08 September 2014

1890s Black Silk Victorian Dress

I did a bunch of research for this post about two and a half weeks ago before I left to spend four months in Spain, so I'm just going to go for this and really hope that I haven't forgotten anything.  I'll double check everything later, but I spent a ton of time and effort on this so I'm pretty sure I got everything down.

Also, my internet keeps cutting out and it's driving me up the wall.  My hostess here in Spain says that it's a huge problem here just as it is in the United States that internet companies don't like to provide good service.  As she says, "es una locura."

About a month before leaving home I went to a small vintage jewelry store called Mrs. Beadsley: vintage Jewelry, Apparel, and Accessories (click that title to go to her webpage).  It's a single-woman operation and she's been in the business for many years and knows her stuff pretty well.  

What interested me most was this black silk Victorian dress she bought from a local estate sale for (according to her) $70.00.  Apparently it had been (the horror) stored flat in a garage for some time.

(note that the skirt and bodice are both hanging from the same level because I don't have any fancy means of displaying stuff, like a mannequin or something)

Based on the style, I'd date this dress to the early 1890s.  The sleeves aren't full enough for the mid-to-late-1890s, but it's definitely past the bustle-era of the 1880s and the cut of the bodice is classic 1890s.

The lightweight silk of the entire garment is in very delicate condition and I've already managed to snap a couple stitches even with the most delicate of handling.  As I say, this garment was stored in a garage, flat, based on the presence of deep creases that suggest weight was placed on top of the garment as well.

Front closure is achieved with hooks and eyes.  All are present except for one, though I cannot remember exactly its location.  I think it was one of the ones near to the waist.  It's not a center front closure, but rather an overlap-closure on the left side.  The right panel was more or less cut on the fold so it would overlap over the left and the closure would be hidden under a black silk overlay.

A large part of the bodice is made out of this lovely habbotai-weight silk dyed using some sort of resist method (I think).  There are slight imperfections in the dyeing process that suggest it was dyed by hand, but I want to look at it a little more and do more research before I declare that absolutely to be the case.  In any case, it is beautiful.  Places where the fabric has been protected from the light, such as inside the cuff, suggest that the fabric was originally a brighter colour as well, not the faded beige evident in the photos.  Maybe it was displayed at some point?

Overlayed on the patterned fabric is a similar weight black silk that opens up to reveal the patterning underneath.

The entire bodice is delicately tacked down to an interlining of black cotton in order to achieve intricate draping effects in the bodice and in the sleeve areas.  I still can't quite figure out how all this was done, as layers of tacking were done one on top of the other.  This is especially evident in the sleeves.  Unfortunately, as you can see from the second photo above, something is missing to facilitate holding the black overlay over the left breast to conceal the front closure.  I don't know what exactly is missing, because there was no obvious evidence left behind.

The skirt is made from a different material from the dress, but there is no doubt that they were a pair.  There are eyes, stitched in the same way as those on the bodice, which correspond exactly with hooks on the bodice.  Presumably they were meant to keep the bodice just so as the wearer moved around.  

Fabric is a nice, swishy black taffeta, unfortunately also quite brittle with age.  Debra ("Mrs Beadsley") told me that she caught the hem of the skirt on something when she was transporting it to her store and it ripped a little.  I think this was just waiting to happen, as the fabric right along the waistline is super delicate.  The rest seems pretty strong still.  I do not know exactly why the difference, but it presented quite a challenge when I tried to put the skirt on a hanger for storage.  The white cloth at the top of the first two photos is muslin that I originally used to fit a pair of pants.  It's there to keep the hanger from abrading the skirt, and, ideally, the muslin will take some of the stress and protect the skirt.

Since the skirt is longer in the back that in the front, which also corresponds with 1890s styles, it probably would have been worn over a good-sized petticoat with a lot of volume towards the back.  It was the beginning of a trend towards ever-growing petticoats that reached a peak around the turn of the century.  The overall idea was to achieve a slim front and full, bell-shaped back, often with a "demi-train" that just barely brushed the ground.

Whoever wore this dress was very small in the torso but taller than I am, or at least longer in the leg.  From measurements I took, I know the skirt would have had to sit well above my own natural waist in order to avoid dragging on the ground, or perhaps the wearer would have worn very high heels.  I am about five-foot-four.  The bust and waist are also smaller than my corseted measurements.  I estimated the bodice to have a bust of about thirty inches.  Corseted, mine is 32.

There's a great deal of wear on the dress, not obviously from wearing, but definitely from storing.

You can see the brownish colour of the interlining showing through in the above photo.  There's also a little wear on the parts of the sleeves where it was creased during storage (creasing is why the sleeve lies so flat even when the bodice is on a hanger).

