Tuesday, August 21, 2012

what I've been up to

Okay. So I want to start out by apologizing for not working more on moving things from my old website to this new one. I know most of the articles and galleries are still missing, and a lot of the articles that are here now have broken image links... and I told you all that it would be fixed by now. To make it worse, I've been a horrible webmistress, and I haven't even replied to most of the emails that I have received about my site migration. I'm truly sorry. :(  But honestly guys, it's just miserable work for me, and I wanted to spend my precious time this summer being creative and productive and happy and making new things - not staring at a computer, fixing code, and reworking webpages from a decade ago. I know that doesn't help you if you really needed some information in an old dress diary or article, but I decided to be selfish with my time for a little while longer. I hope you understand and don't hold it against me (too much), and I'll try again to work on site stuff this fall. 

So what have I been doing over the past few weeks? We'll, I've been working on four vintage outfits for guild events this year, plus I have completely remodeled and reorganized my sewing room, which was the biggest project of all. I'm still working on decorating it and making everything pretty now, and hopefully I'll be able to share some before and after pics with you soon.

But in the meantime, I thought I would post a few of the sewing room projects that I've been working on. As usual, I've been hugely inspired by a bunch of crafty pins on Pinterests, and that's where I found this tutorial about recovering an old ironing board.  I don't have the space to keep a full-sized ironing board out in my new sewing space, so I decided to just recover my table-top board from college and use that on my cutting table when I need it for quick work.  Mine isn't nearly as bright and fun as some of the recovered boards that I've seen on Pinterest, but it has 1/4" stripes on it, which makes it wonderful for pleating and measuring fabric as I iron, and it is just SO much cleaner and nicer than my old cover.  It's amazing how big of a difference little stuff like that can make.  The whole project only took me 20 minutes from start to finish, and I felt so nice when it was done that I was wondering why I never thought of doing this before! 

So what are some of your favorite DIY sewing room projects or sewing room-related inspirations?  I've been having so much fun seeing what other people do to organize and beautify their creative spaces. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

ice cream and playsuits

Me and E

Yesterday was the guild's retro ice cream social.  We had rotten luck with picking a date with this event, and a lot of our regulars couldn't make it due to personal conflicts.  But even though our group was small, we still had a great time and I was so glad I was able to go!  Beth Marie's in Denton is the most adorable little retro ice cream shop, and we got a lot of positive attention and comments from the other guests.  It was a such a fun little outing. More photos can be found on flickr.


The dress that I wore was one that I started for CoLow, but I ran out of time and didn't get to finish it.  It was nice to have another excuse to wear it so soon.  The pattern that I used was a collection of playsuit separates from the late 1940's.  I was originally going to make the skirt and a matching blouse out of some vintage novelty print cotton from my stash, but I didn't have enough fabric for that, so I made a jacket out of vintage corduroy to wear to the social.   Although it wasn't my first choice, I'm glad it turned out this way because I think the jacket makes it look a lot more dressy. I also found a cute little hat on etsy that matched the color perfectly, and then I finished it off with some vintage gloves, a small petticoat, and a great lucite box purse for the total "Sunday best" look.  And just so you don't miss it, I wanted to point out that my fabric is decorated with hat stands and a variety of hats and gloves.  So adorable!



But luckily, I did have enough of the print fabric left over for the bra top.  Although it isn't pictured with the skirt on my pattern envelope, you can see examples of a cropped top worn with a long skirt in other playsuit patterns, like this one, so I knew it could be worn that way.

My midriff hasn't seen the light of day since the mid-90's, so I was really nervous about taking pics of this second look.  LOL!  I don't think it is something that I would wear often, but if I was at a pool or the beach, I think it would fit in well and be quite cute and summery without being too revealing.  And actually, the bra top is my favorite part of this whole pattern.  It is very comfortable and I would love to make up a few more to wear as pajamas or when lounging around the house during the summer.


You can find a few more photos of both of these outfits on flickr.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dutch print madness

Around the beginning of July, I stumbled across a photo of a fabulously kooky mixed-and-matched print outfit from the 1770s.  OMG, I was in love!  It was so different from how you usually see printed garments worn, and I loved the carefree combination of patterns and colors.  It felt wrong, but somehow oh so right!

At first I still had a hard time believing that 18th c. women actually wore different prints together like this, but when I started poking around in period illustrations, I discovered that this example is actually quite tame compared to some of the wackadoodle combinations that show up in period artwork.  I gathered some examples and put them in a Pinterest board, and any time I started getting cold feet about making my own mix-and-match print outfit, I would go back and look through them again to reassure myself that I hadn't completely lost my marbles.

What I discovered is that this style is much more middle class and rural in nature, and you can definitely see the origins of folk dress in this type of look.  Also, while I found examples from a number of countries, it seems to be the most popular in Dutch fashions, which makes sense considering that this was the home for a lot of the manufacturing of printed chintzes.

I never thought I would find appropriate prints that I could afford for this project, but just when I had given up hope, I lucked out and found some $19 Indienne-style printed curtain panels at Lowe's Hardware while I was shopping for a lawn mower.  I took that as a sign from the costume gods that I MUST make this outfit!  One curtain became my petticoat, and then I had another amazing stroke of luck when I discovered that a local quilting store called Happiness is Quilting carries a wide range of Den Haan & Wagenmakers reproduction Dutch chintzes. OMG, fabric *squee!*  The reproduction chintz is crazy expensive, but I realized that I could make the infamous Costume Close-Up swallowtail jacket with just  a yard of fabric, so I decided to go ahead and splurge on it.  I'm really glad I got to look through a lot of the prints in person because some of the colors look quite different in real life, and it really helped to see the scale of the prints together.


