Romantic Ball, Kasteel d’Ursel, November 2016

Romantic era ( late 1820s and 30s) is a rather,  well, ‘interesting ‘ period, fashion wise.  Men’s garb is superb – nipped in waists, tailcoats, cravats, waistocats galore – very smart, very dashing. Women’s fashions are – a bit extreme. … Continue reading

Victorian seaside adventure!

Some things start unexpectedly…. last January I picked some lovely silk that just screamed Victorian Seaside Bustle frock… And so for the summer I put a few days aside to make it – and to nip somewhere on the coast for … Continue reading

Prior Attire Victorian Ball, Bath , 7th May 2016

  Well, I  thought our previous event at the venue was a blast – but  this year it was even better! After a year of preparations, marketing, meetings, sales, dealing with emergencies and unplanned changes, sewing and general organisational madness, … Continue reading

The Buttercup Ball and the 1895 evening gown

  A long overdue post on a rather splendid ball we attended in London, in December. The Buttercup Ball was organized by Stuart Marsden ( the dance master for our  Victorian ball  last year – and this year’s edition too!) … Continue reading

That Bespoke Thang…

IMG_4649

Over the last 20 years of sewing for other people this is one of the more often-asked  questions – “Why is bespoke more expensive than ready to wear, off-the-peg garments?”  And this request accounts for about 80% of the email I am getting nowadays too:
“I saw your off the peg riding habit/gown/corset and I love it –  I would like it made bespoke for me, in a different fabric and colour and with more decoration – will the price be the same?”

 

 

The reason for the difference in price is simple – as already stated in one of my previous blogs,  ( A Queen on a budget, please), nowadays ordering bespoke is very rare thing. People are used to all the cheap, ready made clothing they see in the shops, and  even with specialised items such as corsetry and historical  clothing,  a lot of people do not realise the difference between the ‘off-the-peg’ and ‘bespoke’, especially when made by he same person or company.

So,to make things simpler let us have a look at what you are actually paying for – at least  as far as my own merchandise is concerned..

  Off the Peg items:

* Fabric

* Labour –   a generically sized pattern is used to cut out the fabric, followed by assembly and decoration: the price will depend upon the complexity of the garment and time needed to execute it

*Notions – decorations, buttons, thread, embroidery, etc

*Packing/postage/delivery if required

*My professional expertise, knowledge and experience!

 

 Bespoke items.

  • Fabric

 

  •  Labour –
    • initial measuring  session with a client
    • drafting their specific pattern
    • making up a mock-up ( toile)
    • fitting the mock up on the client (with second client visit)
    • cutting out fabric based on final pattern from re-fitted toile
    •  assembling  the garment proper,
    •  fitting session with a client – these stages may be repeated several times depending upon how many items are to be made or how complex the garments may be)
    •  final assembly of the garment(s)
    •  adding decoration, finishing touches, etc
    • pick up session  with finished garments – although rarely needed, there is usually time assigned for any last minute corrections, as well. In my case you are likely to get a free photoshoot  with TimeLight  Photographic too, if you wish 😉
    • after-care –  small repairs or minor adjustments are generally provided for free; bigger ones may be provided at a reduced hourly rate. People usually come back to resize a garment if they have lost or gained significant weight,  or to add more decoration, reapply a hem guard if the  original one is worn out, etc.
  • time  (apart from actual making of the garment)-
    • fitting sessions, measuring sessions have to be scheduled in.
    • consultation, either in person, on the phone or by email, giving advice on style,  fabric choices, historical accuracy, etc.  For a relatively simple garments emails and message exchange may take several hours to write, research, etc. In the most extreme case I received over 250 emails from one person in one week about her commission…
    • research. Lots of research.
    • sourcing the fabrics, embellishments and other providers for items we do not supply direct (blackwork, embroidery, shoes, etc)
    • writing up contracts, quotes and invoices
    • chasing up clients  to settle on fitting dates, etc. Fortunately, a good contract means we don’t have to chase folks for the payment! (more on contracts for businesses running a business – contracts)

 

  • notions – decorations, buttons, thread, etc
  •  

    packing/postage/delivery if needed

  •  

    my professional expertise, knowledge and experience.

