Geisha Corsetry Collection 1

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I have been planning this one for some time – I think it was a glimpse at a kimono silk somewhere on ebay that provided the spark –  30 minutes later and I have purchased several bits of left over kimono silks and started planning.   The silks arrived, and loved them even more – and they were just big enough to incorporate into some corsetry. The theme was not an unfamiliar one to me, as we have used oriental inspiration int the Petal dress, and in our Steampunk Amazones, but this one was to be  a more cohesive collection.

As always the first stage was sketching, drawing, gathering inspiration ( Pinterest board is here), and gathering props.  I already had an early 20th century set of a katana and tanto, and a matching kimono I wanted to use, plus a collection of kanzashi ( japanese hair flowers), parasols etc…

Ironically the first design that emerged wont be shown here – I will present it in another post giving more details – it was the first ever pattern I created myself, and the corset, together with other bits and pieces was sent on adventures, to be photographed by the Iberian Black Arts, modeled on the gorgeous Threnody in Velvet.

Do not despair though – I do have some lovely pieces for you today!

Once I had some idea of the feel for the collection, i purchased more props ( hakama trousers,  jackets etc) and discussed styling and options with our main model, lovely Lizzie ( Miss Lilian Love), who also had a nice collection of oriental props:-)

Then it was just down to finding time in between commissions to make the corsets, but finally in January I managed to free a few days and frantic corsetrymaking ensued…

The feel of the collection was to be a blend of modern and traditional. The form of the corset is not a traditional shape for oriental women, however, it may be argued that obi represents a constriction and shape forming element too. In our corsets the silks or the motives were the traditional part – as well as flossing. I had a brief moment of inspiration where flossing was concerned and decided to floss the bones using  kanji – chinese/japanese characters.  to make it even more difficult, each kanji needed to be matched to the collection too – you cannot have a corset in silks saying  for example ‘rice’ or ‘cow’, can you?

In the end we got the following kanji:

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‘Spring’

 

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‘Bird’

 

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‘Flower

 

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‘Woman’

 

 

 

The first corset to me made was a playful geisha print – I made it as a challenge  – one last corset for 2014 – and completed before midnight:-).  It was meant as a sideline, to be honest, and as an exercise in pattern matching –  but worked so well I decided to include it in the collection. Indeed the pattern matching worked so well that the corset is now featured on Lucy’s Corsetry blog, among other beautifully pattern matched corsets – have a look!

work in progress…

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and  on the Lizzie:-)

 

 

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The next one was the Crane corset – a mix of kimono silks and cotton sateen.. ( this one is offered in our shop)

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then another print followed, and a bit more pattern matching…

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I think this is my favourite corset of the collection – I experimented with the pattern, creating a more pronounced hip spring  – and  as a result I love the silhouette, and it is surprisingly comfortable – I normally lace down to 27inches max – here, 26 with no problems….

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More kimono silks and pattern matching was next – IMG_20150120_150910

 

and on Lizzie – again, this corset is now offered in the shop :-)

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Then  it was experimenting with more silks, broche and sheer mesh :-)  both corsets are available in the shop:-)

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The last one was a plain piece in broche to match my honey kimono

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A week before the shoot Paul accepted our invitation to play with us on the day – and arranged for the snow machine too…. so the day was a full on fun, getting ready, changing, shooting both outside and inside with a backdrop. Whereas Lucas shot product shots and some arty stuff, Paul went for artistic  and more cinematograpic mood – sexy ninjas, Kill Bill etc…

Below a few more pictures  from the boys:-)

from Lucas:

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and  some great shots from Paul. More of his work can be seen on his blog – link soon!

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and a few behind the scenes shots:-)

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 and after some 6 hours, it was rest time – homemade pizza and wine! :-)

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Hope you enjoyed the collection – there are 2 more corsets, to be covered n a separate post, and since I still have a few bits of silks, I may add some more stock pieces to the shop at some point. In the meantime,  4 of the corsets are available for sale, plus some other corsets from past projects:-) have a look!

 

Credits:

Corsetry – Prior Attire

Models, Izabela Pitcher and Miss Lilian Love

Photography – Mockford Photography and Pitcheresque Imagery

Corsetry supplies – Sew Curvy

Kanzashi – Kikuya Kanzashi

 

 

 

 

 

 

1895 Winter Project

Iz and Lucas in the Snow-1a

I have  done a lot of earlier Victorian (1876-86), but i have not really ventured into the 90ties ( though I did make a 1895 Ripple jacket for my Christmas outfit last year), so the Belle Epoche ideas had been brewing awhile here…

and then, a few moths ago, I saw this on Pinterest

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I mean –  huge skirt ridiculous lapels, mega-sleeves, a very ugly hat – how can you not love it!? I immediately pinned it onto my 1890ties board and started planning…

It was a longer project i planned to do more or less over the Christmas break here – I don’t celebrate it, but many of my clients do, so there is a bit of a free time to carve for my own projects there:-)  I wanted to make  as many bits as I could in the gaps before the commissions and hopefully shoot it with a wintry landscape, should we be so lucky as to get any snow here.

starting ith the foundations..

Corset.

I already had a corset cut to a Symingotn pattern ( patterned by Cathy Hay) – I made it for my wedding 3 years ago, when I was just starting my corsetry adventure, and so it doesn’t fit particularly well (  the back laces form () at the back, never a good sign.. ) Still, it survived 3 years of extensive use, and it looks nice and is very , very comfy…

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my old ‘wedding’ corset in coutil and silk

Since I now had an excuse to make a new one, i set down to work. I redrafted the same patter to fit me better, and this time made it a one layer affair in a lovely  mink coutil from Sew Curvy. I also decided on external bone channels – and you can see the details on construction in the little video I put together – Here.

The blue flossing and external tape worked well with the mink colour and I put some antique lace at the top too.

