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
I was so inspired by Germany while I was there, by what people wore, the beautiful countryside, and by the stunning architecture and history everywhere. Out of the whole trip, Berlin inspired me the most. Maybe it's because of the difficult near history that the city has gone through (if you know my blog well, you will know that difficult histories are something I try to teach about often), and maybe it's the gritty mixed with elegant that you see so often- Belle Epoque architecture layered with graffiti, a delicate skirt paired with a grunge-styled wool jacket.
Something that I immediately think of when it comes to Berlin is the military. I think of tough, strong women (it is a fact that Germany was pretty much rebuilt by women and immigrants after WW2, since they were all that was left), and resilience. I started to come up with the collection on the U-Bahn, and it grew in my head every time I had empty time to think (mostly on trains). I decided to make a military inspired collection, with feminine touches. After taking into account what I could reasonable pattern on my own or what I already had patterns for, as well as what materials would be easy to find or that I already had, I came up with a pretty solid collection. It includes: a pair of jodphurs, a 1930's styled skirt, a peplum blouse, my 1940's dress (that I blogged about here), and a matching suit jacket.
Most of these pieces are 1930s and 1940s styled, with a touch of 50's flair. These are the eras that interest me the most for the country- in the beginning of the 1930's, Berlin was far ahead of many other countries in terms of acceptance. But I will start before that, after the first world war, to explain the country a little bit better.
After Germany's loss of World War One, their economy and pride was crippled. Because of the Versailles Treaty, which entailed that Germany's borders would be reassigned (losing certain towns to Belgium, France, Poland, etc), they would practically lose their military, completely lose their colonies, and were prohibited access from certain weapons. What crippled Germany the worst was their responsibility to pay for the war, as well as other financial obligations. The country was struggling enough with their debt from the war, so when the Depression hit the US (who was helping them pay off their debts), the ripple was incapacitating. This is how Hitler managed to get in to power- the weak country was desperate to have jobs and pride. However, before Hitler wormed his way in, Berlin was a very open place. This is the city that held the first successful sex reassignment surgery (if you have seen The Danish Girl, that is who I am talking about). This was a very liberal place before the Nazi's- if you are interested in this era, Robert Beachy has a book called Gay Berlin that I have heard very good reviews about.
With my collection, I wanted to talk about all of the strong women in this time. I wanted it to be about the women who rebuilt the country, and the ones who made their way across the Wall even though it was incredibly dangerous, and the ones who rebelled against the Nazi's during the second world war (you may be surprised at how many female spies and resistance members there were).
Because the Nazi's wanted women to be at home having kids and cooking, they didn't quite expect women to be fighting in the resistance. This gave them lots of opportunities that some of the men didn't have. They could smuggle things around the country (such as letters and funds- often hidden in skirt hems and heels), as well as go undercover to find out information. Because it wasn't expected, they weren't caught as easily for a long time.
There is a story of a French resistance member that I always think of when I think of the women during the war (this is from A Train in Winter, just in case you want to hear more about this woman). She had a letter that she needed to carry from one resistance member to another, and she had to go out into the country to bring it to the next member. On the train, she was sitting beside a Nazi officer, and he took a bit of a shine to her. When other officers boarded the train to search the people on board, he told them that they did not need to search her, probably saving her and the letter in the process, without even realizing it.
There are so many amazing stories like this of peoples bravery during the war. Stories of women walking for miles in high heels and nice dresses to smuggle things around Nazi Occupied territory, and people who helped so many Jewish, Roma, and other people who were being persecuted to get out. Many designers and seamstresses were found to have been housing people to help them on their way out, or sewing in money, photos, and other valuables into hems for them.
