Victorian Stripey


D'ya know what I see when I look at 1840s and 1850s ballgown bodices made of beautiful silks and taffetta?  WRINKLES!  I have nearly completed a new 1840s-ish ballgown for Gaskells and other Victorian dance events that require a poofy dress.  I draped the pattern myself, which consists of some very fitted front princess seems, a v-front and back, and, well, a whole lot o' wrinkles.  Anticipating that there would be wrinkles in the front (from looking at other dresses on various dress blogs and diaries), I interfaced the center front pieces, and half the side front pieces, for the side from seams.  Yes, I mean the fusible stuff, what costumers think of as the devil.  I can only think that some people have tried to use this in the place of interLINING and have come out unhappy, which is quite understandable.  I used it in conjunction with interlining, to change the properties of the thin taffetta that was my fashion fabric, and to reinforce the seams, which I knew might pull and cause, what else, WRINKLES!

And so it worked beautifully.  The center front is smooth and lovely.  I did not, however, think to use the interfacing on any other pieces, such as the back and side back.  I can painfully see now that this was indeed a mistake, for I am PLAGUED by wrinkles!!  WRINKLES!  The problem might be that I made a small point at the center back, which is displaced by the bulk of the skirt and underpinnings.  I had this very same problem with the Robe A L'Anglaise, and I was vexed for quite a long time (and still am) as to the reason for that costume fail.

Now I think it is a lack of interfacing and boning.  The center back edges or seams should ALWAYS be boned, and I imagine that the bone ought to extend down into the deep point of a L'Anglaise - that or I can take the leap to go "en forreau" from now on.  With the ballgown and any other victorian bodice made of not-jacquard, not-cotton, and not-upholstry velvet, bones and interfacing must be necessary.  This is the THIRD gown now that has had this problem - the Halloween bustle was a victim as well - and I'm good and done with it.  EVERY piece of a bodice made of taffetta, silk, or ANY lightweight fabric of any kind (minus, perhaps, cotton, depending on its weight), ought to be re-engineered with interfacing, and hopefully that will take care of the problem.

However, and this sounds awful but, I was THRILLED to take a look at some unnamed ladies of an unnamed project recreated the gowns of an unnamed famous painting of an unnamed famous person and her unnamed entourage, and find that almost if not ALL the bodice, made in the same way as my very own, showed wrinkles, lots and lots of them!  I see that this is a problem for everyone, then, and a particular challenge to not only this fabric type, but this era of dress as well.  Curved seams create tension that needs to be combatted.  At any rate, I don't feel quite so bad.  I'm half tempted (no, 3/4 tempted) to throw a fatty black sash over the middle and tie it in a monster bow at the back and call it good and done with.  Period?  I don't really care.  Does it cut the line of the dress...naw, rather I thought it was quite charming.  I happen to have a length of black silk, too, although it's slated for some sleeves and a tall hat.  Hrm....hrrrmmmmmm....

Anyway, if you're going to Gaskells tomorrow, the dress will be there, and I in it.  Oh the joy!  Please don't mention the wrinkles. :-)


If I just cut out the get-home commute, my day was a pretty darn good one.  For the firs time in at least a week I worked on something genuinely cool and engaging at work.  Sometimes I think of myself as a horribly selfish professional, but then I remember I'm an artist and this all seems justified: I only want to work on what I want to work on!  I can't say that it's hard for me to make myself sit down and do the more mundane's more like busy-work, or I get bored very easily, or I spend less time doing that.  I don't try as hard, I guess, but it's more complicated than that -- it's not that I'm not trying hard, it's more that I'm not inspired by whatever it is, and I'm having trouble finding the angle that will allow me to generate a lot of *good* ideas.  But not today!
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angry rain eyes


Since sometime last week, when Mags sent me a link to a series of photos of an incredible steampunk costume (and the lady in it), I've been going back again and again to the site of the photographer, and perusing over the the same pictures in some sort of awe-struck coma of delight, as if I have suddenly discovered something completely alien, slightly shocking, a little repulsive, and entirely fascinating.

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20s Seamstress

Costume News and the Plan...

I haven't written in happens.  I've been doing a lot of sewing and costuming (read: a lot of not finishing projects before moving on to the next ones!), and I'm very excited about the things I've been making.  I've been thinking about craftsmanship and sewing skills a lot...I am getting better, but I seem to be on a plateau of skill.  I'm going up very little by very little, not in great leaps and bounds.  I think part of it is my lack of knowledge concerning some things, like various types of stitches.  I use whipstitch for EVERYTHING.  I only recently learned how to buttonhole stitch.  I know that other stitches exist, like hem stitch and blind stitch, and my fault is in not sitting down and simply looking up how to do these and then actually DOING them.  Whipstitch doesn't bother me, myself, and I even kindof like how it looks when binding corset edges, or turning up a lower edge with bias tape, but other times it's just NOT the thing to have sticking out.  Despite the stitches being very regular, it has that home-made feel I'm growing to hate.  if I ever wanted to make costumes for anyone other than myself, anyone demanding or called a "client," I will have to improve my repertoire of handsewing techniques.

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marie antoinette

Barn Owl Gown - About feathers

The feathers will obviously be the most important part of this gown. They are the statement, and need to be done well in order to get the right look. I've considered other ways to do "feathers," by using fabric, or some other kinds of fringe, but none of those options would end up looking enough like real feathers, or would be so time-intensive that I might as well just spend the money on the real thing!

