Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Costuming year in review - favorite look of the year

My favorite look of the year is definitely my Lady Poe 1762 ballgown.

Even if the wide silhouette of the 1760s had never been a favorite, I had always felt that my 18th century wardrobe wouldn't be complete without one big robe a la Francaise with loads of trims and ruffles. Even if I need to redo the trim, due to the fraying, and I want to make a new stomacher, the feeling of swoshing around in 8 meters of silk taffeta was wonderful. The factt hat I could drape it and handsew it in just around a month also shows how far I have come in my sewing skills since I started historical costuming.

On a totally different level my Obelix costume is my favorite cosplay look of the year, it's just so out of my regular costuming zone, but it's definitely one of the most fun costumes I've ever made.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Costuming year in review - achievements

There is one field of my costuming where I really feel that I took a leap forward, and that was with 18th century hair. I first used pomatum (or rather cold cream) and hair powder, and I managed to get good looking hairstyles that held.

I'm most happy with the tete a mouton style I did for the 1762 ball.

One thing I did realize though is that my hair is actually too long to make the big, poofy hairstyles of the 1780s, the classic hogs. The length of my hair weighs down the curls, if it was 10-15 cm shorter it would stay a lot more upright. I'm not going to cut it off though, especially since you need the length in the back and I don't want to wear a mullet jus to look good at a few events every year.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

HSM2019 challenge 12 - on a shoestring

I haven't done many HSM challenges this year, but I really wanted to finish up the year with one. The theme for challenge 12 was
"On a shoestring - It’s an expensive time of year, so make an item on a tight budget (say, under $15, or less than you’d spend on a reasonable priced takeaway meal for one person in your country "
Shouldn't be too hard to come up with something, right. I had scraps of wool from left from the year, and small enough that they wouldn't end up costing more than the allowed budget. I just couldn't come up with anything though, Finally yesterday, with a bit of panic, I remembered that I hadn't finished the cords for attaching the sleeves to my mustard kirtle. When I wore it in August I had pinned the sleeves on, but I had decided to make eyelets and tie them on with cords. I had made one cord back in the autumn, but I needed a pair, so I sat down watched the Witcher on Netflix and finished the second cord.

The cords are lucet cords made of a brown wool yarn. I bought a lucet fork (slynggaffel) many years ago, and now I finally feel like I have gotten the hand of making lucet cords. There are a lot of video tutorials for lucet cords out there, but I felt that I got the hang of it when I follwed this written tutorial instead. The one problem I have with the technique is that if I make a mistake I either have to unravel everything I've done, or end up with clear cap in the cord. That happened on one of the strings, but I decided to live with it and if it breaks I can always make a new one. One thing to remember with lucet cords is that they are springy, they are still very strong though and work fine for lacing.

What the item is: - a pair of cords
How it fits the challenge: They are very cheap, and lucet cords were used in the Middle Ages.
Material: A couple of meters of wool yarn
Pattern: None, but I followed this tutorial - https://feltmagnet.com/textiles-sewing/How-to-use-a-lucet
Year: Middle Ages
Notions: - 
How historically accurate is it? I'm not sure how the yarn corresponds to the yarn that was used in the Middle Ages, but the technique is accurate. So maybe 80%
Hours to complete: 6 (3 for each cord - probably faster if you don't watch TV at the same time)
First worn: not yet
Total cost: The yarn was from my stash, but I checked and similar yarns go for around $3 for a whole ball of yarn.

Costuming year in review - lessons learned

My lesson learned this year is that pinking silk isn't enough to keep it from fraying. All the trim and sleeve ruffles that I made for my Lady Poe 1762 ballgown were pinked with scalloped pinking shears, and over the evening I wore it they just frayed, and frayed and frayed. Before I use the gown again I will have to take off all the trim, repink the edges and treat the edges in some way.

It's not that the image is enlarged, all the fuzz on the edges are because they are fraying really badly.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Costuming year in review - New appreciation

The last year I've really started to like embroidery, in particular goldwork and in some regards blackwork. I have not been a fan previously, but now I'm starting to get really interested and I am planning some blackwork and goldwork for the coming year.

This is one of the few extant garments, the wedding outfit of Maria of Habsburg from 1520. I'm hoping to be able to do something similar when I start working on embroidery over a pleated shift. I have started a shift, but it's still a long way to go until it's time to start with the embroidery.

I've also found that a lot of patterns for 16th century German embroidery are avaiable online through German archives. Here is a link to a patternbook from 1526.

Costuming year in review - best acquisition

I have a top three when it comes to my favorite acquisitions this year.