 

  • stress!  I am an introvert and dealing with people, however lovely, and no matter how enjoyable it is for me, (and make no mistake, I love my work and so far all of my bespoke clients have been amazing – to such an extent that we often develop friendly relations afterwards and stay in touch socially), this stress still takes its toll. After a few ours of fittings I feel as if I have run a marathon and all I want to do is sleep:-)

 

See the difference?  A riding habit that looks the same  will take 3 times as long  if made bespoke – and that is usually  true for every other item.

Above – a bespoke habit  worth over £1000 in quality cloth, fittings, handmade and hand applied braiding and an off the peg habit from our online shop – £370

 

Another thing to consider is  the fact that I make off-the-peg garments largely to satisfy my own insane desire to create pretty things – I make them in the size I want, in a fabric I like and have available currently and in a style I feel inclined to – I don’t have to  consult a client on what they would like. If I change my mind half way through – that is fine. If I feel tired and don’t fancy pushing myself to finish by a certain deadline – that is fine too. Full creative freedom.

Bespoke work is much more complex, since I have to adhere to the client’s ideas, body type, etc, so it provides quite a different feeling. Taking someone else’s ideas and making a fully functional garment, looking the way they want it too look, and fitting them well is immensely satisfying. All the hours of research, fittings, handstitching etc are worth it not only in terms of the financial reward-  the look on the client’s faces when they see themselves in the mirror wearing  their new clothing for the first time is a great reward too – and, I won’t lie, I love  to see my work worn and admired. The last session when a final outfit is tried on is always stressful – no matter how experienced you are, you are always worried that maybe this button is a tad too tight, or maybe the skirt is 0.5″ too big. Paltry things, easy to sort out within minutes, but irrationally, I still always worry!

But when it all comes together – well, the moment is magic. And  I don’t charge for that! 😉

Georgian Ball - Bath March 2015-56

 

Georgian Adventures in Stamford 2015

Georgian Butterscotch - September 27, 2015 - 2

 

There is a Georgian Festival in Stamford every other year – and this year we were contracted for a couple of jobs there ( thanks to Black Knight Historical).

The festivities lasted 3 full days with lots of lectures, meetings, Georgian market  and  living history – but our adventure started on Friday night –  at the Georgian ball!

We arrived in plenty of time , and were led to a proper  theatre style dressing room – and it turned out we were sharing it with Dr. Lucy Worsley, who dropped in for a moment of respite between her  talks, book signing and other public duties. We have met before as worked for the Worsley/Starkey documentary in Hampton court the year before, so it wasn’t too awkward. Still,  not often do we get to share a dressing room with a celebrity – and I felt a bit overdressed on the occasion 🙂

IMG_2423

although, as you can see, we clearly had the same colour scheme  in mind 🙂

At the ball we danced, we chatted – and then provided some entertaining background during the buffet break as the folks were queuing for  some lovely food –  there was chatting, playing cards and some sketching  taking place….

IMG_4714

After the break ( and after eating rather a lot of left over cake) there was more dancing and frivolities – until it was time to drive back home….

Saturday was a day off,  and Sunday we were taking part in the fashion show, so with a day off in between, I decided to make myself a new outfit – just  because I have always wanted a jacket, and because i had the fabric for ages!

I made the skirt in a lovely quilted cotton, with a fringe, and   then worked the rest of the day on a 1790 pierrot jacket.

I quickly drafted the pattern and then fitted it – mock up first and then playing with the real thing, in silk and linen

IMG_2462Sunday morning saw the jacket finished – but i had a few hours left before we had to make a move. so time to make a new hat! a gigantic one! Not the best of my creations, admittedly, but it  did the job.

 

IMG_2469

 

Then it was packing the gear and setting off.

The fashion show went down a treat – there was a huge variety of costumes, from different decades and different walks of life, and the commentary was super as well…  a few behind the scenes shots..

IMG_2473

men looking splendid….

 

IMG_2471

I was modelling a 1790 redingote, and Eleanor was wearing her lovely francaise ( more on making it and more pictures  in the Georgian Ball post.

IMG_2493

Amy fro the Period Costume Shop in a stunning polonaise  ( love the fabric!), me in the redingote and Kelly in her anglaise!

IMG_2496

some unspeakable and unmentionable things happened too….

 After the show, I could change into my new bits and have a stroll around Stamford – and take a few pictures

But I was not exactly happy – I felt the wig did not work very well with the colours of the walking outfit. So when we got back home, I changed  wigs and we went on to snatch some autumnal pictures at the local Nature Reserve…. much  happier with these!

