Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cutaway variation

Another body coat that I cut in Montreal.
This is a variation on a cutaway that I cut and sewed while in Montreal.

The student designer chose to have a modern twist on an 1870's inspired cutaway coat with inspiration from jeans jacket and motorcycle jacket styling. One of her first ideas was to have an asymmetrical zipper opening as in the motorcycle jacket, but keep the body shaping of a traditional tailcoat. I don't know why she ditched that idea, as I think it could have been quite fun, but in the end she came back to me with the DB 1870's inspiration and the leather yoke.
The back seaming was modified from the traditional so the seams run vertically into the yoke like a jean jacket in a way.
The corduroy for the jacket was luckily (for budget reasons) found in stock and she dyed it this colour. The leather (also found in stock) was a perfect pairing.

She wanted the collar to have quite a tall stand, and a few different inspirations, one of which was a type of modern convertible collar and the other more of an 1830's style. We ended up with more of the 1830's in feel.
I think it is difficult for students and new designers who don't really know how things are constructed to parse out what they really want. They see many pictures but don't quite "get" how particular details work or don't work or whether they can be incorporated successfully.
It is also difficult for me to describe the options of the variations and how they work without making the poor student's eyes glaze over because they really don't understand half of how things work.

In a situation where you are building a show in less than a month, there isn't a lot of time for experimentation either.

Over the month, for the men's wear, I cut and we built the cream frock coat and large described earlier, this cutaway coat, a suit jacket styled vest, a wrap skirt for a man, an asymmetrical tunic in waffle cotton with a period stand collar and strap and buckle closures. There was also a cape that incorporated a pair of exaggerated 4 inch deep pointy shoulder pads with a tulip collar trimmed in feathers, a pair of 1820's style pleated trousers, a pair of drop crotch riding breeches, a pair of ethnic inspired drop crotch trousers, plus alterations to an 18th century coat, a military jacket, and a few other bits and pieces.

We were very busy indeed!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Period dress costume video

I just thought I would share this video made last year documenting the process of a period dress from drawing to finished dress.
The dress was cut by my friend and talented colleague Carol M, and sewn by a whole team of talented people.
Hope you enjoy it!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Montreal and more formal wear

Oh, It has been quite a while between posts!
I have just returned from Montreal where the formal wear trend continued.
It must be in the air, or maybe the water, who knows?

First a lovely early morning view from my window. I admit to having a bit of culture shock coming home- where have all the buildings and the people gone now that I am home?

One of the costumes I made happened to cut was this frock coat in a lovely brocade.
It was a good learning experience I think, for the design student. She bought 4 metres of fabric, all that was available in fact, and then we worked it out. I did make a mock up, because I knew there would be no room for error or major changes.

It does not fit the stand quite like it fit the actor, I assure you! He has a much more erect posture hence the extra length showing in the front. The single low button doesn't give a lot of support either. He also wears a Farthingale over it as the Queen, which does complicate things a bit!

The big "collar" is used when the actor appears as "the Queen" and is removable.
It has an inner harness of sorts that stabilizes it on the body, then it snaps into the frock coat to make the two pieces act as one. I should have wired the edge but I didn't want to use hat wire as it can be too easily bent. What I would narmally use is heavy duty fishing line or whipper snipper cable zigged onto the outer edge. I hope it holds up for the run!

It all turned out well in the end, and I just squeaked it all out of 4m of fabric while keeping the patterns matched too!

Friday, November 6, 2015

tuxedos and tails

Ahh, this post will be a bit rambling! I feel quite tired!

What have I been up to lately?

Well it seems formal wear has figured prominently this fall. I had a call from a friend who was working on a tv show, and they needed a tailsuit in about two weeks, could I do it?

I already had commited to making some skating costumes but I did not have designs or fabrics yet  and you know what happens once you say yes to one thing, then all the other things suddenly start to happen!

So I said yes and the fabric arrived two days later. I started patternmaking, then cutting and then we made up a period tailsuit - waistcoat, trousers and coat, using very inadequate measurements, no fitting and crossed fingers.
Rush job number one!
Of course part way into the process, I received designs and fabric and the deadline info for the skating costumes. Yikes!
These had to have a fitting- just time for one fitting mind you- and the only time that everyone was able to be together- skaters, myself, and the designer, only left us a window of 5 days to finish and deliver.
That was rush job number two.

It had its share of challenges stretch fabrics for a tuxedo, non stretch for a sweater like garment....which I hope to get time and inclination to organize my thoughts so I can post about it!

