I am very excited to be working with MakeFashion for a second time, and this time I am a Team Lead!
I thought that I would explain my dress a little before the show, and let everyone know where they can see it, if you would like to.
I decided to design my technology around something close to home- mental illness. The dress is based on the idea to help people struggling with things such as depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. A switch at the waistband of the dress allows the wearer to change the colours of the lights in the skirt. Each colour of light means something different- the green means that the person wearing the dress is comfortable in the situation, yellow means that they are getting anxious/uncomfortable, and red means that they are not in a good place. We came up with this format since it could benefit many people- I have a hard time with touch and being overwhelmed (with noise, etc), and having a red light would be nice to let the people I love know that I would like some space, and that it is not their fault. Having something the let the people around you know what kind of head space that you are in helps avoid miscommunication.
MakeFashion is paired with Beakerhead this year, so the fashion shows will be at the Beakerhead event on September 22. To get behind the scenes access to the show (get to see the models and designers getting ready for the shows), reserved seating, a gift bag from team Luminary, access to the VIP lounge, and a ride in the Beakernight Hot Air balloon you can get the Luminary Experience here!
If you would just like to check out a show, tickets to Beakernight are $8, and you can get them here. The show is at Fort Calgary, and my dress will be at the first show at 8pm!
I loved working with MakeFashion last year, and I have met so many brilliant people through this opportunity. I can't wait to show everyone the finished product!
I absolutely love the movie The Man From U.N.C.L.E. from 2015, and I especially love the costumes. The character Gaby, played by Alicia Vikander, has the best trendy 1960s outfits throughout the movie, along with fantastic hair and makeup. After seeing the movie a few times (like I said, I very much so enjoy this movie...), I decided that I needed to make myself a dress like hers. I ended up finding a fantastic vintage pattern by Simplicity, and decided to do a classic coloour block for this dress. I chose green and white because of this dress that she wore in the movie.
I also wanted to make this dress because of my growing interest in the Cold War. After going to Germany last year and seeing the Mauermuseum (at Checkpoint Charlie), I learnt so much more about the era after WW2, and it made me even more interested in not only the politics of the time, but also the fashion. I also recently found tons of olds family photos of my grandma in the 60's and 70's, and she wore so many beautiful dresses! My grandmother was very trendy, so she was always wearing the newest style! She has tons of photos in Go Go boots and mini skirts.
The Cold War is a very interesting (and scary) time, and I was especially interested in learning about the Berlin Wall. The Mauermuseum also has a fascinating history since it was actually set up very soon after the Wall was built. Founded by Dr Rainer Hildebrandt, he thought that it was important to talk about the non-violent fight for human rights. He chose to talk about that directly beside an affront to human rights. The museum grew as the Wall stayed up, and has been updated to include what happened after the Wall fell, as well as more recent genocides and affronts to human rights.
The museum has many artifacts such as cars, a hot air balloon, and a mini submarine, that show how hard people worked to get rid of the wall, and to get around (or through) it. Many people helped East Germans escape to the other side, and there are so many brilliant stories.
The building of the wall started on August 13th of 1961 by the GDR (German Democratic Republic, which is East Germany). The people living in the GDR had been revolting for a long time. At the end of the WW2, the US, Britain, and the Sovient Union split Germany. The country was split into 3 zones with Berlin in the Soviet section. Berlin was also split into zones, with the US, UK, and France taking the West side of the city and Soviet troops controlling the East. When the tensions arose between the countries, the Soviets decided to block off the roads, rails, and water access to West Berlin. Starting in 1948, they hoped that the other countries would be forced to give their section to the Soviets. The response by the UK and US was to airlift food, fuel, and water into Berlin from airbases in Western Germany. At the height of the airlift, planes were landing every 45 seconds at the Templehof Airport. By 1949, they had won this crisis and the blockade was lifted. In 1953 the people of East Berlin had a revolt that was stopped with Soviet tanks. The Soviets struggled to keep their side of Germany because of their cruelty and lack of supplies (East Germany was starving).
