Thursday, December 13, 2012

This is my normal

Obviously, my recent creative pursuits have been somewhat taken over by Steampunk, and it's provided a refreshing contrast to the vast majority of what I constantly sew and make (which has not before appeared on my blog).

As many of you probably know, I work at the Costume Design Center of Colonial Williamsburg.  I was a stitcher for about a year and a half before becoming the first hand approximately six months ago.  (I say "the" first hand instead of "a" first hand since I'm the only one... in the shop there are two cutter/drapers, myself as the first hand, and about twelve stitchers)

For eight hours each day I fit, alter, cut, make, and repair countless pieces of clothing for the historical interpreters and actors at CW.  Lately I've been working a lot with our designer on a couple special projects, including some experimenting with 18th century techniques for painting silk (that's been loads of fun so far).

Naturally, the vast majority of what I work on is 18th century clothing, though due to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War there are now several programs set in that time period for which I've made mid-19th century clothing, plus some 17th century pieces for programs at Jamestown.

I can't even begin to tell you how many full allotments of clothing I've worked on.  Hundreds.  Too many to possibly remember.

Men's civilian coats.  Regimental coats.  Waistcoats.  Breeches.  Shirts.  Shifts.  Petticoats.  Plain gowns.  Gowns with ridiculous amounts of trim.  Caraco jackets.  Bedgowns.  Short jackets.  Jackets from Patterns of Fashion and Diderot.  Aprons.  Cravats.  Kerchiefs.  Caps.  Haversacks.  Trousers.  Gaitor trousers.  Spatterdashes.  Riding Habits.  Cloaks.  Greatcoats.

And that's just the ordinary, 1770s stuff... special programs and the theatrical plays often branch out into other time periods or sometimes simply get a little bit crazy.

Here's a small sampling of things I've made at work... obviously this doesn't cover the whole scope of what I do, and have done, there, but it should give you a general idea.  All designs, materials, etc belong to Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Wool coat and small clothes, cut edge with hand finishing and buttonholes.  Worn by Tailor's Apprentice Michael McCarty.

Continental Army Officer: Regimental Coat.  Worn for the portrayal of The Marquis de Lafayette. Photo by Jurgen Vösych.

1860s Dress for the Women of the Civil War Tours.

Corded Mid-19th Century Corset.

1770s Stays.

Fife and Drum Regimental Coat.  Incidentally, this is the first full garment I made working at CW.

So there you have it.  A little taste of what I'm up to all those hours I'm not working on my own projects and ideas.  Being surrounded by the 18th century all day every day has certainly changed my attitude in regards to my own work... I think it has a great deal to do with why I've become so inspired lately by Steampunk.  Historical clothing has become my normal, and like the Amazon commercial says, "normal just begs to be messed with".

Monday, December 10, 2012

Liebster Blogs!

Having recieved the Liebster Blog award from Comtesse Olympe de la Tour D'Auvergne about a month or so ago (many, many thanks!), I was faced with a difficult dilemma.  One is supposed to pass the award along to five other blogs, with less than 200 followers, who you feel are deserving of recognition.  The award has been going around for quite a while now though, and the vast majority of those on my blog-roll who have less than 200 followers have already been recipients of the award.

If anyone has other little-known, un-awarded blogs on their list, I'd love to find out what I might be missing!  As it is, here are three really great blogs which deserve many, many more followers than what they currently have.

Sweet Threads, Dude! - It is a crime that this super talented costumer has less than twenty followers.  She makes truly awesome historical menswear.  Seriously.  You have to check her out!
The Third Wyrd - Fantasy illustrator with various paintings, studies, and works-in-progress.  Great stuff!
Stitcher Baby -  Historical costumes ect... Lindsey is studying for her master's degree in Costume Design, and does quite wonderful work.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I am the Night - Steampunk Ballgown

 Every good costume event naturally includes a Grand Ball of some sorts, and Teslacon was no exception.  The ball itself was hands down the best dance I have ever been to, far outstripping all the Civil War and Regency balls in terms of equal numbers of men and women (all who had clearly made an effort to look as fabulous as possible) and general affability and an eagerness to be social and mingle. It was glorious.

For my gown, I mainly drew inspiration from evening gowns from about 1905-08, and as the whole theme of Teslacon was 'a journey to the moon' Nicole and I themed our dresses accordingly.  She was the Moon and I was the Night.

