Thursday, July 24, 2014

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What to Wear to Costume College 2014

This year I didn't kill myself with insanity-sewing for Costume College.

I realized I had more than enough costumes to choose from, and way too much in my work schedule, so I just didn't stress about it. For the Ice Cream Social, I'm wearing this:

And for the Gala I'm wearing this:

Now...what to wear for the daytime? I usually go with vintage or retro clothing I've made, but I feel quite hindered by my hair this year. Do I wear my vintage dresses with my modern hair? Do I wear a wig? Do I just cover my hair with a bandanna?  Considerations for vintage daytime dress:

1950s square-necked frock. Easy to wear, and the newest vintage thing I've made
Does this even still fit?
1950s sailor dress. Easy to wear.
1950s crazy plaid dress. I love this dress, though it came out a tad large (at the time). Might fit me just right now that I've put on a bit of fluff.
High-waisted jeans with a retro top and head scarf. This isn't really "costume" to me, but it's easy to wear.
Hair is still a problem, not so much with the vintage daytime, because I can maybe wrangle it into something '20s, '50s, or '60s-looking. For the Victorian and Georgian gowns, though....

I guess my furious sew-a-thon will be on hair pieces! I have a dark brown rinse I could try, but my hair is super-processed, and I'm afraid the rinse would stain it permanently.  I guess so strategizing is in order...and maybe a trip to the local wig shop. :-)

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Monday, July 21, 2014

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My First 1830s Dress - Complete!

I managed to finish something! It feels so good, considering the *pile* of started, half-finished, nearly-finished, and will-never-be-finished costume bits & bobs I have cluttering up my desk and all over my floor. There's nothing like a looming event deadline to keep you up stitching late into the night.

Anywho, here it is, this whole big hot mess of 1830s. It was SO much fun to wear!

So a quick run-down of this costume:

  • Stockings & Shoes (Gettysburg Victorian Side-Lace Boots)
  • Drawers, Chemise, and Corset
  • Bum Pad, Ugly Puffer, Organdy Petticoat
  • Chemisette
  • Top Petticoat and Bodice
  • False Curls and Bonnet

This part of Lake Tahoe looks the least like Tahoe. It could pass for somewhere more easterly, which works better with the dress - there were no American ladies here in the 1830s!
The chemisette took the most time of anything. It was derived from Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860, made of starched voile, and entirely hand sewn. I didn't do a very good job, to be honest - I cut the shoulders too narrow, so it was a good thing the frills on the collar extended to cover my mistake. I used my Geneva Hand Fluter to crimp the ruffles, but I didn't starch the voile enough to get a really good crimp - note to self and others: dip-starching is the way to go with the old irons. Spray starch isn't strong enough! My french seams were bulk where the ruffles attach to the collar, and at the end of all that I sewed the collar on to the wrong side! But you know what? I absolutely love the thing and you can't see all those mistakes when it's on with the dress anyway. :-)
Janet Arnold "Patterns of Fashion 1" - Chemisette from 1828-35
For hair, I created little side curl pieces using synthetic "yaki" hair wefts from Sally Beauty Supply. I trebled up the wefts and attached the wig clip to the top, then rolled about four sections per side up on small rollers and dunked each piece in boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Worked a treat - I just clipped the curls onto either side of my head, pulled my own hair over the center and pinned it, then put the bonnet on.

One of the lovely ladies at the tea took this picture of Mom and me.
All in all, the 1830s was fun to wear, was actually quite comfortable, and I'm pleased to have a completed costume to add to my closet. :-)
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

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Options for 1830s Headgear

This coming weekend is the first time I'll take the red 1830s dress out for a spin (assuming I :::cough::: finish it :::cough:::), and while I had grand plans to create a huge silken bonnet that would complete the look while hiding my 2014 hair, the buckram form I ordered didn't arrive in time, and so now I'm looking at other options for 1830s daytime headgear.

Here goes...

