A bit of my process for the making of the Through the Looking Glass dress. I will be posting a video of each piece of the Curiosities collection, so keep your eyes peeled! My Youtube channel is here if you want to see more of my videos.
When I started this collection, I was inspired by the darker aspect of the Victorian Era. When it comes to costuming, it is very easy to see the beautiful parts of history, especially when your research focuses more on fashion plates and patterns, which it normally does when researching a dress. While I love seeing the lovely parts of history, I am more fascinated by the darker parts than anything else. As you have seen before (especially in my Frankenstein dress), I have a dark side that I love to mix in to my costuming. I have made quite a few costumes that were purely historical and as pretty as I could make it, but I have decided that I should make them more in my style, rather than just historically accurate.
I love the taking historical silhouettes and ideas and making them a little different, and a little bit darker. I had mentioned in a previous post about some of the things that inspired this collection. I made four dresses, each one representing another dark side of the late 1800s. This first one that I made, which I called Through the Looking Glass, was inspired by the drug issues that were so prevalent in this era. Opium was a huge problem in the late 1800s, with Opium Dens available all around, especially in large cities like New York and London. In the US, it was the Civil War that started many addictions. Most also didn't realize how addicting the drug was, so doctors prescribed it for many nervous conditions as well as for pain. Those who didn't have money for a doctor were able to buy it from a pharmacist to solve any medical problems. Opium wasn't the only highly addictive drug wandering the streets- such as laudanum and cocaine. Arsenic and other dangerous (and poisonous) ingredients were readily available.
To make things a little worse, doctors did not know how to treat addiction at the time. Hospitals would sometimes get them addicted to a different drug in an attempt to wean them off of opium, or whatever other drug was the issue, and the patient would end up with a few addictions instead of just the one. This may be a familiar concept if you have watched The Knick. The Knick is a show set in the 1890s following surgeons in a New York hospital. It is based on a true story, and the main doctor (John W. Thackeray) is based off of one of Americas Founding Fathers of surgery and medicine. Thackeray is based on William Halstead. Halstead had a rather unfortunate life, but did incredible things for modern surgery!
In a time when surgery had a mortality rate of close to 50%, Halstead brought in sterile gloves, developed radical mastectomy, carried out the first ever successful hernia and aneurysm repairs, as well as the first emergency blood transfusion, and brought in washing hands before operations. Halstead was originally addicted to cocaine, and ended up being checked into a hospital to get his addiction under control. They introduced him to morphine, and he lived the rest of his life addicted to both. His wife, a nurse, was also addicted to morphine.
Morphine and other opiates were incredibly easy to get your hands on- morphine and cocaine injection kits (with newly invented syringes) were available in the Sears catalog. Herione was known as a remedy for morphine addiction, and one philanthropic society mailed heroin to a group of morphine addicts. Cocaine eventually was replaced by methamphetamine and amphetamine, which was used for asthma. Many countries used amphetamine during World War Two to keep pilots and soldiers awake.
Through the early 1800s, most of the opium coming to Britain was from Turkey. It was known to be stronger, and its popularity only dropped in the 1870s and 1880s for Persian import. The opium was known as a cure all, and used as such by doctors and anyone needing pain relief, etc. It was also used to quiet fussing babies, mixed with water and treacle. It occasionally resulted in deaths, and often in illnesses. Raw opium could be bought as pills or sticks, and it was used normally for women more often than men. Medications containing opium were called 'women's friends' since it was taken for 'female troubles' (menstruation and childbirth), and 'female maladies' (hysteria, depression, fainting fits, and mood swings).
Cocaine was discovered in 1860 from coca leaves, but it wasn't available for commercial use until the 1880s. However, in 1863 a chemist named Angelo Mariani came up with a tonic that used coca leaves. It was advertised to solve everything, and could be taken like a daily vitamin. The tonic was praised by Queen Victoria and Rudyard Kipling, as well as others. In two glasses it is believed to have contained 50 milligrams of pure cocaine.
The drug problem in this era affected every part of society. It wasn't actually realized to be a problem until 1920, when the Dangerous Drug Act came to be in Britain.
