Construction notes · Costuming

The Night Circus

Fifth unit of uni and finally a big project! The task was to design and make a costume for a character from the novel “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern. I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy reading the novel itself as it lacks a lot in characterization and pacing. However, it seems that one either likes or hates this book, so if it’s on your reading list don’t let my opinion deter you from giving it a try.

My group chose the character Isobel, a Tarot card reader who falls in love with the male protagonist but ends up being led on and finally rejected as he loves another woman. I put my initial moodboard next to the cover, however the eventual design ended up with a very different aesthetic.

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Liberty & Co. Ltd. dress from the V & A, ca. 1895

The design borrows a lot from the Aesthetic Dress movement, this one example in particular heavily influenced our dress. Even the colour bears an uncanny resemblance to our main fabric which was not a conscious design decision. I suppose it was just meant to be!

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Initial design sketches by Beth (left) and Evie (middle + right)

As it is a group project I can’t claim credit for the whole costume, so I’ll try to list what everyone’s responsibilities turned out to be as clearly as possible.

Fabric Dyeing: Evie Haigh (withrosemarygreenandbrightx on instagram)

Fabric Pattern Design: Bethany Mudge (bethgrace_costume on instagram)

Fabric Printing: Beth and Evie

Costume Design: Beth and Evie

Pattern cut/draping: Me

Construction: Me (Leader), Beth (Assistant)

Flower Crown: Flowers by Evie and Iona Croskell, beadwork by Harrison Moseley, veil by Evie, assembled by Evie

Model: Beth

Progress pictures are either mine, Beth’s or Evie’s.

 


 

Alright, time for some construction notes and progress pictures!

Following the good old rule of sewing costumes from the inside out I made the petticoat first. There are more than 20m of ruffles mounted onto the base which is taken from Period Costumes for Stage and Screen by Jean Hunnisett.

The pattern for the base skirt is also taken from that book, it has a really pretty back design with box pleats. Although it is NOT supposed to be an Aesthetic Dress, we used light cotton lawn to keep the flowy aesthetic of the Aesthetic Dress movement. That is honestly slightly problematic because the ruffles of the petticoat press through the thin fabric but luckily most of it was covered by the drapery in the end.

Evie dyed all the fabrics in one weekend, most of them with natural dyes so the costume smells slightly like freshly mown grass.

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Beth’s super pretty print designs

These are Beth’s drawings. It’s still not the final design, during draping we decided to omit the striped fabric and instead added a Shibori fabric (Evie’s work).

The bodice was a feast of shirring and hand-sewing. I cut two rectangles about 50cm high and as wide as the fabric (130cm) and divided the back piece into two parts to allow for a back closure. The bottom part was then shirred by hand-stitching 8 rows, the stitches spaced 0,5cm apart. At this point I have to thank the lovely Beth who took it home over the weekend to do this, according to my calculations she did over 4000 stitches by hand!

 

The sleeves are partially smocked to fit them around the biceps and wrists. Don’t worry, I made accurate dot markings, they’re just not visible in the photo. I came up with the pattern by roughly determining the length with a measuring tape draped along Beth’s arm and applying that to the basic raglan sleeve shape I had in mind. Since the neckline is held by a drawstring there was no need to be accurate.

The bodice was draped on the stand and the gathering strings for the shirring pulled taut. I cut away the armholes and neckline and sewed the channel for the drawstring. The bodice was then pinned inside out to the model (Beth) at centre front+back and side seams, the drawstrings were adjusted slightly to perfectly mold around her waist area and finally fixed.

I draped calico onto this to determine the hem curve and give the pleats stability from the inside, one is basically a waistband that goes all the way around and the other is a triangle shape in both front and back. The excess fabric at the hem was tuned inwards, trimmed and stitched to the reenforcing calico. The top edge of the calico was then painstakingly hand-sewn to each individual pleat to ensure that they stay in place:

The bodice closes in the back with buttons and loops in the waist area and a little bow where the drawstring comes out at the top.

