Tuesday, April 8, 2014

faux autochromes at the Jazz Age Sunday Social

So if you follow my blog, you might already know that in addition to making costumes, one of my other quirky hobbies is creating faux-antique photos.   Although I love all varieties of early photography, the antique photos that I adore most of all are autochromes, like this 1910s photo seen on the right from the George Eastman House collection.  This process was invented by the Lumière brothers in France, and it was used to produce the world's first commercially successful color photographs.  Most autochromes date from around 1905 through the early 1930s, and you can see more examples on my pinterest page devoted to the subject.  There is something so hauntingly beautiful about old autochromes with their hazy colors, soft focus, and pointillist-style coloring.  Their subjects exude such quietness and serenity, and I adore the dreamy, other-worthy feeling that you get from seeing 100 year old subjects in full realistic color.  
So after our recent DFWCG outing at the Jazz Age Sunday Social, I decided to try my hand at creating my own faux-autochromes.  The 20's era costumes, old cars, and historical buildings from that event made the perfect subject matter for this type of photography.  I used photoshop to make these, and I developed with my own custom techniques and actions to create an autochrome effect.  I also spent a good bit of time de-modernizing the backgrounds, as you can see in this "before and after" comparison.  It's a lot of work, but SO much fun to use my 21st c. computer skills to create images that play homage to this fascinating photo process from the past.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chemise gown research LUV!

Back in the Dark Ages of the internet, one of the costumers who inspired me and taught me more than any other was Sarah Lorraine of the Mode Historique website, and once again she is knocking my socks off with her newest research.  She is an AMAZING costumer and historian, and she has been specifically studying the Chemise à la Reine for the past few years for her graduate thesis in art history.  Sarah has generously decided to share some of her breakthrough findings with us by creating a Chemise à la Reine month, with 30 days of fabulous posts about this revolutionary article of clothing!  

And to conclude her research, Sarah is hoping to return to England to study the only extant 1780-1785 chemise gown, off the mannequin and outside of the display case, but she needs our help to get there.   She has created an Indegogo campaign to help pay for her travel expenses, and if you have a little that you could pitch in, it would be a wonderful way to thank Sarah for sharing her discoveries with us all.  I can't wait to read and learn more about this fascinating type of dress throughout April, and I'm even more excited to see what additional knowledge Sarah can discover if she is able to fully study a surviving chemise gown in person.  I think this is such an exciting project, and I hope you all will consider helping her out on this journey!

Monday, March 24, 2014

spring break Regency shenanigans

So last fall, my dear friend Elizabeth told me that her family was coming to Dallas to visit relatives, and she asked if anything costume-y was going on that weekend.  I reassured her that if she came, I would plan a party around her visit, so I rounded up a few of our mutual friends from LiveJournal, then a few out-of-state/country friends decided to join us too, and the next thing I knew, we had quite a little spring break costume adventure in the works!

The main attraction for the weekend was going to be a Regency-themed dinner party at a small private room that one of our guests recommended to us, but we also needed something to keep our group of ladies occupied during the day.  There are painfully few Regency-appropriate locations in this part of the country, but we decided to stop by the Log Cabin Village in Ft. Worth as a "close enough" option.  We honestly thought we'd make a quick trip around the grounds and then leave, but it turned out to be an absolute blast.  The cabins were charming, the conversation was lively, and best of all, there was a wonderful band called Buttermilk Junction playing music in the schoolhouse.  Elizabeth is a fabulous dancer, and she managed to get us all up and dancing, which was so much fun I could hardly stand it!  Our little "killing time" outing turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole weekend for me, and I really hope we get a chance to plan another larger event at the Log Cabin Village in the future.

Most of my sewing energy for the past 2 months has gone into making a gown for the dinner party, but I did find a bit of spare time to update my green Regency dress for our afternoon outing.  I whipped up a new velvet sleeveless spencer to wear over the gown, and I paired that with my black capote and shawl that I wore with my pelisse at out last Georgian picnic.  The spencer is made with the same pattern that I used for my Fairy from Lost Hope outfit, so it was a quick and easy last minute project.  I also got to wear my transitional short stays for the first time, and they were SO comfy!  I finished off the outfit with a new beaded necklace to give the outfit a pop of color.  I was really happy to have an excuse to get to mix and match so many of my 2013 projects in a new way.