 

Georgian Butterscotch - September 27, 2015 - 36Georgian Butterscotch - September 27, 2015 - 17Georgian Butterscotch - September 27, 2015 - 15Georgian Butterscotch - September 27, 2015 - 4

Georgian Butterscotch - September 27, 2015 - 9

 

we even had a go at some heavy machinery….

Georgian Butterscotch - September 27, 2015 - 26

 

all together, a cracking weekend  was had!

credits:

photography –  Lucas from Timelight Photographic

costuming – Prior Attire ( the  walking outfit is now available for sale – here)

shoes – American Duchess, naturellment!

The Gold Gown, market and a Regency Ball 2015

IMG_2223

 Last year we had a lovely time at out first Regency ball, part of the annual Jane Austen celebration in Bath (see post on that here). This year the dates were changed a bit, which meant that the Ball was on the first Saturday of the festival, and there was a market earlier on in the day too. So, two  birds with one stone – we could go and trade to earn our living in the day, and in the evening we could go and have a good dance at the ball!

 The usual dilemma ocurred – What to wear? I had my old evening gown, but it would be nice to make something new. As I had only 5 days to prepare regency dresses for sale, I decided to get the stock items sorted first and to work on my own frock if I had some time spare.

 I already knew what I would be using as an inspiration  – this gown from the Met museum

C.I.66.38.1ab_F

 I already had some lovely gold semi-transparent silk in my stash, so all I needed to get was lace, decoration and the silk satin for the base of the dress. I didnt really like the pearl trim on the original, so decided on an alternative, but all of the components were ready and waiting, just in case I managed to make time for it!

 In the end I finished all the stock dresses on Friday moring – and we were to leave Friday night. I had about 8 hours. Well, you know that I do like challenges….

 One thing has to be said – working on the stock meant that whilst handstitching other frocks I had time to think about the gold gown construction even before I started to work on it. I must admit, it did take me some time – mostly because I simply couldn’t see how it closed! Yes, you can see the sheer overgown ties in front, but what about the satin gown?  You can zoom in quite a lot on the Met site so you can see clearly that there are no rows of buttons or ties at the back under the sheer, nothing at the side or front, no button closures, no bib closure, no tie closures… A mystery!

 I started  zooming in to maximum and checking every detail – and finally I found it! On the back, right of centre-back, you can just about see something on the satin layer that could be called a button and a loop, at the neck egde.

C.I.66.38.1ab_B

I new that must be it – After thinking a little more, and analysing the cut I arrived at a very simple pattern idea – basically a sack with fitted neckline. I tried the idea on a mock-up first, making the top part of the gown in calic; it worked. I actually didn’t even need the button, the thing just slips ovehead and a simple tie does the rest.

IMG_2165 - Copy

 So on the day I cut the gown in silk satin, sewed it, hemmed it, lined the bodice, etc – in other words it was ready for the overgown and the sleeves.

IMG_2184 - Copy

Merlin was happy as for once he was allowed on the silk. normally it is off-limits but since it was my own stuff, I did not mind – and he did enjoy overseeing the work.

  That was the easy part…. the overgown was next – and whereas it is basically a loose robe, it took the most time due to all the finishing – cutting precise facings in flimsy sheer fabric is not my idea of fun! But the facings were cut, sewn, handstitched and metallic lace attached – then they were just awaiting the posh trim I wanted to use in place of the pearls.

IMG_2190 - Copy IMG_2192 - Copy

 Sleeves were next – and they were the most time-consuming…

 Cutting up the base and the satin layer first –

IMG_2187 - Copy

 Then preparing the space for the gathering and placing the gathers in suitable places so that that they formed ‘pulling-outs’ –  just as in Tudor sleeves.

IMG_2194 - Copy

Sleeve gathered on both sides

Once the gathers were positioned, I was able to add the overlay with the cut out holes and the gold metallic trim

IMG_2196 - Copy

I was getting excited by this stage… All that now remained was getting the sleeves together, lining them, sewing into the armbands and then into the armhole, (both the satin and the  sheer layers of the dress).

And it was almost ready – just a little belt to add, made from the sheer (I tried to  attach it to pregathered sheer underneath like in the original, but after speding an hour I decided I didnt like it – so outside it went.  Only the posh trim remained, and that could be done before the ball next day.

