A Turban for Spencerville

I am attending the Spencerville Ball this coming weekend and I needed something to wear on my head that would match what I was wearing on my body, a gown in winter white with brown trim.

A few weeks ago I started looking for materials to make a turban. I wanted something simple and elegant. I had started to study old fashion plates for inspiration but was blown away by a turban a friend of mine made for my Mother, so I used it as a template to make my turban.

I started checking out all the local thrift shops, and hit the jackpot at Value Village where I found a brown silk scarf for $1.99, a string of pearls for $2.99 and a pearl jewel for $7.99. My mom had some lace left over from her turban which she donated to the cause, and I pulled some pillow stuffing out of an old cushion to form a base to build the turban on. So the project materials cost me about $15 total.

Supplies to make the turban.

Supplies to make the turban.

I loaded a copy of Pride and Prejudice on my tablet, set up shop at the dining room table and got to work. It took me about two hours total to make, all of it was hand sewn. It is going to look perfect with my dress at the Ball.

Turban for Spencerville.

Turban for Spencerville.

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Pelisse and Thank You

My sewing skills are progressing and each time I complete a project my confidence grows. To date I have made three dresses from the 18th-19th century. I have made two day caps, a fichu, a pocket, two chemises, bloomers, and a petticoat. Putting on a garment that you have made yourself is a wonderful feeling however, there have been a few pieces that I have been wanting but are still outside of my current sewing skills. This year I received some money for my Birthday, and I decided that I was going to have a few staple pieces professionally made to flush out my regency era wardrobe.

I had some cream and brown striped cotton that I wanted to make a simple day dress out of, but felt my sewing skills were not developed enough to successfully handle striped fabric. I also wanted a brown pelisse and a spencer. So here is what I had made with my birthday money.

The day dress has removable sleeves so it can serve many purposes, from a general assembly type dance, to a picnic, to an afternoon tea. It is a light cotton that will be comfortable spring through fall.

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The skirt portion of the pelisse is attached with buttons when removed become a spencer.
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The fabric is a rich toffee brown, and has some beautiful embroidery work on the sleeves and the skirt.

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These two garments will give me four different looks, and blend well with the rest of my wardrobe which all tends to lean towards muddy brown, green, and beige shades.

The best part is how perfectly they fit. Employing the services of a professional tailor is money well invested, and I certainly understand the excitement that people of past generations must have felt when visiting the tailor to get their dresses done for the season. My garments may not be from the House of Worth, but they are just as special to me as if they had been. What a treat!

Added note- 2 June, 2014
I was searching some pictures of dresses from metmuseum.org and came across this 1815 silk dress that resembles mine. This made me smile.

a dress

Lady Jen’s Sewing Goals for the Winter of 2013/2014

So the Season is finally over and with it comes the time to reevaluate my Regency closet and see what needs to go, what needs to be replaced, and what is still missing. At the moment I have three dresses, pink cotton print, blue cotton print, and the dark purple cotton voile.

The dark purple cotton voile dress is the one I wore to the Spencerville Ball. It’s one of my favourite dresses but it has a few problems that need to be worked out. The sleeves were a nightmare, something I mostly attribute to a) a flaw in the Sense and Sensibility pattern and b) rushing to get it finished in time. I have very little remnants of the fabric left but I am hoping to redo the sleeves or get rid of them altogether and wear the dress over top of a white muslin or voile dress.

Also at Spencerville I purchased some of the most gorgeous teal cotton that I want to make into a ball gown, but I am wary to use the S&S pattern as it has done nothing but frustrate me since I started using it. I was considered La Mode Bagatelle but I have no heard good and bad things about that pattern as well. So, although I have no pattern decided upon yet I will be using this nice black satin ribbon as the trim. It’s a striking combination and I can’t wait to see it complete!

