I have been thinking about updating my website for a while now, and I eventually decided to move it. If you would like to check out my new website, you can see it here.
All of my future blog posts and updates will be through that website now.
Thank you so much for the support!
A few years ago I stumbled across three of the most incredible ensembles: a wool wedding suit from the mid 1910's, a 1920's/30's lace evening gown, and a 1940's wedding dress. Out here in Alberta, we don't find that much vintage clothing from these eras, and especially not for the price that I got them at!
Originally I was just going to bring home one, but they were all not being properly taken care of (such as the silk skirt of the wedding dress being Safety Pinned to the hanger...). It was nearly painful to see these stunning pieces of history stuck in a place that had no idea how to take care of them, so I took them home and started researching how to take care of delicate, old clothing.
The longer that I have them, the more glad I am that I picked them up. Even if I never was able to wear them or show them to another soul, they have been able to give me a world of information about how clothing was drafted and made in these eras.
This wool wedding suit no longer has a lining (whatever is left of it is shredded on the inside), but the rest of it is in fantastic condition! This suit has some of the most gorgeous details on it, and the classic silhouette of a World War One women's suit. I obviously am not doing it justice, since I don't have the proper undergarments on, but I couldn't help but get photos before I put together the proper underpinnings.
This next ensemble is my favourite out of the whole lot. The 1920's and 30's have always been one of my favourite eras clothing-wise, and it is extremely rare to find here. Alberta was devastated by the Great Depression, so any clothing from that era was mostly worn completely through.
This soft pink evening dress came in three pieces: a silk low-back slip to go underneath, the lace dress, and a matching lace bolero. The bolero is so beautiful with the dress, but it is so delicate that I decided not to put any stress on it.
This dress has a side closure of snaps, and a much fuller skirt than you can see here. It moves like a dream! I was thrilled when it fit me so perfectly for photos.
The last piece that I managed to grab - the 1940's wedding dress - is in the best condition out of them all. The lace has no tearing or holes in it at all, and the silk skirt is perfect. It also came with a wedding veil, which was in worse condition so I didn't take it out of the box.
Have you ever found any wondrous vintage finds that you just couldn't leave behind?
I realized quite a while ago that while I have posted multiple photos of this dress on my instagram and made a video for it, I never actually posted all of the photos that we got in Banff! Since I have time on my hands now, I thought that this was a perfect time to catch up.
This dress was made from a beautiful quilting cotton with hints of gold in it, and I used a Patterns by Gertie sewing pattern for it, with a few adjustments for fit.
The wave dress is one of my favourite dresses that I have made myself, and one of the ones that I wear the most. It is from the same pattern that I made my Su Li-zhen dress with, and I love how comfortable it is in cotton.
I loved the photo shoot a little bit less... not because of how it turned out (Banff is one of my favourite places to go, and I love the mountains in the background of these images), but because of how cold it was! This is obviously not the first time that I've worn a dress for warm weather during Canadian winters for pictures, but this one you can really tell thanks to the 'arms very close to my body at all times' pose that I used.
We go these photos at the same time as my Green Rococo era dress, just earlier in the day.
Funnily enough, that last time that I was in Banff was just before everything happened with the pandemic, so it has been very nice going through these old images!
The past week or so has been stressful and strange for everyone. My university classes have been moved online, which means that I have a great deal of time in my room that can be used for sewing! It has been a bit difficult getting used to the new format of living, but I am very lucky to have lots of hobbies that can be done inside.
About a month ago, I decided to start a new collection, so I have been hard at work on that. Thankfully, I have almost all of the fabric that I need!
Creating a collection needs a lot of time and work, starting with the designing. I want somewhere between 15 and 20 looks, which can be up to 40 pieces depending on how many pieces each look needs (piece=one piece of clothing, such as a shirt or skirt. Look=multiple pieces put together to create a whole outfit. Can be one piece, can be multiple). I am focusing more on dresses, for two reasons: one) because I love dresses, and two) because that cuts down on how many garments I will be drafting and sewing. I have firmly decided on 10 of my designs so far, and am currently searching for inspiration for the remaining ones.
I have had people ask me how I come up with designs, and honestly I don't have a great answer for that. The inspiration comes from absolutely everywhere - Pinterest, people on the streets, beautiful buildings, movies, music, quilts, books, and everything else that I come in contact with. Most of the process is daydreaming, with bits of frantic drawing and writing to ensure that I won't forget the idea.
Drawing isn't my strongest suit, and it isn't my favourite thing to do. Half of my designs are drawn out, and half of them are just written down with lots of description so that I know exactly what I was thinking about. Writing down design ideas is actually helpful when I don't have a pen and paper with me as well, since I am just able to write it down in my phone.
The next step is drafting. One of the best skills that I learnt last year at fashion school was pattern drafting! I have so much fun with it, and it is so satisfying to make something completely, utterly from scratch. I often alter the patterns that I use when they are pre-made, but I have so much more freedom just being able to make my own.
Pattern drafting includes lots of math and rulers, so it can be a bit tiring on the brain. I try to spread out my pattern drafting so that I don't get sick of it, so I often have a pattern on the go while I am cutting out a different garment and sewing another one. This also makes the process more fun for me, since I can choose what I feel like working on for the day depending on my mood.
However, not every part of the pattern can be drafted. I love being able to drape parts of patterns, since it gives me a lot more creative freedom (and lets me do a little less math). Draping is also fun to get videos of, since the garment changes so quickly when it is draped.