It fits nicely and is comfy, and once it is properly seasoned ( worn for a bit, so that it adjusts to my body) i bet it will close in the back. Both corsets are 27″ waist.

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The petticoat was easy – I used my old antique one:-)

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To get the proper width of the hem, an underskirt was often worn too –  there are a few existing ones , and whereas some are made in cotton, there are a few made in silks, with rather nice lace – a very elegant affairs!

I  hunted out some nice lace on etsy and used leftover silk from my Regency gown

I used up 12 metres of that lace… all gathered and sewed in two tiers – to the hem and to the flounce

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The skirt was next. I used a Truly Victorian Pattern for the Ripple skirt and it worked a treat! I made mine in boucle wool, with stiff cotton lining.

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 The blouse – well, in this instance i ran out of time a bit and used a blouse I found on ebay, from Cotton Lane. Thy make pretty neat shirtwaists, that are not too different in construction from the proper stuff – and as I dislike sewing shirts etc, I simply plan to alter this one – I will remove the sleeves, cut out the pin tucked panel and the cuffs and sew them onto a proper, leg of mutton style sleeves in the same cotton. I will need to re-insert the collar too, to fit my neck better, but altogether I think it should pass muster – will update this post once it is done ( february, as want to wear it for the next market! )

 And then it was time to think about the coat….

 I wanted to make it in green wool and line with cotton. When I went wool shopping i was irrevocably drawn to the wool I used for mu 1876 February dress - lovely , napped fabric, soft and warm. I couldn’t say no…

 The lining was a rather pricey cotton flanelett – light, but soft, with a slight nap, to keep me war,

 Other ingredients included  rabbit fur,  linen interlining for the lapels and collar, tape for channels and lovely buttons made by Gina B.

   Looking at many original coats and patterns from the era, it is easy to notice that the coats dould me made either with bodice and skirts cut separately or together. I decided on the former – and adapted a pattern for the skirts from one of the coats shown in this book – 59 Authentic turn of the century patterns 

The bodice getting ready… I adapted a pattern of my old Victorian bodice and played with a mock up untill I had the correct shape of the lapels… took a few goes…

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The ‘sleeves of doom’ were quite a challenge. I found  a pattern for the sleeves in the same book and played with them – they consisted of a normal sleeve, lined, and a puff . the sleeves are cut on the bias, to achieve the fitted forearm, and the puff is interlined and stiffened with layers of net…

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the undersleeve

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the puff with net being attached

 But the net and pleating wasn’t enough to achieve the desired look. shoulder supports were needed.

 I found a few pictures of them, and in the end settled on the wire  and tape ones. they go inside the puff, and are tapes are sewn onto the undersleeve.

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I must admit that try as I might, the pleated effect seen on the original escaped me ( I almost got there with cartridge pleating but realised in the end  that i would have to have more fabric – and a different shoulder support, possibly with the wired running in the other direction, so that the pleats fill in between… just a theory.

 Still the sleeves did work out quite well…

   time to attach the skirt to the bodice… the bodice was boned on every seam and has a waiststay as well.

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planning the waistsay

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Thebuttons were next – they are decorative items, as the coat closed with hooks and eyes under the fur trim:-)

The hat was simply an adapted hat  from my 1876 frock – i simply drew the line at  making an ugly hat and decided to temporarily re-arrange an existing one – and since the brim was wired, it was easy to shape it differently, add feathers and a bow:-)

On the day we used a new backdrop for some of the pictures ( no snow here, alas) for a  cheesy Victorian postcard look, with the props being a few things we picked up on ebay – antique sledge and skates :-)

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 it was time to get dressed – and  I realised a bit of a mistake as soon as i put the coat on – the skirts were voluminous and heavy, squashing the shape of the  Ripple skirt, and dragging on the floor :-( so that’s another thing I will need to sort out before a proper outing – cutting the hem short and probably adding a bit more stiffening to it too, to help it flare out.

 Apart from that I am very happy how it all turned out – and hope we will see some proper snow at some point to take better pictures!

  as it is – the results below:-)


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  The cost.. ouch…

 corset – materials and labour – approximately £300,

 underskirt  – lace – £90, silk £30, labour £90 – £210

 ripple skirt – fabrics  – £50, labour – £150 – £200

 coat – fabrics and notions – £100, labour £300

 cheap blouse – £35  ;-)

 total – approx £1000….. plus the hat…

 Altogether  it was not the most expensive but not the cheapest set either – but it is comfortable, stylish  and more or less practical ( once you get used to the enormous sleeves) so I will be wearing it quite a lot for the markets etc, I think:-)

  And yes, I do love the sleeves… Power dressing!!!! :-) hope you like it too :-)

 usual credits – Dressmaking – Prior Attire

 photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

 corsetry supplies - Sew Curvy

 Buttons – Gina B Silkworks, 

 Wool – Bernie the Bolt

 cotton lining, notions – Tudor Rose Patchwork

 Fur – GH Leathers 

Hampton Court filming for the BBC

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Back  in the autumn we were doing a few filming jobs – a couple of days for Horrible Histories ( not released yet, I think) and  a bit for the BBC – filming the procession in Hampton Court.

 

There were close to 100 people in the procession and the task of sorting out the costumes was managed, very aptly, by Ninya Perry  ( Tudor Tailor – rings a bell? :-) ) and her team.   She talks about sourcing the costumes in her feature for the BBC here. It was a mammoth job, but the results were stunning!

 

Apart from the volunteers there was also a cluster of re-enactors, usually wearing their own kit ) I was wearing my old Tudor frockage in cream silk brocade and silk kirtle,all handstitched ( more on than and how to make your own here) – and I must say it is with the relief that I realized that I actually still fitted into it! I had a role of the train bearer – so following Lady Mary like a shadow…..

 

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Lucas was one of the canopy bearers, and Darren from the Tudor Roses, whose outfits  i made as well,  had  a prominent role too, looking resplendent in his new clothes of red wool – and he  was kind enough to hire out  the previous outfit I made him, in black wool.

