Some things start unexpectedly…. last January I picked some lovely silk that just screamed Victorian Seaside Bustle frock… And so for the summer I put a few days aside to make it – and to nip somewhere on the coast for … Continue reading
I know quite a lot of people have been expecting the account of our French adventures in Versailles – so here it is. I am afraid it will be a rather a disappointing one, as due to the unforeseen … Continue reading
Well, I thought our previous event at the venue was a blast – but this year it was even better! After a year of preparations, marketing, meetings, sales, dealing with emergencies and unplanned changes, sewing and general organisational madness, … Continue reading
A long overdue post on a rather splendid ball we attended in London, in December. The Buttercup Ball was organized by Stuart Marsden ( the dance master for our Victorian ball last year – and this year’s edition too!) … Continue reading
It is finished at last!!!! I have loved this plate from ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ for years, and planned to make the jacket almost 2 years ago – now am happy to say that it is complete (well, almost…) I got the … Continue reading
Over the last 20 years of sewing for other people this is one of the more often-asked questions – “Why is bespoke more expensive than ready to wear, off-the-peg garments?” And this request accounts for about 80% of the email I am getting nowadays too:
“I saw your off the peg riding habit/gown/corset and I love it – I would like it made bespoke for me, in a different fabric and colour and with more decoration – will the price be the same?”
The reason for the difference in price is simple – as already stated in one of my previous blogs, ( A Queen on a budget, please), nowadays ordering bespoke is very rare thing. People are used to all the cheap, ready made clothing they see in the shops, and even with specialised items such as corsetry and historical clothing, a lot of people do not realise the difference between the ‘off-the-peg’ and ‘bespoke’, especially when made by he same person or company.
So,to make things simpler let us have a look at what you are actually paying for – at least as far as my own merchandise is concerned..
Off the Peg items:
* Labour – a generically sized pattern is used to cut out the fabric, followed by assembly and decoration: the price will depend upon the complexity of the garment and time needed to execute it
*Notions – decorations, buttons, thread, embroidery, etc
*Packing/postage/delivery if required
*My professional expertise, knowledge and experience!
- Labour –
- initial measuring session with a client
- drafting their specific pattern
- making up a mock-up ( toile)
- fitting the mock up on the client (with second client visit)
- cutting out fabric based on final pattern from re-fitted toile
- assembling the garment proper,
- fitting session with a client – these stages may be repeated several times depending upon how many items are to be made or how complex the garments may be)
- final assembly of the garment(s)
- adding decoration, finishing touches, etc
- pick up session with finished garments – although rarely needed, there is usually time assigned for any last minute corrections, as well. In my case you are likely to get a free photoshoot with TimeLight Photographic too, if you wish 😉
- after-care – small repairs or minor adjustments are generally provided for free; bigger ones may be provided at a reduced hourly rate. People usually come back to resize a garment if they have lost or gained significant weight, or to add more decoration, reapply a hem guard if the original one is worn out, etc.
- time (apart from actual making of the garment)-
- fitting sessions, measuring sessions have to be scheduled in.
- consultation, either in person, on the phone or by email, giving advice on style, fabric choices, historical accuracy, etc. For a relatively simple garments emails and message exchange may take several hours to write, research, etc. In the most extreme case I received over 250 emails from one person in one week about her commission…
- research. Lots of research.
- sourcing the fabrics, embellishments and other providers for items we do not supply direct (blackwork, embroidery, shoes, etc)
- writing up contracts, quotes and invoices
- chasing up clients to settle on fitting dates, etc. Fortunately, a good contract means we don’t have to chase folks for the payment! (more on contracts for businesses running a business – contracts)
- notions – decorations, buttons, thread, etc
packing/postage/delivery if needed
my professional expertise, knowledge and experience.
- stress! I am an introvert and dealing with people, however lovely, and no matter how enjoyable it is for me, (and make no mistake, I love my work and so far all of my bespoke clients have been amazing – to such an extent that we often develop friendly relations afterwards and stay in touch socially), this stress still takes its toll. After a few ours of fittings I feel as if I have run a marathon and all I want to do is sleep:-)
See the difference? A riding habit that looks the same will take 3 times as long if made bespoke – and that is usually true for every other item.
