brocade wrap similar to the one in the picture.

Sweeney Todd Seaside Finished!

I finally finished the Sweeney Seaside gown!  I had originally thought I'd try to find trim similar to the movie dress's but after looking through my copious stash I ended up deciding to use some of the white rayon fringe I already had instead, so it's another (nearly) all stash project! Here is a pic of the gown on my dummy:

And here it was when I wore it:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sonic the Hedgehog

So I finished my younger son's Sonic costume and our October has been so busy he's worn it three times already and it's not even Halloween yet!  I used a basic Simplicity fur suit pattern as the base pattern for the hood and shoe covers.  The top is a sports top from Target I cut the sleeves off of and sewed flesh colored sleeves and the tummy patch onto.  The bottoms are just a pair of elastic pants I made by patterning off of a pair of his sweatpants.  The hood is made of fleece, the spikes are stuffed with polyfil  and boned with plastic boning to help them stick up. The shoe covers are from two remnants of vinyl backed with a layer of iron on batting to make them puff up a bit and the gloves are purchased.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out -  it's comfortable for him,  he can see and everyone seems to love it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The color of my thread is RED!

Didn't do too much today save finishing my 1.5 year old niece's Red Ridinghood costume, all save for the elastic on the waist of the skirt anyway, and I need to so that when she's here so I don't make it too tight.

And a few days ago I sewed a bit on my Sweeney dress.  I've got the fashion fabric of the bodice together, I need to bone some of the seams and then attach the lining and the front vest pieces.  I think I mentioned that I'm really trying to use up stash materials for this, so when it came to the trim on the front of the vest I wanted to see if I could use something from the stash too.  I realized I had some scarlet dye and a bunch of yards of white cotton lace, so I dyed the lot of it and I'm so happy with how it turned out!  (Anyone who went with me to the FIDM store, this is some of that lace soI can verify that it dyes very well!)  The color isn't an exact match but is in the same field of red and looks fine with the stripes.  I'm going to layer strips of the red lace over a white base for the vest, I've just laid it on the fabric in the pic below but you can get an idea of what it would look like sewn down.

Hopefully it will look a bit like this when I'm done.  I've got so much more of the lace I may use some on the skirt flounce ans tail at the back too.  I find though that this is drifting more and more away from the original to be more of an "in the style of."  But I'm okay with that.  I can imagine this working as both a circus-y sort of gown or another seaside one, given the right accessories and I love multi-occasion gowns!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Busy Season

Now that the costumers' high holy days are almost upon us things have gotten busy sewing wise!  Before Halloween I need to: make a little red ridinghood for my niece, finish my son's Sonic the Hedgehog costume, make a vest for my husband and make a bustle gown for me - whew!  Some of these, like the vest, finishing the bomb bird and the tiny red ridinghood, should be pretty easy.

But I've got a relatively big project on my plate with the gown.  I'm doing a sort of repro of the Sweeney Todd "By the Sea" red and white bustle gown.  (BTW a big shout out for The Costumers Guide to Movie Costumes, I couldn't have done this, or many other of my movie repros without it!)   I want to use mostly stash for this so I'm not going to super accuracy, my fabric isn't sheer and the stripes are too narrow, but I'm hoping those who are Sweeney/Burton fans we see it as an homage.  I'm using several Truly Victorian patterns as the base for this - the Grand Parlor Skirt and the 1872 vest basque, both of which I've made before.  I'm changed the sleeves and the bodice of the basque fairly significantly but it was the closest thing to a Victorian block I could use.  The Grand Parlor Skirt will be actually as is just with flounced trim added to it.  I've got the base skirt done and I've nearly finished the sleeves.  The bodice mock up is done and the fashion fabric is cut.  But I'll need to make a run to the fabric district for a bit of  trim.  The fabric is a red and white striped shantung I think I got a exclusive silks.  I got miles of it so I know I'll have enough for the bias flounces on the skirt and I'm hoping there's enough for something else later like maybe the little striped spencer from Bright Star or an alternate bodice for the dress.  Anyway, here's what I've got so far:

Bomb Bird

So little H's Bomb Bird costume is now totally finished, yay!  It's a super warm and cozy costume, kinda like wearing a giant snuggie, and he loves the Bomb Bird most of all the Angry Birds, so he's very happy with it.

Sonic the Hedgehog

My younger son is going to be Sonic the hedgehog this year.  After looking at a bunch of rather lame Sonic costumes I decided to make his.  We bought a turtleneck in bright blue and cut the sleeves off and attached Sonic's flesh colored belly and flesh colored sleeves and I made a pair of matching pants but the hard part was the hood.  I used a basic hood pattern from an animal Halloween costume pattern then added the spikes. 

