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.