There are many other steps that are included in the process of making a collection (loads of planning for various things, organizing, fittings, adjustments, constant ironing, etc.), but one of the most important ones is the actual sewing! All of the sewing for this collection will be done on my lovely, antique White sewing machine. She is a hand-crank machine, so my right arm is getting very muscular... Obviously this makes the sewing take longer, but I feel like I have fantastic control on it to do some picky work, and the stitches are beautiful. It also makes the collection feel just a little more special to me:)
So here is a sneak peak at the new collection! I will be putting up more information about it as soon as I have more ready to go, and I am video-taping the entire process so you can see it all come together once I'm done!
The collection is made mostly of eco-friendly materials, and using couture methods.
What are you doing to keep your spirits up during self isolation? Any good movies I should watch?
Since we have just passed the craziness of the Oscars and I am currently taking a Film class, I thought that it would be fun to talk about costumes, and some of my favourite movies for costumes.
This is nowhere near close to a complete list of fantastic costume designers, since there are so many that I missed or did not include either because they didn't fit properly into a category or because they have had so much coverage already.
So lets talk movies!
10) Musicals - Monte Carlo
My first category is musicals. I have never been a huge fan of musicals, but some of them have pretty incredible costumes. West Side Story has some of the prettiest 1950's prom style dresses, My Fair Lady has the iconic black and white dress with the massive white hat (this is one of my favourite musicals, and the first one that I saw), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes has that fabulous, strapless pink gown for Marilyn Monroe, and the matching sparkly red dresses for Marilyn and Jane Russell. Grease is pretty hard to forget, although I never fully agreed with Sandy completely changing her style to be with Danny (whats wrong with a cute pink cardigan and an A-line skirt?). And I could never forget The Sound of Music's curtain play outfits or Liesl's pink dancing dress. Colleen Atwood designed some fabulous costumes for Sweeney Todd, all done in a very specific colour scheme.
Despite all of these amazing films, I chose Monte Carlo by Ernst Lubitsch for my favourite costumes in a Musical. The film, which was made in 1930, stars Jeanette MacDonald and Jack Buchanan. It's a fun little story about a bankrupt Countess who is looking for a rich husband, but falls in love with her hairdresser. Little does she know that her hairdresser is actually a Count. The costumes were all designed by Travis Banton, and they show the best of Hollywood fashion in the 1930s. Jeanette McDonald's costumes are fun and feminine, with layers of tulle and fur and every other luxurious trimming that could be used in the era. She also wears some lovely negligees and even a pair of lounge pants. In addition, this film is not very well known, which is why I chose it for this category.
9) Contemporary Films - Crazy Rich Asians
This category is less about actually designing the clothes and more about choosing them, but that doesn't make it any less important. I considered the cute, vintage styled outfits in The F Word (also known as What If), or To All the Boys I've Loved Before. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days has the stunning yellow evening dress that she wore near the end, and Cameron Diaz has some pretty fantastic outfits in The Holiday. We don't take Rom Coms very seriously, but they put as much effort into choosing the wardrobe as any other movie.
I had almost no choice but to say that Crazy Rich Asians has the best current wardrobe in a Rom Com. Mary E. Vogt did an incredible job finding gowns that walk the fine line between gorgeous and ridiculous, exactly as I imagined them to be in the book. Obviously Constance Wu's Marchesa dress that she wore to the wedding was incredible, but I especially loved Gemma Chan's elegant wardrobe throughout the film.
8) Classics - The Big Sleep
The obvious choice for best costumes in a Classic would be pretty much anything that Audrey Hepburn has starred in or something that has Edith Head as the costume designer. Audrey Hepburn was costumed almost entirely by Givenchy, and Edith Head was responsible for some of the most iconic looks in Old Hollywood, such as the gowns in White Christmas and Vertigo. Most of Marilyn Monroe's costumes are also unforgettable, and have left a lasting impression on fashion such as the white dress in Some Like it Hot.
To be honest, I am in love with nearly every costume in every Classic Hollywood film. The men's suits are always impeccable, the women's day outfits are elegant and strong, and their evening attire is always jaw-dropping.
The Big Sleep might be a bit of an unusual choice for this category, but it is not as well known as the other films that I've mentioned, and it has left just as lasting an impact. Released in 1946 with costumes designed by Leah Rhodes, this movie introduced the genre of film noir. Lauren Bacall is mysterious and cool throughout the movie in perfect suits and slinky evening dresses. The version of 1940's fashion that we see in our heads was practically invented by Leah Rhodes in this movie, and you can see how it has inspired thousands of high fashion collections ever since.
7) Sci Fi and Dystopian - Blade Runner
It was a bit difficult to find options for this because tons of dystopian movie costumes aren't supposed to be beautiful. The Hunger Games costumes were well thought out with 1930's, Great Depression era styled costumes for those living in the districts and couture, ridiculously over the top dresses for those living in the Capital. Divergent separates each Faction with clothing, and Ex Machina focuses on how important clothes are to Ava. Mortal Engines has a great steampunk look with a few references to The Matrix with leather jackets and thin sunglasses.
Blade Runner was an easy choice for this, with the 1940's film noir look. I like the costumes best in the 1982 Blade Runner, done by Charles Knode (the strong shoulders, dark eyes and lips, and hair styles are iconic), but the costumes worn by Ana de Armas in Blade Runner 2049 are fantastic as well.
6) Fantasy - The Fall
Fantasy is such a fun genre for costume design because absolutely everything can be used. No fabric is too crazy, no country or era of inspiration is too unrealistic, no headpiece is too big. Lord of the Rings is one of the best known fantasy films, and it obviously has some lovely pieces. However, some of my favourites are Mirror Mirror with it's bright colours and huge gowns, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (not loved by all, but I will always remember the brilliant red dress in the first film and the military inspired pant outfit in the second), and the steampunk designs of Hugo. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has a fun, fabulous spin on the 1920's, and Big Fish gives a dreamlike quality to the film with the circus inspired looks.
