Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back to School (so cue the fun)

It's the end of August, and that means I am back at school and busy as a bee!  I'm now in my senior year of high school, so my schedule of classes is very full and won't allow much time for sewing or blogging, but I'm excited to be back.  

This year is going to be great: my school has allowed me to design my own class in garment history, which I have entitled ('cause that's one of the perks of making your own class--you get to choose it's name) "Foundations of Apparel: An Examination of Women’s Underwear in the 16th and 19th Centuries."  I need a nickname for it.  Suggestions?

The goal of my class is to examine the foundational garments of young, educated women in the Elizabethan period and during the American Civil War and produce similar garments utilizing some period-appropriate techniques for each era.  (I say "some period techniques" because it is highly unrealistic that I will have time to hand-sew the Elizabethan garments.)  The undergarments I will be making will fit the persona of a middle class young women around my size and age (fancy that!), so I will attempt to use the materials that would have been available to such a girl as much as possible.  By the end of the school year, I will have fairly historically accurate undergarments for two periods of history.

Since foundational garments from both periods follow a similar order of layers, I will be sewing each layer from the two sets of underwear at a time.  The layers are: Smock/Chemise, Stays/Corset, Farthingale/Crinoline, and Kirtle/Petticoats.  Of course, these are very broad definitions of layers.  For instance, I will make a pair of drawers when I make the chemise and a roll when I make the farthingale.
I'll try to keep this blog updated with my progress in the class, but I do plan on having a very full schedule so please bear with me! Thanks!

Another thing I'm really excited for is Senioritis!  It's not the "crippling disease that strikes high school seniors"(Urban Dictionary definition), but an art show that my school does at the beginning of every school year to celebrate seniors' artwork.

Of the student art shows my school hosts each year, Senioritis is by far my favorite.  The other student art shows, one each semester, display works that students have made in their art classes that semester, which means that each student taking an art class that semester likely only has a few pieces on display at the most.  It also means that if, say, the 8th graders are learning about a certain technique in their art class, the art show that semester will most likely have twenty different pieces that look similar because everyone in that 8th grade class will all have made something using the same technique.  These student art shows are better at celebrating what each art class is working on, rather than what each student is working on.  Senioritis, on the other hand, focuses on the individual talent of each senior.

Though Senioritis is open to all seniors who want to display any piece they have made in their art classes, it mainly attracts students who have continued taking art classes past the required two semesters.  Some students jump around disciplines and therefore display a diverse range of artworks in different mediums, and some students, like me, for the most part stick with one discipline and then display a number of their more complex pieces all in the same medium.  I love seeing everything that people make in their time at school -- it's a wonderful opportunity to see the level of talent and creativity that my classmates have, and to see themes within their works.

I've been looking forward to displaying my work in Senioritis since I was a freshman, and there's something surreal about now being a senior and searching around the house for things I've made in the last three years so I can display them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dipping my toes into the 1950s

Last Sunday, I attended a garden party held in honor of my class on the occasion of the start of the school year (more about that in the next post).  The suggestion of attire for the event was to dress for "casual outdoor eating."  I might have overdone it in for the early 21st century, but I hope not the mid 20th.  (I will honestly say that I don't know much about fashions in the 1950s other than what I see in pictures from the time, so this outfit is not what I would call an accurate representation of fashion in the 50s, but rather just "inspired by" such fashion.)

My sister took this picture after the party, once my hair had gotten mussed.

I've already written about the skirt and the petticoat supporting it--they're the 1950s skirt and petticoat that is part of The Semiformal Outfit That Never Was.  The belt is on-loan from a friend for a completely different event (which I will write about sooooon).  The hat is my felt pillbox, worn so the feathers are at the front -- which might not have been the best idea.  I don't quite like how it looks in the pictures.  The cute peep-toe shoes are my mother's.  The jumpsuit (yes, that shirt-like thing is a jumpsuit) is probably by far my favorite part, though.  I found it at a thrift shop a few years ago and use it normally as a warm-weather reading-in-the-sun coverup because it's comfy and it looks like a wrap dress, but it actually has shorts built in.  I wish I had some better pictures of it, but the only one that shows the entire dress is from last spring break.

Here, I'm wearing the jumpsuit as a swimsuit cover-up at Disney's Castaway Key.

To say the least, I stood out among a crowd of an assortment of light sundresses.

Photo courtesy of Mr. B, who is so good at putting up with my inability to take a serious photo.  My friend, of course, looks lovely.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bustle Era Underwear

In this post, I talked about the construction process of my bustle.  I now present the entirety of my bustle-era underwear.  When I say bustle area, I mean 1870s-1880s excepting the few years in between that constitute the Natural Form era.  The set includes a modern sundress that screams "CHEMISE!", a pair of historically correct cotton drawers (from a Simplicity pattern), my only wearable corset, and my bustle.

The sequence of photos was taken as I took off layers, so I should warn you: the pictures get progressively sillier as pieces come off.

The dog in the photo was not staged. He's a bit of a love-bug and a major attention seeker, so when he saw that I was standing still for more than a few seconds while my sister took some pictures, he came over and sat down.  I, being a sucker for the puppy-dog eyes, obligingly pet him.

