The most common mistakes in historical costuming/re-enactment – and how to avoid them!

 Over the years I have been asked about  a variety of problems within historical costuming – and how to avoid them. I have already written a few posts on different aspects such as the look, fabrics, etc – but here … Continue reading

Vampires at Gosfield Hall

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I have never actually been to a proper Halloween Party, but this year we were seduced into attempting one. Admittedly most of the seduction was done by the location – we have been to Gosfield Hall before, to shoot our Summer Bride collection last year – and loved it! So the tickets were bought, and since it was Lucas’ birthday on the 1st, I treated us, as a surprise, to securing the sumptuous Bridal Suite for our stay.

And with a venue like that and  lodgings dripping with gold, I obviously needed suitably splendid attire….

Fortunately I had a cunning plan – I have designed the Batdress   several months ago, a spur of the moment thing,  and then was lucky enough to get a bargain fabric –  15m of crushed silk velvet – useless for historical outfits, but perfect for a bit of Halloween fancy dress.

The original sketch,

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and a work in progress sketch – yep, that’s how I make skirts and gauge how much fabric  to use…

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the foundations first – a cage crinoline, mid Victorian design, and a muslin petticoat from one of our bridal frocks….

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then the skirt….

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The corset was a bit of a challenge – because it was to be worn over a crinoline and not  underneath, it had to be much shorter, allowing for the skirts to billow up. As a result, it turned out to be a surprisingly comfortable  wear:-)

The corset used plain coutil as a strength layer,  tape castings for channels and cotton for lining. Decoration – silver and black lace appliques, silver thread flossing and red beads.

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insides before fitting in the lining

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close up of the lace

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decoration complete

 

The overskirt/wings were made of the same fabric and lined with faux duponi silk from James Hare – and boned with thin metal flat steel.

other accessories included these..

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Once the dress was done, I have 6 hours to make something more before we hit the road – and in a mad rush I made another corset, satin and calico , with lace and silk tulle decoration:-), styled for a Bridal vampiric  look…

The plan was to arrive early and shoot the bridal stuff first, then change and have fun in the Bat dress. alas, we underestimated the traffic – Friday, end of half term, halloween – we were stuck on the motorway for  much too long. as a result, we arrived in time to get ready, but not to shoot the bridal stuff – that will have to be done the following morning!

We were surprised , very pleasantly, by a nice card and a bottle of white wine awaiting us in the suite – a present from our friend Eleanor, who was also attending the party! 🙂

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not a good picture, but captures the grin… and the room….

Before the party a girl needs to relax –  a bath and a face mask was in order. Lucas did have a bit of a shock when i joked I could go to the party wearing this….

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but at last the clothes were on, make up and hair was done and we could take a few pictures….

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The event was very atmospheric – an amazing singer in one room, roast boar dinner and a cobweb covered pianist playing tunes from the Phantom of the Opera in the other, fireworks outside – amazing!

apart from relaxing, eating and enjoying ourselves, we did take more pictures  at the end of the night….

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Batdress in its full glory

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and one from the end of the night…. corset undone, hair loose – and yet it worked too 🙂

 

as to the question i was asked a few times at the party – how do you go to the loo in that?

well, the answer is simple – wear split drawers ( or none….) and go in forward….

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In the morning we got up early and  shot the Dracula’s bride styling – corset with lace, with a scrap of lace as a headdress, my bridal veil and a silk chiffon skirt….

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we were having so much fun we almost missed breakfast – as a result i rushed downstairs half dressed – don’t think many people minded though – the corset looked great with jeans too!

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I must admit I loved wearing the Batdress – but it was a one off and is going to be put on sale ( though not before we shoot it somewhere else – the original idea was a forest or a cemetery), just like the bridal corset – no doubt next year I will come up with a different kit: – )

hope you enjoyed the madness – we did, and are planning more Halloween outings in the future!

