Tuesday, July 27, 2010


17th c. Jacket: Finished Toile, Round 1

Ah, how lovely it is to have a finished, fitting toile.

My client is afraid the toile won't fit her, but as it's in the mail today, we will wait a couple days to see. The good thing about a toile is that it's not the finished garment.  Its sole purpose in life is to be fitted to the client, tailored, let out, stitched here, ripped apart there, and to become the pattern for the final piece.  Don't worry, Client, this is all part of the process!
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Thursday, July 22, 2010


17th c. Jacket: Toile-ifications, Round 1

With my dress form "batted" and corseted to my client's measurements, I started working on her pattern.  I drafted this pattern with help from a little scribble I made in my journal years ago (from The Cut of Women's Clothes: 1600-1930) and referencing the Tudor Tailor: reconstructing sixteenth- century dress.

Pleased with myself, I cut the pattern out of some freshly-harvested muslin and quickly zipped in all 7 gussets, sewed the back to the front, and tested the fit on my dress form.

It didn't fit.

Why? but how? but WHY!?

Mmmm, gussssssets.  I love this style of jacket because it's perfect evidence of how fabric was so precious; the pattern literally uses scraps and bits of fabric to create the width and fullness of the skirt.

Ladies, take note.  For those of you who ever draft/drape/create a gusseted Elizabethan or Jacobean jacket, it is *very important* that you do *not* cut the slashes for the gussets too high!  They do *not* go up to the waist, but instead allow the jacket to flare over the hips, which are a good many inches below the waist.  I had to recut the front and back pieces, and do all the gussets over again (despite this being just a toile, that was still annoying), because I got my engineering wrong!  The slashes end at least 2" below the waistline.

The side w/o sleeve and w/o gussets.  The width of the gussets will determine the flare of the peplum.  Already it's deciding its own self.

The toile was still a little big through the waist, so I pinched the front edges and marked the new center front line, which when spread out flat will form a distinct curve.  I will need to adjust the front placket, for the buttons, before sending this out for my client to try on.

Pinching the excess through the back seams, to tailor it to the form.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Dress Form, of the 1 7th Century

Okay, this post isn't very exciting, but I'm excited about, because my brilliant plan is working.

My client is all the way across the country, so we will not be able to do in-person draping, fitting, tailoring, etc.  Instead, I have created Mary the Dressform, by wrapping my adjustable and trusty dressform (formerly known as Millie) in cotton batting, and using my conical corset (Elizabethan corset, but creates the same shape as a 17th c. corset) to squeeze the batting down into the correct shape for the period.  The dressform as-is is far too modern in shape.  I laced and loosened and tightened and adjusted the front and back lacings of the stays to fit Mary's exact measurements - 35.5" for bust, and 28.25" for waist.  The shoulder width and length from nape of neck to waist are also matched, the latter being indicated by the blue ribbon tied around the waist.

The cool thing is that this method of batting and corseting will work for just about everything.  My client and myself are similar sizes, so it wasn't much of a shift, but if I were working with a client with larger measurements than myself, I could expand my dressform out, wrap in batting, and corset it in to fit the exact measurements.  Yay!  don't I feel crafty :-D
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Monday, July 12, 2010


A Day in Virginia City, Nevada - The Girls of 1879

On the back stairs of the extremely haunted Old Washoe Club.  These stairs were used to usher prostitutes into the upper levels of this building, known as The Millionaire's Club.  We visited the Old Washoe looking for ghosts in the VERY spooky back cellar, where corpses were stored during the winter, waiting for the ground to thaw so they could be buried.

I have been incredibly lucky to grow up and currently live in a place so stuffed full of Raw American History that it's practically exploding with costuming opportunities every weekend.  When I was a kid, my school group would take field trips to Virginia City, a silver mining boomtown that burst to live in 1859 with a silver strike as big, as important, and as seductive as the California Gold Rush 10 years before.  This was known as The Comstock Lode, and drew miners, and all that comes with them, for the next 40 years, when the Lode was mined out, and Virginia City fell into obscurity and disrepair.  All this a mere 25 or so miles from my home.

Today Virginia City, a small, tumbled town tucked onto the side of a mountain, is a tourist spot choc full of events, reenactors, historical attractions, haunted tours, mines you can explore, and fully restored steam trains.  It is as wild, dirty, and untamed as I imagine it to be 150 years ago.  Gentlemen cowboys walk down the street weighed down with jingling spurs and at least two, if not more, Colts slung across their hips - some of them are in costume, and some of them are just coming to town for a drink after a days work.  The old buildings curve, twist, and tilt with the road, built atop silver mines shooting deep into the mountain the City clings to.  It's the perfect place to lose yourself in history...if you close your eyes, you can almost believe it.

