Renaissance Lady

14138238_10100538494893866_271882266984038703_o

Let me tell you, this costume was a long time coming. I started on it a year or two ago, and chickened out just before I got to the zipper. So it sat and sat in the basement until we finally made that commitment to go to the ren fair, and I sewed my little fingers off making costume after costume.

I call it my fantasy renaissance dress. The pattern is pretty good, actually (Simplicity 8735), but the fabrics I’m using are incredibly synthetic. Piecing it together from my stash felt a bit like a work of art. I had enough light blue textured fabric for the front panel and the sleeves, enough sheer purple fabric for the overdress and what I’ve been calling the “gauntlets”, enough white fabric for the underdress minus the front panel (well, except for a little missing chunk), and enough dark blue sheer fabric for the modesty panel and the “gauntlets”.

I don’t really remember assembling the bodice or the skirt, it’s been so long. I do think I was surprised how well that portion went. I definitely remember the silver fleur-de-lis ribbon I grabbed from my stash to line the waistline and the edges of the overskirt crinkled like mad. Leaving it on my dress form for months on end actually helped it flatten a bit, but it still pulls up some. I went wild at JoAnn buying extra ribbon and lace for the bodice, which admittedly looks very nice. I hand sewed it on during a D&D session. And then it sat.

I got it out again this summer and finished gathering the sleeves. I repeated the USB cable trick to shove elastic through the gather. And then, terrified it wouldn’t fit, I sewed in the zipper. Wrong. Twice. Once I got the zipper in right-way round so that it could, you know, zip…it fit! Sort of. The bodice kept falling off my shoulders, I found a shortcut – put a dart in the neckline above each shoulder blade. I think I took 4 inches off! I hemmed the underdress and overdress (cheating, by machine) both a bit shorter than I’d intended but the ankle-length result turned out to be a perfect choice for the ren fair, what with all the mud. And I made one set of reversible oversleeves and set their grommets (tricky with that flimsy fabric!). Pre-lacing them was a mistake, as one shoulder then didn’t want to sit right, but one came untied partway through the day and I tucked all of them away.

Of course, a dress does not itself an outfit make! I grabbed brown velvet slippers at the costume shop, wore a necklace that had been my grandmother’s, and approximated a cap, ferroniere, and Italian style hair wrap out of a yarmulke and ribbon. Cheating, I know. I also carried a bag my aunt and uncle bought for me in southeast Asia that color coordinated nicely. I’d like to build an actual cap, add a dangling “jewel” to the ferroniere (or actually buy a real one), tie down the wrap tighter so it doesn’t come undone, and use the bit of brocaded silk in my stash to make a new handbag for future outings. Plus, like Irene, it could use a couple of petticoats.

Once again, we were invited to participate in the costume contest, but with better shoes (and extra arch support tucked inside!) we wandered far and wide for food, vendors, and entertainment. All in all, a lovely day, even if my outfit was a century out-of-date and several hundred miles south. Frankly, I prefer this profile to the wide skirts and stiff bodices of the Elizabethan court.

Renaissance Man

My renaissance man (all from Simplicity 4059) turned out to be an interesting exercise. Each piece went together very differently.

13913782_10100528881768646_3536495769886539976_o13909353_10100528881688806_2665088002936656778_o

The doublet – fancy gold paisley on shiny black brocade and black liner and thread from the stash, plus ten phenomenal gold buttons my sister picked out at Field’s. I faced quite a dilemma cutting this one, since the armpit/shoulder angle is quite different for each size, and I had to make a multi-size fit. As with Sherlock’s vest, I cheated and didn’t line this piece, so it too is a bit flimsy. I ended up taking in a bit at the back of the neck to improve the fit, but we’ll need to switch from loop attachments for the buttonholes to actual buttonholes, which should snug up the fit some more. I’m going to recruit help for those.