Checkpoint Charlie is the most widely known checkpoint between East and West Germany. Many demonstrations were held there, and there were many successful escape attempts there. While the wall was up (between 1961 and 1989) more than 5000 people escaped across the Berlin Wall. The longer the wall was up, the harder it was to cross. One woman was smuggled out in the seat of her boyfriends vehicle (the cut a hole for her to sit literally inside the seat, and she almost suffocated in the small space). People also got through in speakers, over on hang gliders with a Trabant motor, with hot air balloons, as well as under in tunnels. The most successful break through was in a tunnel when 57 people made it through in two nights in 1964.
There were also many unsuccessful attempts, and many people died trying to get to West Germany. In 1962, a man named Peter Fechter bled to death. He was shot by Soviet guards and after 45 minutes of agony with no help, passed away beside the wall. This started a huge protest when onlookers could see and hear him, but were unable to help because he fell onto the wrong side of the wall.
I think that this is a hugely important part of history to learn about, especially since it is so close to us (the wall was only taken down on Novemeber 9, 1989).
To learn more about the Wall and its history, the website for the Mauermuseum is here. You can also hear more about the Berlin Airlift through this website here. Some other movies and books about the era that I found very interesting are Bridge of Spies (with Tom Hanks), Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder, Wings of Desire (released in 1987), and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre. If you have any more to add to the list, let me know!
The photos are taken at the Wonderland Sculpture (which us locals call the Big Head... creative, I know) outside of the the Bow Building.
My Fall Collection was based off of Agatha Christie's book, Crooked House. I have been fascinated with her stories for a long time, but recently I have been learning more about her life and her books. There is a lovely biography about her (Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks by John Curran) that talks about how she planned her books and what gave her the ideas. I also recently read A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup, which is about the poisons that she used in each novel. This was a fantastic book that not only talked about Agatha Christie's life and her books, but it also talks about the real poisons and how they work, with real life case studies that Christie herself might have used as inspiration.
Agatha Christie actually worked as a nurse during World War One, and she started writing her novels around then. She later worked at a pharmacy where she learnt a great deal more about poisons. Poison is often used in medication in small doses, so she knew how much would kill a person, what it tasted and smelt like, as well as the symptoms. Although some of her novels are a bit far fetched, most of them are very well planned out and well researched.
I recently saw the 2017 movie of Crooked House, and fell in love not only with the story, but also with the costumes. If you have not read or seen Crooked House, beware of spoilers ahead! (Although, the novel is almost 70 years old, so you probably know the story line anyway)
Set in a wealthy families home, Crooked House follows a young detective who looks into the death of the family patriarch, Aristide Leonides. There are three generations of Leonides living under the one roof, and all of them have motive. Charles Hayward's fiance Sofia is the favourite grandchild of Aristide Leonides, and believes that he has been killed. They discover that he had been injected with his own medicine, eserine. Eserine is a highly toxic alkaloid that comes from the Calabar Bean. It is a rare choice of poison, and Christie only uses it in two of her novels (Crooked House and Curtain).
The Calabar Bean (or Physostigma Venenosum) is from West Africa, and was used often in the area as a trial for serious crimes. The suspect would drink or eat something made with the bean in it (various different methods were used to prepare the bean- sometimes they would swallow the bean whole, other times it would be mushed up and mixed with water). If they died, they were guilty, and if they lived, they were innocent. However, if they lived but suffered with side effects from the bean, they would be sold into slavery. The locals called this traition 'chop nut', and it was a very trusted method. Some people would voluntarily swallow it to prove their innocence. It is estimated that it caused 120 deaths per year in that area.
Scottish Missionaries who came to Calabar in the 1840s were the ones to bring the poison to the rest of the world. They called it the Ordeal Bean of Calabar. Wealthy people around the world would collect exotic plants like this, however it was very difficult to find a plant. The king in Calabar ordered that all of the plants be distroyed excepting a few that were locked up and used for justice. In 1855, Reverend Hope Waddell smuggled a few beans out and sent them to a toxicologist in Edinburgh. Eserine (more commonly known as physostigmine now) was found to be a miotic, which means that it causes the pupil to contract. By the late 1800s, scientists had found many alkaloids in the bean, but had not yet been able to take out the active ingredient (eserine is unstable in water and turns into eseroline, which can be used as pain relief). Many of the alkaloids found in the bean can be used in medicine, such as geneserine (second most common alkaloid in the Calabar bean) which is used for digestive disorders such as dyspepsia, or physovenine (has been found to be useful for treating symptoms of Alzheimers).
