Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sister Queens, Finished!

A while back I posted that my friend, Vicky, and I were recreating some portraits of Katherine of Aragon and her older sister Juana of Castile (also known as Juana la Loca). We are finally finished with them and was able to have photoshoot to capture our work. Here was my original blog post - Sister Queens.

Though we did much of our own work on these costumes at first (Vicky working on hers and I working on my own) we switched it up and ended up working on eachother's to get them done. It's really satisfying to work on costumes with a partner, as each person can really shine in their own talents. The amount of time Vicky has put into beading her hood alone is enough for an entire costume!

Though these dresses may look simple on the surface, many many hours went into making sure all the details were perfect.

Vicky as Juana of Castile, showing off her Train on the staircase.

Jamie (me) as Katherine of Aragon, showing off my train as well. (I normally have a belt/tie like Vicky's, but I did forget it for this photoshoot.)

The dresses were extremely comfortable in the cold weather, and it was easy to look Regal.

Or sly.

Here you can see the amount of beadwork that went into Vicky's sleeves, (each flower is 2-4 beads, and the billiments on her hood quadruple that.)

Mine has much less beadwork than Vicky's dress, but there was still plenty.

A better close up of the work. She even beaded the gold trim on her middle layer gown.

My hood had a painful amount of tiny beads along with many painstaking hours to get those tiny pleats of the gold silk just right.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lady Bridget Cave, An Elizabethan Knight's Wife, 1574.

In addition to my Katherine of Aragon costume, I am also making a upperclass noblewomen's costume for a client who is part of the Guilde of St George, The Court of Queen Elizabeth I, at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I'm also part of their group, but I don't have the time or money to attend as much as I would like, so I just go as a "guest" once or twice a year (therefore I'm not on the official cast list)

My client, who is playing Lady Bridget Cave, a knight's wife, has commissioned me to create a new dress for her this year with a June deadline. The year is 1574 at Bristol, a real port city in England that Elizabeth was said to visit while on progress that year. Cast members at Bristol are required to have their costumes approved by a Costuming Director before they can be created and wore because Bristol is fabulously careful of allowing costumes that are appropriate, fun, dramatic, and not too repetitive. (We don't want the whole Court in Red!) Therefore I did need to do some usual research before coming up with a final sketch that we were able to get approved.

Lady Bridget Cave Sketch
The main blue fabric is a cotton/poly blend that is mostly cotton (determined by a burn test) with a medium size pointed flower/snowflake like repeated pattern. The wearer did not want the gown to be too "feminine" so instead of curves and swirls, we chose patterns and fabrics that could be more geometric. More angles, less curves. The slightly darker blue fabric along the bottom of her forepart and sleeves that acts as a "guard" is a cotton/poly velvet. We try to stay away from poly's at Bristol because the days can be so hot, and having fabrics that breath are ideal. To try to counter these two fabrics that are heavier, I've chosen light dupioni silk for the yellow and rust brown on the forepart and sleeves. Though I didn't drawn the design quite right in my sketch, the criss-cross on the the sleeves will be a basket weave pattern, achieved by cutting strips of the silk, sewing up the sides and weaving them together in the shape of her sleeves.There is some yellow trim we found at Joann's to boarder the over skirts and bodice, and I will be creating some cord piping out of the rust brown to boarder the sleeves and the center of the forepart. The beading on her forepart, sleeves and french hood will all be glass and semiprecious stones that are only round, as her class prohibits any faceted beading or billiments. The hood is made from the same silks as in the dress, save for the off-white silk veil. She will also have a white cotton chemise.

Cotton of course is not a period fabric, but it is really hard to find fabrics made from linen, wool or silk in the right pattern, color, or weight (today's silks especially, are much lighter than they would have been in Elizabethan England, in some cases) and most importantly, for the right price, so it is okay to make exceptions with cotton. I have made this decision as a seamstress, but it has also been approved by the Guilde of St George for their cast member's dress.

If other seamstresses out there prefer to use more period accurate fabrics and techniques, more power to you!

I have started so far on her undergarments, which will include a farthingale, chemise, and two petticoats. She has already provided a bum roll and a corset which will work nicely with our design. I won't have much WIP to show until the undergarments are done, and with several other costumes on the docket, that probably won't be until Mid-May, but after that it will be full speed ahead on the forepart, sleeves, overskirt, bodice, and french hood. (I really do take the longest on my undergarments, and will whiz through all the other pieces without an issue.) Stay tune for more updates!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sister Queens

I'm currently working on two costumes with a good friend of mine, Vicky, for Costume Con 31 in Denver this year. The year for me is 1502 and the portrait is of Katherine of Aragon, before she was Queen of England, and still just a young lady. For Vicky it is 1495, and Katherine's older sister, Juana of Castile, more commonly (and unfairly) known as Juana la Loca.

