Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Sneaker DIY

This summer, I scored an internship in the Fashion Department of Cliché Magazine, a free digital magazine covering topics such as Beauty, Fashion, and Entertainment. I was very excited to write my first post for Cliché, and decided to come in with a bang and pitch an original DIY idea. I had considered putting this DIY on my blog since I bought these cool purple canvas shoes last summer, but only found the right fabric recently!

I have seen tons of canvas sneaker DIYs on the internet (painting, studs, glitter) but never a simple change like a fabric applique.

This DIY is easy even if you're not too familiar with a needle and thread. To make unique, bold shoes, stitch a fabric applique on the canvas shoes of your choice! That's it! Select the area of the shoe to decorate, make a template of that area, cut out the fabric and sew it to the shoe! You can read the full post here!

And if you're not ready for a bold, printed shoe, just applique a small strip of the shoe at the back for a small hint of surprise!

I had a hard time choosing between the mosaic pattern and the floral, so I did both. If you could applique a canvas sneaker, what contrast fabric would you choose?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pinterest Picks

Pinterest: the rabbit hole for sewists, crafters, DIYers, fashion afficionados, baking buffs, home improvement gurus, holiday decor experts, comiccon mavens,....In general, a place of seemingly endless inspiration for millions of people. It usually starts out as "lemme just log on for 5 minutes" and ends 4 hours later, with your head buzzing from so many amazing ideas that your brain cells are begging for a break.

During my recent *ahem* "excursions" through Pinterest, I stumbled upon several pins that held me breathless for a dangerous amount of time. I wanted to share these awe-inspiring pins with my readership, and decided to create a new weekly segment called Pinterest Picks, which may later have its own folder on my Pinterest, too.

Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal, August 1927
This fashion illustration represents the epitome of 1920's style: dropped waists, beaded trims, interesting skirt designs, sashes....! And how amazing are the embroidered clumps of flowers on the dress on the left?

Aerial views from Marie Antoinette's hamlet at the Palace of Versailles
This image really puts new perspective on Marie Antoinette's little pastoral hideaway!

Gold and enamel locket, c. 1915
Wow, isn't this piece a stunner! I wonder what outfit this WWII era locket would have been worn with?

Wedding Dress, 1850, silk embroidered with metallic embroidery
Could you imagine all the hours that went into this amazing gown? All the broken needles, all the silk thread, all the sore fingers...

Rules of Flirtation
Both funny and charming, these instructions for flirtation with a parasol and gloves is a fun read! Have you ever used these methods at a ball or historical event?

I'm still not too sold on the name Pinterest Picks for this new segment, and welcome any suggestions from you!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Liebster Award

I was ecstatic to learn that I had been nominated for the Liebster blog award by Gina of Beauty From Ashes! I am so honored and pleased that my contributions to the historical costuming community--small though they are--are inspirational and meaningful to others. It is this sense of community and support that keeps me going when I set in a sleeve backwards for the fifth time, doubt the practicality of a costume, or lose my sewing mojo altogether.

I would like to take this moment to thank Gina for her own contributions to the sewing blogosphere. I found her blog when researching dress diaries of Edwardian costumes, and was immediately blown away by her level of skill and expertise. Immaculately applied soutache braid? Check. Stunning use of fabric colors and prints? Check. Beautiful manipulation and lace, beads, and textures? Check! Gina's vision and skill for historical sewing is truly impressive and aspirational.

The following are the blogs I nominated for the Liebster award. Each blog is inspirational, fun, and interesting in its own way!

1. The Gibson Girl's Guide to Glamour
Talia's blog is loaded with recipes and experiments in early 20th century makeup and hair styling techniques. Who knew that women 100 years ago also had drawers stuffed with an endless array of beauty products?

2. Jenni-Style
Jenni churns out adorable clothes faster than a sewist secretly adding to her fabric stash. And have you seen her Pink Stripey 1970's Dress? I never would have thought that such a plain pattern drawing could turn out such a chic and effortless dress!