Ripper Street has been a show that I have been inspired by for this collection, and The Knick has been another inspiration. If you would like to read more about how modern medicine was started in this era, Lindsey Fitzharris has a fascinating new book out called The Butchering Art, based on the surgeon Joseph Lister's life and success in modernizing surgery. If you would like to see the images that have inspired the collection, I have a pinterest board here (all of the images are dresses. I have very dark and gruesome information that I have found through research, but I promise there are no bad images, just pretty things!). I will recommend other books, movies, and TV shows that I have gotten information from for each of the dresses. For the Jewel dress I will talk about prostitution, especially in Britain, through the late 1800s, and for the other two gowns I will talk about circuses and sideshows, and death practices in the 1800s. Most of my information focuses on London, since that is what I am most interested in, but it also moves around to New York, Toronto, and other large cities with dark underbellies.
I chose the name for this dress (Through the Looking Glass) based off of the author, Lewis Carroll. Although there is much debate, Alice in Wonderland is well known as being a drug-induced dream, so I thought that would be a perfect name for the first Dark History.
Since my Curiosities collection is based on the 1880s, I have most of my undergarments for them from my Frankenstein dress. The only things that I have had to make to go under these dresses were a bustle cage and petticoat. I could have used the bum pad that I made for my Frankenstein dress, but I wanted a more dramatic silhouette, and I have always wanted to make one. I talked about making the bustle cage in the last post, and once that was done I draped a petticoat over it. It is just muslin pleated onto a waistband with a lace bottom.
So far I have made two of the skirts, both of them are very simple. They are draped in the same way as the petticoat, I just draped them over the bustle and sewed them to a waistband.
I have been filming the progress of each of the pieces so far, so I don't have many pictures. I will put out the video once I have pictures of the final products.
I finally started on my newest project- a collection of bustle dresses! I was inspired by many things for this little collection of (hopefully) four dresses, the largest inspiration being photos from the circus throughout the ages, especially the 1880s. I also have been inspired by my tarot cards (by the artist Nicoletta Ceccoli), as well as the show Ripper Street, and some of the strange vintage photos found online. I have talked about this collection before, in my Plans and Fabric Haul video, and have finally decided on a name for the collection- Curiosities.
The first thing that I needed to make to before I started the dresses was a bustle cage. I made a bum pad for the last bustle dress that I did, but I really wanted to make an actual bustle cage, so I decided to use the American Duchess pattern for panniers, but I just made one instead of two. I also made the pattern about 4 inches smaller since my panniers are quite large.
Next up- the dresses! I've decided to start with one that is based off of Alice in Wonderland.
I finally finished my 1950's styled bee skirt. I printed the bees onto a striped fabric for this project quite a few months ago, however I did not get around to making it until Christmas time.
This was made with the same McCalls pattern as my scissors skirt (photos here) and a cotton fabric. This is a very simple pattern, but I love how it looks, and it is easy to figure out fit.
This year was a really huge one for me, especially when it comes to my sewing. I started this blog just a little over a year ago with my Special Project in school, and it has grown very quickly with all of the projects that I have been working on. I also started a makeup and skincare part of the blog (and an instagram here) after I started working at a beauty counter to share about some of the things I have learned through training sessions. When it comes to my sewing, I have grown quite a bit in the past year! I started the year with finishing my Special Project, which took me a semester to make. Not long after that, I started working with MakeFashion. I started out just helping, and ended up making a dress with the help of an engineer! It was hectic and crazy and I loved every minute of it. I also got to go to Mexico with my family this year, celebrated a one year anniversary with my boyfriend, graduated from high school, got accepted into Olds College Fashion Program, got a job, made a dress for a televison pilot, and finished 16 projects (some of which I haven't blogged about yet). I would say that was a pretty successful year! Here is my year in photos:
And a quick sneak peak of a project that I haven't posted about yet:
Heres to another great and productive year! I can't wait to see whats in store for me
I finally finished editing my video on the In the Mood for Love Dress. I filmed pretty much the whole process of me making it, from cutting it out (using a pattern from Patterns by Gertie) to the fnished product. The music is La Valse d'Amelie by Yann Tiersen and Chris Snelling. If you want to see more of my youtube videos, my channel is here
Thanks for watching! I will put up more photos of the finished dress in a post next week
I have been filming the current project that I am working on, which is a cotton dress inspired by the movie In the Mood for Love (I talked about this movie in my Movie Recommendations post). The pattern that I am using for it is one from Patterns by Gertie.