If you have followed my blog for a while, you will probably know that The Fall, directed by Tarsem Singh, is one of my all time favourite movies. Every single thing about this movie is stunning and thought provoking. It helps that the costumes were designed by the amazing, wonderful, distinctive Eiko Ishioka. Her colour choices are bold and bright in this movie, which fits in perfectly with the locations. She is known for her sculptural designs, and we get a good helping of those throughout the film with her delicate hats and head pieces. If you are ever in the mood for a beautiful, wistful, bittersweet film, this is the one for you.
5) Foreign Films - In the Mood for Love
Some of the best costumes come from foreign films. I will never forget the time that I first saw Amelie with her iconic hair and retro dresses, or Hero with it's monochromatic look. The Curse of the Golden Flower is one of the best examples of historical Chinese dress, and Belle de Jour has stunning 1960's fashion. Breathless gives us the most iconic of French fashion, and it did not have a costume designer - the outfits worn by Jean Seberg were all her own clothes that she brought for filming. Generation War (Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter) has some gorgeous 1940's fashion worn by Katharina Schüttler.
Once again, if you have read by blog for a length of time, you will have heard about In the Mood for Love, directed by Wong Kar-wai. So far I have made two dresses inspired by the ones that Maggie Cheung wears in the film, and I have brought the movie up on other occasions just to gush about how stunning it is. I'm even writing an essay about it for my film class. William Chang designed the cheongsam's that Maggie Cheung wears, all of them in stunning fabrics that both blend in and stand out in every scene. The saturated colours that she wears are right at home in the world that she lives in, probably because William Chang was also in charge of the set design.
4) Films set in the 20th Century - An Education
Anything set in the 20th century is right up my alley, and gives me most of the inspiration for the dresses that I make. It is impossible to forget the Green Dress from Atonement (designed by Jacqueline Durran, who also designed the dresses in Little Women, Anna Karenina, 2005 Pride and Prejudice, and Beauty and the Beast), or any of the quirky looks from Wes Anderson's movies. Some of my personal favourites are Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (the best of 1930's fashion), The Bookshop, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Great Gatsby.
Designers taking on 20th century can have a ton of fun because so much changed so quickly. Every 10 years there were new, majorly different trends that had popped up, and the later you get in the century the more options people had for style.
Women had much more freedom when it came to style in the 1960's, and one of my favourite examples of the era is An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig and costumes designed by Odile Dicks-Mireaux. The movie starts with innocent, schoolgirl fashion with plated plaid skirts and sweater sets, then moves on to expensive, high end fashion from the 1960's. Both Rosamund Pike and Carey Mulligan's costumes are to die for, with outfits that are a mix of elegant and extravagant.
3) Period Films - Bright Star
As can be expected, I absolutely love period films. I grew up on Jane Austen, and good period dramas are what have been getting me through midterms. This is no small genre- there are so many costume designers that specialize in period dramas. The Duchess and A Royal Affair are both excellent examples of 18th century fashion, and Marie Antoinette has a fun view of the same era. Gone with the Wind is still a popular period drama, and the curtain costume has been remade time and time again. Tulip Fever is a beautiful look at a unique era- the 1600's, which isn't shown nearly often enough. I also enjoyed the costumes in the newest version of Little Women, which ended up winning the Oscar for costume design this year!
My absolute favourite example of historical costumes is from Bright Star, directed by Jane Campion and costume design by Janet Patterson. The early 1800's are often stylized because it is an unusual look for the modern eye. I think that Janet Patterson took the most interesting, most unique and bizarre styles of the era and made them gorgeous even to the modern eye. Abbie Cornish got the best looks with her huge bonnets, pelisses (the long coat like she is wearing in the top photo) and spencers (a short jacket), and interesting evening gowns. It also helps that the character Abbie Cornish plays sews her own gowns.
2) Period a Bit to the Left - Anna Karenina
I didn't want to count these movies under Period Films because although they are all set in a historical era, the costume designers didn't intend for the costumes to be accurate to the time. A fantastic example of this is Moulin Rouge, with the 1800's/1900's flavoured ensembles with a twist. I also love Crimson Peak, with the natural form era gowns with morbid little details. The Sherlock Holmes movies by Guy Ritchie are a steampunk version of the bustle era.
My absolute favourite movie like this is Anna Karenina, directed by Joe Wright and costumes by Jacqueline Durran. Durran flawlessly mixed 1850's fashion with 1950's couture. I love the styles of both of these era's, and the end result is a theatrical, almost magical look. These costumes also work perfectly with how choreographed the movie is.
1) Films About Design - Phantom Thread
I couldn't help but include this as one last category. Films that focus on fashion or designers always have some of the best costumes in them, and I love seeing the things that I do on a daily basis up on the big screen. Some of the best movies about fashion are Coco Before Chanel, Oceans 8 (I loved the Zac Posen gown that Rihanna's character wore to the Met Gala), and The Devil Wears Prada.
My favourite movie that I have ever seen about a designer just has to be Phantom Thread, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and costumes by Mark Bridges. Not only does this movie do a great job at showing what designing, pattern drafting, and sewing actually looks like, it also has some pretty fabulous 1950's gowns.
What would you chose for each category? Do you have any recommendations?