Above – a bespoke habit worth over £1000 in quality cloth, fittings, handmade and hand applied braiding and an off the peg habit from our online shop – £370
Another thing to consider is the fact that I make off-the-peg garments largely to satisfy my own insane desire to create pretty things – I make them in the size I want, in a fabric I like and have available currently and in a style I feel inclined to – I don’t have to consult a client on what they would like. If I change my mind half way through – that is fine. If I feel tired and don’t fancy pushing myself to finish by a certain deadline – that is fine too. Full creative freedom.
Bespoke work is much more complex, since I have to adhere to the client’s ideas, body type, etc, so it provides quite a different feeling. Taking someone else’s ideas and making a fully functional garment, looking the way they want it too look, and fitting them well is immensely satisfying. All the hours of research, fittings, handstitching etc are worth it not only in terms of the financial reward- the look on the client’s faces when they see themselves in the mirror wearing their new clothing for the first time is a great reward too – and, I won’t lie, I love to see my work worn and admired. The last session when a final outfit is tried on is always stressful – no matter how experienced you are, you are always worried that maybe this button is a tad too tight, or maybe the skirt is 0.5″ too big. Paltry things, easy to sort out within minutes, but irrationally, I still always worry!
But when it all comes together – well, the moment is magic. And I don’t charge for that! 😉
There is a Georgian Festival in Stamford every other year – and this year we were contracted for a couple of jobs there ( thanks to Black Knight Historical).
The festivities lasted 3 full days with lots of lectures, meetings, Georgian market and living history – but our adventure started on Friday night – at the Georgian ball!
We arrived in plenty of time , and were led to a proper theatre style dressing room – and it turned out we were sharing it with Dr. Lucy Worsley, who dropped in for a moment of respite between her talks, book signing and other public duties. We have met before as worked for the Worsley/Starkey documentary in Hampton court the year before, so it wasn’t too awkward. Still, not often do we get to share a dressing room with a celebrity – and I felt a bit overdressed on the occasion 🙂
At the ball we danced, we chatted – and then provided some entertaining background during the buffet break as the folks were queuing for some lovely food – there was chatting, playing cards and some sketching taking place….
After the break ( and after eating rather a lot of left over cake) there was more dancing and frivolities – until it was time to drive back home….
Saturday was a day off, and Sunday we were taking part in the fashion show, so with a day off in between, I decided to make myself a new outfit – just because I have always wanted a jacket, and because i had the fabric for ages!
I made the skirt in a lovely quilted cotton, with a fringe, and then worked the rest of the day on a 1790 pierrot jacket.
I quickly drafted the pattern and then fitted it – mock up first and then playing with the real thing, in silk and linen
Sunday morning saw the jacket finished – but i had a few hours left before we had to make a move. so time to make a new hat! a gigantic one! Not the best of my creations, admittedly, but it did the job.
Then it was packing the gear and setting off.
The fashion show went down a treat – there was a huge variety of costumes, from different decades and different walks of life, and the commentary was super as well… a few behind the scenes shots..
some unspeakable and unmentionable things happened too….
After the show, I could change into my new bits and have a stroll around Stamford – and take a few pictures
But I was not exactly happy – I felt the wig did not work very well with the colours of the walking outfit. So when we got back home, I changed wigs and we went on to snatch some autumnal pictures at the local Nature Reserve…. much happier with these!
we even had a go at some heavy machinery….
all together, a cracking weekend was had!
photography – Lucas from Timelight Photographic
costuming – Prior Attire ( the walking outfit is now available for sale – here)
shoes – American Duchess, naturellment!
Last year we had a lovely time at out first Regency ball, part of the annual Jane Austen celebration in Bath (see post on that here). This year the dates were changed a bit, which meant that the Ball was on the first Saturday of the festival, and there was a market earlier on in the day too. So, two birds with one stone – we could go and trade to earn our living in the day, and in the evening we could go and have a good dance at the ball!
The usual dilemma ocurred – What to wear? I had my old evening gown, but it would be nice to make something new. As I had only 5 days to prepare regency dresses for sale, I decided to get the stock items sorted first and to work on my own frock if I had some time spare.
I already knew what I would be using as an inspiration – this gown from the Met museum
I already had some lovely gold semi-transparent silk in my stash, so all I needed to get was lace, decoration and the silk satin for the base of the dress. I didnt really like the pearl trim on the original, so decided on an alternative, but all of the components were ready and waiting, just in case I managed to make time for it!
