Saturday, 1 December 2007

Australian Costumers Guild "picnic"

We planned a lovely picnic in Parramatta park but as rain and storms were on the forecast for the weekend, we moved the picnic to Linnwood, see link on sidebar. We had 9 guests for a "tour" and indoor picnic lunch and it was very nice to put faces to forum names at last. I chose to wear (carefully) a vintage Victorian/Edwardian nightgown and made a broderie anglaise sleep bonnet to go with it. I carried a vintage china candlestick (think wee willie winkie!) to complete the look. Here is a photo taken on the day, I must comment on how tired I look, must have been those 2am sessions finishing the Springtime for Hitler costumes, see below, catching up.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

One project finished

Now I can show you the costume I've just completed using the plate of sausages, see post below. Not real ones of course, phew, but dog toy sausages. These 4 "show girls" will be on stage next Monday evening at the regional theatre in Parramatta where the Performing Arts Studio is staging their huge end-of-year show. These costumes are made on a limited budget, but I'm fairly happy with them. The Sausage Lady was a real challenge since the hula hoops needed to be completely covered in a fabric before I could work with them, and they were full of water (I guess for balance?) which of course I had to drain out so I could balance my sausages. The skirt must weigh about 5 kg (that's more than 10 pounds for non-metric readers) because the waistband just kept on stretching with the weight. I should have realised earlier and made a buckram belt or such, but with deadline looming (that's the joy of theatre work!) I had to make do with tucks in the elastic all around. The fully hand sequined leotards under the costumes were made in Thailand I believe while the Principal was on holidays there, and are used frequently. Therefore all the costumes had to be built independent of the leotard. That explains the waistbands and neckbands on the model, my very slim daughter B. She's moved out from home by choice, but I think she needs to visit more often for a hearty meal by the look of these photos.

The second photo shows the Pretzel Lady, and comprises a frilly apron and large net bow with tails mounted on a waistband, separate elasticated puff sleeves, a pretzel on a neckband and of course the pretzel headpiece.

Next comes the German Opera singer. A gold lurex stretch fabric short tunic with an elastic waist also defined by a wooden beaded belt, a sword tucked into it, a neckband with a wooden bead on the front and a horned helmet. I heavily decorated the helmet with braid and ribbon, and paint. The long plaits on the tinsel wig were a Christmas tree tinsel fringe which I sewed into the wig and then plaited and tied with red bows. The red drape follows the colour scheme.

Finally the Beer Stein lady. A quick and dirty underbust corset with ribbon lacing on the back and poppers through the left side seam for quick change. A "table top" skirt in red and white checked fabric on a single hula hoop "crinoline" style, a couple of beer steins on the corset front in metallic stretch vinyl fused to vilene and then padded with wadding. Wadding "foam" over the busom, and a 3D beer stein in the same materials on a red and white checked buckram 1/2 cap.

The challenge was to make these costumes with a shoestring budget, as faithful to the movie and stage show as I could, but also practical for wearing in a show with lots of kids running around, so no lovely floaty trains or feather boas. Every item is "quick change" so poppers on left side seams, elastics, and bows pre-tied and sewn etc. I also had no measurments to work with, just a suggestion that the ladies are all size 8 - 10 (32 to 34 inch chest) so fingers crossed for no "wardrobe malfunctions" on Monday night next.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Vintage and antique caps

This is a very relevant topic at the moment. My interpretation of a design from The Workwoman's Guide has been accepted as the kit design for the Transported Women project, now I just have to complete the pattern and instruction sheet. There was also a question on one of my Y. groups about a "duster cap" suitable for embroidery. My research has been quite extensive, but I've not heard this expression before. I can only imagine that it would be a late Edwardian term since the term was used by a members' great-aunt. I'm assuming this cap was worn by servants, or by the lady of the house while she did house cleaning, bearing in mind that this was probably pre-vacuum cleaner days and dusting was done via a feather duster and cloth. I wouldn't want to get dust and cobwebs in MY hair, so we can imagine a simple cap being developed to wear over the hairdo. We can only guess at the style of this, since most of the photos which have survived only show "Sunday best" clothing at the least, I certainly wouldn't want my own house dresses preserved for posterity in photos.!

