Corsetry is currently experiencing a bit of a revival – which is great ( if you still think they are torturous, rib-breaking, garments-from-hell, please read this first…). However, since they were out of fashion for quite a while, people nowadays … Continue reading
When, earlier on this year, the scans of Symington corset patterns were released, (by Leicester County council, link to the patterns, etc: Leicestershire symington patterns), a lot of corsetmakers stormed the site and bought the images they wanted to use as an experiment in pattern-making. Well, I was one of the horde who grabbed an image (or two…) but it was only recently that I had time enough to have a go at one of the patterns.
I chose 2 complex patterns and up till the last moment I couldn’t decide on which one to make first – but in the end the decision fell on one with a lot of gores. I know, a masochistic choice, but well… I just couldn’t resist it, as the ‘gore within a gore’ concept worked for me on a variety of levels – historically accurate and yet with styling that would not look amiss in a modern or steampunk corset.
So ‘Gore Galore Corset’ it was – and it turned out be be even more gore-tastic than I had imagined….
But, let us start at the beginning.
The moment I measured the printed out pattern, I knew there would be serious issues with the fit – it just wasn’t very curvy! There were just a few inches of difference between the hip, waist, and bust, and my bod calls for more than just a few. Still, I worked out (read: husband did the calculations) how much the pattern has to be enlarged, and blew it up in the local photocopying place.
Then, I took the sheet, components and lunch and drove over to Sew Curvy for our usual Stitch and Bitch session – the corset was to be constructed there – good company and nice space make it easy for me to focus, and having an accomplished corsetiere on hand to help with the fitting can only help… 🙂
The work could then begin.
At that point I was cleverly distracted by Julia who dug out 2 lovely antique corsets and I stopped to drool over them… A teaser here, no doubt Julia will put more info and pictures of them on the Sew Curvy blog at some point…
Then it was back to work – I wanted to assemble the mock up before lunch…
The pieces assembled….. outside view
and inside, below…
The moment of truth! How does it look on the body..?
Pretty straight – as expected to be honest. As the proportions, length etc worked, I just needed an inch more reduction at the waist – and to add a few inches at the hip and bust to accommodate my curves…
And the easiest way to do that was just to cut inside the gores and use bits of calico to cover the areas that needed more expansion… and a bit more boning in front for support…
Then it was lunch time!
After lunch I amended the pattern to accommodate the changes – all that needed to be done was to enlarge the inside gores…. and since the incisions were sort of already there, I decided to let them remain split – and just get another gore in…. A gore within a gore within a gore! A bit mad, but it just seemed to work better than simply making the inside gore bigger – and it resulted in a much more interesting look too…..
Alas, it also meant I had 12 gores to sew in…. ouch….
but with help of coffee I persevered…
The rest of the evening was spent flossing the gores…..
And next morning saw me with the gores flossed (is it only me, or does that sound a bit weird? ), and I was ready for some boning. (Seriously, take that sentence out of context and it sounds damned indecent! Corsetry nomenclature joys…)
I marked the channels as close to the original as possible, and added a few more to support my boobage a bit better too…) The tape was applied over a waist stay.
It was time to try it on – if anything needs changing, there is still some scope for reshaping things, if needs be, before the lining comes in and covers all the inside…
At that stage I said goodbye to Julia and Sew Curvy studio and drove back home, where I finished the corset the next day – black cotton lining was added and the bones were flossed in black. Then it was binding time and it was done! If needs be, suspenders can be added at the front center and sides, but that can be done later once I decide whether to use it as an undergarment – or a modern top layer corset…
As it turned out, it was over a month later that we were able to get any decent photos – and surprise, surprise, my overindulgence in MMA and other martial activities at the club meant that I lost some inches… The corset still fitted, but was a bit on a loose side. 😦
Even with the corset a tad too big, we got to shoot it and ended up with some interesting images.
First we shot in in the historical style – with black lawn chemise and drawers, with a matching blue ribbon.
And later on in the evening, on the way back from the movies, I changed into leggings, black top and a wig – and we shot it with a cyber punk/comic/ Tron convention in mind – the results below….
