Sunday, December 30, 2012

Historical Sew Fortnightly #0 - done!

#0 (the bonus challenge): Starting Simple – due 31 December. Finish a project, make a very simple garment, or something you have made before. I finished the bonus today! I got out the 18th C bonnet I'd started in Taylor's (of Dames a la Mode) class at Dress U and finished it today! I took some wide silk satin ribbon I had and pleated and tacked it to the bonnet as well as added a front bow to emmulate this sort of look of the top one on this research page of Taylor's as well as the hat Mrs. Dashwood wears in Sense and Sensibility. Here's what I ended up with, I had to try it on with my wig but stayed in my modern clothes so please excuse the black thermal shirt!!  LOL! taylorshat

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge

I've decided to join the Dreamstress' Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge, it looks like such fun and will be a good nudge to sew and blog more. Here's the information on it:  

The Historical Sew Fortnightly

One year, a challenge every fortnight, and at the end of it, 26 fabulous historical garments.
The Historical Sew Fortnightly hosted by
How it works, and how you can participate.

The Challenges:

  • #0 (the bonus challenge): Starting Simple – due 31 December NZT.  Finish a project, make a very simple garment, or something you have made before.
  • #1: Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial – due 14 Jan.  Sew something from __13, whether it be 1913, 1613, or 13BC
  • #2: UFO - due Jan 28.  Let’s get something off our UFO pile! Use this opportunity to finish off something that’s never quite gotten done, or stalled halfway through.
  • #3: Under it all – due Feb 11.  Every great historical outfit starts with the right undergarments, and, just in time for Valentines day, here’s you’re excuse to make them. Chemises, corsets, corded petticoats, drawers, garters, stockings…if it goes under your garments, it qualifies.
  • #4: Embellish –  due Feb 25.  Decorations make the historical garment glorious. Whether you use embroidery, trim, pleating, lace, buttons, bows, applique, quilting, jewels, fringe, or any other form of embellishment, this challenge is all about decorative detail.
  • #5: Peasants & Pioneers – due March 11. As wonderful as making pretty, pretty princess dresses is, the vast majority of people have always been poor commoners, whether they were peasants working the land, servants in big houses, or (later), pioneers carving their own space in new lands. This fortnight let’s make something that celebrates the common man.
  • #6: Stripes - due March 25. The stripe is one of the oldest patterns, appearing in the earliest textile fragments and visual records of garments, and its never gone out of style since. Celebrate stripes with a striped garment. Will you go for grand baroque stripes, pastel rococo stripes, severe neoclassical stripes, elaborately pleated and bustled Victorian stripes, or something else entirely?
  • #7: Accessorize – due April 9.  Accessories add polish to your outfits, helping to create the perfect historical look. This week is all about bringing an outfit together. Trim a bonnet, paint a fan, crochet an evening bag, sew a shawl, or dye and decorate a pair of shoes to create the perfect period accessory for yourself.
I probably won't do all the challenges and I think I won't write what I'm doing for each challenge until we get to it because I have a way of following the costuming muse which means that plans often go out the window.  But for #0 I'm going to try to finish the 18th C bonnet I started in the class that  taught at Dress U.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

More Les Mis

I went with my dad to see Les Miserables yesterday. While my dad is an old Les Mis fan from way back - he literally saw opening night in London and has seen in 3 times since then, I was a total neophyte having never seen any version nor read the book. You'd think I would have known it was going to be a cry-fest given the name (Dad says the Brits call it "The Glums") but I was woefully unprepared. I thought it wonderfully good but pretty much cried through the whole thing.  Whew!  :P

 But what about the costumes? They were really quite good, while slightly fanciful they kept with the lines of the various times that the story took place in. Very many wonderful men's costumes and some lovely women's ones too, mostly on Cosette. One of Cosette's gowns that didn't get much screen time had a very familiar pattern to me, something I'm sure I'd seen before for certain. You can see which one I mean here.  It looks very similar to some Waverly prints I've seen. Anyway, it's made me dream of making some dashing revolutionary costume for me or my boys...don't the students look fine?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

More sales!

Saw some pretty sweet deals on Fashion Fabrics Club:

These all look kind of like Manchester velvets.  This one is a "vermacelli" like print, like you sometimes see in 18th C fashion plates.  Wouldn't it make a killer men's frock/breeches? $5/yd yellow velveteen  and  $8/yd Grey/Tan Stripe and  $8/yd Golden Yellow stripe. 

