Monday, April 25, 2011

The Challenge

As I mentioned in my last post, I entered The Italian Renaissance Costuming Challenge at The Realm of Venus.  I've been a huge admirer of Bella's site and so appreciative of her work in compiling so many resources into one spot for so long!  I'm sort of have an obsession with Venetian costume that borders on unhealthy (because the construction is so mysterious!) so I just couldn't help but enter.  I really like how she's set up the points system for scoring and I love having the extra motivation to do really good work.

I was on the fence for awhile, especially because I will want to make my 1580s English gown, but then I found the fabric!  It HAD to be a Venetian gown1 It's actually a synthetic flocked taffeta, but it's really high quality and looks rather similar to this fabric, which is extant and has silk pile on a plain silk ground.  I wanted to make a gown from the 1570s, because of the structural challenges, so I also found a few portraits from that decade showing large, scrolling patterns and similar colors

The main inspiration for my dress will be the lady on the right in this painting.  It is a detail from "Allegory of the Planet Venus" by Micheli Parrasio, 1575.  I love her standing ruff and the matching shoulder ruffs.  So silly and yet so elegant!  I also have some theories about how the dress actually opens and how to fake the "chemise" that shows under the ladder lacing.

I soon as I get my commissions wrapped up I'll be able to start working in earnest!  It might be tight, time-wise, because of my summer job and the huge move I have to make right before the deadline, but I think I can do it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Corset Picutres! And a Mock-up!

Done!  I promise eventually I'll get pictures of it on me.

I made a mock-up for the 1581 dress tonight.  I already have a well fitting pattern, so I was mostly just tweaking and trying to get the neckline just right.  I think I'm there, so I can dive into cutting the bodice shortly!

Oh and I might have signed up for this costume challenge.  But that gets its own entry in a few days....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bustle Finished!

Maggie's bustle is complete!  It has regular hoop boning in the channels.  Cutting the boning was terrible until I figured out that it is much easier to bend the boning with pliers and then pinch the bend until the wires broke.  I wish I'd figured it out sooner!  The pattern (Laughing Moon 112) worked beautifully!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play

     I finally got around to uploading some pictures from the last show I designed, back in February.  The play is a dark comedy interpretation of the Jekyll and Hyde story.  We decided early on that we would use Steampunk as part of our design concept, though I think the design ended up as "Steampunk light."  We built pretty much everything you see, including corsetry for the female characters.  The link on the picture will take you to my flickr album for this show.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Commission Work

 Things have been very slow at my job lately, so I've taken on a few commissions to help pay the bills before my summer job starts.  Right now I am working on a bustle for Maggie.  We decided to use the Laughing Moon Pattern 112, view D, with a few details taken from Period Costumes for the Stage and Screen by Jean Hunnisett.  I probably could have drafted it, but I'm not very efficient at pattern drafting (yet!) so it was easier not to reinvent the wheel.

 The fabric is 100% cotton mattress ticking from Jo-Ann's, which is a nice sturdy twill weave without being too heavy.  The pattern calls for the bone casings to be made from store-bought bias tape and sewn to the inside, but I decided to make my own bias tape casings.  Since the diagonal stripes are so cute I thought it would be a shame to hide them away on the inside, so I sew them to the outside instead.  I was hoping to finish this up this week, but my grommet setting kit has gone missing (the inside laces up so the width is adjustable) so it's on hold until the new one comes.  I have a chemise to make for Maggie too, plus some things for another client, so that will keep me plenty busy until then.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eyelets and The Plan

I've made a little progress on the hand bound eyelets.  I haven't done any for a really long time and they are not nearly as hard as I remember them being!

I used an awl to poke the hole and then I placed a jump ring on the inside.  I did a rough whip stitch to hold the ring in place and keep the hole open and then I whip stitched all around to fill in the gaps.  The holes are definitely only the small side, but it's easier to lace up with a large, blunt needle anyway. I think the other secret is to use linen canvas instead of cotton canvas - it's so much easier to poke the holes through linen!

I am planning on finishing this corset in the next week or so and the I can get started on the gown!  The inspiration is a  few gowns from 1581 and a pile of red velvet.

Elizabeth I by George Gower
I'm really drawn to the arched neckline, the shoulder tabs, and the slashed satin sleeves. These gowns have variations on the neckline and shoulder treatments of the 1570s, but the fuller sleeves of the 1580s.  It's sort of the last hurrah of the low neck gowns before the doublet bodice completely takes over for the rest of the decade.  

I already have the red velvet, salvaged from an old project, and a set of ruffs.  I'll probably go for the more simple sleeve of the Devereux Sisters, but I want to use silk satin, so I'll have to save my pennies for that!  I haven't decided yet if I'll have an open or closed skirt.  I do like the look of the closed skirt, but I'm not sure I have enough of the velvet to make the skirt quite as full as I'd like.  If the skirt is open, it will have more fullness at the sides and back of the hem.  Plus I already have the perfect skirt to wear underneath it.   

I also have a Cunning Plan for the partlet that involves silk and the sort of veiling used for birdcage bridal veils.  Hopefully it will come out looking something like this:

Elizabeth I Unknown Artist

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Binding

I've been working way too long now on a corset in the style of the Elizabeth I Effigy Stays, but the end is in sight!  The corset is made with two layers of linen canvas, an outer layer of synthetic red brocade (curtains from Walmart!).  It's boned with a combination of plastic whalebone, cable ties, and a few pieces of steel at the center front.  The pattern was based on my trusty old red corset, with some help from the pattern in The Tudor Tailor.  During patterning I lowered the neckline about a half inch and lowered the bottom front at least two inches so it glides over my stomach instead of digging directly in when I sit down like the red one did. 

Last night I wrapped up the binding.  Around the top and sides I stitched the binding to the front first with a back stitch and the turned the binding to the inside and slip stitched it down.  The tabs are infinitely more tricky and after some trial and error I ended up slip stitching the front and back so I could leave the binding folded as I went into the tiny corners.  Each space between the tabs has one fairly neat tuck in it instead of a series of wrinkles like I had when I tried it any other way.

Before I started binding the tabs I thought it would be easier if there was more space between the tabs and if the tabs were rounded off.  I discovered while I was binding that having more space actually made it harder to have one nice tuck instead of several large wrinkles.  Plus the tabs in the original have virtually no space between them and they are squared off, so it's inaccurate as well as more difficult to bind.  I'll have to fix that for next time!

Next step: hand bound eyelets.