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.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

American vs. British English - The sewing vocab version

As someone who transplanted from the US to the UK about nine months ago, there have been some things to which I've had to adjust.  I figured that the vocabulary differences wouldn't be an issue... after all, half of my extended family lives in the UK, and everyone already knows about basic things like sweater/jumper, truck/lorry, crisps/chips, sidewalk/pavement etc.

What I didn't know was that in the UK they often use different words for various fabrics, notions, or sewing terms than are used in America.  So for all the sewists out there looking to hop the pond in either direction, here's what I've run across so far:

Cheesecloth = Muslin
Muslin = Calico
Burlap = Hessian
Mock-up = Toile
Seam-ripper = Unpicker
Stitch Witchery = Bondaweb
To baste something = To tack something
Serger = Overlocker
Snaps = Poppers

If anyone has any more words to add to the list, please let me know!  I'd love to have a comprehensive list going!

I'm also trying to get better at working with the metric system... having 1 or 1.5 cm seam allowances have at least begun to seem somewhat natural, though it's a work in progress!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I have a mighty need... for 1900-ish beauty.

In the middle of all sorts of mad dashing about recently, I paid a brief visit to my brother in Bury St. Edmunds during my Uni Easter break.  My sister-in-law is working at Ickworth House not far from Bury, and as I'm always more than happy to see historic houses (especially neo-classical and/or victorian) we spent an afternoon there.

Ickworth was lovely, but it was one of the few costumes they had up on display which really captured my heart.  There was no placard or any information on hand, but it looks like a fairly typical evening gown from about 1900-1905. 

It's been absolutely ages since I last made myself something, and I think this dress just shot straight to the top of my list.  I want it so badly you have no idea.  I took a ton of photos and would have been happy to spend the rest of the day just staring longingly at the gown.

Friday, March 21, 2014

In my little corner

The large majority of my time these days is spent in my little corner of the room for the performance costume 4th years and masters students (of which there are two), trying to make up for an unfortunate lack of real productivity earlier this semester.  At the moment I have quite a lot of projects 'in progress', and am slowly chipping away at the list of things to get done.

First priority for the rest of the semester is finishing all the final costume illustrations for The Girl Without Hands.  I've decided to do them on illustration board, and start with a pencil drawing which then gets set with fixative and varnished so that I can paint on top.  I just do a simple wash of acrylic to tone the board, and then use thin layers of oil paint on top.

(this one was sort of at the half-way point here)

I've also started mocking up and making costumes for the main character, and am aiming on having three toiles and at least one finished final costume by the turn in date in May.  In spite of not having masses of time at my disposal, I'm still doing quite a bit of hand stitching on the final pieces... such as the shift currently on the stand.  After all, there's nothing quite like focusing on hand work for some quality stress relief!

Monday, March 17, 2014

I can't believe March is half over already. Ridiculous.

So I guess I've been kind of MIA online lately, but it turns out that dealing with illness and some personal issues while trying not to fall too far behind on grad school work means that something or another was going to have to fall by the wayside.  And that was pretty much most of the internet. (aside from tumblr which for me mostly consists of reblogging fandom or feminist stuff.  and cat pictures.)  So massive apologies if I haven't responded to emails… if you've messaged me, I haven't forgotten about you! Promise!

That said, I've got a lot stored up to talk about… still tons of images and research from the Germany trip, as well as epic fabric shopping in London, and of course what I've been working on in the studio for the past month or two.

'Til then, I'll leave you with some little sketches from when I was working out ideas for a couple costumes before committing to final illustrations.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Costume in the Kingdom of Bavaria: 1825

As a sort of continuation of my last post, I wanted to talk about the second super useful book which I was shown at the Trachten Informationszentrum.  National Kostüme Des Königreiches Bayern is a reprint of a collection of prints from 1825, all of which show various styles of dress and genre scenes of everyday life across Bavaria.  (naturally, it is also out of print and not easy to find...)

