Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

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V120: 1912 Titanic Ball, Hair Stylings

I just got back from The Other Side of the Mountains (Californialand), and my trip down to Gaskells Victorian Ball.  It was an amazing evening, full of beautiful 1912 gowns that I will show you in tomorrow's post.

I did my hair before I drove down.  It survived the all-day journey decently well, all though the extra weight and at least a hundred bobby pins took their toll and caused some headache-y-ness.

Anywho, here's the finished style.  This was done by curling my real hair in front, then piling up a hair piece in back, in big rolls pinned into place.  I used a stretchy bead bandeau I found at Sally Beauty Supply, as well as one those beaded double-comb thingies (like this one ).

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

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V119: Are Sequins Period Accurate?

The Met: toque (hat), 1915
The short answer is YES!

I've heard this question come up a couple of times, in regard to using sequins on our Titanic gowns.  Sequins are not only period accurate for 1912, but they have a long history well back into ancient times.

It turns out sequins have been used in cultures the world over, from Ancient Egypt, India, the Far East, and even Peru.  Arab cultures made extensive use of sequins in their costume, and the word "sequin" even comes from the Arabic word "sikka," which means "coin."

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012


V117: Book Review: "Couture Sewing Techniques" by Claire B. Schaeffer

Couture Sewing Techniques
Claire B. Shaeffer
(c) 2011 by Claire B. Shaeffer
ISBN 978-1-60085-335-7

A great many of us are self-taught seamstresses.  We come equipped with a suite of sewing techniques taught to use by commercial patterns, friends, and, for historical costumers, books like "Costume Close-Up " and "The Tudor Tailor ."

There comes a point when it's time to take it to the next level.  Perhaps you've already started sewing more pieces by hand, or have learned a neckline facing trick, or a hem method that gives a perfect finish.  When you're ready to really "kick it up a notch," though, it's time to get "Couture Sewing Techniques ," by Claire B. Shaeffer.

The Met: Chanel, 1929
The Pros:

The whole book.

No, really.  It's a gold mine of information, a little history, and sewing reference.  The book starts out with a definition of "couture," and "haute couture," and how it differs from luxury ready-to-wear.  The author also states that she doesn't "dumb down" these techniques for home sewers, but shows the full, sometimes complicated, process to achieve the same results used on incredible gowns of both past and present.

"Couture Sewing Techniques " is not only a "how-to" guide, complete with easy-to-follow instructions and diagrams, but it is also full of professional color photographs of historic couture garments, from Worth, Mainbocher, Chanel, YSL, and many more.  Seeing the diagram of the technique, reading the description of how it is done, and then seeing an example of it used on a stunning garment...well, that's worth a thousand words.

I have only had this book about a week, but I can't seem to put it down, and already I have used techniques I read about just days ago to correct the neckline on my 1912 Titanic Ballgown, and even to buck up and apply some sequins and beads.  "Couture Sewing Techniques" makes you want to hand sew your historical costumes by giving ample good reasons to do so.  The book explains the "why" as well as the "how."

Dress by House of Worth, 1875-76 Paris, the Met Museum. Detail of frill at hem.
The Cons:

"Couture Sewing Techniques " covers all kinds of techniques for everything from buttonholes, to hems, to necklines, basic tailoring, even correct basting.  What it doesn't spend time on is pattern fitting, so I recommend purchasing one of several books on fit or pattern alterations, to work in conjunction with this book.  If you are an ace at patterning already, then you're good to go.


I've bought a lot of costume books, many of which are amazing, some of which are "meh," but I truly believe that this book, "Couture Sewing Techniques " is the first that will improve my crafting ten-fold.  For those of you who acquire this bible of technique, it *will* take patience and practice to learn all these tricks, and to apply them to your projects, but you will be happy, happy, happy you did.  I cannot recommend a book any more highly than I recommend this one.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

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V116: Finally, My Almost-Complete Titanic Ball Gown

Okay, so it's *still* not done, despite the event coming up on Saturday, but hey ... it's a costumer's life, right?

At any rate, it is "very almost" done.  Both sleeves are on, with the hand-rolled hemming, and I even applied the first sequins of my life.  Yay!
See those sequins? I did those!
Now I get to figure out a suitable way of bustling up the train of the skirt, and I also have some neckline engineering to do.  I'm not totally sure how to fix my mistake, but I'm going to try "taping" the neckline first, and also stuffing the bust - so period!