A big sigh of relief when I received messages that everything was great and off they went to compete, and they won! Hurray!
Three days later I get an SOS message, and it turns out they needed to change their program completely and they had two weeks to pick new music, do new choreography and have new costumes made. Could I do it?
What can you say?  How terrible for them to be put in such a position!  I said yes.
So the change was to a tailsuit, with a nod to the Edwardian era, and with a bit of ambassadorial splendor.
So trousers, waistcoat, bow tie, order and medal, sash and a tailcoat. The fabric arrived Friday morning. I cut all day Friday, we sewed Saturday, fit it on Sunday and finished it on the Friday.  They tried it on ice on Sunday, and flew to their next competition Tuesday.
Rush job number three.
Oh, they won by the way! yay!

Then I got sick. Of course- too much stress and your body kicks you when you are down.

I leave tomorrow to work for a month in Montreal.
Four weeks to cut and make a show- which compared to what I have been doing, seems like "bloody luxury" as we say -but I am sure it will have it moments of being a rush job too.

Here's a photo or two for good measure. They were taken from their tumbler site. No photos of the tails for the tv show- I don't know if it has aired yet....

These two - Andrew Poje and Kaitlyn Weaver are just wonderful - as athletes and as people- they are as lovely as they look.

 That's all for now, I have to go and pack.

Monday, September 28, 2015

reducing bulk in seams

This is a bit of a long post!

One thing I find challenging in building period costumes is how to deal with multiple layers and the resulting bulk in seams.

In this mock up of a doublet I had to figure out how to deal with the bulk of seam allowances that could end up in the armhole.
How much bulk is too much- when does it get difficult to sew and more important irritating to wear? Lets talk about the armholes first.
We have the body of the doublet which is a sturdy cotton duck with velvet flat mounted over it. The doublet will also have a lining in it. Three layers in the body armhole.

There is a long under sleeve that will be in velvet. It needs to be flat mounted on a lightweight cotton to keep it stable, as it will get trim. There will be a lining in the sleeve as well. Three layers in the under sleeve.

The small puff sleeve goes over top of the long sleeve and it will remain unattached on its bottom edge-
This puff consists of a base shape in cotton, onto which we sewed a few rows of gathered netting to create the rounded shape. Over the netting, there is a gathered layer of fabric- lets call that the pouf.
Then, over the pouf are panes, each of which consist of a base layer of cotton silesia, then a piece of fusible cut to the finished size of the pane. The velvet will get flat mounted on top of this. Each pane will have a trim applied to the long edges, and then each pane will be lined.

So that is two layers for the base and pouf, then panes have silesia, velvet, and lining, plus trim.

So that is a lot of fabric into an armhole.

I went on a bit of a search at work and saw a number of different techniques dealing with this issue. On some ladies garments with paned sleeves, the panes were bound off with one continuous binding, and the binding was hand sewn to the outside of the armhole. This kept quite a flat profile to the top of the sleeve as the panes do not have to curve up and over.

I liked that but thought it might be not strong enough for this costume, but it did give me an idea!

Here is my idea sample:

What I did was cut a piece of bias and sew the panes to it by machine. I then wrapped the bias around the seam allowance of the panes and stitched it down.

Turn this around and lay it over the sleeve and you get this:

So, now I have eliminated all the bulk inherent in the panes from going into the armhole. Yay! 

The bias was cut from the same material as the pouf, so the binding will just disappear. The bias is stitched to the sleeve base along the sewing line. This does not mean that sewing this sleeve in will be made any easier, because it must be carefully stitched right up against the edge of the binding, but it does eliminate bulk.

The view from the bottom- all the component layers are caught together and bound off in matching velvet.
Just a look at the sleeve from the side. 

and lastly, a fitting photo before all this was figured out! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

coming up for air, and more ruffs

The season at work ended in much the same way as it progressed all year- at full speed and intensity!

I went away for a week, but once I was back home, I felt that I should just remain horizontal for as long as possible in order to replenish my mind, and get rid of the tension in my neck. I needed some time to reconnect with my husband and daughter, and do something with my garden before the neighbours complained.
I have been diligently looking for work as well, so I may have two upcoming projects. For now though, I want to make a few notes and posts about some other things I worked on this season while it is still somewhat fresh in my mind.

Before I get to that I wanted to show you the ruff that we made for the black doublet/large trunkhose costume.
This ruff was quite large (71/2" neck edge to outer edge) as the character was supposed to look like his head was on a plate. The designer wanted to support the ruff with a wire frame or supportasse. This became a project between myself and the millinery and bijoux departments.

My part of it was not only to make the ruff, but to give my co-workers a neck shape to work from.
I have seen examples of these supportasses with circular spaces for the neck, but the neck is not  circular, so we needed to start with a proper shape.
We also needed to figure out how the ruff and supportasse worked with the doublet. As well, how does the actor get into it?

Since we were using a wire frame, we determined that the ruff will sit along the top edge of the doublet collar. We have to attach the ruff to the supportasse and the whole unit to the doublet collar. It needs to be removable for both cleaning and storage as well as just to functionally put it on.

