That's a link to one of the most incredible non-historical costumes I have ever seen In. My. Life.

[ profile] woffproff, take a look, it's from Dr. Who.

This is hardly faint praise from me. I am generally uninmpressed with non-historical costumes because they usually leave me scratching my head and wondering why someone would bother. This is probably because damn near all of them fail in some fundamental way.

On the other hand, this? Artistry, real creativity and ingenuity, and the drive and determination to bring it off. And then she shows us how she did it. This is not a dress diary with someone showing off how well they sew a regular seam, bucking for extra credit - here I felt like I was truly admitted into her creative process, and I really learned from it.

I don't know this young lady, but I wish I did. Brava. miss, BRAVA.
Today's mission: Accomplished

As I promised [ profile] jillwheezul, I made a short list of things to do this evening:

Unpack Borrowed Gown and put on dress form.

Study Borrowed Gown.

Think. Make some drawings. Think some more.

Put Borrowed Gown safely in a closed room for the night.

Which have been done. I made a bunch of drawings which are really just rough schematics full of notes that only I really understand, but I feel like I've made a pretty good leap of understanding here now that I can study the thing in three dimensions at leisure. Now, I'm going to put my list together for tomorrow, and sleep on this.


Photograph gown.

Study pattern in Alcega and mentally assemble, make notes as needed.

Clear off cutting table to start drawing toile. Do not start drawing toile, by now it's late.

This doesn't sound like much, but... the 'clear off cutting table' is the biggie - it tends to be the catch-all in a too-small workroom. The stuff there needs to be put away in some sort of reasonable fashion so I can find it again when I need it. Also, it was well into the upper 90s today - scratch that, the news just said it hit 101F - and the second floor of this old creaker is several degrees warmer than downstairs. My workroom is, naturally, located on the second floor. It was definitely uncomfortable in there, even though I waited for it to "cool off" when the sun set. Tomorrow it's supposed to be over 100F as well. The heat in the house tends to be cumulative (except in the winter when any heat generated immediately disappears). Tomorrow, it will be even warmer upstairs. Even after dark, when it "cools off". If we then get several days of temperate weather, it will return to normal - in a few days. I will remind myself in late November, when I'm sewing on pearls and freezing my butt off, what it was like to start this in August.

Okay. I'm on my way. Be prepared to hear far, far too much about this project while I think out loud.

Back upstairs, nice cold bath, book and bed. Work tomorrow.

ETA: For some reason, tonight, all god's chilluns (the cats) have been horfing up hairballs. Must be the right day or something.
...getting better slowly. Yesterday was the first day since I can remember that I (a) wasn't actively in pain somewhere and/or (b) so exhausted I slept most of the time. I have been sleeping a lot, and I confess that if it were up to me? I'd zonk out a couple of times during the day, but I know that I'm (a) not going to accomplish anything like that and (b) would be mad as hell at myself for wasting any time I don't have to spend in the DOSP workhouse. Granted, I can't quite put anything much to do together for the times I'm not at the workhouse, but I'm just so unbelievably grateful that I'm. Not. There. that on some level it doesn't matter.

I've found the tiny cute laptop stateside, but it still has a couple of problems. Right now, that's about twice as much money as I could scrape together on short notice, and (b) it runs Linux, and I have no clue how to use that. A good analogy for this would be me handing the cut pieces of a 16thC outfit to someone who couldn't sew and saying "Well, here it is, but if you actually expect to wear it, you're going to have to learn to sew, and then put it together yourself." Or at least that's my impression. And I do realize it's incredibly lame to not know enough about systems to be able to do this sort of thing on one's own. I feel pretty stupid.

In any case, I am following up a couple of leads, and if I can't find anything workable secondhand (for what I can afford) I'll probably end up buy that one (eventually) and learning how to use it.

Costume stuff and somewhat on-topic rant )
So I blew the whole day looking at Clouet and now I really don't want to go to the DMV. Screw it, I'm taking the day off.

The Clouet is fascinating. It has great detail pictures, plus enough relatively unpretentious art history stuff in the text for an art history wonk like me to be satisfied. I may not have been looking in the right places until now, but the spectrum of Clouet images I've come across (until now) has been fairly narrow. While the sketches might frustrate someone who's looking for an exact detail of a costume (many of them have the decorative elements only roughed in, but Holbein did that, too), the detail that is present in the later drawings is to. die. for. But even the preliminary sketches reveal a great deal.

