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The Countdown to Costume College

3 Jul

When I was a kid I always loved advent calendars. Each December my grandma would give my brother and I those little cardboard ones with the chocolates inside. I loved hunting for the correct date, the sound of the cardboard and plastic as I opened it and the shaped chocolate hidden inside. Each day that went by came with a treat. The passing of time, as we eagerly awaited Christmas, was exciting, something to look forward to. Oh how things change when you reach adulthood.

Time is ticking away. The count down to Costume College is flying by. Much like Christmas, as a child, I am very eager to get to the end. But oi vay do I have so much to do. I have been working diligently whenever I can. I’m actually pretty proud of my focus and dedication. No (ok almost no) procrastination in this camp! However my main issue has been not enough time. Life events, big and small, keep getting in the way.

Slytherian bustle back

Slytherian bustle back

Each week I get 2 days to myself to sew, clean house and do anything else I can’t do with my toddler around. 16 hours a week of badly needed quiet and solitude. It’s amazing how desperate you become for silence when you have a little kid around all the time. I end up with about 12 -14 hours of actual sewing time. Some days I get so much done in those precious hours. Other days I have just started when it’s time to stop. Over the past month I have also lost a few days to other projects. We are new home owners and predictably have a long list of house projects. One week it was new floors. The next new bookcases and deep cleaning away the dust from the floors. The next week a no school day for my son.  I’ve lost 5 days of sewing time in the past month. No wonder I feel so behind.

Slytherian side bustle

Slytherian side bustle

I have managed a lot of progress however. At night I have been hand sewing my Regency era stays. On sewing room days I have been working on my Slytherian bustle dress. Its coming along beautifully. Underskirt and over skirt need hand sewing only. The bodice is together save sleeves and I am currently working on trim (a mix of machine and hand sewing). I did make a goal this year of hand sewing as much as I could and I stuck to it however if has greatly increased the time needed for finishing work.

For the underskirt I used my grand bustle skirt pattern I developed last year and altered it to fit tightly over the bustle frame. I dont have enough fabric for a flowing skirt and wanted a more tailored look all around. Attached to that are 2 rows of box pleated ruffles. The over skirt is based on the Truly Victorian 1886 Asymmetrical Drape (TV382) with some alterations. I put a cut in the center back and pulled up edges to create a mini butterfly look.

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Slytherian Bodice Front

For the bodice I used my bodice pattern from the Frolicking costume with some additions. I found an image of the Ageless Patterns 1887 Corsage Vest and loved the lines. I try not to copy peoples work as much as possible but I knew if I bought the pattern it would not help me more than if I just made it myself. So after a quick mock up I moved on to the bodice. To my frustration I discovered I do not have enough fabric for the bodice and the sleeves. So right now the sleeves are on hold while I brainstorm some alternatives.

Slytherian Bodice Back

Slytherian Bodice Back

Shortly I will need to make some other decisions. The Slytherian bustle has a number of hours left but I believe I will have enough time to complete another ensemble before Costume College. Not a huge one but something. I would like to do a non Victorian project but what?!? On my list of goals is a full Regency ensemble but do I have enough time? I still have a lot of work on the stays and would need to do the chemise, petticoats and gown plus accessories. I had intended to do an open robe so that is a 2 part gown. What to do? Whatever the decision I know I have to use stash fabric. I do have that pewter silk which I am thinking is right for a Georgian gown but would need to research and design it. I have also recently been lured by Renaissance designs especially German. Something about the bright wool dresses and bust line is interesting. But I have NO experience in that era. I also love Elizabethan but that is a lot of details. What to do?!? I have to make the decision soon.

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An Overdue Progress Report

2 May

When I look at what I have accomplished in the past few weeks it seems like a lot and nothing at the same time.  This is often how sewing feels for me.

My Frolicking Suit is finished but has another few weeks before its first frolic (hopefully on a train!).  I have worn it for an hour or so as a test run.  Everything worked great except a few of the fabric covered buttons popped off.  I have since fixed them and need to reattach them.  Its pretty comfortable and easy to maneuver due to a lack of bustle cage.  Perfect for a train outing.  Hopefully I will get some good pics then or if we get a sunny weekend day maybe a few in the back yard.  Again getting photos is a huge issue for me.

20140501_150856I also completed a black and a white chemise, which was on goals my list.  I chose a linen/cotton blend for the black which I like better than the white cotton but boy it wrinkles.  both are entirely machine sewn and very comfy.  They might become summer night gowns or at least the pattern will be. The original pattern was taken from Period Costume for Stage and Screen (http://www.amazon.com/Period-Costume-Stage-Screen-1800-1909/dp/088734609X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y ) with a few minor alterations. I tested the pattern in the white cotton and tweaked the neckline before making the black. The white one is totally wearable but not as comfortable.  I also managed the prettiest rolled hem I have ever done.  Machine rolled hems can be a challenge. So finicky but I got the hang of it this time around. I will try and get some photos of me in it soon.