If you want to read about some of these incredible stories, or if you are just interested in this time in history, here are some of my favourites: The Librarian of Auschwitz ( a true story that I actually read in Germany), A Train in Winter by Caronline Moorehead (a collection of stories of women resistance members- these stories are amazing), The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne, every single one of Elizabeth Wein, but especially Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire (and also Black Dove, White Raven), Violins of Autumn by Amy Mcauley, Salt to Sea and Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, and of course The Book Thief. When it comes to movies, I would recommend Generation War (a German mini series, which is beautifully done), X Company (this is Canadian, which I am very proud of!), and The Danish Girl (the movie that is about the first successful sex reassignment surgery). I have spent most of my life reading about Germany, and specifically this era, so if you would like to hear about more books and movies, just ask! I would love to share, and also hear about any of your favourites!
The pictures were taken by a 1948 plane. A family friend owns it and was so kind to let us use it for photos, and we even got to fly in it! Thank you so much Travis and Brenda!
And the shoes are from DSign Step, as always:)
Stay tuned for my making of video!
I am extremely close to being finished a new collection that I have been working on since I got home from Germany- The Berlin Collection. My trip gave me so much inspiration, and as soon as I got home I started with a military, menswear, 1940's styled collection. I thought that while I finish off the last piece, I would share some of my inspiration. I will talk about it more in my post with the photos, but I based the collection mostly off of the resistance and rebels of World War Two, and the women who rebuilt Germany. I wanted to focus on the strong women that I learned so much about while I was there.
I was also inspired by the Candian tv show X Company, which is based on a true story. All of the characters have a fantastic mix of military and menswear styled outfits as well as beautiful evening and day dresses. Aurora (a Jewish Candian spy) and Sabine (a German woman turned resistance) are my personal favourites. My jodphurs are inspired the most by Aurora.
I hope you enjoyed a little look into the inspiration for the collection! I can't wait to show you what I have been working on over the past weeks.
I am completely fascinated with moths, and after seeing Crimson Peak, I got the idea to use a print on one of my dresses. In Crimson Peak, one of the running themes is the black moth versus the butterfly.
Since watching that movie, I was very interested in moths. I love how hearty they are, and also how beautiful they can be. While butterflies are the well known pretty insect, moths can also have beautiful, colourful wings.
My fascination is a little bit darker than them just being pretty and tough. The theme in the movie (if you are not familiar with it) is that the main character is a butterfly, while her husbands sister is the moth- she is the villian in the movie.
I loved the theme, and also the visuals of the giant black moths on the walls of the mansion.
I also love the scientific illustrations of insects, and specifically of moths and bees. This is where I got my idea to stamp the fabric with moths, and I got the pattern from the wallpaper in Crimson Peak. Guillermo del Toro wanted the main theme to be throughout the whole movie, even where you don't notice it. So the moth is on some of the wallpaper, engraved on chairs and furniture, and in many other places, such as embroidered on clothing. I liked how it was there but not completely obvious, so I took the pattern from the movie to stamp onto my dress.
We went into Calgary to get the pictures, so while we were there I picked up another pair of DSign Step shoes (since I love my other pairs so much). We went into Inglewood to get the pictures for this dress, which is the oldest area in Calgary.
The dress is made from a Vintage Vogue pattern from the 1950s, and the fabric is a cotton blend.
Stamps and photos by Veronica Funk
Berlin has a huge, and very dark, history that I learnt more about while I was there. We spent a week in Berlin, and I could have stayed so much longer- there is so much to see in this beautiful city. I was lucky enough to be staying right by Kufurstendamm Strasse, the well known high-end shopping street of Berlin. That meant that I was a 10 minute walk from KaDeWe (the massive department store), as well as all of the high end shops, such as Dior, Chanel, Burberry, and almost every other brand that has a show at Fashion Week. I had an incredible time checking out these shops, and ended up getting a Dior silk scarf for myself (which was possibly the most exciting moment of my life). Getting to see garments that I have seen in ads and on the runway was completely surreal, and I spent tons of time inspecting them and seeing how it was all made. The stunning part of such high end, expensive pieces are not just how they look, but how they are made.