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The filming was – well , regular thing, comparing with other experience it was actually very well organized – yes, there was sitting around and waiting,  and yes, we were repeating the same scene a few times, but mostly the work progressed smoothly – and it was a pleasure to actually meet  David Starkey, whom I have always greatly admired.

In short – it was a good 8 hours work, but in good company, doing useful things – and we were fed well too :-)

And the finished  programme can be seen d=for the next few weeks on Iplayer –

A Night at Hampton Court

and a few behind the scene photos below:-) enjoy the feature, lots of interesting things there!

 

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feeding time

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lots of gable hoods!

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Lady Mary and her lady in waiting gossiping…

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caught sneaking out…

 

Sophie’s Wedding dress

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It is always a pleasure to make clothing for friends – and even more so if it is the wedding dress they are after! And since apart from he historical bits ( Prior Attire) we also provide bridal gowns ( Prior Engagement)  it was a pleasure to be asked:-)

We have known Sophie and Chris for several years as we tend to attend the same events – they are accomplished musicians and provide music from medieval to modern times ( Blast from The Past). indeed, they were also our musicians of choice when we organized the Spectacular! Spectacular !ball ).  Over the years we have become good friends – and it was with joy that I agreed to making Sophie’s wedding dress.

Sophie was no stranger to our bridal fashions – indeed you will see her modelling a part of our Winter Bride collection back in 2013

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The first stages was agreeing on the styling, foundations etc. Sophie created a secret Pinterest board where she pinned her inspirations and we discussed the choices. in the end we ended up with a simple and yet surprisingly elegant design. Based on late Victorian fashions, the dress was basically an evening outfit from the late 1890 – a simple bodice and a flowing skirt, both decorated with elaborate lace.

Since Victorian fashions need a corset, a corset was the first to be created…. here at the fitting stage – we decided on a white sateen, with a gentle blue flossing. The corset needed to be providing the correct silhouette ( the whole dress may serve  Sophie as an evening Victorian gown in the years to come, perfect for  her work – concerts etc), but be comfortable enough so that she can stay in it all day, dance eat and enjoy the day.

 

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a modified TV01 pattern was used, white sateen, busk, flat and spiral steels from Sew Curvy

 

Over that a bodice in champagne satin was assembled ( lined with cotton lawn and lightly boned), with a back lacing and a rather stunning lace going over the neck and shoulders

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first fitting of the bodice

 

The skirt of the silk satin and lawn lining was next – here  at the first fitting, with lace pinned up. It as worn over a lacy and fluffy petticoat – an original one I lent Sophie for the wedding.

 

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the lace was  arranged and pinned over the bodice at the last fitting

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and then it was down to hours of stitching the thing on :-)

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A shaped green silk sash/belt completed the look.

 

On the day, since we were invited to the wedding too ( yay!) I arrived early to help Sophie dress…

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and once we were ready, the fun could begin…..

The wedding was a truly amazing day – relaxed, full of love, laughter and happiness, with great company, excellent food , moving speeches, and, needless to say, fantastic music…

Pictures below by Pitcheresque Imagery – Lucas was providing a back up photography on the day, a few more snaps here..

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It also turned out that Sophie had all of the important three from us too – something blue ( flossing), something old ( antique petticoat) and something borrowed ( the petticoat – and my own bridal veil).

Lovely natural make up by Sarah’s doo-wop-dos

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all together – a fantastic day was had by all – congratulations to Sophie and Chris!

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Christmas at Holkham

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Yes, it was this time again. just like previous 3 years ( post here  and here), we were working at the stunning Holkham Hall. 2 weekends full of lovely singing from the Upper Octave, bell ringing,chatting with visitors and marvelling at the house. The house was decorated lavishly – as always. This year it was birds that were the inspiration behind the decor:-)

but have a look for yourselves… :-)

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the table in the kitchens…

 

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everything polished to a high lustre….

 

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staff resting after a hard day’s work – from Black Knight Historical

 

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downstairs was decorated too…

 

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gingerhouse

 

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all a cake…

 

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the Marble Hall hosted a full flock of swans… glorious!

 

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Peacocks reigned in the main reception room…

 

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with small peacocks in the biggest christmas tree ever!

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the tree in all its splendour…

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more swans and other animals in the Winter Wonderland section

 

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my favourite part of the house:_)

 

 

 

 

 

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south dining room was all bedecked in warm colours, feathers and sweets…

 

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more birds!

 

 

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and a certain satyr….

 

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my favourite tree – the Partridge and Pear tree. very simple, so elegant!

 

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another favoutire, an antler tree

 

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the Swan Princess

 

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the Brussels sprouts room – loving the livid greens and the turkey!

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and the character – the Holy King and the snow queen :-)

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Lady Augusta

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amazing Upper Octave

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random rabbit

 

 

 

 

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and, once again, the Hall in its glory

 

The outside was just as festive, with entertainment, food, carriage rides and gift shop full of excited visitors – but snce we were working inside, we did not manage to capture any of that! we did catcha fe pictures one morning bfore the work – featuring the new stock dolmans from our shop

 

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And after greeting and chatting to  about 800-900 people a day, on finishing the work I was fit for just one thing… a snooze in a warm bed!

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Happy holidays to those who celebrate them!

 

 

 

Corsetted Victorians and others – myths and reality

1851-60 blue ribbed silk corset, Museum of London Prints.  Image Number 002188

1851-60 blue ribbed silk corset, Museum of London Prints. Image Number 002188

“Oh my, this must hurt – how do you breathe in this?!” –  Many re-enactors, (and modern corset wearers), will recognize that remark, whether as a comment under a picture or spoken at an event.  I have heard my fill over the last few years, when dressed in Victorian kit, and the discussions that followed were equally interesting and illuminating for both parties.

