Symington corset pattern 1907-07 experiment

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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….

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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.

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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.

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tracing the seam lines on the blown up copy

 

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calico on the pattern and could trace the pieces next…

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Pieces traced

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and pieces cut out….

 

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…

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Then it was back to work – I wanted to assemble the mock up before lunch…

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The pieces assembled….. outside view

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and inside, below…

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The moment of truth! How does it look on the body..?

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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…

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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…

 

IMG_0308   The hip spring already looks much better, (and feels more comfy too)

 Then it was lunch time!

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well, we had soup first…..

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…..

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Corset pieces cut out in black and blue sateen

Alas, it also meant I had 12 gores to sew in…. ouch….

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seam allowances pressed and ready for assembly

but with help of coffee I persevered…

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the corset will be boned with internal boning – but since back looked a bit boring in comparison with the front, I decided to make a casting for double bones in contrasting fabric there to balance the design

The rest of the evening was spent flossing the gores…..

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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…)

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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.

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and done!

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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…

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verdict – not too bad!

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a tiny bit too loose at the back hip, but easy to amend. very comfortable too!

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…

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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.

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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….

 

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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:-)

 

 

 

 

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Fashion photoshoots in Lapland

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At last a holiday! Our first proper adventure since our honeymoon over three years ago – so long overdue. and since   it as tropics last time, we knew this time it will be somewhere colder.

In the end we we chose an Arctic Adventure  in the Muotka Wilderness lodge – and we didn’t regret it! The  holiday snaps will be put into a separate post with all the details, but suffice it to say, we did lots of interesting stuff – skied, snowshoed,  mushed a husky team, drove snowmobiles, rode in reindeer sled, seen the Aurora and ate lovely food.

but apart from that, I managed to scramble a few outfits together to photograph – and since somehow the cold climate spoke East to me, I went Manchurian – and Russian. The inspiration board  is here.

Time to make the clothing was one thing – the cost and weight another – it needed to be light, and made from the materials from the stash…. a bit of a challenge, but not much!

The Manchurian inspired set was the first, and the least trouble to create. I already had silk trousers and long kaftan in silk from my Steampunk Mulan( Steampunk Amazones), so all i needed to make was a warm wool kaftan – and i wanted it to be something i would be able to wear not just for a shoot, but as a garment.

In the end, I ended up with a dark aubergine wool, with lots of trimming, including a fur trim, and a belt. Topped with my Varengian hat, it served the purpose well… the hairclips are by The Colorful world of Kanzashi

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Since the snow was quite deep, getting  into places could be challenging…. a short video here

Next was a formal Russian gown with a kokoshnik – all in silk, with silver lace. Fun to wear, though it does feel like wearing a silky tent 🙂

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  It turned out that modern skidoo and a modern down jacket were not bad accessories 🙂

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And the last look was a traditional Russian sarafan – garment that was worn for several centuries, especially amongst the countryside folk, and in all its simplicity and elegance remained in style since about 13th century – till well into the 19th… cut and styles changed a bit overtime, but basically it was a  dress work with shoulder straps over a long, often embroidered chemise. Worn with a headdress ( kokoshink for married women, scarf or similar for unmarried), the style is simple, but effective.

Here I had neither time, nor inclination to embroider a chemise, so I got mine from a lovely Ukrainian lady from etsy – made  bespoke, it arrived promptly, and was absolutely  stunning – her facebook page is here, and her etsy shop here – well work a look if you like the style, prices are very affordable too!

The kokoshnik  I could make myself – but I saw a lovely one on a page  Creations by Liv Free – and simply had to get it for the photoshoot! The artist was very accommodating, and the kokoshnik was amazing – I think it is still for sale in her shop

The sarafan was made out of some stock fabric, blend of wool and cotton – lovely weight and flowing stuff, but not best to sew in – so i ended up sewing all the decorations by hand… 2 braids were used to decorate it, and I think this look is by far my favourite one!

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I was even made to work – towing a block of ice!

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and that’s the height of the snow banks….

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Hope you liked the wintery scenery – I must say I enjoyed the shooting immensely, but was glad it was not too cold – only minus a few degrees, so nothing major! 🙂

Makeover photoshoot with Iberian Black Arts

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This was the last bit of the Geisha collection ( Part 1  and Part 2), and already drifting towards a Chinese or Manchurian influence.  I had enough good-quality Chinese satin brocade, (proper silk stuff, not the poly/viscose thing, for a change!) to make a skirt, corset and a little bolero jacket. And since I knew that  Threnody in Velvet, who modeled a part of the collection, is not only an amazingly gifted model but a talented photographer and make up artist, I decided to book a little makeover session with the other side of her business, Iberian Black Arts … and I wasn’t disappointed!

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Threnody … I know i have posted the image before, but – I cannot get enough of it! 🙂

 

So a date was set, and I  put some time aside to actually make my outfit. And as luck would have it, I ended up with an emergency commission instead – so had just a day to make something wearable…..

The corset was first – and from the start I regretted the choice of fabric.. the satin frayed like a mad, fraying thing, it wrinkled, moved, had a life of its own. It was too late to get fusible interfacing, so had to just get on with it and relay on roll-pinning and pure luck – and hoped the cat wouldn’t mind the amount of bad language that issued forth during the production…

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I do mind, you know…. foulmouthed creature!