Also some nice silk taffeta deals:
Dark teal iridescent silk taffeta $12/yd Pink/orange plaid silk taffeta $11/yd Yellow/blue plaid silk taffeta $11/yd

Also M&J Trimming has a cyber Monday sale - Take 25% Off Site Wide. Today Only! Use Code CYBERMONDAY at checkout. Hurry, expires at 11:59pm EST tonight!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

London Labour and the London Poor

I'd heard about this book for years (I know Neil Gaiman mentioned it being useful in writing Neverwhere) but only recently got a copy now that it's on Kindle.  To quote the wiki on it "In the 1840s he observed, documented and described the state of working people in London for a series of articles in a newspaper, the Morning Chronicle, that were later compiled into book form."

It's party sociological study of the working poor in London and part compilation of true short stories of their lives. He goes into detail on just about every job a poor person in London could have from dustman to mudlark and more.  He describes what they wear and eat,  how they talk and where they sleep, where they're from and what they do for entertainment (lots of pubs, tobacco smoking, melodramas, punch and judy shows and coffee houses).

 I've learned so much and I've just barely started, and it's so engagingly written it's almost like a novel.  Just fascinating stuff and perfect for the Dickens/Dickens Fair fans on your Christmas list!

Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday/December Sales!

Here are few sales I've heard about I thought I'd pass along to my fellow costumers...

American Duchess 10-60% on Historical Shoes and Accessories Through 11/26

Anavos - 15% off Original Series Star Trek repro costumes code "kirok" and $10 off Battle Star double tanks code "tanksgiving" through Cyber Monday

Best Wig Outlet 40% off through midnight Sunday, enter code "Black40"

Burnley and Trowbridge is celebrating Cyber Monday with a 24 hour special.  Starting at midnight tonight, receive FREE Shipping for your order of $100 or more, shipped to the contiguous 48 states.  This offer ends at midnight Monday night (Nov. 26th) so hurry!!!

Mrs Depew Vintage has 25% off until the end of Monday with the following coupon code: SIZZLINGSNAIL

Reconstructing History has 20% off patterns and 50% off sale items through Sunday code "Black Friday"

Renaissance Fabrics has 10% off any order between now and December 31st, just use the code "holiday2012"

Sense & Sensibility Patterns - 25% off everything from midnight Sunday to midnight Monday, November 26

Wearing History has 25% off EVERYTHING in her Etsy store now through Monday. Use the code HAPPYHOLIDAYS at checkout. OR use the code FALLSEWING2012 for 20% off until the end of November.

If any of you have or know of other small costume-oriented businesses with sales for December/Cyber Monday please comment with their info so I can add them to the list!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The curtain dress

One day I'll blog more again, I promise!  But real life has been busy and when things are slow after the craziness I'd rather read than write... But I did actually finish the curtain gown a while back so here are the pictures I've been meaning to post for forever it seems.  It is paired with my Target "Shabby Chic" curtains fabric petticoat and a hat I bought at Costume College a few years back from Atelier Mela



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Upcoming Costume Movies

In addition to the Hobbit and Unexpected Journey (12/14/12) and Les Misérables (12/25/12) there are a few other costume movies coming down the pike that people might be interested in.

There's been some press about Anna Karenina (11/16/2012) but seeing this extended preview a while back dampened my excitement about it considerably. From what little I've seen I much prefer the 1997 version with Sean Bean and Sophie Marceau.

Blancanieves (Sept 2012) is a Spanish version of the Snow White story set in 1920s Sevilles and centered on a female bullfighter. Look for this one in your local art houses, it's the Spanish nomination for the Academy award.

The summary for Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box (2013) sounds like what I THOUGHT Hugo might be - a wonderful Victorian adventure for kids a la Sherlock Homes.

And for those looking for something a little more modern we've got Hitchcock (11/1/12)  From the previews I've seen we've got a lot of great late 50s early 60s looks on all Hitch's leading ladies.

Friday, November 2, 2012

New 18th C movie on the horizon: Belle

Thanks to cfilson for the heads up about this new 18th Century movie. You can see some pics on the link I think costumes look lovely and the story sounds fascinating.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Halloween prep

Things are in high Halloween prep mode over here - lots to be done for both adults and kids.  Today I dyed my son's old jujitsu gi as step one towards turning it into a costume for him and made wings for my niece's Tinkerbell costume.  I used the same method I tried a few months ago and really like it - this was very fast and easy and they turned out pretty much exactly how I wanted them to.  I need to wrap the join with some ribbon and will attach invisible elastic to them next time I see her so I can fit them to her comfortably.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Just in time for Halloween Make Magazine has a great round up of prop-casting articles, check them out here!

image care of Make: Fallout 3 plasma rifle

Thursday, September 27, 2012


My friend Alyxx came over last night to sew so I actually got some work done on the curtain gown - yay!  I did what I usually do and used the Period Impressions Polonaise pattern as my 18th C body block and modified it to have back pieces similar to this gown in the V& A's collection and in the book Fashion in Detail. 