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The overskirt was also draped loosely on the stand first and then refined and attached to the inside of the bodice hem once the latter was done. Here it is still pinned to it very loosely. At the bottom you can see Evie’s beautiful free motion embroidery: She draws the motive (in this case a floral one) and machine sews it on dissolvable fabric, an ingenious technique. The hem of our skirt even has real dandelions and lavender sewn into it, it’s worth smelling.

The veil for the headdress was done the same way, here it is:

And we’ve arrived at the end! I am very happy with the result and can proudly say that I can now consider shirring and smocking as part of my skill repertoire. It was a pleasure to work with the ladies, I think our different specialisms combined in the best way possible and I’d love to work with the two again. Beth looked absolutely ethereal during the presentation, so of course I’ll have to share the photos.

The bottom picture was taken by Beatriz Duarte.

Thanks for reading!

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Construction notes · Historical Costuming

1870s April Bustle Gown Construction

I know, it’s not entirely finished but the April bustle gown does officially count as wearable. It made its debut at Tom Klein’s collodion photography showcase at Tufa Trier on 11th April, hence the name.

Since I am a lazy sloth the whole project wasn’t started right after I came back home from London on the 18th March, nooo. Empress of Procrastination traced the patterns and made a bodice mock-up at the end of March and then did everything else after her Paris trip in about 5 days.

 

For the skirt (Pattern is TV 208) I first tried version B with the pleats at the top side back (as seen in the picture) but after looking at the mock-up, I decided it just needed extra fabric and wouldn’t be seen anyway so I went for version A. To save time and fabric I only pinned the fabric together instead of sewing so that I could easily reuse the pieces later as a lining. The fabric used is a medium-weight cotton weave with a certain stiffness to support the rather flimsy silk taffeta.

 

Here’s what the top of the skirt looks like, a result of experimentation since there were no exact instructions in the manual. It’s not visible under the apron which was later tacked on by hand. This way I can take off the apron anytime if I want to reuse the skirt for another gown without taking the actual skirt apart. It also has a pocket in the right side seam (also hidden under the apron), if you look closely you might see it in the picture.

 

I hadn’t bought any trim specifically for this project but with the lack of time self-trimming was out of question. Luckily I had those two in my stash and, after thorough contemplation, decided on the lighter one because of the scalloped edge. It lent itself well to the design and even allowed me to replicate the trimming of the reference drawing, such a nice coincidence!

 

The first bodice mock-up, pattern TV 405. It wasn’t bad but it needed some work on the darts and shoulders. Luckily my amazing sister was there to help out especially for the latter, I could never have done it myself.

 

 

The construction of the back panel is where I deviated from the Truly Victorian pattern. originally, the centre back piece is cut on fold and connected directly to the side back pieces at the curved seam. I split the pattern up to add another piece that is made out of contrasting fabric as seen in the reference picture. I suppose that since a lot of 1870s designs were inspired by 18th century fashion the back is meant to imitate a Robe À L’Anglaise.

 

 

Closing the side seams at the end is a very useful tip by Jennifer from Historical Sewing that I stumbled upon. The advantage is that it allows one to fit the bodice with the front properly closed so any deviation caused by that is prevented.

I didn’t take any photos of the sleeves but so far they’re pretty unspectacular. The bow is courtesy of the indispensable Luci, my sister without whom I’d probably not have had the time to add it. Which would have been a pity, it’s a great design feature that actually makes the back of the dress the highlight. The front obviously still needs some work, more decoration will be added once I come back from London in summer.

 

 

The back view is truly the best, it looks pretty much to the reference I’d say. The colours don’t show well in these photos but I promise I’ll do a proper photoshoot in summer when the dress is completed!