3. Temps d'elegance
All I can say is "WOW" when I see Fanny's historical costuming skills! And the historical events she attends? Absolutely fabulous!

4. Roses and Vellum
I wish my wardrobe was as cool as Laura's! Her outfits are so charming and she regularly finds the most fun, interesting links to post!

5. Folk Costume & Embroidery
Roman's blog has kept me captivated by national dress for years! If you follow my Pinterest, you may be aware I'm a bit obsessed with Portuguese Folkloric Costume. It's with great restraint that I don't make massive Pinterest boards for all of the fascinating costumes Roman presents in his blog! (Also, folk costumes are great inspiration for embroidery junkies!).

6. Truly Hat Blog
Are you sitting down? Good, because you're going to jump out of your seat when you see the historical hats this blogger makes! This blogger also sells historically-accurate ouches for the Elizabethan costumer among us.

7. Odette's Obsessions
I just discovered this blog and am absolutely enamored with Nina's forays into spinning, cooking, gardening, and sewing. Spinning and dyeing your own yarn? Hardcore!

8. A Sartorial Statement
Chelsea's blog is where I get my Regency fix. She actually printed fabric for one of her creations!

9. The Broke Costumer
Gee, doesn't that title describe all of us at some point? Cindy also creates lovely Regency clothing (and a hella cool and creative Myth Masque Ball costume!).

10. Mode de Lis
Lily's adorable dresses definitely fill a 1930's gap in the costuming community. Her relatively new blog is a visually stunning repository for 20th century-inspired clothing.

11. Swiat mrowki
Don't be phased by the foreign tongue: Fobmroweczka's delicious blog is chock full of historical fashion goodness!

12. The Costumer's Closet
I've been following Loren's blog for years and love every post! Her recent recreations of the Game of Thrones costumes have been particularly exciting to watch; check out the embroidery on her Cersei dress!

Now, onto answering Gina's questions for me...

1.  What/When/Why/Who was the inspiration for your getting into period/era costuming?
Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (2006) was my gateway drug to period costuming. I had just started sewing--little things, like hats and pouches--and convinced myself a sexy Marie Antoinette Halloween costume was feasible. I began researching clothing of the period and was sucked up into the pleats, robings, embroidery...Eventually I realized the costume was far more complicated than I had anticipated, and made instead my Chemise a la Reine.

2.  What is your favorite part of the costuming process?  The research? Design? Sewing? Construction? End where you get to put on our garment and have your photo taken?!
I LOVE researching (not just clothing!), and really enjoy combing through internet resources or visiting museums and staring at a painting to determine where the seamlines are. My design process is pretty fluid and usually influenced by the fabrics I find or am unable to find. I also love applying decorative elements, such as embroidery or trim. The best moment is definitely wearing the finished piece!

3.  What is your end goal in the costuming arena?  Do you simply want to hone your skills or do you desire a career in the fashion/movie industry?
A little bit of both. I can never stop sewing and learning; if I don't sew for a few weeks, I become more tense and need the relaxation sewing brings. I have done several commissions, including for dance groups and short films, and very much enjoy that aspect of sewing. I would like to create my own clothing line one day!

4.  If you could travel to one place to attend an event to wear you costumes to, where would it be?
Definitely the Venetian Carnival. What's better than themed 17th and 18th century costumes in a historic city?

5.  What frustrates you most about costuming?
I sew in a corner of my parents' basement. Every time I want to sew, I have to clean the old kitchen table down there (a catchall for my parents' stuff), have my dad haul out my vintage machine (a Singer Merritt 2404), and pull out all my supplies. At the end of the day, this has to be all put away again. It wastes a lot of time and often discourages me from sewing for days or weeks. I know that a dedicated craft room with ample storage space will definitely help my creative flow and productivity.

6.  When looking for accessories, do you allow yourself to purchase reproductions or is it antiques only?
Purchase reproductions! I have never bought an antique accessory, partly because of cost, rarity, sizing, damage, and the small possibility that the item might be haunted. You never know! I do love buying costume jewelry; it's plentiful, cheap, and I don't have to constantly fear that I'll break or lose it. Recently I found a very convincing brooch at Macy's for $5 on clearance, perfect for decorating a stomacher or Edwardian gown.

7.  Do you allow yourself a lunch break or do you sew right on through the hunger?
Depends on how many hours I have to finish the project...after all, who needs food, bathroom breaks, showers...? However, if I'm feeling particularly frustrated, I take a mental health break and physically distance myself as far away from the offending project as possible.

8.  What is your most favorite ensemble?  
My favorite ensemble thus far is my Bronzino Italian Renaissance Gown. This gown was finished last year and worn on October 30th and 31st at my University. Shockingly, most people thought I was dressed as Disney's Merida...

9.  Why is it your favorite?
Mainly, the color! I love jewel tones, but this shade of blue is particularly brilliant. The fabric is a surprisingly high-quality polyester from a fabric warehouse, with a lovely drape. I also enjoyed learning all the new techniques I used on this dress, such as the cartridge pleating, handbound eyelets, and beaded neckline trim.
10.  What was your most wonderful event/experience/compliment concerning costuming?
Oh, tough question! Frequently people tell me that I have an innate ability for sewing, that I was born with this now dying skill. I suppose it's because no one in my family is interested or as intrepid with new techniques as me.

11.  What do you listen to/watch when you sew?
This question also depends on how much time I have left to finish something. If I have a looming deadline, my Pandora is set to heavy metal and sometimes rap, because I need the raw energy. If not, I'll listen to something calming, like classical music (Bach's cello suites for the win!), and try to watch a period movie, such as Elizabeth: The Golden Age. I avoid watching Titanic for the 100th time because I end up crying too much.

And my questions for my nominees:

1. What is your favorite resource or method for researching period costuming?

2. What is your biggest frustration when you sew clothing?

3. What is your biggest historical or sewing pet peeve ? (i.e. Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake"...NOT!)

4. What is your ultimate costume fantasy? Which piece, if you had the skill/money/time to make, would you make?

5. What does the name of your blog mean? How did you decide on that name?

6. What has been the biggest sewing lesson you learned?

7. What is your favorite seam technique (french, flat-felled, etc.)?

8. What is your favorite aspect of blogging about your creations and/or research?

9. What is your accessory guilty pleasure? Shoes, socks, jewelry, hats...?

10. If you could be any historical figure, who would you be and why?

11. What is your favorite painting, sculpture, or other artwork?

Congratulations to all the past and future Liebster Blog Award winners!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On the Worktable: Daenerys and a Female Hobbit

Though my summer months aren't significantly less stressful or busy than those during the academic year (internship, job, etc.), I still find more time to sew. I'm just wrapping up the Smocked Berry Dress UFO after ripping it apart and pretty much starting from scratch.

I also have several costumes I've been commissioned to make!

Daenerys Astapor/Dragonscale Dress

I'm particularly excited to make Daenerys' Astapor/Dragonscale Dress from Game of Thrones because it pushes me a bit out of my comfort zone. I will also be making the matching cape seen in some scenes. With this costume, I will learn new skills, such as the dragonscale smocking, and sharpen old ones, such as pattern drafting and alterations.

via Michele Carragher

via Pinterest

Several versions of this dress were made, each with increasingly intricate dragonscale embroidery and texture. However, every screenshot shows a different shade of blue, which made selecting fabric particularly trying. To help my client and I select the best fabric, I created a Pinterest board with screenshots and a seemingly endless array of potential fabrics. We wanted something with a "natural" texture--a fabric with an obvious weave, similar to linen, but inexpensive like cotton. Eventually I bought 15 yards of Kona Cotton in Pacific, with enough left over to make at least another Dragonscale dress should anyone else want one!

via Vogue Fabrics
To make the dress I will be tweaking McCall's 6941, converting the tabard skirt to an overlapping "tulip" shaped skirt.

McCall's 6941

Female Hobbit Costume

As if this wasn't enough! I'm also quite excited to make a Female Hobbit Costume, for which I have also created a Pinterest board which will develop as I find inspiration and materials. After making all those Italian Tarantella costumes, another variation of the "wench" style will be a piece of cake...I hope!

via AlleyCatScratch
Since there are endless variants of this costume, the hardest part so far has been determining skirt length, bodice shape, trim, colors, etc. This costume will include a rust-colored ankle-length skirt, an ivory short-sleeved blouse, a smocked beige apron, and a green front-lacing bodice with darker, contrast bias binding. Whew!

For this costume, I will be altering Butterick 6196 to a short-sleeved blouse. I plan on using Butterick 4669 for the bodice and drafting the apron and skirt.

Butterick 6196
Butterick 4669 - View A (upper left corner)
Ironically, I have not seen The Hobbit, nor do I watch Game of Thrones...maybe these costumes will be my gateway drug to them?

Ready? Set? BREAK!

What projects--for yourself or others--are on your sewing table this summer?

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Importance of Antique Garments

It seems to be with a general groan that the historical costuming community peruses Ebay, shaking fists at sellers who suggest that a worn Edwardian gown could be cut up and made into doll clothes, or screaming at the monitor at the countless 1920's dresses whose fragile silk shoulders are suspended from thin, plastic hangers.

Of course, not everyone has a background or interest in history or historical fashion. However, the widespread neglect and disregard of antique garments--those fragments of the past that are endlessly teaching us--seems disturbingly prevalent.

Consider my horror when I innocently scrolled past this on Tumblr. The 9th Street Haberdashery is a vintage clothing store in New York City. I am by no means trying to attack their store; these photos are merely a recent, relevant example of many I could have chosen from the internet. Their new window display features a collection of hand tie-dyed clothing from the early 20th century:

From left to right: Chemise (teens/1920s), Camisole/Corset Cover (Edwardian), Slip/Nightgown (1930s), Blouse (WWI), Pants (1930-40s), Camisole/Corset Cover (Edwardian)
Clockwise from left: Camisole/Corset Cover (Edwardian), Chemise (teens/1920s), Camisole/Corset Cover (Edwardian)
At one point in time, one person gathered these unique, handmade, and historically significant garments and had an afternoon of Holly Hobby-esque crafting. Why did they sell their clothes to a secondhand shop? Perhaps because they realized their craft project was too hideous to actually wear.

Another example, from the same store:

This "Amazing 1930’s perfect condition cotton crochet skirt and top set" is a unique and stunning piece, and it's long lifespan is a testament to the skillful hands which made it. But just a month later, the following photo was uploaded, captioned "This is what happens when you leave a perfect #1930’s crochet set too close to a light. Fire! #newhalloweencostume".

A unique garment, forever damaged by a moment of carelessness.

Think about it: how often will someone walk into a secondhand shop, purchase an antique painting, and spraypaint over it? Slice it into decoupage strips? Use it as a tea tray?

Why is it that antique items such as paintings, books, furniture, and decorative items receive more reverence and respect than antique clothing and textiles? Is it that we've become such a throw-away society, consumed by fast fashion, that even antique garments have become dispensable and disposable?

Antique clothing is a window to the past: it is tangible in the way that art (abstract and limited to the wealthy) sometimes is not. Everyone wore clothes. Every garment has a story, a connection. Every garment can make understanding the social, political, and economical changes in history easier.

One hundred years ago, closets and dressers and bureaus were not as packed with clothing as today. Even the well-off wore beloved outfits repeatedly, even altering them to fit current fashions. In our fast-paced, fast-fashion society, this can be difficult to grasp, and thus the rarity of an antique garment can be overlooked.

It is necessary that we spread awareness of the social importance of antique garments. Antique garments should be protected and nurtured, not worn by Manhattan hipsters or shredded into scrapbooking materials. These clothes should be sheltered and preserved, giving them a safe and happy home for the rest of their lives as they continue to teach us about ourselves.

If these last crumbling, fading, shattering fibers of history become lost forever, we will lose an important link with our ancestors and our own human history.