The shirt – off-white cotton purchased for 14124450_10100534014921766_8135100569807480212_othe project, plus white thread, interfacing, 2 mother of pearl buttons, and lace from the stash. This piece was a joy to build. The fabric moved so consistently through the machine that I felt like I’d suddenly gotten massively better at sewing. I hand sewed the cuffs and hem just like I was supposed to, and it is clearly the most proficiently-built piece from the entire weekend.

The breeches – green fabric, interfacing, lacing, and thread from the stash, plus 3 neat black buttons my sister found at Field’s. After the shirt, this piece was a nightmare. For some reason the fabric was double thick, but when you pulled the layers apart (which was quite easy) it was no longer fit for use. Luckily I figured this out before cutting. The grain would not behave, and I had the darnedest time telling what the pattern was asking me to do. I put the yoke together wrong – wrong pieces, and sewed terribly off-kilter. The best that can be said is that I got to practice putting in grommets with the tool I’d bought over a year before (and I had enough sample grommets to do
them 14086278_10100537213252286_8151797378300252391_oin green!). Oh! And I discovered that the best way to thread lacing through the hem at the knee is to take a USB to mini-USB cable and inch it through, then tie the lacing on and pull the cable back. At least they fit, and the yoke is more or less hidden by the doublet, not to mention accessory #1:

A sword – what can I say? Jeff likes swords. They’re proliferating, so it’s nice to have an appropriate one he could simply pull out for this costume. We belted it on with a regular belt and some kind of cheap holster-y thing off Amazon that you drop the scabbard into. Of course he also wore:

Hose – from the local costume shop. Not actually hose, he tells me. They’re socks. And he’ll probably need points or garters or something because they kept drooping. Anyway, the point is his lower legs were covered. And he also wore:

Shoes – we didn’t like the options at the costume shop, so picked up a pair of jazz shoes at the dance wear store. But of course nothing is complete without:

4177_576356071057_1506708_n
The re-used hat and high school renaissance outfit.

A hat – we actually used the hat from his last renaissance outfit (which since it was from high school no longer fits). It would be good to rebuild it in a nicer fabric, but in the meantime I picked up a peacock feather and sewed it on.

Steampunk Irene Adler

img_1385-2

So Irene. Irene was a bit of a hang-er on, but I like couples’ costumes. So with steampunk Sherlock Holmes on the docket, what else was I supposed to do?

(I did actually end up thinking of a fun little narrative that blended real life and our personas: Irene’s supposedly given up her wicked ways and turned tailor to Sherlock. Of course it’s all just a ploy to get close enough to slip him something nefarious. *turn to look at him* “You didn’t hear that dear, just go on and investigate that odd thing over there.” Etc.)

Most of the outfit was already made. The skirt was actually the second version of that set I had made, since I sewed (except for the hem) a shiny brown version for my friend’s wedding outfit (which she combined with a lacy white shirt and beige corset to look amazing). Here’s the best part: it’s a mash up: bolero skirt (without loopy trim) from McCall’s 7071 and train from McCall’s 6097. My skirt was a dull green covered in black velvety flowers with a dark green velvet waistband (from the stash!), and my train was a darker shinier green (which I may have purchased). The only thing I actually had to do for the ren fair was add buttons to attach the train to the skirt. So…repeat semi-freehand note from Sherlock’s vest.

The top I’ve had for a long time; it was a hand-me-down from my mom. I searched antique shops for a cheap cameo for a long time, and the result has been hanging from the top button hole for quite a while as well.