 

 

Here some more photos from the event itself with the photographer. That hairdo was the result of about 10 minutes of ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’, ‘Chill no one will notice’ and ‘Luci does this look shitty’ between me my once again indispensable sister who did a fantastic job as assistant. My hairtips were still a bit pink at that point, not very authentic but actually matching the dress, wild!

 

 

 

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Photo by Michael Thielen

To finish this: Find yourself a partner who looks at you the way I look at Luci ♥(ˆ⌣ˆ)

Historical Costuming

1870s April Bustle Gown Plannings

It’s been a year since my last personal project (The coral Prom dress) and finally I have a new one again!

From a creative viewpoint the last year has not been a good one for me. I finished school and had lot of time but no motivation/inspiration to sew. I think I got too comfortable and didn’t challenge myself enough. Plus, uni started in September, I moved to London and had to adapt to living without my huge fabric/notions stash (the thing I miss the most after my sister). I don’t wanna indulge too much in negativity here since i resolved to be more positive so let’s get straight into it ٩(^ᴗ^)۶

I started with searching for fabrics since that has proven to be the best approach for me. What I found were these beautiful silks:

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These are stock photos, I’m praying that the fabrics are the same colour in person

 

The colour combination gives me strong spring vibes, I love it. This time I want to just make a beautiful dress for ME, not care about catering to other people’s taste or the occasion it is made for.

My sister will join me in this project and make her own dress using the same fabrics. The twist is that I’ll do 1870s and she will do 1880s. Also, we’ll be using the fabrics in differnt amounts: my main fabric is the green striped one, with a lot of yellow to complement it and pink accents. She will mainly use pink, combine it with green and add yellow accents.

As for the cut, I’m thinking something like this:

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From Victorian Fashions, A Pictorial Archive by Carol Belanger Grafton (Dover Publications)

The pleating in the back of the bodice and skirt intrigues me and the design gives me the opportunity to use my fabrics in the quantity I want, it’s very nicely balanced. Also that  huge bow, yum! I feel like I’m really doing a design that I personally love and not just one that is convenient.

Following this burst of motivation, I ordered the fabrics in typical me manner, spending a ridicuous amount of money because it has to be silk taffeta and lots of it. All in all Luci and I got 21 metres between the two of us which resulted in an order of about 500 Euros. RIP my bank account but it’s so worth it (ʃƪ¬‿¬)

For patterns, I’ll most likely use these two from Truly Victorian. The bodice pattern is already in my possession, an with a few alterations it’ll serve the purpose. In TV I trust!

 

 

 

The ensemble is planned for 11. April. Tom Klein is having a collodium photography showcase at TUFA Trier and I will be there as the model. Apart from that, nothing else is currently planned but I will definitely organise some other photoshoots and occasions to wear it!

I want to put a lot of effort and money into this so that I’ll finally have a costume that shows the entirety of my skills, that I can be proud of and that I love wearing. Im even thinking of sewing a second bodice for evening wear in summer when I’ve got more time. We’ll see 。^‿^。

Cosplay · Ramblings

Tamen de Gushi Cosplay – Japantag 2017

Last year wasn’t a cosplay-year for me, but I still managed to get one Cosplay done and visit the two classic conventions, namely the Japantag (Japanday) and DoKomi. Both take place in Düsseldorf every year and are my go-to conventions because I can sleep in my father’s flat, so no costs for accomodation hehe

As always accompanied by my one and only best cosplay partner/bro/soulmate who makes every convention a pleasure to visit if she’s not wearing uncomfortable clothes…

We had been toying with the idea of cosplaying these characters from Tamen de Gushi (Their Story in English) for a while, a Manhua (Chinese Comic, like a Manga) that we both hold very dear. It’s about a love story between two girls, Sun Jing and Qiu Tong, and their daily lives. I highly recommend reading it, it’s super sweet but also very funny.

Thanks to the school setting the costume itself is extremely simple, we only had to sew the (bow)ties and the pleated skirts, the rest was bought (Gasp! I never buy clothes for cosplay but honestly it would be ridiculous to sew a white blouse or knit a slipover).