This dress ended up being a much larger project than it ever was supposed to be. I started designing it a year ago, when I made my red bustle dress. The plan was to make 3 different bustle dresses, each with some modern details. The red one was inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and ended up looking quite Russian (thanks to the blizzard that we did the photo shoot in). This second one was inspired by Long Susan in the BBC series, Ripper Street. I am perfectly aware that the costumes in Ripper Street aren't historically accurate, but I have loved the jewel tones and black lace in them right from the beginning.
In my 2018 year in review post, I mentioned that I had started a second bustle dress and it was a goal of mine to finish it this year. Well, I did finally finish it! The poor outfit sat on my To Do list for an entire year, and I had to drag it to university with me, but I finally got the motivation to put together the bodice and hem the skirt this month.
This dress had a completely different plan for it before I started draping it last year. When I first came up with the collection, this was going to be called the Bug Dress, and it was going to have flowers and bugs on the bustle, which is why I chose the teal and emerald fabrics. I didn't want it to be too obvious, just small details that you would notice if you looked closely. However, once I actually got the fabric and had draped the skirt, I played around with placement and found that I liked the dress plain more. That is when it started to be the Long Susan dress. She often wears jewel tones, and her wardrobe was a huge inspiration for this collection (if you check out my pinterest board for this collection, there are quite a few pictures of her). Long Susan is a proprietress of brothel, which made me think of the most common dark side of the Victorian era- prostitution. This wasn't just a Victorian thing, its been a part of life since the dawn of civilization. What the biggest issue with prostitution (specifically in that era) is the treatment of the people in the field, and also the danger of it.
There were the obvious dangers (syphilis and other diseases), but there was also the issue of harassment. Harassment came from the police, men who visited them, people who did not agree with their trade (wives of devoted customers, or people who had different morals). When it comes to the 1880s, there is also Jack the Ripper. Everyone has heard many stories (maybe from Buzzfeed Unsolved, or from books, etc), but when it comes to what actually happened it is difficult to get details that have not been sensationalized. There is also the issue of a very corrupt police force. The police force didn't start until 1829 when Englands Prime Minister Robert Peel with the Metropolitan Police Act. This was the start of the nicknace 'Bobbies', or 'Peelers'. The latter did not stick for as long as the first. There were other police forces before this, but they were the same as the police now- Glasgow had a tax funded force started in 1800. They had many duties which included fire fighting as well as being police officers. Ireland also had a force that started in 1822, which became the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1867.
When the Metropolitan police were set up in London, there were 17 divisions controlled by 4 inspectors and 144 constables. The headquarters was Scotland Yard. Most counties however kept their Parish Constable, since the police were widely distrusted for a long time. It wasn't until 1839 that the Rural Constabulary Act came in and forced the English counties to have a paid police force. Though the force was organized, there was still not one style of policing that was used throughout the country. In 1855 there were only 12 000 policemen in all of England and Wales. The force was not government regulated until 1856. The CID (Criminal Investigation Department) was created later, and police detectives were brought in in 1878. Detectives relationship with journalists is what eventually got the masses to accept them as necessary and not spies, as they were originally thought to be. The Jack the Ripper case caused huge problems with the police force, since it turned people against the police.
Those who have seen Ripper Street will know Edmund Reid. Inspector Edmund Reid of H Division was a real person, who was in charge of H Division's CID. He rose quickly in the ranks of the police force, and ended up being moved to H Division to replace Frederick Abberline in 1887. Abberline had been moved to Scotland Yard, but later returned to take charge of the murder investigation for the Ripper. Before Abberline came back, Reid lead the inquiries of the first two known victims- Emma Elizabeth Smith and Martha Tabram. He was present for four more of the investigations that were thought to have been done my the Ripper and also for the Pinchin Street Torso case. While Abberline is often known as the lead for the investigation, it turns out that Reid was just as involved. No matter who investigated the cases, no person was found to be the Ripper. This is a case that attracts many conspiracy theorists, but when it comes to getting actual facts, it can be difficult. What is known is that there are five murders attributed to one person. Each of the victims were prostitutes, and each were horribly mutilated except for one (Elizabeth Stride). There are other cases that are thought to have been done by the same person as well, but it is not confirmed. Martha Tabram is often thought to have been the first one, but Annie Chapman is the official first victim. While there is much speculation about the psychology behind the crimes, there is nothing substantial to most ideas, since there is so little information behind it. This is the most famous case of prostitutes being victims of crimes, but it is far from being the only one. What makes these crimes so terrible (apart from the obvious) is how people have used and sensationalized them to turn them into a marketing ploy. Whitechapel (which once was the worst part of the city) is a shrine to the murders, with Jack the Ripper tours and memorabilia. It is forgotten, or sometimes ignored to make such topics easier, that the victims were people, and that they had gone through horrible things. Prostitutes at the time did not just have to worry about a serial killer (which they did), but also about brutality against them quite often. Women who had a 'mistress', someone who owned a brothel, were actually luckier than those who just sold themselves on the streets. They had a home and a room to sleep in, as well as food. They also had people who would look out for them, since many brothels had some form of guards to keep an eye on rowdy customers.
Another side of this dark part of history that is swept under the rug is how many very young people were either sold or taken in by such houses. Male or female (we do like to forget that there were male prostitutes then, but they had to deal with just as much disease and brutality that the women did), having a young person as a part of the household was very common.