General, Non-Period Specific Bonnet

I do have a very nice "general bonnet," that works across many eras, for those not looking too closely. It's straw, with a large round brim, and will do in a pinch. With the event on Sunday and quite a bit more work to do to make the dress wearable by then, this might be my best option.

A Top Hat
Los Angeles Public Library, via
Jaunty and period-correct, ladies' top hats were worn with sporty costumes, like this snazzy blouse and skirt combo on the left. My dress isn't particularly sporty (though I'm seriously having to stop myself from making this brown and white outfit *right now*), so while I have a top hat, I don't think it'll quite work with my dress.

A Wide-Brimmed Hat
Here's another easy option - a wide-brimmed hat with some fun bows and a big feather. It doesn't completely cover the hair, but it could be positioned in a way to hide all but the front. Curiously, this headgear is shown with an evening gown, so it might not be at all appropriate for daywear...

Fluffy Head Lace Cap Thing
Covering all but the front curlies, a quick cap trimmed with lace and plenty of ribbons and flowers could do the trick. It's not really my style, and when I say "quick" that still entails hours and hours of sewing fine fabrics, so maybe I'll skip this one...

A Turban
Perhaps the easiest to make, a quick turban or gathered-crown beret type of head covering would make a big impact and do the job of covering the back of the head beautifully. Are the turbans shown for formal or informal wear, though? Would a turban look out-of-place with a cotton daydress?

This Thing

Maybe not...

I suppose the best option is to get the dress finished, put it all on, then try on different options to see what will look the best (or if none of what I already have will work). That's me then, off to sewn on hooks and eyes. :-)
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014


More On The New "Pemberley" Regency Shoes...

Though I gave a short introduction to the new Pemberley Regency Shoes last Friday, I thought they could use a little more "show and tell," to update you all on what's new and different about version 2 of this 1790s staple.

The new Pemberley was re-developed according to feedback from our lovely customers, with special attention paid to a few very important areas.

The biggest development was the Italian heel, a very specific kind of heel that became popular in the later 1770s and persisted through the turn of the 19th century. Italian heels are easily identified by the triangular "wedge" shape extending forward towards the toe, under the arch of the foot. The heights and shapes of Italian heels varied - in the 1770s they were quite tall and skinny, whereas they generally became shorter closer to 1800. Some were broad and some still skinny at this period, and eventually they would disappear altogether.

The Met, 1785-90
Manchester - see that heel shape?
The Met, 1790s - notice the triangle "wedge" under the arch of the foot
Pemberley's Italian heel, with the triangular wedge and slightly curved neck of the heel - sturdy and elegant

A few more hallmarks for the new Pemberley - the vamp is quite high, and comes up higher on the foot than before, the toes are wonderfully pointed, and the leather soles are quite thick, making these great for outdoor events as well as indoor dances and teas.
High vamp and pointed toes
*Pemberley Regency Shoes are historically accurate for the late 1780s through about 1810.

*They're dyeable white calfskin leather, lined in linen, with a pigskin leather insole and heel counter.

*The soles are leather, and the heel is 1 inch high. They're well-suited for indoor and outdoor events both.

Pemberlies are on pre-order until July 25th, during which time you can reserve your pair and receive your choice of a discount, free stockings, or free make-your-own-shoe-clip hardware. Delivery is set for mid-August.

Place pre-orders at
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Bastille Day Sale Starts Today!

We've got lots of different kinds of specials this year, like...


We also thought it a swell time to introduce the new "Pemberley" 1790s - 1810s slippers, which have been redesigned to be more historically accurate, and feature...

  • Super-pointy toes
  • Dyeable white leather uppers and linen lining
  • New, custom-made Italian heels

The new Pemberley will be available to pre-order through July 25th, with your choice of free goodies or a $10 discount, and a short wait - Pemberlies will be arriving in our August shipment!

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Wearing History: 150 Years of Nevada Fashion" Opens Friday!

Here's one for the ladies local to Reno (or surrounding areas)...