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A friend who came with us was so kind to take a few photos, thank you so much Anna ❤

Unbelievable that this is the first school uniform cosplay I’ve ever done! On the bright side, it’s comfortable like no other costume and easy to put on which makes the whole convention day a lot more relaxed.

However, there are also downsides I never thought about before… THE CREEPS.

It seems that school uniform cosplays attract a certain kind of people I’d rather not be bothered by. Which led to the following Instagram caption:

Japantag clearly holds the record for the weirdest encounters. I won’t write about everything we had to experience but the 3rd guy was just too hilarious to not document here.

He was honestly quite funny but annoying. We were trying to take some photos at the Rhine Promenade when he walked up to us and asked for a photo with us (which is a normal thing to do at cons, it’s kind of a way to say I like your costume). So of course we said yes since he was a nice guy, although a little hyper, most likely drunk. However, he kept coming back to photobomb us and got in the way. It was entertaining at first, after some time less. He wanted to know where we came from so I said not from here, we drove 2,5 hours to get here. His reply: ‘But we can still meet’ while trying to hug me/dance with me. In that moment my inner alarm went off and I finally realized his intentions. I carefully tried to tell him that I was not interested in a relationship after which he got really whiny and kept trying make us pity him, saying things like ‘Is it because I’m ugly”, “Can’t you see how much you hurt my feelings” and other things along these lines. At some point he apparently realized that this strategy didn’t work on us and changed it his approach. This led to the following conversation I will never forget:

“Do you like Anime?”

“Yes.”

“Do you like K-Pop?”

“Yes.”

“Am I K-Pop?”

“No.”

Me enjoying Anime and K-Pop doesn’t mean that I jump on every Asian person I see. Asia-fetish sadly is a thing in this community but I was shocked to see this guy trying to actually use it in his favour. Isn’t he basically objectifying himself? Granted, he was most likely drunk but not to the point of incoherency.

Experiences like this make me question the future a lot, especially since the international K-Pop community is steadily growing and I don’t see any reason for the Hallyu-wave to die out in the next few years. Is the fixation on other cultures making us blindly fetishize East-Asians? Is this racism?

Luckily I’ve been seeing an increasing amout of woke fans on the internet and I really hope that this spreads and drowns out the toxic fan-culture.

Construction notes · Pattern Review

Sewing the Costumes for Blue Stockings

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Photo by Tom Klein

Better late then never right? The production based on the play by Jessica Swale was actually wrapped up in June with three performances. This was going to be my last project with Trier English Drama because I already knew that I would move to London in autumn. But you’re never really free of TED, let’s see what the future will bring.

Let me remark that all in all I’m not happy with how the costumes came out fitwise but that is mainly my own fault, I didn’t put enough time and effort into making them. Especially the shirtwaists/blouses do not look very good because they lack proper fitting and of course corsets. This is where I had to economize, I was the only one on stage who wore a corset because I already own one and you clearly see the difference. The rest had to make do without, the reason being lack of time and motivation again.

What I also had in mind was the general (and completely unjustified) fear of corsets, let me rant about this for a moment. Probably inspired by ‘historical’ films and sensationalist articles about the ‘crazy’ Victorians, people seem to have this internalized misconception that corsets only purpose is to turture women, the personified evil! Is anyone else annoyed by this? While I love to prove these myths wrong, that can only be done by making people wear a well-fitting one themselves and would have taken time I didn’t have.

To keep this short I’ll just refer to this brilliant article: http://yesterdaysthimble.com/articles/corset-myths-i/

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Photo by Tom Klein

So what is the play about? I’ll just conveniently copy the PR text here:

England in the late 19th century – a time when the majority of men believed that women only belong in the kitchen. This is the story of four bright young girls who set out to prove them wrong. Attending Cambridge University in 1896, they are fighting for the right to graduate. But though they are supported by the headmistress of their all-female college and an idealistic young lecturer, it will not be easy for these girls. Some of the male students see them as rivals and revolutionaries. Others regard them with romantic interest – and among the girls there are those who are all to eager to respond. Will romance distract them from their goal to graduate? Will they choose love or knowledge?