Symptoms of eserine poisoning is tremors, contraction of the pupils, difficulty breathing, a slowed pulse, and involuntary urinating. It is said to be quite painless, for victims of eserine poisoning are usually very docile. This is because the eserine blocks the signals going through the nervous system. It mainly affects the parasympathetic nervous system, which mainly controls the regulation of fluids such as tears and saliva. It also controls contractions in smooth muscles (the muscles in the intestines, blood vessels, iris of the eye, walls of the stomach, etc. The move involuntarily, so we have no control over them). Eserine has the opposite symptoms as atropine, another poison that Agatha Christie has used in her novels before. Because of their opposite reactions, they can be antidotes to each other.
After shutting down the 'chop nut' system in Calabar, there are very few cases of being poisoned by eserine. Normally there is not enough in any medication for it to actually kill someone, they would just get severe abdominal pains and sometimes hallucinations.
The poisoning of Aristide Leonides in Crooked House is a little bit far fetched. He is 85 and is killed by being injected with his eye drops (eserine eye drops are sometimes used for glaucoma) instead of his insulin. The amount of eserine in eye drops would most likely not be enough to kill someone- it is estimated that one would need to inject the victim with between 3 to 5 bottles of eyedrops to kill a 70kg man. Of course, there is a chance that there was more eserine in his eye drops than would be put it today, and he was not a healthy man (suffering from glaucoma, diabetes, and a weak heart). More likely would the eyedrops not have killed him, but instead make him quite ill.
The genius of Crooked House isn't the use of poison (although it is clever and an unusual choice, even if it is a little far fetched), but the person who commited the murder. I will not say who killed Leonides, but I will say that Christies publisher did try to convince her to change the murderer. She did not back down, and it ended up being one of her best novels (in my opinion).
On a much lighter note, I would like to talk about the location of our photo shoot for this collection! I was lucky enough to get photos in Iron Crow, an antiques shop in Calgary that often rents out to magazines and movie sets. I was also lucky enough to get to borrow some shoes from DSign Step! I did end up getting a few beautiful daguerreotypes from Iron Crow, and I have my eye on a few more DSign Step shoes.
Thank you so much for reading! If you are interested in reading more about Agatha Christie and her novels, I would absolutely recommend the two novels I mentioned in the beginning of my post, as well as The Inheritor's Powder by Sandra Hempel (not about Agatha, but it is about arsenic, and it is just as fascinating as A is for Arsenic). Feel free to send me other suggestions of books you think I would like, or to ask any questions if you would like to hear more!
Every summer we go to Heritage Park. If you haven't been there before, it is a Living History Museum in Calgary, Alberta. It gives lots of information about Albertas, and Canadas history, and you get to go through different buildings from the area. Most of them are from the late 1800s and early 1900s (since Canada is such a new country, they are pretty much the oldest buildings in this area). Heritage Park has been my favourite place since I was very young, and I always wanted to work there (dress up and talk about history all day? That was the dream!). Growing up has actually made me love going there even more, mostly because I know more about the era than I used to.
This time we decided to get some photos of something that I have made before. I didn't have anything new that suited the surroundings, but I did tailor my 1930s skirt a few months ago and never got photos of it. It fit me okay when I first made it (it was actually the first piece of clothing that I every made), but it was quite a bit too big at the waist, so I took it in about 3 or 4 inches. I wear it so much more often now that it fits nicely, and I am so glad I took it in! The 1930's is one of my favourite eras of clothing for everyday wear, so its great to have another piece for my closet.