There are also tears, wear marks, a couple smudges, and a lot of snapped stitches.  Obvious wear from a person actually wearing the garment, though, is nonexistent.  This may have been someone's best dress, or there may be some other explanation for why the original owner didn't wear it very much.

This dress was a lucky find.  I've never gotten to look directly at a dress this old before, and it's from one of my favourite stylistic eras.  I love the intricately patterned bodices and sweeping skirts of the 1890s.

My ultimate goal is to replicated this garment in new materials and in my size, but it is definitely going to depend on how much time and money I have.  I still don't even know exactly how the garment is put together.

01 September 2014

Saya Minatsuki Photo Gallery

I worked on Saya Minatsuki from Black Cat off and on for about four years.  Originally meant to debut at Anime Kaigi 2010 alongside my friend's cosplay of Train Heartnet from the same series, I canned it when an unexpected event prevented my friend from attending the con with me.

The kimono, already at about 80% completion, hung in my closet unfinished since then.  Finally in August 2013 I got it out again, ironed and finished the hems, then forgot about it again until August 2014.  Assembled at last in its entirety, this may be one of the least expensive cosplays I've ever made.  The obi was a bargain deal when I ordered another kimono from eBay, the gun was a bonus with another gun I ordered, the wig was super cheap, and the kimono itself was made from a damaged yukata fabric bolt from Ichiroya (It has its own entry in my textile collection).

There's also a pretty blue Swarovski crystal necklace that goes with this cosplay, but it tends to hide under the kimono.

After all of that, it is highly unlikely that I will ever wear this as a set to any convention.  I just don't like it enough and without another character it wouldn't be noticeable at all.  That's okay.

Finally, before I start sharing photos, please excuse my messy kistuke (kimono-dressing).  Unfortunately all of my kimono-wearing devices that make it easier to dress were all in storage in New York at the time of the photoshoot.  I'm going to go out on a limb, though, and say that I'm still pretty happy with how the photos turned out.

12 August 2014

Cosplays I want do in the future...maybe

I admit, my process for choosing which cosplay to do next is extremely subject to momentary whims, rather than actual planning.  I have been told that my life would be a lot easier if I planned ahead, but there is absolutely no fun in that.  All too often, anyway, I do the exact opposite of what I am told or what I tell myself to do just because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

My point is that I have a lot of projects that I'd love to do.  Maybe I'll get around to them sometime, but 72% says I probably won't.  Whatever.  I can still keep a list.  This way at least next time I need a project I can print out all these pictures and tack them to a dartboard.  I tell you, this is the easiest way to make choices!

For those who follow my Facebook, no, my upcoming "mystery project" is not listed here.  Until my supplies arrive in the mail, I'd like to keep her under wraps.

Okay, so here are the cosplays I'd like to do sometime.  This list doesn't include costumes or other miscellaneous clothing I want to do, that would be another list entirely and I wouldn't even know where to start.

These are listed in no particular order.

Next time I'll have a cosplay progress post for you, I promise!

1.  Ulquiorra Schiffer (Bleach)
I made his katana a long time ago, and a terrible attempt at his coat back when I didn't really know how to sew.  But he's still on my list--I enjoy his nondiscriminatory nihilism.  Yay for villains.

2.  Sephiria Arks (Black Cat)
This is from back in the day when my friend and I wanted to do a Black Cat group.  I've still got part of Sephiria's coat made from some crappy purple bottomweight.  Anyway, I love swordswomen.

3.  Riza Hawkeye (Fullmetal Alchemist)
I really want to make that uniform, and Riza won't take your shit, Roy Mustang.  No miniskirts here!

4.  Momo (Ballad of a Shinigami)
Characters with white hair are among my favourite to cosplay, though I'd be hard put to say why beyond the obvious aesthetic.  Maybe it's because they tend to be so mysterious, and Momo certainly is.  She seems to have lost her memories from before her death and subsequent induction in the ranks of the Shinigami, so what are her origins?  There's no English translation past the first two novels, so we'll probably never know.

5.  Ran (Texhnolyze)
Ran is the last ray of innocence and hope in a society on the brink of destruction.  Her story is one of the few that makes me sad enough to actually cry--though for her there was, unfortunately, no way she was going to have a happy ending.  Ran's not likely to happen anytime soon because she's so obscure.

6.  Delenn (Babylon 5)
I actually kind of like Commander Ivanova better, but I'm more interested in making Delenn's garments and prosthetics.  We can file this under 99% not gonna happen, though, because I have neither the experience nor the time to make the prosthetic.

7.  Galatea (Claymore)
She's been on my wishlist for years.  I once even tried making her armor out of cardboard!  It sucked, though, and just recently I cleaned the last pieces of it out from under my bed.  Galatea requires a considerable amount more thought and experience than I have at the moment.