This also brings up another form of prostitution, however not a consenting version of it. Kidnapping people, normally girls, to sell or bring to other places (sex trafficking, something that still happens), reached a fever pitch in the 1880s. In 1885 and 1912 the beginnings of modern anti-trafficking regulations were created. The regulation from 1885 was created in response to a rally in Hyde Park in the August of that year that demanded the outlaw of white slavery (the term 'traffic' only replaced 'white salvery' in 1921), and for the age of consent of girls be raised. The act made it an offence to kidnap “any girl or woman under twenty-one years of age, not being a common prostitute, or of known immoral character, to have unlawful carnal connexion” (Criminal Law Ammendment Act of 1885). By adding in that they must not be a prostitute or have immoral character, it excluded any woman who might be seen as promiscuous. This put up a divide between a victim and a prostitute, though both would be victims if they were taken by a trafficker. This is not the only law that set aside the rights of people, especially women, who were in the business or seen as not respectable. These laws also made immigrants seem like the 'bad guys', furthering the racism that Whitechapel (and all of the UK, US, Canada, etc) already struggled with.
If you want to read or see more about some of the things I have talked about here, I do have many recommendations of both fiction and non-fiction. The book-turned-tv show The Alienist offers up a fascinating and not well known view of male prostitutes in New York, based on a serial killer (that sounds very much like Jack the Ripper) as well as the beginnings of females in the police force. I would recommend the book, but not the show. Obviously I recommend Ripper Street (I know, I talk about it way too much, but the costumes did inspire much of this collection!). The Murdoch Mystery books by Maureen Jennings are also a well done look at the depravity and dark side the the late 1800's. These ones are set in Toronto, and much darker and more based on history than the TV show that we Canadians know and love (though the show is great too, I've been watching it since middle school and I still love it). Out of the Easy by Rita Sepetys is a beautifully done book set in the 1950s in New Orleans with an interesting perspective on prostitution (the main characters mother is a prostitute). If you are more interested in the history of the police force, the BBC has a really great documentary that is available on youtube here that talks about the history of Scotland Yard. There is also The History of the British Police Force documentary available on youtube which I have seen part of and seems very interesting. When it comes to Jack the Ripper specifically, there are tons of books and such about it, although most will not give you very much honest information. I have found this page and this page which have some interesting facts that I do trust, but I would recommend being careful and discerning when researching the cases on the internet since there is a lot of false information. Let me know if you have any documentaries, TV shows, books, or movies that you think I would be interested in!
Anyway, thank you for sticking around through the accidental essay that I have written about Whitechapel in the Victorian era!
Created in the 1850's, photography changed the way people viewed the world. The original method of capturing a photograph involved a great deal of chemicals and patience, and I was lucky enough to see that process this weekend when I got a tintype done by Riley J.B. - a photographer and alchemist who practices the art of the wet plate collodion process (you can read more about his process here).
I was absolutely thrilled when I found out that I won a tintype, and it was such a fantastic experience.
His studio in Calgary is held in nvrlnd, which is a art collective that is in an abandoned hotel in Ramsay. The space is stunning, and we were also able to pop in at other studios in the building to see what some of the other artists are working on.
We were able to watch the entire process of preparing the plate and developing it after, and I am now a proud owner of my very own tintype.
To learn more about the process and see his other photos, check out Riley's website here.
Next week I will post more about the dress that I wore!
Over the past few days I have been spending all of my time working on a new pair of 18th century stays to go underneath the Robe a la Francaise.
I used the American Duchess stays pattern as a tentative base, then altered it with the help of extant garments, other historical costumers advice, and a little imagination. Since this project is going to be entirely hand sewn and will take quite a while to complete, I thought that I would make a bit of a step-by-step of how I created them. Please don't take this as a guide to sew your own though, since I'm not focusing on historical accuracy. I just want a mostly accurate shape and a pretty garment at the end of this.
After drafting the pattern on paper and adjusting it a million times to get a better fit (okay, it wasn't a million, but it sure felt like it), I cut out each section for three layers: two inside layers (where the boning will be sandwiched between) and the top silk layer. I then copied my boning pattern onto the inside layer so that I can follow that with my stitching. The boning pattern took me nearly as long as actually drafting the shape of the stays, just because I wanted to make sure that it was both comfortable and efficient. I also wanted to follow a historical example, since seamstresses through history always knew best. It can be pretty difficult to find clear photos of extant stays, but I used this one from the V&A as inspiration, since it doesn't have a front and back lacing. I cut out my front panel as just one piece, so it won't have the option of front lacing.
After all of the boning channels are drawn onto one of the inside layers, I pad stitched the layers together. Pad stitching is a type of tailors stitch that bastes two layers together (this is how you attach a non-fusible interfacing). I did this quickly and a bit sloppily, since I just need it to make sure that the layers don't slip while I'm stitching the channels. The sections especially needed it because of how slippery the silk is. I then ironed everything before I started any of the real stitching.
Now it is finally time to start on the boning channels! This could be a very tedious process since it is just a running stitch down all of the lines you drew for your boning channels, but I actually really enjoy the process. So far I've watched Crimson Peak, some Ripper Street, and Marie Antoinette while working on my sewing!
Before I sign off, I thought that I would talk through a bit of my thought process behind the decisions I've made so far in the process. To begin with, I am including the top layer while sewing the boning channels because I want to see the stitching from the front. I have seen some more decorative stays where the top layer was sewn separately and then attached after the bones were put in, but I love the texture of the stitches and want to be able to see that once the stays are done.
Another thing that I would like to mention is my choice of silk that makes up the top layer. I am very aware that it isn't historically accurate (though it does have a vintage flair to it). I decided on this one for a few reasons: one is that I only had a meter of it, so it was the perfect amount for a project like this. Second, I want the final piece to have a bit of a modern Marie Antoinette style, and I thought that this would be a great way to achieve that. Thirdly, I just really like the colour and how it looks!