 

 

 

Halloween, Goth and Victoriana fun

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As Halloween was approaching and I noticed a few bits of non historical fabrics in my store room, an idea was hatched – we will do some Halloween photography! We mentioned the idea to a friend at one of the markets, and she volunteered lending us some of her corsets for it. we mentioned it on facebook and withing minutes we had more contributors and models agreed on, and time set asid e for some Halloween/Goth/Victoriana fun.

We started with an organic look for a pumpkin queen – my Spring Petal Dress  had a remake ( a brief encounter with spray paint), and after an afternoon of drilling and carving the pumpkins ( the jigsaw power tool was perfect for it!) we were ready…

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petal dress before spraying…

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and after…

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pumpkin carving!

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the first one done….

 

and on the day we prepared the set for the Pumpkin Queen in the nearby woods… the results below:-)

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Next day was the big day! our make up artist, Sammm Agnew arrived just after noon, and the models, Gem and Hannah followed shortly after.

My workroom was transformed into a make up and hair styling centre…

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preparations..

and we  shot several different looks around the house…  the results below – wherever possible I provided inks directly to the products featured as many of the items are actually available to purchase straight away 🙂

Meet  The Broken Doll…. Hannah looked fantastic with  the blue hair! She is wearing a silk skirt by Prior Attire, and a lovely underbust corset by Wyte Phantom..

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Innocence Tainted –  Gem is wearing a silk  skirt and a corset by Prior Attire… Head by Samm Agnew!

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Victoriana – the ladies of the night;-)

The girls are sporting Victorian attires – the purple one  has sold already, but the chocolate pumpkin one is still available here  

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Pumpkin corset – Hanna had a quick transformation and here is sporing a silk corset with black lace decoration from Prior Attire matched with a black skirt

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Demon Bride – Gem had a go at the wedding dress that got damaged in the fire – with a festive spray of blood….

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and then got quickly  into this stunning piece by Wyte Phantom

 

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Even our MUA  vamped out her make up , donned a lovely corset ( again, Wyte Phantom) and a skirt ( Prior Attire) and jumped in front of the camera

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and after having my face and hair transform to fit with Vampish Gothic criteria, I joined her:-) The overskirt, corset and posture collar by Wyte Phantom, flouncy skirt  ( sold already, sorry….) and the fascinator by Prior Attire

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and that was it for one long day – but it was not all! 2 days later lovely Miss Lilian Love joined us for a classy corsetry shoot –  and in one evening we shot  some more Halloween stuff and some elegant vintage inspired stuff with superb corsets from Clessidra ( there will be a separate post on that, here’s a teaser)

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and the Halloween stuff –

 

again, we put Lilian in the Wyte Phantom  corset and a Prior Attire skirt

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and another plunge corset by Wyte Phantom, matching fascinator by Prior Attire

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As you can see, it was a lot of fun ( tiring, but fun!) and that was not the end of it –   the following weekend saw us at a Halloween ball from which I had a very special creation – but that  a topic for another post! 🙂

Credits:

Make up and hair – Sammm Agnew

Clothes –  Wyte Phantom, Clessidra, Prior Attire

models – Gem and Hanna Bow, Miss Lilian Love,

photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

 

First Impressions – Regency Ball

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Pray excuse my blatant use of the original, unofficial title of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, but it was exceedingly appropriate here for once 🙂

Let me explain.

Last weekend we partook of a Regency Ball in Bath – marking the end of the week-long festivities going on there during the 14th annual Jane Austen festival. It was our first ball there, and my first visit to Bath –  Regency is not my favourite period and I felt that I couldn’t be bothered to make something specifically for the occasion, but as last December  I had to make an evening gown for the 1820 Christmas feature for NBC (details here), I thought – I have the frock, I might just as well use it! Since Lucas had appropriate kit ( his wedding gear plus a pair of new breeches I cobbled together ), the decision was made and tickets were bought.