8.  Sansa Stark's "entering the Game" dress (Game of Thrones)
This was the moment I've been waiting for.  I bet Sansa's got some badassery ahead of her now...I'd like to think think she's going to kill a certain someone.  The feathers on the bosom of this dress are beautiful--I'd love to try my hand at those.

9.  Allen Shezar (Vision of Escaflowne)
I, er, really like long-haired guys.  Allen's a bit too chivalrous at first, but I like him more and more as the series progresses.

10.  The Third Doctor (Doctor Who Classic)
In terms of Doctors I'd like to cosplay, Jon Pertwee's version is at the top of my list.  I love that velvet jacket.  Plus I love his Doctor's combination of silly and classy.

11.  Lord Darcia (Wolf's Rain)
Chances are good I'll do this one within the next few years.  Darcia get's a lot of haters, but to me he's very human despite being some weird alien-creature-thing.  I'd like to think he's in a better place now.

12.  Alicia (Aria the Natural)
I love the childlike naivete of this particular series.  It never takes itself too seriously, but there's still wonderful character development.  Alicia's extremly comfortable with herself and one of the top professional gondoliers.

13.  Nakiami (Xam'd)
I'm adding Nakiami to this list on a whim since I just finished Xam'd two days ago.  She's very much like Miyazaki's Nausicaa, another one my favourite characters who is also a badass woman.

14.  Vincent Valentine (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children)
Explanation is not necessary...is it?

15.  Princess Kushana (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)
This is the manga version of Kushana, not the film version.  They are very different, and if you've never read the mange, I highly recommend doing so.  Manga-version Kushana is a revolutionary and an integral part of Nausicaa's journey to the Crypt of Shuwa.  There's a lot here that I don't know how to do yet--but someday I'll try it.

16.  Major Motoko Kusanagi (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)
Besides my desire to try a skintight costume sometime, Motoko's a beautiful, strong, android soldier.

01 August 2014

Howl Jenkins Photo Gallery

Based on Howl Jenkins from Hayao Miyazaki's film Howl's Moving Castle, this is the very first outfit that Howl appeared wearing.  This is a fun, non-competition cosplay...though I put about as much work into it as I usually put into a competition cosplay.  Howl was a lot more complicated than I thought he would be.

Coat and shirt are completely handmade.  The coat is quilted together out of pieces of faux pink "silk".  Both colours are the exact same fabric, I simply dyed the purple pieces to the right shade.  The shirt is made stylistically like a poet's shirt and it features a neck ruffle and hand-stitched eyelets to facilitate lacing at the cuffs and collar.

There ended up being a bit of pucker along the front hems of the overcoat, though in retrospect this should have been easy to prevent.  Fortunately I was able to stabilize it with the stiff gold trim, but I'll look out for this kind of thing in the future.
**EDIT 25 January 2015** I took apart the right front of the coat and redid the piping and trim.  With all that done, both sides of the coat hang nice and flat with no sign of pucker.  Well, let's just call this a learning experience!

I elected not to make the pants because I had a vintage pair that worked perfectly.

Howl's jewelry is all handmade by me except for the ring, which I ordered off of Etsy.

Progress posts can be found here:
Part 1
(Part 2 coming soon!)

21 July 2014

Howl Jenkins, whose 'mother' apparently really enjoyed quiltmaking

For a deceptively simple character design, Howl Jenkins is a ton of work, and you'll know what I mean when you look at that coat and realize that all of those diamond shapes must be quilted together.

I've wanted to cosplay Howl for awhile.  What got me going this time was the fact that one of my friends approached me and expressed interest in doing a pair cosplay with me as Howl and her as Sophie, which would be awesome because I rarely get the opportunity to be part of a group.  We don't know if she'll have the money to afford her cosplay, but it was enough for me.

On a trip to New York City I picked up most of the fabric necessary for Howl.  To maintain the same fabric texture throughout the coat, I bought only pink fabric, with the intention of dyeing some of it purple for the contrasting diamonds.  What I did not anticipate, since the lady at the store swore the fabric was silk (it FEELS like silk), is that it is polyester and therefore almost impossible to dye.

Well, I managed.  Somehow.

You know those iDye Poly dyes that they sell at Joann's and Dick Blick for dyeing synthetic fabrics?  Well, they work.  Surprisingly well, actually.  The problem is that you have to boil the fabric on the stovetop, which makes it a little harder than your standard dip-dye job.  It was also the middle of summer, and boiling a giant pot of water was decidedly unappealing.  I had to wait until the temperature dipped slightly below 90F before cranking on the stove.

