Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Emma Frost Redesign by Jamie McKelvie

As much as I adore superhero comics, I still periodically get frustrated by the costumes that exploit the females as eye candy. (They do that to the guy characters too, but it's not nearly as bad). The consistently most frustrating costumes are worn by Emma Frost.

Now Emma Frost is an intriguing character. She's a villain reformed with a lot of hard edges and a knack for sarcasm that makes her anything but warm and fluffy. However she's a devoted teacher, and a woman who will do whatever it takes to protect her loved ones and people -- exactly what the X-Men and Scott Summers, their leader, need.

So it really ticks me off that she wears costumes that currently consist of a corset, panties and high boots. Not only are her costumes often physically impossible, but they are also highly uncomfortable and would be a nightmare to wear in combat (see corset rant). I'm not even talking about the immodesty right now because Emma's backstory explains why she uses her body to control others, and while I'm not happy with it, it's at least a very solidly explained and interesting character motivation.

Today one of the blogs I follow reposted this fantastic redesign of Emma's costume by Jamie McKelvie (see above) and I am absolutely in love. It captures everything about Emma's character -- royalty, wealth, power, elegance, hard edges, old money, and a gorgeous body. It's alluring yet practical, enticing yet full of self respect. I desperately wish that Marvel would implement this design!

Short of that, perhaps I'll have a chance to create and cosplay it someday. It's certainly a more doable ambition than Emma's current costume!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Worth of a Seamstress: Alterations

I'm always happy when my sewing skills manage to earn a bit of money for me. Today some family friends of ours came over and hired me to hem some jeans. It was a reasonably simple task, but one that requires just enough skill and confidence that most people don't like attempting it.

I don't mind. At $10 a pair I'm quite happy to hem up jeans, especially right now when I'm in the early stages of business planning and general ill health keeps me from going out and getting a 9-5 job of any sort. Sewing, however, I can generally manage.

Also this year I've perfected my method of altering men's shirts. I've got a relative with fairly particular requirements in shirt fit, so I've had plenty of practice. This Christmas I finally got tasked with altering fairly nice dress shirts. Best compliment? When my mother told me they looked very professional (and believe it or not, my mum is one of my harsher critics, especially when it comes to sewing). Anyhow, again, for $10 a shirt that requires some specialized knowledge to get a good fit, I'm quite happy to earn a bit of cash this way.

This work has also encouraged me to look at my own wardrobe and fix up a few of my own pieces. Mass production has made properly fitting garments a privilege of the elite, and most things I buy within my budget do not fit me quite as well as they could. In the past I've been too nervous to correct this, but my alterations work for others has encouraged me to venture out and correct some of these fashion problems.

I by far prefer design and costume work, but right now I'm really just happy to get any $ I can. Thankfully there is still a place in the world for a woman with sewing skills!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Costumes of Downton Abbey

My sewing area is in a transition period as I move downstairs, so I hope you all don't mind another post on costumes!

This week I want to celebrate the award-winning show "Downton Abbey." It's no secret that many of the viewers spend most of their time drooling over the gorgeous costumes - and for good reason. The clothing on the show is exquisitely done. Rarely do I watch anything where I am so consistently pleased with the visual and historical authenticity of the piece.

The show begins in 1912, the day after the sinking of the Titanic. This places us squarely in Edwardian fashion, which features a straighter silhouette and higher waistline than the late-period Victorian S-silhouette that proceeded it. We do, however, see pure Victorian fashion worn by Dowager Countess Violet.

Last week's episode (2.3) took place in 1918. Wartime has placed a need for austerity on Downton Abbey and costumes are plainer, skirts are shorter, and colors are less vibrant. With the 20's imminent, we see several of the girls wearing the straight, loose, sleeveless dresses that are about to become all the rage.

For more information about the costumes of Downton Abbey, check out the links below. Otherwise proceed on to the picture fest for some indulgent drooling and envy. ;)

Does that dress look familiar? You've probably seen it before!