Recently I have been browsing through Pinterest boards looking for images  of 1895 corsets, and noticed several nice pictures – yet it was not the pictures that captured my attention, rather the comments and descriptions below that were even more arresting…..

Just a few examples:

* ‘They are lovely, but so uncomfortable’ ( on this pin )

* ‘This is a victorian corset which was used to create the perfect hourglasss figure. This is gorgeous but I can’t imagine wearing it. No wonder vVictorian women passed out all the time! …They couldn’t breathe ‘ ( on this )

*’Vintage 1910-1918 Fashion Corsets….women used to be laced up so tight in these corsets that they sometimes endured cracked ribs…..can’t imagine! All for the sake of having a tiny waist….’ ( on this pin)

*’how many ribs do you think had to be removed so the ladies could wear this torture device?’ ( on this pin)

*Talk about taking appearance to extremes! In the 18th – 19th century, it was fashionable to either surgically remove smaller rib bones or crush the waistline into an impossibly small size in order to achieve a “waspish” waist. Incredibly dumb!’  ( on this)

There are more, but no doubt you get the idea…
:-(

Well,  I have been wearing corsets for work and for going out for the last 3-4 years – and earlier-period stays for even longer…. I have also been making Victorian, Edwardian and modern corsets for the last 3 years ( I think I’ve made about 40  altogether)  so have managed to learn a bit about the history of corsets and their day-to-day use….

Let us have a look at a few popular myths.

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 ‘Their waists were tiny!’

Some of them, probably yes – there are always people with  smaller waists, especially when tight-lacing,  but by no means was that the norm.

*Extant corsets have  waist measurements from roughly 18″ to 30″ or more – and considering that they were not meant to be worn closed but with 2″ gap, and allowing 2-4″ tissue displacement (the so-called “squish” factor), the original waist circumference could be anything from 22″ to 40″ or more. Jennifer  from Historical Sewing explains it very well in her own blog.

*optical illusion factor – crinolines, bustles, hip pads, bug sleeves, sloping shoulders and V-shaped blouse cut and decoration – with these, it was easier to emphasize the waist, which looked smaller when contrasted with hide hips and/or shoulders.

*extant clothing and corsets are usually small –  this is true, but again, there may be several explanations for the fact that it is the smaller items that have survived to the present day:

primo –  people did tend to be just a tad shorter than nowadays – so different proportions…

secundo – and that is just my theory – it seems to me that a lot of surviving clothes belonged to teenagers and very your ladies. I have owned, handled and seen a great deal of the clothing  with labels pronouncing that they belonged to ‘Miss Smith’ or ‘Miss Brown’ – so at that time mostly unmarried, young women  (of course there were exceptions). Since they were only worn for a limited time, once young miss outgrew them, (or got married and had babies etc), they were stored ready to be handed down as necessary to the next generation. Clothes that were worn by grown-ups don’t seem to survive that well – mostly because they were worn much more thoroughly, but also because they were remodeled, restyled, etc, so that the original gown could be used for many years.
This is  just a theory, discussed with a few fellow costumiers, but there might be a little truth to it too – I would be interested in other people’s opinions!

*photoshop. No, really –  at least the Victorian/Edwardian version of it.  Most of the fashion plates from that era are drawings. It is easy to draw a tiny waist…. The reality however is a bit different.  A quick search on Pinterest of Google images will show just as much – or better still, a book I happen to have here – Victorian Costume for Ladies 1860-1900, with over 350 original photographs. Yes, there were  a few tiny waists in evidence (  and let us bear in mind that early attempts at editing was already done – by taking the photograpgh, concealing unwanted bits and taking the photograph of the  retouched original), but looking at the photographs  from the era you will find that the majority of ladies are far from willowy. They look natural, with comfortable sizes of 10-18 or more….. the book is amazing, and recommended! Below a few snaps from the book:

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Also, interestingly enough, have a look at  the  Victorian burlesque dancers -  the lovely ladies are definitely  much more substantial than our “size 0″ models…..

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The chorus of fairies in the burlesque Ariel, Gaiety Theatre, London, 8 October 1883

The fact is also  backed up by the original patterns – they encompass a variety of sizes. I use  Francis Grimble’s books a lot, and if you have a look and do some maths, you will see that many garments  are not that small waisted at all. Plus the names are rather endearing – ‘ a jacket for a stout lady’, or ‘a bodice for a medium size  lady’, ‘a bodice for well-developed ladies’, ‘bodice with narrow shoulders and back’ – etc. A superb resource!

All together I think we can safely agree that  the incredibly small waist myth is just that – a bit of a myth….

 Corsets are so uncomfortable! 

This is very true, as most of the ladies who ever bought a modern generic size cheap corset can say….  Ill fitted corsets can be a torture – I have had the dubious ‘pleasure’ of trying on a few of the corsets-UK modern items,  and though no doubt there are women who will find the fit comfortable,  for me it was a very painful experience – and not because of the waist measurements.  It is usually  the hip and rib part that is too small – not enough hip spring can be very uncomfortable! As a result, I ended up in a ‘corset tube’, which did not reduce my waist, but rather pinched my hips and ribs…

However a well-fitted corset can be a real blessing.  I am a comfortable size 12, with 34F bust, and I find Victorian and Edwardian corsets a pleasure to wear.  My natural waist is 34″ and I usually lace to 27-28″  if I know I am wearing the corset for a whole day. They support my bust from underneath – so my shoulders don’t ache from carrying the burden.  They help me maintain my posture – this is a godsend  especially for markets and events when I have to be standing for long periods – for example, the last 2 weekends I spent working with the public, standing for 6 hours with a short lunch break. Normally my lower back would be screaming – but in corset I could feel the comfort of the ‘exoskeleton’, keeping me upright and supporting my back…

47. at Holkham (4)

at work…. :-)

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early edwardian corset 27″ waist

Why the difference? Apart from the fit issues, the style is also important – modern corsets are usually overbust, designed to be worn on their own.  Historical pieces are usually mid-bust –  and a well fitted the corset squeezes the waist, but accommodates the rib-cage and supports the bust without compressing one’s lungs (so normal breathing is not impaired). Mid bust corsets are more comfortable to wear as they do not ‘ride up’ like many modern overbust corsets when sitting. :-)

Of course, the materials used for quality corsets which can be used everyday are very different to the plastic-boned viscose jacquards available in mass produced versions….

