Monday, April 29, 2013

A Flock of Flamingos

Sometimes it's the little things in life that bring the most pleasure, such as flamingos in your yard...

Kissing their new friends. Tagging them with little labels that read "I love you".

They're a bit sad that the flock takes off later this evening to grace another yard.

The sudden flocking of our yard is part of a fundraiser for a Habitat for Humanity house our church is building. Neat idea: people have been slowing, stopping, gawking, asking, and chatting to us about all the pink hoopla on the green all day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ma'am, Your Corset's On Upside Down

After last weekend's gala, I was such a happy little clam: what a fun time we'd had! Carefree and silly with about a thousand other people, all being carefree and silly together, all for a good cause.

Then I saw the pictures. In particular, I saw this. Blue arrows mark the spots.

Ginormous wrinkle on the bodice above the chest, especially on one side. What is going on, I thought? Almost equally enormous wrinkles elsewhere. The costumer's nightmare, a very ill fit. And me with a big fat goofy smile oblivious to the damning evidence below. This same thing happened the first time I wore the dress. Really, two times? And me not notice?

Last night, falling asleep, the thought occurred to me: what if your fitting skills aren't going to the dogs after all? What if?

So this evening, I tried it on, "it" being my Kay Gnagey corset. A very nice corset, well made, and which used to be well fitting. What was going on? It fit horribly! There was this big point above my chest, and the bust gussets...

Wait a minute.

I took the thing off. Looked at it. Turned it the other side round, and tried it one again.

Well, I'll be. It's true. I had worn the...corset.........upside.............down. Twice.

What a fabulous hoot! I'd walked around last fall, and last Saturday evening, with my main under-thingy wrong-side up.

What gave it away? The fact that there are no big floppy bust gussets in a Victorian corset. I've gotten so used to looking at floppy gathered bust gussets in Regency wear that, well....

And besides, I only dress up a few times a year! In fact, only once last year. So...

Am much more focused on research and translations and decoding long-decayed skills than actually wearing the things I make...

Yeah, okay, no excuses really work here, do they?

Fact is, I'm a silly dork, and you can all laugh long and hard.

I have

Just to prove that I can sort of fit bodices (sleeves still need work: sleeve heads are too big and should ease into the armscye and not need gathers, as I had to do), here's what the bodice looks like with the under-thingie worn upside-up, as my son calls it.

See, there's supposed to be a little give at the shoulder, but not much. A few little wrinkles are normal when one moves. Also, if I hook-and-eye the bodice to the skirt, the weight of the latter will pull the bodice even smoother. Finally, if I ever get around to boning the bodice like it's supposed to be, and adding a bust improver near the armscye, it will look better still. Pppfff. 

Hey, even a little tight across the back. That's more like it.

Oh, look, there's a bug on the ceiling.

By the way, the collar is a collarette, a removable piece of decor to brighten up a dress, and change out as needed. They went by myriad names in the early 1870s. At some point I'll show you some fashion plates of originals, including the German one from which the design of this one derives.


And now to bed, where I can rest easy tonight.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Night Circus Gala at the Red Mile

Jenni, Laura, and I from our sewing society attended;
sorry for the blur, folks.  What's with the bad fit on my
dress? Read the next post to find out ;p
Last night the Night Circus came to town, and for those wearing red scarves, it was a magical evening in a wedding-cake barn in the clearest of air under a crisp white moon.

If you've read the book by Erin Morgenstern, you already know a little about what I am talking of. If you live near Lexington, KY, you know that the the Night Circus Gala fundraiser in honor of the Lexington-Fayette Public Library happened at the Red Mile barn last evening, and that it was a real success.

