Saturday, January 28, 2012

Regency Spy Romance Novels and Face in Hole.

I've been utterly unproductive as of late. I did a halfhearted attempt of pattern alteration on the 1930's dress, but it has proven to be as tricky as expected so I haven't touched it in a couple of days.
What I have done is waste ridiculous  amounts of time on the internet, and reading regency spy romance novels on my new kindle. About 3 weeks ago I picked up a book on clearance at Barnes & Noble called   The Seduction of the Crimson Rose , by Lauren Willig.

 I was looking for a cheap read while I had to spend most of  the next day away at the doctors to get a whole series of allergy shots. So since it was something regency related,  and stupid cheap I picked it up. Turns out the book is only one of a long series of novels about British spies during the Napoleonic wars. It's kinda schmalzy and frivolous with lot's of silly young ladies gushing over dashing spies. But  I'm hooked and now I need to read all the other novels in this series!
Last week I got myself a kindle, or rather I told Bryan (the Husband) he wouldn't have to get me a gift for Valentines day if I could have a kindle. So I bought my own Valentines gift, beats drug store chocolates picked up on his way home from work any day! The first book I bought for my kindle was the first book of the series, which is called The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.Yay, it's a regency spy romance novel whats not to love!

My other distraction has as always been the internet, man I have no idea how I filled my days before internet! But in particular i ran across a website called  I was looking for a way to photo shop my husbands face onto Dr. Evil's body  as a joke for when he finally get's his Ph.D.

 I's Dr. Nelsen!

Well a friend pointed me to and I've been sticking my own face in various the holes ever since!
 Vive La Big Hair!

It's actually really cool they have famous paintings and movies and actors, I know now what I would look like as Rose from Titanic or Marie Antoinette. I'm Obsessed!
 Here are some of my new alter ego pictures!

 My Teenage Dream.

 Rocking The Regency

Always wanted to dress up as Lucrezia Borgia

Downton Abbey is currently my guilty Pleasure.

 Hey there Colonel Brandon..

Anyway I promise a costume related post next time after all I'm sure I must tire soon of sticking my face in holes....

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I'm a Stay at Home Costume Designer

When you first meet someone it seems an established custom to politely ask what they do. This usually means what occupation this person has. It's easy enough for most people, they will answer oh I'm a nurse or  teacher or a whatever... For me it's not so easy. Cause answering that I'm a stay at home costume designer usually get's me weird looks.

You do what?

I really am a stay at home costume designer, cause I stay at home and design costumes right? Well really I'm a stay at home mom who runs a historical costume business on the side. So I guess I'm a stay at home mom and a freelance costume designer.

I have a kid and sew costumes.

But explaining that to people creates confusion. Naturally people have a certain idea about what a stay at home mom does, and what a costume designer does. I either get the oh you stay at home with you kid look, like it's some sort of crime to want to raise my child myself, or I get people who ask me if I've met any celebrities , like the only thing a costume designer could possibly do is to make movie costumes...

 No I don't do movie costumes

This usually leads to me having to explain no I don't work for the movies at which point most people lose interest. It get's worse when I explain that I mostly make costumes for reenactors, most non reenactors know little about reenactment and if they know anything at all they think it's kinda freaky. Now I have to admit I've met some pretty freaky reneactors myself, walking barefoot in a field covered with cow dung is more than I would ever do for the sake of authenticity, but I digress.

 Medieval feet, no thanks!

  Also most people assume that if you reenact you do civil war or perhaps SCA ( Society for Creative Anachronism ), both aren't really my thing. Civil war has pretty much no place for women unless You want to reenact a camp follower or dress as a man, and I have no love of war reenactments anyway
 The only thing Civil War I like is corny 80's miniseries Civil War with Patrick Swayze
I did SCA for a while but the fact that their members are allowed to portray any time period from 600 to 1600 makes it for a huge mess of different period costumes that don't go together. Call me an authenticity Nazi, but it drove me nuts. I'm big on feeling immersed in the time period and that just doesn't happen when you are hanging out in a fire hall with a Viking, a medieval Japanese guy and an Elizabethan lady. Sorry SCA peeps I love you, but I can't deal with the total disregard for historical reality. Anyway back to what I was really writing about. I do Regency reenactment and that is the main group of people I sell my wares too. Oh I've made things from other periods on request and of course for myself when I still did SCA. But Regency is my focus. Problem is when I say I do regency reenactment and have a business catering to regency reenactors I get that blank stare again.... well not from everyone but most people have no idea what regency means ,except  for that posh hotel chain...