I found the first cap on my Y. group where enthusiasts of Victorian ladies clothing show their collections. This looks like a lady's house cap to me, not really covering the back of the neck as is usually the case with this type of headwear, but would definately protect the hairstyle from dust and cobwebs. The second two caps are 1830's to 1850's are the type of cap worn for everyday wear at that time. Perhaps one of these might be adapated for embroidery.

Here are some places to look for suggestions:
"The Workwoman's Guide" by A Lady , 1838, 1840 Look at Google books, then scroll down to page 142-144 on the page counter on the top left side, and then through to plate 15 for full patterns. By the way, the measurements referred to are not inches but nails, which is equivalent to 2 1/4 inches. I made a little "ruler" in nails to make the patternmaking easier.

The Costumers Manifesto
" a mega site, look in "Costume by history period" then click on period you are interested in to get lots of useful links.

Hope you have as much fun as I do with your research !

Monday, 19 November 2007

Convict women's cap

Another current project is to design and sample a convict cap which might be suitable for a kit to sell at an upcoming exhibition late next year. The organisers are proposing to market the kit with fabric pieces cut out and instructions to complete the bonnet. The difficulty is that the authentic bonnets were all hand made in the 1820-30's. I can see why Christina Henri of the Roses from the Heart Project (see sidebar for link) chose an 1860's bonnet as her basic sample, by then the bonnets were much simpler shapes. I don't want to copy her sample too closely, so I've been looking at the designs in "The Workwoman's Guide" published 1838 which is now available online, thanks Google books. I'm leaning towards this basic style, although possibly with a little less gathering at the back. It is in one basic piece, with an optional frill. Even the most wretched girl would have tried to make a bonnet with a little frill if the fabric was available, it might be her only reminder of home before she was transported. Of course, some of the convict women were able to rise far above their station in life after coming to Australia, becoming notable citizens in the new country and never returning to Britain.

A plate of sausages?

Now before you think I've completely lost the plot, let me explain. I'm collecting the materials for the costumes for Springtime for Hitler, and my shopping list looks like this:
32 plastic dog toy sausages
3 hula hoops
1 sword
1 checked tablecloth (or fabric for same)
4 gold metallic tinsel wigs
1 long tinsel Chrismtas tree garland (for plaits for gold tinsel wig)
1 horned viking helmet

As well as various diaphanous floaty fabrics to make capes and draperies, and lots of millinery wire for headpieces, and assorted fastenings and hair clips.

I'll try to post some progress photos, but the deadline is looming very fast so you might have to make do with completed pics.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Catching up

It's been quite a while since I've posted here, although I have been updating my "life" blog (see sidebar). Since finishing Beetlejuice, I've been pottering along trying to play catch up. I did FINALLY make and deliver 2 repro 1930's ish men's vests to the local Museum which runs a children's "olden days" programme. The sticking point was the working welt pocket for a fob watch on each one. In the end, they went very well indeed. I did one sample using the actual fabric and my notes from Custom Clothing Advanced Certificate at TAFE College, which were very detailed and simple to follow. I remembered a few little hints we were given along the way, such as making sure to nick in the opening right up to the stitches in a little V at the end, and then sewing with a zipper foot when applying the pocket bag and catching in the little V right at the top of the V with your stitching. Magnifique, if I do say so, they looked quite lovely. I even matched the stipes on the garment with the stripes on the pocket welt. It really says something, don't you think, that I am so excited about doing good welt pockets? I think I need a couple of challenging garments to sink my teeth into. I just may get the opportunity soon, as the Performing Arts Studio has just ordered 4 showgirls from "the Producers" number "Springtime for Hitler" for the end of year show. They'd like the Pretzel girl, Sausage girl, Valkyrie and Beer Stein girl. If you see a madwoman tearing around town looking for gold fabric, tinsel wigs and crinoline wire, that will be me!