More on the clothes that I finally did make in other posts –  today we are looking at our own ‘First Impressions’…

 

 

The Ball was a fantastic event- even better, there was a dance practice in the afternoon, preparing us for the exertions of the evening, and the town was lovely – especially the gardens. In the evening there were about 200 people strolling around, dancing, drinking, playing cards and other games – a very convivial evening. The food was fantastic and there was plenty of it, and the musicians excelled.

All together, a perfect evening – we danced until we could hardly walk, we talked and laughed ’til we couldn’t speak and generally had fun.

Of course, all through the evening,  my professional costumier’s eye was noting the details of the clothes being worn. Naturally, there were no ‘authenticity police’ rigorously barring the entrance  to all those whose kit didn’t pass ‘historical inspection’ – so a huge variety in quality was observed.

Some dresses were amazing, some mediocre, some fairly awful – however,this was not a fashion show but a social occasion so it didn’t really matter. The idea was for everybody to have fun – and so no unkind words were said by anybody, which I thought was terrific – after all, many guests simply rented the costumes for the evening, or cobbled things together for themselves at the last minute, whereas others had evidently been sewing for years and preparing for the occasion for months.  Good breeding shows in good manners, and manners were excellent all round that night!

Having said all that, my professional inner self was taking notes – I noticed a few interesting facts and thought I share them with you.

It was interesting to notice that on average the gentlemen’s wear was of a much higher quality than ladies’: all the men looked very dashing, be they in regimental or civilian gear. I may not be too enthusiastic about the ladies wear of the era, but by Jove, the men’s fashions were just amazing. What was even more interesting – the cut of the dolmans, jackets, tailcoats, etc, made all the blokes walk and move differently, with a proud and graceful posture – no slouching, no dragging feet or shuffling to be seen. Amazing!

As far as ladies wear is concerned, I realised  a very peculiar thing. The costumier in me looked at every gown, true – but as the evening progressed I noticed that the ladies who stood out most and looked the most authentic were not necessarily the ones with the best dresses…  It was the lasses who took care of all the elements together who looked the best overall. I have previously ranted at length about period silhouette, hair, accessories, etc (links to the  relevant posts  at the end of this post), and now I have the perfect proof.

Some amazingly well made dresses, all hand stitched silks, lovingly embroidered hems, etc, looked rather sad without their proper undergarments, (and yes, a lady’s posture without them is immediately recognisable); a few otherwise lovely gowns were also somewhat marred by modern hairdos and faces caked with make up and mascara.

On the other hand, there were gowns that were not really that well made, or where the fabrics were not that fantastic – but they looked spot-on as the wearer invested in proper undergarments (or perhaps had a naturally Regency suited figure ;-), had a proper hairdo (and not necessarily a complex one – there were a some very good, simple hairstyles that worked beautifully!), and went easy on the modern make up.
Add a pair of gloves, a shawl  and sometimes a reticule – and  all together the wearer stood out from the crowd – not merely a woman in fancy party dress, (however good it might be), but a woman truly wearing the clothes of the era.

The effect of taking such care was really amazing- indeed it was often easy to overlook how simple a dress really was, or what fabric was used – because it was the whole picture that caught the eye, not the mere details.
And it so happens that a girl in a borrowed,  poorly- fitting or cheaply made dress looked better (and at no great cost!) than  some ladies who spent a fortune on an elaborate silk gown but neglected the rest. The underwear and details do make such a difference – So voila – the First Impressions!

And yes, some first impressions would not pass a closer look unscathed – but for this particular occasion it simply didn’t matter 🙂

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to offend anyone with this post, criticize their outfits  etc. it is just an impartial observation about the difference the attention to detail can make.

Promised links –

Looking the part1:(undergarments)

Looking the part 2 ( hair and make up)

 Looking the part 3 ( accossories)

 

and a few photos from the event!

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great cap and bonnet combo!

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yep, that’s us!

 

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loved that blue gown in the later style, fantastic!