Chanel is one of the best examples of well made fashion, since Coco Chanel was very exacting about how each thing should be made. They continue in her legacy, and all of the finishing details are the same as they were in the 20s. The tweed that Chanel uses is from very specific weavers in France, and is extremely difficult to work with. Since it is so loosely woven, it frays very easily. This makes every moment of the process of making a typical Chanel jacket, for example, much harder. And then there are little details that make a Chanel jacket a Chanel jacket. Those details include a chain sewn across the bottom of the jacket to get it to sit right, a quilted lining (quilted to the outside fabric, but not seen from the outside), and bold metal buttons. All of the high end brands use unique methods and include beautiful extra details. If you take care of your purchase, it could last you for generations.
I loved the more classic styles that many of these brands carry. I have so many ideas that I have brought home with me, and a bit of determination to finish the inside of my garments better (if you have followed me for a while, you might know that I give up when it comes to finishing...).
We also went to a ton of tourist attractions, such as the Victory Column and Bradenburg Gate. Seeing these don't take up much time, since you basically just take a picture with it and leave, but it was very neat to see something in real life that you can see in pictures and movies all the time! We also went to Checkpoint Charlie, which has an amazingly well done Mauer (Wall) Museum beside it. The Mauer Museum looks much smaller than it is, but I would recommend putting aside at least a few hours to go through it if you plan on visiting. Seeing Checkpoint Charlie was amazing, and it is so strange to think that the wall did not come down very long ago. Another interesting thing was that many of the visitors that we went through the museum with were German, and not all tourists.
Not far away from Checkpoint Charlie is the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, and just beside that is the Topography of Terror. The Memorial takes up a block, and is surrounded by busy streets. Once you get inside the blocks, it is very quiet. It is a place of reflection, and of mourning. The day we went was very windy and cold, but once you walk in a bit, everything stops.
The Topography of Terror, which is very close to the memorial, has a less calm feeling to it. The museum is in the spot where the SS Headquarters were during World War Two. You can still see the outer wall of the basement, and just above that is a piece of the Wall still standing. The Topography of Terror reminded me a bit of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Manitoba, not just in information but also in the feeling that you get from going through. The Museum goes through from 1933 to now, and talks mostly about the SS and the gestapo. It also talks about the aftermath of the war, and what happened to some of the top officers.
On our last day in Berlin, we went down to Sachsenhausen, one of the first concentration camps built. It is about an hour train ride from Berlin, and is a whole day trip, if you are planning on going. It was very cold on the day that we went, but the weather suited the feeling that I had going through the memorial and museum. Sachsenhausen has a long and terrible history. It was originally built as a test for camps, built in a triangle shape so that the guards in each tour could see the whole camp (the shape was not used for other camps because they could not add buildings easily without wrecking the sight lines). It went on to hold up to 70 000 prisoners in 1945, and was the site of many atrocious experiments. After it was liberated by the Soviets, they used it as a camp for political prisoners, until they decided to turn it into a memorial to the people they liberated. The memorial was heavily biased (it has just red triangles on the massive monument in the middle of the camp, which means political prisoners, so the Soviets who were caught wore that triangle), and made the Soviets out to be the heros. Ironic, since they used the camp as well.
The camp was massive. It is impossible to convey how huge and empty it was inside the walls. Many of the barracks that the prisoners were held in have been taken down, but gravel marked out where they used to be. There are a few buildings left, such as the morgue, the hospital, the camp prison, a barrack or two, and the house of the head of the camp, just a few feet outside of the camp. There is also the burnt remains of 'Station Z', the building that had held the gas chambers and the crematory. The camp is free to the public, just like the Topography of Terrors, so that no one has an excuse to ignore the atrocities of the war. As someone who had learnt about the Holocaust since elementary school, nothing that I read was a shock. But that did not stop it from being an emotional journey. I had at least three moments of understanding how awful the memories were that that ground held. One was in the morgue- the upstairs held am autopsy room, and each person who died was given reasons like 'heart failure' for their reason of death (even of they had been worked to death, or shot, or beaten), and then sent into the basement. They would stack the bodies, and there is a ramp from their for wheelbarrows to take the bodies to the crematory, or to be buried. The building was quite crowded when we had gotten in, since there was a tour group going through, but once I saw how huge the basement was, I wanted out. Unfortunately, there was a rude tourist blocking the door so he could take pictures (and there were a few people taking selfies in the basement... who does that?). Going outside doesn't give you much relief, since every part of the camp oozes a terrible feeling, but it is better than being inside those buildings. By the end of the day, I was emotionally exhausted, but so glad that I went. I think it is so important for everyone to learn and understand what happened during the Holocaust. What are your thoughts about taking photos in places like that?