Monday, 6 August 2007

Bathex 2007

As you can see from the title of this post, I DID exhibit at Bathurst in the end. The event is only every 3 years so the thought of missing something special which might be on sale was just too strong. So I've just updated my embroidery and life blog (click on link on left sidebar) where I have photos of the underwear pieces which I exhibited at "Bathex" at Bathurst, NSW on August 4th and 5th, 2007. Every piece is wonderful but some of the camisoles or corset covers are just beautiful, and my Edwardian lacey petticoat is exquisite. I'm very lucky to have these pieces, right place, right time and all that. I've been told about some more items which might be coming onto the market soon, so if I get them I'll be so excited. This collecting costume habit is a curse, isn't it? (You know I'm kidding, right? I wouldn't have it any other way!!!) Oh and I bought a celluloid collars box, with a detachable collar, some studs and metal sleeve bands inside for a really good price from a china and bottles dealer. She didn't really know its value, lucky for me. So you see, I was meant to go to the Show, if you scroll down 6 or 7 post you can read a full report of my weekend trip.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Honoured by my peers

Last night we attended a function at Penrith for the Institute of History and Arts where I was made a Fellow for my work in Costume Design and Construction. This group is dedicated to honouring Australians who are, through their private initiative, leading the way in studying and preserving Australian history and arts. I think I may have been noticed at the innaugural Vintage Clothing, Textiles and Jewellery Show in April last year where I displayed reproduction costumes and vintage inderwear. Those who know me could see that I have come a long way since the early days of making "historical" costumes for re-enactments to now dressing guides and staff at historic houses. There were 7 inductees last night, who joined some very notable Australians who are the Fellows of the Institute. Leonard Teale (actor), Werner Phillipitch (Australian landscape artist), Edgar Penzig (noted Australiana author and collector) and Peter C. Smith (Australian author on bushranging) are just some of the names I remember. I hadn't prepared a speech, which was just as well since I was still not very well and had a husky voice. I had been asked to display my work so I took along my purple and black 1887 bustle dress on a dress stand, the matching hat and some gloves, and my 1870's repro corset. 6 photos on easels of my costumes, and my Elizabeth the first wig and tiara on a stand with jewellery, collar and gloves and wooden fan. I displayed them on a table with a heritage green cloth covered with a battenburg lace square tablecloth over it. I had several people come up and ask questions and comment favourably, and gave out a couple of business cards for future contact. Now I just have to decide whether I'll travel to Bathurst in 2 weeks to display my vintage underwear at BATHEX 2007. In any case I'll be going as a visitor, I just have to weigh up the logistics of exhibiting!

Friday, 20 July 2007

Beetlejuice for an Eistedfodd

I've been recovering from the flu for the last 3 weeks, but this costume is needed for the City Of Sydney Eistedfodd on Saturday night, so I just had to soldier on for the last 3 days and cut and sew this outfit plus 17 hot pink organza pre-made mens' ties for the supporting dancers. Talk about "the show must go on" ! My daughter is the model, and she is 5 foot 2 inches tall while the dancer is taller and has longer arms and legs. The suit is in cotton lycra so the jacket had to be fused with Whispaweft interfacing. I use an Elnapress to do bulk fusing, so it takes less time than with a domestic iron and is more permanent too. The jacket is fully lined, and the hot pink organza shirt is sleeveless but has armhole facings. It is all quick- change so the shirt has little velcro squares for front fastenings and the trousers have a half elastic pull on waistband instead of a front zip. I sewed a mock fly on the centre front seam though, just in case the jacket pops or she decides to leave it open. The sleeves are intentionally cut on the horizontal as in the photo reference from the movie still. I'm a devil for detail as you probably know by now!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Pirates of the Carribean, At World's End

Aaaarrrgh ! Members of the Australian Costumers' Guild attended a screening of the movie at Parramatta Great Union in suitable piratey garb. Here I am in all my glorious "pirate wenchieness" back at home after the movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend to all. Might even go again, in costume, just for the fun of wearing it again ! I do have a decent collection of costume "bits" in my spare wardrobe suitable for such occasions, so was able to put together quite a nice pirate wenchy look. I modified the straw hat to make a tricorn, and I bought a scorpion necklace and a black scarf, total cost of outfit $20. I made the stomacher at the last minute, and thought I'd share the making of it in a little tutorial, see posts below. The same method was used in my Elizabeth I costume bodice in an earlier post.

The Stomacher Project, or How to Make a Quick Pirate Wench

To set the scene, I was invited to attend a screening of "Pirates of the Carribean 3" with members of the Australian Costumers Guild (see link at sidebar) on Saturday night last. I cobbled together an outfit from skirts, a wenchy blouse and a brocadey vest which used to fit well, but alas, no longer would. So on Friday night at 8 p.m. I decided I needed a stomacher to fill the gap and look a little more "authentic" for the 1770 ish period. I looked up the period in Nancy Bradfields "Costume in Detail" and found just the thing. Next I searched the stash for some suitable fabric, discarded several, and settled on some ribbed cotton / viscose blended linen look with a fairly dense weave so the boning wouldn't poke through. I made a very rough pattern using the measurments in the book as a guide and cut out my 2 pieces. As this was a spur of the moment job, I used the "boning" material at hand in the stash, see below for details.