Let’s remember that corsets were worn every day, all day and women were not sitting idly looking pretty.  They walked, danced, worked, rode, played sports – all in corsets. True, sport corsets were shorter (especially important for riding), but still, they were all practical garments…

In my Victorian corset I have danced  ( video here), skated

47.trying on the ice rink  - fail....

and ridden side saddle.. in a mock up  first –

7. side view of the mock up - back just a bit too high

8. mock up in action - sides half an inch too high, and digging into armipts when riding - mark the arms position

and in a proper habit

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It is also a myth that you cannot bend in a corset as it is impossible to bend from the waist. Well,  try bending from the waist without one –  you won’t go far…. Humans are designed to bend from the hips!!

A brief demo – my apologies for the style of the pictures but grabbed my corset as I was writing this article and took some pictures to show  that it is possible to bend…

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corset worn on modern clothes, laced to 27.5 waist – the size of my Victorian clothing

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side view

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starting to bend from the hips

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touching the floor. not the most comfortable position , and usually can go further, but sort of makes a point. warning, dont try at home if you are not naturally bendy! :-) If you need to pick something up, crouch down instead of bending – healthier and easier….

Voila!  :-)

And so, in my opinion if the corset is well fitted, laced properly (not too tightly), it can be very comfortable. This  refers to both modern and historical wear – well-made corsets will support your back and bust and won’t crush your ribs.
True, if you are wearing a corset just for a photo-shoot, it is OK to lace tightly- I can get to 24″) for fashion corsets, but then I don’t spend a day wearing them…

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natural waist 32″

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corseted waist 24″. Here a lovely underbust by Clessidra Couture

No wonder women fainted all the time! 

Here there is some truth to it – but this mostly refers to the lightheaded feeling you can get if you take off your corset too fast, after wearing it for a long time… As the blood rushes down more abruptly, it is indeed possible to swoon…. so gradual lacing  and unlacing is recommended.

It may also have happened if your fashionable women laced too tightly….. more for a fashion’s sake than practical.
;-)

Women had ribs surgically removed!

With surgery as dangerous as it was in Victorian times? Really very, very doubtful…. plus, again, the photographic evidence doesn’t really  support it…

Corsets deformed silhouette and caused medical problems

This can be very true if laced excessively, I dare say. Yes, your body will change if you are a trained tightlacer, and wear a corset from early on. We are all familiar with the drawings showing how the organs move and ribs deform and there may be some truh in it. At the same time many of us have seen modern MRI imagery of a corset being worn – and as it turns out it is not as bad as we though – here the results of the experiment as presented by Lucy Corsetry

Well, I think I’d better stop – if you have any other remarks or comments, please do so, very interested in others’ opinions and experiences!

Further reading:
Lovely article by Historical Sewing – here

…and a comprehensive read on the myths are covered here and a few more – by  Yesterday’s Thimble – here

…also, an interesting article by the  Pragmatic Costumer – here

Hope you can find the article useful – best wishes from Izabela of Prior Attire!

Making an early Mantua 1690-1700

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I have been wanting to have a go at the early mantua for quite some time – but since the end of the 17th century is relatively underrepresented here in the UK, with no events at which to wear it, the project was just simmering on the edges of inspiration. Then, out of the blue, we were asked to provide accessories for a shoot inspired by the famous, (or rather infamous) “La Maupin” – this was a lingerie shoot for Kiss Me Deadly, in a lavish London location – and we were told that we could come and shoot some historical stuff there too. Well, that was enough to get me going…. ( and the post on the shoot itself is here)

Fabrics were bought, research conducted and ideas considered – and we were ready to go.

The items I needed to make were – a petticoat, mantua and fontage headdress

Inspiration board – http://www.pinterest.com/priorattire/1670-1700-dress-more-or-less-/

Petticoat 

Fabrics:

Grosgrain silk (gold on top, olive on the other side) – 5m; gold lace – 8m, bullion fringe – 5m, button. ( pic.1)

1. colour scheme for the petticoat

1. colour scheme for the petticoat

 

Pattern – my own, based on the instructions in the Nora Waugh book – a very simple affair, a rectangle of fabric, with the grain going horizontally.

Method.

Again, a very simple construction – Cut the rectangle of fabric (the original petticoat is 124”, mine is 130”), the front length will depend on your height and shoes. The back can be trained slightly (as it is in the original, or cut to an even length.  I adjusted the length on the waist, so that the bottom hem has the grain running horizontally all around.

Sew the ends together, leaving an opening at the top – about 3-4 inches. Finish the seam (hand stich, securing the edges and press)

2. deep hem of the petticoat

deep hem of the petticoat

 

Hem the skirt and apply any planned decoration as wished – in my case this was a band of the same fabric but with the olive side showing, framed by the metallic lace and, at the very hem, the bullion fringe.

3.sewing the decoration on

sewing the decoration on

 

Cut out the waistband to the desired length, and pleat the skirt to fit it – the original has 13 pleats on each side, and I aimed for the same number.

4.pleating the skirt

pleating the skirt

 

Attach the pleated skirt to the waistband. Finish the waistband, add a button and work a button hole – and the petticoat is ready.

5.finishing the waistband, enclosing the raw edges of the pleated skirt

.finishing the waistband, enclosing the raw edges of the pleated skirt

 

6.petticoat finished

7.detail of the hem

 Mantua.

