Monday, January 11, 2016

Vintage Brassieres

At Costume College last year Lauren of Wearing History had a great presentation on how to start your own vintage (30s, 40s, or 50s) wardrobe. Now, I already have a lot of pieces, though some are a bit small now and the rest feel a bit mis-matched. I figured I should take a fresh start at it! Her recommendations of what basics you need reminded me of how I haphazardly started in the first place back in college- making repro suits and blouses from our costume shops vintage pattern supply. I was planning to start this series with that again, but I've only had the time to make one full suit and I didn't document the steps on that one as well. So, instead we're going to work from skin out, even if I don't sew it all in that order. I'm planning to make a very basic set for all three decades and probably spend a lot more time fleshing out the 1950s one with time, since that's what I wear every day.

To start I've made two different brassieres. I wear pants most days, so I just made a couple of quick pairs of fitted panties to match and try out. I'll eventually make more and at least one pair of shorts and a garter belt. First everything needs to be worn a few times to make sure it fits and is comfortable all day!

The hardest part for me was figuring out what fabric and supplies I needed. I ended up starting with some silk charmeuse, though poly charmeuse would work well. I then ordered a couple colors of elastics, straps, notions, stabilized tricot, and regular stretch tricot (for panties) from Bravo Bella. I ended up needing way less elastic than I thought (originally planning to finish the bra edges with it) and wishing I had bought more hooks and notions so I could make more bras right away! The beige I ordered was just a little pinker than my charmeuse, so I dyed the fabric a bit. I also had a little bit of stretch net I dyed for it, though I can't recall where that came from.

The first bra I used the Foundations Revealed Soft Bra series parts 1 & 2 to draft out a pattern. To be honest, I stopped wearing regular bras a few years ago and have stuck with bralettes because I've had such a hard time finding bras that fit. I've tried a few brands, but it just doesn't work. My rib cage is very wide and flat, so anything in the right band size places the cups way to close together for me. This drafting worked almost perfectly and I only had to make some minor adjustments in the muslin phase!

I really liked the stitching on the second row, left so I used that for inspiration combined with a few other images. Sourced from Vintage Dancer's article on 1950s underwear.

The only alteration I made to the draft was to add a small strip of the stable tricot between the band and cups. I have a (too small) repro bra with this feature and love it for warmer weather.

The back has a small bit of elastic on the band which makes all the difference in fit. Original bras of this time would have had ribbon for straps instead of elastic, but this is easier to find! All of the pieces of charmeuse are flat-lined with the stable tricot and the bottom of the cup was topstitched through one layer and lined with another.

The seams and edges I ended up finishing with the same stable tricot cut into strips and made into tape (just not on the bias). I discovered that this type of tricot only irons well one way after a great deal of confusion! Just flip it to the other side and it creases nicely. This also the one part of this bra I won't do again- the tape across the mid seam of the cup is a little rough compared to the second style I made.

The back design with the folded elastic seems fairly standard for the time. You can see a good example on the Met Museum site (I think this brassiere will be on the future list).


For the second try I used my other color scheme and altered the pattern just a little bit. I wanted to do a curved cradle and narrowed the under-cup triangle. It also allowed me to alter the "point" of the cup a bit, which was a little roomy in the last bra (I just need to make small pads like you see for bullet bras later).

Though I didn't put the extra elastic V in front, I used the shape of the left two for inspiration. This image sourced from Vintage Dancer's page on 1940s underwear.

It's the same pattern base, I swear! I had fun using the stable tricot for the upper cups as well as the lining this time.

The same design for the back.

I decided to use the extra tricot lining for the bottom cup as the method for finishing off the cup seam. I've found it much more comfortable so far and it has a nice finish on the exterior as well. There are no underwires here, they really weren't common until much later though they exist in some 1950s bras. The middle does sit out a bit from my chest for that reason, but still fits very well.