I've also discovered that yes, it is possible to wear earrings and a French hood.

So, I now have partlets and French hoods on the brain, and - well.

Was there a truly French style? Only in the details, really. I'm now somewhat more convinced that in many 16thC portraits, we're seeing a mostly international style which is a melange of French, Spanish and Italian, with some elements dominating more at one time than another. I think the reason that the clothing in the portraiture of those countries (and England) may appear to have more differences than similarities, I honestly think that's mostly due to stylistic differences in the painters' rendering rather than differences in the garments themselves. Keeping in mind that just about every fashion quirk eventually dies a lingering death in Spain (and yay for that - I honestly love how they evolve into weirder and weirder forms), I'd say you'd still be safe buying clothes from a tailor in London and then travelling to Vienna or Milan. You wouldn't look out of place. A bit dorky and provincial, perhaps, but not out of place.

So, I've got more material to chew on for a prospective class on how to read portraiture and similar sources, and actually seeing what's there. Most people understand about the allegorical or religious aspects of paintings at the time, but - and out comes the art history wonk here - I've discovered that people sometimes don't know what they're looking at, nor how to dissect it. Which is understandable, because that's a pretty obscure process. Perhaps I've found a use for art history wonks at last.

Side note: So help me, my mother is SO impossibly French. I saw her looking out from half those sketches. Good thing I've got some detachment, and thank god I didn't inheiret that nose ;}

Lastly for now: If you'll be at AnTir A&S this coming weekend, stop by my room for cake Saturday!

I have a metric assload of work to do, but so I don't go crazy, I'm going to take a minute to talk about costume stuff. I'm beginning to feel really burned out where work is concerned (yes, even more than usual), and I found out that DOSP is screwing my boss on this contract - so my job will go poof in September. But hey. That's September, not next week. I'll find something else before then.

So, let's talk costume and fun stuff, hm? Read more... )
This was the most time I’ve had off without being unemployed or unable to get out of bed. I didn’t know I was going to be able to do it until almost the last minute, so… after a big push to try to get some work out, my days off started on the 21st.

Let me say that my favorite holiday is actually sometime in the first week of January, when your otherwise well-meaning coworkers quit asking (both you and) each other about what they did over the holidays. Life back to normal. Thank deity.

That said, I always have a little twinge of disappointment at Christmas. I voluntarily don’t ‘do holidays’ because I just don’t want to deal with the mandatory socializing involved, and I’ve really got more to do than put up decorations most years - I have plenty of lovely ones, but this year I wanted to spend the time in some other pursuit. I make a serious effort not to get all butthurt over everyone else’s lists of terrific swag, although it pinches a little. I honestly cannot afford to get the sort of gifts I want to get for various friends, and that’s not even taking into account tracking them down and shipping them - if I weren’t so frazzled this wouldn’t be a problem. So, I figure I have no right to any sort of disappointment whatsoever - especially since I honestly have most things that I need, and right now my frame of mind isn’t very accepting of anything that’s not an absolute necessity. Also, I’ve got myself caught up to the point where there’s only one thing on my list that I honestly need - a general contractor, to start work on TudorHouse’s restoration/maintenance/improvement issues. When that’s what you need, going and getting yourself an ice cream doesn’t cut it. It’s frustrating - I’m starting to make headway against the bills, I’ve got enough to eat - but the thing I need is huge, and would involve trying to get a sizable loan while my credit score (temporarily) sucks rocks.

Add this to the fact that I come from a rather privileged background, and when I was a kid, I made out like a bandit on Christmas. It almost made up for having to put up with my family. Just before Christmas, I was thinking about the “last good year” - which was 1973. The last year we had anything resembling money, the last year anyone could stand to be in the same room with anyone else (which I believe was enabled largely by said money). Thank deity I had kind friends who I could visit over holidays, although my mother constantly kicked up a huge fuss over that. (She was one of those people who thought that not spending every possible holiday, including Arbor Day, at an elaborate sit-down meal with the entire extended family was positively evil, “sad”, and that there was something seriously morally and psychologically wrong with anyone who did not think exactly like she did. )

I admit that I miss the haul. I’ve tried to be all mature about it, but when the emails come trickling in about the lovely books, equipment, goodies, and miscellanea others have received, I feel a very unwelcome twinge of envy. I want to be able to say that I got all kinds of lovely stuff too, that my friends were well off enough that it wouldn’t be a burden to them, and that I had someone who thought so much of me that they could do that without sacrifice on their part. And... the stuff. Always the stuff.

