Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fast forward to 18th C

I promise photos of the progress of the Cotehardie. It is progressing, today in fact, I am purchasing the 24 buttons that are going to go up the sleeves. Finding 24 metal buttons was an interesting task, but I think I have found a satisfactory set.

But in the meanwhile, I am plagued with 18th century luxury of the Duchess. On a whim I decided to put on the lovely if depressing film while drafting my sleeve pattern (for the second time) and what do I find in my blog reader but The Fashion Historians article on movies and standards of beauty. Serendipity!

Needless to say there is one dress in this film that I simply must make one of these days. Can you guess which one?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Big Project

It's September. Which means that October is looming over my shoulder with anticipation. When fall hits is usually when the sewing gets ramped up to 11. There are just sooo many occasion that a new something is needed. There's Halloween (which is HUGE in my house so at least two very awesome costumes need be made), then just the cold weather calling for romantic dark clothing, soon there is Christmas to think about, and be then the poor sewing machine is calling for mercy.

I'm going to try and be good this year, and instead of leaving everything to the last minute as I tend to want to do (for some reason the pressure feels soo good), I'm going to finish my big project in a timely manner.

What is my big project you ask? Well I won't tell you what it's for ;) but I'm in DESPERATE need of a cotehardie and soon.

Which then begs the question, what is a cotehardie??

A Cotehardie is a closely fitted gown from the 14th century, worn by men and women. Below is a historical example of a cotehardie in 14th century art. It is a brass rubbing of Eleynor
e Corp, granddaughter of J. Corp 1361 or 1391, depending on source; brass from Stoke Fleming, Devon, England (source: Muriel Clayton's Brass Rubbings [1391]), Through England on My Knees, by Betsey Lewis, and Brasses and Brass Rubbings by Clare Gittings.)

As you can see from the picture, the dress is very closely fit at the torso and gives way to loose skirts. There are many studies into how this look was achieved including some deconstructions of garments that have survived from the time period.

The major pattern companies have also put out several modern day patterns that attempt to achieve the same look. Almost all of those patterns include the use of princess seams.

I plan to fall somewhere in the middle. I'm not shooting for exact historical accuracy but some of the construction techniques just seem easier and more in line with the look that I want to achieve.

Here is an example of a purposed historically accurate pattern for such a dress.

My hope is to simplify this pattern greatly. Using the tips, advice and techniques of Tasha Kelly McGann's Building and Feminine silhouette and Dame Helen's Cotehardies from the Greenland Gowns.

Of course my dress will be black (naturally), and have a spiral lace front to make getting into it possible for me by myself (weren't ladies in waiting useful?). And I want those button sleeves if it is the last this I do.

The tricky part is going to be getting someone to actually fit my torso, I've enlisted help already. I just feel a little bad since they are going to be doing a lot of work and I won't really be able to help at all XD.

From there I'll figure out how much yardage I'm going to be dealing with and if I need to go buy it of if (miracles of miracles) I have it on hand.

I am very excited about this, as it's a style of dress I've always admired. Simple but dramatic. Let's just hope I can pull it off.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

7 Film Dresses that Molded my youth

Over on Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing (which I'm quickly becoming obsessed with) she posted up the dresses of her impressionable youth (and they are some classics). What a lovely idea! So I thought I'd give it a go myself. Since I'm a movie buff and always have been I decided to limit myself to seven lol.

Similarly to Gertie's story, my early youth was filled with movies that had costumes that I drooled over. It was a point of great amusement to my family for in all other aspects of myself I was a complete and hardcore tomboy. But the dresses! Oh the dresses...

In order of chronological impact on me...

Gone with the Wind

My mother molded me early in life to be her Television watching buddy (she has horrible taste in T.V. and yet I still cannot deny her). One of the only movies my mother ever re-watches is "Gone with the Wind" (the other is "It's a Wonderful Life"). And while I still maintain as I did when I was a child that Scarlett O'Hara is a HORRIBLE woman, you cannot deny that she had style.

Ironically the big ICON dresses of this movie are not the ones that always caught me eye whenever it was on and made me drool. I mean yes I love them all and please go right ahead and deliver them to my closet, but this dressing gown. OMGS this dressing gown, if I had this gown I swear I'd be Queen and die happy.