I have been incredibly lucky to find a group of friends who all share my wacky sense of humor, so there was lots of laughter and silly pictures taken that day.  You can see more photos from our visit to the Log Cabin Village on flickr, and I'll sign off with my favorite pic of all - a Regency wedgie-picking group shot! I have to confess that it's my goal in life to start a new costumer photo trend this year. Shoe shots are sooooo 2008. I think wedgie pics should be the new thing. Join us and you too can be a part of the Regency Ladies Wedgie Society!  

Hey look - I even made you all a free badge if you want to join the club!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Downton-esque 1-hour dress

Last weekend, the Dallas / Ft. Worth Costumers Guild held a Tiaras and Top Hats Tea Party, and since I am a complete Downton Abbey addict, I decided to make an early 20's dress and indulge my inner Countess for the day.  

I had a little less than 2 yards of voided silk velvet that I bought from Fabrique's remnant bin earlier in the year, and this was just enough fabric to make a simple sheath dress.  I played around with some more complicated pattern options at first, but the fabric was so pretty on its own that I decided to keep it really simple and experiment with the infamous 1-hour dress concept that was so popular during this decade.  There are a couple of fun books from 1924-1925 that talk about making these dresses and give lots of variations on how they can be put together, so if you are interested in learning more, I've included links to those books at the bottom of my blog post.  But since the shapes are really simple, I thought I'd also give you my own freebie pattern so you can see exactly how my dress was made.  (here is the full-sized version if you need it)

The cool thing about the 1-hour dress is that it is made out of mostly rectangular pieces and just pinned on the body to fit, so it is incredibly easy to draft and make.  The front and back pieces are exactly the same, and I went one step further by using a boat neck on my gown which also eliminated any need for a curved neckline.  These dresses don't look like much when they are laid out flat, but it's amazing how they come to life once they are on the body.  On the right you can see my dress before I cut the angle at the hips, which I did last because I wanted to check the draping before I cut.  
The only real shaping in the dress comes at the hip, which is gathered a little on the torso seam to make some soft folds at the waistline, and then it is gathered at the side extensions to give some fullness over the hips.  I made the hip extensions on my dress slant down, which draws up the sides and gives it a slightly curved hemline and some diagonal draping across the skirt.  I also made two looped sashes out of silk georgette and tacked these onto the hips to jazz it up a little more.   

I'm not going to do a full step-by-step tutorial because I think the books cover that well enough if you need more instructions.  But here are a few more of my own impression after making one of these dresses myself:

- I think one of the main reasons why my dress was successful was because of my fabric choice.  You definitely want a fabric that is very fluid and not stiff for this style - something like silk velvet, crepe, soft lawn, etc.  Drapey is definitely good!
- I made my dress quite narrow through the body, which keeps it from looking like a big shapeless sack.  It only has 2" of ease across the bust, and it is just big enough to fit over my shoulders, but just barely.  This narrow width also means that the waistline naturally falls at my high hip (around where I wear my jeans) since it can't go down any farther than that.  This is perfect for an early 20's look, and to my eyes, it is a lot more attractive than the later 20's dresses.  Many of those have a waistline that hits lower on the hips, which results in the whole body needing to be cut wider for us curvy gals.  
- The one part about this dress that I wasn't crazy about is that the neckline likes to shift around a lot because the fabric is so slippery.  I tried to combat that by sewing snaps into the shoulders and snapping it to my chemise, but it still moved more than I wanted, so I'll probably try snapping it to a firmly fitted 1920's brassiere next time.  
- So did the dress really only take one hour to make?  Uhhh... no.  But that's mainly because the silk velvet forced me to baste everything before sewing, and I took the time to hand-finish all the hems and bind the internal seams.  I probably spent about 4-5 hours on it total.  But if I was making this sort of dress in cotton and machine sewed all the finishing work, I think I could get pretty close to that 1-hour timeframe. 
- And just because I am totally in love with my new tiara, I thought I'd let you know that I bought it from Venus Jewelry on ebay.  I think it is a pretty great match for the type of tiara that Cora wears in the latest season of Downton Abbey.  One of the best parts about 20's fashions is all the fabulous jewelry from that era, and I had a ton of fun picking out sparkly things to finish off my outfit!  I wish I had a better non-blurry picture, but maybe you can get the basic idea here.  

