Monday, June 24, 2013

Spreading the shopping luv

I've had a wonderful run of luck with costume-related bargain shopping lately, so I thought I would share the luv with you all in case you any of you were looking for similar items.

Yesterday I stumbled across a wonderful pair of pointed toe fabric flats at my local Famous Footwear for $25.  They are made by Rocket Dog and are the Chamay watered silk style.  You can find better prices at other online shoe stores, but they don't always have all the colors available.  I especially love the rose and grey colored ones on the Rocket Dog website, but they only had black where I was today (is it wrong that I now want to make a Regency mourning dress just to match my new shoes?  LOL!).  I think they will work perfectly for Regency costuming, and I plan on adding crisscross ribbon ties to dress them up some more.  Just FYI, they are very soft and slipper-like, so I bought a smaller size than I often wear because they seemed to stay on my feet better when they were a little snug.  My shoe size ranges from 9-10 depending on the brand, but I thought the 9 was the most comfortable fit in this particular style.

Next, my favorite local vintage store, Vintage Martini, is clearing out all of their vintage patterns.  Although their stock is mostly gone at this point, they still have some gems that need to find a good home.  My favorites are the classic 1910's skirt patterns in the Edwardian section, and the adorable 1920's children's patterns in the kids section - all for under $10.  There are also a handful of 30's-50's patterns left, plus some fun vintage costume and apron patterns that caught my eye.  And don't overlook the wedding section, which has some gorgeous styles that would make up great as evening or daywear just by changing the fabric or shortening a hem.  I snatched up a couple of wonderful patterns a few weeks ago, including these 1910's beauties.  I can't wait to make them up!  Working with a 100 year old pattern is such a cool experience.  It always makes me feel more connected with history as I daydream about who used it in the past and what the original owner's dress looked like when she was finished (*ahem* and I also wonder if she was any better than I am at deciphering the vague instructions!)

Okay.  So now we have something that all women need more of in their lives - TIARAS!  Just check out Amy Farrah Fowler's reaction to her first tiara if you have any doubt about that statement.  I have to admit that I was a non-believer about the joys of a good tiara for many years, but I am finally a convert now that that I have discovered an ebay seller called Venus Jewelry which carries the most wonderful period-appropriate styles using cast metal frames that don't look at all "pagenty".  I picked one of the more simple styles, and OMG I love it so much!  I also really love this one and this one and this one... oh yeah, and this one.  So many gorgeous styles to choose from, and all under $30 with free shipping.  C'mon... you know you need one!

For Costume College this year I'm going to make a natural form ball gown, and I wanted to add some flowers here and there to dress it up.  So I was thrilled when my friend Taylor started selling paper millinery flowers at her online etsy shop, Dames a la Mode.  She doesn't have a lot of her stock posted yet, but she showed me some more options when I told her what I needed, and all of her flowers are gorgeous!  I definitely know where I'll be buying my millinery and dress flowers for now on, and I can't wait for her to add more options to her shop.  You just can't find flowers of this quality at your local craft store, and they are actually much cheaper than most silk flowers too.
And last but not least, I've been hunting for an affordable copy of The Cut of Women's Clothes for years now, so I try to poke around on Amazon and Alibris from time to time looking for a used copy.  Last month, I found a seller in the UK that was offering new editions for only $59.  Anyway, I told some of my friends about this incredible deal when I bought my book earlier this month, and the shop I bought my book from seems to be sold out now.  But keep an eye out on Alibris beacuse I keep hearing about people finding this book at bargain prices lately.  If you are fast, there are 3 copies listed at $65 right now, which is still SO much better than the $100+ it usually sells for.  I'm wondering if they did a reprint or released some old stock, but whatever the cause, I'm thrilled to be seeing these occasional dips in price.  I've had to rely on library copies all these years (I've had this book checked out non-stop for the 14 months - bad Jen!), so I'm estatic to finally have one of my very own.  It might be the most helpful costume history book that I've worked with due to all the fabulous patterns, detailed research, and wide range of eras covered. 
So what wonderful costume deals have you found lately?  Anybody else want to share their bargain shopping secrets?  :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lace and lacing - 1876 corset

So last month my dear friend from the Before the Automobile made the most beautiful corset that I have ever seen, and I instantly decided that I must have one too!  I was pretty unsatisfied with the natural form corset that I made at the beginning of the year because it wasn't curvy enough and it hurt my ribcage if I laced it tightly.  So instead of altering that old corset, I decided to try this whole new pattern instead.  Plus, it would work for the HSF "Lace and Lacing" challenge, so I couldn't resist giving it a try.

But I also didn't want to spend any more money on corset supplies, so I cobbled this together with supplies that I had in my stash by recycling two failed corsets and a ratty old girdle (which explains the oddly wide boning in some places).  Unfortunately, I think some of the compromises that I had to make ended up hurting the final results.  I moved the boning pattern around and omitted some of the boning channels because I was short on boning, and as a result, my version of this corset wrinkles like crazy. But the corset does seem to be a little bit curvier and it is a lot more comfortable, so you win some, you lose some, right?  I'm just crossing my fingers that the wrinkles won't show when I'm fully dressed.