The Style of Downton Abbey from the PBS Website

How Downton Abbey costumes have influenced modern fashion.

Not always 100% Accurate?

Learn a bit more about designer Susannah Buxton and see some more glorious pictures here! 

Above: Lady Mary poses in one of my favorite pieces. Rich rust red  in a variety of fabrics (chiffon, velvet, brocade or embroidered satin) marries together a melody of textures to produce this stunning gown.

Above: Cora and Edith recline in straw hats and pale white and cream lace. Our culture today has largely forsaken summer whites, but here we see that beautiful sweetness produced by a woman in white on a summer's day.

Above: Edith, Sybil and Mary pose in their dinner dresses. Mary once again wears one of my absolute favorite pieces on the show, a rich, deeply textured blue gown with unusual and lovely ribbon detailing on the sleeves.

Above: Cora is the picture of an elegant matron in this beautiful brown velvet. Notice the precise tailoring on the waist!
Above: Edith is often left the wear the most unflattering of gowns, but on this dress we see a lovely collection of embellishments along the neckline.
Above: Lavender is a favorite color in season 2, and here Cora shows off a lovely gown with a short split overskirt of gorgeous velvet.

Above: Edith's gown is simplistic and evokes the empire styles of the previous century. Of special note are her exquisite net gloves.
Above: Mary reclines in a demure gown of pale jade. Chiffon drapes gracefully over her shoulders to be cinched at the waist by a sturdy lace applique.
Above: Mary again sports a beautiful working of chiffon, this time embellished by elaborate beading on the bodice.
Above: The four ladies of Downton Abbey show off their beautiful gowns. Each one is a unique work of art, and yet they each show similarities in the drape of the bodice, and the fabric choices (chiffon, brocade and satin).
Above: Even in 1913 the upper class dressed by strict rules for each time of day and each activity. Mary is allowed to go on the hunt, but is constrained by a long skirt and sidesaddle. She does, however, look properly elegant in her hat and veil.
Above: Let us not forget the servants! As the highest ranking members of the staff, Carson, Mrs. Huges and O'Brian are allowed more individuality than any of the other servants. In fact, Mrs. Huges wears quite a well made gown with a stylish detailed collar.
Above: The ladies line up for dinner and we get a peek at another favorite of mine, Cousin Isobel's dinner dress.
Above: Cora always looks magnificent in white, and this ensemble is breathtaking with the elaborate hat and gorgeous black embroidery.

Above: Mary's silhouette grows simpler and her dress more detailed, foreshadowing the changing fashions to come in the 20's.
Above: Speaking of forshadowing! Sybil shows off an outfit featuring daring trousers in a bold peacock blue!
Above: Our lovely girls in white enjoy their last day before the war changes everything. Sybil is in a youthful flowered print, Edith in plain white, and Mary in bold contrasting stripes. 
Above: A rare glimpse at the back of a gown. We can see delicate black buttons and a chiffon ruffle left over from the necessary bustle of the Victorian era.

Want more Downton Abbey costume analysis? Take a look at my even longer piece on the costumes of Downton Abbey, Season 3!

UPDATE: Five years after writing this post, I got the chance to see many Downton Abbey costumes in person. Check out the details of my visit to the Downton Experience here!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Truth About Corsets

Anyone remotely interested in historical costume has heard horror stories about corsets. Constricting, painful, dangerous... right? 

Maybe not quite so much as we think. Lisa Hix at Collector's Weekly is setting the record straight.

The corset has a bad reputation. And unfairly so, according to Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, who says this undergarment of centuries past is not nearly as evil or confining as modern folks have come to believe.

(Read more)

Corsets may not be quite all that bad, but they're still constricting and uncomfortable. Trust me, we're way better off with our modern day undergarments. In fact, one of my pet peeves about costume fashion is the corset that Emma Frost wears. No way would a woman of that shape wear a corset on a regular basis, and certainly not into battle. It would be entirely too uncomfortable and restricting because it would have to be laced fairly tight to even stay on. On the other hand, it may help explain her constant sarcasm...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chariots, Coal and Cinna - New Hunger Games Costumes Revealed!