I ended up really loving Berlin. It is a gritty city, with a twisted past, but it really has grown past that. Many of the people that I talked to said that one thing that they loved about Berlin was the fact that it was so open and accepting, and that it is multi-cultural.
Have you been to Berlin? Did you love it as much as me, even with the dark past?
You can see more of my photos from Germany on my instagram account here, my account is @funk_katherine
Although this was the second week of our trip, I decided to write about it first. We started in Berlin, and from Berlin took the ICE train to Cologne. We ended up finding out that we pass Hannover on the way to Cologne, so it was a bit of a backward way of going through the country, but it worked out well. If you just happen to be going to Berlin, Hannover, and Cologne, like we did, I would recommend going to Hannover first, and then Cologne from there.
Anyway, our trip took about 4 hours to get there. We have family in this area who was picking us up and showing us around the area, so we were very lucky to have our own tour guides!
The family that we had in that area was so knowledgeable about the area and its history, which was amazing for us! That also means that I have tons of historical stories about the area to share (yay!).
We started off in Cologne, since that was where our train was coming in. We walked around Cologne's Old Town for a while, and also saw the Rhine river. Cologne doesn't have a massive Old Town compared to some towns, but what it does have is stunning. We started off at the Cologne Dom, or Cathedral, which is right beside the main train station. They started building the cathedral in the 1200's, but it wasn't finished until the 1850s. They still constantly work on the cathedral because the pollution is wrecking the stones that it was made from. They use a very specific type of stone from Italy, and they employ many, many stone maisons and workers to fix up the building. The cathedral actually escaped being bombed during the second world war, and only had a few windows blown out. The Allies were trying to avoid hitting the cathedral, so the Old Town around it also escaped the bombs. The rest of Cologne, however, was not so lucky because it is a bit of an import town, with the Rhine going through the center of the town.
After walking through Cologne, the next day we had a castle day (which is very exciting for someone who lives in a place that doesn't have any old buildings left). The first one that we went to, Schloss Dyck, was built in the 1630s. I wanted to take a million pictures of it, but photos were not allowed inside unfortunately. The inside looked like a miniature Versailles. The next one that we went to was more of a typical medieval castle, though it was a little bit more touristy since there was an Easter market going on that day. The castle was on the top of a hill (like most castles are), and had stunning views from the top. The last one is still a town, but you can walk along the entire wall that held the original old town. We ended up being there at dusk, so the light was stunning.
On the last day in the area, we went to Aachen, and to the drielandenpunt, the border of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. It is very neat to see the border there because all of the countries are a part of the European Union. That means that there is no border control, you can just walk between the three countries.
Aachen is really a university town, and it has a beautiful Old Town. Starting with the cathedral, which has a pretty great back story to it. The lore behind the building is that the people of Aachen needed help from the devil to build it. In exchange for helping them build the cathedral, he asked for the soul of the first death in the Cathedral. The devil thought that this was a great deal since he believed that the first soul would be the soul of the pope. However, the people of Aachen are cunning, and they trapped a coyote in the cathedral so that was the soul that the devil got. After he came to get the soul, he was so angry about being tricked that he punched the door (you can feel a bit of metal in one of the door knockers, and people say that it is the devils finger), and ran all the way to the sea. He brought back two huge bags of sand, and he was going to cover the whole city in sand. He eventually got very tired, and saw a woman from Aachen. He asked this woman how close the town was, and since she also was very cunning, she told him to look at her shoes. She told him that she had only bought them that morning at the Aachen market, but she had been walking so far that they were completely worn through. The devil was so tired already, that he couldn't walk that far to get there, so he gave up an dumped the sand right there, right at the doors of the city. Just outside of the city are two large hills, which is what they are talking about when they say he dumped the sand there.
