To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
I mentioned early on that I wanted to try drafting a bifurcated skirt out of a period tailoring manual. I’m still doing that, sort of. Except, I’m also kind of cheating, because I realized that if I enlarged this one:
…so that the front measurement (line C-G) was the right length for my models, it worked out that the waist was also right (in other words, the measurements I needed to draft to are pretty much correctly proportioned to the book’s draft).
I think head-in-the-clouds Rae has won out (was there ever a question, really?). I’m making a Steampunk costume over the course of the next nine months. I even ordered some fabric, so now I have to make it.
My muse hasn’t stopped singing about the costume in the past week. It came up with a whole backstory and character for this costume, and who am I to deny it? Now that it’s in my head, I can’t get past the character (who is about 18 years old) so this won’t be a costume for me. Luckily, I have two younger sisters with similar body types (to each other, not me. Brats got all the tall genes)—hereafter referred to as C&K—to exploit, and they’ve agreed to let me dress them up at Christmas for a photo shoot.
So, paired with their measurements, a dress form I don’t yet own, and only a single chance to fit a mockup or two in person in less than a month (unless they come visit me, which is doubtful, since they’re on college-student budgets and I’m on a recently-bought-a-house-and-am-making-a-big-costume budget), I will be creating a costume that fits them (in theory). Luckily, they have more pattern-ready bodies, so fitting should be simpler than if I were to make it for myself, I think.
I can’t really sketch, but here’s a bit of my idea on paper…
Can you keep a secret? I’m a bit of a closet Steampunk. I love the aesthetic. I like a lot of the literature. I mean, basically, if you take my love of Victorian fashion, computer science, leather, lace, the paranormal, and any number of intriguing anthropological and linguistic themes, you get Steampunk, like it was simply made for me. Although, with the exception of the fashion bit, the others might not be so obvious to hardly anyone. I live in my head sometimes.
Aside: speaking of literature, I’m biased, because I’m totally in love with the (now completed) series and have been since the first book was published, but if you like Steampunk, the paranormal, and absolute absurdity at times (packaged in extremely well-written prose), you needs must endeavor to read the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger (starting with Soulless—at least read the online preview available for the Kindle version). Go on. I’ll still be here when you’re done.
The Museum of the City of New York has an absolutely wonderful exhibit online at the moment: Worth & Mainbocher, featuring photos and information on many garments by these two master couture houses.
It’s a dangerous time-sink, with the ability to do some very super zooming on many of the garments—you can really see the details. Some even include shots of the interior. I love it. The interface is a bit clunky and slow otherwise, but don’t let that deter you.
I have no doubt that if you’ve seen a Worth gown (I’m not as familiar with Mainbocher), you’ve wanted to see how it was constructed—this gives you the opportunity to get up close. They even have the famous “Electric Light” fancy dress gown worn by Mrs. Vanderbilt II (complete with photos of the inner bodice).
Halloween is fast approaching, and I have nothing to wear. I do have a ¾ finished project from last year that I’ll be finishing up (and writing about), but in the mean time, I thought I’d share an interesting resource. In the late 1860s, Thomas Hailes Lacy, an actor and theatrical manager published two volumes of historical, national and dramatic dress (one each for women and men). Each contains approximately 200 different fashion plates for costumes through the ages. While they aren’t all precisely accurate for the eras they represent, each of these costumes is intriguing as they show the Victorian take on historical fashion (and fantastical characters in some cases).
You can view all of the plates, both male and female, at the University of Georgia’s online library: Lacy’s Dramatic Costumes.
Here are a few of my favorite plates from the women’s dramatic costume selection. Perhaps one of them will be a good costume for next year. Any one up for a Victorian Halloween Ball? Halloween costumes are great, but when I can blend costumes and historical costuming, I’m in heaven!
I do love a good pun, and this “Fan-cy” dress is absolutely fantabulous. Feathers and pleats and lace and ruffles, oh my! Although, this would be quite a bit of work to create, especially the central fan section of the skirt. That’s an awful lot of pleating and ruffling.
This flowery ensemble is darling, with the basket-weave bodice and the latticed skirt. Perhaps a large skeleton key could be carried and you could be Mary from the Secret Garden.
When one thinks of the Roman goddess Diana, a stola and palla might come to mind (or a very risqué nothing except her bow), but this “modern” take is quite intriguing. Fashioned similar to riding habits of the day, this dress shows urban hunting symbolism (with the horse racing-patterned petticoat). This type of costume appeals to me greatly: taking a mythological entity and interpreting that symbolism into the visual language of the modern world.