In the end, success was just partial, I didn’t  manage to get rid of all the wrinkles, but since it was not an item for sale I decided to leave it as it was and maybe trust the power of Photoshop….

On the day  I grabbed the outfit, accessories etc – and since I was asked to bring another outfit just in case we had time to shoot more I packed  my ‘snow queen’ gear too…

On arrival at Patricia’s studio we did not waste much time and got straight down to business.  That is, I was munching on my sandwich whilst we were  just getting the final details of the make up and hair – I had set up a board for inspiration, so we looked through different photos to get a clear idea of the styling.

The calm scene before we started…

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Make up and hair took a bit of time, but not too much – and it was time well spent on a pleasant chatter, as well as deciding on some editing options, etc, and then it was time to  don the gear, lace up and pose!

One important thing to mention beforehand – I am not a big fan of over the top post-production (Photoshopping, etc). I mentioned this, giving examples of what I definitely didn’t want –  I wanted my body to stay the way it was, with no reduction etc,  and  my face basically unchanged as well –  I often see the results of the popular boudoir make overs where  ladies are virtually unrecognizable in the final image. This is fine if you are working on a product shoot ( though even here I tend to have problems with overphotoshopped models setting impossible standards), but not really for a personal image –  everybody who knows me will just chuckle at a weird attempt to look much younger and much slimmer, and so I asked for minimal amount of post production. This is actually also why I chose Iberian Black Arts –  the images  showcased  in the portfolio were a  high quality ones, but not overly ‘over the top’.

And to be honest – the make up and the light worked wonders on their own…. well, see for yourself below……

 

After we finished shooting, I got the proofs the same day and chose the images I liked most, for editing. We discussed background options for both looks and the rest was just Patricia working her magic….

The  Chinese look ( with a spectacular yellow kanzashi made especially  for the shoot by Kikuya Kanzashi )

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and the Snow Queen one…

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By comparison, see the uneditted  behind the scenes shots – three of the proofs, straight off the camera, showing me having some fun…:

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standard pose for all my shoots….

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As you can see  the skin tone was smoothed and lightened to work with the  styling for the image, the corset wrinkles magically disappeared, but it is still recognizably me, my body with slightly glamorized face. Happy with that:-)

 

Altogether, I must say I was delighted with both only the experience and the end product – highly recommended – If any of you folks would like to have a go at a makeover with Patricia ( Ipswich based), do give her a call, you won’t be disappointed – and the prices are good too! I found it a great way  to showcase my work as a designer and maker, and have a bit of a girly fun as well – so work and play combined 🙂

 

 

 

 

Geisha Corsetry Collection part 2

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As promised  in Part 1 – we are now happy to present the 2 other corsets from the collection, modeled by  the exquisite Threnody in Velvet, and photographed by Iberian Black Arts.

The first of the corsets was in fact the first to be designed – and was also the most challenging one as for the first time I was making  it completely from the scratch – not using and adapting other patterns, but actually designing piece by piece, hoping it would all work together:-)

 

The initial design with different  silk choices… I wanted to convey the traditional aspect of geisha but with a strong modern twist, including the bondage element as well – think sexy bondage manga and you will more or less see where I was planning to head…. 🙂

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I  used my wasp waisted mannequin to get the shape of the pieces right – it is not too far off  Threnody’s measurements, so it was a useful tool. once the pieces worked on the dummy, I made a mock up in plain coutil, boned it and sent it to Threnody to try on and mark any problem areas etc – since she specialises in corsetry modelling, she was able to provide a valuable feedback – a great help!

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mock up on the dummy

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mock up on Threnody, with the improvement suggestions clearly marked

 

 

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Once I received the mock up with the corrections back, I was able to implement them  and change them a bit and start making the thing for real…

I was again due for our bitch and stitch sessions with Julia from Sew Curvy, so took it with me – and Julia’s suggestions and input helped a lot when we were considering minor changes in design.

Then the work started in earnest…

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drawing out the pieces

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cutting out

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sewing the front exterior channel onto the sheer

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getting there….

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the innards showing the hip gores

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the boning channels are on….

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binding, boning and suspender next….

 

Once the inside was tidies up, the suspenders were added ( with a decorative Japanese buttons) and the corset was flossed with  yarn – the flossing character chosen here was a kanji symbol meaning ‘red’.

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Next were the posture collar, reflecting the design of the corset, and the pasties – it was my first go at the pasties, but was pretty please with them – they are made out of leather, silk and the edges are decorated with a chemille braid.

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work in progress –

 

 

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ready!

 

Then the whole set, including satin ribbons for the wrists and kanzashi flower for the hair was packed and sent on to Threnody.

On the day of the shoot we discussed accessories,  hair and make up styles and I got the first proof the very same day – and once I chose the photos I wanted,  Threnody ( yes, she is also the photographer, editor, make up artist – you name it! a very talented lady!) worked on a suitable background options and credits font etc.

and the results – well, I loved the pictures – and I hope you do too!

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The corset is now back from its adventures and is available on sale in our online shop – and i think a few more of the same design will be appearing there  at some point too 🙂

 

The other corset was already half made when due to a sudden change of plans I had to remake it, and make it fit Threnody –  this one was a sheer number with the front panel and exterior boning channels made in  vibrant kimono silk. as accessories, I made a matching set of vambrances:-)

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And the corset  was ready:-)

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Again, it look great on Threnody, and the colours suited her exceptionally well!