IMG_2198 - Copy

We packed up, drove to Bath (3 hours), checked into the hotel and collapsed…

Next day saw us setting up the stall at the market in the Guildhall – and we had 4 jolly hours of trading there…

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-6

The stall, ready!

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-9

Farthingale Hats stall. Yes, I did get a new hat….

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-10

Amy’s (Costume Shop) stand where Lucas purcahsed his replacement hose; clocked, no less!

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-28

I was sporting the redingote which I made last year – more on making that here. I still love it!

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-20

Hair Story with their wonderfull wigs and hairpieces… And yes, I have commissioned some hair from them since…

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-35

A dashing young fellow!

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-36

The silhouette cutter was super popular!

IMG_2216

My Customers were sporting their Prior Attire bling – Janet picked up two new hats from me, and it was the first outing of the military style spencer… David’s finery was made a year ago – more on its making here.

After the market  we packed up the remaining goods, drove back to the hotel and collapsed (again). But we had a ball to go to! I was so tired, that honestly, if it hadnt been for the fact that there was food on offer I probably wouldnt have gone… But we knew Searcy’s would deliver a great meal (we were not disappointed as it turned out), so after a power nap I got my act together and sorted out the braid on the dress:-). Then it was time to get dressed…

  • IMG_2201 - Copy

    do love my regency long stays, the are comfortable and provide anazing ahem, lift…. here shown with a petticoat

    IMG_2232

    You can see here how the layers worked

    And so, off to the ball we went – armed with a big camera too!  We had an amazing time, despite being so tired (I danced every other dance to conserve my energy), and the meal was superb… pictures below!

    The gold dress first – I am rather happy with it – the design worked surprisingly well 🙂 Will probably sell it at some point,  as I simply cannot go to the ball next year in the same frock, can I ? 🙂

  • Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-37 Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-38 Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-42
    Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-61

    We snatched this one at the break as everybody rushed to grab some food…

    and more generic photos of the dancing  etc 🙂

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-73

Loved the blue gown!

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-64

Zack from Pinsent Tailoring, in the tightest breaches ever – check out his work, very good!

Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-67 Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-70 Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-66 Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-65 Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-63 Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-43 Regency Ball - Bath Sept 15-48

I admit that we did leave ‘just’ before the ball ended – I was falling asleep! As it turned out, combining a working day with an evening of fun doesnt really work for me 😦

Still, we had a good night’s rest, a good brekkie and were on our way home  soon.  Once back home we decided to take the opportunity to photograph the remaining dresses  – they are now available in the shop – click  on the links to see the listing 🙂  I look tired but the gowns looked well, and that is enough for the shop 🙂

Regency Outfits Sept 15-35

front

Regency Outfits Sept 15-53

A tiny bit too big, otherwse I think I would be keeping it to myself!

this is my favourite – super smooth cotton, with removable long sleeves:-)

Regency Outfits Sept 15-58

Undersleeves removed

We even made a short video about how to put on a regency brassiere: – enjoy!

Many thanks to PItcheresque Imagery for the photos!

Symington corset pattern 1907-07 experiment

Victorian Black and Blue-8

 

When, earlier on this year, the scans of Symington corset patterns were released, (by Leicester County council, link to the patterns, etc: Leicestershire symington patterns), a lot of corsetmakers  stormed the site and bought the images they wanted to use as an experiment in pattern-making. Well, I was one of the horde who grabbed an image (or two…) but it was only recently that I had time enough to have a go at one of the patterns.

I chose 2 complex patterns and up till the last moment I couldn’t decide on which one to make first – but  in the end the decision fell on one with a lot of gores. I know, a masochistic choice, but well… I just couldn’t resist it, as the ‘gore within a gore’ concept worked for me on a variety of levels –  historically accurate and yet with styling  that would not look amiss in a modern or steampunk corset.

So ‘Gore Galore Corset’ it was – and it turned out be be even more gore-tastic than I had imagined….

IMG_0286

But,  let us start at the beginning.

 

The moment I measured the printed out pattern, I knew there would be serious issues with the fit – it just wasn’t very curvy! There were just a few inches of difference between the  hip, waist, and bust, and my bod calls for more than just a few. Still, I worked out (read: husband  did the calculations) how much the  pattern has to be enlarged, and blew it up in the local photocopying place.