Sewing started

Stitch the layers together, right sides together, with a narrow seam leaving top open for bone insertion. Turn through and press. On the wrong side mark the centre front with a faint pencil line. Using a small stitch, sew from bottom to top along this line, then change to zipper foot. Insert first trimmed and smoothed bone into the stomacher and with your nail press it up against the stitched line. Line up the zipper foot alongside and smoothing and adjusting as you go stitch along the bone. This should give a snug boning channel. When all the bones are sewn you can slip the top ends out to trim and neaten if needed. Now work on the other side of the centre line, alternating sides each time. Repeat the boning insertion, smoothing and stitching with zippper foot until you fill the stomacher completely. Some bones will need radical shaping at the bottom to match the shape of stomacher, remember to smooth edges with sandpaper as well. I like to alternate stitching directions from bottom to top and vice versa each time to avoid layer puckering. I don't use pins at all, I don't need them but it's a personal choice. I prefer this method to marking a line using the boning and stitching along that, the zipper foot should avoid any needle breakage problems. This is a very quick method of making boning channels.

Partially boned, showing materials used

The stomacher partially boned, using the materials in my stash. At the top of photo 1/4 inch ribbed clear plastic boning removed from its sewn cotton casing, bought at Spotlight by the metre. Cut ends were sanded with coarse sandpaper to round them and prevent poking through as much as possible. The 6/8 inch yellow plastic below it was used when I ran out of the clear version - packing strips used to tie up a new exercise bike box (not mine I hasten to add!) It will do for this project since it will be worn rarely. I did notice the whole thing moulded nicely to my shape by the end of the evening, but reverted to straight eventually.

The finished product

Completed stomacher with 2 rows gimp braid sewn by hand below binding. The straight piece of self-binding is machined along top edge on right side then folded over and turned under and hand sewed on back after trimming tops of bones well below seam line. Click on photo to enlarge to see where I made thread "eyes" in position on side top to allow hooks on vest to hold stomacher in place while lacing up and to prevent gaping while wearing. A theatrical trick, mentioned in the Hunisett books "Theatrical Costume for Stage and Screen", I think.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Repairing history

I've had a wonderful time this last few days. See below for more details.

Repairing history - c. 1900 Lace Dress

As a volunteer at Cavalcade of History and Fashion (link on sidebar) I am sometimes asked to repair the clothing in the collection for upcoming presentations and displays. This week I've been working on the 2 piece Battenburg lace gown worn by our M.C. Comprising a satin petticoat, lace skirt and separate bodice the gown is a masterpiece of period engineering. The bodice at some stage in its life was tacked permanently onto a camisole top and is made of lengths of lace and motifs sewn together by hand in large back stitches. Over the years it has been repaired many, many times, probably by the original owner and then by various conservators. The background net is cotton or silk while the lace is most likely cotton or linen thread. There are appliques of what appears to be silk satin, with raw edges on the wrong side and the Battenburg lace appliqued around on the skirt. There are little beaded "dangles" on the bodice, and 4 boned stays in the lace collar to hold it upright. The back of the bodice closes with period hooks and thread eyes, the latter which I had to repair. I patched more of the silk camisole lining which is shattering under the arms and over the bust and has already had many repairs. This gown is not the only example of its type in the collection, and therefore is being worn to showcase how it moves on a real body.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

A Really Nice Surprise

I've just received written notification that my name has been submitted and I have been chosen as a recipient of a Fellowship to the "Australian Institute of History and Arts" for Costume Design and Construction. This is "a society which recognises the talents of people who are recognised as leaders in their chosen field" I think I know who nominated me, and I am quite honoured to be among such esteemed company as Kevin Fahey, adviser to National Trust on cedar and silver, Werner Filipitsch australian artist, and Edgar Penzig, author and historian. I will be entitled to use initials FAIHA after my name if I chose to. I feel very humble that my work, especially in the field of historical reproduction costumes, has been recognised. The dinner and award presentation take place in late July. Perhaps I should design a suitable costume to wear? I have some lovely black and tan striped silk yardage that I planned to turn into an 1890's costume. Just have to finalise the design....