I have seen examples of wire supportasses that had "prongs" of wire that extended downwards and were inserted in channels on the collar, but we decided against that.
In the end we decided to make the grosgrain neckband of the ruff extra deep.
I believe we made it 1 3/4" deep in the end. The depth of the ruff at the neck edge was only 1 1/8" which left us with a good 1/2" of grosgrain "flange" that would tuck inside the doublet collar. We sewed snaps onto the flange and matched them to snaps that were sewn to the inside of the doublet collar.

Once the ruff was prepared, we had a fitting to confirm the fit of the doublet collar. At this stage the ruff is not completely finished- we always leave extra length in the grosgrain and of the ruff fabric to make any further adjustments.
We had prepared a flat template in light cardboard of the ruff  size with the shape of the neck cut out. Then we confirmed the angle that the designer wanted the ruff to sit at. Once the neck shape in cardboard was correct, the supportasse was made. An important note- the supportasse does not meet at the CF. It has a gap of approx 2 inches to facilitate putting it on.

We then laid the ruff on the supportasse and basted them together aligning the inside neck edges.
At this point we had a final fitting. We then removed the supportasse and finished off the ends of the grosgrain and the ruff itself, then added closures to the front of the ruff and reattached the ruff to the supportasse by hand.

The ruff was the last piece of costume that the actor puts on. Once his doublet is fastened, the ruff is put on by twisting the front edges in opposite directions just enough to get his neck through it. Then it is aligned and snapped to the doublet collar. This takes a bit of dexterity by the dresser who has to reach over the ruff and get their fingers of one hand in between the actors neck and the ruff grosgrain, to locate the snaps by feel, while with the other hand is under the ruff, supporting and pressing the snaps together from the outside. The ruff opening at centre front is snapped together last.

I think it turned out well, but I did wonder a bit about the amount of fabric needed for ruffs this large in diameter. I wondered if we should have sewn the inner neck pleats closer together, forcing more fabric into the neck circumference thereby using more fabric overall which would translate into more fabric to arrange on the outer circumference.

Just something to contemplate for the next time, but I think in the end it turned out rather well. I will have to keep my eye on it and see how it fares over a season of wear and tear. Hopefully we can get more than a few years out of a ruff as they are time consuming (expensive) to make.

Next week I hope to get some thoughts on paned and puffed sleeves onto "paper"

Sunday, August 2, 2015

catching up - Trunkhose

Well, time just seems to be in short supply these days.
We have had such an intense couple of weeks trying to get these two shows up and running. It required a few more people than expected and luckily management was able to bring in some extra hands to assist us. I am just coming up for air now!
We also have had an unusual situation in requiring a rebuild of a doublet, so we will be whipping together a new doublet at top speed, because we are scheduled to be finished our work by Friday.

Where did we leave off?
ahhh... trunkhose. I was really trying to get a pair fully documented but due to the intensity of the many aspects of my job, I cannot seem to get time to get a photo at every stage, no matter how I try!

So here is what I do have.

The breeches are gathered in at the waist and checked before the excess fabric above the waistline is cut away. We started with a large pleat at the centre front and centre back then ran gathering stitches by machine, using a heavy nylon thread in the bobbin. The two layers of silk here just managed to be gathered to size. If we couldn't gather it by machine, (the machine stitch length is limited to 5 or 6mm) our only other option was to hand stitch the gathering lines. 

Once everything is deemed to be okay, the waistband fabric is stitched to the silk. The inner trouser is put in place- you can see its seam allowances sticking out of the leg in this picture.

After that we attach the two layers together.
In this method of having an inner and outer layer, we are making the inner layer the most functional- in that the CF fly has a zipper and a structured waistband. The outer shell of silk therefore floats over top, attached at the top of the inside kneeband and at the waistline. 
The seam allowances of the gathered silk layers at the waistband are turned downwards, and live in between the inner and outer layers. this makes the waistband smooth and flat. If those seam allowances were left upwards as one would normally do with a pair of trousers, the waistline would become thicker and bulky and then the doublet would not fit over it all. 

This does take a bit of wrangling, marrying the two layers together at the waist. 

We get it all in place, basted by hand, then using a zipper foot, stitch by machine through the waistline catching all the layers together. The top edge of the silk waistband is then hand felled to the inner structured waistband to finish them. The centre front of the silk layer can either have its own closures or it can be slipped down to the CF of the inner breeches. You have a few choices in how you want them to close.

I think one of the advantages of making them like this, is that the top layer could easily be removed from the inner if you wanted to reconfigure them for someone else in the future. The inner structure is smooth against the person wearing them, the profile of the outer silk can be changed by adjusting the inner leg length, so they can be altered for a different design or taller or shorter person fairly easily.

I did get some photos of the almost finished outfit on a hanging stand, but the stand is much longer in the body than the actor wearing these so please imagine if you will, the waistlines meeting!

I hope my verbal descriptions make sense to you. Perhaps next time we make a pair of these I will get a chance to take the missing photos!