Sunday, July 21, 2013

HSF #10: Literary (An Inspiration Post)

The tenth challenge was due on May 20 (my birthday!) and, like all the previous challenges, I had plans that never got off the ground in time.

Story time! Since 2009, a local group and I have descended upon the Alberta Prairie Railway excursion out of Stettler, AB, Canada. The first year, it was just my mum and I in costume, and every year since, more and more members have dressed up as well. Our biggest year was 19 costumes! (Pictured below.)


In July 2011, I was frantically sewing a costume. I had picked up a large quantity of faux silk for dirt cheap - $2/m! YES. Of course I can't be seen in the same outfit two years in a row, so I set about making a new dress. I'd first made a skirt out of the bronze colour, and then I couldn't decide what I wanted to make for the bodice, so I switched to the cream colour. I ended up making a skirt, overskirt, and bodice out of the cream, and I really liked the monochrome look of it. But when I had time, I would add colour accents, since my costumes so far have been very devoid of any trimming, which is just so not Victorian. It was the first time I put a pleated ruffle on the skirt, and I adored the look of it.

Shortly after I'd decided on a colour - raspberry - my dear friend Mew sent me a message telling me to check out Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. I'd like it, she said, knowing full-well my penchant for Victorian things and the occasional dabble into vampire literature. So I bought a copy for my eReader and set to reading.

And I loved it. I loved the world she built with vampires and werewolves having always been around, and I loved the main character, Alexia, and I LOVED the Victorian-ness of it. There was some steampunk elements, and while I don't particularly like steampunk, it was nicely done. But what I loved, almost more than anything else, was a scene in which Alexia goes out for the evening dressed in a cream-coloured evening gown, with raspberry trimming.

I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. This was a series for me, all right. I still have yet to make the evening bodice to go with my skirts, or trim any of it in the appropriate colour, but it remains one of my favourite gowns. It's been to Worldcon in Reno, Fort Edmonton Park, and another convention, and it won't be retired any time soon.

Fast forward a year, to when Timeless came out. Just 43 pages in, and I nearly fell out of my chair laughing again. Alexia's dress is described as an "ecru [dress] over a bronze skirt with brown velvet detailing." I'd had the bronze skirt languishing in my to-do pile since I'd made it, requiring only a hem and possibly some trimming of some kind. Thanks to this novel, I now knew what to make to go with it. I've been keeping an eye out for ecru-coloured fabric ever since, though finding something to go with a faux silk has proven difficult (granted, I have not been looking overly hard). Then, earlier this year, I received some plain fabrics as a gift, and one them I was told was silk. Even if it isn't, the slubby texture will match the skirt nicely. Better than that - it's close enough to ecru that I'm going to call it a win.

Now the hard part is deciding what pattern I want to use, and how to trim it! Does the brown velvet go on the skirt or on the dress? I had assumed the dress itself, but the wording somewhat indicates the skirt. More than that, the following line says that the dress is a little plain for visiting vampiric royalty, but more than suitable for being seen in public. Once again using Fashions of the Gilded Age as inspiration, I think I have a good idea of what I want to make. Fashions is, I think, too "late" for the Parasol Protectorate, but social mores would not have changed so radically that the information is entirely useless.

This post is already two months late for the challenge, but my goal will be to have the dress ready for Worldcon in San Antonio at the end of August.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

HSF #6: Stripes

Even though the deadline has long passed, I'd always intended to make this outfit for this challenge. I've missed every challenge but one so far... and even that one, I "cheated", since it was UFO and the only thing I had to do was hem the gown (that post is written, just awaiting pictures! As soon as my hollyhocks bloom...)

The dress is still missing buttons, but I'm calling it done. Woohoo!


The Challenge: #6 Stripes
Fabric: 100% Wool suiting, linen
Pattern: modified TV261 - 4 gore underskirt with inspiration from Fashions of the Gilded Age Vol. 1, TV464 1883 Riding Habit Bodice
Year: 1880-ish
Notions: Thread, hook and eye, buttons (eventually)
How historically accurate is it?: Maybe 75%? I used poly thread and machine stitched everything.
Hours to complete: 25-ish hours. I always forget to keep track.
First worn: First outing will be on August 5, so expect a picture post shortly after!
Total cost: $65 for the wool, maybe $10 for the linen.

I'm in looooove with the drape of this skirt. I used TV261 for the overall shape, shortened to guidelines from Fashions of the Gilded Age. I'd been wanting to try this out for awhile, and it seemed like it would work. I thought I made it a little too short, however, and was faced with a dilemma. Fashions indicated that a walking-length skirt should touch "the instep [in front], [and] the back just clears the ground" (pg 144). I cut it about 2" too short; the unhemmed pieces touch the instep in front and just clear the ground in back. But when I hemmed it and put it on, it was the perfect length. We shall see how it turns out when I wear it :D

Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Review: Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volumes 1 and 2

I bought these books after perusing another book in Frances Grimbles' bibliography, with the understanding that they weren't going to be "easy" to use. I am not an experienced tailor by any means; with only three years of high school fashion studies class under my belt, I am largely self-taught. (I hated sewing until I discovered Gothic Lolita fashion. Why pay $300 for a dress that I could make myself? But that's a story for another day.)

They are less easy than I even guessed at. Some of the patterns are presented with an apportioning scale similar to those in Edwardian Modiste and Voice of Fashion, but otherwise, they are largely scaled drawings that you will have to enlarge and modify. These are going to be a challenge for me, albeit an exciting one.

I would say that these books are valuable to have in your collection regardless of sewing skill, if you have any interest in Victorian fashion and recreating it. There is a section on undergarments, including corsets (what does the "hideous" French corset look like?? I must know!), chemises and drawers. Volume 2 contains an extensive selection of accessories, hair pieces, jewelry, shoes, and outerwear. There is one pattern for a slipper, three for aprons, and various dresses and outfits though not as many as vol. 1. There is a HUGE section at the back on fitting and sewing techniques. It is worth it for this section alone. Volume 1 contains three corsets, several petticoats, and skirts and bodices galore! Volume 2 also contains a large section on sewing techniques and TONS of information on modifying patterns, and both volumes also have lengthy introductions to each section on mores that modern costumers may never have picked up on (for example, a white petticoat while travelling "[displays] vulgarity and want of breeding so completely". [Fashions of the Gilded Age Volume 1, page 347, originally quoted from Ladies and Gentlemen's Etiquette, 1877]).

I've had the books for just over a week and I flip through them nearly every day. I'm quite enjoying the information presented and really looking forward to attempting to make up some patterns.

Wool-gathering

This is going to be a personal sort of post, so do please feel free to skip. I mentioned in previous posts that I've been struggling w...