 Fancy Hotel...... NO
So I go into these long explanations about Jane Austen and well you know that dude Napoleon he was from that time,  but the French call it empire not regency. Yeah more blank stares....

 French Emperor... YES

But alas, even though people seem confused about my occupation I wouldn't have it any other way. I love being a stay at home costume designer, it beats any other job I have ever worked at! I may not be famous and know celebs, but I do what I love, I'm  my own boss, I make my own schedule, and best of all I get to play with gorgeous materials and dress up like a pretty pretty princess for my job.

No not that kind of Princess...

Now how's that for job satisfaction!

.....That kind of Princess!!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Costuming Plans for 2012

So for my first post EVER....

Since it's the beginning of the year I figured I would start with my costuming plans for 2012,
So here is what I plan to make and wear and where I will be wearing it!

First off I have a commission, cause one should always do paid work before doing stuff for ones self I will start of my sewing year with this.

A 1930's tea dress based of this rocking horse farm pattern. 
Done in a lovely asian inspired rayon fabric, from

Now I have to admit I'm a bit intimidated by this, see in my costuming I rarely venture into more modern times, and by modern i mean anything past 1820. I have done some 1920's stuff but that's about it, and 1930's with it's figure hugging hugging bias cut dresses is pretty scary. But this will be a learning experince and will hopefully help me grow as a a costumer, also doesn't hurt that I'm being paid for this!.

After I'm done with my commission I will have time to do some work on my own ever expanding costume wardrobe.
 Petty Petty clothes for Dress U!
This June I will be a vendor at the first east coast costumers conference, in Philadelphia.
And  as I always think one is one's best advertisement I must look stunning! Well or at least try to look stunning.
It's always good to start with foundation garments, while i have a perfectly nice pair of short stays I do need a pair of long stays like these:

They smooth out all those bumps and lumps under the more figure hugging dresses of the later regency.
I will probably use the pattern for long stays in  Jean Hunnisett's  book Period Costume for Stage and Screen.

 Now for the day time when I just sit at my table and hawk my wares, I'll just stick with the regency stuff I already have. My shop is geared towards regency items  so it makes sense to dress to match.

I will probably wear my little white regency dress,

as well as my pink striped crossover one

maybe my green floral stripe drop front gown as well..,

but really I'm not a huge fan of that one as i find the color makes me look washed out.
Which means I will probably make another regency dress....  I have some fabric in my stash that would be appropriate. Like this nice 1802 reproduction print in blues and gray with red flowers.

OR... I could make something 18th century..., since Dress U is not focused on just one era of costume I could theoretically wear whatever I want as long as it's pre 1980's. I do have a lovely red 18th century reprodcution chinz in my stash...

. And a nice dark blue linen. I could make a pretty 1790's Casaquin jacket and contasting petticoat. like this lovely example from the Met:

Hmmmmm such a hard decision....

I do know That I will be making a 1912 evening gown, for the Titanic dinner. Now I'm both excited and terrified of this foray into the Edwardian era, as mentioned earlier I rarely venture beyond 1820, but I simply must have a stunning Edwardian gown for this party. I have to confess that I have been wanting an Edwardian evening gown since my Titanic obsessed teenage days, but never really had a reason to make one. So here's my opportunity! But those meticulously draped and tailored early 20th century gowns are not a walk in the park to make, I am however determined to conquer the required masses of silk lace and sequins required to make the Titanic dress of my dreams, or at least the dress I  have  time to make and can afford but still like...
My stash holds a beautiful hand embroidered vintage silk sari, in the most mazing shade of green that has a light pinkish shimmer to it.
the picture does not do it justice..

I plan to use this sari as the top layer of my dress over an under dress made of magenta colored silk  charmeuse.
Thinking of creating something along the lines of this lovely original from

To add some more glitz I plan to apply magenta colored glass beads to accent the embroidery on the sari and perhaps use some nice antique tamboured net  from the stash for a finishing touch. Cause it seems no Edwardian evening ensemble is complete without lace and beading!