I could’ve just used the good black leather boots I’ve owned since high school, but I ran into a pair at the thrift store with silver buttons on the side just before the ren fair and couldn’t resist. This. Was. A. Giant. Mistake. They were way too big and I had enormous blisters starting on the balls of my feet before we even got into the ren fair because we parked at the back of beyond. I thought about buying shoes from a vendor, but they were ridiculously expensive. So I begged a wad of napkins off a pickle vendor and stuffed them into my shoes. It helped enough that we could move around a little, and kept the blisters from getting worse. But I’ll be cleaning the mud off those shoes and sending them back to the thrift store. Lesson: always, always walk around in your shoes. *sigh*

How how else did I dress it up? I bought half a yard of cheap black velour and built a steampunk hat and fingerless gloves (McCall’s 6975 again) and a cummerbund or waist corset (patternless!). The hat turned out to be good practice for Sherlock, and the gloves…I had to think hard about those gloves – which side was up, which hand was which. I ended up pulling some shiny black fabric from my stash to line the thumb and wrist, and to make a flat version of what was supposed to be a crinkled connector to pin the palm side shut. And I did all three in an afternoon! The amazing thing about the hat is once I pinned it on top of my head, I completely forgot it was there.

We also borrowed a parasol from the theatre props in our basement, but didn’t end up using it. I think eventually I might like to build her a matching one with a more period-appropriate profile. And I’ll admit I saw a poison ring at the same antique shop where we picked up Sherlock’s stick pin that was quite tempting.

I keep wanting to transition from costumes to historical clothing, though, and having the costume contest judge say it was only “kind of” 1890s really drove that home. I read on a historical clothing blog that the important thing is starting with the right undergarments to build the silhouette. I can improve this costume while setting the stage for future outfits simultaneously. I’ve got a pattern for chemise, drawers, and corset already, and clearly it also needs couple of petticoats and possibly a bustle. So we’ll see where that gets it.

Steampunk Sherlock Holmes

Basically the minute I knew that the very first ren fair Jeff and I were going to was going to be having “Wonders of the World” weekend (Steampunk, Doctor Who), I realized that I needed some kind of character hook for our steampunk-y outfits. And what better than to do a steampunk Sherlock Holmes? (I’ll cover the accessories I made to augment my previously built 1890s/1900s outfit into a steampunk Irene Adler in the next post – which now exists: click here!)

At about the same time, I found myself helping build four identical wedding dresses for the final scene of Much Ado About Nothing. The experience was intensely motivating since I hadn’t done a sewing project in a while, and it reminded me of my skills and stamina. I also garnered some rather useful thoughts about fitting clothes on other people – which was much appreciated because I’d really only sewn for myself, one other skirt aside! I also took the opportunity to commandeer the theatre’s fabric cutting table on a couple of occasions, which helped me bypass the perpetual “help” offered by the cat when I work on the floor at home.

I started with a very comprehensive list for each part of the outfit and its accessories. I’ll talk about the materials and construction (if applicable) for each of them in their own section below. But first, a shout out to my sister for coming fabric (er, mostly button) shopping with me – I hope you’re enjoying your adult coloring book reward!

14188180_10100536696652556_7439611656328925010_o

– Deerstalker Cap: thick brown/orange/beige plaid wool which I purchased specifically for the outer layer, yellow/orange liner from my stash for the inner layer and the ribbons, brown thread from my stash, and a couple of bits of cardboard from a granola bar box. I have to say I was really proud of this piece – I am a habitual pattern user, and I made it without a pattern! I looked at some reference photos, and determined that I needed to cut ten identical rectangles of the fancy fabric, then round them off on the short side for the six sections of the actual hat and the two double sided ear flaps, plus two more longer, thinner ones rounded on the long side for the front and back brims. (And liner for everything except the double sided ear flaps, of course!) I measured the circumference of Jeff’s head, did some division, added seams allowances, and voila! I actually made this piece close to last, so I was getting used to working from the inside out, turning the liner to the inside, and then hand finishing. The only catch with this one was that the liner didn’t sew in evenly, so I had to piece in an extra section to match the circumference of the outer layer. Overall, a successful piece! It really helped the whole outfit be readily recognizable as a specific character.