Because I am filming the process, I do not have tons of pictures of the dress as I make it, but I do have a few behind the scenes pictures while I film myself cutting the pieces out. I will post my video up here once I'm done, and as always, I will have the pictures up here as well.
I can't wait to show you the finished dress!
I finally got around to using my beautiful Simplicity pattern by American Duchess. The pattern was based off of the red dress in season two of Outlander. I didn't want mine to look too similar to the Outlander dress other than the shape, so I chose a mint green silk with patterns on it. I also used lace in the slit in the top of the bodice to make it feel a little more historical.
I ended up having quite a few days off of work in a row, and we (my mom and I) decided to make a trip up to Banff to get photos. We live pretty close, so it was easy to drive down for the night. I got two photo shoots done- one for the Green Dress, and one for my In the Mood for Love inspired dress (I will have the photos for that one up next week, as well as a video).
When we decided to go to Banff, I still hadn't even started the dress yet. It ended up taking me 3 days from cutting out the fabric to finishing it- pretty fast compared to some of my projects! During those 3 days I also had to finish the other dress that we were going to take photos of, so it was pretty hectic at the beginning of the week!
I cut the pattern out in a size 6, and that worked pretty well, although it is a bit big in the bust (as you can see with the lacing). That could have been fixed easily if I had made a mockup, but I didn't... But I think it turned out well anyway! The skirt is cartridge pleated through the back, and pleated in the front. I wore it over my shift, bum pad, panniers (what makes the shape so dramatic at the hips), and a petticoat. I will do a post on the panniers in a few weeks or so. The panniers were also from the American Duchess pattern, and they came together very easily and quickly! I am very pleased with how they turned out.
These photos were taken at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which was opened in 1888. The hotel is beautiful, and even though it isn't the same era as the dress, I thought it was a beautiful backdrop.
I just finished making my 1940's trousers from a vintage Simplicity pattern, and I love them! The pattern came with pieces for a pair of trousers, overalls, as well as a blouse/jacket. I decided to make the trousers, since they are something that I can wear in my everyday life. I also wanted a pair of trousers to bring with me to Germany, so this worked out perfectly!
The pants are made of a light-weight mens suiting wool in grey check. This is one of the fabrics that I got the last time I went to Bhatia, and the sheen to it is beautiful! It also drapes very nicely, so I thought it would be nice for these. They close with 5 vintage buttons that I had in my stash.
I am so pleased with how these turned out! They are super comfortable, and I can see myself wearing them a ton through fall and winter. The pattern was nice and easy to follow, and it only took me a few days of actually working on them to finish the trousers.
These pictures were taken in front of a World War Two era tank that we have in front of our little museum where I live.
Thanks for reading! My next project that I have been working on should be up in the next couple of weeks, although we are going somewhere pretty specific to take pictures, so stay tuned!
I recently made my way to Bhatia Cloth House with some projects in mind, and I am so excited with what I came out with!
Let me know how you like this type of video!
As I said in my last post, I wanted to talk about how they got dressed in the 1880's, which is the era that my last project was from. Many people ask me what is on under my costumes to give them their shape, so I thought it would be good to show you all of the layers as they are worn.
The first layer is called combinations. They are a top and bloomers sewn together, with a slit in the bloomers so you can use the washroom (with all of the layers worn at the time, this feature is pretty necessary). Mine are made of muslin and vintage buttons and lace. The garment was mostly hand drafted, and very loosely based on a Simplicity pattern to get an idea of the shape for the bloomers.
After the combinations, you would normally want to put on stockings (I just wore wool socks for warmth) and shoes, since it is a little difficult to put on shoes with a corset on, but I forgot to put on my shoes before the corset. The corset is next- mine is a silk taffeta in a green/mustard colour with vintage lace. The busk (the front closing) is from Farthingales, a Canadian company.
After the corset, there is more shaping- the bustle and the petticoat. Bustles came in many shapes and forms, and for this project I just made a bum pad out of two layers, to give it a 'perky' shape. The petticoat is made of muslin and ruffled lace, and is made to smooth the lines from the bustle. After making this dress, I will be making a boned bustle cage for some more projects in this era.