The train section of the park I have never seen before- there is an area with a few train cars that you can walk through, and this was our first time seeing them! There is an amazing train museum in Cranbrook, BC that I went to when I was quite a bit younger and it fed my fascination with train travel in the 1800s-mid 1900s.
Canada has a pretty different history to many other countries, especially European ones. Before the Europeans, the First Nations were here. We don't have much left over from the First Nations because of the Europeans (just like the US). Because the country is so new, the oldest buildings here are the types that would be called retro in Europe. Our history is very much the Wild West that you see in movies. I have always found this fascinating because as a kid I wanted very badly to be a cowgirl. I loved growing up in a ranching and farming area. We still have the Calgary Stampede, which was started in 1912. We also had Nellie McClung, one of the Famous 5 (suffragettes, politicians, and social activists), living in Calgary, and her house now stands in Heritage Park. Emmeline Pankhurst actually came to visit her in Edmonton!
I used to be quite disappointed about our lack of history in Alberta, but over the years I have learned that we have a fascinating history that is not talked about enough. There were so many interesting people who did important things that either lived or came through this area, and many major events happened in just a few hundred years.
To see more photos of the finished collection, click here
After making my last dirndl (made using this pattern), I liked wearing it so much that I decided to make another, just with a few different details.
The print is my own on muslin, three different owls with a navy fabric ink. There are so many beautiful dirndls, with different necklines, skirt lengths, and trims. One of my favourite trims is box-pleated ribbon, so I decided to do that one this one. I also took away the bottom ruffle, the sleeves, and shortened the skirt a bit. I decided to take the sleeves off to give the option to put blouses under (very common in classic dirndls so you have the chance to change the look, as well as make sure that you don't have to wash the dirndl too often, just the blouses). At some point I would like to make a lace blouse to put underneath as well.
I also made an apron to put with the dirndl. I chose a wide ribbon that matched the one on the neckline for the waistband, and cartridge pleated quilting fabric. Cartridge pleating is one of my favourite ways to gather fabric, I love how much volume it gives as well as the way it looks (very neat and tidy!). I based this dirndl off of many examples that I saw while in Germany.
When visiting my family in Wettmar, they had a video of the people living there in the 1950's. The video was just a home video of real life in Germany in the 50's and 60's, and lots of the ladies who were doing yard work and house work were wearing dirndls! There was tons of variety of fabrics and styles that they wore, and every age wore them (except for some of the fancier girls who were wearing pencil skirts and heels). I loved this, and wanted to make a bit of a contemporary version for myself by making my own print.
The interesting thing with dirndls is that they can be used in every circumstance. For every day work, the sleeveless ones are great so that you can have multiple plain blouses with different sleeve lengths to wear with it. That means you don't wash the dress as much, so it lasts longer. Blouses are easier to wash and cheaper to replace. The aprons are also a good way of being able to wear the dress multiple times. In fancier situations (even weddings!), they are able to use lavish silks and brocades, put on nice trim (including embroidery), and wear lace blouses or add fancy sleeves. They also lower the neckline and either shorten the hem, or make it floor length. They also add beautiful silk or lace aprons.
Since I wanted mine to be better for every day, but still be able to dress it up, so I made mine out of muslin but made it sleeveless so it depends on what I wear underneath and what shoes with it to dress it up or down.
These pictures were actually taken at the industrial part of our city, funnily enough! As you can see, we live in a pretty agricultural area, so farms are sometimes right in the city. If you turn around, however, there are factories!
If you want to see some modern day companies who make beautiful dirndls, Lena Hoschek is well known for hers, and I also love this company.
Thanks for reading!
The last two outfits of my Mexico Collection! The skirt is a light blue linen made using a 1930's pattern from simplicity. The shorts are a 1960's Vintage Vogue pattern made with the same linen as the skirt, and the corset cover that it is paired with is muslin and vintage lace (it has another post of it here).
To see more photos from this collection, click here. Thank you for reading, and stick around for new projects coming soon! Plus, I am also almost done editing a video for this collection as well, so that will be up in the next few weeks.
Thanks for reading!