The fabric is a greyish lavender lightweight rayon blend with a texturized stripe, and a shimmery black of some unnatural fiber was used for the accent.  The upper portion of the skirt was stitched with hundreds of small tucks along the stripes of the fabric before the pieces of the skirt were cut out and sewn together.  The bodice is also mainly constructed of the tucked fabric, and is lined with polished cotton of a similar color.  The bottom edge of the bodice is piped, and it closes up the back quite simply with hooks and eyes.

Of course, it's the accessories that really make an outfit, and I had loads of fun making the little half-mask headpiece to go with the dress.  It's made from clock hands, which were very lightweight and quite easy to shape as I wanted, stitched to a ribbon covered headband.  A spray of black feathers finished it all off.  The one thing I did not make, actually, was the wonderful, beaded necklace/shoulder piece.  I found it on ebay, and it worked perfectly with what I was aiming for.

We took a few pictures the night of the ball, but gowns rarely show to best advantage in hotel hallways, so yesterday Nicole and I got all dressed up once more and ventured out for a photoshoot.  We ended up taking pictures in the wonderful sculpture yard outside Charlie's Antiques... the owners were really nice and seemed quite happy to let us wander all around and take as many photos as we wanted.

We had SO much fun doing the photoshoot, and choosing only a few pictures to put on the blog was really difficult.  As it is, I leave you with perhaps more pictures than I would normally post... 

And finally, a couple images of Nicole and I together. Self-timers are a blogger's best friend!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Steampunk - Take II

My original plans for Teslacon included three totally different outfits, but due to time constraints the plan was altered somewhat.  On the second day of the convention I re-purposed the military style jacket from the day before (minus epaulets and tassels), and paired it with a matching skirt.  The pleated underskirt is made of the gold silk dupioni which lines the jacket, and the little drape is made of the same green as the jacket.

To be honest, this skirt almost never existed... I had talked about what I wanted it to be, but had run out of time to do anything about it.  The day on which we left I had to work all morning, and Nicole whipped it up based on what I'd described.  Aside from the bow in the back (which is actually the same bow used to adorn the sword scabbard on the previous day's outfit and is attached with a liberal dose of safety pins), the skirt was done that morning in a couple of hours. 

While wearing those short shorts the first day was fun, swords can get really heavy after a whole day of wear and I was very glad to be in something lighter and more comfortable the next day.

These pictures were taken in front of the super-awesome cigar rolling machine belonging to Foundry Cigars.  It was made by Dr Grymm Laboratories, and sort of felt like the embodiment of the steampunk aesthetic.  And yes, that is a cigar in my hand... they even had cogs on them!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Steampunk! The adventure begins with Teslacon III

Having just returned home yesterday from my first Steampunk event, I'm still floating on the high that was Teslacon.  I'll do more individual costume posts over the next few days, but I wanted to rave about the con for a bit first.

Nicole and I took the long drive to Wisconsin together, and the seventeen hours in the car (each way) was not in any way too high a price to pay for the awesomeness that ensued.  Steampunk as a genre has appealed to me for quite a while, and the reality of it exceeded all my expectations.  I honestly can't say enough good things about Teslacon... the immersive storyline was ridiculously entertaining, panels were amusing or informative or both, there were wonderful things to be bought in the dealers room, and the level of creativity shown by the majority of the attendees was beautifully refreshing. 

Most of all, I was impressed by the attitude of the Steampunk community in general.  Across the board, all the people we met and interacted with, from first-time con-goers to in-character staff to enstablished artists and authors, everyone was friendly and open and enthusiastic.  The general attitude was that we were all there to help each other and that information was to be shared and beginners were encouraged and artisans supported each other.  There was no snobbery, no one-up-man-ship, and it was glorious.  The reenacting community could learn a lot from the steampunkers in that regard.

Perhaps best for me personally though, I felt like I could be creative again.  Taking leaps of imagination was embraced and encouraged, and that was a marvelous feeling.

My outfit for the first day was inspired by an image of a military style Burlesque dancer from the 1880s or 90s, with added spatterdashes and a bit of juditious tweaking of design.  The whole outfit is worn over my mid-19th century corset.

The trim on the jacket and shorts is a metallic gimp braid, which was all sewn on by hand after the items were assembled.  I believe I used about twenty yards total for all the trimming.  Detachable lace ruffles are basted into the cuffs.

The little hat is built on a buckrum base and the visor is a rich brown leather edged with gold braid.  And the spatterdashes are a little bit sneaky... I actually fastened them with a long invisible zipper on the inner seams.  The buttons are permamently stitched down and don't actually function.

I had so much fun walking around in short shorts and a sword all day.  The strangest thing was having to remember that my legs had to do something in photographs... I'm so used to being in long skirts when in costume!