I think this is going to be the next style I attempt, though the Met brassiere, a bullet bra, and a Kestos design are on my list as well!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Steampunk Harley Quinn

Teslacon also had a secondary event on Saturday night with a Night Circus theme. We actually had a real old-fashioned circus come and perform (acrobats, a strong man, jugglers, etc) as well as an aerial team. I changed up my dancehall ensemble for something a bit...darker. I originally started brainstorming by looking up Victorian fancy dress. I really loved some of the harlequin outfits, but there wasn't any good harlequin fabric online that I could find. But just before giving up, Angela Burnley had an attic sale and was selling the absolutely most perfect fabric!! From there I started designing a harlequin fancy dress, but realized I was missing out on the fun part of Steampunk- the crazy punk part. It didn't take much to rework the design to fit doing a Steampunk Harley Quinn and I set about trying to figure out how to make a giant hammer...

Ok, so lots of layers. The base is a red silk taffeta corset and red cotton bustle pad. The skirt is then made from black cotton with pleated black silk taffeta around the visible bottom. Over that the two swags are a metallic gold/black fabric. The bodice is from the harlequin fabric I lucked into, lined in the gold and piped in the red silk with more black pleating. The mitts are silk net.

I also threw on a patent leather belt I already had and made a tiny hat based on one of the fancy dress images. The wig I'll talk about more below.

I almost didn't do the bustle style back, but I'm so glad I did! Also, the awesome tights I found at Hansel from Basel and shoes from Remix. This was definitely one of those magic outfits that came together in just over a week.

I looked over some of the 1870s/80s patterns in Patterns of Fashion and Cut of Women's Clothes, but I had to alter it so much I can't really point to one that's similar anymore.

 The hammer was the hardest part for me since this is definitely out of my comfort zone. Thankfully a good friend and my husband came to the rescue and helped me figure out supplies and assembly (which happened in about two days at the last minute). The base is a sonotube with wood veneer from a craft store gorilla glued around it. The ends are a decorative block of wood we found, the handle a dowel rod, the topper is from a curtain rod, and then the copper straps are electrical tape with fabric tacks! A quick staining the night before I left and I was good to go (aside from the fact that my car smelled like stain for the 7 hour trip).


First time trying to draft my own corset from scratch not based on a historical pattern. I ended up with 12 pieces per side and it fits so perfectly! It's just one layer of coutil with the seams top-stitched and folded over to make casings. I boned it with the plastic German Whalebone because the zipties I had weren't long enough. I need to make more modern corsets now...

It's hard to tell with all of the layers on top, but I've got really high hips and a very abrupt waist to hip change which makes many corset styles painful (stays are great though). I finally managed to get this design to work. Not a ton of waist reduction, only about 2-3" when first lacing in.


The bodice I decorated with jet black beads on the shoulders that have fallen off of a deteriorating Victorian mantle I have for parts (black silk has no hope) and some brooches and buttons I already had around. The obsession with sparkly jewelry is genetic in our family, so I've got a good collection!


 And then there's the wig. I purchased the wig and two extensions from Arda Wigs (Glinda and long curly clips). The extensions were first cannibalized for strands of hair to put a lace front on the wig. I do not have a high forehead and putting a regular wig far enough forward to cover my now dark hair just looks weird apparently. Next time I'm just buying a pre-done lace front style. The two extensions were then dipped into some Rit dye to try to get an ombre effect. A lot of bobby pins later I managed something that is vaguely based on some 1870s hair fashions with loads of extra curls on the sides. Oh, and the adorable hat has two silk velvet pompoms on it. For some reason, that was the most satisfying bit of the project!



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Dance Hall Girls II

So, as the months went by the embroidery began to take shape. Using the wire lace for the swirls saved me a great deal of time and headaches.




I also began the work of patterning and building up the bodice. I based it on evening gown bodice shapes from the 1890s. I wasn't sure of the design I was going to use just yet, so I went ahead and covered the twill underlayer with some cheap dupioni I had laying around.
Most of the images show a very strong nip in at the waist and rounding around the rib cage, something I tried to do, but not being "corset shaped" in my torso it wasn't as extreme.

The interior was finished and structured like evening bodices of the time as well. I used cable ties for the boning and silk grosgrain ribbon for their channels.

I started drawing in chalk on the bodice to play with final form ideas.

I crammed most of the actual assembly into about one week, the petticoat taking up the most time.