So that's pretty much it!  We had a wonderful time at the tea party, and I am even more in love with 20's fashions than I was before. If you ever need a quick and easy frock for your own Downton Abby adventures, I definitely recommend that you give the 1-hour dress a try!   

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

for the love of big hair!

So you guys all know Kendra, right?  Kendra, who makes the world's most epically awesome 18th c. costumes and wigs.  Kendra, who has been teaching us ALL how to make fabulous costumes since the dark ages of the internet by sharing her incredible wealth of knowledge on the Demode website.  Kendra, who is one of the most knowledgeable 18th costume historians that I have ever met and is also an amazing researcher, writer, and teacher.

Yeah, THAT Kendra!

Well, my dear friend Kendra has written a book called 18th c. Hair and Wig Styling, am I am absolutely giddy with excitement about it.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend her class on 18th c. hair at Costume College last summer where I got a little preview of the research that is going into the book, and it totally knocked my socks off.  I think we are all familiar with the basic "poof" and the "hedgehog" (which BTW, isn't really what we think it is!), but she goes so much further than that and explores more unique styles, tells us exactly what is happening on the backside of these 'dos (again - blew my mind!), and maps the evolution of hair throughout the century and across the continents in a way that was so clear and easy to understand.  But not only does she share this type of top-notch historical research in her new book, but she also teaches us how to make 25 different hairstyles using modern materials to replicate these looks.  I have been drooling over Kendra's wigs for years now, and I can't wait to learn exactly how they are made so I can try one myself.

Pre-sales for this book are going on this month, and she is doing well, but still has a ways to go to meet her funding goal.  If you love big hair, the 18th century, excellent research, and helpful tutorials, you NEED this book!  Please hurry and buy yourself a copy now so that she has the funds to print a ton of these books and the confidence to write more in the future.  Even if you can't afford the book right now, you can still donate $10 or $20 to help her with printing costs, and then you can pay the remaining price later and still get the book at the discounted price.  Think of it like a layaway plan that benefits both you AND the writer!

Kendra is one of the most generous and amazing costumers that I have ever met, and if there is any way that you can support her project either by buying a book, making a donation, or buying one of her extra fundraising options on Indegogo, please do so.  It is such a worthy cause, and I know that you are going to love what you get in return!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly year-end recap

So 2013 was the year of Historical Sew Fortnightly projects for me, and I'm happy to say that I finished them all!  Hooray!  I was pretty lax about the due dates on several of the challenges, but I did manage to make something for all 27 themes, which was the main goal that I was interested in.  I have to admit that I stubbornly declined to do the "just the facts" list that was supposed to accompany each project - mainly because I hate counting hours and pennies, and I always feel uncomfortable making statements about my own authenticity.  Plus, the rest of the facts were always included in the narrative of my blog postings anyway.  But I thought I'd make up for it by writing my own set of "just the facts" questions to talk about my experience over the past year:

My 1930s Hooverette is a great example
of  a project that was completely inspired
by a specific HSF theme
Favorite things about the HSF:  I LOVED challenging myself with this project!  I thrive on goals and deadlines and puzzles, and the HSF was big and difficult enough to really make me want to push myself to finish them all.  Figuring out ways to fit my own lineup of projects into somebody else's parameters wasn't always easy, but it kept me constantly thinking and sent me off on a few fun tangents that I never would have explored otherwise.  It also kept me moving forward instead of taking long breaks between big projects.  Even if it was just something small, it was nice to always be working on and thinking about something new.  I also loved following along with everybody else's projects on the Facebook group.  I discovered a bunch of really amazing costumers and bloggers thanks to this project, and it has been so fun having a big batch of new costumes to look forward to every 2 weeks.

