Thursday, August 28, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

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My 5 Hour Wearing History "Smooth Sailing" Trousers

So last Thursday I made some trousers. Pants are completely terrifying to me, so I had actually bought the fabric for these trousers months ago, sat on it, and in the post Costume College inspiration burst, entered the world of sewing Legged Things, using the Wearing History "Smooth Sailing" pattern, which I'd heard good things about.

Well how do I put this....the Wearing History trousers pattern is the best pants pattern in the world.

Not that I've sewn every pants pattern in the world....but I have sewn up quite a few now, and I've found fit and flattery to be difficult things to achieve. Not so with the Wearing History pattern. My goodness, they fit absolutely perfectly - the waist was at my actual waist; they were fitted over the hips, but not tight; the crotch sat in the right place; the straight leg looks great. I'm *thrilled* !

I was also very impressed with the construction techniques shown in the pattern notes. Wearing History guides you through putting these pants together in a way that is very different from any other pants pattern I've used, but makes so much more sense. The benefit is in the smooth seams and non-bulky bits between the legs (where bulk always seems to be, and is never welcome).

The most astounding thing is that I put these pants together in 5 hours. I don't sew anything in a day, but I went from testing muslin to done in one evening. That's how easy these are.

I wore them two days later for a presentation at a local museum, and I'm so chuffed with these pants I'm taking them to Hong Kong tomorrow. And when I get back, I think I'll stitch up a couple more pairs, because they really are that great.

So if you've been looking for a great vintage trouser pattern, or you've had the Wearing History pattern sitting there waiting for some time, do not delay anymore. You won't regret it. Get stitching!
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Costume College: Part the Second

I've been bad about posting the rest of my Costume College photos, and sharing the festivities. Sorry! Better late that never, right? Here are some shots (mine unless otherwise credited) from Day 2, during the day, and the evening Time Traveler's Gala:

During the Day...

Abby and Natalie in their matching 18th century outfits
The back of Abby's cap - I never miss an opportunity to see how these look from all angles, for the someday-maybe cap I will make
Kaila in her Lady Sybil "Downtown Abbey" outfit - adorable and perfect
For Day 2 I dressed as 1920s Pierrot. I spent the entire day silent, which was awesome. Photo by Laurie Tavan
I painted my face with the Ben Nye clown makeup and black eyeliner. It was a pain to get off later that night, though!
The Evening...

The Empress Sisters
Kendra promoting her new book.
I thought the little books in the hair and on the jewelry were inspired

Love these ladies - left to right: Natalie, Cathy, Monica, Christina, Breanna, and Kaila
And then there's Curtis.
Breanna and Chrissy get silly.
Kaila. Just elegant.
That headdress was bitchin'
Cathy and Monica do the Time Warp. Again.
Rebecca in her absolutely stunning court gown.
18th Century meets 1980s - Marie Antoinette punks. This costume was absolutely over-the-top creative and inspiring.
Marie Punktoinette - LOVED this.

Elizabeth - she knows no equal. Increible court gown, that hair, and that attitude!

For the record, twerking's got nothin' on what can be done with panniers.
Francis brings it.

See? that attitude. MEOW!
And awesome pair of 23Skidoos painted silver and black, and heeled with rhinestones, by Amy Lee.
A selfie of my hair for the gala, done by Racy Tracy the Historical Hairdresser. This is my own hair, and I covered the back with a cap lent to me by Cynthia - thanks Tracy and Cynthia, for making this happen!
Photo by Gina White - I wore my "LACMA Sacque-ma" to the Gala. I didn't do the red carpet walk, which now I regret, but we closed "the house" dancing to '80s tunes until midnight. :-)

That's it, that's all! Now on to all the costumes to make for *next year* !

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


How To Move the Buttons on Your American Duchess Button Boots and Shoes

It's a question that's been asked many a time, so here's a handy tutorial to show you how to do it yourself.

