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!
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!
The day has finally come that I can talk about the Future Oceans fashion show and the pieces I made for it! I have been waiting as patiently as possible to show what I've been working on, and I am so excited to show the pictures that I have from this weekend.
There were some incredible photographers at the event as well that I will be showing photos from as soon as I am able to.
Before I talk about my designs at the time that I spent in Victoria, I want to talk about the reason for this show. Future Oceans partnered with the Victoria International Marina (where the show was held), Natural Talent Alliance, and the Ocean Legacy Foundation. The point of the show was to give a platform to ocean conservation in the fashion industry. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter, and by bringing attention to it and giving people an alternative we are taking the first step to turning the Fashion Industry into something that is more earth friendly and thoughtful.
Learning about how terrible the fashion industry is on the environment was making me lose my faith in something that I really love. Being a part of this helped me get excited about it again.
I hope that this show will help in getting people and brands to think twice before choosing certain fabrics
The event started on Canada Day with the ribbon cutting for the Victoria International Marina. There was live music, performances by the Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet, and the fashion show.
We had so many incredible people working together to make this a reality!
I created 6 Eco Couture pieces inspired by different eras and 1 Art Dress. The Art Dress was created from garbage that was fished from the ocean. The Eco Couture pieces are all created from eco friendly fabrics from KenDor Textiles, a Canadian company that specializes in environmentally and socially responsible fabrics.
I will wait to talk about the design process of each of my pieces for when the photos come back and you can actually see them in detail (all of these photos are just from my phone), but for now, here are some travel pics!
I was in Victoria for 3 crazy, hectic days that were filled with fittings and photo shoots. The first day I spent almost entirely at the Marina (which is a stunning building) getting ready for the show. We had an amazing lunch at Spinnakers (Canada's first microbrewery), and spent the rest of the day planning and prepping.
We were housed in the most amazing Bed and Breakfast called Abbeymoore Manor. It's an old house with beautiful rooms, the best breakfast I've ever had, and really friendly staff.
The next day that I was there was Canada Day, meaning the day of the fashion show! I've been working on this for 6 months, so it was like a dream to be there.
Luckily enough, the designers weren't needed until noon so I had all morning to myself. I ended up going for a walk to the Craigdarroch Castle, which was a 5 minute walk away. The castle was built in 1890 by Robert Dunsmuir, who passed away before it was finished. His wife, Joan, lived there until her death in 1908. During WW1 it was used as a military hospital, and after that it was used as a College, Conservatory, School Board, and now a museum.
We were able to use a beautiful yacht, the Ascente, as our backstage. They were extremely generous with us and the space was the nicest backstage that I have ever worked in. This was definitely a trip of a lifetime.
The last day that I was there was photo shoot day! And boy, did we have some really incredible places to take pictures in. While a group of people went to get photos at the ocean, I went with another group to the Government House. I can not wait to get all of the photos back from the 2nd because not only are the photographers fantastic, but the locations were some of the prettiest places I've been to since Germany.
The last location of the day was Hatley Castle, which some of you may recognize from movies such as X Men and Deadpool. Everyone here was also so accommodating for us and we were able to go everywhere on the extensive grounds to get photos.
If you aren't from Canada, you might not understand how exciting it is to find 2 castles, but in Canada it is very rare to have such old and beautiful architecture.
I can't wait to show you my pieces in better detail, but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed a bit of a behind the scenes of my time for the Future Oceans Fashion Show!
I have always enjoyed stopping in Nanton, Alberta as a kid when we were in the area. They are a tiny town with the best antique stores, and my favourite has always been Sentimental Journey Antiques. They are connected to Iron Crow, which is where I got my photos for last years Fall collection.
The building has a very interesting history- it was first opened in 1909 as a hardware store. The upper story was used as a meeting and social hall for different groups in Nanton. It changed hands in 1935, and the new owner added more items in the store and converted the top story into apartments. Pretty quickly after that, the building was used for officers residence during World War Two - there was an aircrew training base close by.
I have always fantasized about living in one of the beautiful upstairs apartments, and learning about its use during the war made me love the quaint rooms even more. I still daydream about where I would put all of my furniture in the apartments if I were lucky enough to live there. We took all of our photos in our favourite rooms in the building upstairs.
The clothing that I am wearing in these photos are the lower torso garments that I made last semester in school. The pants are a 1940's inspired pair of trousers with a yoke, pockets, and front pleats. The skirt is a faux-wrap with a side zipper and a pocket on the other side. It is fully lined with a brown striped lining. Both of the garments are made using %100 wool.
I did not make any of the tops that I am wearing, all of them except for one are from Aerie (and they are all incredibly soft and comfortable). The WAC shirt is from a fundraiser for the SoCal WAC's.
My mom and I started watching Peaky Blinders this summer, and we are absolutely Loving it! The music, cinematography, costumes, and the actors (who doesn't love Cillian Murphy?) are all fantastic. I have always had an interest in the dark side of history (you can read more of my posts about dark histories here), so it was a natural response to the show to research the real Peaky Blinders.
The Peaky Blinders were a real gang in Birmingham before and during WW1. They were set apart from other gangs because of how nicely they dressed- often in nicely tailored jackets, waistcoats, and peaked flat caps. They started in the slums in the 1890s, and organized themselves into a gang that had a certain amount of political and social control. Unlike the show (warning: spoilers ahead), the gang was taken down in the 1910's by a gang lead by Billy Kimber, called the Birmingham Boys.