Today we get a glimpse at previously unrevealed Hunger Game costumes - the coal and flame chariot suits! 

Read more here: http://www.hypable.com/hunger-games/2012/01/19/new-still-from-the-hunger-games-katniss-and-peeta-in-their-chariot-suits-with-cinna/

To be honest I'm a little surprised by the level of detail here. Personally I would have gone for something simpler and less rock star looking. The scaled leather on Katniss's bust and the spiked shoulder pads give much more of a reptilian feel than... coal. What set Cinna apart from the other designers was that he didn't go wild and crazy the way they did.

But I'm willing to give it a try. Cinna's costumes are the things I imagined the most while reading and therefore I'm going to have the most decided opinions on what they should be like - and likely be more disappointed by them than anything else in the film. So far I've loved everything else I've seen, so... we'll see what is revealed next.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Costumes of Pan Am

With ABC's period drama, Pan Am, making it's return after the holiday hiatus, I found myself once again drooling over the beautiful costumes on the show. Really, it's only a perk that the show is well written and wonderfully acted, I could watch it just for the costumes alone.

A google search for "Pan Am Costumes" brings up photos of the airline uniform and several dozen 'how-to-make-your-own' tutorials. However the real beauty of the show is the dresses and ensembles the girls wear off duty, so I decided to hunt through the mound of mostly blue pictures to find the very best photos of these gorgeous gals and their dresses.

I also came across some very informative and interesting articles on the making and wearing of the costumes in the show. So if you'd like more detail into the process, I highly recommend checking out the links below.

Glamour's interview with show costume designer, Ane Crabtree.

THR interviews leading lady Christina Ricci on what it's like to wear the Pan Am period appropriate costumes.

ABC's Cynthia McFadden tours the set and gives us the dish on costumes.

RTE's talk with Ane Crabtree.

ABC quotes Ane Crabtree and also features a video on designing Pan Am.

The Telegraph interviews Ane Crabtree on Pan Am costumes.

Now on to the photos!

 (Above, Laura and Maggie stroll through the streets of Berlin. Laura wears a beautiful baby blue dress that is pefectly fitted, while Maggie wears a looser more carefree frock that nonetheless still manages to show off her tiny waist perfectly.)

 Above: even casual clothes show attention to detail, with contrast fabrics (Laura), tiny trim (Collette) and unusual buttons (Kate) make the garments unique and adorable.

 Above: I chose to include this picture because it shows a rare shot of the uniform blouse from behind. We can see that a cinch in the back aids our lovely ladies in keeping their waist neat and tidy, even if they gain or loose a few pounds on a trip.

 Above: Maggie always knows how to make a statement and while her skirt might be a tad tight for the period, it's undeniably bold and flattering, especially tied with a trim belt, a flutter-sleeved top and a jaunty hat.

Above: Another look at Laura and Maggie in their Berlin clothes. Gloves were a must on set, and while Laura wears a demure white, Maggie as always sticks to her defiant black.

 Above: a closer look at the delicate detailing on Laura's blue dress.

 Above: Kate rocks it in a daring combo of two shades of green in a lovely skirt suit set off with a delicate pin and matching handbag. On display is the wide neckline typical of the period, which suits Kate's figure especially well.

 Above: Why don't we wear lovely evening gowns like this anymore? Kate shows an absolute minimum of cleavage here, and her dress otherwise covers and adorns in a very modest ladylike manner. It's set off by a necklace that perfectly fills the neckline.

 Above: Here we really see the benefit of the corset and girdle. Kate's figure is smooth and elegant even in so simple an outfit. Alas for the days when properly fitting undergarments were a matter of course and clothes were tailored and made to fit, rather than relying on elastic and chance.