IMG_0287

Then, I took the sheet, components and lunch and drove over to Sew Curvy for our usual Stitch and Bitch session – the corset was to be constructed there –  good company and nice space make it easy for me to focus, and having an accomplished corsetiere on hand to help with the fitting can only help… 🙂

The work could then begin.

IMG_0289

tracing the seam lines on the blown up copy

 

IMG_0288

calico on the pattern and could trace the pieces next…

IMG_0290

Pieces traced

IMG_0291

and pieces cut out….

 

At that point I was cleverly distracted by Julia who dug out 2 lovely antique corsets and I stopped to drool over  them… A teaser here, no doubt Julia will put more info and pictures of them on the Sew Curvy blog at some point…

IMG_0295

 

Then it was back to work – I wanted to assemble the mock up before lunch…

IMG_0301

The pieces assembled….. outside view

IMG_0302

 

and inside, below…

IMG_0303

 

IMG_0304

 

The moment of truth! How does it look on the body..?

IMG_0305

 

Pretty straight – as expected to be  honest.  As the proportions, length etc worked, I just needed an inch more reduction at the waist – and  to add a few inches at the hip and bust to accommodate my curves…

IMG_0307

And the easiest way to do that was just to cut inside the gores and use bits of calico to cover the areas that needed more expansion… and a bit more boning in front for support…

 

IMG_0308   The hip spring already looks much better, (and feels more comfy too)

 Then it was lunch time!

IMG_0310

well, we had soup first…..

After lunch I amended the pattern to accommodate the changes – all that needed to be done was to enlarge the inside gores….  and since the incisions were sort of already there, I decided to let them remain split – and just get another gore in…. A gore within a gore within a gore! A bit mad, but it just seemed to work better than simply making the inside gore bigger – and it resulted in a much more interesting look too…..

IMG_0311

Corset pieces cut out in black and blue sateen

Alas, it also meant I had 12 gores to sew in…. ouch….

IMG_0314

seam allowances pressed and ready for assembly

but with help of coffee I persevered…

IMG_0318

the corset will be boned with internal boning – but since back looked a bit boring in comparison with the front, I decided to make a casting for double bones in contrasting fabric there to balance the design

The rest of the evening was spent flossing the gores…..

IMG_0320

 

And next morning saw me with the gores flossed (is it only me, or does that sound a bit weird? ), and I was ready for some boning. (Seriously, take that sentence out of context and it sounds damned indecent! Corsetry nomenclature joys…)

IMG_0327

 

I marked the channels as close to the original as possible, and added a few more to support my boobage a bit better too…) The tape was applied over a waist stay.

IMG_0330

 

and done!

IMG_0331

It was time to try it on – if anything needs changing, there is still some scope for reshaping things, if needs be, before the lining comes in and covers all the inside…

IMG_0353

verdict – not too bad!

IMG_0339

a tiny bit too loose at the back hip, but easy to amend. very comfortable too!

At that stage I  said goodbye to Julia and Sew Curvy studio and drove back home, where I finished the corset the next day – black cotton lining was added and the bones were flossed in black. Then it was binding time and it was done!  If needs be, suspenders can be added at the front center and sides, but that can be done later once I decide whether to use it as an undergarment – or a modern top layer corset…

IMG_0554

 

As it turned out, it was over a month later that we were able to get any decent photos – and  surprise, surprise, my overindulgence in MMA and other martial activities  at the club meant that I lost some inches… The corset still fitted, but was a bit on a loose side. 😦
Even with the corset a tad too big, we got to shoot it and ended up with some interesting images.

First we shot in in the historical style – with black lawn chemise and drawers, with a matching blue ribbon.

Victorian Black and Blue-7

Victorian Black and Blue-11

Victorian Black and Blue-14

Victorian Black and Blue-17

 

And later on in the evening,  on the way back from the movies, I  changed into leggings, black top and a wig – and we shot it with a cyber punk/comic/ Tron convention  in mind – the results below….

 

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight Neon

 

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Neon-2

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight-4

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight-5

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight-9

Black and Blue SciFiAngel Underlight-8

 

As you can see, it turned out to be a pretty versatile piece –  just a shame it is a tad too big now….   And as it is a bit too big, it has already been sold to a friend  who plans to use it for some steampunk events – so it is bound to lead an interesting life….

But I am not saying goodbye to the pattern per se – indeed I liked the gores so much, I have now purchased black and yellow lacquered leather – it will be made into a Hornet Corset:-)