3. This glorous wool that I used for my mustard kirtle.

2. Enfys Nest Helmet
I bought it back in 2018, but thought that the seller wouldn't honour the sale, but then it finally arrived. It still has a lot of work until it's finished, but it is the single biggest thing I've bought for a costume and I am happy about it.

1. My new sewing machine

It was an impulsive buy, but I really love it. I still haven't really experimented with all the things it can do though.

Friday, 27 December 2019

Costuming year in review - introduction and overview

It's time to do th costuming year in review again, and once again I'm one day late. I will catch up later. I find it a good way to summarize my costuming year, I'm also going to do a separate post about the HSM challenges in 2019. I didn't finish many of those though.

The first months of the year were devoted to Enfys Nest, in order to finish her before Celebration in April.

Me to the far left
The weekend I got home from Celebration I directly started working on my next major thing of the year, my Lady Poe 1760s robe a la Francaise.

And then it was straight into this year's NärCon cosplay project, which was Asterix and Obelix together with Ann-Sofie

I made a new 16th century kirtle, that was finished for the last historical event of the year.

I bought a new wig and could finally wear my complete Luna Lovegood at ComicCon Stockholm.

I thought I was done with costumes for the year, but then I decided to redo the jumpsuit for TFA Leia so that I could wear it for the premiere of Rise of Skwyalker.

Outside of the major things I did a smocked apron for a friend, 15 wool skirts for the Christmas fair at work and I made two jersey dresses and a skirt from some really nice fabrics that I had gotten my hands on during the year.

There were some small things made for HSM, but I will talk about that in a separate HSM post. All in all I'm pretty happy with my projects this year.

Christmas celebrations

The Christmas days are over, and this year I celebrated Christmas in a new skirt.

This is one of the best skirts that I have made in a long time, because I actually took my time with it. It's made from a fabric that I found on spoonflower. Since it had a very clear pattern on it I wanted to keep it all on even rows. I simply took two lengths of fabric and pleated them into a waistband, I added a hidden zipper and hook and bar in one of the side seams. To make it easy I even hemmed the lengths before I added them to the waistband.

It's bad light, but this is the photo that best shows off the volume. I'm wearing my shortest and poufiest tuille petticoat under it. I just loved twirling around in the skirt all Christmas. The shoes I'm wearing are my Christmas gift to myself, a pair of Irregular Choice Sweet Ginger Love. I got a pair of big pink, fluffy Christmas tree earings from my aunt and they were perfect with this pink/purple floofyness.

Talking about Christmas gifts, this is my haul with gifts in connection with food and sewing.

There are two things that will probably be seen later on this blog - The official Downton Abbey cookbook, filled with wonderful Edwardian recipes and the bundles of lace at the bottom of the photo. It's bobbin lace, and my sister has made it herself, which must have taken her soooooo many hours since the lace is so fine. Two of the lengths will go to the shirt for my folk costume, so now I need to buy fabric and make a new one, and the third length is just a general lace that can go on anything.

I hope all of you who are celebrating also had a nice Christmas.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Floral Wars dress at the Rise of Skywalker premiere

Earlier this year I got in on ordering a version of the Floral Wars fabric from Knitorious Fabrics. Knitorious only do limited runs and you have to pre-order them, they don't keep stock of their fabrics. I had just missed out on their Star Wars fabrics last year, so now I ordered soe as soon as I saw that hey opened up their pre-order again.

When the invitation came for the prevew of Rise of Skywalker I knew that I wanted to make a new dress for it. The preview was in Stockholm and I would have to go back and forth over the evening, thankfully it was early enough that I could catch the last train towards Dalarna. I didn't feel like being in costume, and instead thought that it would be fun to dress upp for the event.

The preview was fun, and it was great seeing it with my friends in the legions. Now only celebrities were allowed to walk the red carpet where they had our costumed members, so I didn't get photos with them, just with the stormtroopers that were out in the foyer.

For the dress I once again used the Lena pattern from Simply Sew. This time I chose to do a shortsleeved version. My first try with the pattern ended up a bit too big, so this time I increased the seam allowances, and that made it fit a lot better.

The bodice is lined in a thin navy jersey and I used a heavier organic cotton jersey for the waistband. This pattern is really easy to work with. I cut out all the pieces in one evening and sewed the whole dress together in one evening.

I was really happy with the pattern matching in front. I cheat a bit and use a pin to make sure that the stormtrooper in the middle don't slide apart while I'm wearing it. I could probably add a few stitches there.