Fig.1: [1825] Kellnerinnen von München (Waitresses/Bar-Maids from Munich)

The women pictured in Fig.1 are wearing gowns that appear to be in line with the fashions throughout Europe at that time.  The waistlines are at a fairly natural height, hems gently brush the top of the feet and carry various styles of decorative trim, and the sleeves are moderately full.  Over top of these gowns, the women wear a stays/corset-like garment called a mieder, which unlike the more broadly fashionable gowns is a specifically regional item of clothing.  Their ensembles are finished off with aprons, colourful kerchiefs, and a style of embroidered or beaded headdress specific to Munich and Upper Bavaria.

 Fig.2: [1825] Sennerinnen von der Kreutz Alpe Tegernsee (Milkmaids from Tegernsee, an area near the Alps not far from Munich)

The styles shown in Fig.2 appear quite different to those in Fig.1, but though highly regionalized, the silhouettes still reflect broader fashions of the time.  The waistlines are still raised to the height which had been fashionable about five to eight years prior to this point, and skirts maintain the volume as those seen in Fig.1. However, Fig.2 is particularly wonderful as it depicts nearly every item of women’s clothing typically worn in the Upper Bavarian region during this time period.  These garments consisted of a linen shift worn underneath everything, over the shift came the leibchen which was often armless and buttoned up the front, next is the mieder as mentioned above, skirt, jacket, kerchief, apron, and the footless stockings which were also worn by the men of the region.

 [1825] Kirchwieh Tanz in der Umgegend von Tegernsee (Religious Festival/Parish Fair Dance in the area of Tegernsee)

This last example is also featured on the front cover of the book, and for good reason I think.  It's great seeing men's and women's fashions side by side!  The book is chock full of a wide variety of wonderful imagery, but I'm rather leery of stepping on too many copyright toes and don't feel comfortable posting everything.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In the Streets of Munich: 1816 Style

There are precious few books on the subject of clothing in early 19th century Germany, and I was very happy to be shown a couple good resources during my visit to the Trachten Informationszentrum in November.  (I'll write a lot more about the TIZ in coming posts, but for now let's just say that I learned a lot there, and am very grateful to Herr Wandinger who was a veritable fount of information.)

The only two books within their collection which contained depictions of
regional dress within my period of interest (1810-1830) were München Im Jahreslauf (Munich in the Course of a Year) by Paul Ernst Rattelmüller and National Kostüme Des Königreiches Bayern (National Costume of the Bavarian Kingdom) by Felix Freiherr Von Lipowsky.  Aaaand naturally both are out of print and not easy to come by.  The first, München Im Jahreslauf, contains a series of art works from the year 1816, one for every month of the year, each depicting a scene of average people on the streets of Munich.  The original pieces were three dimensional and created from wax and collage, and still remain super colourful and vibrant even when reproduced.

Fig.1 (1816) März. München Im Jahreslauf  

Fig.2 (1816) April. München Im Jahreslauf 

Both images above depict women selling various food goods in the Munich marketplace during the spring of 1816.  There is obviously a great deal of similarity between the clothing worn in both images, with the greatest similarity lying in the colours worn.  Blue and white are dominant, with black and red providing contrast.  Considering that the national colours of Bavaria were blue and white, it’s difficult to know if these artistic representations actually reflect colours that were commonly worn in the streets of Munich or if the colours served as a visual shorthand to more easily indicate the setting.

A closer look at Fig.1 shows many elements of fashion still hanging-over from the 18th century, and which would have been considered old-fashioned in 1816.  The woman depicted is clearly not young, which might be why she’s not exactly on the cutting edge of fashion.  Her black, buckled shoes and blue, clocked stockings resemble those from the late 18th century, as does the cut of her jacket with its cuffed, elbow length sleeves. These older styles are coupled with the high waistline of the time and short, calf-length skirt which, though not in line with high fashion, was ubiquitous amongst the lower sort and working class across Germany.  Perhaps the most uniquely regional aspect of her dress is her fur trimmed hat.  This style of hat had been worn in the Munich area since the 18th century; although unlike the shoes and jacket depicted, its size is indicative of 1816 as the same type of hat worn in the previous century was significantly larger.