 Above and below: One of the most stunning pieces so far has been the evening gown Kate wears to fulfill one of her missions. I was unable to find a full length photo (please give me a link if you come across one!)

 Above: Colette and Laura both wear gowns that make use of sheer fabrics in very interesting ways.

 Above: Yet elaborate isn't always better. Above Kate wears a gorgeously simple yet elegant dress that shows its heritage from Dior's New Look. Her gold pin also makes another appearance here, matching well with her beige belt.

 Overall I find Pan Am an excellent inspiration to the kind of attention I should pay to my own wardrobe. Delicate detail, feminine grace, garments that are properly fitted, and use of good accessories.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Wee Wedding Dress

Once upon a time, instead of shelling out $30 for an American Girl Doll dress, women hand sewed dresses for the dolls in their little girls lives. Sadly the art of sewing has become very lost these days, and most mothers don't have the time or training to create little garments. However I've always loved the art of dressmaking for miniature people, and I was thrilled when my friend Christina shared pictures of an adorable  wedding dress she'd made for her little sister's doll

 It is simple, sweet and elegant, and exactly what every little girl would love to play with. I think Christina's little sister is a very lucky girl!

What do you think, should I do a few tutorials on basic dressmaking for dolls? 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Class Act Fabrics


A fellow seamstress recently recommended this website as a good place to get high end fabrics. I checked it out and immediately started drooling over the selections -- and the prices! While wool remains high, this looks like an excellent place to find silks and velvets at manageable prices. Includes some fabrics from couture houses, as well as historically accurate prints for re-enactors.

I hope at some point in the future either my finances improve or I get a client wanting a costume with high end fabric so that I can get a chance to order from this site.

Do you have a website that you recommend for seamstresses? Fabrics, notions, embellishments, laces, trims, etc? Let me know! Leave the link in a comment and I just might do a post about it!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cream Vintage Dress - Part 2

The saga of the cream vintage style dress/tunic continues! 

My next step was to cut out the skirt panels. I originally cut six, but realized this would really make the skirt too large for a dress of this tiny-ness and delicacy, so I eliminated one.

I spent quite awhile thinking about how best to do the hem and eventually I decided to sew right sides together at the bottom and turn out and iron to create a practically invisible hem.

I then lined up the tops of the lining and eyelet and gathered, then sewed into the eyelet side of the waistband. On the lining side I ironed over the raw edge and hand sewed it down to create a completely finished interior as well as exterior.

The dress so far! Looking nearly complete, right? But not quite.

I still had to add a zipper, straps and a bow. Below are the pieces for the zipper and bow.

Pieces with the edges sewn.

Gathered the larger rectangle to form a bow shape.

Looped the narrow rectangle around the larger one to secure and finish.

Stitched in place and tacked to a safety pin so that bow can be moved/removed as wearer desires.

Attached in ideal position at waistband.

To add the straps I slit open the top of the bodice slightly, inserted the end of the strap, and sewed shut.

And voila! The finished garment! My sister will wear it as a layered piece, but some girls could use this style without layers as a sundress (although boning might be a practical addition to the bodice for support).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cream Vintage-Style Dress

For Christmas I made my sister a vintage style tunic/dress that we designed together. It was an intensive but rewarding and fairly straightforwards process and we both are really happy with how it turned out.

I started off with taking an existing dress of hers and drawing out bodics pattern pieces based on that on the lining fabric.

I then cut and basted the lining pieces, put it on my sister and made adjustments as necessary.

I then took out the basting stitches and used the lining pieces as patterns for the eyelet fabric which would be forming the top layer.

I assembled the entire bust part of the bodice and attached the eyelet to the lining at the top seam. I then measured out a straight waistline of both the eyelet and the lining.

Next I sewed the lining waistband to the bust lining, and the same with the eyelet. No seams showing inside or outside!

I then ironed down the seams and topstitched-in-the-ditch along the upper seam of the waistband to hold the  eyelet and lining together.

The bodice, pressed and folded right side out.

Part Two