As always, I sewed the Ladies’ costumes and bought jackets/coats for the men. Those especially are not exactly accurate but that can’t be helped when working on a budget and most importantly alone. Oh boi, I’m not confident enough to sew tailored suits yet!

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Photo by Tom Klein

The Bloomers scene

Right at the beginning of the play there is this scene in which the teacher Mr. Banks demonstrates the laws of motion with the aid of a bicycle and dresses the female students in his wife’s ‘spare pantaloons’ aka Bloomers which the young women refer to as ‘underwear’, obviously scandalized. This surprised me quite a lot since my association with Bloomers in the 1890s were those that were worn for cycling and definitely considered as outerwear. So after a bit of research I decided to clear up this disaccord and wrote an article on the history of Bloomers for the programme. I’m lazy so I’ll just repost it here:

Bloomers are an innovation of readers of the health periodical Water-Cure Journal, that in October 1849 began urging women to develop a style of dress that was not so harmful to their health. Contary to the current fashion at that time, which consisted of a long skirt worn over layers of heavy starched petticoats, they allowed unrestricted movement.

In 1851 the American women’s rights activist Amelia Jenkins Bloomer (1818–1894) promoted this new style in her feminist journal ‘The Lily’: knee-length, loose-fitting pants worn under slightly loose A-line skirts and dresses.
Therefore
the garment was called ‘Bloomers’ but the fashion style is also known as ‘American dress’, ‘Reform dress’ or ‘Turkish dress’ as it is inspired by harem pants. Soon a minority of progressive women dared to wear the baggy trouser outfit in public, which was considered scandalous by the general public. It quickly became a symbol of the women’s rights movement in America and was worn by famous suffragists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony.

After Amelia Bloomer’s death, women adopted an updated form of bloomers as cycling wear following the new cycling craze in the 1890s. This athletic style did not include a skirt anymore and was often combined with a tailored jacket.

When bloomers were introduced to mainstream women as a form of comfortable undergarment at the end of the 19th century, the reception was controversial at first. Many men and women viewed the underwear as unnatural to a woman’s form, as it had separate leg coverings but by the early 1900s bloomers had become common undergarments for the many women who appreciated the comfort and warmth of bloomers as well as their practicality.

So contrary to Tess’ shocked exclamation in the play, bloomers are actually not undergarments, at least not originally. The bloomers that are brought by Mr. Banks are likely to be the form of bloomers that was introduced as underwear at the time and therefore inappropriate for cycling. Undergarments were usually white, whereas the bloomers of the fashion style and the athletic style are made of sturdy, coloured fabrics used for outer garments.

I cannot guarantee the rightness of this little article as it’s no based on extensive and academically correct research, so if anyone points out mistakes I’ll gladly correct it!

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Photo by Tom Klein

Now, onto the actual sewing!

The Truly Victorian patterns are always my best friend when sewing lots of historical costumes for theatre purposes because of the large amount of sizes available. TV has all the baseic patterns needed to sew a basic wardrobe (and more) so I got a whole bunch (financed with theatre money muahaha). I guess I’ll just write down my thoughts on each pattern and put in some photos of the finished garments on stage.

TV 291 – 1898 Walking Skirt

A very basic pattern that is easy to sew, I used it about 8 times. It has 7 gores that get progressively longer towards the back which looks really elegant when worn with the proper petticoat and everything.