 I cut the skirts separate from the bodice and made them longer in the back to go over the bumroll and have a slight train effect.  I need to attach to bodice to the skirts (they are just pinned now) and sleeves to the bodice and do the hooks and bars down the front then I am done!

One of the nice things I discovered is that 2 curtain panels are enough fabric to eek out a gown with elbow length sleeves AND have enough fabric left over for a jacket.

I don't think this would work without a lot of piecing for someone larger than me (I'm 5'9 and about a size 14 in sewing patterns, 10/12 in off the rack) but I thought those of you joining the curtain-a-long might like to know this.

Bits and bobs

It's been a while I know!  Real life has been interfering with blogging a bit recently but I expect things to calm down quite a bit come Monday...

In the meantime I have a few things other people posted on my reading list that I thought I'd pass along.  Fran Grimble posted a link to a wonderful electronic swatchbook of fabric from the 1830s through the 1920s.  What a cool thing to be able to bring up on a smartphone while fabric shopping!

And danabren on Livejournal posted a link to a nice instructible on making ribbon or fabric cockaids.  While I've made a few of these before I really liked the look of the one and thought you might too. Just FYI this is from the instructable, I haven't tried my hand at this method yet.  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why do we blog?

It seems like a simple question but I think it's worth thinking about.  Some blog because they have a writer's soul, some want a place to share information or images, others want a place to have a portfolio for their work or to promote a business, there are a whole host of reasons.

But for me there has always only ever been one answer: community.

care of
Would you believe I've been in online communities for nearly all my life?   I didn't stop to do the math until I started writing this but I've been in online communities for  - 33 YEARS!!
Because my dad worked in the tech industry I had access to one of the first online communities:  The Source, when I was in middle school.  After that came the Well, then AOL and listservs like H-Costume, then Live Journal and now Blogger.  In some of these communities I was part of the old guard and in others I was a newbie, but in all cases the communities changed over time.  Technology changed, the people changed, companies went under or got new leadership and how things started out in the beginning were not how they ended up.

And the online world has changed a lot just in the last few years with the rise of Facebook and Tumblr and, more recently, Pinterest.  And I only expect this to continue.  That's how technology is - constantly changing.  But that means it's worth reflecting every once and a while on what your personal motivation is for being in the community you're in.  Sometimes those changes may not be in allignment with your goals and you may need to switch communities or change your tactics to adapt to the new technology.  For example, posting details about your personal life along with your costume stuff may feel okay with a small group but a bit uncomfortable when it's not so small.  Similarly, ideas and techniques shared amongst your friends can be rather casual but when shared amongst a larger group takes on a more formal tone.

The good news is most blogs, online communities and forms of social media do have controls that allow for a lot of personalization of what others see of you online.  There are often settings that allow you to control you who sees your posts, whether your images are pinnable, and how linked to other social media you are. 

Because community is so important to me I'm going to try to do more to help strengthen that by  posting more, commenting more and trying to share more information about other costumers to strengthen the bonds between us.  If you've found some particularly interesting or fun online costuming communities or little known costume bloggers, please share.  I'd love to hear about them! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My new Pomps!

My new Pompadour shoes arrived from American Duchess the other day, aren't they pretty?

Now those of you who know me know, I'm a bit of a shoe-o-holic in general, and an 18th Century shoe fanatic in particular. Aside from recovering shoes to make my own 18th C beauties I've also bought repro shoes from Jas Townsend, Burnley and Trowbridge, Fugawee and American Duchess.  I also happen to have hard to fit feet.  My feet are somewhat large at a 9.5, my toe box is wide and my ankles are narrow.  This makes finding shoes that work for me rather difficult.

