Sunday, May 17, 2015

week 18 begin again

This is the time of the season where you find youself dazed after pushing through with that last show only to find that the pressure suddenly ceases and you wonder what happened. It can feel like racing towards a brick wall and then hitting it in full stride! Hey you made it!
This is also the time when we try to get the understudies fit and start on another show or three.
Here's what is on the table this week-
Slightly tidier! 
I haven't really sorted my patterns out completely as I needed to make a suit mock-up for a fititng this week. I rarely have to make really modern present day suits and when I look at a modern rtw suit jacket just to check out details, I am often astounded by things. Armhole size for instance. I am accustomed to cutting a small and high armhole. I don't think it is excessively small, but in comparison to modern rtw it is. Of course I am cutting one offs to fit an individual -not the masses- but the modern Brioni jacket that I got to look at after the fitting had an armhole that measured 60cm for a 40R size. That was 7cm bigger than the armscye measurement on my pattern. It was also very broad across the back maybe almost 18 inches if I recall correctly and the shoulder point to shoulder point measured 18 1/2 inches, yet the fronts measured a scant 15 inches across. Very interesting.

Most of the fabrics have been returned to the cage, the dresser bags- which consist of repair kits of fabric, buttons and trims have been made up and delivered to the heads of the maintenance crew. I also had meetings for the two other shows that I need to start right away, and while doing that I will be dealing with 7 outstanding understudy fittings and building a Naval frock coat. 


Speaking of the Naval frock coat, I cut directly into fabric for this, and the whole team took part in getting it basted together for a fitting. I have never built anything for this actor, so I was a bit apprehensive about cutting right into fabric but I did it anyway. 
Here it is after the fitting.
He is a rather portly gentleman, and the stand isn't padded out for his belly, so this photo isn't a great indication of fit. 
I had to lift the skirt at the waist where you can see the pins, (it was falling in towards the body slightly) and I took in the side back area about a full 1/2 inch on each side of the body, and 3/4 inch at the waist. It needs to fit tighter than you might imagine because he will wear a belt (and sword) and as soon as a belt goes on and is fastened tight enough, you almost always need to snug up the fit at the waist. 
I need to flare the skirt a bit more, and adjust for the CB skirt overlapping slightly at the hem. I also need to adjust the run of the waist seam slightly to hide the seam underneath the belt he will be wearing. We debated about leaving the waist seam at the bottom of the belt which is where it lay in the fitting, indeed in some references there is a visible button beneath the belt, but that was a bit later in period.
What else?....Oh I misinterpreted the lapel shape so I will change that and the sleeve flashes are a bit big, so a slight reduction there too.
Now to rip it down, mark the alterations and get it trimmed and finished.

We are all a bit tired at this point in the season, but we have a long week-end to rest and gather our wits about us as we head into the build period for the later openers.

Today, I was hoping to go to the lake and do a bit of beachcombing and wandering about, but it is raining! nevermind, sometimes that is the best weather for it, so off I go....


Sunday, May 10, 2015

week 17 = relative calm?

Well that was a crazy couple of weeks! Those coats that were lined up in front of the table have finally  gone to their place in the dressing rooms. Even the cape that was standing sentinel for weeks made it to the dress rehearsal. It had a bit of basting left in it and needs some finishing, but it was wearable. I even had time to clear up some of the mess and I have found my table top again!
Friday was particularly hectic as I had three fittings, a quick change rehearsal at another location, and a tech dress in the afternoon. After the rehearsal we went out for a well deserved beer and some food, then home where I immediately sat down and fell asleep.
I think everything went well apart from a pair of breeches in a horrible ultra/fake suede. I don't know if you have ever fought with a fabric but I sure did with that one. I think we will be making a replacement pair  this week!
in case you were wondering, this ultra/fake suede is likely upholstery quality- it has absolutely no give, it is extremely bouncy and resistant along the weft, so much that you cannot gather it- it just fights you- yet along the warp it will fold completely flat. If it is cut as you normally would, it looks like you are wearing a barrel, and cut the other way, well, lets just say that the seat of the breeches was odd looking! It also has horrible static cling, so the legs kind of clung to the actor in odd ways. Not good.
Note to self- just plead for real leather or suede!



Here was my table on Thursday- I was trying to organize some paperwork and also to draft up a pattern for that Naval frock coat you can see in the sketch.
It is a tale of woe, and a mistaken belief in Internet purchasing to solve budget crunches that leads me to be drafting again for our 19th century show.

