Friday, 26 June 2015

Me on video from Anaheim

So while at Celebration Anaheim I met up with Holly from "How stuff works". Holly is a wonderful costumer herself, but here she was the reporter. After some mishaps, and trying to connect with each other, while I couldn't really use my phone, she interviewed me in my gold handmaiden costume.

 She talked with some other costumers as well, so it's not just about me.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Vika traditional costume

As I mentioned in my last post I wear the traditional costume of Vika parish outside Falun in Dalarna, Sweden. My family on my father's side can trace its history there back to the Middle Ages, and eventhough my great grandfather moved away from the area, it was only fitting that when my parents moved to Falun they chose a part of town that is part of the Vika parish. The Vika costume was reconstructed/created in the 1920's. Falun was a fairly affluent town, and the people of Vika had preferred to keep up with current fashions rather than keep with traditional costumes. When it was decided to reconstruct a costume for Vika they did look around in attics and outhouses, as well as talked to older women. They did find a remnant of the fabric that according to a woman had been in use in Vika, and that was to form the foundation for the costume. Vika is a fairly small parish, and there has never been a consistent production of the costume, so it's not a very common costume. The fabric is made by some women, and they set the loom for it when it's deemed that enough people have said that they are interested in a costume. As such it's been hard trying to find pictures of the costume. And I don't have many of myself wearing it either.

A Vika costume, picture from an auction site
The one thing I love about this costume is the colouring. Most traditional costumes tend to go towards black and red, but this one is striped in blue, green and purple. The striping is different on the gown and the apron, so that the apron appears more green while the gown itself is more blue.

The main gown is fairly basic, typical of reconstructed costumes. It's a bodice with lacing in front and the skirt is pleated and sewn on to the bodice at the waist. The gown should be go down to around mid calf, but the length of the skirt is one way of determining when a folk costume was made. There are examples of costumes from the 1960's and 1970's where the skirt barely goes down below the knees. One of the issues I want to fix on my costume is that it's too long and almost goes down to the toes.

Under the gown you wear a linen blouse, with lace around the cuffs and lace inserts on the middle of the sleeve. With the gown you wear a cap and a neckerchief. This is another thing that I like about the Vika costume. Many costumes have regulated how the cap and neckerchief should look, but in Vika they decided to keep the tradition of individual caps and neckerchiefs. The tradition comes from the fact that the neckerchief was usually a gift from your fiance, and depending on how rich or well traveled he was there was a great variety in neckerchiefs, and the cap should go with the neckerchief.

Me and my niece in 2008, she's wearing a girl's Leksand costume
As you can see I have a purple neckerchief and purple cap to go with it. Me and my sisters are all wearing neckerchiefs that were bought when we were very young, it was the first part of the costume that we all received. They are actually from Seefeld, Austria, and are originally worn with the traditional Tyrolean drndl-costume. I've grown up in a family with a lot of friends in that area of Austria/Northern Italy, and I'm very happy that I can combine that part of my family's story together with the heritage of Vika.The neckerchief is held together with a silver brooch in the shape of the coat-of-arms of the Vika parish.

18th century cap in a similar style
The cap (bindmössa) is a staple of many folk costumes. It can trace its lineage all the way back to the Middle Ages and the structured hoods, including the French hood of the Tudor times. It's hard and structure and covered in embroidered silk. Its shape today is a fossilized version of the caps worn in the 18th century.Around the edge of the cap there is a loose piece of lace, which I think is meant to keep the hair neat, I personally think it's the trickiest part of the costume.

As an unmarried woman I don't need the cap, but can wear a woven ribbon in the same colours as the ribbons to the apron, but I prefer to wear the cap, even if it's trickier to keep in place, I simply feel that the costume is more complete when worn with the cap.

The one thing I'm missing from my costume is the pocket, or loose bag. It's exactly the same shape as a 18th century pocket and embroidered. There is the hitch. I have the material for the pocket, but the stitches are so small that I've never managed to do it myself. Thankfully my older sister, who has sewn my costume, has now said that she can do the embroidery on the pocket for me, so one day I'm going to have a pocket.

There are also some other accessories for the costume. I have a wool winter shawl, white with narrow stripes of purple and green at the border. I also think that I have a simple cotton neckerchief, or at my sister has the fabric for one and she said that she might have ordered fabric for all of us at the same time. For real solemn occasions, like funerals, you can wear a white apron and neckerchief, but I don't have those.

As for things I would like to do do for the heirloom challenge. As mentioned I think my skirt is a bit on the longer side, so I would like to hem it up. I also think that the bodice is too big, I would like to turn it into a more fitted bodice. In order to do that I would need to take it apart and resew it, but I don't think it's very complicated. If I have fabric for the cotton neckerchief it would also be suitable to finish that one. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Midsummer and folk costume

On Friday it was Midsummer's Eve, which is a really big thing in Sweden, and even bigger if you live in Dalarna, the region of Sweden that is the most serious about Midsummer traditions. Now I didn't do anything particular this year, we had a family lunch and then it was off to Vika to raise the Maypole/Midsummer pole and hear a speech about how great the summer is. It is a time to wear the traditional folk costume though, which me, my mother and one of my sisters did.