Figuring out a way to sew at school while still having time to do other things that don't involve sitting around has been difficult, but I have found that my passion and desire to make things has been revived! This is fantastic... other than the fact that I still need to do my school work.
I have, however, found a way to get both done. Basically, it means that my future projects will include a great deal of hand sewing.
Hand sewing has always been something that I enjoyed doing. When I first learnt to sew, it was not on a machine, and I've always found it a bit meditative. There is also the added benefit that I can watch something while doing it, which makes the task go much faster. The greatest draw back is pretty much only how time consuming it is, which is why I haven't had any new projects to post about lately. But do not fear! I have been hard at work both sewing and coming up with new ideas (as I mentioned in my last post), and I am hoping to have new photos coming up somewhat soon. While we wait, I thought that I would share my fabric haul for the projects that I spoke about in my last post.
To start off with: the fabrics for my Robe a la Francaise.
I have been wanting to make one of these since I first started sewing, and my love for these ridiculous, poofy dresses has not abated in all this time. Although having a fabric with a pattern makes this already difficult to construct gown even worse to drape, I couldn't help myself but pick up this lovely coral, cream, and green striped silk. I thought that these colours looked perfect for the era, and the coral is different from what I usually pick. Plus, I have seen so many stunning striped Robe a la Francaise's that I thought if I could be patient enough, it could turn out to be really beautiful. The green silk is for the petticoat that will go underneath the gown, which will be seen in the split at the front. If I have enough, I would also like to make some ruffles from the plain green to go on the gown and the stomacher.
I am so excited to make this ensemble, but before I even start on it I will have to make myself a new pair of stays (the precursor to the corset which gives the wearer a sort of conical shape). My last ones, which I made for my school project a few years ago do not fit properly, and I would like to make a prettier pair this time. I also feel like I have learnt enough in the past few years about both fitting and construction methods that I could really improve the shape.
It took me quite a long time to decide on the colour for the Crimson Peak inspired gown, but I finally settled on this chocolate brown silk. I knew that I wanted a rich jewel tone, but I also didn't want to copy exactly one of the dresses from the movie. This isn't a cosplay, it's just inspired by the lovely natural form era styles and slightly morbid undertones. I also found a black lace to go with it, though I haven't decided where that lace will go yet since I haven't fully figured out the design. I would like something that comes across like an evening gown, but I also want long sleeves (like Lucille wears in the movie). During that era, evening gowns would not have long sleeves, so I either have to play with history or change the main idea.
I am also very excited for this project because I finally get to use a book that I have been drooling over for months now. I will be using patterns (with some alterations, like I always do) from the book Fashions of the Guilded Age: Volume One by Frances Grimble. This book is filled with patterns from the late 1870s and excerpts from fashion magazines of the era.
Since I can't seem to make it easy for myself, I will need new undergarments for this dress as well. Along with a petticoat (with a train, to keep the train of the dress clean), I will need to make another corset. I haven't really touched this era yet, so I can't wait to play around with it.
Hopefully my progress isn't too slow over the next few months, and that you are as excited for these projects as I am!
Since starting at a new university in September, I have been very busy and slightly neglecting my sewing. However, it has still been in my thoughts, and I haven't abandoned it completely!
The last 10 days of September were a whirlwind of excitement since I had my small collections from the Future Oceans fashion show in a pop up boutique. It was so fun to see my garments being displayed in a storefront, and the area that we were given to show our clothes was absolutely stunning. I am still so grateful that I was able to be a part of that, even just to see what it looks like to have my eco couture for sale in a mall (it was a pinch me moment).
I also did sell a few pieces through the 10 days, so the past few weeks I have been altering my patterns to fit the customers measurements, printing custom fabrics, and sewing the dresses.
Luckily, my university has a maker space with an industrial sewing machine, so that part was easier than I thought that it would be.
Since making the orders for my Future Oceans dresses, I have been hit with inspiration. This is also thanks to my classes, since I am writing a research paper about the Chemise a la Reine (which I'm sure I will make a version some day, since I've been fascinated with them for ages). Doing the research on clothing in the late 18th century has been giving me so many ideas. I thought that I would talk about some of those tentative ideas here.
Up first: a Robe a la Francais, also known as a Sacque Back Gown.
I have been in love with these gowns since middle school, when I saw a photo of one on pinterest. These gowns have such a unique construction method, and if they done properly they are absolutely stunning (at least in my opinion).
It would be so much fun to chose the decoration for this type of dress as well, which makes my decision to make one even easier. I am planning on draping it myself using the instructions from the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.
Another gown that I have been desperate to make for a few years now is something inspired by Crimson Peak. I loved Lucille Sharpe's costumes throughout the movie (the red and navy dresses in the above photos) since I love the natural form era (late 1800s). I am also a sucker for beautiful yet morbid things, so these costumes are right up my alley. I don't want to copy any of the dresses from the movie, but I would like to make something inspired by them.
Other than that, I have other ideas swirling around in my head but I'm not sure how much time I will have for sewing, and since both of these ideas are pretty big (I would need to also make specialized undergarments to go under them, so that will add quite a bit of work) I think that they will take a pretty long time.
Thanks for reading!
If you have ever looked at my About page, this photo is from when I was 10 years old. I was wearing my 'Prairie Dress' (made for me by my grandma and inspired by Little House on the Prairie. I lived in this dress for years) and sewing in the garden. If you look at the bottom, I was making one of my little dolls.
This is one of the questions that I get the most when people find out that I am a seamstress. This and 'when did you start sewing?', both of which I will talk about in this post.