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TV291 Walking Skirt with TV 494 Shirtwaist, Photo by Anna Weinand for the PR shoot

TV 491 – 1893 Blouse Waist

Overall a good pattern, next time I’d perhaps support the sleeves with tulle/organza from the inside because it IS a whole lot of fabric and it looks kind of lame just hanging around like that (even though that’s what the manual suggests). The gathering is quite strong and goes up from the waist to the shoulder so it adds a lot of volume, fit carefully (not like I did it) and make sure that the fabric doesn’t bunch forwards. Includes a pattern for a nice jabot as well.

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TV 491 – 1893 Blouse Waist, Photo by Tom Klein

TV 494 – 1894 Shirtwaists

Beautiful design, easier to fit and makes a nice silhouette when worn with a corset. I’ve noticed that the collar is very tight, I have to use a safetly pin to close it because it doesn’t even overlap (my neck circumference is average) So be careful when fitting this, you will most likely need to use a bigger size for the collar. Don’t use a flabby fabric, it will look weird.

TV 493 – 1896 Plain Bodice

I’ve only used it for one garment without the Bretelle and puff sleeves. A very good basic pattern that can be decorated in various ways I guess, haven’t had the time to decorate it properly. It ran short in my case, but I can’t say whether that’s a general problem or just because the actress for whom I made it has quite the unusual body shape.

TV 495 – 1890’s Sleeves

I think I tried View 2, the two-piece Gigot Sleeve and it worked well. Can’t say anything about the others yet.

TV 498 – 1898 Eton Jacket

Easy to sew, nice design. Please note that I used other sleeves to make it fit the period. For practical reasons I didn’t wear it in the performances but there are some photos from the Wet Plate photoshoots with Tom Klein.

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Photo by Tom Klein

A big thanks to Tom Klein for taking photos of the performances!

And of course the Trier English Drama Group, looking forward to many more successful productions even if it’s without me 😥

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Can Can Encore! Photo by Tom Klein
Construction notes · Historical Costuming · Pattern Review

A Natural Form Ballgown for Prom

I already knew quite early that my outfit for the Abiball (German equivalent to Prom) had to be unusual. First I had planned to wear some sort of a suit because that would definitely have been unusual (and badass on top of that!) but then I somehow grew fond of the idea of showing off my sewing skills and interest in historical clothing… after all that was what my peers expected me to do, so why not. The decision to go with Natural Form was made quickly although I had some insecurities during the process of sewing – Late 1870s? 1882? Or rather 1883? – because that makes a difference. But in the end even I am not sure anymore which year it became :’D

The main inspiration is Adolph Menzel’s painting Das Ballsouper from 1887. I had seen it in Berlin in person and immediately fallen in love with the sumptuous dresses. In addition to that I looked at the evening dresses in Fashions of the Gilded Age Vol. 2.

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Das Ballsouper by Adolph Menzel (1878)

Materials

  • Golden shot pink silk taffeta from bangkokthaisilk on ebay
  • Sturdy white fabric for the foundation skirt
  • Lace bought on aliexpess (my N° 1 source for habadashery/notions)
  • Flower garlands

 

Undergarments

The pattern for the corset was self-drafted (with the help of this tutorial: Draft Your Corset Pattern ). For the Petticoat I used TV121 1879 Petticoat with detachable train (but I haven’t made the train yet).

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Latenight bathroom selfie… so beautiful :’D

The foundation skirt and the bodice

Originally I wanted to draft the patterns myself but then it turned out that on Saturday, one week before the ‘ball’ I had only finished the undergarments and I still had oral exams on Monday and Tuesday, so no sewing until these were over. Result: 4 days to make the rest. Awesome. Luckily my favourite pattern supplier ships fast and on Monday I got TV221 1878 Tie-Back Underskirt und TV416 1870s Ballgown Bodice. The bodice is flatlined and closes by an invisible zipper in the back (inaccurate, I know). I removed the pleats in the back and finished the edges with piping.

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TV221
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TV416 (does not fit my dressform)

The train

Isn’t yet finished. I did a very simple version (90cmx180cm rectangle held by a weird band construction that creates the poof because it was saturday noon and I had literally no time)

When I have time this will be done propery with lining, scallops, roses, lace and a pleated section.