 Fabric:

8m of silk taffeta,

20m of wide metallic lace,

10m of narrow metallic braid,

Hooks for the train,

Pins for the stomacher

Linen (0.5-1m) and reeds for the stomacher.

If you are lining your mantua, you will need the same amount of lining as the top fabric…. Some mantuas are lined, some unlined, if you have a fabric that has a different shade on the other side (like my petticoat), that would work very well too.

For sewing I used silk thread.

Pattern

Again, Norah Waugh’s pattern – I even used the same measurements on all the pieces.

8. getting the measurements from the book

getting the measurements from the book

 

Cut out all the pieces in silk.  Put the sleeves, revers and neck pieces aside for the time being and deal with the main parts of the gown first.

Back piece – sew the skirts together at the CB (unless you cut on fold) and mark the pleating lines. Fold the fabric in the recommended direction on every pleat and pin.  Experiment with the depths of pins until the back measurement of the gown matches your own – the easiest way to do so is to use your block, or to try to pin on a mannequin of your size.

9. checking the pleats at the bck on a dummy

checking the pleats at the bck on a dummy

10. full view of the back pleats

full view of the back pleats

 

Once you are satisfied with the pleats, secure them with hand stitching

11. securing the pleats

securing the pleats

11a. back piece pleated, inside view-just the seam needs finishing-)

back piece pleated, inside view-just the seam needs finishing-)

 

Repeat the same process on the front pieces – experiment with the pleats on a dummy, or on yourself if you have help. Make sure to wear the undergarments that you will be wearing – in my case it was fully boned stays.  Without the foundation provided by the stays, the pleating  will not only result in the wrong silhouette, but will also be much more difficult – remember that a modern bra will give bust a natural round shape, very different from the flat, straight lines created by rigid stays of the era.

13. and then adjusting the pleats on a dummy for a more shape - the last stage is to try the thing on your stays and give it the final tweak then

adjusting the pleats on a dummy for a more shape – the last stage is to try the thing on your stays and give it the final tweak then

Again, once you have tweaked your pleats, secure them with hand stitching.

Prepare your revers – sew in the dart, sew lining (I used the same fabric) and pin onto the front. Again, experiment with the exact positioning and the shape of the front edge, and once happy with it, stitch together.

14. front piece pleated and revers attached

front piece pleated and revers attached

 

 

That’s the most difficult and fiddly part done, really. Yes, there will be a lot of hemming and hand stitching later, but the crucial fitting is mostly over

Next step – connect the front parts with the back –at the shoulders and the sides.  Follow the directions in the book – part of the side seams are stitched wrong-sides together so that they won’t show too much when the train is hooked up in the back!  Stitch, secure, and press.

15. treatment of the inside seams in the mantua,here shown before pressing

treatment of the inside seams in the mantua,here shown before pressing

 

Prepare the sleeves – work the seam, secure the raw edges, add the cuff. Pleat the top, if applicable, and insert into the armscythe.

16. cuff ready

cuff ready

 

17. sleeve inserted,

sleeve inserted, before securing the seam

 

Hem the thing…. This will take quite some time as the train is very long, but if you plan to show it, do it by hand. If you plan to stitch decoration over, then a machine finish will be fine.

18.hemming the mantua

hemming the mantua

 

Neck pieces next. Tidy and secure the back neck edge, then attach the neck pieces, matching the centre back seam. Stitch carefully

19.working on the back neck pieces

working on the back neck pieces

 

20. neck pieces pinned

neck pieces pinned

 

21. stitching the pieces in place

stitching the pieces in place

 

22. back neck ready

back neck ready

 

. Your mantua is now ready to be decorated.

23. all ready, awaiting decoration

all ready, awaiting decoration

 

Decoration time. I used a fine metallic lace and applied it, well, everywhere really… On the cuffs and all around the gown. The inside of the skirts sports a narrow metallic braid, which finishes it nicely once the skirts are arranged.

24. lace on cuffs

lace on cuffs

25. lace on revers

lace on revers

26. braid on the underside of the skirts

braid on the underside of the skirts

 

. For arranging the train – attach hooks as indicated on the pattern. They simply hook up to the belt at the back

27. braid and lace showing once the train is arranged

braid and lace showing once the train is arranged

 

Stomacher next – I made mine out of 2 layers of linen buckram, fully boned in reed, then covered in the taffeta and lined it.

28.stomacher

stomacher

 

Your mantua is now ready!

To finish the look however, I need a headdress – the famous “fontage”. After some brief research I stumbled upon this little tutorial – and followed it more or less directly:
http://pyracy.com/index.php/topic/15155-how-to-make-a-late-17th-century-fontangefontage/

I tried it first in calico, as a mock-up

29. fontage mock up in calico

Once I was happy with the size and shape, I cut it in linen, hemmed the crescents, applied lace and pleated it. I then pressed and starched it and inserted the boning (reed), then stitched the pleats closed at the back.

30. linen crescent ready for hemming

linen crescent ready for hemming

31. lace applied to the crescents

lace applied to the crescents

32. pleating!

pleating!

33. pleated and with lace decoration

pleated and with lace decoration

34. stitching the pleats close once the boning is inserted

stitching the pleats close once the boning is inserted

 
Next, the bag was attached, (a simple circle gathered onto a band), and the long wide lace lappets finished the look

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On the day of the shoot, I wore the following items:

Silk stockings (American Duchess) and C17th shoes

Linen chemise with lace cuffs,

Fully boned stays

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trying the headgear without the hair… weird…

 

Silk petticoat (in red)

Decorated petticoat with the fringe

Mantua,

Fontage (worn over my own hair and curly hairpieces)

Jewellery by Gemmeus

 

I was surprised to notice that the stomacher needed only a very, very basic pinning at the top –  as once the train is hooked up to the belt (here a length of wide metallic braid) at the back, the tension keeps the belt taunt, and stomacher in place. The whole outfit looked far better that I had ever hoped – as, let’s face it, a fontage is a bit of a silly thing to wear on your head! But once everything was on, it all fell into place, and it all felt not only comfortable, but also correct and entirely in keeping in with the environs. Needless to say, I felt great – and didn’t want to take the thing off…..