The Great Basin Costume Society is mounting its first costume exhibition during both Reno's famous Artown month, and this year's Nevada 150th Anniversary celebrations.

The exhibit will feature clothing from 1864 - 1964, with a mix vintage pieces and items handmade by members of the Great Basin Costume Society. On display will be everything from hooped and bustled gowns, Victorian underpinnings, to turn-of-the-century ballgowns, 1920s flapper frocks, and 1960s mod mini dresses. ...And just to spice things up, an original early 20th century perming machine.

The opening night "Jazz Age" party is this Friday, July 11th, 7 - 9 pm, and is open to the public. The exhibit will be on show Thursday - Sunday, 12 - 4 pm, through August 3rd, at A an Art Gallery, Downtown Reno.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

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Adventures in the 1830s - For Real This Time

The Met, 1835
I've been wanting to make an 1830s dress for a long time now, but haven't actually, y'know, done it.

Until now.

I can't really account for how the sewing bee got in my bonnet, but last Wednesday I just got that bug. I raided The Stash for some red spotted fabric Debbie had given me ages ago, and pulled out an old Simplicity pattern, and decided to work up something that would go with my "Gettysburg" Victorian Side-Lace Boots.

The pattern is Simplicity 4551, one of the Martha McCain "Civil War" patterns that is now out of print.  At first glance it's a rather generic mid-19th c. century frock that's kindof-1830s-kindof-1840s-kindof-1850s-kindof-1860s, but upon closer inspection, and in trying to decide just what decade my new dress would be, I noticed that one of the sleeve options (B) was a gigot sleeve. With the right support, that sleeve would be huge and fabulous, and that gave me my time period - the 1830s.

A gigot sleeve - that upper curve could actually be bigger, a full half-circle, but this arc made a lovely pouf
The neckline was too high for the '30s, so I simply cut it down in front and back. The only other change I made was to tighten the sleeves over the forearm just a tad, and line the upper part of the sleeves in very stiff organdy that is bloused up a bit to create the poufs.

Neckline cut down and piped.
Trying on the bodice without a corset, just to see how the sleeve looked.
There are a few accessories needed to complete the look. The first were bust pads, which fill out that awkward space around the armpits, created by drop-shoulder bodices. I made mine out of layers of fleece, and tacked them into the bodice, as seen on some original bodices.

Adding bust pads into the bodice, to help smooth the line over the corset, and fill out the space created by dropped shoulder seams.
Another accessory is an organdy petticoat, something I've been meaning to make forever (and will work with all periods that need oomph in the skirt), to help get that huge skirt shape. I don't have time or inclination to make a corded petticoat, so I'm using two types of bum rolls, The Ugly Puffer, the organdy petticoat, with one more petticoat over the top.

The organdy petticoat adds tons of lightweight volume, especially with the ruffled hem. It was a b*tch to put together, but worth it.
The gown petticoat over just the organdy petticoat. The gown petticoat is 5 yards of cotton.
The other accessory on my to-do list is a chemisette with a double flounced collar (I'm looking at Patterns of Fashion 1 , pg 51, style D). This will be made in cotton voile, with the two collars trimmed in starched and fluted ruffles. I haven't had an opportunity to use my fluting iron for eons, so I'm quite looking forward to this part.

The dress is *almost* done. I have the cuffs to hem and add closures to, and also the front closure to do. I opted to keep the front-closure for ease of dressing solo, even though all the 1830s dress I studied close in the back. It'll be hooks n' eyes, to keep the front closure as "invisible" as possible.

The gown nearly complete. I added another cotton petticoat over the organdy one (it's sticking out at the bottom, needs shortening) and it really helped with that '30s silhouette. The contrast belt will be finished with an antique brass buckle.
The back profile is quite fun. The finished look with the chemisette collars laying over the shoulders should complete that inverted triangle silhouette of the '30s in a flattering way.
I'm planning to wear this dress to an event July 20th, so I better stick to the finishing (boo, so boring)! Stay tuned for on-a-person photos. :-)
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