Now that I did some sequins on the front, I want to do more sequins on the back.  SEW ALL THE SEQUINS!!
The event is Gaskells Ball, this Saturday, at the Scottish Rite Temple in Oakland.  A number of ladies have made Titanic gowns, and I'm looking forward to meeting up and seeing the beauty that everyone has created. :-)
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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V115: Update on "Astoria" Edwardian Shoes

You have all been waiting ever so patiently for the replacement shipment of Astorias to be manufactured and shipped, and for that I am eternally grateful.  Now I have an update for you!

The Astorias (and Kensingtons too) have undergone their first quality control inspection, performed by our outside QA agent, and any shoes that had even the smallest, teeniest  defects were rejected and made over.

Our lovely QA agent will be returning to the production line again on Wednesday, for another inspection, and finally this coming Saturday, to inspect the whole run before approving the shipment.  Once approved, your Astorias and Kensingtons will be merrily on their way over the Pacific to us, and then packed lovingly into their boxes and sent on their ways to you. :-)

If you would like to get yourself a lovely pair of 100% perfect, 100% calf skin leather Edwardian shoes, you can purchase your pair in the shop, and expect shipment in a couple short weeks. :-)

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Monday, April 23, 2012

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V114: Incredible 18th Century Jackets from the Imatex Online Collection

I have to give mad thanks to Emily over at My Vintage Visions, who showed me the secret of searching the Imatex costume collection, a wonderful resource with gigantic photos in which you can see every stitch and detail.  It is serious costume porn, especially in the area of 18th century jackets.

'Course, I went on a pinning frenzy, and you can see all my personal faves on my 18th century costuming pin board, Colonial Williamsburg inspiration board, and Pierrot Jackets board.  When you click through the images to the Imatex website, if the record does not come up, click the tiny link at the bottom for "English," and then click "Access as External User."  Next, click the word "Imatex" on the left hand side, then "Search," and have at it.

Here are a few of my favorites:
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

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V113: Photos from The Steampunk Expo, Reno

Yesterday the local Reno Steampunk club, High Desert Steam, held its first annual "Biggest Little Steampunk Expo."  The idea was to kick off a Summer season of Steampunk events - movie nights, picnics, workshops - leading up to our big September extravaganza, the Victorian Steampunk Ball of Piper's Opera House, by raising community awareness and excitement about the Steampunk movement, and introduce them to what Reno has to offer in the way of clothing, accessories, and jewelry vendors.

The event was a huge success, with well over 200 people through the door.  The vendors did well, we raised a little money for our club, and we even hosted two of the three local news networks, who took footage of the fashion show and general hubbub.

Here are a few snaps of the day...
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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

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V111: Costume Painting, Week 2, at Nevada Museum of Art

Last night was the second session of the costume painting open studio at the Nevada Museum of Art.  Our model was Jeff, wearing a "Burning Man/Steampunk/Mardi Gras/Carnie/Jester" outfit.  It was colorful, and he took a great pose, 3 hours in total.  I really enjoyed painting him.

I liked this angle, but the lights in the classroom were reflecting off my screen.  Annoying.  I'll have to find a dark corner somewhere, next time.
Here's Jeff.  He looked far more noble in his pose than I depicted him. I was imagining a character of "an indignant carnie" or some such.
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

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V110: Pink Jackets of the 18th Century

...I want one.  I want it to be patterned taffeta-silky-something.



Okay, I know it's a polonaise, but let's just say it counts :-) ; 1775, Killerton, Devon, Nat'l Trust
1784 portrait of princess Louise Augusta by Jens Juel; Although probably a gown, I'm going to pretend it's a jacket.  The white an green bows fill me with glee!
pierrot, 1785, French The Met; one of my favorite pieces of all time.
Journal des Luxus, 1789; Dames a la Mode; This is weird, sure, but it's pink and delightfully eccentric.
Gallerie des Modes, 1782; Dames a la Mode
Gallerie des Modes; 1780; a polonaise jacket.  Dames a la Mode
IMATEX - can't access the original listing, but I'm guessing 1790s for this one.  Gorgeous!
Caraco, Nat'l Trust, 1780-90, Snowshill collection.  That is PINK.  And I love the lining too :-)
Pink was a popular color in the second half of the 18th century, although we don't have many extant examples of jackets in this color.  There doesn't seem to be all that many fashion plates showing pink jackets either, although pink gowns abound.

That's not going to stop me!
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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V109: Do You Know the Button Trick?

