Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Handmade 1780s Stays - The beginning

I recently attended a stay making class taught by Luca Costigliolo at the School of Historical Dress.  I don't think I've properly mentioned them before on my blog, but I am a big fan of their work on researching (and educating students about) historical clothing, and I've attended a few of their classes before.
If you're not already familiar with the School, they're the authors of these three books on 17th century clothing, written in association with the V&A.

When Janet Arnold died, she left her archive of unpublished patterns to the School.  Patterns of Fashion 4 was published posthumously by them, with Jenny Tirimani providing additional material.  The School's intention since then has been to continue publishing books in the Patterns of Fashion series, and a further three books are currently planned.  Excitingly, Patterns of Fashion 5, which is going to concentrate on women's stays and padding from 1600 -1795, is due out this year.  They were all hard at work on it while I was at the School for the course, and it was thrilling to get a sneak preview of a very much anticipated new book!

The course itself was an intensive five days, in which we examined extant stays from the School's collection, were shown primary information from Diderot and Garsault, from which we could extrapolate how the original stay makers might have drafted and constructed their stays at the time, and finally, we all had a go at drafting and starting a pair of stays ourselves.

The drafting system was the most fascinating part for me, as it involved using curved bust and waist lines in the draft in order to get that lovely front dip, rather than the usual straight grid we expect in modern pattern cutting.  I actually found it much more intuitive this way, and am really keen to try my hand at it again before I get too rusty!

I've been enjoying the construction of the stays.  I opted for making them entirely hand sewn, so even when choosing to make them half boned rather than fully, the channels are going to take some time to do.  We actually sandwiched paper between the two layers of linen in our stays (wallpaper lining is a good approximation of the type used in period), and it gives great additional structure to each piece - very useful for half boned!  At this point I've got all my sections cut and tacked, with all the channels marked out in pencil, and I've made a good start on stitching the channels.  I also had a go at whipping one of the side back seams during the class, just so I have that to refer back to later when I get on to the rest of them.

I think this will be a good hand sewing project I can pick up in the evenings and potentially when I'm commuting too.  School of Historical Dress classes always make me feel so enthusiastic for sewing and learning, so I cannot recommend them highly enough in case you're ever able to attend one of their classes yourself.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Snow White: Part Four

I've got some amazing photos of our 2017 Panto back from the Mercury Theatre.  I believe these were all taken by Robert Workman.  Costumes and set designed by David Shields.

Animal costumes for the Junior Chorus by me.  Snow White's costume by Fran Gyll. 

Nurse Nellie costume by me.  I didn't actually make any wigs this year, we revamped a few old ones for the other Nellie costumes, but this one was made by Ruth Metcalf.   Muddles's costume is by Corinna Vincent.

Nurse Nellie costume by me.  So happy with this one in particular!  I made all that stripey trim myself out of gold braid stitched onto a black fabric backing.

Nurse Nellie's butterfly costume for the finale.  Loved this one as well, especially the headdress, although there aren't any photos that really show it off.  Unfortunately there aren't any production photos of the dressing gown and the mirror costume I made for the dame this year.

The Enchantress's headdress.  Her costumes were all made by Wendy Harrup.  And Carli Norris was a brilliant Enchantress!

The Enchantress's wedding headdress in action.  The King's costume was made by Corinna Vincent.

So, just to reiterate, I made the animal costumes, 5 costumes for Nurse Nellie, 2 headdresses for the Enchantress, 2 more horned headdresses for Nurse Nellie and Muddles (neither of which is shown here), as well as revamping a couple of older wigs for Nellie (adding butterflies to one for the finale, and a turban to another for the end of act one - not shown here.)

All in all, I had a lot on my plate, especially with the animal costumes, which took a lot of trial and error on my part!  I'm very pleased with the final results though, and looking forward to taking on yet another panto at the Mercury in 2018.

In the meantime I will try to do a better job of recording the work I do that's NOT panto-related!  I'm currently working on a pair of completely hand sewn 1780s stays that I started in a class at The School of Historical Dress the other week, so I will definitely blog about that soon.

I've also got this year's Victorian Ball fast approaching.  I've got a client commission to complete for then, as well as a full set of undergarments and a gown for my mum, who will be joining me this year.  Realistically I'm unlikely to have time to complete a new gown for myself, so I will probably wear last years again, and add the trim I didn't get around to doing this time last year.  I never actually posted that dress on my blog, but you can see photos on my website, -here-.  Hopefully I'll actually remember to get pictures at the venue this time around!