Who knew there'd be so many people, from gents in their 80s to itty-bitty little girls, who wanted to dress in red, black and white or their steampunk or Victorian best, don a red scarf and go watch fire dancers, hula dancers, sword swallowers, jugglers, acrobats, magicians, stilt walkers, and the only brass band I know of who boast some members who like black and white tights? There was so much more even than that, and the hors d'oevres were fresh, excellent quality and wild. Grass green tarts? Our town loves a good party, and heaven knows, loves to dress up. So perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. Still, it was a treat to see so many different kinds of people throwing care over their shoulders, patting on a decorated top hat and goggles or wiggling into a bustled tutu over fishnet tights, or just a suit or party dress, and heading out for a good time together. Thank you, Laura and Jenni, for making sure we all went! (A note: other people took pictures of us together, but this is one of the only ones I have of us three. Grr. Debra, another friend from book club -- so good to see you, Debra! -- took the rest of me.)

Would that I had a real camera along, but alas, the cell phone had to do. So, if you feel like squinting a little into a haze, come with me and view a few of the sights. Sure hope that more people will post interesting pictures. The Herald Leader did, but it's just mug shots. Cute ones, but mug shots anyway. Oh, wait, Erin Morgenstern posted some, plus she wrote about it all on her blog, in ponies! gala! i love kentucky. Well, we love you, too!

Okay, Here's the Dress

The dress? The black 1870 bustle dress from last fall, with some changes and additions. Nice vacant stare, there. (Edit, oh, and there's something strange going on with the fit. Read my next post to find out what. Giggle, snort.)

Gone is the old plain neckline. It's replaced with what was often known at the time as a collarette, a cotton and lace collar shaped to the neckline and tacked into place. It can be changed out as needed. I used some handsome antique lace, edged it with cotton to match the dress trim, and added a velvet bow at the bottom, another typical touch.

The red scarf worn by the circus goers is an antique silk obi. It's lighter than air, fluttery, and one of my favorite accessories, waiting for years to come out of the chest. Cannot wait to wear it in a contemporary setting.

The overskirt trim has been beefed up with bias fold band trim, tacked down about every inch with black thread. The pleats to each side of the overskirt are covered with rosettes in black cotton to match the big rosette at the back. The overskirt is belted with an antique Victorian silk sash; had I a back shot you could see the applied soutache braid and the fancy knotted fringe.

The underskirt flounce is now topped with a 9-inch box-pleated trim sewn down top and bottom; the design was very, very common and I like it a lot. Later I'll add a final bias fold band above it to match the overskirt. Please note one darling tiny tot to the left, along with her proud daddy.

The hat has been trimmed on the side with a bow of white gimp. Sadly, once again the stupid hat just would NOT stay in place. This time, instead of tipping to the side, it slid backwards. It's supposed to be tipped forward on my head. Two strikes and you're out, hat. Time to take you apart and make a new one. Grrrrr. Which I did...

Since this was a fantasy event, I left most of my hair long, just putting a wee bit in a bun to hold out the veil in the back.

I didn't pouf the overskirt much this time, and rather like the more relaxed effect.

Now owning several enormous heavy duty hooks and eyes, I will attach them to bodice and skirt, for just as on its first wearing, the bodice rode up a bit.

Sorry for the lack of back shots. Costumers always photo the back view, but apparently I didn't get the message. Ah well.

A Bit of the Event

Cameras were in evidence everywhere.

The March Madness brass band.

Hula dancers in the dusk: the hula hoops often looked like liquid neon in the air.

Late dusk arrived, the moon rose over the top of the round Red Mile barn, and the chill started to descend.

Folks moved under the tent, like the stilt walker,

or inside the barn, lit with fairy lights

and a glorious three-tier chandelier, all under a wooden roof feet and feet and feet above. People-watching was magnificent from the second-level railing.

I wonder if the peacock lady, who I think won the costume contest, ever tired of being photographed? She had an enormous tail and an applied mohawk, and this was her first sewing venture. Pretty successful, I think!

Advance advertising for the event, as if it needed it. People had been waiting for months. A side note: apparently galas in this mold have been popping up all over the States in the past months, if Google is any guide.