So how do the Pomps compare?  I'm happy to say that they fit me!  And I thought you might like some of the fitting details so you can get an idea of how they fit you.  I got the size 10 and as said before I'm a 9.5 wide.  While they are a tad roomy (as 10s often are on me) I think some foam inserts will help.  They are definitely wide enough for my feet which may mean others on the cusp of sizes but who are more narrow might need to size down.  The fabric is lovely and the shoe looks to be sturdy and of good quality.  The toe is much more pointed than the Georgiana shoe, the latchets are smaller and have a metal eyelet for the ties.  The Pomps come with a a narrow synthetic ribbon which I found to be a tad slippery.  I was able to tie the shoes tighter so they'd stay on my feet better with a silk ribbon - and that's oh so much prettier anyway, isn't it?  All in all I'm quite pleased with my pretty new black shoes!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Curtain call

So my curtains arrived today, that was fast!  They are really lovely in person, a nice light cotton, not as heavy as I thought.  (Not like the Ikea curtains for example.)  I threw them in the wash straight away to get out any sizing and shrink them, I plan on using this as a picnic dress so I want to make sure I can throw it in the wash after I make it up and not worry about it shrinking.  This is how it looks straight out of the dryer: fabric The colors are very "autumn" - sage green, mustard, saffron, coffee-with-cream, scarlet and a salmon pink on a black ground.  A few little things you may not have caught - the curtain is 50 x 80" but as Jen Thompson noted it can be unpicked to give a little more length and width.  For a tall girl like me - 5'9 - one curtain is probably not quite enough for a petticoat worn over a bumroll. Two probably are enough for a petticoat and matching jacket though.

By the way, I'm sure you noticed my blog looks a little different!  I've been wanting to change things for a while and have only now finally gotten around to doing it.  I'm not quite finished yet, but I'd love any feedback you have (good or bad) on the new look. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Curtains for Me

When Jen of Festive Attyre blogged about the 18th C print curtains she found at Lowes I resisted.  When American Duchess blogged about starting her print gown of curtains fabric I still held out.  Then more costumers joined the curtain crew and Jen set up a pinterest board so everyone could share pics of all their curtain creations...and I was sunk.   I'm joining the curtain-along!

I dragged my sons to both Lowes and Jo Ann's but to no avail, so I went online and bought them in the black colorway.  I'd like to make something simple, similar to this gown from the Kyoto Costume Institute which has been on my to-make list forever:

The cool thing about this is that I've got a white sheer embroidered petticoat already and it's made from curtains too!!  Other curtain-o-philes might be interested to know that Target's "Shabby Chic" collection includes these lovely embroidered voile curtains which a bunch of us have used to make 18th C petticoats similar to the one above.  Is that hilarious or what?  I may have to call it my 18th C Scarlett outfit...

Costume College - Finally!

It's been over a month and still haven't posted a con run down! So I'm thinking maybe I'll just be brief this year - I had a blast seeing wonderful costumes, meeting some online costumers in real life for the first time, shopping, taking great classes -- and most of all hanging out with dear friends.  The only bad part about costume college is that there are so many of my good friends there that it's impossible to hang out with them all as much as I'd like! 

And to those of you who didn't make it this year, you were missed and we all really hope to see you next year!

Anyway, here are some of my highlights of the weekend:

The entire set of 468 photos that I took that weekend can be found here. Feel free to take pictures of yourself I only ask that if you republish them in your own blog that you credit me as the photographer.  Thanks!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pattern Bar

My husband and I finally made it to the Pattern Bar last night and had a wonderful time.  It's a year-old bar in the LA Garment District with a pattern design theme.  There are antique sewing machines and old barstools in a slightly industrial 1920s looking space.  It's not huge so if you're planning on eating there too, as we were, you may end up at a bar instead of a table, but it's well worth the visit.  Heavenly designer cocktails with names like the Lagerfeld (which was what I had - skyy vodka, Kings ginger, muddled cucumbers, lime juice, organic agave, a dash of bitters and absinthe mist) and the Galliano (which my husband had - Spicebox whiskey, Kings gingers, fresh squeezed lemon) don't stint on flavor or strength.  And the tapas we had, L'Argula, Tortilla Espanola and the Poulet Poulet, were delicious and fresh and more than enough for two and the servers were all very friendly and laid back. 

And Pattern Bar is at 9th and Main downtown, a mere 3 blocks from Michael Levine!

Tissot Up Close

Close up of "Still on Top"
I've been pouring over my Tissot book and searching for images on the web and had a few things I thought I'd share since I know he's a favorite amongst costumers.  First of all there is a great website: with a complete or nearly complete image catalog of his paintings.  This is really a nice resource for costumes because, as I noted before, he often paints the same dresses, so if you can find all the images with the dress you've fallen in love with you can find more details and views which can help in construction.  I found two more images of the striped gown on this site! 

