31 August 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part Three

I'm a day late with this post since i've been sewing today, so these images are hot off the press!

The past week i've been continuing to hand sew the seam ribbons. It's quite relaxing sitting in the sun and sewing for hours, but the lack of thimbles means my fingers are quite cut up. Next time i'll just stop being lazy and change my sewing machine thread methinks.

handsewing seam ribbon reinforcement stays

Eventually I sewed them all on. I then did a quick measurement to determine how long the straps needed to be. The straps that came with the pattern were far too short. I'm not sure how I can fit the default size for the rest of the pattern but not the straps? Maybe I have massive Godzilla shoulders, but I highly doubt that.

stays construction straps

stays construction straps seam

After that I cut out the lining. I only manged to use half a meter, so I have another half meter to do something else with. It's really pretty fabric, but i'm not sure what I can make that requires such a small amount.

stays lining pattern pieces

stays lining constructed

There isn't much I can do with the lining until I get to binding the edges, and all I have left to do before that is add the boning. First I added the small front boning pieces, then hand stitched the first curved channel since my machine doesn't have a foot to get that close without messing it up. The rest of the curved channels were machine sewn.

stays construction boning channels

I don't have pictures, but the rest of the boning is now 90% done. Just the binding and eyelets to go! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

23 August 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part Two

I had no idea I was capable of sewing this much in such a short amount of time, but here we are. A week from my last post i've finished the embroidery and put together the main body of the stays. I'll start with how they look at the moment, then go through my process.

1780 Embroidered stays main finished
1780's embroidered stays embroidery close up

I'm pretty proud of how they're turning out, but I still have a long way to go. I'm not looking forward to binding the tabs, for example.

The first job was the finish the embroidery. I originally planned to have 2 other pieces of embroidery in the other large boning gaps, but that would have taken far too long.

1780's stays finished embroidery pattern

This is only the third piece of embroidery i've done (my garters were second), and although it's rough and sloppy in some places, I love it. Embroidery is just so addictive, the floss is so cheap and all you need is a scrap of fabric to put a design on.

After that was done, I cut out the side panels of the stays in cotton duck and the blue cotton outside fabric. Then I traced the boning channels onto the duck, which I hate doing. I must invest in a tracing wheel.

1780's stays boning channel trace

I then played around with different fabrics and interlining. On my mock-up the reed showed through the fabric, and I felt that it could have been sturdier overall. I boned two rectangles of fabric - one with the cotton duck and blue cotton, and one with that plus some non-fusible interfacing (interlining?) that I had in my stash.

1780's stays fabric boning test

The results were clear, the one with the interfacing provided much more support and gave the stiffness I wanted. Modern interfacing is in no way period accurate, but I didn't have the time to go buy more cotton duck for another strength layer. A lesson learned for next time.

Despite this setback, I sewed the boning channels on the side panels with no issues, and felt pretty good about myself.

1780's stays side panels boning channels

All that was left to do was the front panel, which meant lining the embroidery up with the channels. Now, i'm sure there was an easier way I could have done the embroidery for this. Maybe sewing the channels then doing the embroidery?

1780's stays embroidery boning channels

Either way I managed. The right piece of embroidery is slightly wonky, but it's not noticeable.

After I sewed all of the completed pieces together, I made a start on the seam reinforcements. I deliberately left 5mm gaps plus my seam allowances, so I could fit in the 10mm wide ribbon on the seams.

1780's stays seam reinforcement ribbon
I'm sewing these by hand since i'm afraid i'll mess it up with a machine. I need to improve on my hand stitching anyway, since the top curved channels will be hand stitched. Unfortunately there's about six layers of fabric to stitch through. Why did I get rid of my thimble collection?

The inside turned out quite neat too. You can see where I had to adjust my boning channels after I mis-measured and almost stitched through the embroidery.

1780's stays inside seams

After i've sewn all the seam reinforcements, I need to cut and sew the lining together and make the straps up. Then comes the joys of tab binding and eyelet making.

16 August 2014

Cinema & Chemises - Marie Antoinette (2006)

It's been a slow sewing week for me, I've had other deadlines to meet and a fair amount of embroidery that i'm not doing. Instead of a tiny update on how slack i've been, why not do something different?

Reviewing costume movies on a costuming blog is nothing new, but it should be a nice break inbeween sewing posts. Until I run out of movies and start blogging about penguin migration patterns or something.

No other film deserves the honor of starting this series than Marie Antoinette. Directed by Sofia Coppola and released in 2006, I was twelve when this came out. Yikes.

I watched it when I was fourteen and immediately fell head over heels in love with the late 1700's. Or at least this film's candy coloured, New Romantic version of it. This movie is either love it or hate when it comes to costuming. Inspired by a box of French macrons, the costumes are bright, young and in your face. Naturally, the limits of historically accuracy are strained, so your enjoyment of the film may depend on your ability to handle that.

As a young girl who's only knowledge of the 18th century came from rather ugly porcelain figurines, this was a wake up call to how fabulous and beautiful that era could be.

18th century male and female rococo porcelain figures
Although neon pink robe a l'anglaise's trimmed with feathers are hardly accurate, bright colours were worn. The limits of old dyes prevented colours such as a steadfast black and vivid blues, but bright yellows and vibrant reds were abound. 

One thing that irked me was the lack of patterned dresses. Floral patterns were wildly popular, and many remaining extant garments are patterned in some way. Aside from the infamous strawberry dress and a couple of floral patterns, Antoinette is shown in lots of block colours and stripes. It's a pity, since the few patterned dresses she does wear are gorgeous (although clash with the wallpaper).

marie antoinette movie floral patterned dress

Another noticeable absence is all the robe à la françaises, even early in the film there are robe a l'anglaises worn everywhere. Particularly at a Court as high maintenance as Versailles, over the top, wide panniered court robes are lacking. I prefer l'anglaises myself, so it's no big loss to me. More gowns I can add to my wishlist!