When I started constructing the skirt it became apparent very quickly that I had made the whole thing WAY too big. I started out planning about a 150" hem, but the embroidery was just swallowed by the fabric folding back in on itself. So, looking at some of the original images for ideas, I took the seams in numerous inches and made pleated sections so that the hem would stay large enough for movement, but would be smaller when let down.

The bodice was fairly simple construction, but as you can see in the pictures above I ended up with the front buckling with use. I had left the bones free for the top few inches like you see in originals, but since I wasn't wearing a corset underneath the now three layers of stiff fabric still couldn't hold it up. So, mid-day I took the outfit off and tacked the front five bones all the way up (also tacking the organza pleats down). It fixed the issue, thankfully!

Adding in that the shoes are actually a 1780-style pair I made to wear for work earlier in the year (I just chose my colors wisely). The tights are ballet tights and I did make a super fast pair of fitted satin "knickers" of a sort just in case I was going to flash anyone with the petticoat.

The satin covering the bodice was made up separately, the bottom folded under and slip-stitched to the lining. The top edges were folded over the under-bodice and all of the raw edges were covered with bias fabric. I tacked through all of the seams and darts to the under-bodice as well, so it wouldn't shift around.

The two back panels were left loose and lined so they could be pulled back to access the lacing.

The pleated green organza was tacked to a panel of satin which hooked across the lacings, the two satin back panels then hooked to each other at the bottom half.

I originally planned 6-8 tiers of about 6" wide ruffles. However, once I made up the first tier it was obvious that the layers would just fold in on themselves and the fullness had to be achieved some other way. I looked at the images again and they all had a much smaller ruffle along the edge which kept the large ruffles from staying flat. So, keeping in mind the yardage I had (about 10 yards pre-pleating), I went with four tiers instead. Overall I hemmed about 150 yards of organza ruffles. The four ruffles are all close to the bottom edge of a roughly 12"x150" unpleated piece that gathers at the top to a small circle.





Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dance Hall Girls

Before I get started, hello again! I know it's been a while, but this year alone I interned in the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop, worked on George Washington's Marquee Part 2: The Dining Tent, and moved to Omaha, NE. Quite a change in location, which will mean some changes for this blog. But, now that I'm settled the first step is to start posting again!

This years Teslacon storyline took us to Texas to be a part of the Wild West. With the busy schedule I settled on a long-term single outfit that I could pick up off and on for a few months. We had been embroidering a great deal in the shop and I wanted to use that in my design. I settled on a show-girl style costume, the type seen in cabinet cards advertising the Follies Bergere and other similar shows. It may not be the most accurate to put such costumes in the West, but the 20th century does again and again in movies, so I'll claim that part as good enough and try to make the garment itself heavily based in surviving images. While the bodices often do closely resemble 1890s evening gowns, they are their own style and I have yet to find a surviving example. So, images it was.



I didn't use a single image to copy, but tried to pull in lots of elements (loads more on Pinterest). I really should have made the whole thing much gaudier to be stage-appropriate, but since I wasn't going to be on stage I just wasn't fond of that idea.

I managed to find some amazing double sided silk satin on Etsy to start. I decided to design the embroidery using Aesthetic Movement styles and set about sketching. The embroidery thread is un-spun Japanese silk.

I also managed to find silk passementerie on Ebay, coming from Portugal, to trim the edges with.

The final colors chosen. I went with the green side as the main color so the pinks would pop better.

I knew I was going to need an absurd amount of ruffles for the petticoat. Looking at the images, most appeared finely pleated rather than gathered. Organza seemed like it would have the best hand and resembled the images as well, so I ordered about 10 yards and sent it off to International Pleating in NYC to save my sanity (it's really not expensive and there's no minimum!).

During the Spring I started sketching out the embroidery designs, settling on four different panels. I found inspiration in everything from spoons to wallpaper.

I estimated the size/shape of the 8 panels I would need for the skirt and seamed pairs together to start embroidery. The seams I felled over. I scaled up the embroidery designs and sketched them on with chalk, detailing with pencil. I worked off and on on the embroidery between April and the end of October.

To be continued....(tomorrow)