Finally we get to the outer dress! My dress is in three parts- bodice, skirt, and apron. The apron is the draped fabric that goes over top of the skirt. First I put on the skirt, then the apron, and the bodice last.
The finishing touches to the ensemble is the jacket (which was not made by me. I just did the heart embroidery on the shoulder), the hat, and the shoes since I forgot to put them on earlier. A proper woman in the 1880's would also wear gloves to leave the house, but since I was going a little steampunk with this dress, I thought it was okay to be glove-less.
I hope this was informative and answered any of your questions about layers in the era and how to get the pretty extreme silhouette! Keep your eyes out for more steampunk styled outfits coming up! And also for a real bustle cage!
I have finished editing the making of video for my bustle dress! I am thinking of doing more videos like this, so let me know if you like it!
I finished my bustle dress a few weeks ago, but we were not able to make it into Calgary for photos until today. It ended up being freezing! I was completely frozen by the time we got all of the photos, but I think they turned out really well! I know that I have posted a ton about this dress, but I am going to make two posts for the finishing of this- the one today will be of the actual finished outfit in Calgary (we took the photos in Kensington since it is one of the oldest places in Calgary- unfortunately Calgary isn't a very old city, so it was a bit difficult to find something that I thought fit with the dress). The second post that I will make will be about getting dressed in the 1880s, and what all of the layers look like together (including the finishing touches- a jacket and a hat).
My biggest inspiration for this dress was from Ripper Street, a BBC show that was set not long after the Jack the Ripper murders. It focuses on the police station in Whitechapel that investigated at the time. I love the costumes from the show, especially Long Susan's, so that is where I got this idea from. The show is a little bit steampunk, and the dresses are more historically inspired rather than historically accurate, which I love. I enjoyed the freedom of the outfit not having to be perfectly historical, and I already have ideas for more steampunk-styled 1880's circus/showgirl ensembles (so keep your eyes out for jewel tone fabrics and bustles!).
Because my inspiration was so dark, as was the dress itself when I finished it, I wanted a sort of grungy looking place to get photos. Calgary is a very lovely, clean place, which made it difficult to find something that looked anything like Whitechapel in the 1880s. We ended up just walking around Kensington to find the older brick buildings and any neat parts of the neighborhood. There are tons of gorgeous old houses in the area, but most of them look very high-class, which wasn't the goal for this outfit, so I guess I will have to make something more proper and go back for pictures!
Once we were properly frozen, we made our way to Higher Ground Cafe to warm up and for me to change into something a little more appropriate for the weather. We had a lovely morning in Kensington, stopping by the Naked Leaf (who has the best earl grey vanilla tea), Crave Cupcakes, and Paiges Bookstore where I picked up a cloth bound Sherlock Holmes story. It was a perfect day, even though it was so cold!
I will put up my next post soon where I will talk more about the history and how they got dressed in the 1880s (and also how long it took me to get ready in the morning).
I hope you enjoyed my post, and how the dress turned out!
If you want to see more of my making of posts for this dress, the links to all of them are in my portfolio, here
I had the most incredible opportunity recently to make a costume for a film made by an Albertan director. I worked with Mitchell George from Crooked Cinema to make one costume for their new film Highway Patrolman. I was so thrilled to be able to be a part of this, especially since my goal is to be a movie costumer! You can check out their website here.
I made a 1950's styled diner dress for the film, which was great to do since I love the 1950's and have had a bit of an obsession recently with the era. I used the same Burda pattern as I did for my 1950's Blue Dress with a few alterations to it. I made the dress in about 3 and a half days, while working on the side a bit. It was a bit of a tight schedule, but luckily enough this was an easy style to make, and I was able to find the right colour of fabric very quickly.
The collar, cuffs, and apron were self drafted, and the dress was based on the Burda pattern. The dress was done mostly on the machine to save time, and finished by hand (button holes, cuffs, and collar were all done by hand).
I got quite of few progress pictures of this dress, so this will be a very photo heavy post!
I am so thrilled with how this turned out, and with the fact that I got this opportunity! Be sure to keep an eye out on Crooked Cinema, and for when Highway Patrolman comes out!