The green pelisse ended up being a
couple of weeks late for its challenge,
but it was definitely worth the wait
Least favorite things about the HSF:  Having deadlines that didn't line up with my events very well.  That part was tough, and it's also why I finally gave up on meeting all the deadlines exactly.  There were a couple of times during the year when HSF deadlines were adding to my stress level in a pretty huge way, so I finally had to accept that my sanity was more important that an arbitrary due date.  I completed a couple of challenges out of order so they would work better with the events that I needed costumes for, but for me, the fact that I finished each challenge was more important than when I finished them.  I also hated having to put most of my post-1938 projects on hold for a year.  It is going to be such a joy to finally be free of date restrictions so I can make more quick and easy 40's, 50's, and 60's frocks again in 2014!

My 1930s beach pajamas ended up
becoming a favorite in both my
costume and modern wardrobes
Favorite challenge:  I looooved the "Peasants and Pioneers" challenge.  I loved the idea of making something less fancy, I loved the somewhat cheeky way that I bent the meaning of those words to work with 1930s fashions, and I LOVED the beach pajamas that I sewed for that challenge.  I ended up wearing that outfit to 3 different costume events this past year, and I never got bored with it.  The pants also became a staple in my modern wardrobe, and I plan on making a few more pairs from this pattern next year.  And best of all, I probably wouldn't have made those garments at all if it wasn't for the Historical Sew Fortnightly project, so I'm very grateful that this theme inspired me to make something different.

I love my natural form ball gown,
but it definitely didn't work well
for the HSF's 2 week deadlines  
Most challenging challenge:  The "Pretty Pretty Princess" challenge.  Making a "princess" worthy dress in two weeks?  Insanity!  Especially if you haven't had a chance to make all the appropriate undergarments first.  So this one ended up being a month late for me.  I probably could have given in and made an easy princess accessory just to meet the due date, but making an elaborate dress in such a short time frame is a bit nuts.

My "fairy from Lost Hope" literature
gown was very fitting for this year - I
definitely had my own "lost hope"
moments about the HSF project
Biggest success of the year:  Not giving up!

Biggest failure of the year:  My 1910's "separates" skirt only lasted long enough to take one picture, and then I ripped it back apart to remake at a later date.  I was burned out from Costume College projects and not in the mood to sew at all, and I didn't even really need that skirt for anything anyway. That was a real low point in the year for me, and the closest that I came to quitting.  But I'm stubborn above all other things, so I pushed on through and it got easier again after that.

I had actually started a seaside bustle
dress for the "by the sea" challenge,
but when I ran short on time, my backup
pirate bodice came to the rescue
Best tips for people doing the challenge in 2014:  Try to plan ahead and break your big projects into smaller pieces.  Most of my full costumes from this past year had pieces spread out over multiple challenges.  For example, my pirate costume used the skirt for "UFO", the hat for "embellish", and the bodice for "by the sea".  And all of these challenges were spread out over a few months, so that really gave me a lot of time to work.  My other tip is to remain flexible.  Some of my friends like to tease me about how often I change my mind when planning projects, but this actually turned out to be a real benefit with the HSF.  Things happen, time runs short, projects bomb... but if you always have a Plan B (and C and D) in the back of your mind, you can more easily switch gears and work around the difficult patches.

My 1913 dress was one example of a project
made completely from stash materials 
Stats from this year:  Thanks to this project I made 7 hats, 5 full dresses, 5 pieces of outerwear, 4 skirt supports, 3 corsets/stays, 3 pair of pants, 2 skirts, 2 bodices, 2 shirts, 2 waistcoats, and 5 misc. accessories that don't really fit anywhere else.  Out of those 40 garments, I ended up with 8 complete outfits, 2 sets of accessories to remodel old outfits, and a few odds and ends to be used with future projects.  And since I also had made a stash-only goal for myself this year, I managed to make 32 of the 40 garments completely from materials in my stash, and 4 more were made with a combination of new and stash materials.  The only garments that were completely new to me this year were the 4 long regency shawls that I just seamed together.  I count that as a definite stash-busting victory!