Another thing that the Peaky Blinders were known for is sewing a razor into their caps. The criminal profiler and historian, John Doulgas, believes that the caps were used as weapons for most members. The name of the gang is believed to come from how they would cut peoples foreheads, temporarily blinding them with their own blood. The name could also come from the slang of a Blinder being a well dress person. Where the name came from is a bit of a sensitive subject for historians- Carl Chinn (a professor with an MBE in English history) is a firm believer that the razor idea is a myth.
Most of the members of street gangs in the late 1800s were between the ages of 12 and 30. Later on, these groups started to create a pecking order. The 'leader' of the Peaky Blinders was a man called Kevin Mooney, though his real name was Thomas Gilbert. They often had land battles with another gang in the area, the Cheapside Sloggers. By the late 1890s, the Blinders were expanding their expertise, going into protection rackets, fraud, bribery, smuggling, bookmaking, and many other illegal pursuits. They were less of an organised crime group and more into street fighting and robbery. After almost 10 years of owning the streets of Birmingham, they attracted the attention of the Birmingham Boys. When they got greedy and made their way into the race tracks, the Birmingham Boys put a stop to the gang. The families in the gang mostly left for the country, distancing themselves from the other, larger gangs. There was more than one reason that the gang disappeared, however. The police got stricter with the gangs at the time, and the social circumstances were starting to change around this time as well- especially once the war started.
I have had so much inspiration from the costumes on the show, and after looking at the actual gang members I see why the costumes are so interesting! My outfit is a mens shirt from Van Heusen, my Bomb Girl Trousers, and DSign Step shoes. The photos were taken in Calgary, in one of the oldest areas of the city. These houses are Edwardian Row houses, called the Fairey Terrace, and was inspired by Victorian row houses in London.
If you would like to learn a little bit more about Fairey Terrace in Calgary, click here. If you would like to learn about the real Peaky Blinders, there is a fantastic video featuring Professor Carl Chinn here. Carl Chinn also has a book about them called The Real Peaky Blinders. You can also read the book that the costume designer and hair department used for the show, Crooks Like Us by Peter Doyle. It has pictures of actual criminals from the time, and is a fabulous reference book.
Thanks for reading!
I was recently gifted these amazing German pattern magazines from the 1950s, and they have proven to be not only great inspiration, but they have also helped me learn about pattern making!
I have been learning the basics of pattern making at school, and so far that has been one of my favourite classes! It is so satisfying to make a garment that is exactly what you pictured and that fits you perfectly.
These magazines are called 'Beyer Mode', and they include tons of pictures of the possible garments that you could make, a horoscope page (there is nothing better than reading horoscopes from 60 or 70 years ago), as well as tips for sewing and taking care of your home. There are also sometimes recipes in a few of the magazines that I am very curious about!
Here are some of my personal favourite pages from the magazines:
Which is your favourite? Do you prefer the fancy dresses or every day ones? Or the lingerie?
I don't think that I have a single favourite in all of the issues, I want to make all of them!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
When it comes to the books in my collection, I have been extremely lucky. I have been given so many books by family friends and other people who have already gone through a costuming or fashion program.
Out of all of my books (I have quite a few...), these are some of my favourites. There are so many more that I would like to eventually collect (Norah Waugh and Janet Arnold being some of the authors that I have seen are necessary in a costuming library), but I am so pleased with what I have so far.
The books that I use for inspiration and help fall into a few categories. First are the books that are specifically for sewing. Of those, my favourites have to be the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, Corsets, as well as The Art of Needle Craft. The Art of Needle Craft was published in the 1930s, and a beautiful little textbook! It shows different stitch types, and has helped me with my embroidery products. The American Duchess book has been so popular among historical costumers, and it has so much invaluable information! I wish it would have been out when I made my first costume, since it was an 18th century era dress. Corsets is a book about historical corsets, and how they were made. I haven't so far used any of the patterns, but I am definitely planning to use them, and I love looking through the book for inspiration.
The second category would be the books about history. I have tons and tons of history books, since that is something that I am fascinated by and love to learn about. I narrowed down my favourites to the ones that are more about clothing through the eras. One of my first books about this, and still one of my favourites is The Survey of Historic Costume. This books is massive, and has at least a few pages for pretty much every era. It also shows modern designs that are inspired by history. Another favourite of mine, which is much newer, is my Charles James book. I have many, many favourite designers (Coco Chanel, Dior, Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen, and so many more), but right at the top of the list is Charles James. He had very sculptural designs, and the best thing about the book is that it gives a glimpse into what goes underneath the dress. I also have a great little book about the Regency era. Unfortunately it only has a few pages about the clothing, but the book does talk a little about everything. The next few books could belong in a few categories, but I decided to put it into this one because they do have great bits of information in them. I love the books by Megan Hess, especially Coco Chanel. Along with the information, it has beautiful pictures throughout.
Another category is all of the inspiration books that are just pretty coffee table books. Some of these do have costume photos in (I have tons of movie books because I love movies so much), and others have nothing to do with clothing. Out of all of them pictured, I have a few that I look through a little more often than others. One favourite is the Grand Budapest Hotel coffee table book.It has costume sketches from Milena Canonero, one of my favourite costume designers. I also love Amber Butchart's book on how movie costumes have influenced the fashion world. It includes Marie Antoinette, In the Mood for Love, Moonrise Kingdom, and many other favourite movies of mine. I also am often inspired by interior design books, such as Sibella Court books (Nomad is my personal favourite to look through). Her books are fantastic to look through since her designs are inspired by different countries. I have always been fascinated with places like India and Mexico City, and I love seeing little objects from these places. The last movie book that I look through constantly is the one for Crimson Peak.
The last category is magazines. I love sewing magazines (the ones that come with free patterns are the best), but I also read Porter and Vogue obsessively.
Where you do you get your inspiration?
I filmed a large portion of the process of making the Berlin Collection. To see more photos, you can see them here