Sunday, March 12, 2017

15th / 16th cen. German sleeveless chemise- Finished!

I made myself a thing! I've been slowly but steadily plugging away at the Cranach gown. All the pieces for the dress have been cut out, the under-petticoat just needs a hem, and the sleeveless chemise is done!

Pictures aren't very fabulous, due to a lack of good lighting and being taken on my iphone, but at least there's proof that the chemise exists. It's a thing! That works! I haven't finished my Goldhaube yet (the headdress/cap), so for these photos I just wound some extra lengths of linen around my head to hide my incredibly modern bleached hair with several inches of roots.

So far I'm sort of loving this style of garment as a support layer. I wore it all afternoon in my apartment, and found it to be super comfy as well as supportive. I don't know how well it would work for those more heavily endowed than myself, but for this particular C-cup lady nothing slipped or jiggled and everything is held securely in place.

I ended up using some black wool tape at the front neckline instead of the velvet ribbon I mentioned in my last post. Upon reflection it seemed like a choice that was far more practical than velvet, especially if I want to use this chemise with more middle-class 15th century impressions as well (which I do). I'm curious to try this style chemise with a fairly wide variety of German fashions from the 15th and 16th centuries. It seems to have been in use across a wide span of time even as styles of dress changed around it, so I'll be interested to find what sort of dress style it works best with on a body. Perhaps all of them. We'll see.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

German Renaissance Support Layer- the sleeveless chemise

 So I never got around to making my early German Renaissance dress last summer (I did make costumes for the niblings though!) and instead have now found myself coming back to the dress lo these six months later. Today was a surprise day off work, so I spent it working on the foundation layer.

There seems to be no firm consensus as to what exactly was worn beneath 'Cranach' dresses of the early 16th century, but there is a particular style of undergarment which I've seen in a bunch of images both before and after this time period which makes lots of sense as a base layer. It's basically a sleeveless sort of chemise; tight enough in the torso to support the bust and provide the smooth white layer seen under the open front lacing of the dress itself, as well as having full skirts attached at the waist (which I imagine would also help keep the front waistline of the dress' skirt up where it should be in spite of the wide front opening... I'll guess I'll find out later if that's true or not!)

I've seen other bloggers/costumers refer to this type of undergarment as a bra-dress (based off the Lengberg Bra I believe), or a bra-shirt, or some other bra variation. Which again, these garments all have attached skirts, so I can't really get behind calling it some sort of bra, and am just going to stick with 'Sleeveless Chemise' for now. Probably not at all what it was called back in the day, but no-one in Saxony around 1515 ever said "I'm going to have a new Cranach dress made" either, so we'll all just be inaccurate together forever. Amen.

Isis over at Medieval Silkwork has done some great research into the earlier 14th and 15th century versions of this garment which seems to have mostly existed in areas of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It must have been highly practical and comfortable as you see it clear on through into the later half of the 16th century!

 Hofämterspiel, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, second half 15th century

Broadside of a Nuremberg bath attendant; with a hand-coloured woodcut of a lightly dressed female holding two pails of water, and with letterpress verses in German. (Nuremberg, Drechsel: [c.1585])

These two images are roughly100 years apart, and both depict nearly the exact same undergarment, which I am now it the process of making. As someone who gets twitchy about how chemise sleeves sit and layer on the body, I am super exited to be trying out this blessedly sleeveless chemise!

I'm using a white handkerchief weight linen for this project, with two layers in the main bodice, and one layer for the 'breast bag'/bust section, and one layer in the skirts. It will close with lacing on the sides of the bodice, and I'm using velvet ribbon for the black band at the front neckline. I imagine that velvet or a wool band along the top would help grip onto the dress itself and stop the Brustfleck from slipping or moving around. Again, total conjecture on my part at the moment... we'll see how it works out.

You can see here on my pattern how the shoulder straps curve out away from the body on the front piece. This is so the straps won't show beneath the nearly off-the-shoulder look of the dress itself.

I hemmed the top of the bust piece before gathering it and stitching it into the bodice. I'll gather up the bust/front neckline once it's on my body for a final fitting. I tried at on the other day as best as I could with no eyelets for lacing yet, and it looks like it'll be a good fit, so fingers crossed!

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!