 

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The Mermaids shoots

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 You book a short holiday in Wales, on the Pembrokeshire coast – and within seconds of imagining the wild beaches and rocky formations you have an idea – the place is a perfect scenery for a mermaid themed shoot! And once the idea was hatched, there was no looking back. It might still be cold in mid April, but we have shot in colder conditions – and so the two months before saw me accumulating ideas and bits of fabric and props that could be useful.

 Out of that,  three different looks emerged, only 2 of which actually required my dressmaking skills. We came up with a regal mermaid, a warrior one, and a funky natural one….

 The location was sourced and agreed on – Freshwater West beach was perfect –  big, lots of places  suitable for shooting and facing west – so sunset light a bonus.

 In the end I only had a day to actually work on the mermaids proper, as was busy working on commissions, but the day was enough, and since i took my sewing machine with me (  did I mention at some point that it was a holiday?), I could finish things  in Wales.

  And the results – below….

 1. Regal mermaid….

 This one took the most work as i was making a corset from the scratch.

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basic design

 

The corset was made out of biscuit coutil with a gold net overlay and gold leather elements. The layers on the panels were roll pinned  first and then the leather was secured with a tape

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then the panels were stitched together.

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The corset was boned with spring and flat steels, flossed with a turquoise linen thread and then the fun began – i had to sew on the pre-prepaed shells and fins. the shells were drilled first and  painted with glitter glue; the fins were made from 2 layers of corsetry mesh, boned with artificial whalebone and painted as well.

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  The shells were also made into necklace and bracelet –  credit to my hubby who made them!

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making the fins for the corset, and other bits:-)

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The skirt was made out of a length of gold fabric – and we were all set for the first shoot. Since we visitied Pembroke castle on our way to the beach, to chat with a friend, it meant I had to apply the make up and do the hair on the location, which meant – in the car. not the best experience ever, I must say….

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 But in the end, I managed to get changed, and off we went shooting….

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2. The  Natural Mermaid.

This one was the simplest one – and a bit of an add -on.  while researching I came across places selling proper mermaid tails, with monofin etc – so usable.  and I just couldn’t  resist them…..  I suspect the tail and fin will be used at some point in an underwater shoot….. 🙂

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was so excited when the thing arrived, i simply had to pop it on…

 So here the bottom half was sorted, and for the upper one, I have recently purchased a swimsuit in matching colours ( Panache), to provide some decency in the majority of the shoot ( we did find a nice enclosed area for some more indecent ones, far from prying eyes…. 🙂 . the wig and the make up and we were ready to go.

 Or rather – to wriggle.  it turns out that this one was the most challenging  of the whole mermaids – mostly due to the constraints of the attire ( hopping across the beach with the tail cost me some bruises…) and difficulty of finding a pose that would look  natural, graceful, and most importantly, not show too much of my own blubber.  I am not your typical size 8 model shape, and although size 12 is not bad, it soon turned out that it was tricky to find flattering poses. As a result, the majority of the photos were marked as  ‘walrus’  and discarded ( I don’t really hold with the photoshoping tricks changing the shape of a body… wysiwyg philosophy here), still, a few survived the purge…..

 We were lucky in picking up the warmest day too – so I wasn’t cold, and even water was not too bad!

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3. The warrior mermaid.

 This one was the most fun, and the most in keeping with my own personality, as I do martial arts ( and have been doing one form or other of them since I was 17, including fencing, weapon sparring, kung fu, MMA etc). The styling was fun too –  not a lot of work involved with a great effect – my favourite!

  Here the most important pieces was the scale maile bits I had on loan from a friend – there were 2 bits that could form a skirt, and a few other ones, including a nice headgear/necklace. I simply mounted the skirt bits and the shoulder bit onto  leather strips – and that was it:-)

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 Corset – since I ran out of time, I used one of the corsets i already made and used in the Steampunk Amazones shoot.  And, once I put it on,  it turned out, oh joy! that I have dropped at least a size since I last wore it – in the autumn I had over 2 inches gap at the back  ( the corset was originally made to a different model measurements) – but now I could  lace it up close without any special effort ! :-). Kinky metallic leggings and a swathe of sequiny fabric made up the rest – and as an afterthought we  used  the fabric from the Regal mermaid as a mantle.   The weapons  – we had a knife but mostly used an Indian guard spear shaft with a harpoon kind of blade  ( probably Indonesian?) mounted on it.