The sleeves, the high collar, the color!, all the buttons it just all adds up to sumptuous. And to this day I find myself drawn to silhouettes and features of this dress.


While my mother got her hooks in me to watch the trials and tirbulations of Ms. O'Hara pining for Ashley (why ANYONE would pine for that guy I just don't know), my father lead me down the good path to all things King Arthur and Camelot. I love this movie, seriously no one since Richard Harris has done Arthur justice.

Unfortunately I could not find a good image of my favorite dress that the harlot Guinevere wears (yes I have issues). It is again a red dress (I think I'm noticing a theme...) And is the very last costume she wears while singing the song "Take me to the Fair". Talk about luxury, I swear the thing had to have been 50 yards of fabric. Oh and billowed and draped perfectly! Sigh, to be queen.


Ahh Labyrinth, my still obsession. I love this movie, I love the Goblin King, I love David Bowie.

But all of that aside, as a kid I LOVED this dress. And why wouldn't a 9 year old love this dress. It screams fairy tales and magic, it also screams the 80's, but you don't notice these things as a child!

Oh the glitter, oh the poofy-ness, oh the fantasy!

I do still love her hair, big 80's hair that it is, I think it rocks.

Hello Dolly

Right now you are probably thinking to yourself, what is with all these old musicals? You really watched these at age 7 and what not? And the answer is:


I was a weird kid what can I say, further they are movies that my dad liked to watch and thus things that I saw. And once I saw all the pretty costumes....well then re-watching them over and over again makes sense to a small child's mind.

Dolly Levi, funny, witty, one hell of a snazzy dresser. The movie is jammed packed with lots of goregous detailed dresses, and of course Ms. Streisand pulls them all off with flair. But it was always this opening number dress that caught my eye. The deep colors, all the details, how it matched her hair so wonderfully. There was just something so classy and pretty about this costume that even as a kid, I knew a Lady would wear this.

The Ten Commandments

In our family it was tradition to watch "The Ten Commandments" over Easter weekend. No we are not Jewish, no we were no religious, no it never did make sense to me why Moses was on the same weekend that everyone was talking about bunnies and Jesus. But look at that dress!

And the jewelry! And the color!

I still want this dress. No seriously I do. I mean I might tone the color down a bit as I don't think turquoise really does anything for my skin tone, but damn.

The Little Princess

Have you seen this movie? You should see this movie. It is heartwrenchling good, very easy on the eyes, and this little girl is one of the prettiest little girls I've ever seen. Oh how badly I wanted to look like Sarah. Our names even begin with the same letter, sure there is hope!

And all the girls dresses, are just so rich, and so beautiful. The details are amazing. I wanted them all.


Why is this dress, so far down the list, you ask? I will confess it is as such, because I had to wait till I was a bit older 12 or so before I could actually watch it all the way through. Darkness frightened me as a kid XD

But as soon as I did watch it all the way through this dress was imprinted on my mind, in all it's dark seductive glory. Of course little did I know then that there was no way in hell I could ever wear anything like this dress as an adult, do to things called breasts.

Believe me I've thought about it though, frequently trying to come up with architectural techniques that might defy gravity.

Cutthroat Island

Ok so TECHNICALLY not a dress. But I watched this movie a-lot. And a large part of that was Morgan's wardrobe. I mean come on! All those pirate frocks, and belts, and buttons, and knives, boots! It was actually this movie and this outfit that first started me thinking about sewing. I really wanted to go to middle school with a frock coat (again strange child).

And look I'm still dressing up like a pirate XD

Well there are countless more, as I am a custom movie junky but these are the top of the list from my childhood. What about yours? ;)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Green Plaid taffeta and Velvet

You know those little projects that you think of every once in a while would be great to have/do but never actually get around to doing them? I finally did one of them!

For a while, usually whenever I have to travel (which has been fairly more frequently lately), I always think to myself; "Man I should make a jewelry roll." And then the thought leaves my head until the next time I find myself stuffing my jewelry into whatever tiny little bag I have on hand.

But no longer!

Behold the jewelry roll.

