Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Halloween Part 2: Completely Handsewn Alice In Wonderland Costume

Image via Google
So as I mentioned, last Halloween I took on my first real sewing endeavor/ attempt at sewing suicide (I've been sewing doll clothes and accessories since I was 5...but stuff on a larger scale? Well there's a time for everything....). I was inspired by Tim Burton's film Alice in Wonderland, mostly because I felt he didn't just retell a story that's been told too many times already, but that he interpreted it in a different light, and for the COSTUMES!!!! I'm adding Colleen Atwood up there next to Worth and Mcqueen....Anyway, I was originally going to thrift store my way into a Mad Hatter costume when, halfway through making the accessories, I realized this creation would be too expensive for my leftover lunch money to finance. I realized I could do my own take on Alice's costume instead of an exact replica (I mean, what's going on with that weird seam in the middle of her skirt anyway?!?!)

And so, I asked my parents for permission. And they said no. So I did the only thing a sensible, hardworking, and dedicated teenager would do.

I made the costume. The Wal-mart in my town is about 2.50 miles from my house, according to Mapquest. Let me tell you, I was one hell of a determined kid. I begged a group of friends to walk with me all the way there, so I wouldn't get mugged or abducted by aliens or anything since there's a swampy industrial area near the Wal-mart. We made about 3 trips in total. I asked my guy friend, John, if he could please give me an early birthday gift so that I could make the costume, and with that, I had about $45 to spend.

I bought this pattern for the bodice of my Alice dress:

McCall's 4107. I used View E, and a little bit of View F.

Notice that I decided to replace the buttons in the original Alice dress with corset lacing, for a better fit (the bodice also corsets a little at the back).

I used a nice blue cotton, that was about $2/yard I think, for the bodice, and the same cotton in white for the lining. I used black grosgrain ribbon to lace it up. I modified the sleeves from the pattern so that they were all floaty and dainty like the one's on Alice's dress from the film. I had purchased a package of really pretty bridal lace trim for another element of the costume, but I used some of it as trim on the double-layered sleeves (yeah I highly doubt I constructed them correctly, I kind of guesstimated with the sleeves) by cutting the lace so that I had a strip of straight lace trim and a strip of lacey lace trim. Maybe a photo will make this easier to understand?

It's me and my best friend Bri!! Can you guess why she's dressed as the White Rabbit?!?
See? I'm a very resourceful girl.

On to the skirt. For the skirt, I really wanted something more whimsical and less stiff than Colleen Atwood's design. And I wanted something cheap and simple to make, because did I mention? I had about two weeks until Halloween to complete this. WITHOUT A SEWING MACHINE. Yes, the ENTIRE costume is handsewn. I told you it was sewing suicide... I decided to make a tutu skirt, because you can't get more whimsical, cheap, or easy than a tutu!!! I chose a powder blue tulle that was about $1/ yard to match the blue cotton and bought about 8 yards of it; I gathered all the tulle and sewed it into a waistband made of 1" cream grosgrain ribber that I had in my stash. Ahh, but the costume from the film has embroidery at the bottom!

Image via Google
How about we fix that with some black wired RIBBON?!?!?

There's another point for resourcefulness. And I loved how floaty the whole concept looked

Now, see how in the original costume, there's that white crochet trim with a black ribbon strong through it along the neckline? It's a very nice element, except that since my bodice had lacing down the front, this was going to be a challenge. And I was also faced with the potential problem of my bra showing through the spaces between the corset laces. So what did I do? I made a sort of chemise to go underneath the dress!!

I used about a yard-ish of the white cotton, and made a sort of big rectangle. I sewed up one side, and sewed in a zipper into the other. I left the sleeves unfinished, because the shift/ chemise is so wonderfully hand finished that I'd like to sew in a set of hooks and eyes or something so that way I could interchange sleeves and thus the shift/ chemise could serve for different time periods. I sewed the lace trim all around the neckline, then carefully laced it with the same black grosgrain ribbon I used for lacing up my bodice. Next to the bodice, the chemise was the garment that took the most long to make. Okay, I lied. I didn't even finish it in time for what I was gonna wear it to (my birthday party, in November, but that's a different post (; ). My best friend Bri was up in my room with me, minutes before the party, sewing me into my chemise. I ended up finishing it at a later date and wore the whole costume out to breakfast with my parents. A little 3-year-old girl called me a princess. Awww!!!

As for the accessories: the striped gloves were made from an old pair of socks; I wore a vintage locket; bloomers, crochet stockings, and a short petticoat I had on hand; and the boots were borrowed from Bri.

Considering I sewed the whole entire ensemble by hand, in two weeks, still baffles me, because my stitches were so straight and perfect. So straight and perfect, in fact, that my Grandma saw them and decided to buy me a sewing machine. AFTER I had sewed everything!!!

Detail of the chemise. If you look closely enough, you can see my tears.

The bodice appears so wrinkly because it was supposed to have boning, but due to time and money constraints, I omitted it. And thus I have a very wrinkly bodice. Sigh.