We arrived on the location in a good time and managed to shoot our stuff way before we were overcome by glamorously bewigged girls in sexy lingerie, brandishing swords, fans and rapiers….  More information on the shoot can be found here: https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/early-mantua-and-la-maupin-style-shoot/

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http://www.priorattire.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running a Costuming Business part 2

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It seems the first post on running a costuming business was very popular – it answered a lot of questions, but it also triggered many more! I have collated the most recent batch of questions, and here are my answers…

 

* Do I need to have a contract?

Absolutely. A contract protects both you and your client, it clarifies the job, establishes the parameters – in other words makes it easy.   And yes, you need it also when sewing for friends….. even more so, perhaps…

 

*What should I include in the contract, on the whole?

Apart from  your  letterhead/logo, addresses, etc the following is the bare minimum:

* what garment is to be made. You can opt to put details in a separate ‘Specification’ document – I use that only for the most elaborate costumes, simpler ones don’t need it – though you still need to state what is being made, in what fabrics, styles, etc. I usually add a few example or reference pictures too.

*the cost of the garment – either all-inclusive or labour and materials costed separately.

* the deposit – usually it is either the price of the fabrics or 30-40% of the labour.  Do state when this is to be paid (within a week, 10 days, etc of the issue of the contract), and the payment method. The deposit is non refundable, always – I book time aside to carry that work or use the money to buy provisions – if the client changes their mind, it is unlikely I will be able to  book another client at short notice, so that deposit protects me from too much of a loss.   If some people are reluctant pay a deposit, don’t take the order, it is that simple.  The majority of people understand it and have no problem with it.

* Payment details – how, and when.  If you offer installments do say so, and agree beforehand on how many installments will be needed. Provide your bank details, PayPal address, etc. I usually require the total to be paid in full on or before the delivery date. Tempting as it sometimes might be, try to avoid relinquishing your hold on the goods until the total is paid. It is different when dealing with public services and large organisations, but still make sure all the details are in place.

*delivery – shipping ( the exact shipping cost is usually included in the final invoice), pick up or delivery in person, to a market etc

* Timings: fittings schedule, deadline etc. make sure the client understands that their availability for fittings in the specified time frame is vital to completing the item on time. An example – I was making a 17th century set, ornate, with many fittings; deadline was June 2014, with fittings in May. One fitting happened and then due to work problems, family and health problems, etc, the customer wasn’t able to attend any of the fitting sessions till late august. And once he did, he said he would require all the work completed within a week.  I refused – since his item was overdue, I was only able to work on it in the gaps between other commissions, and  that meant at least 2 weeks. It wasn’t the most pleasant  situation, but in the end the customer realized I wasn’t at fault – far from it. He apologized and a new deadline was agreed on. What made him realise? I mentioned that I need to respect all of my customers and cannot get behind other orders simply because his was overdue due to his problems, and not mine.  I now include an additional clause specifying what happens if  a similar situation arises ( a new deadline is needed, though if I have a gap in between present commissions the item may be finished early)

* what happens if the items are unpaid or uncollected.    I  usually state that all unpaid/uncollected items are kept for one month; after that they will be advertise on sale.   This solves a lot of problems, though you may want use your own judgement – life is life, things happen – and sometimes it is a good idea to be flexible. I always advise people to contact me as soon as they can if they have financial problems – the sooner I know the more able I am to suggest a solution – by either moving the commissions further ahead, splitting the total into installments, etc. It is not easy to talk about money, but being straightforward is usually the best way of tackling the issue.

*also what happens if you have problems and default.

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* How do you plan your commissions?

I have  a system that works for me – it may not work for you in details,  but I believe the general principle is sound.

I know more or less how long it takes to make most of the garments and can plan on how many ours I will need.  (Remember you will need to factor fittings in to that as well), and so each client is allocated a slot  – it may be 2 days, 5 days, or 2 weeks – really depends on the garment. Make sure that the client is available for fittings within that time too. I always overestimate, usually by at least a day – unpredictable things may happen, so it is good to have that margin. If you finish the item on or before the allocated deadline, you have a day to rest, work on stock or  squeeze in an emergency order from the waiting list

This is what my monthly diary usually look like – you may wish to set it up as  a digital one, but I am afraid I am still very much a pen and paper kind of girl….

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I also put notes on  week pages –  it gives me focus and I know what I am doing day by day…

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You may notice fitting days –  I discovered that having fittings on many different days for different clients is  not working very well for me – it disrupts the day and productivity flow, and so I try to keep 2-4 fitting days a month (depends on the season), usually for both weekdays and weekends.  There are of course exceptions when a client cannot make any, but I have found out if I plan them well ahead, that doesn’t happen  a lot.

I usually have 3-4 people in for a fitting day – more is usually to much and I struggle to think clearly!

I also keep a few days a month for stock making for my online shop, or for upcoming markets.  I like making stock so these are usually fun days when I make what I want to make,  or when I experiment with patterns. They are also useful if you happen to have an emergency order too :-) and since we are talking about emergencies….

* Do you accept last minute orders?

That depends  on  a given month – sometimes if my stock days are free or if I know I can finish a planned order beforehand, then yes – but I make it very clear to the client that an emergency order will be a subject to an additional fee, and that they will need to be able to attend fittings, sometimes day after day  (in the picture above the regency dress as such – all done in 2 days, during which time the client stayed in a nearby b&B and was available for fittings as required – and picked up the dress at the end of her stay)

* I hate paperwork – how many documents do you usually issue per order?