In the end I finished all the stock dresses on Friday moring – and we were to leave Friday night. I had about 8 hours. Well, you know that I do like challenges….
One thing has to be said – working on the stock meant that whilst handstitching other frocks I had time to think about the gold gown construction even before I started to work on it. I must admit, it did take me some time – mostly because I simply couldn’t see how it closed! Yes, you can see the sheer overgown ties in front, but what about the satin gown? You can zoom in quite a lot on the Met site so you can see clearly that there are no rows of buttons or ties at the back under the sheer, nothing at the side or front, no button closures, no bib closure, no tie closures… A mystery!
I started zooming in to maximum and checking every detail – and finally I found it! On the back, right of centre-back, you can just about see something on the satin layer that could be called a button and a loop, at the neck egde.
I new that must be it – After thinking a little more, and analysing the cut I arrived at a very simple pattern idea – basically a sack with fitted neckline. I tried the idea on a mock-up first, making the top part of the gown in calic; it worked. I actually didn’t even need the button, the thing just slips ovehead and a simple tie does the rest.
So on the day I cut the gown in silk satin, sewed it, hemmed it, lined the bodice, etc – in other words it was ready for the overgown and the sleeves.
That was the easy part…. the overgown was next – and whereas it is basically a loose robe, it took the most time due to all the finishing – cutting precise facings in flimsy sheer fabric is not my idea of fun! But the facings were cut, sewn, handstitched and metallic lace attached – then they were just awaiting the posh trim I wanted to use in place of the pearls.
Sleeves were next – and they were the most time-consuming…
Cutting up the base and the satin layer first –
Then preparing the space for the gathering and placing the gathers in suitable places so that that they formed ‘pulling-outs’ – just as in Tudor sleeves.
Once the gathers were positioned, I was able to add the overlay with the cut out holes and the gold metallic trim
I was getting excited by this stage… All that now remained was getting the sleeves together, lining them, sewing into the armbands and then into the armhole, (both the satin and the sheer layers of the dress).
And it was almost ready – just a little belt to add, made from the sheer (I tried to attach it to pregathered sheer underneath like in the original, but after speding an hour I decided I didnt like it – so outside it went. Only the posh trim remained, and that could be done before the ball next day.
We packed up, drove to Bath (3 hours), checked into the hotel and collapsed…
Next day saw us setting up the stall at the market in the Guildhall – and we had 4 jolly hours of trading there…
After the market we packed up the remaining goods, drove back to the hotel and collapsed (again). But we had a ball to go to! I was so tired, that honestly, if it hadnt been for the fact that there was food on offer I probably wouldnt have gone… But we knew Searcy’s would deliver a great meal (we were not disappointed as it turned out), so after a power nap I got my act together and sorted out the braid on the dress:-). Then it was time to get dressed…
And so, off to the ball we went – armed with a big camera too! We had an amazing time, despite being so tired (I danced every other dance to conserve my energy), and the meal was superb… pictures below!
The gold dress first – I am rather happy with it – the design worked surprisingly well 🙂 Will probably sell it at some point, as I simply cannot go to the ball next year in the same frock, can I ? 🙂
I admit that we did leave ‘just’ before the ball ended – I was falling asleep! As it turned out, combining a working day with an evening of fun doesnt really work for me 😦
Still, we had a good night’s rest, a good brekkie and were on our way home soon. Once back home we decided to take the opportunity to photograph the remaining dresses – they are now available in the shop – click on the links to see the listing 🙂 I look tired but the gowns looked well, and that is enough for the shop 🙂
We even made a short video about how to put on a regency brassiere: – enjoy!
Many thanks to PItcheresque Imagery for the photos!
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:-)
Amazing memories from the evening – and not only evening, the whole weekend was a whirl of activities, pretty frocks and splendid food, all in even more splendid company!
We started on Saturday afternoon arriving in Bath a tad later than expected ( the traffic on the slip road was very bad and many of us were stuck there – in fact, so many that we were considering a picnic on the roadside….), but unpacked, changed and walked over to the Crescent for a few relaxing hours of picnicking…. The weather was perfect, food lovely, and as a perk we got to witness the balloon take off…. and of course we took photos….