Now, it's time to for me to read the book. If you haven't visited Ms. Morgenstern's site, go find her blog. I've already discovered that her poetry, and especially her very short stories, are good reading. Her work makes me think of a kinder version of the magical realism novels I studied in undergrad days.

Now for bed, and I hope, magically good dreams. Good night!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hie Thee to Highbury

Pretty and properly pointy, the new little Highbury Regency flats from American Duchess strike me as dandy shoes for lots of reasons. The biggest of which is that there's no dainty little heel to collect greenery and brownery the minute you go outdoors and attempt to strike a Regency pose under an arbor or up against the shrubbery.

The second of which is because it's so paintable and dyable and decoratable.

The final of which is that this shoe could very easily be worn everyday, because it's built for comfort. A Little Black Shoe, anyone, for this summer's early 60's-style structured dresses? Yes indeed. Dang it, why didn't they come out in January, so I could attend Keeneland's Spring Meet in the right shoe for tripping through the tulips on the way to the paddock and back to the tailgate?

Do head on American I have two pairs of American Duchess shoes and can vouch for their comfort.

Of course, I've entered the giveaway contest, like a great many of you, and am crossing my fingers, just like your. One of us may just get a jolt of springtime luck.

Yes, Keeneland really does look this wonderful.
Yes, there is lots of grass in which to entrap a shoe.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Sleeveless Spencer / Bodice: Fitting It For Straps

I found half an hour today, after cutting out dozens of apple-blossom flowers for our sons' Kindergarten classroom door, to fit the sleeveless spencer for straps. Here is the spencer from the front.

The look in this picture is of a non-plussed woman, but what am I non-plussed about? The fitting is fine. I wore a camisole, then my stays and wrap-front dress. The idea is to make sure that the straps have room enough in them to accommodate the clothing worn underneath.

The white straps being fitted are the linen lining pieces. Once they're trimmed and sewn into onto the lining, the fashion fabric will laid over the top of each strap and sewn down.

The space left in the front is for lacing. I decided that a laced front would be more interesting than a lapped front, but may change my mind about this.

Now a side view, which I think is unintentionally funny. Do I have the nose-in-the-air attitude too down pat, perhaps? The stays offer the correct line. You can barely see the tight strap, set for the moment on top of the fashion fabric.

A last photo. The straps were rapidly pinned to the back of the bodice. The bodice, oh heavens, might be a little off kilter: I'll have to double check. However, the bodice is the right length: it just hides the waist seam on the dress. Good.

On to the next steps...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award...Thank You!

"The Choll", who publishes under the witty moniker the Thread-Headed Snippet, recently awarded me The Very Inspiring Blogger Award, for which I thank her most kindly. Inspiring others is a big deal, you know, and what I've fondly hoped someone would take away from the essays here -- that is, tries, experiments -- in costuming. It appears to have actually happened: I've inspired someone. A happy thing.

Now, award rules, per almost tradition at this point, are to exhume and share seven random things about myself , and pass on the award to 15 others. Gracious mercy. As usual, I'm behind-hand in writing, so most of the blogs I turn to religiously for research and inspiration have already received the award, but I have a few to share. I've picked them, this time, for two reasons: either I don't know them in person but reading their posts comforts me like the company of an old friend, or their authors' attention to sharing and teaching is particularly deep. Both characteristics inspire.

First, the Inspirers: That's More Important

CW Griffith likes embroidery. She has taken the time to video how-tos, even rarer. She experiments, she plays. A kindred spirit.

Time Traveling in Costume. Val blogs, evangelizes costuming, gives presentations. Her work on Amelia Bloomer shows her commitment to setting costuming into its historical context, but also bringing it outside the realms of reenactment and costuming-for-costumers to the larger world.

Sent From My iRon. When I am blue, I turn to reading Mrs. C's blog. A punner bred, she opened Maid on Marion a year or two ago, has a feature on an NZ talk show, and is busier than a one-armed paper hanger. Another born teacher, and a delightful presence. Besides, her weather is upside down, so always exotic.