I based this jewelry roll off of Kathy's Crazy Moments Tutorial. With some minor alterations, mainly size and the addition of a ring holder.

Overall I'm happy with it. I got to use up some of my stash, the remainder of some yummy purple velvet and that green plaid taffeta that I just adore. I wish I had some way of getting all the lint off that velvet but oh well. It was a quick little sew up, Kathy did a great job on her tutorial.

It would have gone a lot faster had my rotary cutter not decided to crap out on me. Why is it that all my scissors and what-nots seem to get knicked and dulled when I'm not looking? Gremlins? Frustrating is all I can say.

This little beauty will get her first test drive this monday when I go visit my folks in North Carolina. Hopefully it will be a big success.

In the mean time I'm thinking of digging through the stash and making some skirts, as
it is going to be freakin' hot in North Carolina and my supply of flowy loose skirts is sadly low.

Till next time!


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Checkered Alice

First let me say I am sorry for the somewhat abandoning of this blog. I don't sit around and sew all day, though I would like to and do sometimes, and life has just thrown me several other projects to work on that have absolutely nothing to do with sewing.

So while I did complete the project that was shown in the "Sneak Peak" it remains un-"finished" in my mind, due to some closure issues. But this poor little blog deserves some love and I intend to give it.

Actually this morning I was struck by the idea of expanding the scope of this blog. For while I don't physically sew everyday of my life, costuming and my particular brand of fashion does manage to worm it's way in on a constant basis. With that thought I might start posting on hair, make-up, good places to find neat fashion/costume stuff etc. I don't know if anyone would be interested, hell I'm not even sure if anyone outside of my particular ring of friends reads this, but it may amuse me so I'll probably give it a try.

But enough of that onto the Checkered Alice Dress.

Using Butterick's 4790, a dress in their Retro line & really a great little dress. I have made the dress to pattern before, and found the back underwrap to be awkward, plus I wanted more volume for this dress and it seemed a perfect place to add a built in petticoat.

For fabric I was using a heirloom quilt top that my grandmother had given me, her best guess was that her grandmother had made it. The reason I felt ok with cutting it up for this project, as it was a HANDSEWN extremely large quilt top, was that it was pretty irreparably damaged. Large stains, fading in many of the squares, holes and tears. BUT there was enough that was little damaged to cut out a pattern.

So I did.

Let me take this moment to give a PSA to any new person making clothes from patterns. They do not come in your size, unless you are a very very lucky person. Your department store size is not the size of the pattern you need to cut out. Pattern companies use a completely different set of standards and measurements for their "sizes" than ready-wear clothes. This lets you see how ridiculous our size system is in the first place but that's a different story.

I'll illustrate. THIS is Butterick's Misses size chart, it's what most of their patterns are run off of. For the sake of clarity I will disclose that I am a 5'4" 36" 32" 38", I wear a size 8-10 in ready-wear, and by Butterrick's chart and directions I should buy and cut out the size 14. (You see how going in and buying/making your ready-wear size would get you in trouble?) By looking at these numbers you would think I have very little fitting to do in most patterns. While I certainly have less fitting issues than most people, these patterns still don't fit me.

Unlike Butterick's advice to fit your bust and then add where needed, I tend to do with the rule of fit to the largest part of you and then adjust the rest. It is extremely difficult (for me at least) to calculate how and where to ADD fabric to a pattern. Whereas with a friend and a handful of pins it is much easier to figure out where to take it off. The moral of this story is experimentation is your friend, and don't think it's going to fit just cuz the paper tells you so.

As I said, I have made this dress before, and in doing that I remember the alterations I needed to make. Namely that while I do have a 36" bust, I do not have the linebacker shoulders that Butterick assumes someone with a bust that size has.
So from the get go I cut the shoulders to a smaller size, TWO sizes smaller (this is important remember this).

The contrast to this lovely checkered pattern, is a delicious cherry red corduroy. Herein is another little PSA for ya'll, always measure how much fabric you have when pulling from your stash BEFORE you start making the dress.

The dress called for a circle skirt. I however only had one-half of a circle skirt worth of red corduroy. And my "extra corduroy" was ina slightly darker shade of red to make it unworkable. Doi!