I need to put the snaps on the chinstraps of C's Sonic the Hedgehog hood then it's done!  These pics look kinda lame but it actually turned out pretty well.  I'm going to put white make up around C's eyes and black make up for a nose and he'll be set.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Scores from the Fabric District/FIDM

I forgot to add I got some pretty good scores while downtown today.  I stopped by Home Fabrics before going over to FIDM just to check to $5/yd silk bolt ends and scored this lovely deep wine gold painted silk.  There's only about 4 yards of it and it's a bit of an odd design but my first thought was maybe a Banyan for my husband.  Even if not totally correct I think it would look pretty awesome.  I also scored the EXACT fabric for Michelle Pfeiffer's Lamia costume from Stardust which I started the skirt for a while back.  I was pretty psyched to see this as I've been looking for it for a while.

Then I headed over to FIDM.  The FIDM scholarship store is always worth a look if you're in the area.  All the fabric is $2 a yard and trim is a steal too with bolts of trim going from $2-$6  for the whole BOLT.  There were a bunch of fine 95% cotton, 5% nylon laces there with very nice soft hands in a variety of widths. So I bought a bunch of them.  And I think given the high cotton content they may dye pretty well.  The wide one I am especially happy about, it was the most expensive at  $6 for the entire 33 YARDS!   I think you'll be seeing this on a lot of my dresses!
I checked out the new exhibit  at FIDM LA today.  The collection ranged from the sublime, like this peacock muff (there's a matching hat too)

To the ridiculous "Everything grows bigger in California" 1950s novelty boxer shorts with a ruler on the fly! And a few things that skirted both - like the black uber vampy 1940s evening gown made by Adrian for a client to wear to her son's bar mitzvah!   And this crazy yet cool 19teens black bat mourning hat (no real bats were harmed, th faces are fabricated):

The show runs from now until December 17th.  Photography is not allowed but you can fork over $85 to get the huge full color illustrated catalogue which also includes many pieces not in the exhibit.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Golden Age of Hollywood

For some reason I'd never gotten around to downloading the PDF for the auction that was held this summer of  Debbie Reynold's amazing collection of iconic Hollywood costumes.  If you're thinking of doing something from the "Golden Age" of motion pictures for coco next year and you haven't yet downloaded the catalogue you should.  It's truly an amazing treasure trove of information on significant movie costumes - the Ascot Dress, the 7 Year Itch dress, Liz Taylor's Cleopatra...the list goes on and on.  You can download all 312 pages of the catalog (in spectacular technicolor!!)  here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rrrawk! Ariel!

So here's "Mr. Bomb" as the boys call him, all laid out on the floor.  I need to stitch his face down yet so I may monkey around with the layout of the features a bit more.  The white oval will be a cut out where little H's head will be a la this style of costume.

I was pawing through the stash this morning because I had a faint memory that I still had some metallic green silk organza left over from the Victorian fancy dress water costume of days gone by.  And yes, I do in fact still have some!  I'm not entirely sure it's enough for Ariel's hem motifs but I think so.  In any event I think the two fabrics look pretty great together (ignore the wrinkles!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cartoon costume madness! Or Sonic and Angry Birds and Ariel, oh my!

I hadn't realized it until I started to put this post together but all my current costume projects are animated! 

First there's the boys.  I'm trying to get the jump on Halloween this year and get the boys costumes done EARLY for once.  So I asked them what they wanted to be and started work NOW so I could be done soon  --and they wouldn't have time to change their minds!  C wants to be Sonic the Hedgehog and H wants to be the bomb bird from Angry Birds.  I went shopping for Bomb bird fabric today at JoAnn's and sometime this week C and I will go back and buy fabric for Sonic. 

There is an Angry Birds costume tutorial here which I used to get my supplies together and as the basis for the design.  I measured a bit,  just little H's head to knee length and arms outspread, but mostly just winged this (pun intended) cutting out pieces of colored paper and playing around with them for the face and using a string and a piece of tailor's chalk to draw a circle.  The outer fabric is no-pill fleece, the inner is stretch cotton broadcloth and the face is felt.  I think this will go together pretty easily and I should be able to finish up Bomb in the next day or so.

Sonic will be a bit more difficult.  After looking at a lot of Sonic costumes online and thinking about the comfort requirements of a 7 year old I thought a hood with eye holes would be the way to go, sort of like this.  I can put white make up around his eyes and black on his nose but a full mask is just too much.  I'm going to buy (and if needed dye) a tank top and pj/long johns in Sonic blue for his body then buy fleece to match for the hood.  I'll buy or make cartoony gloves and make over-sized shoe covers and my little lightning fast hedgehog should be done!