There is also the Lindt factory in Aachen, which we had to go over to see and get some chocolate at the store beside the factory. We also walked through all of the Old Town of Aachen, and had a drink at a beautiful old pub. The old town of Aachen was originally all wood, but it burned down in 1668, and after that laws were created that enforced each building to be made of stone.
From Aachen, we made our way (on the train again) to Hannover. Not far from Hannover is the small village that my dads grandma and family is from. We were able to see the place where she grew up, and some of the other small towns in that area. There are a bunch of villages very close together in that area, and we stayed there with family. The day after we arrived on the train was a quiet day, our first since we arrived in Germany. In the morning we walked around the little village, and in the afternoon we went to the town of Celle. Celle has the most intact old town in Germany, and it was completely avoided during the war. Celle has a Baroque styled castle there, which was actually built in the 1200s but was remodeled in the 1600s. Many of the buildings in the streets are from the 1500 and 1600s. The castle in Celle is actually the place where Caroline Matilda of Great Britain was exiled. You may know of her from the movie A Royal Affair, starring Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen.
I won't talk about Hannover very much since most of our trip there was about seeing family rather than sight seeing and learning new things, but we did still see some neat things! The great thing about going to Hannover (for me...) was that Queen Victoria was from the house of Hannover. The house of Hannover ruled until Victorias death in 1901 since her children were from the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha because of their father, Albert.
We also went to the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen. Since we were there in off season, it was lovely and quiet with no other tourists going through. Unfortunately that also means none of the plants were growing, which is pretty much the point of going to royal gardens.... But there were tons of statues and many other beautiful things in the gardens, and it was easy to imagine how lovely it would be in summer.
Thank you for reading! I will have much more information in my next post since I will talk about our week in Berlin then.
When I started this collection, I was inspired by the darker aspect of the Victorian Era. When it comes to costuming, it is very easy to see the beautiful parts of history, especially when your research focuses more on fashion plates and patterns, which it normally does when researching a dress. While I love seeing the lovely parts of history, I am more fascinated by the darker parts than anything else. As you have seen before (especially in my Frankenstein dress), I have a dark side that I love to mix in to my costuming. I have made quite a few costumes that were purely historical and as pretty as I could make it, but I have decided that I should make them more in my style, rather than just historically accurate.
I love the taking historical silhouettes and ideas and making them a little different, and a little bit darker. I had mentioned in a previous post about some of the things that inspired this collection. I made four dresses, each one representing another dark side of the late 1800s. This first one that I made, which I called Through the Looking Glass, was inspired by the drug issues that were so prevalent in this era. Opium was a huge problem in the late 1800s, with Opium Dens available all around, especially in large cities like New York and London. In the US, it was the Civil War that started many addictions. Most also didn't realize how addicting the drug was, so doctors prescribed it for many nervous conditions as well as for pain. Those who didn't have money for a doctor were able to buy it from a pharmacist to solve any medical problems. Opium wasn't the only highly addictive drug wandering the streets- such as laudanum and cocaine. Arsenic and other dangerous (and poisonous) ingredients were readily available.
To make things a little worse, doctors did not know how to treat addiction at the time. Hospitals would sometimes get them addicted to a different drug in an attempt to wean them off of opium, or whatever other drug was the issue, and the patient would end up with a few addictions instead of just the one. This may be a familiar concept if you have watched The Knick. The Knick is a show set in the 1890s following surgeons in a New York hospital. It is based on a true story, and the main doctor (John W. Thackeray) is based off of one of Americas Founding Fathers of surgery and medicine. Thackeray is based on William Halstead. Halstead had a rather unfortunate life, but did incredible things for modern surgery!