As you can see, it turned out to be a pretty versatile piece – just a shame it is a tad too big now…. And as it is a bit too big, it has already been sold to a friend who plans to use it for some steampunk events – so it is bound to lead an interesting life….
But I am not saying goodbye to the pattern per se – indeed I liked the gores so much, I have now purchased black and yellow lacquered leather – it will be made into a Hornet Corset:-)
Over the years I have been asked about a variety of problems within historical costuming – and how to avoid them. I have already written a few posts on different aspects such as the look, fabrics, etc – but here … Continue reading
After the WWI event at Hereford one thing became apparent – I cannot wear my original mourning outfit in these temperatures! it was only silk, but black, and having it drenched with sweat was just a crime. So for the next WWI event, in St. Neots, I decided to whiz something simple and more appropriate – a light cotton summer dress.
I had only 1 day to do just that – recent house move meant I had to finish some commissions early and catch up with others after the move – but I managed to save up 1 day to get the frock sorted. I had a lovely cotton with embroidered border in stock ( to make one of the stock item dresses…) and decided to use that. my inspiration came from a few fashion plates picturing a skirt and a bodice/jacket combination – you can see the board here.
The whole thing turned out to be a bit more complex than I had originally imagined. The top needed a sitted waist ( underbodice) with the looser , longer layer being mounted directly on it. I did not have time to make a late Edwardian corset in lighter fabric, and my black one showed through the layers – so I had to use my early Edwardian corset – shorter and without suspenders, but it turned out to work just fine. I also added some vintage lace to the borders of the jacket…
The only pair of shoes I had, were my new Gibsons from American Duchess – and so to match them I found a scrap of beige silk in the scrap box and made a belt to compliment the shoes – whatever as left of the silk went on the hat…
And so, the layers were – The stockings, drawers and the chemise with a corset on top….
then the petticoat in light cotton and lace…
Camisole and the skirt next…
And then the jacket. It can be worn in 2 ways – as a cross over…
or open in front, revealing more of the decorative waist…
The hat was an original item, restyled just a bit – added silk bow, velvet ribbon , some bling and ivory and brown feathers.
On the day I forgot my gloves – and felt half naked wondering around town looking for a shop that would sell anything suitable… Fortunately, lovely ladies in Beales found s the last few pairs of net gloves somewhere in the stock room – and they were perfect!
Here am leaving for a day’s work on the second day – this time with a parasol as sun was merciless!
The event itself, ran by St. Neot’s museum and Black Knight Historical, was great – we chatted to the public, recruited nurses, encouraged young lads to join up – and talking about the impact the great War had on the history and everyday life…
– and in between all that we sat at a nearby vintage cafe, enjoying amazing scones, tea and lemonade… If you ever are in St. Neot’s this place is well worth a visit – Betty Bumbless Vintage tea Rooms.
I also spent some time making sketches – to be used by one of the local artists – and it turned out to be a real magnet for the public, and inspired a few very interesting discussions about the war fashions….
At the end of the day we indulged in a little photoshoot session in the cafe – their first floor turned out to be a time machine – styling was mostly WWII, but generic enough for us to have a go at a few pictures…
Lastly, we paid our respects at the local monument…
All through the weekend the temperatures were scorching – and the new dress worked well – it was light, breathed well and I felt much cooler than in the black silk – success. in fact, it proved so popular that I got some more of the fabric to make another one, this time for sale:-). Considering the fact that in the next 4 years we will be doing quite a lot of the WWI events, I suspect I will be making a few more summer dresses, day dresses and walking suits… a few of them are already done, available in our shop! ore to come over the next few months….
Photography – as always, huge thanks to Pitcheresque Imagery
Shoes – American Duchess,
Clothes ( my dress, Blue silk dress, and Lucas’ breeches ( try as I might, I simply couldn’t get out of making theses…) – Prior Attire
gloves – Beales
So we have got a new website – and it comes with a shop! Online shoo for some essentials has been on my to do list for quite some time, and so I decided to go ahead with it. And your products need to be photographed, right? Well, since we were moving house, we decided to get as many pictures sorted before we do so – and 2 long sessions have been set aside and done!