The Historical Sew Fortnightly has been such an incredibly rewarding project for me.  When I started the year, I never thought that I'd have the time or the stamina to finish all 27 challenges, so completing the full year is something that I'm very proud of.   This project really pushed me to manage my time better, think creatively to solve problems, and not be afraid of ambitious sewing goals.  So I want to give a huge thank-you to Leimomi for all of her hard work organizing the Historical Sew Fortnightly this year, and also to the online costuming community for all of your inspiration and support as you played along or cheered from the sidelines.  It's been a really fun year, and if you missed out on the project in 2013, she is doing it again for 2014.  Although I plan on taking next year off, I can't wait to see what wonderful HSF projects you all make next!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

faux-Victorian photos

After taking all these pictures of my new winter accessories, I decided to indulge in my other favorite creative pastime - making faux-antique photos.  In the real world, I teach a photography and Photoshop class, so I really enjoy playing around with photo manipulation.  I'd love to experiment with some actual historical photography techniques someday, but until I get crazy brave enough to invest in all of those chemicals and equipment, my Photoshop fakes will have to do.

Tintypes are my favorite type of antique photo.  I love how dark and moody they are, with their oh-so-hip grungy borders, dings, and scratches.  It was really fun to combine the tintype look with outdoor photography.  I think it makes the world seem quite dreamlike and surreal.  

And just for something different, I also tried out a more formal-looking cabinet card too, which you can see below.  All of these were made by combining my modern digital photos with scans of real tintypes, cabinet cards, and old paper.  

Thanks for letting me share a few of my faux-Victorian selfies with you all!  

Friday, December 20, 2013

1883 winter accessories

So what's a girl to do when there's a Victorian holiday event coming up, but you only have a boring old dress to wear and no time to make a new one?  Why, you whip up a few new accessories, of course!  I already had a fabulous fur muff that I made for the Historical Sew Fortnightly "re-do" assignment, so I decided to make a matching fur cape, cuffs, and winter bonnet for the HSF "celebrate" challenge.  I couldn't be happier with my festive new accessories, and it really made my old dress feel new and fun again for the holidays.
Winters in Texas are never very cold, but I knew it was going to be in the low 40's on the night of our event, so I needed something to help keep me warm.  I decided that a capelet would be the easiest option to make in a short amount of time, and I've always loved the little fur capes from the early 1880's that tightly hug the shoulders, such as this beauty that I stumbled across on a fabulous blog known as The Cabinet Card Gallery.  Luckily, I had just enough faux fur left over to make this style of cape, so I was really pleased that my last few scraps could be put to a good use.

The pattern for my cape came from the accessories section of Fashions of the Gilded Age, Vol. 2.  I tried out several of the cape patterns in that book, but I finally picked the "cashmere and satin hood" because it had such a great shape and it made up easily.  I enlarged the cape part of the pattern by 110% since the original was really small across my shoulders, and I rounded off the bottom edge to be smooth vs. notched.  Instead of including the hood, I added a simple rectangular standing collar.  The cape is lined with a silky brocade, and I used 3 coat hooks to close it in front.

I also made up a set of fur cuffs to add to my jacket sleeves, similar to the look that you see in this fashion plate of a woman with a matching cape and cuffs (and the worlds smallest muff!  OMG - what happened to her hands!?!?)  The cuffs are detachable and just basted onto the jacket so I can take them back off when I want to wear it in the summer.  I also bought a new pair of leather gloves and wore a pair of gold bangles over them, which seemed to be a popular fashion... although somewhat inconvenient if you need to take your gloves off and on frequently to check your cell phone.

I also wanted a more wintery hat to wear with my outfit since the only bonnet that I have from this period is straw and more appropriate for summer.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a bonnet pattern on hand, and I was too short on time to order one, so I used my Lynn McMasters seaside bonnet pattern to get me started.  I cut down the width of the brim and drafted a new crown to make the shape more appropriate for the late natural form years.   It isn't meant to be an exact copy of any one bonnet, but you can find a wide variety hats in a similar style in my 1883 Peterson's magazine, such as the ones on the left.   
I used a remnant of maroon cotton velvet to cover the bonnet, and it has a gathered lining of terra cotta colored silk.  The hat is entirely hand-sewn, and everything except the $.50 sprig of berries came from my stash.   It is a bit hard to see the shape once all the frippery is on it, so here's a picture of the base before it was decorated.  Below, you can see the finished version from various angles.  
I didn't get very many good pictures of me from the Candlelight event, but I decided to dress up again for a morning stroll through the woods so I could take some more pictures just for fun.  Here are a few of my favorites (and more on flickr), and I'll be back soon for one little photoshoot postscript.  I also want to write up a year-end recap of my experience with the Historical Sew Fortnightly project.  Now that I survived a year's worth of challenges, it's time to celebrate!