Real barn owl feathers are not available, of course, so I am approximating them with rooster feathers, specifically schleppen, which are a kind of feather from the tail. These are long, with a lot of movement, but most importantly the color is correct. They come in all different colors and can be dyed, but the tawny with speckles is what I'm looking for. Also, rooster feathers are stiffer than ostrich, which would be too floaty for this gown. 
Feathers are expensive! The rooster and rock feathers are the cheapest of the feathers I've found to work with - about $8/strung foot for the schleppen, and $5.50/35-45 rock feathers. The ideal feather would be goose, but that comes in

The method I will use will be to lay the strung feathers across the gown horizontally, stacking the lines from bottom to top, so each row overlays the previous. This should give a natural look, if the rows are spaced close enough together. Depending on the length of the schleppen, this could take A LOT of rows, or fewer than I think. It will be a matter of careful measuring and economic cutting.
Rooster feathers are not quite the right shape, so I am planning to fade from the thin feathers at the top to a thicker feather at the bottom of the skirt. This feather will be barred rock feathers (I guess that's a kind of bird) that can be dyed to the tawny color I'm looking for. Whereas the schleppen comes strung into a trim already, the rock feathers come individually, and I will have to string them myself (eek!).at $6/3 INCHES. Yikes. Just how many feet of feathers I will need is not known right now, but I plan to make the robe as simple and NOT full in skirt as possible, to avoid insane costs. That black hemguard at the bottom may be getting deeper and deeper!

Feather images and prices are from

Lamplight Feathers.
20s Seamstress

Fixers Upper

Gosh, it's so nice to have my computer working normally again.  If I had known reformatting my hard drive would be so easy, I would've done it a long time ago, but it seemed like a big mysterious and dangerous thing, so I declined from doing it for so long, letting the plethora of viruses my poor baby had contracted spin and bloom out of control and eventually shut the thing down completely.
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20s Seamstress

Happy Dress Time

I'm maybe never so happy as when I'm sewing something, working on a new project, or beginning to think on a new idea...for sewing.  I like to just think about it, too, on nights when I don't quite feel like stitching for real (like tonight).

I've ordered 3.5 yards of blue wool melton and 3 yards of chocolate brown taffetta for a new 18th c. inspired coat.  It's actually quite close to the original pattern, from Janet Arnold, with the exception of changing the collar to a larger one, which is technically much later in the century while the body of the coat is mid-century.  I don't's for fashion, not for costuming in particular, and the lines were generally the same throughout, so I could wear it to an 18th c. event and not feel funny.
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angry rain eyes


I have not posted in a long time because I feel like all I do in this stupid online journal is bitch and moan and bitch and moan.

Other people post lovely dress diaries and pictures of their projects and events and vacations.  I don't have any of that!  If I post pictures of my sewing escapades, it's to the LJ Community DressDiaries.  Otherwise...bitch and moan.

I'm writing from work today because it feels I am on a sinking ship.  There have been many layoffs, including two very important people from my department (PD - product development.)  The ART DIRECTOR, a wonderful fellow and great AD, was layed off today.  Folks from other departments have been cut as well, and there are still many who no longer work on Fridays.  It's an odd feeling - myself and the other artist started working here in December.  It's February.  We're still here, full-time, and people's securities are being toppled around us.  It's obvious that there are no designers, there can be no products, and then that really will be the end of the company...I just feel odd about the whole thing, and now the AD is gone as well.  It really is just us three now, and the product manager.

But what does this all mean?  I am afraid that if our June release of all these new products we've been working so hard on does not go as well as is hoped, then the company might fold.  I will believe that everything else will happen before that -- more downsizing, layoffs, and cost-cutting measures, and I imagine some negotiations in manufacturing and product development (in terms of cost.).  I just got this job, and I don't want to leave it...but it might not be here that much longer.  I do not have The Fear right now.

I suppose I could think about if worse comes to worse...what to do.  I don't want to go back to freelancing, so I could seek another artist position in the giftware industry, which is where I think I want to stay for a long time, for my career.  There are many giftware companies, Lenox and Hallmark being two of the largest -- and furthest away.  Let's hope life doesn't get that least not for a little while.

I'm sad for the people we lost this week.
20s Seamstress


What a less than fabulous day.  It's just one of those days - a dead day.  Not particularly happy nor angry, just a little under.  And paranoid, because that's how I become when I am under.

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20s Seamstress

The Tudor Tailor

I'm quite excited for having just ordered "The Tudor Tailor," a book I've wanted a long time, from Amazon.  Good price, too, and I bought it used ("new"), and on its way now to me.  I've seen and flipped through this book once, at a booth at Northern last season, and was pretty interested by the diagrams and instructions.  I've done oodles of web research ever since I became interested in costuming, and there are a few go-to websites I have in my favorites, but when it gets down to it, sometimes you just can't find proper instructions or patterns or enlightening details about certain things you're trying to accomplish.  So I've finally started my collection of costuming books.  I used to buy art books every month -- I'd order at least $20 worth, to get the free shipping from Amazon, and I ended up with some pretty awesome stuff, just from the "recommended" links alone.  I've got a few costume books, mostly the compilations of the Sears catalogs from the 20s and 30s, and one miniature version of the "Fashion" book from the Kyoto Institute, but other than that my costume resources are fairly nill, in terms of print.  I've been coveting the one or two Janet Arnolds I could find at the library, but there comes a time when you just need that stuff there in front of you, all the time.  Demode and other costumer websites are always referring to this book or that one or another, all books I don't have: they also all have "costumer's bookshelf" sections...again, all books I don't have and which aren't even available at what is supposed to be one of the largest libraries on the west coast (MLK Library on the SJSU campus).  
   So can you tell me excitement?  I wonder when it will get here?  I'm working on my new doublet now, with a snag here and there, but I will be making more pieces to go along with it, and of course over the course of my able-bodied life I'll make more and more and more and more and more Elizabethan, Tudor, and Jacobean costumes until my closets burst.