Hallowe’en, Age 15

April 29th, 2012

What 15-year-old girl doesn’t want to be a belly dancer? I had a great time sewing this set –  a halter top, a bolero jacket, a wrap-around skirt, a paneled overskirt, and a coin-covered belt. I’ve got a metal belt covered in bells somewhere that I wore with the costume, but didn’t bother digging it out just to take a picture.

Hallowe'en, Age 15

There’s a funny sewing story associated with this costume. While hand-stitching beads and coins onto the outfit, I suddenly decided that a real belly-dancer would have a pierced navel. And look, there was a needle in my hand! Never mind that it was threaded and attached to my project. I like to think I lit a match and sterilized it, but I do know for sure that I didn’t bother cutting the thread. Anyways, you can guess the rest.

I’m prone to fainting when people even talk about needles or blood. But somehow I managed to get the needle all the way into the ridge of skin around my navel before passing out. My mother found me unconscious and removed the needle. I still have the scar.

Needless to say, I finished the costume and wore it sans belly-jewelry.

Hallowe’en, Age 14

April 26th, 2012

Ah, the joy of trying on old Hallowe’en costumes! I bet many of you made your own costumes, once upon a time — or perhaps you still do. Do you save them all? Recycle from year to year? Or just keep a few favorites tucked away to put on when you want to terrify the neighbors? Where can I see pictures?

When I was very small, my mother made my costumes for me, boldly creating pretty much anything I could dream up. As I got a bit older, and learned to sew myself, she brought me on as a collaborator, until I gradually took over the entire process. I ran into a stash of old costumes this morning and just had to try some on.

Hallowe'en, Age 14

I think this was the first costume I made by myself. I was 14 and just learning to drape my own patterns. I was also beginning to be interested in historical accuracy (don’t laugh, I was only 14). And I was reading Mallory’s Le Mort D’Arthur.

Help Me Choose a Costume!

April 24th, 2012

I’ve already revealed that I’m going to do the unthinkable — sing in public. I also have to play the cello briefly during the same program. So of course the question arises, what to wear, WHAT TO WEAR?

The theme of the concert is early 20th-century American music and I initially planned to drag out my Edwardian duds (see the picture at the bottom of this post). But that would require a corset. And I’ve gained five pounds in the last three months (doughnuts and steak). And I already have trouble breathing when I sing.

So…the search begins. Luckily I’ve recently been reunited with a lifetime of costumes rescued from my (ever-patient) mother’s attic. Some fantastic pieces that I should never have used for “dress-up,” a few that should have died long ago, and many just plain goofy get-ups.

Blue Velveteen Gown

This is the current front runner. It’s royal blue velveteen with a back zip and sash and elasticized sleeves. Very comfortable. I have no idea where it came from. It’s built like a costume — and come on, who would wear a floor-length velveteen dress if they weren’t on stage? On the other hand, it’s pretty conservative for theater and has standard care tags as though it were factory made. There’s absolutely no pressure on my abdomen in this dress, and it is more than flexible enough for celloing. The color definitely suits me too, and would lend itself to delicate jewels or pearls.

Here’s dress number two:

Pink Ballgown

It’s a vintage Gunnie Sax formal in pink taffeta, probably from the mid 1980s. Yep, those are fabric roses on each shoulder. I adore this dress and wore it to my thirteenth birthday party (my indulgent parents dressed up like a French maid and butler and threw a “murder-mystery” sleep over with my hamster, Edward Bringhurst IV, as the hapless “victim”). It’s a perfect waltz gown, and also comfortable enough for singing and playing. I’d pair it with some vintage rhinestone jewelry and a large hair-do. The downsides include a skirt that screams for crinoline (which I haven’t got), shoulders that insist on slipping at awkward moments, a rather scanty neckline, and a color that washes me out.

What do you think? Help me choose!

Trying to project Elisabeth Schwarzkopf…

Faux Historic Dress

April 27th, 2011

You’re probably wondering why I spent a good chunk of this evening cutting out this dress:

From upholstery fabric no less.

But I do have a good reason. Believe it or not, with a few minor changes, McCall’s Costume Pattern M4548 is an adequate approximation of a mid-19th century dress. Most importantly, it creates a reasonably good look without the need for historically correct undergarments. This makes it ideal for costuming the occasional interpreter at an historic house museum. If you’re aiming for a serious living history impression, this obviously isn’t for you. But if you’re trying to make a dress that will fit multiple people, who have never worn historic clothing, it’s a great find! A dear friend and amazing costumer shared this secret with me, and I hope she won’t mind that I am now sharing it with you.

In case you’re still wondering, WHY am I making a “faux” historic dress, kindly remember that in order to stay neatly hooked or buttoned into a truly accurate 1850s dress, you also need to wear an accurate 1850s corset. Which means you need an accurate 1850s chemise. And in case you have to use the loo in between tours, you’d need a pair of accurate 1850s drawers. Plus petticoats to hold it all out. Did I mention that someone needs to wear this outfit two weeks from today (at this event), and I have only a couple of sewing days between now and then?

Maybe, if you are very good, I will tell you why I can only squeeze a couple of sewing days out of two whole weeks in my next post. It has to do with something very exciting that is happening this weekend…

« Newer Posts