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My cat is helping… NOT

Accessories

So far only a tiara I ordered from ebay.

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Spaaaaaaarkleeeeee

Hair

I had practiced on my sister before and tried a beautiful late victorian hairstyle, but even though I had been able to do it on her, I knew that I couldn’t do it on myself. So in the end a not-at-all-period style was what I did. It looked nice nonetheless.

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The result of 3 hours *sigh* I need to teach her how to do this on me…
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1/2 hour for the hair, not bad

And finally the finished result. I will have a proper photoshoot soon, until then this will do. My sister said I look like a Disney Princess and she is is right :’D Wasn’t my intention though.

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I still need a name for it. Maybe Coral Prom Dress, I’m not creative *sigh
Construction notes · Pattern Review

Sewing the Costumes for Sense and Sensibility

Ok, I have been procrastinating this for too enough now (actually since the first performance on the 11th of november, urk) and if I continue to do so the next project will already be finished so… let’s go!

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First, the spiel introduction:

Sometime in summer 2016, the Trier English Drama Group, directed by my parents, read Jessica Swales’ adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. I had already decided that I needed to make costumes but never thought I wanted to act. Little did I know!

During the reading I had to take the part of Margaret, the younger sister, and quickly fell in love with it. And we all fell in love with the play, so it was a deal. Somehow we had nobody for the part of Miss Grey so I ended up with two parts. Ooops…

But now, onto the costumes! I was so fascinated by all the possibilities that I started planning out everything before the play was even decided but I just couldn’t help myself! Well in the end it turned out that I had taken on too much (as always: several dresses for some of the ladies, breeches for every gentleman, waistcoats etc.) so a lot of them were cancelled due to a lack of time (or motivation ahem).

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This scene was called “Dirty laundry”. We all loved it

Concept

This is an extract from the article I wrote for the programme:

“When developing the overall concept of the production, I first decided on a color scheme. My choice to go with colors from red, orange and brown over cream and yellow to green for the women’s clothes was mainly caused by the image of warm and lively country life I had in mind while reading the play for the first time. In addition to that, it was clear from the start that the set would be quite practical with little furniture because of the many scene changes and would have a black background, so it was important to use bright colours in order to create a contrast and make it visually pleasing. The pastel fabrics that were used for the first dresses of the sisters are the only ones that were not made out of saris but from fabrics I actually had in my stash, they look a bit more juvenile which captures the sister’s naivety in the beginning quite well. Men’s tailcoats are generally a bit darker, bit I still tried to avoid cold colors.

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Curtain call with director and prompter. I love how well the color palette worked out in the end

 

As affordable fabrics with appropriate patterns were not easy to aquire by the metre and there was no time to decorate them (e. g. with embroidery), the idea of using vintage saris came to my mind. Saris are traditional garments from India that are originally draped elegantly around the hips an over one shoulder of the wearer. These cotton or silk rectangles normally measure 5m length and 1,1m width and are sometimes elaborately decorated. During the 19th century when India was a colony of Britain they were highly demanded by European ladies and recycled for clothes in the European style.”

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The Saris, all lying in the corner of my room and crying “sew me”

Well sadly I couldn’t use all of them but I got to keep the rest as a reward for my work so who am I to complain? It was also my first time working with real silk fabrics. Let me say this: Saris are AWESOME for historical dresses! They were not expensive at all and had beautiful patterns. Some were polyester but still looked great on stage. Whenever possible, I incorporated the border into the dress – more details but little work. If a sari isn’t wide enough, add another strip of border to the hem, iron well and nobody will notice. This should work if the hem circumference is not higher than half of the sari length minus the pallu. For my dresses it was only 2 meters, so no problem.

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Marianne and Elinor’s ball dresses, made from vintage silk saris

Patterns and Sewing

Please note that I was not trying to make period accurate garments but theatrical costumes, so a lot of things were simplified!