It won't be my Halloween costume (not sure what I'll wear when they boys are trick or treating, maybe Jessie again or Luna or Rita from Harry Potter?) but I've been working a bit on Historic Ariel.  I got the TV 1905 circular skirt pattern and I think it's going to be perfect for it, with the added bonus of being pretty freaking easy.  I made a mock up of the skirt decoration pattern which I think I will applique on in something like an organza.  I also got a wig which I think will be just about perfect.

I'll post a few pics tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dreams of a Belle Epoch Ariel

After checking the fabric out again I think I kind of have to do this:

The fabric I have is really nearly perfect and since I have it in the STASH it counts as de-stashing!   Woo-hoo!  I've got the corset and other undergarments already and a lot of pattern bits and pieces I can Franken-pattern into something resembling the artwork.  I'm thinking the Truly Victorian 1905 Circular skirt, and 1890s sleeves view 2 and a bodice I've drafted with added points.

I'll have to wear a wig if I really want to channel Ariel but I think it's a small price to pay.

And while it's a Disney Princess it's also a viable pseudo-historical ensemble I can wear to 1890-1900s events.

So many costumes, so little time!

I've got a costume do to/wish list a mile long and I just keep adding to it!

Things in the partially finished state that I hope to finish soon:

Pink Venetian - about 1/2 way finished, I tried the bodice mock up on again recently and the fit looks good, just need to make the bodice, attach the skirt, finish sleeves and trim it all.

Moulin Rouge: Satine's Grey Suit - Hat is done, skirt is about 1/2 way done, need to mock up jacket and make undercorset

Eyelet Bustle Gown - almost finished, a little trim is needed on the bodice and I need to make the bodice front fastening

Black and white polkadot 20s frock - need to bind edges and make sleeves.

New Projects:

Historical Ariel Disney Princess - I have an S-bend Corset already and 10 yards of pistachio silk taffeta in the stash...

"Chess" Fancy Dress costume - I had such fun with the Harlequin costume I've decided I need more Fancy Dress in my life!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Costume College 2011 - part 2

There were many fantastic costumes I really can't show them all without totally overwhelming your bandwidth, so I tried to limit myself to some of my personal favorites and still I couldn't post them all!  Maybe I'll throw a few more in part 3...

Katherine and Aubry's gorgeous spotty gowns

Aimee's beautiful Tissot inspired bustle gowns with Eiffel Towers embroidered on it!

Alyxx's amazing hot pink King suit

Bunny's Duchess inspired Redingote and killer hat

Jenny's Sea Siren

Kendra's Maja costume

Kim's pink vinyl polonaise

Judy's pink cream puff late 18th C

Jenny-Rose's Queen of the night gown

You can see all of my pictures of costume college here on flickr.

Costume College 2011 - part 1

Well, another fabulous costume college has come and gone.  You know, I think everyone just gets better and better each year!  If you haven't been you really should come sometime, it's like summer camp for costumer ladies.

But on to more important things - like what we all wore!  Since I live so close now I can bring as many costume changes as I like from as many time period as I like and not have to worry about fitting it all into a suitcase.  So I planned on 2 costumes a day.

On Friday morning I wore my "Evil Queen" fantasy medieval gown (with the zipper up the back, nothing historically accurate to see here)  That's me on the left with Jenny-Rose in her evil queen on the right.

Friday night was the Ice Cream Social which seemed like the perfect place for a floofy bustle gown so I reprised my dotty bustle. From Left to right that's me, Alyxx, Aimee, Jenny-Rose and Judy

Saturday was the debut of the Empire era Lady Croom (from the play Arcadia) outfit.  I bought the overdress from a costume sale the Arena Stage in D.C. had many years ago and wore it with a hat and white muslin gown I'd made.

Saturday night was the Gala, the main social event of the weekend.  Jen Thompson and I both had decided to do Victorian Fancy Dress and were so excited to wear our outfits together - she was "Telegraph" and I was "Harlequin"

For the tea on Sunday I wore the only gown I made just for coco 2011, my candy colored 1780s gown and cotton candy petticoat. 

And Sunday evening I changed into a 1920s dress and hat I bought from J. Peterman which I wore with my killer Peter Fox spectator shoes. That's Aubry on the left in her 1920s "jampagne" frock and me on the right.

There were so many wonderful costumes that I took close to 500 photos!  I'll post some of the highlights of the weekend in part 2

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to: Fluffy vintage-looking ostrich feathers

I love big fluffy feathers on my hats.  Years ago, when I first starting making hats, I couldn't figure out why my ostrich feathers looked so sad compared to the vintage ones I found at flea markets. It couldn't be that they just made better feathers back then, could it?  Eventually, after talking to milliners, reading millinery books and carefully examining vintage feathers I figured out what I needed to do to get the feathers I wanted, and the good news is it's not that hard to go from skimpy to full!
one feather
4 feathers with curled barbs

I think the three most important things to getting great looking feathers are:
  • buying the best quality feathers you can afford
  • curling the fronds or barbs of the feather (aka the fluffy part!)
  • and MOST important: LAYERING the feathers.  Depending on the feather type and the effect you want you should have anywhere from 2-5 feathers layered on top of each other to create the appearance of one with the fluff of 5!
 First I'll talk about purchasing feathers.  While you can buy ostrich feathers at Michael's and other craft stores they are generally the poorest quality.  It's kind of like buying wine at 7-1: not the best place for the highest quality.  That said you CAN make even craft store feathers look much better just by curling and layering.