For the premiere I wore the dress with my smallest tuille petticoat to give it a bit of extra pouff. The skirt of teh dress is so wide that it hangs better with a petticoat under it. I also wore my selfmade lightsabre earrings, my Her Universe R2 pearl necklace and my Heroes and Villains handbag.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

TFA Leia makes a comeback for TROS

Today The Rise of Skywalker premieres in the US, but I have already seen it twice since it premiered yesterday in Europe, and I got the chance to see the VIP preview on Tuesday. I hadn't planned at trooping the premiere, for the first time ever. But after some coaxing I reached out to our local cinema in Falun, and they were happy to have us there.

Now I have complained that I am a bit bored with my X-wing. I then realised that I had fabric that I had saved for remaking my TFA jumpsuit. My original jumpsuit was made in a dreadful plastic fabric, and it had also mysterously shrunk around my tummy and hips. In fact I was surpised that I could paut it on at all. This new fabric I had was a thin cotton with a slight stretch in it. I had bought it for Admiral Daala, but when it arrived I thought it was too light and I also saw that it would be a lot better for TFA Leia. Well now it was time to finally remake the jumpsuit. I simply cut up my old jumpsuit to use as a pattern and added some cm in every seam to make it bigger, and then I sewed it together. This was done in two evenings, so I was in a rush and didn't have time to take photos. It worked fine except for the collar that ended up a bit too big, I might redo it in the future.

The vest and belt still fit, thankfully. The boots were too small at the top, so I couldn't zip them all the way up, but I don't think anyone noticed that. Wearing the boots I remembered just how comfortable they are, so I'm seriously thinking about bringing them to a local cobbler and have them fitted again. Then it was the hair. I haven't done the hair in more than three years, and since I was working in the morning and then stressing to have lunch and show up for the first showing I had a full 15 minutes to make it. It's ok, but it definitely got a bit too poofy. All the photos are taken at the end of the evening, when the twists had started to unravel and gotten even poofier. The hair was tighter earlier in the day.

The troop itself was easy. I was by myself for the first showings, I saw the very first one. Since it was just me I helped to scan the tickets for all the people going to see Rise of Skywalker. Later in the evening I was joined by Alexandra as senatorial Leia.

Early evening, less poofy hair

We have our scanners ready for the people going to the late show
After we had let the last people in we decided to also have some fun up in the machine room of the cinema, since we had to pass it on or way. I also got to borrow Alexandra's blaster.

And to finish it up we joked about the fact that I had gotten into costume at home and then taken my bike to the cinema. So Leia on a "not-exactly-speedy"-bike.

Still aiming better than stormtroopers

I really enjoyed trooping in TFA Leia again. The new jumpsuit was really comfy and cool, in fact it was quite cold riding my bike in it in sub-zero temperatures. I need to practice the hair and make it better, and fix the boots, but then I'm definitely going to use this costume more in the future.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Fake it 'till you make it part 3

For the men at the Christmas fair I had to fake it, for the women it was easier to make historically plausible clothes.

I spent most of my time with the costumes sewing skirts for the staff at the entrances. I made the basic 18th century skirt that you tie around your waist, since that makes it easy to adjust them. I also made the skirts fairly wide so that they could wear thermal trousers under them. All in all I made 15 skirts. They are sewn on machine and quickly gathered to a waistband. The wool for the skirts didn't fray so I didn't hem them either. The men working had a cloth tabard, from the museum storage, and dark clothes, and then we also provided caps and scarves for them to wear. The aim was to get a generic late 19th century vibe.

One thing was evident, that I haven't really thought about. It was easily visible who felt comfortable in their clothes, and who felt strange and dressed out. That is also important to remember when working with a lot of extras. The body language can also give a lot to the authenticity, if you can believe that the person wearing is from another time period just from they way the move and stand. For many of the women working at our fair it was clearly unusual to wear a long skirt and walk around in it the whole day.

For the dramatizations we did I played the female characters. And for our poor working woman I would say that those clothes are not fake, they are quite accurate, even if I ended up with a bit more 17th than 18th century.

I'm wearing a simple skirt, a linen apron and a mid-17th century cap. The jacket is a shortgown based on a preserved shortgown from Visby from the middle of the 18th century. That jacket is made to be worn over pocket hoops, so for this version  made it narrower, I also made the sleeves slightly larger. The shortgown is sewn on machine. The only fake thing is the scarf that I wore, but it was cold and I needed something warm around my neck. Overall this is a look that I feel confident in that it is pretty accurate, and not just plausible, for a simple woman in the late 17th and early 18th centuries around here.

The other character was the landlady of the tavern. I needed to make her look like she's from a higher social status than the poor woman. Here I totally mixed what I could use. 