I have never worked in this era before, the earliest costume I've made has been Elizabethan, specifically in 1570s, so I was scared to approach it an also very intrigued. They do not have the same undergarments, and there are no corsets or farthingales yet. We have decided to had some small boning to the kirtles (the second of four layers) to help support our busts a little and prevent the sides of the gown from bunching when the layers are either laced or hooked. I have purchased the long necklace for Katherine's gown from an Ebay seller that does "chain maille" necklaces, in a Byzantine style. The "K" necklace she wears I will be creating out of square filigree pieces. Juana's necklace we found mostly as it is, but we will be adding the pearls through a method of sewing them into the filigree around the Amber stone. 

Juana's dress is a little different than Katherine's, but we found we can for the most part use the guidance of Reconstructing History pattern 613. The pattern's pieces are tremendously helpful, but I unfortunately cannot say the same about the pattern's directions. There have been several occasions where we have wasted much time trying to decipher what she is trying to tell us to do and going online to see if anyone else has had the same issues. The back of the pattern also gives you the lowest number of yardage for the costume that will be needed, while the inside directions give you a more accurate amount (which is off by 2-3 yards is some cases if you are a larger lady like me). It is indeed the type of pattern that should be examined profusely before any purchasing of fabric, or cutting of said fabric is done.

I won't be posting any WIP pictures until after the Convention as we do plan to compete these, but here are my drawings of how we have decided to create the bottom half of these dresses, after research of how they might have looked was done.

Our belted ties are going to be made out of silk, the over gowns are made out of velvet (cotton), and the under layers are made out of linen or silk. Juana's dress you can see the sleeves, so we know there is fur lining, fitted silk under sleeves, and a white smock. You can't see this with Katherine's dress but we wanted the similarity between the dresses, to help enforce the "Sister Queens" title in our entry into the Masquerade, so we did the same thing for Katherine's dress. Juana's dress is earlier than Katherine's, but we are keeping the wider middle layer (black for Juana) and higher, peeked overdress of Juana's bodice, which is period for the earlier year. Pictures to come after we compete!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

American Duchess Giveaway and 1920s Fashion

A blogger I habitually follow, American Duchess, is having a Giveaway in honor of her new 1920's shoes, 23Skiddo. To check out the rules of the giveaway, preorder the shoes, or just ogle at her awesome store, go here.

The shoes are dyeable and come in full white, or white and brown.

In honor of these awesome shoes, I found a few pictures of dresses that could be worn with them! So now I'm totally crushing on the 1920s era fashion....(in addition to all my other historical fashion crushes)
1920s Hosiery advertisement
1918 Beaded Lace Dress
1920's evening gown

1920's "flappers"

Barbara Stanwyck as a Ziegfeld girl (c. 1924)

1920's Reproduction Gold Beaded "Sheba" Flapper Dress

September 1920 advertisement

Elizabethan Top Hats

Elizabethan's loved hats, (though during the time they called them Bonnets! Yes Bonnets! Even for the men!) and one of my serious pet peeves in in Elizabethan or Tudor shows where they have nothing on their heads, or have their hair down. Men can do without head gear, though they usually didn't when they went out, but Ladies ALMOST NEVER went out without something on their head covering up their hair. Particularly, if any of you have watched the HBO special, The Tudors, so many of the women are wearing their hair down behind (what I guess you could call) a french hood. This is not period correct. They would have worn a veil. I do think I read somewhere that Anne Boleyn wore her hair down to her execution, but that was really about it. So..that's my rant.

But one of my favorite hats that they wore in Elizabethan times is the top hat. I recently made one and will be posting my walk-through of it soon, but for now, here are a few of the references I used for inspiration! Most of these images I got from the Facebook group, Elizabethan Costume, but I also found some on Pinterest (where you can follow me if you like) or google search.

 A page from Janet Arnold's, Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c1560-1620. I believe this particular image is from an earlier release, because in my own version of this book, these three hats are found on different pages. But aren't they gorgeous? I specifically love the white leather one...I might have to recreate that one at some point..

The Duke of Anjou, youngest son of Henry II, King of France, with a lovely black toque, similar to a top hat, but there isn't much of a brim, and the top part of the hat is less structured. He started his courtship of Elizabeth I in 1579, but they were never married.