I do get myself something for getting through the year, something I’ve been wanting and have been looking at for a while, but I feel a tremendous embarrassment over the fact that I pick out and buy my own gifts, even though this makes the most sense in the world. So, this year it was this. It even came in time. There are 39 pages of instructions with it, and it is twenty kinds of cool. It’s one of those outfit-of-a-lifetime things - a tremendous amount of work involved, but the payoff will be exquisite. (Even if I will still look like a lumpy loveseat in it.)

The other thing I did was that I got a secondhand digital camera. So, once I work out how to use it properly and upload the pictures, you guys are going to be stuck looking at them. My previous photography adventures have all involved a Pentax manual SLR - which requires you to actually learn how to focus, set the exposure, etc., etc. Which I did, and did reasonably well. The digital camera, though? Lots of little symbols that I have yet to decipher, and ninety features that I may or may not ever figure out. I think my problem with it is that I don’t automatically assume what’s obvious. I’ve printed out a copy of the manual, so…

So what did I do for 12 days? You’d think I’d have cleaned the whole house from top to bottom, made a complete 16thC outfit, gone somewhere, done something, but the truth is - I stayed quietly at home. Mostly I worked on the cheat bag (that’s not a typo for sweet bag. I’ll ‘splain in a minute.), made a gift for [ profile] clearbell’s birthday, and finally tackled the fitting issues with the beta-test smock.

The cheat bag is actually a bit from a 1971 (really) Erica Wilson needlework kit I got in a thrift store for three dollars. It was meant to be made up into an evening purse. However, I took one look at the design, recognized it as being nearly identical to a cushion cover in the V&A, and thought it deserved better than the kit’s original intent. However, I wasn’t really sure what that was going to be until recently. It’s real linen, the crewel yarn supplied with it was early-70s scary and got made into cat toys. Instead of merely outlining all of the figures, I did all of them solid in split stitch, and while I had misgivings at first, it’s turning out not half bad. The embroidery is about 80% complete - after that I just need to sew it into a little bag, make some cording and tassels, and hey presto! Nice handy little thing I can put my checkbook in at events. Since it’s not an actual sweet bag design, nor did I draw it out myself, I’m calling it the cheat bag. But the embroidery isn’t too bad, and the colors are working out better than expected.

The beta-test smock… mocks me. I can hear it sniggering whenever I open the workroom door. It’s a square necked smock, which is always a pain to fit on me; I knew it was going to be, which is why it’s the beta-test smock. In some fit of overreaching, I embroidered a row of rather nice Tudor roses on the front of it, which worked pretty well and didn’t look entirely too PreRaphaelite. All of this would be fine, except that - I originally cut the long panel (front and back) in a size that would actually encompass my actual adiposity, without thinking that I’d be swimming in the shoulders and armscye. I knew I’d have to cut it back a little, but no matter - there was plenty of room.

So I cut it back to fit my shoulders. Made up as originally intended, it would have fit beautifully if I’d been about a size 6. However, I am not, not even close. Now I had the problem of needing to put in side panels so I could even think about getting into it, AND I was sufficiently disgusted with myself that I wasn’t going to allow myself any additional yardage - I had to work with what I had left. No do-overs.

Which led to side panels that are pieced in five parts each. Not period? Not hardly. I think if a 16thC seamstress had been handed a problem like that, she may well have come up with a very similar solution. The line is still correct, it actually fits, and the only visible part of the smock is the neckline anyhow, so…

The neckline is a little wider than I’d like it, but perfectly workable. I can use an underpartlet if I want, or not.

So, the take-home from all this? Don’t try fitting a smock on yourself while wearing two heavy sweaters (because it is 33F and bucketing rain outside and not exactly warm inside). You will end up with an armscye that reaches your waist. Trust me, I know ;)

Otherwise, I finally got caught up on sleep to the point where I had lots of REM sleep and crazy dreams, and I was basically about as content as I've ever been. At one point I didn't leave the house for several days simply because there was absolutely no need to. Oh, and I lost some weight, even though I had more than enough in the pantry. What's not perfect about all of that?
Excellent trip down to Eugene for the costume talk/geekfest. Thank you, [ profile] otherwind for the Sunday ticket! It was also a bit of a surprise to see her Saturday (but it made me all happy!) and I felt a little like a stowaway there, but in the end it was all good and people definitely did not seem to mind. I got home about 5 on Sunday (after a quick unintentional detour eastward down OR 126 - when the landmarks look wrong, trust your instincts), skimmed through the first issue of the revived Victoria, which had arrived, and promptly fell asleep for a few hours. I was generously offered crash space in Eugene by [ profile] reginaromsey, as she had a spot open in her motel room, which was much closer to the lecture site than my original arrangements. So yay, that all worked out. Other than it was pouring buckets for the entire trip Saturday, it was smooth sailing.