The foundation garment is my 16th century mustard kirtle, I wanted to give her more colour than the greys and browns of the poor woman. The jacket is a grey jacket from the costume storage. The pattern is nice, but the fabric is dreadful. It's ok from a distance. I added a white neckerchief and a white apron for her. I had planned to use a silk cap to cover the hair, but we had a heavy and wet snowfall on the day of the fair so wearing silk outside was out of the question. I stuck with my 17th century cap, but for her I tied it further back to show a bit more hair than for the poor woman.

The rolling pin is there because I've had to chase out one of the customers of the tavern with it.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Fake it 'til you make it part 2

Something I can recommend for any museum is to reach out to historical costumers and recreators, are they willing to come and help by showing up in costume? This year we had decided to stage some historical scenes set in 1719. I reached out to my colleagues in Sala, the ones who invited me to my very first 18th century event, since I knew that they are actively working with recreating the 18th century. December is a very busy time for them but two of them showed up in costume.

The man's outfit is based on a picture of a map from 1683, and that is a picture I had as a reference as well when I wanted to create a working man's outfit for the late 17th and early 18th century.

The other reference is the woodcut of Fet-Mats Israelsson, who's the reason we had picked the year 1719 for our dramatizations.

I am pretty happy with the costumes that I managed to fake for "our" characters

In Sweden we don't have any webshops that sell 18th century clothing, but we have a lot of viking/medieval shops. Our miners are actually wearing Torsbjerg-trousers, since they were the best wool trousers we could find. To simulate the trousers being breeches they wore either knitted legwarmers or wool legbinders (also viking but it looked good).The vest is from our storage, and it's really nice with proper copper buttons. It is winter though, so they needed some kind of jacket. I made a very quick unfitted jacket, that was basically just a fabric folded double and cut in a T-shape. I then cut off the sleeves so I could make them a bit more shaped and slimmer, and sewed them on again.

The least accurate costume was for the head administrator. Already when we started planning the dramatizations I said that we would not be able to make or buy an upper class outfit. Everything was resolved when we were told that we could borrow a costume. Phew! Then one week before the fair it was clear that we would not be able to borrow the costume as we had thought, so I had less than a week to come up with something.  Based on the portrait of the head administrator I decided that we needed to get some things done so that people only saw the focus details, and not the rest of the costume. I decided that a wig and tricorn hat, a cravat and a vest in a bright colour would make him stand out against the workers.

I have described the work with the wig here. It is a cheap party wig, sprayed white and powdered. For the vest I found a remnant of fake damask fabric in our storage and made a very simple pattern for an early 18th century vest.

I didn't have enough fabric to get it quite as wide in the skirt as I had hoped. I also found some gold braid, and since this vest was a 2 hour job on Friday afternoon I really cheated. Instead of hemming the vest I just zigzagged the edges and put the trim over it to hide the stitches.

I actually think it looks best from behind
 There was just enough trim that I could also take one of our black round hats, apply the gold trim and turn up the brim to create a tricorne from it. The trousers are simply called "fantasy" trousers, that we had in storage, and he brought his own jacket. The jacket was quite short though so he chose to tuck the vest into the trousers to make it even with the jacket. To finish it all off he wore one of my linen veils as a cravat.

accurate, fake, plausible
I must say that in the end it looked fairly good, as long as you stood some distance away.

The drama is in full swing - Fet-Mats has been found after 42 years.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Fake it 'til you make it

I started to write this post, and after a while I realized that it was getting really long, so I have split it up in several parts. This first part is my explanation to why historical costumers quite often get disappointed when visiting museums.

Historical costuming is my hobby, in my professional life I work at a museum. More often than you might think these two aspects come into conflict. The museum I work with is on a journey to provide more living history as part of the experience, and I am one of the persons responsible for doing that. That work has led me to reevaluate my opinion of many other museums, and their attempts at providing historical costumes. I've also seen a few posts lately expressing dissappointment on historical costumes seen on museums.

Living history done well- The publisher's house at Skansen.
The truth is, with very few exceptions museums rarely have the possibility to achieve historical accuracy, instead they have to go for what I have decided to call historical plausability. This is not just a question of time and money, very often it is also a question of knowledge. The museum where I work is very much a technical museum, my colleagues  are very knowledgable, have university degrees and an interest in the past, but they have never studied fashion history. I do not consider myself an expert in the fashion of all time periods, but I can see the difference between a 17th and 19th century outfit, and to be honest most of my colleagues can't. Just like I can't tell the difference between different kinds of window frames, because I don't have an interest or haven't studied them, while my colleagues have done that. This is also a question of training your eyes to see differences in cut and details. I like the to tell the story of when my sister showed me the two dresses she wanted to use as inspiration for her wedding gown, one of them had a pleated skirt and one was a full circle skirt, but to her they looked the same. She didn't see the difference, and that is also the case with many people who have not looked at and studied pictures of fashion like historical recreactors, costumers and cosplayers do. So knowledge is a very large reason why many museums usually don't provide costumes that are historically accurate, they might simply not be aware of it.