 The results below…

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 and a few close up on the make up and talons…

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new style of make up for me – but loved it, especially the gold speckled lenses!

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using false nails, first time ever. loved the look, but found it impossible to function and perform the simplest activities… needless to say, the talons were removed first thing after the shoot….

 

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post shoot – just to show off the corset….

 

Well, there you have it – 3 different mermaid  themed looks.   Pleased with the photos, but it was hard work  shooting every evening- I think I need another holiday now…

 

credits:

Corsetry, skirts etc – obviously, Prior Attire;

Scale maille – Denise Piggin and Ruth Watkin

lovely dreads  – Magic Tribal Hair

photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

 

the inspiration board on Pinterest

 

And there is even a video on making the shoots on my youtube chanel  – here – the resluts as wel as details on making the costumes, make up etc.

 

and just to end this rather picture heavy post – a few outtakes….

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unexpected surge of tidal water… rather cold tidal water….

 

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de- mermaided – now i have proper legs!

 

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just plain scary……

 

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Lucas at work

Gentlemen prefer blonds.Apparently….

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For the Jubilee on 2012 I was, rather unexpectedly,asked to work at  Holkham Hall again – the unexpected part being the theme as I am not a great fan of vintage fashions and have no interest whatsoever in any clothing once we get into the 1920ties…. still, I knew that working in Holkahm, at an event organized by Black Knight Historical, will be quite an experience – so a contract was signed, and I was to be none else but MM….

Yes, I know, I am a brunette –  but  the hark hair is artificial intelligence and I have been faking it for the last 20 years or so –  my natural colour is darkish blond…

Me age 17, in Hamburg....

me, aged 17, in Hamburg

 

There was no way I was going back to blond, and no way I chopeed the tresses off – so a wig was needed.

In the end I bought 4 wigs – and only the forth one was tolerable…

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tiring to master the pout….

 

The famous white dress was obtained from a fancy dress shop, huge white knickers were bought, and in the last moment I snatched a stole – the weekend was supposed to be cold.

And so I spent 3 days pouting, posing, chatting to people and singing; parading in a fashion show;hanging out with Audrey Hepburn and riding a bike with James Dean. and all the time being rather cold in my flimsy white dress:-(

Not a lot of pictures am afraid as Lucas was being an alchemist at a medieval event – so just pictures snatched by friends ( thanks to Lucy Cornwallis for hers!

getting ready....

getting ready

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singing my heart out….

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Simon as James Dean 🙂

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two celebs:-)

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Molly as a perfect 50ties housewife – equally at home in the kitchen…. and on the catwalk during the fashion show….

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and the whole team:-)

 

Sugar Skull Photoshoot

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A few weeks ago we spent a day in lovely Saracen Studio – shooting a rather interesting conceptual shoot – all planned and organized by Paul Mockford from Mockford Photography.  The ideas were rooted in the Day of the Dead atmosphere and dark, Victorian, Gothic aesthetics. I had been asked to provide an outfit for one of the models – Evangeline, and after a short session with Paul we had a sketch ready. the character was to be feminine, demure, but sexy at the same time…. and so the outfit designed offered a lot of coverage, but teasingly, it was partially transparent….

The corset was made entirely in corsetry mesh and covered in black lace….  the same lace was used to make a long skirt and a bolero jacket. once the layers were stitched firmly in place, an additional embellishment of gems and crystals ( dark crystal and purple)

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Bolero  was laced at the back, to continue the lacing of the corset…

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The skirt  was cut close fitting, with a flared shape, and very long to pool on the floor. At some point we planned to cut it along one of the seams for a bit more exposure….