In a time when surgery had a mortality rate of close to 50%, Halstead brought in sterile gloves, developed radical mastectomy, carried out the first ever successful hernia and aneurysm repairs, as well as the first emergency blood transfusion, and brought in washing hands before operations. Halstead was originally addicted to cocaine, and ended up being checked into a hospital to get his addiction under control. They introduced him to morphine, and he lived the rest of his life addicted to both. His wife, a nurse, was also addicted to morphine.
Morphine and other opiates were incredibly easy to get your hands on- morphine and cocaine injection kits (with newly invented syringes) were available in the Sears catalog. Herione was known as a remedy for morphine addiction, and one philanthropic society mailed heroin to a group of morphine addicts. Cocaine eventually was replaced by methamphetamine and amphetamine, which was used for asthma. Many countries used amphetamine during World War Two to keep pilots and soldiers awake.
Through the early 1800s, most of the opium coming to Britain was from Turkey. It was known to be stronger, and its popularity only dropped in the 1870s and 1880s for Persian import. The opium was known as a cure all, and used as such by doctors and anyone needing pain relief, etc. It was also used to quiet fussing babies, mixed with water and treacle. It occasionally resulted in deaths, and often in illnesses. Raw opium could be bought as pills or sticks, and it was used normally for women more often than men. Medications containing opium were called 'women's friends' since it was taken for 'female troubles' (menstruation and childbirth), and 'female maladies' (hysteria, depression, fainting fits, and mood swings).
Cocaine was discovered in 1860 from coca leaves, but it wasn't available for commercial use until the 1880s. However, in 1863 a chemist named Angelo Mariani came up with a tonic that used coca leaves. It was advertised to solve everything, and could be taken like a daily vitamin. The tonic was praised by Queen Victoria and Rudyard Kipling, as well as others. In two glasses it is believed to have contained 50 milligrams of pure cocaine.
The drug problem in this era affected every part of society. It wasn't actually realized to be a problem until 1920, when the Dangerous Drug Act came to be in Britain.
Ripper Street has been a show that I have been inspired by for this collection, and The Knick has been another inspiration. If you would like to read more about how modern medicine was started in this era, Lindsey Fitzharris has a fascinating new book out called The Butchering Art, based on the surgeon Joseph Lister's life and success in modernizing surgery. If you would like to see the images that have inspired the collection, I have a pinterest board here (all of the images are dresses. I have very dark and gruesome information that I have found through research, but I promise there are no bad images, just pretty things!). I will recommend other books, movies, and TV shows that I have gotten information from for each of the dresses. For the Jewel dress I will talk about prostitution, especially in Britain, through the late 1800s, and for the other two gowns I will talk about circuses and sideshows, and death practices in the 1800s. Most of my information focuses on London, since that is what I am most interested in, but it also moves around to New York, Toronto, and other large cities with dark underbellies.
I chose the name for this dress (Through the Looking Glass) based off of the author, Lewis Carroll. Although there is much debate, Alice in Wonderland is well known as being a drug-induced dream, so I thought that would be a perfect name for the first Dark History.
Since my Curiosities collection is based on the 1880s, I have most of my undergarments for them from my Frankenstein dress. The only things that I have had to make to go under these dresses were a bustle cage and petticoat. I could have used the bum pad that I made for my Frankenstein dress, but I wanted a more dramatic silhouette, and I have always wanted to make one. I talked about making the bustle cage in the last post, and once that was done I draped a petticoat over it. It is just muslin pleated onto a waistband with a lace bottom.
So far I have made two of the skirts, both of them are very simple. They are draped in the same way as the petticoat, I just draped them over the bustle and sewed them to a waistband.
I have been filming the progress of each of the pieces so far, so I don't have many pictures. I will put out the video once I have pictures of the final products.
I finally started on my newest project- a collection of bustle dresses! I was inspired by many things for this little collection of (hopefully) four dresses, the largest inspiration being photos from the circus throughout the ages, especially the 1880s. I also have been inspired by my tarot cards (by the artist Nicoletta Ceccoli), as well as the show Ripper Street, and some of the strange vintage photos found online. I have talked about this collection before, in my Plans and Fabric Haul video, and have finally decided on a name for the collection- Curiosities.
