Pink! And Historical! And…

Well, everything, really. See, after a hiatus of posting – because writing essays has been more than enough time at the computer for the past few months – I’ve decided to see how many Historical Sew Fortnightly tasks I can tick off with just the one item.

I’m sewing like a mad thing at the moment, trying to get together items for a market stall in a bit less than a month. Items of children’s costume, since I’ve decided that I love sewing for kids. You can do the most over the top, outlandish things, and kids will love it. So, with that in mind, before the big reveal, let me tease a little and tick off a few challenges, however late I’m completing them.

1. Challenge #6 – Fairytale.

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In 1844, the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, The Snow Queen was first published. Earlier this year, a film was released with Disney’s take on the tale. Frozen has since become the favourite movie of every little girl on the planet – or at least it seems that way to anyone who wanders through a kindergarten and hears the spectacular versions of the hit song, Let It Go. I’ve had previous run-ins with Queen Elsa costuming, and with the frantic mothers who have been desperately trying to find a costume for their birthday girl. But this time, I’m attempting Princess Anna instead.

2. Challenge #3 – Pink

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but Anna’s cloak is pink. Or at least magenta. I’m choosing to interpret this as pink. Which leads me to…

3. Challenge #2 – Innovation

Early fabric dyes were created using natural substances. There was a limited range of colours available, and many tended to fade. Science accidentally delivered an alternative when William Henry Perkins was attempting to synthesise quinine, but instead created mauveine, a synthetic dye. This was closely followed by Fuchsine in 1858 or 1859 (sources vary on the date), discovered by Frenchman Francois-Emmanuel Verguin, and, in 1860, Magenta, discovered by Brits Chambers Nicolson and Georges Maule. The colours were a great success, and many variations on the shades have been produced since. I’m using two of these in my cloak.

 

Bouguereau's Psyche, 1892, using magenta for the goddess's cloak.

Bouguereau’s Psyche, 1892, using magenta for the goddess’s cloak.

4. Challenge #10 – Art.

Okay, I know this one’s a stretch, but technically, the creators of the Disney movies are artists. These days they’re digital artists, but the skills are still the same. And given that I’m working off a single image, I figure this will fit. Give me some leeway, here, folks!

And finally…

5. Challenge #15 – The Great Outdoors.

This one is less of a stretch. I’m making a cloak – it’s made for wearing in the great outdoors. And anyone who’s seen the movie knows that Anna acquires the cloak in order to survive the blast of icy weather triggered by her Snow-Queen-sister, Elsa, as she treks to an ice palace to try and talk her down.

 

Wow, 5 challenges in one – better than I thought. So now I’ve covered that off, how am I making a Disney costume that is also historical? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out!

I know the inspiration image is a cloak, with a cape over the top. I’m simplifying things and just making the cape. The design for this is drawn from a pinterest page that shows a pattern book from what looks to me like the early 1940s. Again, I’m choosing to interpret it that way so that it fits the challenge!

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Not being blessed with the ability to read Spanish, I’ve had to guess on a few things and just take the image as my inspiration. But I managed. So, for the great unveiling of the finished product…

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The Challenge: I don’t really need to list them all again, do I?

Fabric: About 70cm of velveteen, and about 50cm of satin lining.

Pattern: My own, but based on the Spanish pattern book above.

Year: 1940-ish

Notions: polyester thread, 1m of satin ribbon

How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably accurate. I left the darts out of the original pattern and played with the length, but on the whole it’s pretty close. The fabrics are synthetic versions of things that were available at the time.

Hours to complete: Including drafting the pattern, and faffing about figuring the best way to iron velveteen (Answer? Dont! Use steam instead!), it probably took about 4 hours total.

First worn: Never worn – but going to be for sale on Etsy, and at the Essendon North Kindergarten Fete, so some time after the first sale!

Total cost: The fabrics were all bought wholesale, so providing a price to make is a little inaccurate based on what I would pay buying retail. I can say that I’m selling them for AU$30 though!

The problem with making one thing…

…is that you need something to go with it.

Now that I have my snazzy cloche hat all ready to wear on the disgustingly hot days we’ve been having here in Melbourne this summer, I find myself wanting a full outfit to go with it. So i’m looking into making myself a 1920s-ish day dress, using one of the many retro cotton prints I have in my stash. There are, once again, a couple of problems with this idea.

The first is styling. I love 1920, but finding images of something to be made in cotton is a nightmare. For some reason,t he early twentieth century is a period that I’ve glossed over in my own library. I just straight from bustles into the late 1930s. Hitting the inter webs for inspiration turns up a whole lot of party-appropriate outfits and some gorgeous suits, but limited supplies of summer-y everyday-wear. I did, however, find this piece of loveliness.

1920s Arts & Crafts DressIt seems to do just what I want, but the simplicity of the style means that it needs the embroidery. I’m far too impatient to be able to sit down and accomplish that, even if I wasn’t using the search for a unicorn like this to avoid doing things like what I’m being paid to do. Anyone for altering the hem on a meringue wedding dress by hand? No? Yeah, unicorns it is…

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Something  like this is also quite sweet and, apart from the cutwork, which I figure can be achieved by other means, probably quite do-able. But here we start to run into the second major problem with me making myself a 1920s dress. As deceptively simple as the designs are, they are made to flatter a particular figure type. Boyish, athletic, slim. A figure type which is decidedly not me. I’m more…well, I’ll flatter myself and say Christina Hendricks. Which all means that these little dresses would hang on me like a sack. Comfortable? Probably. Attractive? Well, it all depends on hoe you like the side of your barn to look.