13938198_10100528881678826_42375945317206158_o13925719_10100528881708766_7564373226483098301_o

– Vest: wild steampunk-y print from my stash for the main body of the vest, orange velvet from my stash for the collar, six amazing “knit” buttons my sister picked out at Field’s Fabric, Simplicity Pattern 2895 from my stash, and brown thread from my stash. This was my first try at independently fitting a garment to someone else, and it worked moderately well. I cheated and didn’t include a liner, since we’re expecting to have to take it in a bit in the future, which made the piece a bit floppier than preferred. I’m also not entirely comfortable with the buttonhole foot on my sewing machine, so I put it on buttonhole settings but controlled the spacing myself, with mixed results. But! I made my first pocket, and it’s perfect for holding prop #1:

– Pocket watch: a little gold number we already own. We found out to our surprise at the ren fair that it actually works!

– Cravat: more of the yellow/orange liner I used for the cap, again using Simplicity Pattern 2895. I took some shortcuts on the folds since it was more of a last minute addition, but it eventually became home to accessory #1:

– Stick pin: we didn’t find this until we visited an antique shop after the ren fair, but we now have a gold stick pin with a color-coordinated orange stone. Under it all, of course, there’s a foundational garment:

– White dress shirt: a quick thrift store find. The collar isn’t quite right with the rest of what’s going on, so we’ll be upgrading eventually to a frill-less version of Simplicity 4095 (since it’s already in my stash). Most of the bottom of the costume is similarly basic:

– Brown pants: a more effortful thrift store find. Why are clothes that are ostensibly the same size always widely variable in their fit?!

– Brown shoes: Jeff’s every day pair of slip ons (no laces, no nothing – nice and smooth) which we expected to be a perfect base for:

– Spats: some really neat black flower outlines on brown pleather I found at Field’s, plus brown thread from my stash and McCall’s 6975 from my stash. I was really excited to find some random stick-on velcro dots in my stash to secure them. Sadly they didn’t sit quite right and we had to leave this piece out! However, moving back up to the waist, I also made:

– Cargo belt: more of the pleather from Field’s, brown thread from the stash, a pair of steampunk cuff links we already owned, and McCall’s 6975 from the stash. I reduced the width of the top layer, and I think I had to add more pleather backing on the straps than the pattern actually called for. I also had to run out and buy four D rings since I hadn’t realized I’d need them. One of the pockets took two tries to sew it into the right shape. I stuffed the pockets with tissues and sealed them shut with the cufflinks – not a functional prop holder, there. We also didn’t end up using props #2 and #3:

– Pipe: we bought a cheap costume pipe from a local costume shop. The bowl was white (maybe they thought it looked like ivory?) so I painted it to look like wood (thanks, theatrical set painting practice) with the green, orange, and white left in my acrylic paint set (thanks, painting party at Bamboo studio). We need to make it possible to hang it from the belt.

– Magnifying glass: we’ve had this magnifying glass around for a while, and I got out my gold enamel paint to change the silver rim to gold. This beauty’ll need to hang from the belt for future uses, too. And the last item we didn’t use was:

13996240_10100530130067046_3305510649370011388_o14053832_10100530130072036_1948024078206190782_o

– Great coat: thrifted brown curtain(!) that I was honestly hoping to use later for Littlefinger, more brown thread from the stash, and a couple of amazing bronze gear buttons my sister found at Field’s. Plus of course once again Simplicity 2895. I thought I had a great cheat since the curtain was lined, but I cut and sewed the coat and liner simultaneously leaving the seams on the inside, and this white stuff frayed like crazy. I turned in as many of the seams as possible, but I’m probably going to have to re-line it with more of the yellow/orange from the stash, if there’s enough. I had the same issue with the pockets as on the vest. I skipped the second set of pockets on the top half – I love that the main pockets are right on the line between the … can I call it a bodice? … and the “skirt”. (Tails?) Anyway. I made sure to do fittings with all the other layers underneath, so we didn’t end up making it too snug. It looks pretty good on, but hides all the rest of the fun colors, so we’re probably also going to have to find a way to tie it back or leave it open in cooler weather. Maybe move the buttons to the cuffs…

I ended up making very bad shoe choices myself (again, more on that later), so we didn’t wander much at all that first day. Which meant we were right in the appropriate place for the end of the day’s costume contest. Which we won. As a couple. Which they weren’t planning on (but then so did the awesome Victorian Harley and Joker pair). And really we won because “Sherlock” bantered with the judge (as did Harley, for that matter). But who’s counting?