The first thing that I needed to make to before I started the dresses was a bustle cage. I made a bum pad for the last bustle dress that I did, but I really wanted to make an actual bustle cage, so I decided to use the American Duchess pattern for panniers, but I just made one instead of two. I also made the pattern about 4 inches smaller since my panniers are quite large.
Next up- the dresses! I've decided to start with one that is based off of Alice in Wonderland.
I finally got around to using my beautiful Simplicity pattern by American Duchess. The pattern was based off of the red dress in season two of Outlander. I didn't want mine to look too similar to the Outlander dress other than the shape, so I chose a mint green silk with patterns on it. I also used lace in the slit in the top of the bodice to make it feel a little more historical.
I ended up having quite a few days off of work in a row, and we (my mom and I) decided to make a trip up to Banff to get photos. We live pretty close, so it was easy to drive down for the night. I got two photo shoots done- one for the Green Dress, and one for my In the Mood for Love inspired dress (I will have the photos for that one up next week, as well as a video).
When we decided to go to Banff, I still hadn't even started the dress yet. It ended up taking me 3 days from cutting out the fabric to finishing it- pretty fast compared to some of my projects! During those 3 days I also had to finish the other dress that we were going to take photos of, so it was pretty hectic at the beginning of the week!
I cut the pattern out in a size 6, and that worked pretty well, although it is a bit big in the bust (as you can see with the lacing). That could have been fixed easily if I had made a mockup, but I didn't... But I think it turned out well anyway! The skirt is cartridge pleated through the back, and pleated in the front. I wore it over my shift, bum pad, panniers (what makes the shape so dramatic at the hips), and a petticoat. I will do a post on the panniers in a few weeks or so. The panniers were also from the American Duchess pattern, and they came together very easily and quickly! I am very pleased with how they turned out.
These photos were taken at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which was opened in 1888. The hotel is beautiful, and even though it isn't the same era as the dress, I thought it was a beautiful backdrop.
As I said in my last post, I wanted to talk about how they got dressed in the 1880's, which is the era that my last project was from. Many people ask me what is on under my costumes to give them their shape, so I thought it would be good to show you all of the layers as they are worn.
The first layer is called combinations. They are a top and bloomers sewn together, with a slit in the bloomers so you can use the washroom (with all of the layers worn at the time, this feature is pretty necessary). Mine are made of muslin and vintage buttons and lace. The garment was mostly hand drafted, and very loosely based on a Simplicity pattern to get an idea of the shape for the bloomers.
After the combinations, you would normally want to put on stockings (I just wore wool socks for warmth) and shoes, since it is a little difficult to put on shoes with a corset on, but I forgot to put on my shoes before the corset. The corset is next- mine is a silk taffeta in a green/mustard colour with vintage lace. The busk (the front closing) is from Farthingales, a Canadian company.
After the corset, there is more shaping- the bustle and the petticoat. Bustles came in many shapes and forms, and for this project I just made a bum pad out of two layers, to give it a 'perky' shape. The petticoat is made of muslin and ruffled lace, and is made to smooth the lines from the bustle. After making this dress, I will be making a boned bustle cage for some more projects in this era.
Finally we get to the outer dress! My dress is in three parts- bodice, skirt, and apron. The apron is the draped fabric that goes over top of the skirt. First I put on the skirt, then the apron, and the bodice last.
The finishing touches to the ensemble is the jacket (which was not made by me. I just did the heart embroidery on the shoulder), the hat, and the shoes since I forgot to put them on earlier. A proper woman in the 1880's would also wear gloves to leave the house, but since I was going a little steampunk with this dress, I thought it was okay to be glove-less.
I hope this was informative and answered any of your questions about layers in the era and how to get the pretty extreme silhouette! Keep your eyes out for more steampunk styled outfits coming up! And also for a real bustle cage!
I have finished editing the making of video for my bustle dress! I am thinking of doing more videos like this, so let me know if you like it!