Monday, December 9, 2013


The project that I made for the Historical Sew Fortnightly "one meter" challenge is a pair of 1910's knickerbockers for my son.  I only needed 3/4 of a yard of wide wale corduroy from my stash to construct them, and I was happy to have an excuse to try out another one of my Edwardian patterns.  As usual, it was both a delight to get to work with a pattern that is around 100 years old, but also a source of much befuddlement trying to figure out how to put them together!

I started these last month and intended to use them for the previous HSF challenge, but I ended up having to make them three times before I got it right so they got bumped back a little.  The first time they were clownishly big, even though the size should have been perfect for him.  Next I tried a different Edwardian pattern for knickerbockers that also should have fit him, but they were a little too tight and way too short.  So then I switched back to the first pattern, but I removed about 4 inches of width while keeping the length the same.  So I guess issues with too much ease isn't just a modern problem!

The pattern has "instructions" - and yes, Edwardian instructions definitely deserve air quotes around them! - for a version with a fly and a version with side buttons.  I tried the fly first, but I had no clue what I was doing and it looked pretty wonky, so I switched back to the side opening, but this caused even more confusion when I tried to insert the pockets.  They didn't bother to include a pattern piece for the pocket, and here are all the instructions that were included:

Seems easy enough, but I had no clue what to do with the top of the pocket since it needed to be left open somehow to make the side closure work.  It was probably totally obvious to Edwardian seamstresses, but I'm pretty sure I did it in the most convoluted way humanly possible.  I finally ended up with something wearable in the end, so I guess that's all that matters.

Ironically, the event that I made these for was canceled due to a nasty ice-storm, so I'm not sure if he'll have a chance to wear them before he grows and changes size again.   But it was still fun to try the pattern if nothing else, and hopefully it'll go much more smoothly if he ever needs knickers again in the future.

Monday, December 2, 2013

faux fur muff

This week's Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge was "re-do", and although I started a different project for this challenge last week, it sort of crashed and burned at the last minute.  So I quickly switched over and made the easiest thing that I could think of - a faux fur muff with an interchangeable cover.  This one would qualify for several of the HSF challenges, such as "flora and fauna", "accessorize", "squares, rectangles, and triangles", "gratitude", or "outerwear", but I think the theme that is the most appropriate in this situation was the very first challenge - "starting simple"!  The entire project took less than two hours to finish, and now I'm wondering why I didn't make one of these things years ago.

I used the fabulous instructions from The Fashionable Past to make the muff base, and I plan on using this with both 18th century and Victorian costumes since it is a pretty generic size and shape.   My base is made of a scrap of navy cotton twill from my stash and stuffed with polyfill.  It doesn't look like much on it's own, but it is amazing how much rounds out when the cover is on it.  
I added a little patch pocket to the inside that is just big enough to hold my iphone or camera, and I put a strip of velcro at the top of the pocket to hold it closed.  I'm sure I could have come up with a fancier arrangement for the pocket, but this seems to do the trick well enough.  
The cover is just a bit of left-over faux fur from another project that I made years ago.  Again, I used Katherine's instructions in pt. 2 of the muff tutorial to finish it up.  The only thing that I did different was to stitch a cord to the cover so I could carry it by a handle if I didn't want to wear it on my hands.  This is something that I've seen in a lot of antique fur muffs, and if I don't need the cord handle, I can easily tuck it back inside of the cover.  

I've seen lots of great muffs in Victorian fashion plates that have bows or cords or tassels hanging from them, and I will probably go back and add more frippery to this muff eventually - maybe like this one from 1890 featured in Peterson's Magazine.  But this is good enough for now, and I'm just grateful to have a project done for the deadline.  :)