I Want To Nibble On Your Brains. Laurel is not for everyone; she's iconoclastic, emphatic, adult. She dotes on her neighborhood vultures, which is a good thing for the earth, but again, not to everyone's sense of smell. Her sense of humor inclines towards...look at the blog title. She was among the early adopters of Deep Research, and her site, Extreme Costuming, among the first I revered, back along the mid-2000s, and still do.

The Costume Historian. A professional, and focuses largely up to 1750. Know thy roots.

Second, Random Data

Oh dear, really? Well, it's easier for a private person to chat about herself if she imagines she is talking to a friend.

  1. As you've guessed, I value privacy. If we're all open books, we lose our mystery, and frankly, some of our perceived value. Are we interesting at every moment? Should we be? On the other hand, if none of us recorded our lives, social history would be the poorer. As a former social historian in training in Emory University's doctoral program in American History, from which I bailed with a Masters because I missed teams of people working together more than I loved the stacks, I am obsessed with the minutae of living. So long as it's not today's minutae.
  2. Twin boys live here, two sons we love to within an inch of our lives. Sometimes they are loud, sometimes their little-boy voices aren't reedy, but wild in a way that makes my hair stand on end, and despite their innate sweetness and even gentleness, I am wrung out at most days' ends,  but as an older parent, that's just part of the deal. Most of the time they make live very worth living, indeed.
  3. Noah just bit Christopher. Noah is in time out. He has been asked to think about the option I have of biting him, and whether or not I will do it. I am not sure he is worried enough.
  4. My Great Aunt Margaret used to eat the bottoms off of her three sisters' chocolate bunnies, bite by bite, secretly, back when girls wore giant bows, black stockings, and polished the chimneys of the oil lamps weekly. She would stick the bunnies' diminishing remainders back in the Easter grass. Usually it came to the point where just their ears were left, before her sisters discovered the thefts. I wonder if they bit her back?
  5. Noah is now whining and wondering when he's coming out of Coventry. Christopher is reading Curious George to himself, whispering the words. There is nothing softer and lovelier to the ear of those who love them than a child whispering words to themselves. It is peace embodied. Actually, it is, in more ways than one. It means no one is currently biting anyone else.
  6. Noah is now panting so I will pay attention to him. I warned him that if he keeps hyperpventilating, he will faint. I do not like drama, selfishness, and what they call Acting Out in children. I still subscribe to parents as arbiters, and children as apprentices. Loved but disciplined. You are welcome to disagree, but I am not changing my mind about this traditional power structure. The panting has stopped, and he has forgotten about it.
  7. We went to Cincinnati yesterday, and stepped inside the old Union Station, where the ceiling is an enormous half dome of yellow and silver, an Art Deco dream. It houses museums now, a brilliant idea, and it's full of life. Then we had dinner at the Hofbrauehaus, and it's owned by the Munich concern and brews its own beer and the Hefeweizen is just right and I've been waiting a decade to drink a beer and have a Weisswurst, poached, in Cincinnati, just 1.5 hours away, and we finally did it and it was Bliss. It might as well be, because it took Eternity to get Curte to visit Cincinnati, yes, only 1.5 hours away. You see, it's north of the Mason-Dixon line. Oh, I love my husband, deeply; he is darling, his eyes and voice are just the quintessence of Kentucky, and his gentle nature is a constant happy theme in our lives, but he has this thing about the Mason-Dixon line. Um, why did he marry someone bred on the Other Side? As he said yesterday, and I quote, "People have an amazing ability to reconcile things that don't make sense together." Hmmh.
There we go. Noah is out of time out, it's almost lunchtime, and it's time to read with them and go for a hike. Spring break, anyone?

Oh, and by the way, biting is not a daily occurrence around here, thanks be. Neither was Noah inclined to bite into his chocolate bunny. He hung on to it, hugging it, until I explained it was getting ready to melt. He was hard to convince --