Don't you just hate decorative shank buttons that are all dangly and wobbly?  Wouldn't it be so much better if they were nice and flat and secure on your garment?

Well here's how to do it!

Once upon a time, shank buttons used for decoration were held onto a garment by a toggle, but these are hard to find these days.  Instead, try holding a row of buttons on with a line of ribbon or tape.  This works particularly well for lines of buttons.  Here's how...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

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V108: "Downton Sixby," on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

A little while ago I got a call from the costume designer at Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, asking if there was any chance they could get ahold of a pair of imperfect Astorias, for one of their drag characters.  He told me they were doing a spoof on Downton Abbey, and, well, here it is!

You can't even see the shoes, lol, but we're pretty sure it's Edith who's wearing them!
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Monday, April 16, 2012

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V107: Where Are Your Pompadour Shoes, 1680-1740?

Pompadour (1680-1740) shoes in black brocade with leather-covered, custom Louis heel, and satin ribbon tie
Hi Ladies!  I haven't died, promise.  I'm still working on new historical shoes for you, but we got a little delayed with the Astoria fiasco, and Chris and I didn't feel like it was right to run another pre-order until we've delivered all your Astorias and Kensington shoes.

The Pompadours are coming, though! Originally they were scheduled to be released today, April 16, but now the new pre-order release date is Monday, May 14th.

The 2.5 inch leather heels have been custom made just for the Pompadours, and future American Duchess shoes needing an awesome, chunky French heel.
Here's a first look.  Pomps will come in ivory brocade as well as the black you see here.  Each will have a ribbon tie with it, but the fun part will be pimpin' your Pomps with any kind of ribbon, pom-pom, or decoration you like.

You'll be happy to know, too, that the new ivory leather Kensington 18th c. shoe will also be available to pre-order on May 14th.  I know several of you have been waiting so patiently for them.

Kensington will finally be available in ivory, at the $99 pre-order price.
There will be more news and photos about what's coming soon. Until we meet again, most sincerely...

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

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V106: Titanic Memorial Tea, Reno

Yesterday, like so many of you, us ladies and gents up here in Reno held our Titanic Memorial Tea at The Isles Tea Shoppe.  After many pots of tea, a parade of scones and tea sandwiches, and a moment of silence for those lost to the sea 100 years ago, a smaller group of us went to the Nevada Museum of Art to see the Tiffany exhibit.  Here are some photos from the day...

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

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V104: Costume Painting at Nevada Museum of Art, Class 1

Last night was my first class of the costume painting open studio at the Nevada Museum of Art.  I have modeled for previous sessions, and it just looked like so much fun, so I enrolled and, well, there ya go.

The model was Carolyn, in her gorgeous 1780s robe a l'Anglaise, complete with hedgehog wig and giant Gainsborough hat.  I was so happy to get to paint 18th century, and get stuck in with all the details.

The class is one 3 hour-long pose, so plenty of time to fiddle with rendering satin and facial features. :-)  I'm already looking forward to next week, yay!
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Thursday, April 12, 2012


V103: Plans for 1930s Sailor Pants

I'm on a navy blue kick recently.  I've had one of those "I MUST MAKE THIS" moments, for a pair of wide-legged, high-waisted sailor trousers, to wear on the cruise coming up in May.  Like these:
Heyday Vintage Style, UK, 70 pounds and all the way over in the UK, so not affordable for me :-(

I suppose I've always liked them, but proper ones are hard to find.

These go all the way up to the waist, even a little higher.  See how flattering?
So cute, and easy to wear with a number of different tops.
By proper I mean with a waist *at the waist,* and not below, for nothing is as unflattering a cut as low-slung button-front pants (imo).

I have a pattern from Burda, bought years ago, that zips at the side and has a false placket front.  It is at the unflattering rise, but lucky me, the lower waist can be extended up to the natural waist and tailored easily with the darts at back.  Yay, darts!

I went out to buy denim and found the selection terrible and expensive, even at 25% off.  I want a nice, dark, navy blue, and 100% cotton, none of this nasty, thin, stretch stuff, so I got three yards of this not-great-but-okay stuff and spent all last night dyeing it in the washing machine, first with navy RIT, then with black RIT, when the color didn't come out dark enough.  The fabric is still I think when all made up into pants will be pretty nice.  It's not so much that 1970s-sailor-pants-blue anymore, UGH.

Original state on the left; finished color on the right.

The pattern says "easy," but pants are The Devil, like sleeves for your legs, so wish me luck! This could end up brilliantly, or could all go horribly wrong.
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