 

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  This corset already sold – as I write it is making  its way to Hong Kong:-)

 Btw, the kanzashi flowers used here were by Colorful world of Kanzashi.

 Hope you have enjoyed my little forray into the ethnic inspired corsetry –  and, not surprisingly, I have another collection planned for the summer, with a completely different part of the world being represented:-)

 

Geisha Corsetry Collection 1

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I have been planning this one for some time – I think it was a glimpse at a kimono silk somewhere on ebay that provided the spark –  30 minutes later and I have purchased several bits of left over kimono silks and started planning.   The silks arrived, and loved them even more – and they were just big enough to incorporate into some corsetry. The theme was not an unfamiliar one to me, as we have used oriental inspiration int the Petal dress, and in our Steampunk Amazones, but this one was to be  a more cohesive collection.

As always the first stage was sketching, drawing, gathering inspiration ( Pinterest board is here), and gathering props.  I already had an early 20th century set of a katana and tanto, and a matching kimono I wanted to use, plus a collection of kanzashi ( japanese hair flowers), parasols etc…

Ironically the first design that emerged wont be shown here – I will present it in another post giving more details – it was the first ever pattern I created myself, and the corset, together with other bits and pieces was sent on adventures, to be photographed by the Iberian Black Arts, modeled on the gorgeous Threnody in Velvet.

Do not despair though – I do have some lovely pieces for you today!

Once I had some idea of the feel for the collection, i purchased more props ( hakama trousers,  jackets etc) and discussed styling and options with our main model, lovely Lizzie ( Miss Lilian Love), who also had a nice collection of oriental props:-)

Then it was just down to finding time in between commissions to make the corsets, but finally in January I managed to free a few days and frantic corsetrymaking ensued…

The feel of the collection was to be a blend of modern and traditional. The form of the corset is not a traditional shape for oriental women, however, it may be argued that obi represents a constriction and shape forming element too. In our corsets the silks or the motives were the traditional part – as well as flossing. I had a brief moment of inspiration where flossing was concerned and decided to floss the bones using  kanji – chinese/japanese characters.  to make it even more difficult, each kanji needed to be matched to the collection too – you cannot have a corset in silks saying  for example ‘rice’ or ‘cow’, can you?

In the end we got the following kanji:

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‘Spring’

 

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‘Bird’

 

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‘Flower

 

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‘Woman’

 

 

 

The first corset to me made was a playful geisha print – I made it as a challenge  – one last corset for 2014 – and completed before midnight:-).  It was meant as a sideline, to be honest, and as an exercise in pattern matching –  but worked so well I decided to include it in the collection. Indeed the pattern matching worked so well that the corset is now featured on Lucy’s Corsetry blog, among other beautifully pattern matched corsets – have a look!

work in progress…

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and  on the Lizzie:-)

 

 

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The next one was the Crane corset – a mix of kimono silks and cotton sateen.. ( this one is offered in our shop)

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then another print followed, and a bit more pattern matching…

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I think this is my favourite corset of the collection – I experimented with the pattern, creating a more pronounced hip spring  – and  as a result I love the silhouette, and it is surprisingly comfortable – I normally lace down to 27inches max – here, 26 with no problems….

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More kimono silks and pattern matching was next – IMG_20150120_150910

 

and on Lizzie – again, this corset is now offered in the shop🙂

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Then  it was experimenting with more silks, broche and sheer mesh 🙂  both corsets are available in the shop:-)

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The last one was a plain piece in broche to match my honey kimono

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A week before the shoot Paul accepted our invitation to play with us on the day – and arranged for the snow machine too…. so the day was a full on fun, getting ready, changing, shooting both outside and inside with a backdrop. Whereas Lucas shot product shots and some arty stuff, Paul went for artistic  and more cinematograpic mood – sexy ninjas, Kill Bill etc…

Below a few more pictures  from the boys:-)

from Lucas:

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and  some great shots from Paul. More of his work can be seen on his blog – link soon!

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and a few behind the scenes shots:-)

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 and after some 6 hours, it was rest time – homemade pizza and wine! 🙂

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Hope you enjoyed the collection – there are 2 more corsets, to be covered n a separate post, and since I still have a few bits of silks, I may add some more stock pieces to the shop at some point. In the meantime,  4 of the corsets are available for sale, plus some other corsets from past projects:-) have a look!

 

Credits:

Corsetry – Prior Attire

Models, Izabela Pitcher and Miss Lilian Love

Photography – Mockford Photography and Pitcheresque Imagery

Corsetry supplies – Sew Curvy

Kanzashi – Kikuya Kanzashi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vampires at Gosfield Hall

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I have never actually been to a proper Halloween Party, but this year we were seduced into attempting one. Admittedly most of the seduction was done by the location – we have been to Gosfield Hall before, to shoot our Summer Bride collection last year – and loved it! So the tickets were bought, and since it was Lucas’ birthday on the 1st, I treated us, as a surprise, to securing the sumptuous Bridal Suite for our stay.

And with a venue like that and  lodgings dripping with gold, I obviously needed suitably splendid attire….

Fortunately I had a cunning plan – I have designed the Batdress   several months ago, a spur of the moment thing,  and then was lucky enough to get a bargain fabric –  15m of crushed silk velvet – useless for historical outfits, but perfect for a bit of Halloween fancy dress.