The one thing I am really really REALLY in need of is a new pair of stays. The Frankenstays have finally bit the dust. I’ve worn them to at least 6 or 7 balls, and two very humid, sticky, reenactments. I’ve replaced the shoulder straps, the sides, added boning, added cording, got rid of the boning, etc. The fact that I was even able to get them to lift anything this past weekend in Chatham is amazing. And they are just plain hideous to look at! So my most current project is constructing a useable pair of stays that I can put on myself at reenactments, in a tent, standing at a 75 degree angle. With all those requirements in mind, I’ve decided to make the Daffodown Dilly wrap stays. Look for a blog post on that process in the coming month or so, as I will be documenting my process step-by-step.

Also this winter I will be making a few more shifts, and a bodiced petticoat! I think I’m going to be super busy this year but hopefully I can get it all done in time for March when the Living history Conference kicks off next season!

Dolls and Dress making

Fun fact it’s only been in the past year I have learned to read a pattern. You would think that after years of doing costuming stuff, both for theatre and for cosplay this would be something I would have learned a long time ago. I have only just learned to sew so patterns are newish to me. Up until now I have managed to get around both these things when working with fabric.

You see my Mother sews but mostly only straight lines. She also can’t read a pattern and when working on a project in the past we have a simple solution…and her name up to this point had been Barbie.

When ever I had wanted a costume that was fabric based, we would dig though the bin of Barbie clothing find an outfit that looked right and then flip the tiny clothing inside out. From here it would be a matter of using the outfit as a guid line with my Mother just cutting and pinning the fabric down on me until it fit. Yes it really was that easy. Or it was before I decided I wanted to go to a local Regency event.

You can’t seem to find a Regency Barbie. Trust me I tried. So we got a pattern and struggled though it. Though since most of the costume stuff me and my Mother have done is more theatrical then historical….annnnd I didn’t know at the time how into this I was going to be getting….we put Velcro in the back of the dress.

Yes Velcro, I will let all those with an eye for historic detail shutter. So yes I have a very lovely green dress that if I was to be in need of a quick change I could slip out fast. To be fair you can’t really tell unless you look close and with a spencer on top the dress looks fine. I wear it all the time still.

Up until recently I had called it “the Velcro dress”. That was about to change. With a doll who was very very far from Barbie.

This past weekend myself and Lady Jen were away to a reenactment and ball. (A full review will be coming very soon) GTRG friend Lady Kathy had asked us over and share some pleasant conversation. It was then that I related my story about dress making and Barbies. Lady Kathy thought that was very interesting and brought into the room her daughters American Girl doll. Who had a wonderful Regency set of outfits. Her suggestion was that next time me and my Mother should look into using this line of dolls in our costume creation.

These dolls are far bigger then a Barbie and are based on moments in history. They also come with a whole back story. If you in fact did wish to make a dress based off of doll clothing I would say look at this line. This was the first time I had seen one up close and her outfit very impressive, also with a larger size I would bet easier then the Barbie clothes to work with.

As Lady Jen picked up the doll and flipped it over she burst out laughing. Sure enough there in the back of the dress was a big strip of….yes….Velcro. After explaining what was so funny to Lady Kathy my Velcro dress was dubbed the “American Girl Dress”

I have a feeling that this name will be sticking.

2D to 3D 2 on me

2D to 3D 2 on me

I wrote a post a while back about starting work on a costume from a video game. When I wrote that I posted a picture of the character and had been very pleased at the fabric I had selected. The next thing was to make the costume. Enlisting the help of Lady Jen for the skirt we managed to get it all done inside of two sewing sessions.

In the past while never a fabric based costume (I tend to work in foam) I do have experience working off of video games and cartoons. Projects like this tend not to have a set pattern, these articles of clothing are right from someone’s mind to the page. The other problem is that they have been drawn/painted/digitized on. The body in the outfit was drawn to wear it.

Alright this is the part where I link this all back to something historical.

While many folks who work on regency garments work from patterns – some like to work off of fashion plates, paintings or perhaps just can’t find a pattern that works. After working off many 2D images I have a few thoughts for anyone looking to work off a flat picture.