Beware you who think that you can order quality costumes off the Internet to save money.
Give your head a shake too if you think that anyone will even look at the measurements you send even though you think you are getting a "custom-made" product.
The "thing" that arrived (on the day we were onstage) was so bizarre that I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It wasn't just the fact that it did not fit the actor, nor had any proper shaping, or proportions that related to the human body, and it was not a full skirted frock coat but a weird tailcoat like thing.  The skirt was a strange one piece apron of fabric, bagged out with coarse cotton duck as a lining with no centre back vent opening, no relation to anything that it should be.
We dubbed it the "manatee" perhaps because it reminded me somewhat of Tenniel's drawing of the walrus from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

Suffice to say that I am making one now.

That is for tomorrow though.

Friday, May 1, 2015

week 16 with trim!


This was the view on Monday at the front of my table. Three of the five coats for the 18th century show are prepped after the fittings with their respective trim and buttons. That pesky cape is still there, and honestly, it was still in the same position on Friday. This show is on stage a week from today so I have to get someone to work on it next week- it has just come down to the wire.
Now the view from the front looks in control but the view of my table is not.
Bags of trim and buttons for all five coats, waistcoats and breeches were in the process of being dumped out, pinned on, discarded, confirmed, mixed up, reassigned, organized and kept track of all through the day. I did finally get some space cleared to actually cut something- it took a concerted effort to make sense of it all, go to other fittings, answer questions, and get out 19th century show on the racks for Wednesday. 

Do you ever get to the information overload point? I sure did this week. At the end of the day I just felt the I couldn't make another decision- I was just out of answers. On that note, I am taking the week end off, and recharging because this coming week will be very busy. More on that later.




Thursday, April 23, 2015

Counting the weeks:14 and 15 with an overcoat update

It was getting kind of crazy around the work table over the last two weeks. I put in many more hours than I would have liked to, but the work has a deadline and we do strive to make it work!

That cape in front- will it ever get worked on, and will it ever get out of my line of vision? Soon, I hope someone will be free to work on it.




I included a shot of the wall behind my table just to give an indication of how many patterns I have churned out in the past 14 weeks. I don't make separate patterns for linings or facings so these are just the basic pattern pieces. 
For the 18th century show, I have to cover the builds and stock costumes for 8 different actors. I have 5 skirted frock coats, 6 pairs of breeches, 5 waistcoats, one shirt, 2 capes, one sleeved casaque style cape, and cut, make and finish 9 stocks/cravats. Repair and or renovate three coats, 3 pairs of breeches, 3 shirts, 2 new waist coat backs on old waistcoat fronts, reline a old cape and sundry other things like changing buttons, repairing linings, adding pockets...... washing and ironing 5 new shirts.....it does go on!
Anyway, it adds up in the pattern drafting department!    

Here is an overcoat update. I documented the toile version of it here along with the waistcoat, which has turned out quite nicely. The coat is going to get a removable capelet, and I still need to tweak the set of the sleeves but it is turning out very well- We have also constructed it slightly differently than usual, and I will get some more photos detailing how it was made this week.

That's it for today. 
I have to switch gears and get a pattern for a 1970's "ish" suit drafted up and to be honest I need a day to wrap my head around the change from 1760 to 1970! Maybe I will do that on Saturday when I will have fewer distractions at work.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

week 13 going on 14

The weeks are starting to feel as though they are running together!

We made it to our first deadline easily, which for the first show, is the quick change rehearsal.

We were able to get our actors changed from one costume to the next in a matter of 90 seconds at the rehearsal, and it usually gets faster as the season progresses. Yay!

Sometimes though, at QC rehearsal, it can feel like bedlam backstage- especially when you have many actors changing at the same time. I have seen traffic jams of chorus girls, who all entered a dressing room to change, only to get stuck getting out because their costumes and headdresses took up so much room.

The next deadline after quick change is rack check, and for this show I believe there were 10 or 11,  8 foot long rolling racks of costumes. The dresser sheets contain every actors track, detailing their costumes and the changes they make through the show. Two people from the running crew come in and check off every item of clothing for every actor and every costume change.
A sheet for an actor would read something like this:
white t-shirt, nude dance belt or underwear, black dress socks, formal wing collar shirt with quick change front, black wool trousers, white pique waistcoat, black wool tailcoat, white pique bow tie, gold wedding band, onyx cuff links, black patent lace up dance oxfords.
They would change into:
white singlet, underwear as in #1, navy blue argyle socks, blue and white striped dress shirt, blue wool trousers, blue wool waistcoat, blue wool SB jacket, navy and red striped tie, grey overcoat, gold wedding band as in #1, silver cuff links, watch with leather strap, oxblood lace up brogues, dark grey fedora, chamois gloves, grey woolen scarf.