The problem just kept coming…and coming…and coming.

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Sure, there were a couple of things that I could use. Like the hemlines of the 1925 school girls in this photo – especially the one second from the left.

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But I was still at a loss as to how to make something  vaguely authentic that wouldn’t make me look like a dreadnought. And I’m still at a loss. I’ve found an excellent chemise instruction page as well as many sites with guides for underwear (although again, noticeably lacking in what to do if you are constructed on more generous lines at the hip and bust), so now I just need to figure out what to put on over it. And, as I glance over at the wedding dress hanging, waiting for me to adjust it, or my job list, with about 4 other things that I should be working on right now, I’m tempted to go back to the start, dig out some of the white cotton that I’ve got in my stash, and see if I can’t resurrect my embroidery skills for an attempt on that first dress. Who says procrastination can’t be productive, after all?

New Year, New Resolutions

I’ve had some productive time away from blogging – and away from work in general – which has let me do plenty of actual sewing. The only thing that held me back over the break was the weather. I’ve discovered that my little sewing cave turns into a little oven at about 3 o’clock on sunny days, thanks to a trick of orientation that lets the hot summer sun bake the brick walls, even though there’s a two storey building about 3 m away to the north. I will actually post pictures of the finished items – all 3 of them! – when I find where my camera is hiding.

But now that I’m back at work, sewing has ground to a halt. It doesn’t help that it’s about 40 degrees outside – that’s 105 for those who calculate such things in fahrenheit – so the thought of moving away from the air conditioner is decidedly unappealing. So I’m killing time thinking up new year resolutions other than my usual “don’t make new year resolutions”. The first I’ve come up with is to keep on top of my filing here at work. Take a peek at how my desk looks after a day and a half of tidying to get a sense of how this resolution came into existence…

Yep. Exciting, isn’t it. Those mountains of paper are things that I still have to figure out what to do with. It’s not filing, but the same problem flows through into my sewing. So even though I have these things going on, I’m thinking about one of my other resolutions – to take part in the Dreamstress’s Historical Sew-Fortnightly challenge.

I completed the bonus challenge during my time off – photos will follow, I promise, but they haven’t even made it to the proper album for the challenge yet, either. A 1930s silk slip in a creamy colour that actually makes me look almost tanned. Almost. And now I’m moving onto the next one, to make something appropriate for a year ending in 13. To truly stretch my sewing boundaries, I’m going with 1813. I’ve never made anything earlier than the 20th century before, so its taking some research. The original plan was to make Janet Arnold’s 1808 riding habit, but I’ve scaled back my ambitions and am now looking at using that as inspiration for a spencer. I know, 1808 is not 1813 – but I figure a riding habit is something that you might not have replaced every year unless you were extremely wealthy (although how many poorer women would have been riding in the first place?), and also that styles moved slowly then, so the fashions are likely to have been fairly similar. Just to make sure, I’ve been doing some research.

The spencer is an odd little garment, really. It’s cropped, so it’s not exactly practical to adapt for current fashions (although that said I do have a couple of cropped cardigans that I wear with empire line dresses – so perhaps I’ll find a use for it afterall), but it was an essential element of the regency wardrobe. Most sources seem to suggest that it was an adaptation of a gentleman’s fashion. They seem to have been made to suit all seasons – having experienced the joys of a British climate, I can certainly understand the need for some sort of cover-up – and in fabrics from the most practical every day to the most sumptuous evening dress. I’m aiming a little lower, planning to use a simple cotton broadcloth which is not exactly historically accurate (the more common fabrics used seem to have been silks and wools, with the occasional foray into velvet, which I did contemplate), but as this is in my stash it is a winner. The biggest problem for me, other than trying to re-size the teeny pattern provided by Janet Arnold to fit my comparably gargantuan frame, is to narrow down the finishing details. There are so many options. Frills, braid, puffs, gatherings, pleats, double or single breasted? So, in an effort to find my way out of the wilderness, I’ve narrowed my thoughts down to these:

I love the pleats at the back of this, and will probably replicate if I can

I love the pleats at the back of this, and will probably replicate if I can

Love the idea of military frogging on the front, but have a feeling that is will be somewhere beyond my combination of time and skill at the moment

Love the idea of military frogging on the front, but have a feeling that is will be somewhere beyond my combination of time and skill at the moment

More pretty decoration that is unlikely to happen on my frist attempt...

More pretty decoration that is unlikely to happen on my first attempt…

Something more like what I think I will end up with. Although not in pink. I wouldn't want to look dead if ever I should wear it...

Something more like what I think I will end up with. Although not in pink. I wouldn’t want to look dead if ever I should wear it…

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So now I’ve just got to get on with sewing the thing…

And that leads me to my second, and final, new years resolution – to cut back on the procrastination. You can see how well I’m doing so far!

And now for something completely different

While I’m sitting at my day job desk, I have just had confirmation that something exciting has happened. The first of my Bettie Page stock has landed. Because I’m going to be selling things – at the moment, it’s a not terribly involved process of contacting me through my facebook page, or through email, or blog comments, until my website design is complete.

So Betties will be the first of, hopefully, many brands I will be talking about. Over the next couple of days I will post details of what exactly I have available right now. But for now, please join me in drooling over the potential of this outfit – which is available now!

I’ve worn Bettie Page before, and loved it. Now, I almost can’t wait to get out of the office and home to my lovely delivery of goodies…