A few days ago my mom found my old blog. This discovery has delighted me to no end. It's a great deal of fun to see how I started, as well as how I wrote when I was in middle school and running a little blog. Yes, I started writing a blog when I was in middle school. My original blog was called 'Kate and Kompany', and it was about the little art dolls that I started sewing when I was seven. Along with that, I post bits about making little clay dolls (of which I still have a few) and playing around with scrapbooking.
Each of my art dolls were made with scraps of mostly quilting cottons that I was given by my grandma's and anyone else who sewed that we knew. They also had names and little stories to go along with them. I think that was the part that I enjoyed the most - I have always enjoyed finding interesting names and writing little stories.
All of the dolls are inspired by history (not much has changed, hey?), and some of them are mermaids and faeries.
I started writing the blog in 2011, when I was 11 years old. It doesn't have tons of posts, but I did keep it up for 3 years!
The pattern for the actual doll bodies was from a wreath, interestingly enough. It was a fall wreath pattern, if I remember correctly, that had a little witch or something attached to it (kind of like this pattern).
My mom would make the body and legs for my on the sewing machine, since I wasn't comfortable on the machine yet, and I would do everything else. I enjoyed it immensely, and this is how I spent a lot of my spare time. I also sold some of these dolls to people around Airdrie (as you can see, Airdrie is a very supportive city).
It's always fun to look through the things that I've sewn to see how much I've learnt, even just over a few months. Seeing this, with the very beginning of my sewing was so fun for me. If you would like to check out my middle school blog, it's still up here. Enjoy the ramblings of a 12 year old me!
We made it! This is my last details post of my eco couture collection that I designed, drafted, and sewed for the Future Oceans Fashion Show that was held in Victoria, BC on Canada Day (anyone sick of hearing about this event yet?).
If you want to read and see more about the event and the other garments that I created for it, you can check it out here.
For the sake of not repeating myself a million times and making each post longer than necessary, I'm going to assume that you know about Future Oceans and go straight into talking about the last two garments in my little collection.
The first dress I'm going to talk about today is the first dress that I actually created for the show. I designed all of the dresses in the winter, but I didn't start patterning or sewing any of them until May.
I'm not sure if I was procrastinating or if my reasoning is solid, but I chose to avoid creating any patterns until I got the fabric in. I bought my fabric from a sustainable material brand that is run out of Canada, but it still took a bit for the fabric to arrive. It was insanely exciting when it did come in, and I was hit with lots of inspiration to pattern draft after I saw it.
The 1960's dress was an easy pattern to make, which is why I started with it. I wanted to ease myself in a bit, and this was a great way to do it. It was also pretty simple to sew, since it's such a simple silhouette.
This dress is made out of organic cotton sateen (for the yoke. This is the same sateen I made the 1940's dress out of) with a sustainable linen. This linen is so floaty and wonderful to prance around in. The entire dress is lined, and it features pockets hidden in the side seams. The linen is hand stamped, like almost all of the other garments in my collection.
I was inspired by trapeze dresses from the 1960's. It was an added bonus that this shape of dress is very easy to fit to different shapes and sizes, so it was very easy to find models to fit it for the show and the photoshoot the next day.
I used to hate 1970's fashion. I can now admit that I absolutely love it now. Blame Wes Anderson.
Opposite of the 1960's dress, this is actually the last dress that I made for the show, and it was designed about 5 minutes before I made the pattern for it. The original collection was supposed to start at the 1930's and go to the 1960's, so this dress and the 1920's one were last minute additions when I realized that I had extra time and material on my hands.
This dress was quick, dirty, and fun to make. The drafting of the pattern was relatively easy and so was putting it together. Printing the pattern on it was tons of fun as well since I got my mom to make me a special stamp for it (my mom is the one who creates all of the stamps that I use to print my fabrics). The pattern is paisley and turtles in a coral on blue cotton gauze. I loved working with the fabric when I used it for the 1950's dress, and it takes fabric ink really nicely.
When I thought about making a dress inspired by the 1970's I was torn between making a maxi or a mini dress. The choice was made purely out of convenience in the end - I wanted it to have puffy sleeves, and if I wanted enough fabric to make that it had to be a mini.
I had so much fun making this dress, and I'm thrilled with how it turned out.
Both of these dresses are currently for sale at the Future Oceans Boutique at the Victoria Bay Center and online at the Future Oceans website! You can order either one of these dresses or a skirt (check them out here) and get it made to your measurements!
Thank you for your support!
Last week I focused on two pieces that are a part of my eco couture collection for Future Oceans. If you want to read more about Future Oceans (the fashion show, the garments I made for it, or some of the process while I was preparing for it) you can see more here.
This week I wanted to look at some of the detail and design process for the dresses that I made that were inspired by some of the best decades in fashion - the 40's and 50's.
I have always loved the fashion of the 40's, and I've already made quite a few pieces inspired by the era. The thought process behind this dress included much more than just what design elements I liked from the era though, since I had to take into account what type of fabrics were available for me to use, how much time I had to make it, and what kind of shape would be the most convenient to make when I wasn't sure who was going to be wearing it.
One of the most difficult aspects of designing and making garments for fashion shows is not knowing who exactly is going to be wearing them. Quite a few of the pieces that I chose to make for fashion shows have been designed to be more suitable for many different shapes, and sometimes sizes. This dress was one of the later pieces that I added, meaning that it got tacked on after I finished most of the other ones. I had some time and the material to make something else. Originally, I wasn't sure if we would have time to show it in the actual fashion show, so it was a backup that I might have worn behind stage. We did end up having the time for it, and I'm so glad because I was thrilled with how it turned out.