The bees skirt is made from quilting cotton and hand stamped with bees (more photos here), made using a Butterick pattern. The shorts and halter are made using a Simplicity pattern and quilting cotton.
One more post will be up soon of the last few pieces in my Mexico Collection!
I have been thinking about opening an Etsy account for some of my costumes and embroidery for a long time now, and it is now open! I am starting smaller, with a few of the costumes that I made just for photos and a few embroideries that I have made. Check it out here
All of these pieces are currently up on my Etsy account! Stay tuned, and I will be adding more as well. Each piece is custom done, and completely one of a kind.
The Crooked Saints dress is a self printed muslin (printed with succulents, skulls, bees, and owls), and made using a 1950's pattern from Vintage Vogue. The Spanish styled dirndl is made using quilting cotton and a Patterns by Gertie pattern.
Come back soon to see more photos of the other outfits in me Mexico Collection!
Since I made a Berlin collection after visiting Berlin this spring, I decided that I needed a Mexico one as well. This was a bit different however, since it wasn't as much inspired by the area I had been in as it was by the desert part of the country and New Mexico. The area where we live is very dry, and we are close to Drumheller, which is a desert type area. I was inspired also by Paraguay, which is where my grandparents are from. We recently visited my grandma and went through some of the old photos they had from Paraguay and when the first moved to Canada. I was inspired by my grandmas very trendy outfits from the 60s and 70s, so I based much of my collection off of that. I also based it off of All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, The Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar, as well as Frida Kahlo and her clothing exhibit that was recently at the V and A.
Although my grandparents grew up in the same place (Loma Plata), they had very different childhoods. My grandpa grew up quite poor and started working at a very young age. Although he never finished his education, he was a brilliant man. He knew multiple languages and could take apart and put back together an engine as a kid. He drove around South America as part of his job. My grandma grew up in a wealthy family. I look quite a bit like her when she was my age.
This collection was inspired mostly by 50s and 60s fashion, and was made entirely out of linen and cotton to keep cool. I used a few Vintage Vogue and Simplicity patterns for the collection, which is made up of 7 pieces - a Mexico styled dirndl, a 1950's tiered dress made out of self-printed muslin, a linen skirt (that I made a few summers ago, but adjusted it to fit me better this summer), linen 1960's shorts with my corset cover, and a three piece bee set, which included my bee skirt, and a matching pair of shorts and halter top. I decided to make a dirndl for this collection because of our Mennonite heritage. Loma Plata is a Mennonite village, and my family has that background on both my mother and fathers sides. The two sides of the family are quite different because my dads side is more traditional with German and Ukrainian culture (since the Mennonites moved around, mostly through Eastern Europe), while the other side of my family has more Spanish culture mixed in. The two cultures don't seem to mix, but they often do since so many German families moved to South America during and after World War Two.
This post is just a bit of an introduction, stay tuned to see more pictures of each outfit over the next few weeks!
I have been trying out different ways to naturally dye fabric, since I would love for my garments not to be wasteful and to be good for the environment. I use quite a bit of unbleached muslin, so I wanted to try out some new colours for it. I have already done lots of tea staining (it just makes the perfect cream colour!), so the other day I tried a method that I have seen in books. This involved steaming fabric with rose petals folded in it. The final product wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it is very pretty! I think next time I will try with deep red rose petals in the hopes that it will make a pink or lavender colour.
To try it, I just used a small section of unbleached muslin, which I dampened. I then arranged rose petals on it in a random pattern. Once I was happy with where the petals were, I folded and rolled the piece together and tied the ends with strings. That was steamed for a few hours, and then left to cool. After it was cool enough, I unrolled it, took out all of the petals, and left it out to dry.
Have you ever tried natural dyeing? How did it turn out?
Well, not quite at the Stampede... but at a Stampede breakfast:)
I finished this corset cover a month or so ago, and it has been sitting on my dress form since. The side seams are sewn by machine, and the rest is completely done by hand. The lace is vintage and given to me by a family friend, as well as the buttons.