The original sketch,

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and a work in progress sketch – yep, that’s how I make skirts and gauge how much fabric  to use…

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the foundations first – a cage crinoline, mid Victorian design, and a muslin petticoat from one of our bridal frocks….

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then the skirt….

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The corset was a bit of a challenge – because it was to be worn over a crinoline and not  underneath, it had to be much shorter, allowing for the skirts to billow up. As a result, it turned out to be a surprisingly comfortable  wear:-)

The corset used plain coutil as a strength layer,  tape castings for channels and cotton for lining. Decoration – silver and black lace appliques, silver thread flossing and red beads.

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insides before fitting in the lining

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close up of the lace

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decoration complete

 

The overskirt/wings were made of the same fabric and lined with faux duponi silk from James Hare – and boned with thin metal flat steel.

other accessories included these..

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Once the dress was done, I have 6 hours to make something more before we hit the road – and in a mad rush I made another corset, satin and calico , with lace and silk tulle decoration:-), styled for a Bridal vampiric  look…

The plan was to arrive early and shoot the bridal stuff first, then change and have fun in the Bat dress. alas, we underestimated the traffic – Friday, end of half term, halloween – we were stuck on the motorway for  much too long. as a result, we arrived in time to get ready, but not to shoot the bridal stuff – that will have to be done the following morning!

We were surprised , very pleasantly, by a nice card and a bottle of white wine awaiting us in the suite – a present from our friend Eleanor, who was also attending the party! 🙂

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not a good picture, but captures the grin… and the room….

Before the party a girl needs to relax –  a bath and a face mask was in order. Lucas did have a bit of a shock when i joked I could go to the party wearing this….

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but at last the clothes were on, make up and hair was done and we could take a few pictures….

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The event was very atmospheric – an amazing singer in one room, roast boar dinner and a cobweb covered pianist playing tunes from the Phantom of the Opera in the other, fireworks outside – amazing!

apart from relaxing, eating and enjoying ourselves, we did take more pictures  at the end of the night….

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Batdress in its full glory

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and one from the end of the night…. corset undone, hair loose – and yet it worked too 🙂

 

as to the question i was asked a few times at the party – how do you go to the loo in that?

well, the answer is simple – wear split drawers ( or none….) and go in forward….

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In the morning we got up early and  shot the Dracula’s bride styling – corset with lace, with a scrap of lace as a headdress, my bridal veil and a silk chiffon skirt….

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nom nom nom

we were having so much fun we almost missed breakfast – as a result i rushed downstairs half dressed – don’t think many people minded though – the corset looked great with jeans too!

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I must admit I loved wearing the Batdress – but it was a one off and is going to be put on sale ( though not before we shoot it somewhere else – the original idea was a forest or a cemetery), just like the bridal corset – no doubt next year I will come up with a different kit: – )

hope you enjoyed the madness – we did, and are planning more Halloween outings in the future!

 

 

 

Halloween, Goth and Victoriana fun

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As Halloween was approaching and I noticed a few bits of non historical fabrics in my store room, an idea was hatched – we will do some Halloween photography! We mentioned the idea to a friend at one of the markets, and she volunteered lending us some of her corsets for it. we mentioned it on facebook and withing minutes we had more contributors and models agreed on, and time set asid e for some Halloween/Goth/Victoriana fun.

We started with an organic look for a pumpkin queen – my Spring Petal Dress  had a remake ( a brief encounter with spray paint), and after an afternoon of drilling and carving the pumpkins ( the jigsaw power tool was perfect for it!) we were ready…

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petal dress before spraying…

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and after…

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pumpkin carving!

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the first one done….

 

and on the day we prepared the set for the Pumpkin Queen in the nearby woods… the results below:-)

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Next day was the big day! our make up artist, Sammm Agnew arrived just after noon, and the models, Gem and Hannah followed shortly after.

My workroom was transformed into a make up and hair styling centre…

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preparations..

and we  shot several different looks around the house…  the results below – wherever possible I provided inks directly to the products featured as many of the items are actually available to purchase straight away 🙂

Meet  The Broken Doll…. Hannah looked fantastic with  the blue hair! She is wearing a silk skirt by Prior Attire, and a lovely underbust corset by Wyte Phantom..

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Innocence Tainted –  Gem is wearing a silk  skirt and a corset by Prior Attire… Head by Samm Agnew!

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Victoriana – the ladies of the night;-)

The girls are sporting Victorian attires – the purple one  has sold already, but the chocolate pumpkin one is still available here  

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Pumpkin corset – Hanna had a quick transformation and here is sporing a silk corset with black lace decoration from Prior Attire matched with a black skirt

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Demon Bride – Gem had a go at the wedding dress that got damaged in the fire – with a festive spray of blood….