1) Draw out the outfit. No matter even if you are just someone who doodles. This will help you work out the flow and feel that the artist was going for.

2) Take a picture with you when you go for fabric and be willing to compromise. Sometimes the fabric in your 2D doesn’t exist.

3) See if you have a pattern that is close enough and work out way early what you will have to mod. With regency outfit you should be able to make this work. For us with the skirt we mashed a skirt patten and a petticoat pattern together, but made note of fabric we would need for the pleats. You may even want to make a mock up out of cheeper fabric. Please note that this is by no means how you draft a pattern but if you are open to experimenting has worked for me in the past.

4) Pick a spot on you that will be your point of reference. As I said before the person you are taking inspiration from was drawn to wear that outfit. Artist wanted the skirt longer maybe they just drew longer legs. More detail in the bust area, it’s not a problem if they make the torso a bit bigger. While the figure you are looking at may not seem out of proportion when you get that outfit on you it may look all kinds of wrong. The way I have always dealt with this is by picking a spot where what I am looking at will 100% sit in the right place on me. With me I always pick my waist.

5) Ask for help and rip it out. With something like this the best thing you can do it have a second set of eyes. Even if it is as simple of having them look at you in your mock up and saying if it looks alright. Note as well if something looks odd not just to you but them as well, get ready to rip out and try again.

For those of you who are wondering I have added a pic of me in the final outfit below. Character image I used was mostly the one I put up a few post back. However I also used game play footage to get a feel of movement and flow.

On my way to the Con!

On my way to the Con!

Have you ever worked from a 2D image? If you did what would you make?

Fabricland, Sales and Cosplay

So this evening myself and Lady Jen took a trip to Fabricland. As the name would indicate this is a large store full of fabric. Once we had gotten there the most wonderful surprise found us…a sale. Moving though the store we chatted and picked up the odd bolt to get cut, and I looked for something just right. I was looking for something for a skirt for a costume and also something that I could use to make a pelisse. Something I think I need to work on is that I don’t really know that much about fabric. I mean I know what is cotton and what vinyl is like but it’s all the shades of in between. It’s also that I have a very little idea of what things should cost. To top it all off as I am just learning to sew so my concept of what is easy to work with is also a bit wonky. Slowly and with a handful of trips like this I am learning.

As I said above I was looking for something to make a skirt out of, the one I want to make is in the pic below.

This is what I am going for

For those of you who have read my earlier posts you know two things about me

1) That I love the BioShock games and dig the Elizabeth character (see above)
2) That if life was a video game I am currently a lvl 2 hand sewer

Now you may ask well what dose this have to do with you and being a GTRG? Glad you asked.

Costumes have always been something I have loved. Up to this point many of my costumes (out side of my regency gear) have been made from a mix of found clothing and molded foam floor mats. Many of these costumes are based on folks from sci-fi and video games. Today with the help of Lady Jen I am hoping to work on a video game costume that is more fabric then hot glue. The idea of getting into a costume is what brought me into the world of Regency to start with. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I got to dress up I never would have gone to my first ball, never found that I loved dancing…and above all else never would have meet my fellow GTRG’s.

Nothing in the world is quite like putting on something you have made yourself. Regardless if it is space armor or a ball gown. I hope that with the help of Lady Jen (and goodness knows I will need it) I can bring my skills one step closer to constructing more Regency clothing for myself. The goal is to learn some more and the make a pelisse mostly on my own.

As we got to the check out the woman behind the counter asked us what we were working on. Lady Jen began to talk about the new set of stays. The sales woman suddenly became very excited. She then launched into a story about making a corset for a Steampunk outfit. As it turns out she will be attending the same event I hope to debut my Elizabeth outfit at. While all of us are working on a different type of project it’s nice to be able to be part of such a broad community of creative costume-y folks, and to gain a skill set I may not have gotten had I never become a GTRG.