This dress is made using an organic cotton sateen with a tiny bit of stretch to it. Having that stretch made it much easier to fit to multiple different models for the show and the photoshoot the next day. I chose not to have sleeves in the design, since sleeves can restrict who can wear it and make the sewing process much longer.
I adore the apron style dresses of the 40's, so I based my idea off of those. I simplified the idea a bit, and I love how it looks. The cotton sateen has a gorgeous sheen to it, and I'm glad that I didn't add any of the ruffles that are often on 1940's apron dresses.
It's finished with buttons on the crossover back and top stitching.
The fourth dress was the first one that I designed way back in January. This is a 1950's inspired summer dress with a front button closure and a tiered skirt.
I made a dress that had a bit of a similar style for my Summer 2018 collection that I got photos of in Drumheller (see photos here), and I thought that it was so flattering that I wanted to use that silhouette again. This dress is sleeveless for ease of fitting, has darts and gathering to shape the bodice, and has a fully lined bodice. The hem is hand printed in coral to tie it in to the colour scheme that the rest of the collection has.
The silhouette of the 1950's is absolutely iconic, and so flattering to pretty much every single shape and size. I wanted that, but I also wanted my design to be a little bit different from the classic shape that most think of when they think of the 50's. I also wanted this to be the sort of summer dress that was comfortable and easy to wear.
I used an organic cotton gauze for the dress, and the fabric was an absolute dream to work with. It ironed great and is soft on the skin. The dress is finished with hand made clay buttons.
I was so spoiled in Victoria for the fashion show and all of my pieces were photographed by professional photographers the day after the show. If you want to see some of those, check out my instagram here. I will also be posting some of them here once I compile enough of them.
Next week will be my last details post of the 1960's and 1970's dresses from my eco couture line. Stay tuned!
As I promised last week, here is the first detailed post about my eco couture collection for the Future Oceans fashion show that took place in Victoria, BC on July 1st. If you haven't heard about this before, or would like to learn more about the Future Oceans Fashion Show, you can see my other posts about it here.
The first garment that I designed for the collection is inspired by the 1920's (which is one of my favourite decades of style). This dress is a drop waisted gown with a deep V back, knee-length handkerchief skirt, and bloused top. The side panels in the skirt are hand printed by me on a TENCEL twill, which is a sustainable material that I got locally, through a Canadian company. The waistband is an organic cotton sateen.
This entire dress is lined and is finished with top stitching.
I've always enjoyed the aesthetic of the 1920's, but the shape can be difficult to get and make it look nice. The drop waist style can be really unflattering on a lot of shapes, depending on how it's being accomplished. I spent a lot of time on pinterest looking through extant garments from the era, as well as some modern interpretations of them (from movies and tv shows like Peaky Blinders and The Great Gatsby). None of the garments in this collection are meant to be exact replica's of dresses from each era, but more to harken to each decade.
Some of my favourite dresses from the 20's have low backs, so I wanted to make sure to include that in my design. I also love the extra panels that flare out when the wearer is walking. The TENCEL twill has a beautiful drape to it, so I used it for both the 1920's and the 1930's inspired gowns.
The second dress is inspired by the 1930's. This dress has a boat neckline with a deep V back, wide waistband, pleated over skirt, and thin belt. It's entirely made out of the TENCEL twill, so the whole thing is soft and has a wonderful drape to it. All of the peach sections are hand printed by me.
Drafting the pattern for this dress was a fun challenge, as was figuring out how to put it together while also making sure that all of the edges were nicely finished. It took me the better part of an afternoon to draft the entire pattern, and I'm pleased with how it turned out in the end. The bodice is fully lined.
The shaping in the bodice is created from two pleats at the waist on the front, and the back pieces are gathered and meet at the waistband to create a deep V. The under skirt is just a regular straight skirt, similar to what a skirt sloper would look like. I ended up just draping the over skirt instead of patterning it so that I could get as much fullness as I wanted. The hem is shaped to be longer at the back.
I loved designing these garments, as well as all of the other ones in the collection. Next week I will focus on the dresses styled like the 1940's and 50's!
Last month I was lucky enough to be a part of the Future Oceans Fashion show, which was held at the Victoria International Marina in British Columbia on Canada Day. I had an amazing trip (which you can read more about here) and enjoyed working with Future Oceans so much.
Future Oceans is a company that focuses and Eco Friendly fashion, which is something that I am very passionate about. The fashion industry is a huge polluter, and knowing that made me lose some of my passion for my sewing. This opportunity came at the perfect time, and I loved the challenge of trying to make beautiful garments that are as eco friendly as possible.
I have some very exciting news about the next step with Future Oceans: I will be having 'Fashion on Demand' garments at the Future Oceans Boutique in the Victoria Bay Center through September! The Fashion On Demand will be four pieces that I will be making to measure for anyone who orders one.
Each garment was inspired by a different era and hand stamped by me. This first one was inspired by the 1920's, with a low waist and deep V back.
Garment number two was inspired by the 1930's. This also has a deep V back, as well as a gathered over skirt.
This was the only one that I didn't stamp, and was a bit of a last minute addition to the collection. This is inspired by a 1940's apron dress with a crossover back.
Inspired by the 1950's, this dress has a front button closure and a tiered, mid calf length skirt.
This is the first dress that I made for the show, and it's also the most comfortable one! I looked to the 1960's to design it, and it's finished with side seam pockets and is fully lined.
And the final garment in my Eco Couture line is this 1970's styled mini dress, complete with puffed sleeves.
This is just a sneak peak of each of the garments I made for the show, so keep tuned for more photos and information!