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and then got quickly  into this stunning piece by Wyte Phantom

 

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Even our MUA  vamped out her make up , donned a lovely corset ( again, Wyte Phantom) and a skirt ( Prior Attire) and jumped in front of the camera

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and after having my face and hair transform to fit with Vampish Gothic criteria, I joined her:-) The overskirt, corset and posture collar by Wyte Phantom, flouncy skirt  ( sold already, sorry….) and the fascinator by Prior Attire

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and that was it for one long day – but it was not all! 2 days later lovely Miss Lilian Love joined us for a classy corsetry shoot –  and in one evening we shot  some more Halloween stuff and some elegant vintage inspired stuff with superb corsets from Clessidra ( there will be a separate post on that, here’s a teaser)

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and the Halloween stuff –

 

again, we put Lilian in the Wyte Phantom  corset and a Prior Attire skirt

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and another plunge corset by Wyte Phantom, matching fascinator by Prior Attire

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As you can see, it was a lot of fun ( tiring, but fun!) and that was not the end of it –   the following weekend saw us at a Halloween ball from which I had a very special creation – but that  a topic for another post! 🙂

Credits:

Make up and hair – Sammm Agnew

Clothes –  Wyte Phantom, Clessidra, Prior Attire

models – Gem and Hanna Bow, Miss Lilian Love,

photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

 

The Summer Dress

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The last of the Seasons collection  has arrived!  After the Autumn,   2 faces of Winter ( Desolation and Polaris) and the Spring ( The Petal Dress) it was now time for the Summer.

The generic theme and feel was something I had long in mind – fields, poppies, cornflowers – mixing the mythology and folklore images from a variety of cultures –  Greek Demeter/Ceres, Celtic and Slavic elements all combined into a Harvest goddess.

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Time and life was against us this time – we unexpectedly had to move house, and trying to do that as well as keep up with orders, new online shop etc took its toll.

But when unpacking the boxes I can across the corset from our previous shoots ( you might recognize it from the Summer bride and from the Autumn Bride shoots! ) inspiration struck and we decided to do it after all.

From all the Seasons, this one was the least difficult and time consuming to prepare –  I was recycling a corset and the dress was a length of muslin  gathered at the shoulders. the headgear  and hair was made from the scratch – but altogether the whole outfit took about 4 hours to make.

The corset: silk underbust prepared – i stitched on gold net to provide base for sticking stuff through it

 

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and wove in bits of wheat, etc found in the nearby field…

The same materials, wheat, the flowers etc formed the crown…

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The hair was next –   the wig I had ordered some 3 weeks didn’t arrive and so i nipped to the local wig shop and got 3 packs of long extensions – ironically in m natural hair colour! plus some nail varnish, blue contact lenses etc. I plaited 2 bits of extensions and used the third one to formed the head….

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and that’s how it looked on without the crown….

IMG_20140722_192846 and with it…

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Make up was done with bronzing and honey colours – makes the blue lenses stand out a bit more!

and a few hours later, towards sunset we drove over to a nearby field. Lucas got the technical paraphernalia ready…

 

IMG_20140722_195900 and the results!

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And there you have it –  4 seasons done and dusted! what’s next – well, toying with an idea of doing the Elements…. 🙂

photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

clothes etc – Prior Attire

 

 

The Mermaids shoots

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 You book a short holiday in Wales, on the Pembrokeshire coast – and within seconds of imagining the wild beaches and rocky formations you have an idea – the place is a perfect scenery for a mermaid themed shoot! And once the idea was hatched, there was no looking back. It might still be cold in mid April, but we have shot in colder conditions – and so the two months before saw me accumulating ideas and bits of fabric and props that could be useful.

 Out of that,  three different looks emerged, only 2 of which actually required my dressmaking skills. We came up with a regal mermaid, a warrior one, and a funky natural one….

 The location was sourced and agreed on – Freshwater West beach was perfect –  big, lots of places  suitable for shooting and facing west – so sunset light a bonus.

 In the end I only had a day to actually work on the mermaids proper, as was busy working on commissions, but the day was enough, and since i took my sewing machine with me (  did I mention at some point that it was a holiday?), I could finish things  in Wales.

  And the results – below….

 1. Regal mermaid….

 This one took the most work as i was making a corset from the scratch.

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basic design

 

The corset was made out of biscuit coutil with a gold net overlay and gold leather elements. The layers on the panels were roll pinned  first and then the leather was secured with a tape

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then the panels were stitched together.

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The corset was boned with spring and flat steels, flossed with a turquoise linen thread and then the fun began – i had to sew on the pre-prepaed shells and fins. the shells were drilled first and  painted with glitter glue; the fins were made from 2 layers of corsetry mesh, boned with artificial whalebone and painted as well.

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  The shells were also made into necklace and bracelet –  credit to my hubby who made them!

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making the fins for the corset, and other bits:-)

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The skirt was made out of a length of gold fabric – and we were all set for the first shoot. Since we visitied Pembroke castle on our way to the beach, to chat with a friend, it meant I had to apply the make up and do the hair on the location, which meant – in the car. not the best experience ever, I must say….

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 But in the end, I managed to get changed, and off we went shooting….

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2. The  Natural Mermaid.

This one was the simplest one – and a bit of an add -on.  while researching I came across places selling proper mermaid tails, with monofin etc – so usable.  and I just couldn’t  resist them…..  I suspect the tail and fin will be used at some point in an underwater shoot….. 🙂

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was so excited when the thing arrived, i simply had to pop it on…

 So here the bottom half was sorted, and for the upper one, I have recently purchased a swimsuit in matching colours ( Panache), to provide some decency in the majority of the shoot ( we did find a nice enclosed area for some more indecent ones, far from prying eyes…. 🙂 . the wig and the make up and we were ready to go.