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Evie at fitting:-)

On the day the girls got ready and the fun started – they were certainly put through their modelling paces as Paul had very clear ideas of the images he wanted to achieve –  and the planning and clear direction paid off, as his images are absolutely stunning – you can see them, together with a  short video, on Paul’s blog – here

The team:

Miss Lillian Love

Evangeline McManus

Kathryn Squires – MUA

Jason Huckle

Paul Laughton – Video

Andrew @ Saracen House

Below, just a few photos Lucas took as a learning experiment…

 

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and a few behind the scenes shots….

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That day we also shot the Victorian Embers gown –  a teaser photo below, and a link to the separate post HERE 🙂

 

many thanks to all the team for  a fantastic day of shooting – with equally fantastic results!

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2 Faces of Winter: Desolation

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 Following the autumnal fun with Spirit of Autumn, i decided to have a series of seasonal projects – and the next one, naturally was to be Winter.But since I couldn’t make up my mind which part of winter I like more, I have ended up with 2 sub projects; the first one, Desolation,  was inspired by the bleakness of the season – the muted dark colouring, dirt, mud, rain, fog and ice; death and decay – a typical British winter for more of its duration 🙂

I wanted to include some organic bits, just as I did in the Autumn part – but it turned out to be rather tricky! in the end i settled on the lunaria pods ( honesty plant, silver dollar plant) and some twigs.  once that was decided upon, the design was made…

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soon after i started collating bits and pieces that would go together – chiffon, bling etc…

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The corset (pattern – Sew Curvy overbust) was made in white and black sheer, with pods of the honesty plant sandwiched between the layers. The pods symbolize the rebirth – that even in death there is a seed of life hidden within, awaiting awakening once the seasons turn.

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The channels are exterior,  fashioned of a lovely grey tape – I used the same tape to bind the corset.  Boning – usual mixture of flat and spiral steels; some of the steels can be seen between the layers of the sheer – adding a hint of a skeletal deathly character to the corset.

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 Additional decoration is provided by the bling – black, grey and transparent crystals emphasising the hip and bust; two big crystal brooches  provide anchors for strips of chiffons – grey and black, matching the skirts, hanging in the front. They also anchor the black chiffon cape.

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The skirt is on the big side and was a real fun to make – big cotton base then strips of torn chiffon are randomly attached to the base. Not the most comfortable attire to walk in, but looked impressive while stationary 🙂 . About 20 metres of different chiffon were used…

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the base of the skirt, in cotton

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attaching the strips of chiffon, with the usual helper….

The crown is made out of frosted twigs and pearl and bead strings – all fashioned in about an hour.

Finishing the outfit was a bit hurried – originally we were hoping for snow, and since no snow was forecast, I was taking the project easy. and then one Monday evening we had a fog – a proper, dense, milky fog. next morning we were both more or less free, so we decided to shoot the thing in the morning, using the fog as a background.

Alarm was set for 6 – if it was foggy we would get up, get ready ( make up, contact lenses, hair extension etc all take time!). and  go and shoot. But when i woke up at 6, no fog was about. I even got up and went outside – the ground was white with frost, but no fog. back to bed then.

And then, at 8 am, with the sun rise, the frost turned into milk white fog….

Make up etc was done in record time and we were off – I even managed to get the contact lenses in less then 5 min, a huge achievement!

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on the way to the shoot

It was still bitterly cold and wet – and muddy! we decided to use Harold Odell Park again – a lot of interesting places there!

and the results….

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 Very happy with the results –  it was worth doing it with the fog, worth getting cold and getting dirty boots too…

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 Hope you enjoyed  the pictures –  all images by Pitcheresque Imagery

The other face of winter, Polaris, is already done – and will sort out the post on that soon!

and in the meantime, the corset is up for grabs at a discounted price  in our shop!

Looking the Part 2. Make up and Hair

  Right, now you have that perfect dress and silhouette, supported by all the correct underwear (as covered in part 1 here), the next step is the face and hair.  It is not much, you may think, but do not … Continue reading