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 :)