I finished my bustle dress a few weeks ago, but we were not able to make it into Calgary for photos until today. It ended up being freezing! I was completely frozen by the time we got all of the photos, but I think they turned out really well! I know that I have posted a ton about this dress, but I am going to make two posts for the finishing of this- the one today will be of the actual finished outfit in Calgary (we took the photos in Kensington since it is one of the oldest places in Calgary- unfortunately Calgary isn't a very old city, so it was a bit difficult to find something that I thought fit with the dress). The second post that I will make will be about getting dressed in the 1880s, and what all of the layers look like together (including the finishing touches- a jacket and a hat).
My biggest inspiration for this dress was from Ripper Street, a BBC show that was set not long after the Jack the Ripper murders. It focuses on the police station in Whitechapel that investigated at the time. I love the costumes from the show, especially Long Susan's, so that is where I got this idea from. The show is a little bit steampunk, and the dresses are more historically inspired rather than historically accurate, which I love. I enjoyed the freedom of the outfit not having to be perfectly historical, and I already have ideas for more steampunk-styled 1880's circus/showgirl ensembles (so keep your eyes out for jewel tone fabrics and bustles!).
Because my inspiration was so dark, as was the dress itself when I finished it, I wanted a sort of grungy looking place to get photos. Calgary is a very lovely, clean place, which made it difficult to find something that looked anything like Whitechapel in the 1880s. We ended up just walking around Kensington to find the older brick buildings and any neat parts of the neighborhood. There are tons of gorgeous old houses in the area, but most of them look very high-class, which wasn't the goal for this outfit, so I guess I will have to make something more proper and go back for pictures!
Once we were properly frozen, we made our way to Higher Ground Cafe to warm up and for me to change into something a little more appropriate for the weather. We had a lovely morning in Kensington, stopping by the Naked Leaf (who has the best earl grey vanilla tea), Crave Cupcakes, and Paiges Bookstore where I picked up a cloth bound Sherlock Holmes story. It was a perfect day, even though it was so cold!
I will put up my next post soon where I will talk more about the history and how they got dressed in the 1880s (and also how long it took me to get ready in the morning).
I hope you enjoyed my post, and how the dress turned out!
If you want to see more of my making of posts for this dress, the links to all of them are in my portfolio, here
Since I spend quite a lot of my time hand sewing, I normally do that while watching a movie or a tv show. There are so many great period dramas to watch, and they are not only very well done but also great inspiration to keep sewing! I get a ton of ideas from costumes, so here are some of my favourite costume movies.
In the Mood for Love
This is a translated movie, so if you are not fond of 'reading' your movies, I would not recommend this one. I love translated movies, and this is one of my favourites! I only watched this one for the first time this summer, and I am in love with the story line as well as with the costumes. Set in Shanghai in the 1960s, the story follows to young couples that are living in the same apartment building. It is beautifully filmed, has a great soundtrack, and the makeup, hairstyles, and costumes are all spot on. Some other gorgeously done translated films are Amelie and Generation War.
This is another one that I just saw this summer, and it is more of a fantasy than a historical movie. It is set in a hospital in the 1930s, and it is about a story that a man is telling this young girl. This movie truly is eye candy! The costuming is done by Eiko Ishioka, who made some of the most gorgeous film costumes throughout the years. Some other movies that she costumed are Mirror Mirror (2012) and Dracula (1992).
This has been one of my favourite Jane Austen era movies for a long time, and I don't see myself finding a movie I love more than this one any time soon. Based on the true love story of John Keats and Fanny Brawne, this movie has everything going for it. It has a stunning soundtrack and costumes (Fanny is a seamstress, which makes it even better!), as well as beautiful cinematography.
Testament of Youth
This is another movie with beautiful cinematography, and it is surprisingly not very well known! Be warned though, this movie will make you sob. It is also based on a true story, set during WW1. My Boy Jack, Anzac Girls, and The Crimson Field are all amazing movies and shows set during WW1.
And for those who are wondering, I am almost done my bustle dress! I am just at the hand finishing stage which is taking longer than I would like it to, but I am so close! So stay tuned for photos of that once its all done.