The first was a fun session with Miss Lilian Love – featuring our modern corsets – the elegant sheer…
and a cyberpunk/sci fy underbust – in a few looks!
then a week later we had Anett, and Adrianne..
and a few outtakes from the shoot…
after the shoot the girls went to bed…. 😉
The next day Helen joined us for more fun..
and then Lizzie got to model some more stuff too 🙂
even I got to model one of our stock items!
and after all the shooting was done, it was editing time – photos, of course, by Pitcheresque Imagery
All the items here ( and many more) are already available in the shop – but will get a proper post on the shop at some point too!
Many thanks to all our models for their hard work, creativity and simply being great company!
Well, since I had the 1914 mourning dress sorted, I also needed proper underwear. I have never been particularly fond of the WWI fashions, but since we are getting more and more bookings for that period for the summer, it makes sense to be prepared. Also, since the current WWI interest is going to last for another 4 years or so due to the centenary, we are bound to be either booked for shows, or to make clothing from that era. And so, I bought a pattern and decided to have a go at it next time I was due for our monthly Stitch and Bitch session at Sew Curvy.
Pattern – Nehalenia patterns, 1910 corset – earlier than the WWI, but this type of corset was worn generally till at least mid decade if not longer – a quick look at other sources confirmed it, and so the decision was made. I adapted size 12 – with the bust from size 16, as specified by my measurements.
materials – bits of cotton broche, black – remnants form other projects. Alas, it turned out that they cane from different batches and one piece was darker than the other – but the difference in hue would hardly matter on an underwear corset.
boning – flat and spiral steels enclosed in channels made with herringbone tape.
All components,apart from the lace came from Sew Curvy shop.
mock up first…
Once I saw how flattering the corset can be, I set to making the real thing with renewed enthusiasm…
then eyelets were inserted…
and then the boning:-)
the whole thing was bound in cotton binding
and it was time to try it on…. 🙂
very pleased with the fit – just need some nice lace to put on top, and the make and attach suspenders:-)
And while I was having fun with the kit for my mourning kit, Julia was working on a sweet bridal sheer – a few taster pictures below, official photos not disclosed yet! 🙂
If you like the look of the sheer corset, check out Sew Curvy courses – the was a recent course on sheer corsetry, but i believe the dates for the next one will be announced soon!
once back home I sorted out the suspenders…
and then added lace and a velvet ribbon, flossed the bones for that extra security and fashionable look – and the corset was ready. Here worn over my late Edwardian chemisette and drawers, the stockings and shoes from American Duchess
Altogether, I am very well pleased with the thing – it is comfortable, gives a much better silhouette than I had expected, and above all, serves its primary function – this type of corsets did not aim a waist reduction ( though there is some!), but at streamlining the body, so that the loose, close fitting garments of the era ( hobble skirts especially) looked smooth, flowing down the body in a relatively undisturbed fashion.
In fact, I liked them so much I made 5 others, in different sizes, as a trial batch for our online shop ( news on that shortly) – we will be offering them as off the peg items alongside other corsetry items ( Regency, mid Victorian, late Victorian, early Edwardian) in standard sizes 10-18 🙂
Well, I must say that once we hit the Teens, I start to get bored with the clothes. But, being in business means that sometimes you have to stretch beyond your comfort zone – and this suit was just such an exercise…. I am not a tailor – and not particularly eager to become one, so I usually leave the tailoring bits to those who are trained accordingly. On this occasion, however, since it was a friend who asked, I relented and tried my hand at a tailored suit 1910-14 style.
Eleanor knew my attitude to suits so to make it easier we agreed on a commercial pattern to be used, and we got absolutely stunning check wool and soft linen for lining. The undergarments were made, measurements taken – it was time to unpack the pattern ( Reconstructing History, 1052) and get down to it – make a mock up.
And that’s when it started….
The pattern….. though I usually make my own patterns, I have used commercial patterns before – and as with everything in life, some are better and some are worse; most require some fiddling with the mock up – there are no miracles after all and nobody is the ideal size.
Well, this one required the most fiddling I have ever experienced….
The skirt: Pattern was simple – but the pieces were marked in a weird way – some upside down….