1. quote, 2. contract ( sometimes with a separate specification), 3. final invoice

* What machines do you use?

I  have tried a few over the last 20 years or so – mostly Janome, Toyota and Pfaff. Nowadays Janome is my brand of choice  – I have had a few different models over the years and ended up with the best set up for me:

1. primary machine – dedicated straight stitch semi-industrial 1600PQC. perfect for everyday stitching, and FAST….

2. secondary machine –  for back up plus all the fancy work ( embroidery, zips, ruffling, buttonholes etc) – Horizon – MC800QC

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3. Overlocker SMD744D

These are not the cheapest models – but since they are the tools of my profession I need machines that are fast, reliable and can deal with the amount of work.  You don’t need to spend a fortune on hardware – mid price items from Janome are also good, and will suffice if you don’t stitch day in day out. I have used this models for years and they worked brilliantly too – SMD6019QC, and J3-20

Apart from that I also use a very old but very good grinder/sander for filing corsetry bones. It is old, it is noisy as hell, but does a fantastic job.

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Steamer – Vaporella Easy

 

* what does your workroom look like?  you must need loads of space!

Well,  should I be so lucky….. ;-) I work from home so am using a combination of a reception and living room. No  space for a proper cutting table ( for most of the dresses I would need a rather sizable one….), so the cutting of large bits happens on the floor… but generally, this is when all the costuming happens

 

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from the right – the work area…

 

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on the left – cutting and patterning space

 

 

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storage under the cutting space

 

 

 

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pressing station and some of the patterns ( corsetry) on the wall.

 

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reference books and computer desk :-)

*Do you use commercial patterns?

Sometimes. Mostly I use either my own patterns that I developed throughout the years, or a combination – a commercial pattern adapted to my needs.  When I use a commercial pattern I always run a trial and see if it runs true to size – important if am working on stock items. For bespoke  items, I very rarely use commercial ones, and even when I do, I always make a mock up and fit it individually to a customer.

* Do you have any tips for online selling?

Hmm, maybe a few – I have had y online shop only for the last 3 months and though I love it and it has been a success so far, I am far from an expert!. A few things I have learnt though:

* invest in a professional website. I use Create.net and love it, it was easy to set it up even for me, and it is not expensive.

*in the bespoke section include your price range  –  when people email you about commissions they will have already seen the pricing, so your quote won’t come as a surprise.

*specify posting dates.  if you have a post office nearby and don’t mind frequent visits, that’s fine – for me Monday, Wednesday and Friday are posting  days –  unless someone asks for urgent sale etc. people will get their items in 1 or 2 days, and you know you have 2 days when the chore of tackling the post office queues is not looming ahead.

* Be as specific about the items for sale as you can – and be honest. You may have a few less sales, but a few less returns as well!

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Well,I think that’s it for a while! as before, feel free to ask questions and comment, they are welcome and appreciated! and if  we have more questions, they will be answered in another post as well :-)

Happy reading!

 

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1860 gown

St Audries Shoot-9

I have never done a proper  day 1860 kit before –  yes, did ballgowns and bridal versions, but not day dresses – and not for me!  I didn’t actually need one either, but when I saw that wool it just screamed late 50ties, early 60ties to me – and my will power failed me. I got the wool and put it in the fabric shed…

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Over the next few months I  acquired a crinoline cage and experimented with the corsetry for the era too….

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Still, I was too busy dealing with commissions and stock items, so the project, and the fabric was still waiting. Then we decided to go to St. Audries Park  ball –  and I was kicked into a whirl of activity The venue is amazing ( indeed it is our wedding venue, and we held a short bridal shoot there too), and since we could all arrive early in the afternoon, we decided it would be a perfect place to shoot some Victorian frockage – the 1860 one included:-)

No time to rework the corsets, and since we would be shooting other eras,  I decided to save time needed to swap corsetry and stay in my 1880 corset – it did provide the right shape, as it turned out.

What I did need was a proper petticoat…. 6m of cotton and tedious pink tucks sewing, the petticoat was ready :-)

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detail of the pintucks and lace – and the inevitable moggy under the crinoline….

I was happy with that -time for the skirts….

Not too difficult a job, though it needed a lot of seams – the fabric I had was vintage and narrow….

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80cm wide…

lots of hemming and pleating was done, and the hem was decorated with a wide velvet ribbon  in deep olive …

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Bodice next – I didn’t have a pattern, and so based mine on original items found online ( my pinterest board is here), cross – referenced with pattern diagrams from Jean Hunnisett.

Mock up being more or less shaped – just getting the seam placements here, I did the detailed shaping on myself wearing a corset…

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Once that was done, it was time to cut the fabric and lining….

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and stitch the thing up.

The seams are boned, turned to the side and secured. the edges are faced with the same fabric

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The sleeves were a modest pagoda style, trimmed with the olive velvet ribbon and a pleated satin ribbon on the inside of the cuffs.   Buttons were a nice eBay find – a velvet covered metal buttons, vintage :-)

Chemisette with a plain collar and undersleeves with lawn and lace were next…

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close up on the sleeves – work in progress

and then, there was the bonnet – a spoon straw bonnet from Dressing History, trimmed with the following:

1 inside – a lawn lining and a cotton lace ruffle, paper and silk flowers

2. outside – combination of velvet ribbon, satin ribbon and pleated satin ribbon…. edges and bavolet in silk taffeta

The stockings and shoes from American Duchess  :-),  chemise in cotton and split drawers in cotton too –  and am wearing my corset in silk taffeta

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oops!

The result – well, I was amazed at how fetching the style was – I looked positively sweet, a perfect disguise for my somewhat grumpy personality ( and a grumpy mood on the day as I was suffering from a nasty cold) – must the be hat;-)

It was a fun style to wear and something tells me I am not done with the 1860ties yet! :-)

The photos by Pitcheresque Imagery, and the dress etc by Prior Attire

hope you like it!

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