It was typical Swedish Midsummer weather as you can see by me and my sister wearing our wool winter shawls over the rest of the costume. My mother isn't wearing her headpiece either because it rained for a lot of the time and she didn't want to ruin it, it's quite a complicated thing out of hay and topped with a very finely pleated piece of fabric.

Since my plan for the HSM Heirloom challenge is to do some alterations on my costume I felt that this would be a good chance to go through some of the history of the costume. By looking at the picture above you can see that my and my my sister are not wearing the same costume as our mother. That is because you usually choose your costume based on the parish that you are from. My family on my father's side can trace our history back to the 14th century in Vika, outside of Falun in Dalarna, so for me and my sisters it was natural to choose the Vika costume. My mother though is from the county of Södermanland and is wearing a costume from Vingåker.

Costumes from Vingåker, note the headpiece
The history of the folk costume is quite complicated. Basically from the start it was used in most Swedish parishes, with each parish having its won version. My mother's Vingåker costume is one of the oldest unchanged ones in Sweden, there were regulations already at the end of the 16th century that you were not allowed to do any changes to it. During the 18th century the costumes started to deviate more from the current fashions, looking at many folk costumes you can still see fossilized remains of 18th century fashion. This also meant that the traditional costumes survived more in rural communities, people of the higher classes and people in towns preferred to keep up with fashions rather than tradition. Where the traditional costume stayed alive it usually developed a very complicated system of colours and accessories and how to wear the costume correctly. One of the most complicated costumes is the one from Leksand, Dalarna, where there is even a published calendar on how to wear and combine the different parts of the costume correctly, if you have more than the basic costume.
varieties of the Leksand costume,

When talking about folk costumes nowadays you usually differ between costumes with an unbroken tradition and reconstructed costumes. An unbroken tradition means that the costume has been in use up until the early 20th century, most costumes are reconstructed ones though. That means that the use of traditional costume disappeared in the 19th century, but when the wave of romantic nationalism swept over Sweden in the early 20th century they were reconstructed to and people started wearing them again. Some costumes were reconstructed, with the help of textile remnants and oral traditions, other were totally constructed out of a general "this would represent our parish"-feeling. I personally am trying to get away from looking down "new" or reconstructed costumes, not the least because many of them date to the 1920's and 1930's and have acquired a history as well, even if it's not as long as the unbroken costumes.

The traditional costumes are mostly associated with Midsummer, but can be worn for all occasions, they are considered formal wear. I've worn mine for example when singing with the church choir at Christmas and to balls when I was a student.

In the next post I'll talk a bit more about my costume.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Lack of inspiration, lack of updates

So it's been two weeks since I posted anything, and to be honest it's quite a lot to do with lack of inspiration. I've also had some really busy weeks at work, end of May early June is always my busiest since I simultaneously have a lot of special school programs and prepare the upcoming summer season. This year, and the coming years, it's also the preparation for opening up our new exhibitions. This year it was the first part, showing off the history of the Falun Mine from the start (somewhere around 1000 AD) to ca 1530.
Part of my job with the new exhibit has been with choosing weapons and clothing that the visitors will see and be able try out. Well the weapons will be mounted on the walls, but I couldn't resist having some fun with them before they went up. For clothing I, together with the seamstress we hired, decided to go for late 14th century. It has the traditional "medieval" look of them, and we wanted to use a fairly non-fitting style, so that people of as many sizes as possible would be able to try them. In the end we have a mix of tunics, cotes, surcotes, cape and hood based on the Greenland finds and the clothes worn by Bockstensmannen.

The lightning in the exhibition isn't exactly good for taking photos, but it's possible to get some dramatic shots there.

Except for work I've also felt quite uninspired by this months HSM challenge. Or rather it hasn't turned out as fun as I wanted to. The challenge is "out of your comfort zone" and I'm still planning on drafting and handsewing a pet en l'air. Being back in the 18th century after my early 1900s clothes have made me feel that they are more constricting, and not the least that I need to wiggle in and out of my backlaced stays every time I want to do a fitting, my dress form is perfect for modern clothes and the hourglass shape of the 19th century, but unusable for the more conical shape of the 18th century.

This is where I'm at after having drafted the pattern from the instructions for a late 18th century bodice in Creating Historical Clothes.

Hopefully I can get some inspiration and get over the hurdle of creating the pattern, because I really want to start working with the fabric that I have for it.

Monday, 1 June 2015


One thing about sewing that I both dislike and like is that it's necessary to know your measurements. It gives a good reality check though, knowing that this is actually my body. Also it makes it easier to notice any changes, more reliably than standing on the scales.

Well since I'm hoping to draft and drape a saque pattern this month I needed to take all my measurements in my desert rose stays. Thankfully my sister dropped by so I could get some help, I've found it impossible to get accurate measurements when trying to measure myself. Since I also don't trust that I will keep hold on the little note where we wrote everything down I'm going to share my measurements with you all. The numbers correlate to the numbers in Creating historical clothes, so I'm not going to tell you exactly which body part has which measurement.
  1.  162
  2. 36
  3. 40
  4. 104
  5. 67
  6. 84
  7. 120
  8. 15
  9. 47
  10. 70
  11. 35
  12. 27,5
  13. 16
  14. 46,5