Not a major thing, though confusing. However, here the size was the issue. We cut out the required size – only to realize that for some reason it was almost 10 inches too big at the waist… So it needed re-cutting and darts needed re-positioning. again, not a big deal, but a nuisance.
Well, mock up was cut out ( 1 fronts 2 side fronts and 2 backs), and put together – and it became apparent straight away that there are several issues:
* front – the front, princess seam needed re- positioning over the bust curve…
* the back – the back was simply cut in 2 big pieces – and they hanged loosely, not fitting at all looking at the picture on the pattern, you sort of see the side back seam, splitting the back piece into two – alas, the pattern piece did not acknowledge the fact, merging the 2 pieces together….
so a back piece had to be split, and since the front piece had a seam, we decided to continue the seam over the shoulder, splitting the back into two, and providing a better fit over the back and size… the correction is marked on the pattern now.
Once we seam was in place, the whole thing looked much, much better – here on the stand, interlined wool turned outsize, ready for another fitting
and on Eleanor…
Sleeves were next – the ones cut according to the pattern were HUGE! looked like elephant’s legs:_)
The second fitting sorted the little kinks out – and I was able to proceed with finishing the thing, lining with linen, adding velvet cuffs and collar, and velvet covered buttons.
The hat was next – and here huge was the target size:-) we had black-watch silk tartan, ostrich feathers, peacock feathers and velvet to decorate it…
The base is made in buckram, wired, covered in calico and then covered with silk, with edges bound in the silk bias binding,
Altogether, as far as the pattern was concerned – it is not a beginners thing. If you are familiar with working with toiles, you will work your suit out of it, but be prepared for quite a lot of fiddling.
To me it seemed that some of the issues we experienced were due to a few factor – the size – I suppose a size 10 small chested lass may have the princess seams spot on – but on a curvier sizes it simply didn’t work. Also, i suspect the pattern may have been drawn on a dummy or a model who was not wearing period correct underwear – and we are still in corsets at that time! Admittedly, long line corsets, mid or underbust too, with bust improvers or not – but the position of the bust is changed nevertheless.
In conclusion – workable pattern, but in the future will another draft my own or experiment with another one. It may work for a more experienced tailor – maybe the issues we had wee also due to the fact that I am no such! 🙂
Still, very pleased with how it turned out in the end – we did a small shoot in the park on a beautiful spring day and Eleanor looked resplendent in the suit:-) Her layers are – chemise, corset, princess petticoat, blouse, suit, vintage furs, vintage bag and jewellery. shoes by American Duchess
The inspiration for the finishing touches and hats – taken from out pinterest board!
The black dress I am wearing – well, that is another post altogether! Soon!
photos by Pitcheresque Imagery
Ok, so not everybody can afford a steel-clad jouster on a white horse as a fashion accessory – but don’t worry, there are ways around it:-)
So far, in our Looking the Part series, we have covered the foundation garments in Part 1, and make up and hairstyles in Part 2. Part 3, as can be quite safely inferred from the title, will be about accessorizing – but not only…
Please bear in mind, that I speak from a professional historical interpreter’s perspective – these posts are offered as generic advice only and you can choose which you may want to incorporate in your job or hobby. You can be as historically authentic or as fantasy as you want – simply choose the tips that would apply to you, and help you to create a convincing persona or character.
And so, let us start, with a truly vital element of every costume .. shoes
Not so much an accessory,but utterly indispensable for most folks – unless you are happy to run around barefoot in peasant gear ( done that, great fun!). Alas, good shoes and boots are not cheap – but it really is worth to save up for a few months and get a decent pair – and they will last you long, especially if you cover several periods, or dot need to wear them for days at a time. Most of the early footwear can have the simple advantage of lasting longer as you can often simply get a new sole fitted to your shoe.
Key things to remember:
*Wear shoes suitable to the historical period – but also to your status, occasion and weather: Riding boots are rarely appropriate for ballroom; court shoes will be useless on a campaign; if re-enacting medieval styles, it is a good idea to invest in pattens, if you work in a wet climate ( most of the UK then! :-). They are not only a nice accessory that attracts public attention, they are fantastic means of saving your fancy thin leather slippers from the mud!
