*Be in a hurry.
*Choose fabric you already know probably isn’t appropriate for the project (but look how well it coordinates with the trim!).
*Don’t prewash the fabric.
*Be arrogant enough to think that just because you have made oodles of complicated Victorian era costumes, surely you can easily do one from a ‘less challenging’ era.
*Don’t study the pattern or instructions ahead of time.
*Don’t make a muslin.
If you follow these simple steps, you too can have a costume that will fit terribly, look hideous, and end up in the trash can. Have fun!
I suppose it's fitting that I don't have a name for this costume yet. The finished outfit was put together for the first time to teach H. G. Wells' The Time Machine. In the story, the main character is not named, simply called the Time Traveller. So, until she decides to tell me her name, she doesn't have one. ;-)
You may have seen this costume before. I call her Chocolate BonBon. (Scroll back on the Costumes tab for the full description.)
This version is actually kind of 2.0 because I originally did not have the pink bows at the bottom of the skirt. Here's a quick pic of the absolute original 'first time worn' version... Like I said, the only difference is the lack of bows on the bottom hem of the skirt. The quick back story on this costume is that I was working with what I had at the time which was a bunch of brown satin fabric, one yard of pink taffeta fabric, a couple of yards of white lace, a detached bridal train (found in one of my fav thrift stores), a need for a fancy outfit and not a lot of experience with authentic Victorian patterns. I had one bodice pattern and not much confidence in proper fitting. I was never happy with the final result. It's one of those situations where I didn't know what 'finished' looked like so I never thought it was... finished. Adding to the frustration was that although it looked decent enough from the outside, underneath was a hot mess of tricks and things to make it work. The cute waist sash was actually there to cover up the botched job I did on the waist seam that shouldn't have even been there to begin with. The white lace around the neck line was added to camouflage the fact that I had made the bodice too low cut. In my mind it was 'all wrong' but it was the best I could do. That was about 3 years ago....
So at long last, here is Cocoa 3.0. I am totally happy and completely finished with her. As you can see, I scrapped the original bodice and started over. I found an authentic pattern to work with and fashion plates for inspiration. The overall fit and function was drastically improved (I know you can't see that part but, trust me, it's a big improvement!). What was the waist sash became the bows and trim for the bodice and more bows on the skirt so that they went all the way around. I was also able to salvage just enough white lace to add some to the skirt as well. All of which helped to achieve the 'decadent chocolate confection' look I was wanting. Looking back, I think I know what silhouette I was trying to achieve with the first bodice. Many Victorian ladies had two bodices for their outfits: one for summer and one for winter. What I now have is a bodice for cooler weather. Maybe one day I'll create a summer version as well. But that won't be for a while. This Cocoa is done.
I made 'Abbey' over a month ago but sometimes it takes a while for me to get around to posting things.
After looking through several fashion plates (and not having a ready-made pattern to use) I sketched out what I wanted the costume to look like. (Back view: it kind of looks like I drew a flap/fold over thing but it is actually meant to be the outline of the dress underneath as a reminder to myself for alignment.)
Very rough beginning. I flatlined the bodice and the front panel of the skirt. I eventually joined the two pieces at the waist seam.
Draping the velvet. (Back story... if any of you have read my "Faux Suede, Really?!" post on the Costume Page about an outfit I made 20 years ago, this is the salvaged blue velvet. Yay! Much more appropriate use!)
And here she is all finished. It's difficult to tell in the photo but there is' scrunching at the sleeve and up the torso. I have no doubt I will go back and tweak it, add some fancy trim (once I find exactly what I'm looking for), and maybe an art deco inspired sleeve on the other shoulder. But for now, I'm done and mostly happy with it. ;-)
In the audience of my 'Naughty Women, Lovely Tea' presentations every year for the Crawford Long Museum, there are always in attendance the lovely Red Hat Society ladies. They really are a terrific group! Well, one day earlier this month I got an email from a couple of the members inviting me to their Queen's birthday party to be held at a local Tea House. They were asking me to be a guest, not to do a presentation. They said, "We have been to so many of your Teas, we wanted you to attend ours!" At first I was overjoyed!! Then panic set in. "What do I wear?!" Seriously. It seemed (even to me) quite ironic that I was frantic, not knowing what to wear to a Tea. But as I said, I was going as ME, 21st century me, not in costume. But I gathered my composure and (after a quick search on the good ol' WWW) I came up with an idea I could quickly do for a hat. (The ladies were kind enough to give me a pass on the regulated attire since I was not officially a member of the Society.)