The makeup job/drawn face on this fashion plate scares the bejeezus out of me, but the idea is solid. The different patterns in this costume are wonderful. Wouldn’t it be fun to make up a whole gaggle of similar costumes based on Mother Goose’s tales and go about in a group?
I can’t say whether this approaches accurately historical or not, but the abundance of cleavage must have caused quite a stir if this was actually worn in the 1860s. That rounded line is boob, not material, from what I can tell. But aside from its scandalousness, I like this costume for its strange slit skirt with bloomers underneath, the striped material, the underbust bodice, and the plethora of patterns and materials.
What are you planning for Halloween this year? Do these inspire you, or you more the type to go with modern styles?
We interrupt your regularly scheduled entries for a quick feature: When Patterns Lie. I was browsing through the McCall’s Catalog in anticipation of a $1.99/pattern sale at JoAnn’s next weekend and came across a recent addition that I hadn’t seen: pattern M6097, billed as a “Misses’ Victorian Costume.” Misses? Sure. Costume? Definitely. Victorian? Only to whoever named the pattern.
Now, I’ll admit, most of my recent and most in-depth research has focused on Elizabethan clothing, but I also read up on later periods, including Victorian. I really love some Victorian fashions—most even—except for ridiculous gigot sleeves. McCall’s M6097 is not even close to Victorian. It’s like the bastard child of gowns from the mid-1500s and mid-1800s, with some late 1900s/2000s Faire gown and Wedding dress design genes thrown in for good measure. There might even be some 1600s and 1700s aspects.
What were they thinking, labeling this “Victorian?” Once again, I’d love to see research done by the big-name pattern companies for these types of costumes. Luckily, they didn’t sink so low as to put this in their “Historical” lineup, just the run-of-the-mill Halloween costumes, so I suppose you can’t expect too much.
If you’re looking for a Victorian pattern—even for Halloween—this is not the one to choose. Both McCall’s and their subsidiary Butterick have retired all patterns that are even remotely Victorian. Regardless, if you’re serious about making a Victorian costume or reproduction, you’ll get much higher-quality patterns and results from a reputable small company that focuses on historical patterning. Search engines and historical costuming blogs are your friends in finding those. Reconstructing History is one company I’ve heard good things about, and they recently started stocking Victorian patterns, although I’ve never used one of their patterns personally.
“Someday,” I keep telling myself, “I’m going to join an SCA group, or go to a Steampunk con, or dance the night away in full costume at Victorian Ball.” It hasn’t happened yet, but I love researching antique fashions in hopes of someday getting my act together and actually creating something. Regardless of my laziness relating to costume construction, you can still benefit from my research: check out this great Victorian fashion resource.
The McCord Museum of Canadian History has a wonderful online exhibit detailing how fashion changed in women’s dress during the reign of Queen Victoria. The zoomable photos of 16 dresses that they feature are accompanied by detailed descriptions as well as summaries of the changes from previous years and short biographical information on the original owners in some cases.
This is one of the best illustrated, concise summaries of the differences in fashion throughout the 1800s that I’ve seen to date. Starting with the empire-waist gowns of the late Regency period, it describes the rise and decline of the gigot (leg-of-mutton) sleeve, the ever-expanding crinoline skirts found mid-century, and the transformation of the bell-shaped crinoline into the infamous bustle of the early 1870s and late 1880s. And while fashion plates are all well and good for looking at the changes in fashion, seeing these museum-quality full-color photographs of extant dresses brings the experience to a new level.
In case you’re short on time and want a quick primer, here are some of the major differences between the decades:
Empire waists and loose, straight skirts echoing societal interest in Classical art and form. Skirts slowly get fuller and sleeves start poofing at the shoulder as the 1830s approach.
Gigot sleeves, also called leg-of-mutton sleeves, are the defining feature of the early part of the decade’s fashion, although they flatten out toward the end. Skirts continue to get fuller, with gores and pleating at the waist aiding the new silhouette.
Sleeves have deflated and waists have dropped to the natural waistline.
Waists continue to drop, and skirts become even fuller, with flounces adding additional poof to the skirts.
Skirts hit their maximum breadth in the early part of the decade, and then begin to transition toward an elliptical shape—the front of the skirt flattens out and the bulk of the skirt moves to the back.
The bustle has evolved from the elliptical shaping of the late-60s skirts. Bodices and basques have become increasingly short-waisted. Toward the end of the decade, the back of the skirt flattens out a little.
In the later part of the decade the bustle comes back with a vengeance, requiring a stiff frame to hold the shape. Very late in the decade, sleeves start poofing.
Skirts become flatter, but the gigot sleeve makes a comeback, jumping off of the poofing sleeves of the late 80s. Moving toward the 20th century, sleeves deflate and bodices begin to change as new styles, such as the bolero, become popular.