* If you work in costume, or at least spend a lot if time in kit, do invest in shoes that fit. Banal, yes, but somehow many of us tends to economize and usually go for cheaper pair that sort of fits, instead of spending a few pounds more and getting a better pair, or a bespoke on. I It is simply not worth the pain – as I suppose most of re-enactors learnt the hard way!
* Before buying – do your research. Quality providers of historical footwear will always be able to show you the sources they used for the design on the shoe. Before you decide on style, do your homework and check online, or in books, what shapes, heels, colours were used in the given period. Don’t go for cheap copies based on ‘general knowledge of the period’ – if you are interpreting and talking to the public, you will be surprised how often shoes are on the agenda…. Also, make sure that the workmanship is decent – shoes that look right but are shoddily made will not be of much use. if you can, get your footwear from a recommended supplier.
* Take care of your shoes – remove mud, use grease, or shoe polish as often as needed – that simple and obvious step will prolong the life of leather, prevent cracks etc.
Shoe providers I have used and can recommend:
American Duchess – doesn’t really need introduction – covering 18th to early 20th century designs, great shoes at affordable prices. Love my Victorian Tavistocks, and am saving up for a couple of more pairs. …
Andy Burke – one of the top UK suppliers, great quality work – many styles available for a variety of budgets. I have my 12th century shoes from him – not the cheapest, but very comfy!
NP HIstorical shoes – lovely work, haven’t bought any from them yet, but inspected, and admired several times at different markets
Pilgrim Shoes – quality shoes on budget – my Tudor shoes are from her, they are great fit and have so far served me well for the last 6 years.
U szewca – Polish guys – my 17th century shoes and Cavalry bucket tops are form them… They do ship abroad, drop them a line! both pairs were made to measure, and are very comfortable and durable – I still use the shoes, some 10 years later – same goes for the bucket tops ( though they recently died in our garage fire – so will be ordering a new pair)
2. Hats – we already covered hats while talking about hair in the Part 2 , so just a reminder – wear them! Hats, hoods, bonnets etc are not only great for completing the period look – they also serve a function as they protect from the sun, rain, cold etc. They also help hide a bad hair day…. 🙂
As to obtaining the hats etc – the same key point apply – make sure it is appropriate for the period, status; ensure the supplier is trustworthy – if possible use recommended companies. Do your research as well….
Providers – since I make most of my own hats ( Prior Attire ), I rarely buy them – but i have recently treated myself to a lovely hat from Sherri Light ( Farthingale HIstorical Hats) – my friends also buy from her, and I often admire her designs at the markets:-)
I am not a fan of jewellery normally – indeed the only bling I wear is my engagement and wedding ring – had that for a couple of years, the longest any of my jewellery items has survived… the reason is simple – I do a lot of sports and earnings, bracelets etc are a bit of a hindrance – or danger even when you do martial arts or horse riding.
However, I have accumulated some historical bling over the years ( not near enough though!) and I do wear it if I re-enact a wealthy character. Not much point having clothes it for a queen and then skimp on necklace, earrings, ouches and rings, isn’t it? this is the area I am most deficient in, but am slowly catching up!
So if you want posh, get your bling – and bear in mind that items like surface decoration, pater nosters, pomanders, decorative hat pins or tiaras count as well!
Provider I have used in the past – Gemmus – lovely work!
4. other stuff.
And there we have a number of not only decorative but also useful items:
* fans – look great, useful in hot weather and perfect for demonstrating the secret language of the fan…..
* walking sticks – great accessory – looks fantastic, provides support when your legs are tired, and can be used as a weapon… 🙂
*gloves – in many periods a must – but also keep your hands warm ( and clean).
*muffs – fantastic for colder weather
* bags, purses,pouches, reticules- you name it. Look period, are practical ( make sure they are big enough for a hankie, car keys and a mobile phone 🙂
* umbrellas and parasols
*belts, girdles etc – goes without saying really 🙂
*keys ( chatelaines)
*tools – medieval scissors hanging from the belt, a viking needle case, etc – range of styles and options through the ages, depending on the profession represented!
* weaponry ( mostly for men in this case, but not always)!