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Bust detail: There is a little bit of gathering over the bust for some added room.

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Black Chemise

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Shoulder Detail

 

The black and green corset is moving forward slowly.  The lining is in and needs bones, binding and flossing.  So much hand work. My goal is to have it done by the end of the month so I can wear it to SEAF.  Over all I am in love with the fit. As always there are things that could be a wee bit better but I’m not stressing over them.

Corset3 Corset2 Corset1

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Beginnings of hand sewn stays

Speaking of hand work I have undertaken an entirely hand sewn project – Regency Stays! I thought I would challenge myself a little and see if I could make it thru the project.  It goes slowly but well.  I am surprised my stitching is actually pretty decent.  Considering my hand bound button holes on the Frolicking Suit I was dubious, however a back stitch is far easier.  My stitches certainly could be more even but by the end of the project they will likely be.

Costume College is quickly approaching.  Only 3 months and so much to do.  I am hoping to get my Slytherian dress done but it is a LOT of work.  Other than that I am just not sure.  I would like to get the regency stuff done but I think that will depend on how long it takes to do the stays.

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Pac Fab Score! Colors is a little lighter in the photo.

I also picked up a small handful of things from an amazing sale at Pacific Fabrics. 10 yards of Pewter machine dupioni, 4 yards of pink and red striped heavy cotton, 4 yards of crazy striped silk, 2 yards of black shirting and 15 yards of gold gimp trim.  And the price? Wait for it…..$118 including tax.  The pewter silk was only $5 a yard.  I do love a deal! I have no idea what to do with any of it yet but I am sure it will not sit too long.  I might have to put other projects aside to dig into that silk.

Next time, hopefully, more work on the stays and a start to Slytherian.

My Ambitious Plans

2 Mar

I decided to post my sewing projects and events separately from goals tho they are related.  Just to prevent a painfully long post.

Most of the time I wear my costumes to conventions but this year I am hoping to branch out a little bit and attend some “real life” events or make my own.  I have so many costumes that I never bring out except once a year.  And considering the need to have a whole new wardrobe for the big conventions, a lot of costumes are only ever worn once.  It’s just plain silly. So far I have the following events on the schedule:

  • Port Townsand Victorian Festival (3/21-3/23)
  • Emerald City Comic Con (3/28-3/30) – sans costume.
  • Seattle Erotic Arts Festival (June)
  • Costume College (7/31-8/3)*
  • Steamcon (10/3-10/5)*
  • Geek Girl Con (10/11-10/12)*
  • An art exhibit
  • A tea lunch
  • A picnic or out-door festival.

ECCC will be a learning experience.  I have never been and feel a mite nervous about showing up to an unknown event in costume.  I am daring at times but not that daring. Costume College, GGC and Steamcon are the only events I have new costumes planned for.  All the others I intend to dig out something from the closet.  Its possible I will make something for SEAF but it wont be a huge project.  SEAF isn’t really a costume event but I always use it as an excuse to dress up.  Plus it’s not historically based so I can do whatever I want. Costume College is the one I am super excited about.  I went last year and it completely changed how I view my skills, costumes and goals.  But more about that as it approaches.

If the list of events seems long the list of projects is even longer:

  • Regency Round Gown
  • Regency Open Robe
  • Regency Corset
  • Regency Chemise
  • Rococo Stays
  • Green over bust corset
  • Victorian chemise – 1 black, 1 white
  • Slytherian bustle dress
  • Ursula
  • Divine
  • Victorian riding habit
  • 1920’s Dress
  • 1910 Wool suit
  • Victorian Frolicking dress

Obviously some are easier projects than others.  As the year progresses I will likely postpone some projects and add others. I have already started the green corset, chemise and frolicking costume and sketched up the slytherian and Regency ensembles.  Ursula and Divine are both in my head still and will remain so until I am ready to start them.  I have a strange need to keep my more cosplay costumes secret.  It might have to do with the hateful backlash a lot of cosplayers experience when they or their costumes are not up to other people’s expectations.  But lets save that tirade for another day.

I feel pretty comfortable with my construction skills for all the Victorian and 20th century costumes.  The regency ones however are totally new territory.  I am a little terrified about the regency stays because they are so different from Victorian corsets.  The silhouette is SO different.  After a good deal of research, I did a quick draft and toile of a set of stays.  It was an utter disaster!  The shape was right, the body fit well but the boobs had NO support. I tried both the pocket style bust support and the gussets and both failed.  So I decided to bite the bullet and ordered the Laughing Moon Regency Stay Pattern. Right now it’s sitting and waiting for me to have the courage to attempt them again.  I know I will prevail but sometimes tackling a project requires the right moment of determination and courage.