 Or rather – to wriggle.  it turns out that this one was the most challenging  of the whole mermaids – mostly due to the constraints of the attire ( hopping across the beach with the tail cost me some bruises…) and difficulty of finding a pose that would look  natural, graceful, and most importantly, not show too much of my own blubber.  I am not your typical size 8 model shape, and although size 12 is not bad, it soon turned out that it was tricky to find flattering poses. As a result, the majority of the photos were marked as  ‘walrus’  and discarded ( I don’t really hold with the photoshoping tricks changing the shape of a body… wysiwyg philosophy here), still, a few survived the purge…..

 We were lucky in picking up the warmest day too – so I wasn’t cold, and even water was not too bad!

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3. The warrior mermaid.

 This one was the most fun, and the most in keeping with my own personality, as I do martial arts ( and have been doing one form or other of them since I was 17, including fencing, weapon sparring, kung fu, MMA etc). The styling was fun too –  not a lot of work involved with a great effect – my favourite!

  Here the most important pieces was the scale maile bits I had on loan from a friend – there were 2 bits that could form a skirt, and a few other ones, including a nice headgear/necklace. I simply mounted the skirt bits and the shoulder bit onto  leather strips – and that was it:-)

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 Corset – since I ran out of time, I used one of the corsets i already made and used in the Steampunk Amazones shoot.  And, once I put it on,  it turned out, oh joy! that I have dropped at least a size since I last wore it – in the autumn I had over 2 inches gap at the back  ( the corset was originally made to a different model measurements) – but now I could  lace it up close without any special effort ! :-). Kinky metallic leggings and a swathe of sequiny fabric made up the rest – and as an afterthought we  used  the fabric from the Regal mermaid as a mantle.   The weapons  – we had a knife but mostly used an Indian guard spear shaft with a harpoon kind of blade  ( probably Indonesian?) mounted on it.

 The results below…

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 and a few close up on the make up and talons…

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new style of make up for me – but loved it, especially the gold speckled lenses!

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using false nails, first time ever. loved the look, but found it impossible to function and perform the simplest activities… needless to say, the talons were removed first thing after the shoot….

 

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post shoot – just to show off the corset….

 

Well, there you have it – 3 different mermaid  themed looks.   Pleased with the photos, but it was hard work  shooting every evening- I think I need another holiday now…

 

credits:

Corsetry, skirts etc – obviously, Prior Attire;

Scale maille – Denise Piggin and Ruth Watkin

lovely dreads  – Magic Tribal Hair

photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

 

the inspiration board on Pinterest

 

And there is even a video on making the shoots on my youtube chanel  – here – the resluts as wel as details on making the costumes, make up etc.

 

and just to end this rather picture heavy post – a few outtakes….

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unexpected surge of tidal water… rather cold tidal water….

 

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de- mermaided – now i have proper legs!

 

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just plain scary……

 

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Lucas at work

12th Century Dress – the Bliaut

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Mention a medieval dress to someone and the odds are the image they have in mind is a loose frock with long sleeves. Type ‘medieval’ into Google, eBay or etsy – and modern L.A.R.P and hand-fasting gowns of that description appear – with most of them sporting the iconic long, trailing sleeves.   The proper medieval dress of that description was called a ‘bliaut’ (and was apparently worn by both sexes, though later male bliauts tend to be shorter), and its variants were fashionable across Europe for about 100 years. The earlier examples of the dress of that type seem to be a continuation of the fashions of 11th century – loose gowns often with girdles and long sleeves getting bigger, longer and more elaborate; but it is the second part of the 12th century that celebrated the bliaut at is best  – here the look is far more slender, with a slim waist emphasised by the more fitted style of the dress, careful girdle arrangement and, of course those sleeves.

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Figure of Grammatica , from the Hortus Deliciarum, c. 1180

The most iconic look is represented by the famous statues in Chartres cathedral

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Figures from the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), centre portal of the west facade of Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France,

So what makes the Bliaut proper? Look out for these features:

  • Excessively long sleeves – fitted to a degree above the elbow, and opening wider below – and sometimes simply elongated cuffs. The lowest part of the sleeve is often square
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    sleeve shape.Chartres1, http://www.eg.bucknell.edu

  • Tight fit on the torso – often showing wrinkles – most likely caused by side lacing
  • Girdle – often wrapped twice around the body, with the ends hanging in front (though single girdles or no girdles are also seen)
  • Neck openings – can be round, keyhole, or V shaped, often decorated with embroidery, woven braids of applied silk bands in contrasting colour
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    Terence’s Comedies, St. Albans Abbey, mid 12th century, Folio 10 recto

  •  Sometimes the long sleeves are knotted for practical as well as aesthetic reasons
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example of knotted sleeves.Angers – BM – ms. 0243 F077v (fin XII) 2

Moe examples of bliaut and other fashions of 12/13thcentury – here – 11-13century fashions

There have been several theories concerning the construction of the bliaut. Some claimed that the dress is loose, but that the middle part is a corset, or a stomacher worn on top of the dress and secured by the double girdle. Some believed that the waist part was cut separately and the bodice part and the skirts were gathered and sewn on to it. Personally, I find the theory that it is the side lacing, (a new technique that appeared on the scene at that time), which makes the dress fitted and accounts for the wrinkles on the torso. It also makes sense from a costume evolution point of view – the basic, almost rectangular cut of the previous centuries is still used here with just slight adaptation – whereas a corset of any kind, as well as a stomacher, or cutting the bodice horizontally would be completely out of place, several centuries ahead of its time and too huge a jump to consider seriously. In my opinion it also points naturally towards the development of ‘cotte and surcoat’ –  remove the sleeves and unlace the sides and the garment looks disturbingly like later surcoats – though in this case male fashions and heraldic surcoats were probably a bigger influence.