Anyway, if you would like to try this pattern too, maybe you can learn from some of my rookie mistakes.  Here are my thoughts about it:
  • The side panel of this corset wraps around the body from the upper back to the lower belly, which pushes in your sides and makes your waist look smaller from the front.  Cool, right?  But those wrapping pieces also makes it prone to wrinkles, and I never could figure out a way to make them go away.  I think part of the problem is because of the way I cut the grain on the side piece. I followed the grain markings on the pattern (or at least, what I thought were the grain markings), and it resulted in a side piece that is somewhat on the bias when assembled.  If I was making it again, I would ignore the grain markings and make that piece so that the waist was on the true straight of grain when assembled.  
  • The wrinkling on the side might also have been fixed if it was boned more heavily.  If I ever make this pattern again, I'll put in as many boning channels as will fit in the front and side body pieces.  
  • This pattern is INCREDIBLY short waisted.  I added two inches to the torso, and I could have easily added another inch or two.  The bust gores are quite low on my corset, which is causing even more problems with wrinkles since the gores hit below the breasts and there is nothing there to fill them out.  I ended up having to reduce the size of the bust gores to compensate for this, but that also reduces the hourglass effect.  If the bust had hit me in the right spot, the pattern still would have been too big, but at least I could have padded the cups out and made it work.  If I padded them at this level, I would have ended up with saggy granny boobs.  Not pretty.
  • I raised the top edge of the corset by half an inch for the busk panel and first bust gore.  When my friend made up this pattern, she discovered that the top dipped in a good bit at the center-front, and I wanted mine to be more straight across.  I was worried that the dip would make it not as supportive, but I think hers is a prettier shape.  I'm not sure if I would keep my alteration if I made it up again.  Maybe if I got the but gores to hit me in the right spot, it wouldn't have been necessary to raise the top edge.   
  • The gores on this corset are very easy to set in and adjust, which makes it a wonderful choice for somebody who is nervous about gores (like me!).  I ended up merging the back hip gore with one of the side panels and added a seam there because I thought it would be easier to construct that way, but the gores really weren't hard to set in at all, and I don't think I would bother with that alteration again.  
  • I added some extra width to the hip gores, which helped exaggerate the hip-spring at the top of the hips, but I ended up with too much room at the bottom.  I could have curved the hip seams in at the bottom and it would have made the bottom of the corset smoother and made the lacing gap more even.
  • I had to cut off an inch from the bottom front of the corset to make it possible to sit in it.  It's not uncomfortable now, but it still buckles a little when I sit, so I probably could have raised the bottom even more.  
  • This pattern does create a really nice rounded belly effect that was so popular at the time.  I also bent my busk quite a bit to make it have a spoon-like shape over the belly.  
I definitaly like this corset more than my last one, but it still needs some tweaks to make it perfect.  I don't have time to mess with it any more right now, but I think I'll invest in more boning and prettier fabric and give it another stab at some point in the future.  For more info about the pattern and PROPER construction techniques (vs. my hack-job), check out the amazing Before the Automobile blog.   

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Curtain dress meetup time

"Women in matching dresses" from Retronat
Thank-you so much to those of you who voted in my Curtain-Along at Costume College poll!  There was only one person who had a conflict with 11 on Saturday, and I apologize to whoever that person was, but we are going to go with that time.  So I hope to see some of you at the outside lounge area at 11:00 on Saturday morning!

Honestly, the main purpose of the meetup time is just so we can get some pictures of a group of us in our Curtain-Along dresses.  I am totally addicted to crazy photos ops (see exhibit A and exhibit B for starters), and the thought of taking pics of a bunch of ladies in semi-matching curtain dresses in one place at one time makes me a little giddy with joy.  But it is also totally cool if:
A. You can't make it to the 11 meetup, but you still wear your dress on Saturday so we can geek out with other Curtain-Alongers as we run into each other between classes.
B. You come say hi at the Saturday photo-op meetup even if you are not wearing a Curtain-Along outfit.
C. Choose to wear your Curtain-Along dress at some other point in the weekend.

I think Lauren from American Duchess was wanting to wear her Curtain-Along dress to the Ice Cream Social, so if that works better for you, then that might be another time to get a little group together in curtain dresses.  So no worries, and feel free to do whatever works best for you.  :)

I can't wait to see all of your Curtain-Along masterpieces at Costume College!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Curtain-Along Meetup at Costume College

Now that the limited classes have been announced for Costume College, I thought I'd create a poll and figure out when the most people could come to a little Curtain-Along meetup.  This is going to be totally informal - I thought we could just meet by the sitting area close to the pool for some fun pictures and socializing sometime during the day on Saturday.  And of course if Saturday doesn't work for you, then no big deal.  We can still come *squee!* over you anytime during weekend whenever we spot those Felicite-print costumes in the crowd.

So if you are interested in joining us, please take a minute to take this survey and help us pick a time.   And just FYI - there is only one class on Saturday that I am not willing to miss, and that's the English Country Dance class at 3:00... but that could be a meet-up opportunity too.  I think it would be really fun to see a group of us dancing together in our matching curtain dresses!   :)