Now remember how I said that my parents weren't too keen with the idea of me making a costume for myself? Well, a week before Halloween, I sat in my closet cutting fabric and interfacing. I waited for my parents to leave the house, and I went downstairs and began ironing on interfacing and basting the bodice together. And imagine their surprise, when they came home, to find their kitchen table covered in blue fabric, and myself innocently sewing together my bodice?

If you can imagine, they were not happy. Especially about how I had asked my friend for an advanced birthday present. They didn't let me work on it for a few days, and so the costume wasn't finished for Halloween, but that was okay. Since Halloween was on a Sunday that year, and my school district has an uncanny taste for insipid, drab uniforms (black dress pants and a khaki-colored polo, for those in high school, and khaki pants and a navy polo for those in the elementary system), we weren't allowed to wear costumes on the Friday before. But we WERE allowed to dress down, yet wear a wig or makeup or whatever from the neck up (?!?!), for which I styled my hair in an 18th century pompadour hairstyle. And on the actual day of Halloween, my uncle, who is very against the "satanic" holiday, celebrated his 60th birthday. Another missed opportunity! But I told myself not to worry, because MY birthday is on November 8th, and I felt a themed party coming up...

The moral of the story is, well, is there a moral to the story? Besides that this was my first major sewing task since sewing clothes and bedding for my Barbie dolls? And the fact that I hand sewed a completely lined costume in two weeks? Yeah, I guess the moral of the story is that it's okay to be determined and insane at the same time for the sake of creativity. I'm sure all the best seamstresses and costumers are. <3  

Something interesting was happening in the distance, but here you can see the boots I wore

A rather shy Talking Flower and Cheshire Cat

An awkward pose. You can see our East Coast autumn on the ground.

Curioser and curioser!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Halloween, Part 1

For those of you who know me, Halloween is a very big deal. For those of you who don't know me, I am the crazed Halloween-er who vies for the winning title in the costume contest every year. Yeah, I'm that person.

      I love Halloween. I wish Halloween was a whole weeklong celebration. And unlike some people, I don't love this often macabre holiday because of the candy or late night rendezvous with a group of friends; instead, I've always been fascinated by the prospect of dressing up, for taking on an alternate persona for one day and not having anyone judge you about it (or at least I hope they won't judge).  I remember being in second grade and trying to explain this to my classmates. Wasn't I an intellectual? I was. And they'd always give me this blank stare as if their 8-year old self couldn't possibly understand me.

      When I was younger, I was always either a witch or a princess on Halloween. I'd try to alternate each year, but sometimes I'd shamelessly wear a costume two or three years in a row if I especially liked it (I'm talking to you, golden renaissance princess gown...). In sixth grade, I decided to switch it up and be one of those 50's poodle skirt girls, but because my parents never spent too much money on costumes, and other people did, my outfit was shamefully overpowered by another girl's expensive costume store poodle skirt outfit. In seventh grade, when everyone began trying to get away with wearing revealing pajamas to school by dressing up as "babies", I actually dressed up in an oversized beige fleece children's pajama my grandma had bought for me (it was supposed to be for really little kids...it even had a teddy bear image on the front and came with matching slippers), put my hair in wee braids and carried around a very fluffy grey teddy bear. I looked more baby than any of the other, erm, "babies" did, I must say. In eight grade I was hit with a craze for color and infiltrated my wardrobe with clothes in a rainbow of colors. That year, I put together a vintage flower-print skirt, and blue top that had little embroidered flowers around the hem, a sparkly, colorful pair of wings, some dangly belts, and a hand-assembled arrangement of silk flowers in a (you guessed it!) colorful basket. I even hung a little pink pouch full of glitter from one of the belts to serve as my "fairy dust", since I was, after all, a FLOWER FAIRY. Clever, huh? Yeah? Oh wait you're not laughing with me, you're laughing at me....

The infamous baby pajamas.  This is so embarrassing .-.
Did I mention that my costume included flower-shaped hair clips and brooches as well? And have you SEEN that neck accessory??!?!
      Then I was in high school, and I realized that "sexy" costumes were all the rage. I decided to team up with a classmate; she'd be the "bad" schoolgirl and I'd be the "good" one. Really I just looked like a slutty Alice in Wonderland with my mini blue and white gingham skirt and ruffled white blouse. I was ridiculous. Thankfully I couldn't find a picture of this.

      But unfortunately, I couldn't find a picture of my very authentic gypsy costume when I was a sophomore! I really did a lot of research on this one, and it combined A LOT of elements. First, I wore a bunch of colorful peasant-style skirts, a throwback from my junior-high years; a whole lot of necklaces and bracelets, some real gold and others merely costume jewelry; and an assortment of scarves in my hair and around my wrists and ankles. I took the rest of my gypsy getup from elements of a traditional Portuguese folk costume that I own (I used to belong to the local Portuguese Club): the vest and the headscarf (which I used as a sash at my waist).