I started by making the theatrical version of the Laughing Moon Mercantile #115 Ladies Regency and Romantic Era Corset for each of the 8 ladies. It was my first time working with Laughing Moon Patterns and it went together really well. The instructions are clear and there are lots of pictures and very informative background information so even someone like me who had never made a corset or stays before was able to do it. So 8 patterns, 8 mock-ups and 8 stays. The busks were selfmade out of a wooden strip from the DIY-Store by cutting it into pieces ot the required length and sanding the edges. This worked surprisingly well, I can only recommend it for everyone who is searching for a cheap solution to make a busk.

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The Dashwood sisters and their mother

For the dresses, I used the Regency Wardrobe by La Mode Bagatelle. In my opinion it is a very good pattern that provides lots of options if you are willing to be creative. Especially the View D is useful, almost every dress was made using this pattern. I also did the View G Spencer Jacket for myself, but messed up with the fitting so I couldn’t close it in the end :’D Luckily this wasn’t the case for the open pelisse (is it called that way?). I just left out the center front part, added stips of fabric on which I sewed buttons and used a long rectangle in place of the waistband.

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I just love how the pelisse came out

The chemisette also worked well, it is just a bit tight around the neck. That’s why the buttons are fake, it closes by snap fastener on the inside.

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Me as Margaret on the left

Furthermore, I bought Simplicity 4055 but only used it for one dress (View A). This one is also a very beautiful pattern, the bust part is a bit longer than the one from the Regency Wardrobe. I especially adore the sleeves, they have just the right amount of volume!

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The one in the middle is Simplicity 4055, the others are La Mode Bagatelle

Making the bonnets was one of my favourite things! Using a method found on the internet, I cut away the back part of Ikea straw hats and decorated them with flowers and ribbons.

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Elinor’s hat, modeled by my wig head and a Lolita wig
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This is a hat we already had at home, it didn’t need cutting. Decoration-wise, it is my favourite
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No. 3, Margaret’s hat

Now the men’s clothes were something else. While the women’s clothes were all made by me without exception, sewing that many tailcoats would have been too much work. So I did the following:

  1. Just reusing random coats from older productions (horribly inaccurate)
  2. Altering modern coats by cutting away the front (less horrible but still)
  3. I sewed ONE only one and it was horrible (well it looked good but turned out to be a torture)

For the one that was entirely selfmade Laughing Moon 122 Men’s Empire and Regency Tailcoat was by my side and helped me, but a lot of time will have to pass before I do that again. At least suffering through 18 hours paid off.

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Marianne and Willoughby (wearing the newly sewn tailcoat) in love, but that will end soon muahaha

Laughing Moon also served as the supplier for the breeches pattern, which is #127 Men’s Narrow Fall Breeches. The shirt pattern is Kannik’s Korner Men’s Shirt. My mother made a few of them to help me (the good soul!). It runs VERY large but looking at originals, that seems to be intended.

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I just love the Palmers, they are so funny! Mrs. Palmer in my favourite dress and Mr. Palmer in one of the altered Tailcoats

I also had the honour to sew a uniform for the colonel. I ADORE Uniforms! But it became a victim to my lack of time and had to be done in the night before the first performance, so no epaulettes 😦 He still looks marvellous. The pattern is Rocking Horse Farm 1812 Dragoon Uniform with alterations.

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Mrs. Jennings is telling one of her stories…

 

Gosh was that all? I think so. According to my calculations I spent more than 170 hours on this project. At times I just wanted to stop it all (especially during the 6 weeks of the summer holidays, my biggest motivation crisis) but the thought of how it would look on stage kept me going. And of couse, the result was worth all the work. I am so glad to have been part of this amazing production with a group of lovely weirdos! It will definitely not be the last time.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this (very long) post and the pictures. Thank you for reading!


Stage photos are by Tom Klein

The photos of the bonnets are mine