Calgary Stampede is always a fun time of year around here, so we thought it would be fun to get pictures of this at the pancake breakfast! Unfortunately they normally have hay bales, but they didn't have them this year. But I think the pictures turned out well anyway!
I have loved the look of corset covers for years, I love the shape and detail of them. While mine is relatively plain compared to some historical examples, I am so glad that I was able to use the beautiful lace that I was given.
Corset covers were usually made of thin fabric to fit under a bodice, and weren't fitted for much of the 19th century. They were lavishly decorated with lace, ribbons, pin tucks, and embroidery. They were normally light colours as well, to make sure that they didn't show through under sheer bodices. They were made to help smooth the lines from boning in corsets, or were used in the summer like undershirts to go underneath sheer muslin dresses.
The hardest part about sewing is that I can get lots of things done, but it doesn't look like it until I have photos of them! In the past few weeks I have been working on tons of different projects, but I don't have any of them finished yet (although two are almost done!). I have also had a few very neat opportunities to do something a little different, so my sewing room has been pretty crazy.
I do have a few very exciting things that I have been working on behind the scenes: the first is that I have been making prototypes for a Calgary activewear company called Intuitive. It has been an absolute joy so far working with the company, and I am more than excited about this collaboration.
The second thing that I have been working on is my second time working with MakeFashion! Last year I was a part of the runway show in Calgary as a seamstress. This year I am lucky enough to be a team lead. My dress is called Breathe, and has to do with helping with anxiety and mental illnesses. MakeFashion will be at Beakerhead this year in September. I can't wait to tell and show you more!
On the side, I have also been working on dirndls (I made one from a Gertie pattern, liked it so much that I immediately started a second one!), a tiered 1950's summer dress, wool cigarette pants with a matching sheath dress and blazer, a 1960's colour blocked dress, and lots of repairs. My mending pile has gotten out of hand!
If you follow me on instagram (here), then you will know that I have also been working on setting up an Etsy account. So far I have hit pretty much every obstacle possible (why are computers so confusing??), so it still isn't up....
But I have made progress, so it should be here soon! I will be selling some of my costumes, as well as embroidery to start.
Thank you so much for your patience with everything, I can't wait to show you all of the things that I have been working on!
Most of my vintage-styled outfits are me-made. While I love wearing clothing that I have made, and I enjoy trying out true vintage and repro patterns, I know that many people don't have the time, materials, or the interest to make their own clothing.
I love the idea of wearing true vintage, but I feel like I am too clumsy of a person to regularly wear vintage clothing. It would break my heart to stain and tear a vintage dress, so I stay mostly away from them. At the same time, I don't want to make every piece (especially knits and t-shirts). I know there are tons of fabulous repro brands in the world, such as What Katie Did, Stop Staring, Emmy Design, Mod Cloth, and many others. I haven't tried any repro brands, since many of them are from either the States or Britain, and with shipping costs I can't afford the pieces. I have discovered that you can find some really great things from stores in outlet malls, as long as you look hard enough.
Sometimes it can take a bit of searching, but so far I have found tons of vintage-inspired pieces that I have been able to add into my wardrobe. For the outfit that I am wearing in these photos, the dress is from Hot Topic (every once in a while, they get very cute 1950's styled clothes. This one is cotton, which I would recommend over poly satins and other fabrics that can look tacky instead of vintage. However, in the end it just depends on what you like the best!). The shoes are from Rockport. They have tons of vintage styled heels and sandals, and they are some of my most comfortable pairs! My purse is from Calvin Klein, and it is one of my favourite ones for summer. The cordigan is from the Gap. If you would prefer a shorter sweater, Aritzia and Lands End have some beautiful ones, or you can easily shorten a cardigan like this one using a serger or a zig zag stitch. Here is a great tutorial if you are interested.
The biggest thing about finding vintage styles in every day stores is patience! Sometimes I don't find anything for months, and other times there is vintage inspiration everywhere.
This is the first post that I have not worn anything that I have made- what do you think of a different type of post like this?
I would love to show some of my other vintage inspired on a budget finds, let me know if you want to see them in the comments!
These photos were taken in The Core in downtown Calgary.