What's a girl to do? I'm on a deadline, so there is no time to run out to the store and see if maybe I can find matching corduroy. After much finger biting, a snack, and some fast thinking. I decide to see if I can get another half circle out of the quilt top. And lo' and behold I can!

This dress has really straight foward construction so I won't bore you with that. Instead here is what the dress looks like from the front.

Aaannnd the back.

Now. Note, all that fabric hanging down in the back. Yeah that wasn't suppose to happen. The added weight to the petticoat dragged the back down. I fixed that by tightening up where the wraps attached.

Another problem with the dress was,despite having cut the shoulder TWO sizes smaller they were still too large.

I had to take off another full inch on either side! According to the world at large I have no shoulders but I swear they are there!

The other big issue has been the closure. The first closure was some D-rings meant to be a lace up style, but well that turned out very ugly.

Next and currently there is a single large button. But there is too much pull on the buttonhole. I'm thinking of turning back the edges further, and putting lacing rings on the interior. But that will just have to wait till another time.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sneak Peak

Today I've decided to be a little devious, and instead of actually you know finishing the project I'm working on now, I'm going to post a sneak peak of it. lol

Deadline for this particular project is by Saturday which means that on Monday there should be a lovely post with all manner of pictures, steps and processes in it. For the time being you'll have to be satisfied with this.

Some charming fabric so lovingly modeled by the resident goblin-cat Blix.

What on earth could it be?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Romancing the Chemise

Pronunciation: \shə-ˈmēz, sometimes -ˈmēs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, shirt, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin camisia
Date: 13th century
1 : a woman's one-piece undergarment
2 : a loose straight-hanging dress

Or in other words one of my favorite things in the world. No seriously there is nothing more comfortable, more romantic, more lovely, than a chemise. The possibilities are endless, with the right fabric and lace a whole slew of emotive expressions can be achieved. Add a pair of bloomers and you just opened up a whole new world. Great for their original purpose of keeping outer clothes clean from body sweat, they also do wonders for layering up on cold winter days when you still want to wear a dress. They make the classiest pajamas I've ever seen, and I've seen many a girl on a hot summer's day passing them off for tops and dresses.

So really the most versatile garment ever.

Now generally speaking when one says "chemise" and isn't met with confused stares or a "God Bless You". The image that comes to mind is a cheap cotton broadcloth drawstring shift with short of long sleeves usually worn to Ren Fair. While this does fall into the category of what a chemise is, and is in fact one of the first piece of garb I ever made. It is by no means the limit of the what the garment can be.

My love affair and mind expansion on what a chemise can be, came about when I found Jen Thompson's (see her WONDERFUL costumes) tutorial on "How to make an easy Italian Chemise". This was not a drawstring number, that comes loose and untied and gets in the way. Or a elastic enhanced smock. This had volume, this had options, this was so ridiculously easy to make and alter.

So thank you Jen Thompson for opening my eyes to the world of rectangles and triangles. There really isn't anything you can't make with rectangles and triangles.

I think I'll call her...Lillian

Lillian was just completed today, in time for a photo shoot on the morrow and is the predecessor of many a chemise gown, and bloomer to come. She makes a charming and lovely nightgown, boudoir dress, and a staple piece of costume for anyone's starting wardrobe.

Yes she is for sale, I haven't got an etsy site up yet but if your interested in claiming her for your own please email me:

Made out of 100% cotton (that has been laundered and shrunk to a supple softness) she is a one size fits most. Her neck band is 49" around, and from shoulder to hem is 43 1/2".

Black knot trim offsets the white ruffle at the top. The top ruffle was completely hand stitched with a rolled hem. While the bottom hem is trimmed in polyester black lace of a floral design.

She was a lovely piece to work on, and in the process I stumbled across an idea that I'm dieing to start on. A chemise and bloomer line inspired by fairy tales. It just sounds to charming to pass up, Snow white would look a lot like Lillian, but with some apple buttons that I've seen hiding around. But then like Beauty would be in a soft pale green with rose red trim and lace, some rose embroidery. Rose Red would be a soft dusty rose color with red trims. Really I could go on and on about this lol. I should instead just get moving on making them.

Time to put something new on the ironing board!

Stay tuned.