Gotta love the internet! I found a pattern and instructions on Downloadandprint.com searching for 'how to make giant paper roses'. Gotta love free patterns! Pictured above are small, medium, and large petals, a circle base, and ...a cluster star thing. (You'll see what I mean.) The paper I used was 'butcher paper' thickness; it's not as thick as cardstock but thicker than regular paper.
I made two of the star cluster things and curled the spikes for two different finished sizes. Both curled clusters started out the same size as the flat one.
I cut out four of each size petal (giving me 12 total). I cut a straight slit up the middle of each petal about an inch or two long (depending on the size of the petal). I then crossed them in a bit and hot glued them together. This gave the bottom of the petal a concave curve. Lastly, I bent/curled the top en of the petal outward. I did all of these steps for every individual petal.
Then I got into the actual assembly and didn't take any more photos. (SORRY! I really suck at that.) But I tried to make up for it with this lovely illustration. (HA!) Feel free to send me a message if there's something you don't understand.
Once all the petals were secure (and my finger tips properly burned) I glued down the two star clusters (wider one on the bottom then the smaller one on top. As for the stamen, I ripped apart a dollar-store flower cluster (I think it was a hydrangea kind of thing) until there was only the green plastic left. I painted it black and glued it in the center. Then I glued the back of the flower to the off-center side of the hat and glued the ribbon around it. DONE! Honestly, the cutting and curling of the petals is what took the longest. This is a very quick project, less than 30 minutes for assembly.
My hubby is a pretty awesome guy. So I made him a sign. We both love the character Caractacus Potts from Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, played by the incredibly talented Dick Van Dyke. A little eccentric, totally brilliant. That's my guy. I've had this project in mind for a while but when I happened to be in Michael's art supply store one day, the blank wooden sign just jumped out and said, "Now is the time!" I don't have any in-process photos because I was doing it on the sly so I was careful not to leave it laying around. But here it is.
One of these days I'm going to take an official millinery class. I think I do ok up-cycling old hats but I can't always get a good base hat to turn into exactly what I want. That was the case with the hat for Phoenix. I knew exactly what I wanted; I just couldn't get there. But this hat looks nice and I'm ok with it... for now. ;-)
Best laid plans ...blah blah blah. Sometimes you just have to walk away.
Okay, here's what happened:
1. I was not successful upsizing the pattern to fit my waist measurements due to the odd gathering of the "wrap around" front panel.
2. Although I was willing to change the design and make it work, I still struggled with getting it to lay right. It worked fine for the mock-up (see?! I was trying to do it right!). I thought maybe it was because I added the flatline pieces so I unstitched it all, removed the flatline and started over.
3. Although removing the flatline pieces did actually get it to lay like I wanted it to, the result of this was that the side seams no longer had the strength of the cotton lining to keep it together so it started to shred apart. Not just pull apart, SHRED apart. (This is a chance you take when you buy second-hand stuff and upcycle it. Curtain fabric is not always woven to withstand vertical seam stress.) There wasn't enough fabric left over to cut new bodice pieces.
4. Sighed. Rolled my eyes up to the Seamstress Goddess. She denied a miracle. Tossed it all in the trash. I did, however, save the sleeve pieces because I might be able to use them for ... I have no idea.
I adore the Victorian era but I live in the 21st century. I strive for authenticity but not to the point of obsession (usually). Unless the TARDIS shows up, I'm only ever going to have to 'look' the part. Sometimes close enough really is good enough.