Monday, 12 March 2007

Timeline of Fashion through Theatrical Costumes

During Heritage Week in New South Wales on Sunday March 11th, 2007 I displayed 8 of my theatrical costumes in a timeline of fashion. The Drawing Room at Linnwood was the setting for this one-day-only display. I sat up till 1.30 a.m. the night before to make sure my exhibit descriptions were brief but informative, I hate seeing exhibitions with not enough info, don't you? In the past I have been asked about what's underneath when I've been wearing a costume so I like to also display pictures or drawings of underpinnings. Every costume had 2 A4 heritage green pages with petticoat/corset/underwear pictures and descriptions next to them displayed on little easels. I displayed the following, some of which are pictured elsewhere on this blog and some below:
Elizabeth 1, 1590 Opera Costume, Regency 1810 Evening Dress from Embroidery By Design Certificate, 1835 Day Dress from OGH Display, 1865 Crinoline from FOL member, 1887 Purple and Black Bustle Theatre Costume, an 1885 corset and combinations underwear, 1900 2 piece Day outfit which is my usual FOL outft and 1927 Wedding Dress and Veil my Film Costume. I also wore my Regency evening dress which I made for the OGH colonial ball in 2005. I must be getting a bit "past it" because I really felt the heat even though the mercury only said 32 degrees C, it felt much warmer to me!!

Timeline of Fashion through Theatrical Costume at Linnwood March 2007

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Vintage Clothing, Jewellery and Textiles Show 2006

In January last year I was alerted by a good friend and fellow costume collector that there was to be an inaugural Vintage Clothing Show in Sydney in April. He urged me to attend and exhibit. It appealed to my sense of showmanship I guess and so I put together a display of my real vintage underwear and accessories together with my historical reproduction clothing. In the photos below you can see the view looking into my little stand, then the theatrical costumes on the mannequins and dress stands in front of the real vintage undies on the wall. I also made posters about "what lies beneath" featuring corsets, crinoline and bustles, petticoats and bloomers. Corsets were the most asked about items on the stand. If I had made some ready-to-wear I probably could have sold several on the spot. My stand was strictly a display, although one insistent lady wanted to buy the 1890's lace chemisette on the wall above the table to CUT UP to make a collar!! If she hadn't mentioned her intentions I might have taken a fair price for it, but NOT to cut it up!! My costumes included an embroidered silk Regency evening dress, 1830's cotton day dress, 1887 2 piece bustle outfit, 1875 corset, and 1920's beaded wedding gown with long narrow veil. On the walls were camisoles, divided drawers or "free traders", edwardian petticoat and the chemisette mentioned before. I will be exhibiting some of these again this weekend at an historic house where I volunteer at their bi-monthly Open House .

Vintage Clothing Jewellery and Textile Show 2006

Monday, 1 January 2007

Fursuits fun!

Meet the Rocodiles! These 5 costumes were made in 2004 for the performing arts studio where I freelance. They were based on a commercial pattern widely available which I modified to suit the brief. They were worn by children aged from 12 up and they had to dance quite vigorously in them. The characters all had their own "costumes" over the suits. I used standard acrylic toy-fur for the suits while the teeth were craft foam sheets. I used green basketball shirt mesh under the chins where the kids looked out so they could see and still breathe (a least a little, boy were they hot!) There is disco sequin trim on the stomachs, heads, down the tails and on the mittens. There is a shaped buckram hat inside each head with a chin strap and they also clipped inside the back of the suits with webbing and clips so they didn't tip forward so easily. These were worn for performances all over Sydney for over 18 months till the studio had lycra covered foam heads and suits made and re-named the group the Crockstars, the Newest Sensation in Children's Entertainment. The new heads have fans inside and everything, but visibility is very limited. The kids (bless their little cotton socks) thought my suits were easier to wear and dance in!! In the photo you can see the studio principal with spiky blonde hair in his matching mock croc leather "rocodile" jacket with scales down one sleeve which I made for him, he sings while the crocs dance. The dog he is holding also had a little croc jacket and hat, and she would often go on stage with him.