Anyhow, here's what's up:

Car: Door fixed in time to drive to Eugene. Bald tire replaced, ditto. Thank goodness. I've been worried about that tire for a long time, and the dent in the door? Call it broken-window syndrome - it just made poor Ivy (a '98 Golf, incidentally) show her age and look really shabby - and I hated it. I'm SO glad to have made some little bit of progess there. Just to stay in place, you know?

Cats: Happy to see me when I got home. Seemed to have been just fine during the weekend. They all promptly climbed into bed with me.

House: Promises to hold on this winter. Lake Louise in the basement has gotten bigger, now that the rains have started. So, some of it is coming in in addition to coming UP. I need to bail it, see how long it takes to refill (it seems totally random) and rattle a few cages about getting that job finished - which at the very least is going to involve something like Roto-Rooter. At the very least. I do NOT want to think about this. I also need to get the garage door fixed. A new opening mechanism is about $200, which I can plan for. The problem is, I need it installed, and it's a bit beyond me, and there is no Honey to Honey-do. I need to be able to get stuff in and out of there - right now it's my favorite excuse for not cleaning up the autumn debris in my yard. I really could get the wheelbarrow out of the side door, though. I'm just being lazy. Or maybe just exhausted. Otherwise, the place needs dusting and a quick vaccum before the dust bunnies get too bad.

Costumes: Finally saw a 3-D example of something I really want to try, a train-back Spanish gown. This helps. I wish I'd gotten pictures, though - why I didn't think of it is beyond me. In any case, I was really happy to see that my idea of how they were constructed basically works, albeit it's a little complicated - it works.. I need to move some of the boning in the stays around, since I ran out of the heavy ones. A package of big cable ties is about $17, and I can't see spending that when a little ingenious rearranging should take care of the shortfall. I have plenty of the more narrow bones - I just need to shift some of the less essential heavier bones to more critical areas. Mostly a matter of Sit Down And Think About It, then Do It. Embroidery long since complete on the beta-test shift, need to put that together and either find one of my AWOL shifts to send to [ profile] clearbell, or run one up for her.

Work: Sucks. Resent it like hell that I go home from here too beat to care about anything other than my next breath.

SCA: Now that said breath is caught, I need to see what I can do next. My participation is understandablly limited at this time.

Fall: Yay. Except I'm not looking forward to the first utility bill that has heat on it it.

Me: Still trying to find a second housemate. This needs to happen. I'll work on it today.

Other stuff: There is no other stuff at the moment. And no Rule #5. Thanks for reading this far.
I've been thinking an awful lot about this:

Wanted it for years. Years. I'm not sure I could translate any of it into, say, stuff I could wear to work or something practical like that, but I would really love to have this pattern. Mostly, I think, to see how it's put together. Perhaps make myself something nice for a modern dress party. I have all kinds of ideas about getting some William Morris-oid patterned fabric for the accents on that...

I'm trying to think of what it is that makes patterns so damned appealing that we collect dozens, or hundreds. I think it's the possibilities they represent. No, you don't have that outfit, but the pattern gives you the tools to do it, or better. You may not have that outfit right now, but you could. You now own the possibility.

I've been asked why I buy patterns since I'm able to draft up my own - and the answer for that is sheer laziness, and not feeling like reinventing the wheel. I don't so much see them as templates as I do suggestions. I made a kirtle last fall for [ profile] clearbell, and I made some significant changes to the original - not stylistic changes, and she's not hard to fit - just things to make it fit better. Comparing the original with the final piece was a real eye-opener - it had been a long time since I'd made anything, and I'd forgotten how much fiddling I did with stuff. So, yes, I'd have to confess to using commercial patterns to get something that's about the right size and the right shape initially, but after that? Pffft. I can riff from here. Mostly I want to see the shapes of the pieces, and mentally assemble them. I know how I'd probably do it - I want to see how someone else did.