For other events I plan to attend at Dress U  I will just wear dresses I already have.
Most likely my 1790's chemise a la reine to Georgiana's Welcome Picnic, makes sense since Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire was the one to popularize this garment in Britain...

And for the Tiaras and Jampagne Party... The Miss Piggy Dress will have to come out one last time. This is what I call my current regency evening gown which looks lovely in person( or so I am told) but photographs horrible due to it's dusty pink color that  makes me look like a piggy.... and well this is the best picture i have of it... but the tiara rocks!

Having done with Dress U the next month brings The 5th annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky.
Or Jane Fest as I call it!
Jane Fest is pretty much the highlight of the Regency Reenactors year. A two day Festival held at beautiful Locust Grove Plantation. And as if that couldn't get any better there is a regency ball on Saturday evening! . 
I plan to be vending at this event as well so I must dress to impress. Not an easy task without getting a heat stroke, July in Kentucky is brutal with high humidity and temperatures in the upper 90's.
This means thin natural fabrics are a must. Last month  I picked up a very light semi sheer Indian block printed cotton. It has a repeated floral print in maize and brown with a decorative border. I plan to pair this with  a butter yellow cotton lawn  from the stash.

It will make a lovely 1790's open robe, like this one from The Los Angeles County Museum of Art:


I haven't quite made up my mind if I will be making another regency day gown or be wearing one from my collection. I can always accessorize the little white dress in a different way for a whole new look...
But a new Ballgown is a must, I'm sick of the Miss Piggy!

There is more than  one vintage sari in my endless stash and this one lends itself perfectly to an empire ballgown..
It's silk in some sort of a seafoam gray, with a purple paisley border woven with metallic threads. It shimmers in the light most alluringly.

I would like to use the wonderful border to it's full advantage so in addition to using it on the hem i plan to make a crossover top and  having the border along the neckline as well.
Something like this...
But with short sleeves, probably the the tied up sort that was en vouge in the early regency when clothes where still classically inspired.

Next up event wise would be The Fair at New Boston in September.
This is a Market fair that depicts a time frame from about 1795 to 1820 so again regency or rather federal period. Since it's a rather rustic outside event, fancy clothes aren't really the thing here. I will most likely wear some of my cotton day gowns and perhaps my newly made open robe in the evening for the after hour festivities. I do  however plan to make one new garment for this. With Autumn close,  September night's and sometimes days  can be chilly. Which calls for a new spencer of course! I have just the cloth for it too! 2 yards of absolutely fabulous cashmere wool, that i picked up for a song last fall. Only problem is the color... it's vomit colored...

The obvious solution would be to dye it but I'm scared to.. this is such high grade wool I don't want to ruin it... but I also don't want to wear a vomit colored spencer.
In any case I purchased a  pattern from Sense and Sensibility, it's basic it's been done a lot, I'm not sure if it's 100% historically accurate. But alas tailoring is not my strong suit so i'll use this one.

Probably will do the one with the notched collar....

Which brings us into Winter.
I haven't mentioned yet that I volunteer at a historic house called Woodville Plantantion, c. 1775.
It's the former home of  Revolutionary War general John Neville.
I can't express how awesome this place is! You can't get closer to history than this, the place is run very open and hands on not like most house museums where they will kick you out if you breathe on the wallpaper wrong.
There's a small group of dedicated Reenactors who give tours and presentations about life at the plantation in the late 18th and early 19th century.  They have several big events throughout the year but my favorite by far is holidays at the house in late November. This event aims to recreate colonial and federal period Christmas time. The house is lit only with candles and lanterns, and the Reenactors don their best apparel. Last year I wore my little white dress and a brown velvet spencer. But this year I have grand plans for my yultide garb.
My mother gifted me this fantastic yummy yummy quilting quality cotton with a 18th century style print in a festive red and green.

Doesn't it just scream 1790's? It wants to be a long sleeved crossover front open robe I think!

Like this beauty, but with fitted long sleeves.

Well That's it for my grand 2012 plans. Of course they are bound to change, as these things tend to do. And there may be more events, probably plenty of new commissions and of naturally lot's and lot's of sewing and crafting for store stock. Looks like 2012 will be a busy busy year. But at least I will look spiffy!