The younger woman in Fig.2 is a bit more up-to-date than her counterpart in Fig.1, yet also wears certain styles of clothing specific to the Upper Bavarian/Munich area.  Her skirt is of approximately the same length, although a little less full, than that in Fig.1, with an almost identical apron worn at the raised waistline.  Unlike the shoes in Fig.1, her blue shoes with the low, contrasting white heels are actually rather fashionable for 1816.  (It's possible that these shoes in the national colours of Bavaria are as much a symbol of national pride as they are of fashion.)  The rest of her dress is in the regional style, with a sleeveless garment called a Mieder worn over a white shift and finished with a kerchief around the neck.  I'll break down and discuss the individual items of clothing in much greater detail in the future, but the style pictured here is a very good representation of the time.

Other images from München Im Jahreslauf depict a wide range of individuals, including an old wood-seller, a sailor, gravedigger, farmer, bar-maid, and young boy carrying a Christmas tree on his head.  With the exception of the sailor, all the figures are pretty representative of the common people within Munich during the 1810s, and give a wonderful insight into the everyday life and clothing of the time.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dressing a Steampunk Vampire

Going to the Steampunk convention, Teslacon III, was one of the biggest highlights of 2012 and even though I had no idea what the following year would hold, I wanted to be involved somehow for Teslacon IV.  Long story short, due to moving to Scotland I wasn't able to attend Teslacon this time around in 2013, but I did sew for it!

One of the special elements of Teslacon is the cast who remain in character all weekend and act out a specific storyline.  For Teslacon IV, new villianous characters were introduced: factions of werewolves and vampires.  My friend Nicole was responsible for designing and creating the costume for the head werewolf, and I for designing and making the costume for the lead vampire.

After a bunch of conversations about the character and doing several sketches, the head of the con decided on the one above (which was luckily my pick as well).  I was told the colors should be blood red, and I began sourcing fabrics.

Then I moved abroad and things became rather tricky.  It's never easy to do a long-distance sewing project for another person, and this particular venture was even more stressful since there was no opportunity for a fitting.  I had a set of measurements to work from and could only make everything as adjustable as possible, cross my fingers, and hope that everything would work out okay.  It also did not help that the largest mannequin that I had access to was several inches smaller than the actress, but I got the costume done and in the post.

And it wasn't a disaster!  The bodice ended up being a little bit big in the bust, but for having no fittings whatsoever I consider it a success. I can't stress enough how unideal not having at least one fitting is.  I would never ever recommend it!

Not being in attendance at the con, I was really happy to see the pictures of the vampire costume in action.  Logically, since I wasn't there, I didn't take any of the photos below!  It was great seeing Tabitha as Angelique de LaMorte, accompanied by her faithful minions and various other nefarious sorts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A little look back (and forth)

Happy 2014, everyone!  I've managed to fall behind a bit on my blog posts (I choose to blame end of semester papers and the holidays)... and there's quite a lot to cover even just from my short research trip to Bavaria, which I'm really looking forward to sharing!

This morning, as I was in the shower thinking of All The Things that happened in 2013, it suddenly dawned on me that 2013 had marked my ten year anniversary of costume making.  Somehow, during the course of the year, this had totally escaped me.  It's kind of crazy to think that I've been doing this costuming thing for over a decade now, and I thought it would be fun to look back at where it all began.

In the spring of 2003, not long after my 17th birthday, I bought myself over eight yards of polyester lining fabric, some sort of silver metallic trim, and a Butterick pattern to make what I refered to in my diary as "a Sharpe era dress".  The dress was completely sewn by machine, laced up the back with metal eyelets, was 100% polyester inside and out, and I loved it.  I think it's fair to say that this dress, no matter how it appears in retrospect, changed my life in innumerable ways.

Ten years later!

I have learned and changed SO MUCH from 2003-2013, and now that a new year is starting I'm really curious to discover where the next ten years will take me!

It's also been about ten years since I first discovered that there were other costumers online, and started following others and posting my own things.  It would be so interesting to see "then and now" pictures of everyone!  Not only have we all changed, but the internet and picture taking and knowledge sharing has radically changed as well... hopefully all for the better.  :)