Which brings me to this: Why are reasonably skilled seamstresses are slaves to a pattern? They follow it and follow it, down to the last detail. The only thing I can figure is that their original sewing lessons were either from one of those Home Ec teachers (or someone who was taught by one) that taught you absolutely must follow every single instruction on the pattern and never deviate from it, no argument, no appeal, no exception. I can understand this sort of caution in someone doing something for the first or second time... but after that, doesn't it sink in that there are other things to do with it? It definitely did with me, and most of the things that occurred to me were things I really didn't have the skill to execute properly just then, but which was acquired by the various attempts. So. Try. Fail. Try again. Fail better. It's all a learning process.

So, your Friday question is - why do you get patterns?
Okay, I have the beta-test version of my smock cut, and started on the embroidery.

The hardest part was figuring out how big to make the neckline. I consider myself unforgivably pudgy, but beneath it there, my frame, and especially my shoulders remain a stubbon 10-ish. As in, unless I'm very nearly dead, I'll never wear anything off the rack smaller than a 10, because that's the size my shoulders are. So, when the most visible part of a garment is going to be right where my body hardly changes, but it also has to cover the rest of my loathsome adipose carcass - yeah. One size will not fit all. And in this case, it may well not ever fit anyone else.

So, I played around last night, and came up with a good way to freehand Tudor roses, which is a good thing, because I can't draw worth a damn. I can get the basic shape and do the detail work with the threads. Originally I was thinking I'd do violets - mostly because I have an enormous amount of purple embroidery thread, and I happen to like them, but I wasn't able to find them as embroidered decoration in any other 16thC examples I had handy last night - at least not where they were by themselves, but rather in the context of something else.

Which brings me to this. I am going to talk to the empty auditorium here for a minute. I'm going to try to make this make sense, but chances are I've completely missed the point, so don't take me too seriously.

Original, period clothes, by which I don't mean actual extant examples. I'm talking about original work done within the period parameters (as much as reasonably possible).

This is a big bugaboo of mine. It's wonderful that there is so much source material out there now to learn from. If we'd had anything remotely resembling this back in the early 70s when I got started (except for a single broadcast of Elizabeth R here in the states), there is no telling how far and how fast I would have gone. I'm pretty sure I would have left the solar system years ago, yanno?

So. How come I keep seeing things that are supposedly copies of garments in portraits, often down to the trim and fabric being near-perfect-replica? Some are uncannily accurate, and I can appreciate that, but those who actually manage to achieve this are really a very small percentage. If you want to copy, fine. I totally get it. It takes a tremendous amount of skill (not to mention time, money, and other stuff) to bring off a good copy of something from a painting or an extant piece - and when it's done right, the effect is amazing.

But what about a little originality? I see so many outfits which are an attempt to copy a portrait (or copy a copy of someone else's copy, by which time they're not really recognizable as such) that it makes me wonder if (a) people simply aren't very imaginative, or (b) people are afraid to use what they've learened to experiment. No excuse for the first, but I have some empathy - although little patience - for the second. Sticking with known things is safe. You can produce documentation on the spot, if you're asked, and yes, some of us have been asked and are ready with it. Copying requires no extrapolation.

However. The clothing worn in portraits is the equivalent of what's worn to the Academy Awards. Wealthy persons got good use out of it, but unless one was a monarch (or a Medici), one didn't go about like that 24/7 and I'm none too so sure what the Medicis did on the weekends). The same people who had these stunning things also had more commonplace clothing. But there's kind of a problem with that, too - because now that people are actually researching it, you keep seeing things that look pretty familiar. (Seen one Flemish, seen 'em all? No? Then how come I see so many of the same dress?)

I'm NOT talking about spanning eras or cultures in a single suit of clothes, although I see it done with alarming frequency. I'm talking about exercising your own personal taste within the period. Imagine for a minute that my 16thC persona has come back to the country from Greenwich, where just now (1580s) anything Italian/Spanish/French/Flavor of the Month is all the rage. I do not have a court tailor. However, I have a perfectly able tailor in Ewell to whom I'm able to describe and perhaps draw this in detail for. I can't copy the exact goods I saw there, except for a length of fabric I may have bought from a fashionable draper. I can incorporate the right elements from the period. The result is a suit of clothes in the flavor of the month, in a color that suits me rather than one as close as possible to the example, and done with my own accessories which are like, but not identical to those I saw a month earlier (by which time this suit would get me laughed out of Hampton Court). By changing a few, mutable details, you can have something that is your own. You do look like you've just stepped out of a portrait. Your OWN.

Uhm, so. Yeah. I'm trying out a smock pattern.
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