And while these images aren't the largest ones they do all include the painting titles which can help you search for larger versions of the paintings online.  I was very excited to find a large, downloadable image of his 1874 painting "Still on Top" online because it shows the back of striped dress without the black wrap, something I'd never seen before, and confirms that there is a black bow on the back of the sleeves.  After finding large high res images I imported them into iphoto and zoomed in so I can see details that were a bit fuzzy.  Seamlines, trim and grain placements are easier to see now.  I love that the pleated ruffle trim has a strip of bias fabric sewn along the top of it!

Close ups from "Return from the boating trip"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Iron Woman!

Or woman with an iron maybe.  The three rows of underskirt pleats on the Tissot dress are done and pinned on, so I started on the aporn overskirt.  It's only semi stitched together but I wanted to see how it would look on the dress form before I continued.  I think I'm going to lower the flounces on the underskirt a bit and cut town both the back and front of the overskirt  a bit because I still am going to need to add a pleated flounce to the overskirt which will make it longer and it's already a bit long.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The not-so-perfect pleater

One of the things I love about Tissot is that he often uses the same dress in several different paintings.  So far I've found 3 of the black and white bustle dress aside from the original one I posted:

Anyway, the last few days have been spent listening to NPR and pleating...and pleating...and pleating.  I've got the underskirt pleating finally finished, now I need to actually sew the pleated fabric to the underskirt.  And then I'm going to start work on the bustled apron overskirt.  I BARELY had enough for the third row of pleated ruffles and even then I don' have enough to go all the way around, luckily the overskirt will cover the un-ruffled back.
I'm saving the bodice for last because I'm not in the mood for pattern drafting at the moment and the skirt is a no-brainer.  I'm using modified versions of the Truly Victorian patterns as the bases for the costume: underskirt (TV201 ), overskirt (TV305) and  probably TV 871 as the bodice base with modified versions of the sleeves from TV410.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Louis the XIV TV series in development

Variety reports that the writing duo that brought us Mad Men is working on a miniseries about Louis the XIV.  Canal Plus, the French company which produced the Borgias is financing it, like the Borgias it will be in english.  It's in development now and will be shot on location in Versailles.

You can read more here:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tissot-ish bustle gown

So I've been really jonesing to sew lately, but the both kids STILL aren't back at school so it's been hard to grab some mom-time.  Then yesterday there was an unexpected lull so I went up to the hobby room and got to work.

I've had some off-white/grey striped silk taffeta in the stash for a long time now.  I bought it originally to make a Sleepy Hollow repro back before Exclusive Silks came out with the black and white version of the same thing.  And then when the b/w came out I bought some of the narrow striped version of the same thing thinking one day I'd make a bustle dress out of it.

Then I was pawing through my big Tissot picture book the other day and ran across this dress and thought it would be fun to make something similar with the striped silk!

Conveniently I also had some dupioni of exacty the same shade of off white in the stash.  I'm using this for the parts that don't really show, so if they DO show they at least sort of match.  I have much more of the narrow stripe than the wide so I've decided to knife pleat it and use it for the skirt flounces and use the narrow for the bodice and over skirts.  I'd obviously thought about this a bit a while ago because the off white dupioni was already cut out!  So the underskirt base is nearly done and I've started working on the pleated underskirt ruffles.  While I have a perfect pleater I find that when I'm working with stripes I like to do the pleats by hand to make sure the stripes are lined up correctly, it's just easier for me that way.  I pleat, hold the pleats in place, spray with a water/vinegar mixture and press.  This taffeta is really great for the pleats - they are so crisp!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Official "Bee" fancy dress pictures

I managed to actually get a bunch of official pics of my costumes at Costume College this year. Somehow the line is usually too long or I've got too many other things to do, or I've just forgotten in years past. Anyway, it was really nice to get these done!

These one of my "Bee" Victorian Fancy Dress costume that I wore to the Costume College Gala are by Andrew Schmidt.  I made the dress and hat.  The stockings are from Leg Avenue, the shoes are from Bordello and fan is vintage with spangles and bees and butterflies all over it!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

LA area costumers & Film buffs: The Art of Kubrick

Weekly Variety (which my dad now has a subscription to and passes along to me!) is reporting that LACMA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are going to co-present and exhibition of the work of Stanley Kubrick beginning in November.  It will include archival material, scripts, photos, COSTUMES, cameras and equipment in the LACMA west building.  The retrospective with kick off on Nov 7th with film clips and a conversation with Malcolm McDowell of A Clockwork Orange.

While nothing has been said about it I'm keeping my fingers crossed we get some Barry Lyndon costumes!