Oscar Sessions, myself, and Maggie Waterman, on the (again) haunted spiral staircase that used to be the Gentlemen's entrance to the Millionaire's Club.  This staircase is the longest unsupported (by a center pole) spiral staircase in the West.  It was CREEPY.

A group of friends from both Reno and San Francisco, plus myself, decided to spend the day in costume, walking up and down the boardwalks, stopping for photos with tourists and kids, and shopping.  We explored the extremely haunted Old Washoe Club, and snapped a few pictures, before changing into evening attire and attending the Masquerade Ball at the recently restored Piper's Opera House, another spooky, amazingly historical, and haunted playhouse.

I hope you enjoy these first couple of photos from the day.  I will post more later as I find them!

This photo appeared on the Reno Gazette Journal website,  taken by photographer Vince Alonzo

I wore an 1885 gored skirt, from Truly Victorian (TV261), but I did not wear a bustle, which caused the skirt to droop in a way similar to earlier styles of the 1870s.  I did this because I made my day bodice using the Truly Victorian 1879 Cuirass bodice (TV420), and the tail of the bodice in back did not flare to accomodate a bustle.  I altered the Cuirass bodice pattern, cutting the neck into the square shape typical of the 1870s, but leaving the back high.  It is made with bottom-weight dark brown striped cotton, flatlined with white muslin, and worn over a corset.  I am very happy with how it came out, and how well it complimented the skirt!

All these photos, except the one credited to the RGJ, are by Chris Stowell
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010


17th c. Shirt

Last time I posted about 17th c. costume, we were looking at the client's references for 17th c. linen shirts.  Well now it's done! lol.

I used a simple rectangle-based pattern for this shirt.  It is very like an Elizabethan shirt, but with changes to the collar.  I did two sets of ties on the collar, and one set of ties on each cuff, using white dutch linen tape.

This shirt is made for a lady, with the shoulder seams not extending far over the shoulder point.  The neckline is gathered into the collar, and the shirt makes use of underarm gussets to avoid bunching and pulling when the client wears her bodices or jackets.

We went with 100% linen, washed about three times to soften it up!  All interior seams are finished, for strength and historical accuracy.

About the photos:  I shot these using natural light from a window, and a black muslin backdrop.  I underexposed them quite a bit, but after working with them in Photoshop, I can see I need to purposefully underexpose them even more, as the whites are blown out!  Chromatic aberrations are also a bit out of control, but I'll know better for next time!


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Thursday, July 1, 2010


Trinkets On My Vanity

I've been getting more and more enthralled with the "manual" function on my camera, and I'm really starting to learn how to, y'know, use it.  I've been taking pictures of everything!  I took this picture of some items haphazardly collected on my vanity dresser, in my bedroom, in the dark, and while looking at this photo, I realize that each of these things has a story.

The green figure on the left is a jade wolf brought to me from China, by my best friend in high school.  She moved to China when we were both about 15/16 years old, and when she would come back to visit, she'd bring "gifts from China," she would always say with a grand flourish.  I remember her telling me that the Chinese were deathly afraid of wolves, and that wolf-themed gifts were hard to find.  She called me "Lobo" for a nickname.

The pendant below the jade wolf was a gift from Jenny S., who is always bringing me completely unexpected presents.  She said it reminded her of me because of the stag I drew on one of my American Duchess t-shirts.

The little naked woman is not actually naked! She has on a bathingsuit, maybe it was painted in at one time, or maybe meant to be "nude."  She came to me after my great grandfather died.  He had an odd collection of slightly naughty things.  She says "made in Germany" on the bottom.

The earrings actually belong to my mother.  They're vintage, and she leant them to me to wear with my Baroque gown last weekend, but they are clip on earrings and I didn't want to lose them, so I did not wear them.  Oh how I covet these earrings - I don't want to give them back!

The little frame the earrings are resting on has somebody's painting of a little white dog standing on a chair, looking out a window.  I cut it out of a magazine because it reminded me of how Avi would stand on the trunk under the window and look out all day, waiting for me to come home from work.

The bracelet is vintage costume jewelry from an enormous collection that came back from Texas when my grandmother moved out here to Nevada, and the house in Texas was cleared out and sold.  My cousins and I used to play with these glittery rhinestone pieces ALL DAY LONG when we were kiddies.

I can't help but want to surround myself with things like this.  Sentimental things, pretty things, vintage things.  My collection is growing, between teacups and trinkets like these :-).
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