The back of the elaborately embroidered vest

A scarf similar to mine, via Pinterest

I also wore the folk costume shoes, since they were my best option without having to go barefoot or in sparkly pink platform flip-flops. I did lots of research on this costume, and although I know that gypsies and Romani don't wear red because of its symbols in their culture, the touches of red from the scarf and the vest were the best I could do without going topless. Now, just imagine how long it took me to change for gym that day!

      Last year I took on my first major sewing endevour/ attempt at sewing suicide and made an Alice in Wonderland costume based off of Tim Burton's film...but that's another blog post ;)

      So, blog readers, any embarrassing Halloween costumes that you've worn that you'd like to share?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What I Wore: 8-16-11

Blouse: H&M, circa. $4
Skirt: Vintage, an old piece of my 
mother's. Except now it's mine. Teehee!
Shoes: Macy's, Style&Co., circa $15 on sale

      This skirt is ADORABLE. Really, down to the little pockets to the matching suspenders to the cute carnation pink cotton. I just can't get enough of it.
      I used to wear skirts like this all the time in junior high after I found my mom's stash of her old skirts, sweaters, and jumpers (rompers? playsuits?) from the 80's, and I fell in love. Then the rest of my unfashionable, narrow-minded classmates made fun of me. Lots. In the beginning I just let it roll off my back, since people had been making fun of me for years, saying that I was "weird", "different", "teacher's pet", and that I "read books". Yet after a few years of their constant mindless badgering, and otherwise how they simultaneously ignored/ hated me (including the school's guidance counselor!! She said I was 'different' and that I needed to get a boyfriend! Who does that?!?!?!), I stuffed my vintage stash at the bottom of a drawer and fell back on black clothing.
      Since my subsequent healing, I have once again embraced the idea of "not caring what other people think" and I have reverted to my true sense of style that I had been hiding all along. These days there are times when me vintage stash screams, "Please! We've been worn so much! Please wear a modern outfit today!!", and I oblige. (:
      These kind of "What I Wore" posts will hopefully become a regular installment of this blog, by the way, in case anyone was wondering!

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Apologize!

      I must apologize for my lack of posts lately...I've been on vacation with my family. Oh no wait, the economy isn't good enough for our usual trip to Portugal to see the rest of our family. so we've just been driving to the local beaches. Otherwise known as the "Jersey Shore". Sigh...

       By the way, I got the bathing suit on sale at Macy's for about $35 I think. Isn't it adorable? I certainly think so. Very different from the rest of the bathing suits I see in stores aimed at the teenager population, a haphazardness mix of neon, animal print, very poor fit, and skank.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Funny, This French

      It's quite funny...the title of my blog is in french yet the only languages I can manage to speak are English, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish....I don't even know how to pronounce chemise a la reine. Or robe a la polonaise! What kind of costumer am I?

Image via Google
Image via The Met

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

American Duchess--18th Century Leather Shoes

The Devonshires are a leather 18th century shoe based on museum examples from the 1760s through 1780s.  They're made of top-grade dyable leather, with a beautiful, smooth Italian leather sole for dancing, and are hard-wearing, water- and mud-proof, for even the toughest of outdoor re-enactments.

Pre-Order the Devonshires through August 10, and get the special $100 price.  We're only making 200 of these shoes, so don't miss the chance to own one of only a couple hundred pair on the planet!  Visit www.american-duchess.com to order. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Duck? Duck? Goose!

      I am excited! Happy! Motivated!!

      I've been delaying making a pair of 18th century stays and/or an authentic Victorian corset because both recipes call for duck/canvas and I have not been able to locate it locally or online, and when I did, it was way out of my price range.

      However, my dad decided that for my driving lesson today (I'm about to turn 18 and yet I know 16 year olds who are already pining and ready for their licenses), instead of the usual laps around the neighborhood, we'd take the 10 minute drive to....Wal-Mart! I was terrified of the daunting drive that would take me through actual traffic and impatient drivers. I resemble a little old lady when I drive, clutching the wheel in fear and refusing to go more than 15 miles an hour. My driving tends to be more Mariocart than actual driving, but that's just because I'm scared and nervous and OH MY GOSH I JUST WENT OVER THE CURB.
      Well after I unsuccessfully parked my dad's car, I went straight to the sewing section; I've been pleading for months for my parents to bring me here so I could buy some elastic to finish off the cuff of a beautiful blouse I started in June. I was elated just at having my hands on a package of 3/8" braided elastic, but I really flipped my lid when I saw two beautiful cotton floral prints on display. Now I know which fabric to use to make a fit-and-flare dress, for which I was given a vintage pattern from a friend1

      I mentally recorded the color and pattern of the fabric and began to move towards the frozen foods aisle where my eye spotted...a bolt of cotton duck! For ten dollars a yard! And if I were to buy it on a Friday, I'd even get a discount! And if I used a coupon? Combined discount!   

      Let's just say I was calm enough to execute a very successful return trip. (: