Friday, August 19, 2016

Planning a German Renaissance Gown (in the style of the Saxon Court)

With the vague deadline of 'sometime in mid-late September', I have four different outfits to make for a trip to the ren faire with my sister, four-year-old niece, and two-year-old nephew. My sister and nephew will be dressed as Vikings, my niece is getting a fabulous pink/lavender/maroon dress made with a number of theatrical sacrifices to accommodate a wildly active and dirt loving princess, and I am making myself a German frock from the beginning of the 16th century.

After putting together a pinterest board containing research images that I liked, I realized I kept being drawn to styles from Saxony during the period roughly spanning 1510-1535. While this style of dress is often referred to across the internet as a Cranach dress (due to an artist of the time called Lucas Cranach who painted about a million paintings of people wearing this type of frock) I prefer to avoid that particular terminology. After all, someone in Saxony in 1520 wouldn't say, 'Oh, I'm having a new Cranach dress made', they'd just say 'I'm getting a new dress, bitches!' Or something along those lines.

Anyway, here's my rough sketch of what I want my own dress to be.


Because I'm going to be wearing this dress at Ren Faire, I want to keep things as cool and comfortable as possible. America is so stupidly hot, you guys! I'd somehow forgotten what sun + humidity feels like and I am NOT a fan. This means that even though a lot of the original gowns in paintings look to be velvet or wool, I'm simply not doing that. The main fabric of my dress will be linen with a silk petticoat underneath. My linen arrived in the post yesterday and I promptly washed and ironed it, so things are ready to go! I've already started on the golden cap, or Goldhaube, worn under the be-feathered hat and will do a write-up on my cap and that process quite soon.

Colors for this type of Saxon dress seemed to fall within a fairly restricted spectrum, with dark green, dark red, and black all contrasted by golden brocade bands being the most common. You do see occasional dresses made entirely of brocade, or another color such as a royal-ish blue, pink, or rust, but those are decidedly less common. In a move that probably surprises no one, I went with black.

Below are the reference images which have most heavily shaped my choices for this dress and which I found the most inspiring. Unless the internet is lying to me, they are all by Lucas Cranach the Elder.




Johannisburg Palace, St. Ursula, school of Lucas Cranach the Elder

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gwendolyn, what HAVE you been doing?! Plus a bonus costume tragedy

So this past year has been one of constant change and constant travel and I'm only just now starting to be able to sit back, take stock, and settle into myself a bit.

It's now been... oh... over three years since I've done any sewing or costuming for myself, which kind of pushed this blog into a semi-death. Getting my masters while dealing with severe depression REALLY didn't help, and after that I was expending all my energy on freelancing. In fact, until this past month, (in which I found a stable job within theatre and actually signed a year-long lease on an apartment) I'd been essentially living out of suitcases going from job to job since last November. Not conducive to maintaining any sort of hobby.

However, I'm now recently back in the States (my almost 70-year-old dad had a very serious health scare which made me super anxious about being so far away from family) living in the greater Chicago area, am some-what stable, and am actually finding myself picking up sewing again in my spare time! I think it helps that I'm now working as a Draper, and have found that doing patterning/fitting all day results in far far FAR less burnout than sewing all day did. I've always far enjoyed the research/patterning/fitting side of costuming over actually cutting and stitching a garment, so getting Draper jobs this past year has been a very welcome change.

And now that I'm in a better physical and mental space to pick up personal costuming again, I have loads of plans and am starting to form a line-up of projects.

 I desperately need to sew EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW though as I have several events I want to go to and I have nothing to wear. Literally. I literally have nothing anymore due to a tragic mould incident when my stuff was all in storage and international transit. Everything from my MFA degree was hopelessly ruined, as was the vast majority of my personal costumes.

I now have left to my name:
a hoopskirt
two 18th century petticoats which are too small in the waist anyway because I'm now 30 years old and my body went 'haha screw you!' and went up two-three sizes in the past year
my old cotton print 1860s dress which I no longer fit into
my two steampunk outfits from 2012 which I no longer fit into either
my 1912 dress which (surprise surprise) is also definitely too small

That is it. That is all I have. Basically, I have an 1860s crinoline which I can use, so

As you can see, I'm gonna need to make a lot if I want to go anywhere to do anything.

The first projects in this new chapter of my life are already underway, and I will be blogging about them next... expect some early 16th century German fun, a small sparkly 'princess', and an even smaller and totally adorable Viking. That's right, I'm going to take my little niece and nephew to their very first ren faire early this fall! Fabrics are ordered and sewing has commenced... should be super fun :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

What's in a name?

Sometimes it seems like the hardest part of setting up an account, online shop, real-life business, getting a pet, writing a book/blog post/essay, or basically doing anything in life that requires a name or title is coming up with a name or title. There's a worry that people won't get it, or that you won't like it in a few years, or that it won't always be a proper fit.

My blog(s) and overall online presence have gone through a number of different names in my attempt to find something that worked, but I've never really been completely happy with any of them. Recently, I've been feeling increasingly disconnected from Idlewild Illustre. It didn't really say anything about who I was or what I was about, and was even less connected to the things I hope to accomplish and talk about in the future.

So, dear readers, I axed it.

I've often thought that if I was to ever legally change my surname for some reason, it would be to Grey. In fond imaginings of winning the lottery, there are visions of a fashion house and swanky stores with doormen and 'Gwendolyn Grey' on the front of the buildings. My alter-ego who I embrace when I need to Get Things Done is called Gwendolyn Grey. She's the person I try to be and who I'm constantly working towards becoming.

There's no point in tying yourself to an identity, whether online or not, that no longer represents you. So much about my life is in a massive state of flux right now, and it seems like a very fitting time to make my blog and online identity a better fit. It's a new dawn and a new day and all that!

  • My url is the same for now, so hopefully bookmarks and blog feeds won't be effected. Just look out for Gwendolyn Grey on your lists instead of Idlewild Illustre! 

 (aaand with that done and me feeling far more comfortable with my teeny tiny corner of the internet, I can get back to actually posting about costume stuff and sharing the things I've made and learned during the last year or so)


Monday, July 13, 2015

Changing Tides and Going Places

The first thing I did after finishing my masters degree this spring was to drink nearly an entire bottle of prosecco, sleep for about twenty hours, and then dye my hair pastel pink.

Immediately after my final hand-in my mother came to visit for a couple weeks, and I got to show her everything I'd done/made over the past year and a half, plus take her all around Edinburgh indulging in touristy things. We were going to go to the Isle of Skye for a bit, but took an impromptu trip to Madrid (Spain!!! Ahhh!) instead after finding super cheap flights.


If you imagined the majority of our holiday pictures were posed or serene, like this one, you'd be wrong.

We mostly took a lot of terrible selfies, and it was glorious.


Nothing has slowed down at any point though, as I went back to Outlander in June... starting a couple days before my mother left. I've been working there since then as a junior costume maker, working on some really lovely things that I so wish I could show you! I can't wait for you guys to see Season 2!!

So what comes next?

Now that's the tricky question... one which I don't yet have an answer to. I have lots of ideas. Lots of goals, lots of wishes; and very little strength to tackle them. My lease ends soonish at the end of August, and I don't yet know where I'll go or what exactly I'll be doing. Whatever it may become, my life needs to involve a good wifi connection, since I have SO MUCH lined up to blog about! So. Much.


Thank goodness I can blog from my bed, too, as I think I need a bit of a breather before throwing myself into the rest of my life.



Saturday, April 4, 2015

Press Call at the Portrait Gallery

Now that things are revving up for the ECA fashion/costume/textiles show, it's all starting to feel a lot more real. Graduation is imminent! There are only three weeks left to do ev er y thing!!

Part of the lead-up to the show was a press call which took place day before yesterday. All graduating costume designers (post and undergrad both) took one costume to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery where they were modeled for invited press. The location was stunning and some really lovely shots of some of the costumes ended up in the papers and there was a nice little segment on STV as well.

I was rather excited to see my fairytale wedding dress for The Girl in the Edinburgh Evening News the next day!


If you're in Scotland at the end of the month you can still get tickets to the catwalk show, which will be April 23-25. The fashion design portion of the show is quite interesting as well, but let's be real. Costume is where it's at. ;) And there will be some seriously amazing work on display... everyone's stuff is so different and exciting!

I took some of my own pictures on my iphone at the press call... I only wish I had had a better camera with me to capture it with!












Monday, March 30, 2015

An end is in sight

Contrary to what the utter lack of posting lately has indicated, I have in fact been very very busy making and designing things. That said, I very much do NOT recommend going through a bad depressive episode during grad school. That way lies misery, guilt, and sorrow. However, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I have been able to pick myself up these past couple months and have made real progress towards my final MFA degree show.

Naturally, however, the catwalk show which occurs before the degree show is only four weeks away and there is still SO MUCH to finish! With depression somewhat subdued, I am no longer spending my days struggling to get out of bed, but instead spending my days convincing myself that I don't need to pick up a million new hobbies and projects immediately...

After May I can sew for myself and pick up tablet weaving and make all the bath bombs and perfumes and incenses that I like (and post some of the many, MANY blog posts I have already planned and sort of drafted). For now I have a design book to finish, and a hussar inspired Queen and an 1820s Devil to make.

Til then, here are a few pictures I snapped behind the scenes at a recent photoshoot (for show promo etc.). I had chosen two costumes in the photoshoot, both of the same main character from my story The Girl Without Hands. My two lovely models, Poppy and Charlotte, are both undergraduates in the Performance Costume programme at ECA. I can't wait to post some of the resulting official photos later... they turned out beautifully!








Sunday, June 22, 2014

Life in Scotland: Outlander

I sometimes think that no matter where I go and what I do, I will never escape the 18th century.  This time though, it has become a part of my life in a very different way than before.  Since the begining of my summer break, I've been working as a Costume Trainee on the Starz production of Outlander which is filming here in Scotland.  This is my first experience working on a TV show, and I've learned quite a lot in the last couple months!

 (Official production still of the two main characters: Claire and Jaime)

The series premiers on the 9th of August in the US, and if historical drama and fighting and romance is your thing you should definitely give it a watch!  Apparently the book series it's based on has quite loyal followers, but not having read the books myself I can't tell you much on that score. ;)

Check out the trailer below and see what you think!  Even if I wasn't working on it, it's the sort of show I'd probably be really into.