The next day saw us making last minute preparations, strolling around the town and slowly getting ready,,,
The workshop started at 3 – and we practiced our quadrilles, lancers and waltzes for good 90 minutes – the practice was fun, but also cane in handy at the ball – you not only know the basics of the dances, but you recognize the people, so you are able to relax in a more familiar environment. our Dance master, Stuart Marsden, kindly provided Carnet de Ball tickets – beautifully made, and very practical – at the end of the practice people were making arrangements which dances they were to dance with who – really cuts on the chaos on finding a partner in the evening!
We will be using them next year as well, an excellent idea!.
After the practice there was time to go and have a cuppa and a rest ( and for us organizers to get the photographers, musicians etc set up and ready), and then time to change into the evening’s finery….
Then it was time! The doors opened at & and the guests started to arrive, dazzling us with their lovely creations. Drinks, chatting and photos made for a relaxed atmosphere – and since almost all the ball participants had been at the practice, people relaxed and chatted with their old and new dance partners. Traditionally, we started with a polonaise… It was a bit crowded, once all the people filled the Grand Ballroom, but Stuart managed to direct the dance nicely ! And from then on, it was all dancing….. Spanish waltz was great to get everybody relaxed as you change partners a lot and get to know people, and then it was the amazing Lancers, Quadrilles and Waltzes galore…. My personal favourite was the Cotillion waltz – simple, yet amazingly romantic, danced the the sweet notes of the waltz from the Merry Widow. Dimmed lights, romantic music, swaying on the dance floor in flowing silky gown – breathtaking. The buffet break arrived just in time to rest our weary feet and get some sustenance for more dancing. And food, provided by Searcy’s was glorious – beautifully presented, abundant ( and there was lots left!) and yummy – I must admit loved the desserts particularly… Then more dancing followed – with a few spontaneous waltzing breaks when folks just kicked their shoes off and took to whirling Viennese waltz at a moment notice ( our own Sissy here was the main culprit – though quite a lot removed their shoes at that point, myself included…). The evening ended with a Flirtation finale – lots of fun! And all that fun was mostly due to the utterly amazing musicians – Alexis Bennett and the Liberty Belles, and our talented Dance Master, Stuart Marsden ( yes, the same one who has worked with BBC on Poldark, and many other projects…). The event would not have been the success it was without theses guys – so a huge thank you! And while all the dancing was taking place, our photographers, Mockford Photography, were busy taking photos…. And did I not mention that there were some spectacular frocks and very dashing gentlemen around?
Needless to say, by the end of it I could hardly walk ( need better shoes for next year….). but somehow I made it to the hotel, and although exhausted, I was still buzzing with the excitement – the night was so much better than I had hoped for! there was just enough time to have a mini after party for the staff ( amazing how many people you can squeeze into a single Travelodge bedroom) and then it was time for sleep. And about 4 hours later we were up again and getting ready for our breakfast at the Pump Rooms….. The yummy breakfast ( and live music too!) was followed bu a short wander around town and some photos…. Then it was time to go home and tend the very sore feet…. Altogether, I must say the event fr surpassed my expectations. Music was delightful, fool glorious, venue splendid and the people – well, let me just say that you were all such a friendly and polite bunch of folks! Everybody was relaxed and yet on their best behaviour – and that makes such a difference! it was also a good call to go for historical rather than an eclectic affair like the previous one – since most of the dances were called, the dance floor was always busy, only clearing up a bit at the end, as the pure exhaustion took over ( it was quite an exercise , especially the few more energetic dances…). So thank you all, staff and guests alike for making it such a wonderful occasion! Also, many thanks to all the people who sent their photos:-) And, guess what – we are having another Ball next year! The venue and caterers have already been booked and the tickets are on sale ( early bird prices valid till September), so put the date in your diary – 7th May. We have the same set of musicians and Stuart booked too – and next year we have an optional dress sub theme – Crinoline. We are already working on different offers for the ticket holders ( discounted rates from dressmakers and product suppliers, or, for those who make stuff themselves, special offers on corset, crinoline and Victorian patterns and kits from one of our providers too). You can follow the news on the facebook pages:
The event per se – Victorian Ball 2016
Page : Prior Attire Victorian Ball
Tickets and more info here – Victorian ball tickets
and the previous ball Spectacular!