Goals

1 Mar

I’m a list person. I sometimes think the world is made of list people and non-list people.  One tends not to understand the other type very well.  Since having the Fuss Monster I am finding lists even more important.  Daily lists, weekly lists, monthly lists and now I have added YEARLY lists.  I might have a little obsession.   So a number of weeks ago (ok 2 months) I made my list of sewing for the upcoming year.  I have a list of projects, a list of events and a list of goals.  The list of goals is new this year and I included it to help me focus on improving my skills as a seamstress and designer.  I have always been a goal setter but this year I decided to set some specific long-term goals instead my typical project specific ones.

Goals:

  • Maintain a sewing blog with regular updates.  Kind of an obvious one.
  • Take photos.  I am TERRIBLE at documenting my work.  There are entire costumes that I have no pictures of.
  • Hand sew hems and closures.  I do this most of the time but if I run short of time it’s where I skimp.  However its a detail that can really up the beauty of a costume and should be prioritized.
  • Don’t forget the accessories, trim and details. I always leave these things to the last-minute and I need to start thinking about them from the beginning.
  • Finish projects!  I think everyone makes this goal.

Personal goals seem simple enough when they are an abstract idea scribbled in a notebook.  Much harder of course is to actually follow thru.  The key for me has been to make sure my goals are supported by my sewing projects and vise versa.  All the lists have to work together and become a large matrix.  Or at least that’s what it looks like in my head.

When I face a project the things I struggle with the most is time.  I’m not as much of a procrastinator as I once was thankfully.  However now my problem is more a lack of time.  The lists help me manage the time I do have and so far the goals are helping me remember what is actually important to me.  When I do have time for my sewing life I now have a bit more direction.  If I continue on this path I might not end up in a mad rush to just finish a project which has always been the case in the past.  However a zebra can’t change its strips as they say.  I’m just hoping the year will be less frantic.

An Introduction

13 Feb

I don’t do historical accuracy.  Just to get that admission out in the open.  I love everything about historical clothing and I deeply admire those who painstakingly recreate amazing garments. Its just not me. What I do do is anachronism.  When we don the costumes we work so hard on, we transport ourselves to a different time and place.  But in my trip I am always me – the woman with a punk attitude, pink hair, audacious personality and big butt.  I like me and I always want to be me.  My costumes nor my personality could ever subscribe to to the morals , decorum, or taste of any era.  When I visit another time I take with me my modern attitudes and technology.  I view the world, past and present, with feminist and sex positive eyes.  I believe beauty exists in people of all sizes, shapes and colors.  I believe everyone has a place in the costuming and cosplay world.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog.

Plus sized costumers face a number of challenges in both construction and confidence.  Our costumes require more fabric and trim, extra fitting and often many, many pattern alterations.  Once a costume is ready for the grand party or event, we face our insecurities and nervousness.  Often we perceive ourselves as the absurdly dressed elephant in the room. Images of circus tents and pachyderms can nullify the sense of accomplishments and pride one feels in our beautiful creations.  This feeling is not unique to fat people.  Body dis-morphia of varying degrees is something most women face.  But I am fat by anyone’s standard and my voice comes from that end of the scale.

When I read other costuming blogs (and I read a lot of them) I am overwhelmed by the talent of my fellow costumers.  But what appears to be missing are women who look like me.  There are a few but boy do you have to hunt them down.  There are so many great resources for historic costuming in general but few address the challenges of being plus sized head on.  After a few years of reading all of these voices I finally decided I actually had something to say that might diversify the online costuming world. My experiences as a fat woman might offer a bit of encouragement to someone somewhere.  My skills costuming people of all sizes and shapes might guide someone to a better costume.  My confidence might give someone else a shot in the arm to challenge themselves.  Or maybe not.  Its entirely possible I will be talking to myself.

Primarily this blog will serve to document my personal costume projects and adventures. Whenever possible I will be posting sketches and photos of works in process – assuming I remember to take photos.  I will also be posting my ramblings and rants about body acceptance and diversity in costuming.  I will try to label these because I can not guarantee they will be PG rated.  Lastly I will be posting tips, tricks and info specifically addressing costuming for plus sizes.  If you are only here for the costuming that’s great.  However my hope is everyone leaves with a little bit of body acceptance too.

So without further ado the Goals:

To share personal sewing projects – successes, failures and innovations.

To promote body positive attitudes and acceptance.

To share knowledge of historical costuming and modern construction for “Plus-sizes”.

I hope you will all hold me to these goals.

P.S. – I can’t spell and have horrible grammar.  Please forgive me.  I do try.