Oliver St John, 1st Baron St John of Bletso, by Arnold Bronckorst, c1578

Elizabeth Littleton, Lady Willoughby, by George Gower c1575. A good example of a Lady's top hat, though the picture is rather dark. A specific quote from a friend of mine, Frank Skony, "George Gower painted both this, and the portrait of Sir Francis Willoughby at the same time. His cost 10 pounds, while hers cost 30 pounds due to her insistence on wearing such a complicated outfit. Sir Francis was not happy."

Queen Elizabeth I wearing a cute little Lady's top hat. I will make myself one of these some day...

After I compete, I plan on posting a step by step of how I made my top hat, including the mistakes I made. For now, here is a great tutorial I read through (though I didn't follow all of it) that shows you how to make a flat cap or a tall hat.

Elizabethan Fashion: Sources and Supplies

I've been obbessed with historical cosutming, specifically Elizabethan for awhile, so I thought it would be fun to share some of the great websites I discovered while doing research and shopping. Some of these I've used, and some I didn't need but were great sources for future costumes.


Corset Making Supplies: I can't talk up this website enough. I've been using it since I was in High School, and I don't feel as though it has every let me down. I mainly use it for grommets, busks (they have wooden busks!), boning (if I want to use metal, though I usually use industrial strength zip ties, because I feel they work just as well and are cheaper), and plastic covered metal hooping for farthingales. This website used to offer a less expensive grommet press (which you can still see on there but it's listed as "out of stock") which is the one I own, and I'm not sure why the new one is so much more expensive....but I can't live without this press. It is more historically accurate to sew your lacing holes, but I do prefer to use metal on my corsets and bodices. I also prefer the plastic covered hoopsteel, but they do have buckram covered if that is more your forte.

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads: Suggested to me recently from some of my fellow seamstresses and tailors, while I was pulling my hair out trying to find a inexpensive source for Aglets/bolo tips. They carry a wide variety of ways to purchase them (in large and small amounts) and they have both gold and silver color. The website also has EVERYTHING ELSE, and you can really waste many o hours just ogling their selection.

Ebay: I know a lot of people don't like to use ebay, or purchase things on the internet, but I personally find all my best, hard to find things, on ebay. Finding things on Ebay is all about knowing the vocabulary, and then knowing what people might "mislabel" the things you are looking for. Example: I first tried to find aglets on ebay by searching for metal aglets, or aiglets, and then bolo tips. I didn't find the best and prettiest "aglets" until I was searching for something else under "filigree cone ends".
They are not actually made to go at the end of lacings or ties on the sleeves, but they work really well for that. Another great thing is odd fabrics. I have a great personal list of online fabric stores, with each one being great for certain fabrics, but I have not found another place where there was such a large selection of affordable silk brocades (I only wish I had discovered it before I purchased the fabrics I did. ah well, next dress). In particular, the Ebay store Pure Silk Fabrics.

Lamplight Feather, INC:  There are plenty of feather websites out there, but when you are looking for colored ostrich plumes in small amounts, it can be hard to not spend an arm and a leg. I've tried a few different websites that sell feathers in singles, but I prefer this website over all of them, because I find that the feathers are reasonably priced, they have a large selections, and their shipping is not horrible (though still on the expensive side to ship feathers, imo.)

Research and Construction:

Elizabethan Costuming: Most of my research comes from books and portraits, but this was a website I found early on, when I was just starting to make Elizabethan Costumes. It is not a website that you use exclusively, but I have on many occasions gone back to it. It is probably the best collection of Elizabethan references and research out there. There are many tutorials and instructions on creating your own patterns. She also links many other websites if she has found other information on the subject, including the Blackwork Archives.

Faire Photography: One of the many amazing photographers, Mark Meier, for the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, WI (My first and home Renaissance faire). I would not use this site as a mode of reference for serious documentation. However, the people that he photographs go through the same research to make their costumes that I do (since they taught me how). It is a really great place to get inspired.

Pinterest: A good place to find photos, especially portraits, but again, I would not recommend to rely on it for documentation. The descriptions of the pictures are not always correct, and sometimes it's best to find the picture, and then try to get the correct source for it, so you actually know what you are looking at.

As far as specific online sources, I mostly start out with Google image search...but when I want to really get the correct source and know that it is reliable, I always return to books, specifically Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, C.1560-1620, Patterns of Fashion 4, and Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (though this one is hard to find and rather expensive).

If you have other great resources for shopping or research to share that I did not mention, please comment! I am ALWAYS looking for more!