Obviously, being an underbust, the corset provides little in the way of supporting my bust.  I wear a sports bra with it to achieve the correct (or a close-enough to correct) silhouette.

In the interest of full disclosure (because telling you about the bra I wear was apparently not personal enough), I am wearing bike shorts underneat my drawers and chemise because the drawers are historically accurate.  That is all I am saying.  If you do not know what a historically accurate pair of drawers constitute, look it up.

I found this chemise at "Thrifty Thursday," a shop-and-swap-esque event at my school that takes place around Earth Day.  Whoever donated it must have thought it was a modern day dress.  I pity the fool - she lost a wonderful chemise, with lots of lace inserts and all covered in pintucks.

At the conclusion of our little photoshoot, my sister *cough* stole *cough* my bustle, turned it into a hump, and started quoting Richard III.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lady Vader Cosplay Part II -- The Bodice

Last I wrote was post-SDCC and I only gave you a brief overview of the entirety of my Lady Vader costume.  Now for some details!

I started with a Civil War (1860s) bodice pattern, Simplicity 3727.  I only used the bodice part of the pattern.  I did not use the giant pagoda sleeves.  Instead I drafted my own fitted sleeve pattern with this tutorial from The Curious Frau.  One thing to note about the sleeve tutorial: by "fitted," she means that the sleeve cap does not have to be gathered or pleated to the armscye (there's a word I'll never be able to pronounce!), not that the sleeve itself is shaped/fitted.

I'm fairly pleased with this pattern.  This is the first time I've made a bodice that needed to be fitted, so I approached the mock-up with a fair amount of trepidation.  I ended up taking out a fair amount at the shoulder seam on the back, a bit on the waist at the side seams, and then some length-wise on the back  because I have an short torso.  There's still a moderate amount of wrinkling on the final product, especially at the center front, but I suspect that's because I haven't added a waist-tie to anchor the waist of the bodice down.

Since I don't have a handy little minion experienced in the ways of fitted bodices and since I still have not fit my Uniquely You dress form to me, my way of taking in at the seams was to pinch and eyeball approximately how much I needed to take away, then write down exactly what the adjustment was.  I would then take off the mockup (it safety pinned closed at center front) and then use more safety pins to  create the adjustment.  Then my younger sister would help me pin the mockup closed again so I could see how the adjustments worked.  I also had her take pictures -- in fact, it was one of these pictures that alerted me to the fact that I had to take a huge chunk out of the length (see that giant crease?).

The bodice is flatlined in denim and each panel/piece is finished with a machine zig-zag stitch.  The sleeves (which you can see towards the bottom of the picture below) are repurposed synthetic velvet pants that I got at a shop-and-swap event.  I boned the back and side seams from the waist to the curve of the princess seam and to a couple inches below the armpit, respectively.  The center front boning and the front dart boning goes from the bust all the way to the bottom.

I didn't have any boning channels or any bias tape that could double for boning channels so I made the seams themselves into channels, into which I slid some very thin zip ties.  Below shows one of the back princess seams, which has a piece of zip tie boning going from just above the notch towards the bottom at the waist to where my finger is (note to self: it's time to redo my manicure).  I sewed the seam allowances together very close to the raw/zig-zagged edge, slid the trimmed zip tie in between the seam and the line of stitching, and sewed it in.

I'm very proud of the amount of hand sewing that I did for this project.  I normally avoid hand sewing as much as possible, but my parents got me a helpful little book of sewing tips and tricks that has given me a lot more confidence.  Below you can see some of the thread loops I made for the center front closure.  I have two rows of thread loops: the first was almost at the very edge and did not hold the bodice all the way closed, so I redid them a bit farther in.


I added a welt pocket just below the left waist dart (it's on my left as I am wearing the bodice).  See this and this - they're fine examples of watch pockets hidden (on the left) in the seams of women's bodices.  I wanted to do something similar in the sense of creating a hidden pocket in the waist dart, but couldn't quite figure out how to do it, though now I realize that I could have figured it out at some point.

Welts are not fun.  They look really good when they are done right, but they are not fun.  I used this tutorial for the most part because it explained the process the clearest, though I'm not convinced it's the best tutorial.  I recommend looking at a bunch of different tutorials and then mashing them together to work best for your needs and abilities.  I did a lot of sewing of the pocket bag itself by hand mainly because I wanted to have more control over it.  I was working with a much smaller seam allowance than I am used to (1/4 inch versus 5/8 inch).  However, I finished the edges by machine with a zig-zag stitch.

I also did the trim by hand.  For the bias tape along the bottom edge I used the sew-flip-sew method.  I have no idea if this method actually has a name, but it's basically when you machine sew the bias tape to the front and then fold it back in such a way that you get a very clean line in front, then either hand-sew the back or stitch-in-the-ditch in front to secure the bias tape on the wrong side.  I opted to hand sew it.  I also hand sewed the fringe in back.  I'm starting to really like hand sewing because of the control it gives me over the project.  Also, I can sit comfortably and watch a movie while I sew, which I can't do when I'm at my machine.

I especially like this picture below because you can see where I messed up a bit and caught some of the front bias tape while I was sewing on the fringe.