* no doubt many others….
a good accessory is not only great for the look and comfort – but they also serve an additional purse – a perfect conversational gambit, essential when dealing with members of the public.
hope you have enjoyed the mini series – and hope it may be useful to at least some 🙂
One final remark – a perfect frock, on perfect underwear, impeccable hair and all the accessories required will count for nothing if your behaviour is not suitable to the portrayed persona. If it is a social event, closed to the public – hell, free rein! but if you are working at a living history event, do mind your manners – and mannerism of the era too! Queens rarely ran around barefooted with flowing tresses, chased by scantily clad youths; ladies rarely swore; gentlemen treated ladies with respect ( at least in public!); servants did not treat their betters as equals – and so on and so forth. It is impossible to be 100% authentic in your behavior, language, mien etc – but we can at least try and eliminate the most obvious things! 🙂
Christmas 2013 was supposed to be a bit different. Well, at least stress free. So a decision has been made, we are not doing it. No tree, presents, food etc, no last minute decisions who is doing what and where and when, no last minute family travelling plans. instead, we made plans to go to London. Not far, we can get a nice hotel for our airmiles, just pure relaxation.
Until I realized I have nothing to wear….
Yep, alas, as far as modern clothing is concerned, my wardrobe is rather limited. I buy sports clothing and occasionally casual clothing, but apart from a few old dresses ( I don’t think I bought a dress, top or trousers in the last 2 years…), there was nothing suitable to parade about in the posh London hotel. True, I can take a few Victorian/Steampunk bits, they would work, but since it was Christmas, I wanted to have something special.
So a project was born – and after a short rummage in the garage I emerged with a few lengths of nice corduroy fabric and a vague idea of what can be made out of it.
The most important bits to have in mind were – Original, quirky – but wearable, comfortable and suitable for sightseeing in winter.
Then a ripple jacket pattern caught my eye – and that was really it. A smart 1895 bodice, can be paired with a skirt – and would look smart, quirky but not too weird.
December temperatures in London were a bit of a problem – but seeing i have enough fabric, i decided to make the jacket reversible. it worked, sort of, though a major pain, as the jacket still has seams boned, so making it was a bit tricky.
Skirt was easy – 4 panels, and a waistband, plus a contrasting binding.
And since i still had some fabric left, and had a few hours left before we were due to leave, I decided to make a pair of breeches – just in case it would be either too cold or we wanted to do something more energetic.
Monday 23, we were packed, with half finished gear – buttons to sew on etc. I also managed to cram an old hat into the suitcase, plus some fabric straps – may just be able to make a matching headgear!
The hotel was indeed a tad posh (Crowne Plaza near St.James’ park ), but our weird clothes met with applause – the first day, after a nice sauna we set off to a Mexican restaurant, braving the gale force winds and rain – wrapped rather nicely in long Victorian skirt and coat, Lucas sporting his Regency Great coat 🙂
Next day saw us walking around and looking for quirky bits at Camden town. In the evening, after a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at Zizzi and a stroll over to the Westminster, it was time to finish my outfit.
Buttons were sewn on and it was time to work on the hat.The base was this: a modern I wore for a friend’s wedding:
a few hours work with leftover fabric, feathers etc, I ended up with this:
I was ready.
On Christmas day we had a brief photo session with the new attire – the hotel’s lounge and courtyard was ideal!
and after the session off we went – on our bikes! the Barclay bike scheme means you can get public bikes for pennies and cycle around London – so we spent Christmas days enjoying a leisurely ride through the Royal Parks – Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, then after a short walk ( just for a change) back on bikes again, heading towards Chinatown for our Christmas meal – crispy duck and noodles:-)
Funny thing, it was not the jacket or the trews that attracted the most attention – it was the hat! very amusing.
A very nice break – though badly marred by the Boxing day ‘adventure’ – we got to the train station to discover that when we were sold return tickets nobody bothered to tell us the trains actually don’t run on that day…. so getting back to Bedford was a bit complicated – and costly. well, you cannot have everything!
Rather pleased with the result of the costuming experiment too; the jacket was warm and cozy ( though turned out a tad too big)- and am now tempted to make something proper from the 1890ties…. will see….. 🙂
needless to say, clothing by Prior Attire,
photography by Pitcheresque Imagery