Throwback Thursday: Other Old (Thrifted) Costumes

1910587_507395952907_9773_n
Jeff and I at an Importance of Being Earnest party our friend group held in high school.
4161_1153002069396_4740816_n
Jeff and I as the Tenth and Fifth Doctors a la Time Crash (yes, I was wearing a vegetable) during the costume contest at my first con.
1917374_554144927116_2312647_n
My other con outfits were themed “yes, I will play all the Summer Glau characters.” Here we have her Terminator from The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
208692_1016275183183_1119001_n
And River getting ready to tear up the Bible (only I didn’t really because we’d borrowed it from the hotel room).
1383132_940973639276_1042925431_n
A Wolverine Halloween costume.
10519505_10100205934347866_7611298026492799491_n
A Janeway Halloween costume.

First Topic: Sewing!

Hi there. I’m Elianna. I like textiles. And science fiction. And fantasy. And therefore, inevitably, cosplay. Historically-accurate garments, too, actually, but I need some more practice before I really go down that rabbithole. (Plus lots of other things, but those will be listed under a different set of tags.)

I was lucky enough to be gifted quite a lot of fabric by a friend of my mom’s. Some of it’s earmarked for particular projects (like the someday costumed trip that Jeff and I will take to Colonial Williamsburg). Some of it isn’t. You’ll see me make some adjustments and trade-offs to make the free fabric work. Because costuming can be an expensive hobby, and I’d like to avoid incurring a lot of cost before I really know what I’m doing.

189927_502665847438_9719_n
Here’s the red skirt’s final appearance in a high school theatrical production of “Bullshot Crummond”. Think awkward James Bond.

I learned to use a sewing machine pretty young, if by “use” you mean “put in a straight stitch”. I think I was 7 or 8. My mom and I made a lap quilt together using t-shirts and bias tape. I really got going in high school. I started using patterns to make a skirt and vest (then added sleeves) and improvised a (non-matching) cloak.

298540_10150276474991086_7492482_n
The bridesmaid’s dress (and matching tie). I grabbed an extra chair sash for my waistband to provide an extra accent in the wedding colors.

I took a costume design class in my college’s theatre department, where they taught me new techniques like how to drape (something I should really try again) and how to use a buttonhole foot (which I’ve clearly forgotten). My mom and I went in on a new sewing machine together. She made my sister a t-shirt quilt, and now the machine is mostly mine. I bought an old dress form cheaply from a friend. Built a chemise, a 1950s style yellow polka dot dress (with two identical [not mirrored] shoulder straps), and a bridesmaid’s dress and matching tie. (Also curtains. So many curtains. Plus a baby quilt for Jeff’s cousin’s kiddo.)

11742631_10105506986357013_6822775342007851735_n
The yellow polka dot dress – perfect for swing!
392675_854400642256_1657327652_n
I can’t believe I forgot about the Tardis school girl outfit! I had a major error with the circle skirt, cutting it out using the diameter for the radius. Needless to say, it was shorter than anticipated! If the resolution is good, you should be able to zoom in for a lovely view of the time vortex-y outer skirt. And I was so proud of the freeform cap!
12695021_10153938937372533_5528157245276080927_o
Also, accessories for a thrifted 1920s style outfit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1913656_595101984097_5709270_n-2
There’s the chemise!

 

And all of that more or less brings us to the present day and the projects I’ll be covering here!