The entire outfit is 100% hand sewn using period techniques.  I've been costuming for over a decade now, but hand sewing a whole dress is a first for me, and I'm really proud of myself for pulling it off.  It actually went much faster than expected, and I totally enjoyed the process.  I used the jacket tutorial and petticoat tutorials from the blog Fashionable Frolic to help me figure out the construction techniques, and I am SO grateful to her for sharing those incredibly helpful guides.  The only change that I made was to modify the jacket so it closes in the front with hooks instead of lacing over a stomacher.  This particular jacket pattern is so crazy popular with 18th c. costumers and reenactors that I just wanted mine to be a little bit different.


I know that the mixed print look is a bit bizarre to our modern eyes, so I also made a solid colored wool petticoat to wear with the jacket when I want to be more "normal" looking.  I definitely need a few more petticoats to wear under this one to fluff my skirt out a bit more, but I have plenty of time to go back and do that in the future.  I also thought it might be nice to make a silk petticoat so I could dress it up a little and hopefully have it pass for casual daywear for a more upper class lady.

For the accessories, I'm wearing a simple linen cap made from my own trial-and-error pattern, a windowpane checked linen neckerchief, and a semi-sheer silk apron.  I'm not a huge fan of caps and aprons because they feel so butter-churner-y to me, but it is almost impossible to find an image of a middle-class woman in the 1770's without these accessories, so I finally gave in and embraced my inner churner.  I actually wanted to wear a patterned apron or neckerchief to add yet another layer a print madness to my ensemble, but I ran out of money so I had to settle for solids from my stash.  But that's probably for the best.  I wouldn't want to cause permanent eye-crossing damage to innocent bystanders.


I am a very matchy-matchy person by nature, so I think I was drawn to this project because it really forced me to get out of my modern mindset and push my own boundaries.  I know it's not a look that everyone will love, but I really enjoyed this little foray into Dutch print madness.  It was definitely a fun change of pace.  If you are interested, I have even more pictures of this outfit on flickr.





Monday, August 6, 2012

A proper mourning

Because I am the world's biggest dork, I decided that my new black robe en chemise needed its own photo shoot. So I hauled my trusty tripod up to a beautiful historic cemetery in McKinney and pranced around the graves taking gothy pictures of myself... much to the amusement of the hard working grave diggers and city street workers.

But I think it was worth the effort because I got some shots that I really like - and truly, costuming is all about the pretty pictures, right? Now after wearing this dress a few times, I think it might be my new favorite outfit ever. I had no idea such a simple dress would be so much fun to wear!


Am I allowed to be saucy in a cemetery?


It was a bit windy that day - I think my feather was trying to take flight!








This was a tombstone for another Thompson, so of course I had to take a picture with it.  
Who knows - maybe we're related.

The one last thing that I wanted to mention about this outfit is my mourning miniature. Mourning jewelry was hugely popular in the Georgian period, so I decided try my hand at painting something for my own outfit. I based my design on this mourning brooch from 1788.  Anchors were very popular in mourning jewelry, and they symbolized hope.  My version is painted with guache on yupo paper, which is the closest substitute that I've found so far to ivory.  This version is quite ham-fisted compared to the delicately painted original, but I still like it.  It was a lot of fun to make.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Time Traveler's Brunch


On Sunday, we wrapped up our little retreat with a costumed brunch at the hotel.  The theme was really open-ended so that we could explore any historical era of costume, or futuristic or steampunk or whatever.  And while I love dressing in themed groups with other costumers, sometimes I really enjoy totally random gatherings too... and boy, were we random!  LOL!  It is so much fun to see what people come up with when the sky is the limit, and we can wear anything that we want. A Hollywood Roman? Dr. Who? A Victorian zombie? An 18th c. Dutch butter-churner? A sci-fi soldier? A Baroque beauty with dreads? Heck yeah! Bring it all on!

(photo by Cynthia and Christopher)

We had some time to socialize before going into the restaurant, and it was lots of fun to take pictures around the hotel lobby both before and after the breakfast.  The food was yummy, the company was delightful, and it was really nice to have a laid back event that required so little planning and work on our part.  It was the perfect way to wrap up our weekend.

(photo by Cynthia and Christopher)








My full set of photos from the weekend can be found on flickr, and I'll be back to post more about my own new costumes sometime during the week.

If you live anywhere close to the DFW area, we hope to see you in 2013 at our next Costumer's Lost Weekend!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

ghostly photography

I've been collecting "spooky" Victorian and Edwardian photography for a while now to use as inspiration for our Mourning Party.  I was amused to discover that there was such a great variety of them out there.  Those crazy Victorians sure loved melodrama!  Some are moving and beautiful, some are genuinely erie, and some are totally hilarious.  I have a collection of them up on Pinterest, and we printed out this board and used it for inspiration for our own Victorian-style photos at the Mourning Party.  I had so many pics that turned out good that I though I would post all of the ones that I have finished so far here on my blog.  

Josie and Lesa
I love the ghost's face on this one. It totally cracks me up!

Christy and Jen
Our ghost shots were inspired by double-exposed photos like this one.

Victorian Mourners
This one was inspired by this historical photo.  Turning your back to the camera was sometimes a sign of mourning.

Cynthia's pic was inspired by this one.

Beth and Josie
And then there were the weeping ladies.
Hiding your face behind a fan was always fashionable for the art of mourning.  (still needs a ghost for bonus points though)
And although my outfit was totally wrong for the age of photography, I suppose I could be an actress posing in costume.

Thanks to all of my fabulous friends for posing for these - it was so much fun!