The pleated nature of the fabric often seen on the sculptures is another enigma – most likely it represents very voluminous but light fabric, like silk, rather than fabric that has been pleated to a waistband, etc.  To what degree the statues and other representations in medieval art are artistic licence will probably remain a secret forever, so going with the cut, techniques and construction that were known at the time is a much safer bet.

If you wish to have a closer look at the variety of bliauts represented in art across Europe and the construction theories, have a look at this site – very useful! http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~lwittie/sca/garb/europe_class/europe_bliaut.html

The pattern.

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I have used a pattern consisting largely of simple geometrical shapes – front and back are rectangles, often cut on the fold, or with a vertical CF and CB seam, with the waist cut out more to fit, thus softening the lines. Armhole lines sometimes seem to have been slightly softened too – they were probably the newest development in tailoring at the time! The gores are triangles. The sleeve pattern is the most innovative as it incorporates both concave and convex lines, softening the harsh geometrical look.

The dress can be of equal length, reaching the ground all around, or trained. If you can, make the gores as wide as possible – the bigger the hem circumference, the better the folds of the dress look. With the modern, wider fabrics it is also possible to cheat a bit and save time by cutting the front and back with wide skirts, incorporating the side gores, with only the front and back gores – a technique I used once. It did work, though it is incorrect for the period as the fabric widths were so much narrower.

The fabrics – Wool would be the most common, and certainly my favourite, though silk might be the option for the most affluent personages– and more frequently worn by the Franks in the Outremer – silk was cheaper there and more suitable for the climate. It is also through the returning Crusaders that northern European countries would have access to silk – in England at that time it was as a luxury almost unheard of, worn only by the wealthiest magnates of the realm – and usually even they could only afford it as decorative strips edging their bliauts. Silk garments were almost exclusively for royalty.

Lining – it is argued whether all the dresses were lined, and it is likely that some weren’t. For me, lining the bliaut is always a good idea, especially if it is trained. It looks better, lasts longer and wears better – the wool doesn’t cling if you happen to wear a woollen kirtle underneath. Linen is best, though silk can be used as well – probably in contrasting colours for the sleeves.  For economy reasons, if lining with silk, only the sleeves would be lined with the expensive fabric, the rest of the lining would be cheaper linen, as it wouldn’t be displayed.

Materials

6m of wool or top fabric ( more if you plan a trained gown or very long sleeves)

6m of lining

Silk or linen thread

Optional: silk for decorative bands, wool for decorative woven braids and girdle

Method.

  1. Cut all your pieces in your top fabric and lining.
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front piece cut -here using a modern method, cut together with the side gores

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front and back gores – back gore is longer as the skirts will be trained

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the sleeve

  1.  Sew the top fabric first – assemble the front part first (the front gore and the side gores if you are sticking to the period correct pattern), then do the same for the back – i you are having side gores at the back sew them in as well, if not, it is only the back gore.
  2.  Sew the front and back pieces at the shoulders  Press the seams open. Couch them down if not using lining or if the fabric frays a lot.
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gores sewn in, fronts and back sewn, shoulder seam sewn – sides still left open

  1. Sew the sleeves right sides together.

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4. Turn the sleeves on the right side. find the centre top of the sleeve and place it, right sides together matching the shoulder seam.  Pin the fabric of the gown around the sleeve and sew. Repeat on the other side.

5.You now have the entire gown assembled– but the sides are open from the armpit. Try it on, and see if the sleeve fit is correct, but also mark the length of the side opening – it should be just at the seam where the gore starts, but if your figure is fuller you may need to adjust a bit.

6. Take the gown off and sew the side pieces together. Press the seams open.

  1.  Repeat the same steps with the lining.
  2.  Hem the top fabric – at the sleeves, side opening and neck.
  3.  If you plan to decorate the sleeve edges, neck hem etc with embroidered bands,  bands of silk or  other trims, do it now – any stitches going through the fabric will not be visible
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the detail of the front – lining stitched, hiding the stitches from sewing on the handmade braid

  1.  Insert the lining – stitch it to the neck and sides first, then the sleeves , using slipstitch.
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silk lining of the sleeves sewn to the top fabric

  1. Hang the gown on a dummy or on a hanger.   If possible, leave overnight, especially if working in wool – the fabric will stretch a little bit. Next day, check that the hem is even, adjust if necessary and hem the top fabric.  Do not stitch the lining in yet.
  2.  Again, hang the dress. Pin the top layer and lining together, matching the seams. Trim the lining if necessary, then fold the seam allowance under and pin it to the dress hem.  Stitch together  In this way you should not end up with the lining being too short or not too long. Whatever you do, do not bag line the dress.

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  1.  Next step – the eyelets!  Mark the eyelets on the fabric around the side openings. Pierce it with an awl, then work an eyelet using a linen or silk thread. Repeat for all the eyelets on both sides

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  1.  Your dress is ready  All you need to do is to lace the sides with a line or silk ribbon, or a hand plaited lace.

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But – it is not the end. The dress on its own is only half the success – you will need a bit more to look and feel the part.