Luckily, moving the buttons on your button boots or button shoes is easy, though it does take time. It's also historically accurate, except that our modern boots are made to be taken in (and the original holes will be covered), whereas antique styles were made to be let out (and the original holes showed). In my small but well-loved collection of original button boots, spanning the late 1860s to the 1910s, all pairs show very obvious evidence of buttons being moved, like these:
You can see the original holes a good inch back at the top. The buttons were re-attached with looped staples on this pair.
This pair has really obvious scarring. The buttons were moved right out to the edge, over an inch in some places, and were re-attached with thread.
So how to do it yourself? Here's a video:

Or read on...

You Will Need...
  • A pair of real button boots
  • A pencil
  • Seam ripper
  • Small scissors
  • Strong thread - upholstery thread, strong embroidery floss, elastic thread doubled
  • Beeswax (optional, but helpful)
  • Needle
Step 1
Cut all the buttons off your boots. Yep, all of them.

Step 2
Put the boots on and fold the fly (flap) over your leg, pulling it tight where needed. Don't try to stay in line with the original holes. With a pencil, mark the new placement of the button through the keyhole end of the buttonhole. You want your boots to be *tight.*

*Note - to get your boots really nice and tight, stitch your buttons 1/8 to 1/4 inch further than the mark you made with the pencil. The leather stretches and eases with wear, and you want the boots to fit tight all the way up, like a corset for the ankle.

Fold the fly over and pull it tight
Mark the holes through the keyhole end of the buttonholes.
My marks next to the original holes - don't try to stay in line with those original holes, otherwise your fly will not be smooth and straight
Step 3
Take the boots off, and starting at whichever end you are most comfortable, poke two small holes right next to each other, through the leather, with the seam ripper. You will pass your needle through these holes to form the loop for your button.

Remember, for a nice tight fit, poke your holes 1/8 to 1/4 inch further back
Step 4
Stitch the button on, passing through the button's looped shank and the holes in the leather several times. Beeswax will help keep your thread from tangling, and form a nice tight loop and knot. Tie it off however you like, then move on to the next button - you may wish to continue with the same thread, or cut it off and start anew. Both are period accurate.

I gave my buttons a good yank to make sure none of them pulled off.
Sew all the buttons on, then repeat for the other boot. You're done!

Much better fit. These could actually be even tighter.
*Considerations and Points of Interest

  • The front seam of your boots will no longer be centered on the leg, once you move your buttons. Don't worry about it, though - Victorian and Edwardian women experienced this too.
  • The original holes where the buttons were will not be seen when taking the boots in - you have it better than Victorian and Edwardian women, who had to live with the scarring being fully visible!
  • There is no correlation between foot size, ankle size, and calf size. Makes it tricky! We do the best we can with fitting the widest range.
  • There were many different ways to attach buttons in the past. Every cobbler did it differently - many just stitched them on, but others used staples, brads, or looped pins.
  • In the past, boots appeared with teeny tiny ankles and calves in the shop, with the expectation that the customer would have the buttons moved to fit their legs. As noted before, just about every pair of button boots you will ever see has evidence of where the buttons original were. If there are no marks, the boots were likely made custom for the wearer, or were store displays and never worn at all!
  • Don't be afraid to make those buttons very tight. The boots should fit like a corset for the ankle. If you struggle to get them fastened, that's about right - the leather will loosen as you wear them, but continue to support the ankle and calf, and keep the boot from slouching.
  • You can use this technique on any buttoning shoes as well, such as Astoria and Savoy Edwardian shoes.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

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The Lake Tahoe Gatsby, 2014

It's August, which means Gatsby. It's one of my favorite events, a delightfully relaxed little picnic at the Pope Mansion in South Lake Tahoe.

This year my dad came. He's all into dressing up and looking good now, and especially loves his "Gatsby gear." Argyle always befits everyone, in my opinion.

Dad checking out the awesome vintage Indian motorcycle.
There were ukeleles, cars, and the beautiful backdrop of our alpine lake. Nice weather, and general fun had by all. I wore an older dress, paired with my reworked strawberry cloche. That's all, really! Enjoy the photos!
My outfit - an oldie but a goodie. Need to find some '20s appropriate sunglasses, though!
Ukelele band. These guys were a delight.
Gatsby's car
Gatsby's other car - Pierce Arrow, YUM
Gorgeous vintage Dodge

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