The lack of floral patterns and the robe à la françaises are simply enough explained, however, by Sophia Coppola's directorial vision. Perhaps in part autobiographic, the  heavily stylization serves the purpose of separating the film from more traditionally historical pieces and focusing on the young Antoinette. The film was in part inspired by Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: A Journey, which serves to poke through the pervasive myths surrounding Antoinette and humanize her.

marie antoinette movie mauve dress

I feel that the film falls slightly short of it's aims. As pretty and and atmospheric as it can be, the pacing is way too slow. Although it covers the Queen's marriage at aged fourteen to her leaving Versailles at age thirty three, it takes it time getting there. There are long, ponderous gaps that don't have any of the weight or potency as Coppola's earlier work. Perhaps it's the grander scale of the story or the disconnect between the audience and Antoinette? Unless you're familiar with Marie Antoinette's story or have read the book, there are a lot of holes. Characters are barely introduced, and the court at Versailles has a lot of characters.

One note I must bring up is the music, which I just love. A mixture of post-punk 1980's and classical pieces, the music sets the tone and feel of the film's perfectly. As a kid I had only just discovered Adam and the Ants, and finding such a beautiful film with interesting musical choices made me feel pretty cool. Antoinette's secret lover Count Ferson is based heavily on Adam Ant, and oh how I wish more guys dressed like that. Yes please!

marie antoinette movie count ferson

Favorite Costume:

When I first watched this as a kid it was Antoinette's first French dress, blue silk with an adorable tricorn.

Now however, i'm not sure. I'm very fond of the floral print dress pictured above, but i'm leaning towards her subtlety striped garden robe a l'anglaise. I also love the dress Lamballe (?) is wearing.  I love subtle stripes, and they love me.

Least Favorite Costume:

There are no "Oh god what were they thinking!?" costumes here, so picking a least favourite is hard. The chemise dresses don't do much for me, but I don't dislike them. The only one that comes to mind is Antoinette's card playing dress.

marie antoinette movie cards dress

 The colour combination seems fussy and aging, and why are there random black worms everywhere? Not a fan of it, but it's only seen onscreen for one brief scene.

Costume Rating:

However inaccurate they are, the attention to detail and wonderful artistic direction makes these a 8/10 for me. 

Film Rating:

It's very pretty, but the sloooooow pacing and disconnect means Marie Antoinette doesn't hold up much as a film. I give it a 6.5/10 for now, my opinion on this has changed over the years, and probably will again. 

For a full list of costumes (with pictures!) see the wonderful Marie Antoinette page at The Costumers Guide to Movie Costumes.


9 August 2014

1780's Embroidered Stays - Construction Part One

As much as I was dreading it, I eventually need to make a pair of stays.

I'd previously made a couple of Victorian style corsets, with varying levels of success, but stays are unknown territory to me. This coupled with the fiddly nature of them, and the fact that the rest of the outfit depends on their fit and shape, meant I wasn't looking forward to making them.

I chose the 1780's stays pattern from Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines, and used Ralph Pink's version to save me scaling it up.  However much I was dreading making them, thinking about what colours and patterns I wanted was fun.

1780 stays concept image one

From these initial three I loved the one on the left, but I preferred the lighter blue of the middle. So onward I went...

1780 stays concept image two
...and fell in love with #5 in the top right. The colour palette for these were influenced by a certain film we all know and love.

marie antoinette movie shoes

 (I wanted to call it the Cupcake Corset but correct terminology thwarted my alliteration.)

I knew from the start that I wanted to use reed. It's period accurate and worked out to be about as expensive as cables ties. I had never ordered reed before, so I hedged my bets on a bundle of Round Reed #6. I could have gone with a smaller size, but I had no way of knowing until i'd seen and handled the reed for myself. Personally I quite like the chunkier look anyway.

I made a mockup without any alterations to the pattern, and to my great surprise, it fit pretty much perfectly! It was also comfortable! A mistake on my part meant I ended up with four boning channels on the centre front, and as a result it was slightly too wide, and the untrimmed reed dug into my armpits. I still wore it for six hours comfortably, and with the correct centre front it will be perfect. I hope.

1780 stays mockup fitting front

1780 stays mockup fitting side

The stays aren't laced at all properly in these photos, and there are no straps, but you can get the general idea.

And so, with a goal in mind I bought a stack of new materials, trying to find the closest matches I could to those in my concept images. In the interests of time I was limited to my local handicraft/sewing supply chain and one other fabric shop, but I was lucky enough to find some lovely pink floral cotton for the lining at half price.

sewing fabric and materials

fashion fabric lining stays materials

Now all I need to do is embroider...and embroider some more...then keep embroidering.

1780 stays embroidery

2 August 2014

Blue Flower Garters

I finally got a chance to get my chemise on and take some pictures of my finished garters. Although I had an irrational fear of the elastic putting too much strain on them to hold up, they've worked perfectly so far.

embroidered garters finished

I never realized how hard it is to try and take decent pictures of your own knees. I'm wearing my chemise (which i'll show in a later post since it's not too interesting by itself) and some modern stockings. I haven't gotten around to making 1700's stockings yet.

embroidered garters finished worn 1 
embroidered garters finished worn 2

And finally some close ups. These were simple and really fun to make. They're also good embroidery practice, I can see myself making a few of these in the future. There is so much more embroidery to come, however, so stay tuned!

close up embroidery blue flower garters
finished garters close up
finished garters closure elastic