Even with knowledge of what a costume should look like, the sad thing is that accuracy costs. I work in a museum that is both old and big enough to have the possibility to have a costuming budget. With old that means that over the years we have aquired costumes or rather pieces of costumes. We have a storage where we have kept things, it's in the size of two movable wardrobes, but at least it's a basis. The pieces are of very varying quality, but there have been some really nice things done, but they are also from very varied time periods. Currently we are working on two tracks when it comes to living history. One will be a permanent thing that will also be set in a time period where there is a big enough interest for historical costuming that there exists stores selling good quality clothes. There I have gotten a budget to buy what we need. The other track is our annual Christmas fair. Since last year we have worked to give it a more historical atmosphere, set in the late 19th early 20th century, but we also add small historical scenes set to a particular year. Last year it was 1695, this year it was 1719, and next year...well it will be a totally different century. It is not feasible for us to spend a lot of money on clothes that will be worn once and maybe not in a long time after that.  This is where I dig deep into the storage and need to come up with ways of basically faking historical fashion.

Living history done well - Lillhärdalsgården at Jamtli
The third issue that affects a museum's costumes is time. Few smaller museums, like ours, have a costuming department. In our case the costuming department is me, and a colleague with a budget that allows her to buy premade things. If we want to produce something though, it generally comes down to what I can do.  I can do it on my work time, but I also have a lot of other things to do so my time is limited when it comes to how much I can spend on sewing. Unlike some of my private costume projects where I don't count the hours at all just make sure that I get things right. Still the fact that my museum has a budget for costumes at all, and have a person that is interested in historical costuming puts us at a great advantage compared to more museums than you migh think. My goal is to make sure that our characters have a plausible silhouette, even if I can't make accurate costumes. I need to take my knowledge of historical fashion and concentrate it into something that workds, even if a lot of it is put together from pieces that are by themselves totally inaccurate. I call this historically plausible rather than historically accurate. (and yes it hurts the historical costumer in me but it is the reality that I live with).

It should also be said that in many cases the museums that are well-known and respected for their living history programs, in Sweden we have Skansen and Jamtli for example, have been doing it for decades (or in Skansen's case more than a century) to build up their knowledge and their costuming departments. I might work at Sweden's oldest technical museum, but we are just beginners when it comes to living history.

With these limitations in mind, in the following posts I will talk about how I worked with the costumes for the characters during our Christmas fair.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

A quick fix for a cheap wig

On Sunday it's time for the annual Christmas fair at work, which is one of the most respected and well-known fairs in Sweden to be honest. Since last year we have worked with creating a more "historical" atmosphere. Our problem is lack of money and the fact that the costume department at work is basically just me, outside of my regular work. I will probably make a longer post about the differences between being a serious historical costumer and having to work within the confines of a small budget, lack of knowledge and lack of time.

Anyway one of the things that was a last minute thing to create a decent costume for a person to portray Anders Swab, the head administrator in the year 1719. There is a portrait of him looking like this

A wig was essential. The original plan was to borrow a decent outfit, but when that fell through I had to make things work. This I realized on Monday, yes this Monday. The only opportunity was to go out to one of the cheap party shops that I can rely on delivering within one or two days, and so I did. I found this awful and cheap pirate wig, but it was still the best option they had. Don't get me started on what they called their 18th century wigs or layer/judges wigs.

Even before it arrived I had a plan though. I tried to take photos of the process, but the bad light in the shower at work didn't really show any differences between the stages. I started out with a can of cheap white spray-on haircolour. I emptied the whole can, and that was enough to turn the wig from a shiny black monster and into something decent. The next step was to apply generous amounts of hair powder. I didn't use my proper 18th century hairpowder for this, but instead I mixed potato starch (potatismjöl) and baby powder (talc) in equeal amounts. To make the hair powder stick I used a regular strong hairspray. I sprayed the wig and then brushed the powder on with a regular paintbrush in layers. I finished it all off with a generous dose of hairspray.

This was the end result

I haven't styled the wig at all, so it will stay in the same shape as I bought it, but the new colour, shine and texture of it has really turned it into a believable 18th century wig, instead of a cheap party wig.

Cost - wig $25, haircolour spray $5, potato starch $1, baby powder $2. Total cost - $33