My preferred ostrich feather dealer is  They sell many other kinds of feathers but their specialty is ostrich.  If you get on their mailing list you can get emails as to when they have sales and that, my friend, is the time to buy!  Nearly all my hats' plumes are ones I got at an sale.  If you click the link above to you'll see a listing of all the ostrich feathers they currently have in stock and you'll probably notice a vast price difference between these: from 4 cents for $41- EACH!  Quality, length and color can greatly vary the price.  Male bird wing feathers are highly prized for their fluffiness, length and beauty and are priced accordingly.  Femina or female wings (which, like most birds, are not as flamboyant as their male counterparts) are cheaper.  Most of the large plumes I use are femina wings, usually second quality that I got on sale!  For smaller plumes you can use drabs, which are even cheaper.

Red curled, blue uncurled
Once you've gotten your feathers curling the barbs makes them look even more fluffy.  You need dull scissors for this, kid's craft scissors are great.  Curl the barbs in much the same way you curl wrapping ribbon - by firmly running the scissor edge along the barb.  Don't pull the barbs or they'll come out.  Just as with wrapping ribbon sometimes the curl doesn't take, keep trying.  You can curl multiple barbs at once but be careful about trying to curl too many or you may rip some out.  Expect that you will lose a few and you'll lose the barb curl if you dye your feathers or use a curling iron on them, so wait til after dying and curling before curling the barbs.  Here's a shot of two feathers of the same quality, the red one has it's fronds curled, the blue does not. 

But to me the most important step to great vintage-looking feathers is layering.  I've bought a lot of vintage ostrich plumes over the years and NONE of them is only one feather.  In fact none of the ones I own are even just two feathers.  Most are 3 or more feathers sewn together to look like one plume, often with additional plumes sewn to the last 1/3 of the feather to give it more weight and fluff.

Here's a rather beat up old plume that nevertheless looks far fuller and fluffier than the red and blue feathers above.  Because it's beat up I had no problem prying it apart a bit at the shaft so you could see what I mean.  It's not one plume at all but three good quality plumes sewn together!

Before sewing the plumes into one,  you want to make sure your feathers are the same length and that you layer them to show off the best feathers.  I always put the fluffiest, fullest plume on top and the skimpier ones underneath.  Color is a consideration too since feathers are rarely uniform in how they are dyed or naturally colored.  Once you've decided the order of the feathers you need to attach them together.  You can see the stitching on the underside of this vintage feather.  Incidentally I counted SIX feathers at the very tip of this plume although there are only two shafts visible at the end.

I don't know if my sewing method is exactly what they used, it's hard to see all the details of the stitches amid all the fluff of the period plumes!  But this is the method that I use - it's easy and it works.

You will need:
  •  needle and thread in the color of your feather
I usually start from the end of the shaft and work my way to the tip of the feather.  You don't need to sew through all the feathers shafts that you've stacked together, really what you're doing is wrapping the thread around the shaft.  Tie the two ends of the thread together then wrap the thread around the other feathers shafts gently pulling the barbs away from the shaft so that the thread goes in between them and holding the end of the thread.  Then thread the needle back between the two strands of thread and pull it tight.

I used white thread below so you could see it against the black feathers.  This is a group of four drabs with curled barbs sewn into one plume.

Bring the needle up 1-1.5 inches from the first stitch and wrap it around the shafts again, continue on up the feather wrapping around the shaft every 1-1.5 inches until about 2-3 inches from the end, then thread the needle back through it's own thread and tie a knot.  If any of the barbs get stuck under the thread use the needle to gently pull them free.

When you're done the feather should look like this:

I hope this helps you get the full and fluffy feathers you've dreamed of!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nearly finished

I finished the candy gown's petticoat today and sewed on the trimmings to the Gainsborough hat I'm wearing with it. I also monkeyed around with the alternate petticoat of the same fabric as the gown and I've come to the conclusion that the organza one actually looks better. It's almost too much stripes and pink with the matchy matchy petticoat. For now I'm keeping it but it may be destined to be a jacket later on. I also pawed through the stash looking to see what else was in there that might look good with the cotton candy petti and found a few options for future gowns. I just need to hem it, attach the neckline lace and do the front fastening and them I'm done - that was astonishingly fast!