So it takes two people four hours to get through the rack check. Then there is always the list of what is missing and when it will be ready and after all is accounted for, we get to watch our work onstage at the tech dress rehearsal. This is the first time the actors will run their show with all the technical elements together, so there is a lot going on.

Back to the table though. I have a new show to discuss with a designer on Tuesday and although we are in pretty good shape with the next show up, I feel very behind for the third show. That is our 18 century show, and you can see that I am cutting one of the coats in the top photo and after a long day yesterday with the tech dress, I was in this morning cutting another coat out for that show, and piling up the work in baskets on my table.
I like to feel that I am ahead, but it worries me when costumes sit there in pieces for more than a day or so.
Monday then, I think we will make a group effort to get at least one of these put together and that will give me a sense of relief.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Week 12 at the cutting table

Week 12 at the cutting table, and I am trying to get the last few pieces figured out, and hopefully into someones hands pretty soon.
I have fittings from 6 weeks ago from the third show I have to work on, that I have not had time to deal with, and the sooner I can get back to those the better work will progress.

So one of the last costumes that needs extensive figuring out is this one with the red cape.
Luckily the design assistant found a cape in stock that fit the design quite well, so all we have to do is trim it up! Well that sounds easy, but putting trim on a finished velvet garment means lots of hand sewing.
You might think that it would be faster to machine it, but if you have ever sewn velvet, especially sewn velvet to a non velvet, you might end up on the floor in tears if you tried to machine it.
By the time you unpicked the lining and made it possible to get to at the machine, then fought to keep it from looking like a dogs breakfast when finished- and the trim would have to be basted in place anyway, you might as well save the drama and stitch it on by hand.

The trim is wide and it travels around the back neck so there will be some careful manipulation and cutting of that trim to make it work.
The bijoux department will also be adding jewels to the trim, so it has to be placed symmetrically on the right and left sides.

The garment underneath is basted together so we can get an idea of the spacing of the gold trim it needs.
So I have pinned it out and send off a photo to our designer, and well, I found out that it needs to be set closer together.
I still need a black fabric for the centre front detail, and this black will go around the hem with more gold trim on the edge and more inset jewels.
There is a lot left to figure out, but it seems in hand, well on Thursday it still felt in hand, but we will see what Monday brings.



Saturday, March 28, 2015

A fall front variation

We make a lot of period clothing, so that means quite a few fall front style trousers and breeches.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, a fall front is an alternative to a fly closure for trousers or breeches.
The front of the trousers can open close to or right along both of the side seams in which case they  would be "broad falls"or "whole falls" or you can make a narrower front panel that would be called  split falls. There is an under lap which includes the waistband, and then the trouser front is closed by lifting up the fall and buttoning it onto the waistband.

We most often make split falls as they were very common from the mid 18th century through to the Victorian age. They were certainly still used for "court" dress into the 20th century, and used for sailor trousers into the 1970's if I recall correctly, and still used on Lederhosen for instance.

Anyway, there are many ways of cutting and making split falls, the most commonly used technique has a visible placket and the placket is quite often plain and straight.
For one pair of our 19th century breeches I cut a split fall with a variation of the usual placket shape.


















These have a curved placket that is cut on the bias.
I like to inset the seam for the under lap so when the fall flap is closed it is hidden, but these also would have worked if I had cut them so the end of the placket was more like the end of a welt pocket.


Here you can see what it looks like underneath the fall front. The waistband and under lap still need buttonholes and buttons. You would close them first, then the flap will have buttonholes and it will button up and close as in the first photo.

The placket itself was a plain bias piece which was fused with bias fusible, then shaped into a curve at the iron. Once that was done, the pattern piece drawn out on it, then sewn to the fronts. I cut a separate flap facing which was then used to finish the top and the edge of the curved placket. 
The under lap is composed of the fabric layer and finished on the inside/lined with silesia. 
I didn't take a photo of that, sorry! The under lap piece is deep enough that the placket is secured from the top through all the layers and the silesia extends right across to the side seam giving support for long term wear and tear.

Variations on the theme make work interesting!