 Girdle –  the simplest way is to make one from a length of silk, or wool. You can also buy or weave one yourself, from line, wool, or silk yarn – the knotted ends visible on the girdles from the Chartres are most likely loose ends left unwoven. Make sure it is long enough if you plan to wrap it twice about your torso.

Undergarments.

The bliaut is not worn on its own. Like all the other clothes in medieval times, it was worn on linen chemise/kirtle/underdress, with optional woolen kirtle worn on top of the linen layer – ideal solution for colder months. The cut of the chemise/kirtle didn’t differ much from the earlier garments (discussed in details in article on the Anglo Saxon garments) – simple garments with gored skirts and tight sleeves – indeed the sleeves were sometimes so tight they had to be closed with stitching on the wearer – an option for the ladies who could afford maids. In the warmer climates it is possible that a silk bliaut would be worn just on a linen chemise

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a kirtle, Carmina burana

The sleeves and neck of the underdress could also be decorated with woven braids or embroidery

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wool kirtle with sleeve and neck embroidery

The hair.

The hair is a bit tricky. The fashionable style was simple two braids, often decorated with ribbons. Simple – if you have the hair for it. My hair, although long, is nowhere near that long, and plaited into two braids looks pathetic – no volume to it at all. The period solution would be to use horse hair to supplement your own tresses but in absence of horse hair, we can use modern extensions

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If you hair is short, simply plait the extensions and clip then onto your own hair. If your hair is long enough to plait as well, follow the steps below.

  1. Divide the hair into two.
  2. Take the extension ( they usually come in fort of one long skein of hair), fold it in half and  start plaiting with your own hair – 2 strands of extension and your hair as the third strand.

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  1. Plait  a few strands to secure them, then re-arrange the strands – you will need to divide the extensions so that the third strand is formed. If your hair is long enough, simply continue plaiting till the end of both real hair and extensions. Dividing the extensions tend to be rather messy, especially if you are using artificial fibre, but it can be done in such a way that it is difficult to spot where the real hair ends.

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  1.  You now have a finished plait. You can leave the ends loose, or secure them with ribbons. there are mentions of metal fillets used to secure the braids ends, and you can just see the contraption on the Chartres figures, but I haven’t found anything like that around – if you know where I can get them, please do let me know!
  2.  You can now leave the braid as it is, decorate it with long silk ribbons, simply crossing the ribbon over along the length of the braid

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There is an alternative method, where you can use only two strands of hair and weave the ribbon around them – but with the extensions it doesn’t look too good as the ribbons slide a lot!

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If you are a young unmarried woman, you can wear your hair in braids without any other covering – though chaplets of flowers will look nice on them.  Otherwise, you will need a veil and a fillet.

Veils at that point slowly started to depart from the big rectangular kerchiefs worn earlier, and were simple affairs of smaller rectangles or much more graceful oval ones. They were made mostly of linen, though silk was used as well, if the family could afford it. Veils were secured by a fillet – a hand of woven braid for common women , or a circlet of metal – in case of the noble ladies,  the metal diadem was shaped, with a slightly flared outer ridge, and often encrusted with jewels.

Mine was made to order, and is a simple brass hoop, slightly flared – and quite heavy – it definitely leaves a nice dent on my skin after the whole day of wearing it!

In the last decades of the  12th century a barbette started to be worn – a strap of linen worn under the veil, passing under the chin and pinned on the top of the head –  an example can be seen on the effigy of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine

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.Eleanor of Aquitaine, effigy

Barbettes were useful as it was easier to pin the veil on and they framed the face nicely – they were in use for the next century or so finally disappearing in the 14th century, though chin straps resembling barbettes were seen with the 15th century hennins. They really herald a new style for the 13th century – with the hair gathered in a bun at the nape of the neck.

All you need now is a woolen hose and shoes – latchet style with pointed toe, often with straps , and if it is cold, a mantle or a cloak  semi circular or circular, wool, lined with either linen, or wool)

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bliaut in wool, lined with linen, neck decorated with embroidery on linen, handwoven woolen girdle

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Bliaut in silk, with silk bands decoration

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an Outremer princess – bliaut in silk, with contrasting bands of silk used as decoration and girdle, worn on a chemise only, in Jordan

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bliaut renedered in silk satin as a wedding dress.

There you have it, a nice and cosy woollen garment, or a lighter one in silk – whether for re-creating  Outremer fashions of for contemporary weddings  bliaut remains the iconic medieval dress. Elegant, graceful and stylish, it was ‘resurrected’ a few more times in the centuries to follow – in the late 14th/early 15th houppelandes and then in the Victorian times, when the Pre-Raphaelite movement reached back to the medieval times for inspiration ( the Accolade, lady of Shallot – and the Japanese gown from 1895 –, http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/digital_archives/detail_222_e.html).

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1895 silk gown, kyoto, Kyoto

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grey houppelande with open sleeves reminiscent of the 12th century fashions

Nowadays the style became popular with the fantasy movies like the Lord of the rings – the flowing, gentle lines work perfectly as the attire of the timelessly elegant elves.

Bibliography.

Kyoto Costume Institute, http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/digital_archives/detail_222_e.html

Gutkowska – Rychlewska Maria, Historia ubiorów, Ossolineum, 1968

Francois Boucher,  A History of Costume in the West,

  Britannica:   http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/107728/Chartres-Cathedral

The Bliaut throughout 12th Century Europe, http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~lwittie/sca/garb/europe_class/europe_bliaut.html