The purple iDye wasn't bad.  It's a little more magenta purple than I'd like, but it's a beautiful colour scheme and (in my mind) totally suitable for Howl.  The actual colour is a little darker than in the photo.

Patching together the body of the coat took several hours of work even with a sewing machine.  There are sixty diamonds total, so you can imagine the time it took.  It was also important to ensure that the corners lined up properly so that no colour overlapped itself.

My diamond shapes are measured out precisely using the lining dimensions as a guide so that the pattern lines up perfectly with the hems and lapels of the coat.

I optimized the coat pattern to have as few seams as possible.  The seams in the lining are completely straight, but present in the lining simply because I hadn't yet thought out the possibility of eliminating them entirely.  At that point I still planned to have some shape to bring the coat in at the waist, but film stills proved that totally unnecessary.  The appears like one contiguous piece, more cloak-like than coat-like.  That also made the quilting much easier.

With some scrap brocade from my fabric box, I decided to pipe the hems and collar of my coat.  The core is curtain cord my mother left with me when she replaced it in a couple sets of blinds.  That's upcycling for you.

I generally stitch piping three times: once to encase the cord, once to baste it to the fashion fabric, and once again when I line the garment.  Each line of stitching squeezes the cord a little more so the fabric is drawn nice and tight over it once the garment is done.

A little magic and trim, and the coat is done!  The one casualty is that I realized, after turning the lining, that the back of the coat is supposed to be solid purple.  That's an oops, but tough luck.  This isn't a competition cosplay, and I'm probably the only one who will notice.  I hope.

Yesterday I ordered Howl's wig: Arda's Pippin in platinum blonde.  Shouldn't need much styling, just a bit of a trim to even out the ends and add in Howl's bangs.

Onwards to the shirt!

23 June 2014

Elsa the Glitter Queen Part 3

Four months in production, I am declaring this cosplay basically done.  I think that there are a few more items that need attending to, but I probably won't know about them until I've worn the cosplay for a little while.

First of all I will finish up my cloak construction.  After I added the gussets to the bottom of the cloak, I trimmed the hem and narrow hemmed it.  At this point all of the snowflake designs are complete, though not without trouble. 

The main problem I ran into was my applique material, the EZ-Steam I mentioned in my last few Elsa posts.  The stuff, manufactured by Pellon, quite honestly sucks.  My appliques keep peeling off the cloak fabric.  Right now it seems that EZ-Steam's popular competitor, Steam-A-Seam, is out of production while the company finds a new parchment paper supplier.  You can only get the double-sticky-sided Steam-A-Seam on the black market right now, though I did manage to score some single-sided Steam-A-Seam on fabric.com.  Take this to heart and run over there RIGHT NOW if you want some.


By the point I was doing the larger snowflakes along the cloak hem, I had realized the EZ-Steam problem and switched products.  Everything after this point should adhere pretty well.  That basically means that my small snowflakes are going to have peeling problems, as well as part of the huge designs, but the rest should be secure.

For interest, here is the cloak patterning before I gathered it to the yoke.

The yoke is meant to tie onto the corset bodice (through eyelets that haven't yet been applied when I took this photo).  It's made of the same gold/blue brocade that I used for the bodice, though without the blue netting overlay.  The gold may stand out a little more than I want.  I decorated the hem with tiny three-cut seed beads and Preciosa crystals.

Gathered and stitched to the yoke.

There's a ton of embroidery on this cosplay, using goldwork passing, check purl, glass pearls, crystal beads, and cut crystal seed beads.

Goldwork passing embroidery on the front of Elsa's undershirt:

Though the technique is called 'goldwork,' the supplies also are sold in silver!  I have some gold-colored passing and other materials as well for another project.  Unlike their predecessors that have been around for centuries, modern goldwork materials do no generally have any gold or silver content, although they are metal.

Undershirt shoulder and cuff embroidery.  I've replaced the finger loops with clear elastic straps that look so much better than the white elastic ever did.

The large crystals on both cuffs and the front of the shirt are from an old chandelier x3

The shoulder decorations are supposed to look like pearl strands draped off the shoulder.  It is all very sparkly!

Now, I mentioned earlier that I was having trouble with loosening the pleats in my underskirt.  Fortunately I was able to take it to the costume shop, hang it on a clothing rack, and loosen them with a garment steamer.  Afterwards, I unceremoniously cut the train off this skirt.  It was pretty, but I already have to deal with the train on my cloak!  The material can be used for something else.

Back home I found these beautiful brooches to finish off my wig.  I'd already found a pair of clip-on rhinestone earrings that I hooked into the braid.  The larger of the two above brooches is hooked into the wig netting at the top of the braid, while the other I stitched to the end of the braid.

Selfies thus far, with and without the underskirt (which is not present in the original design):

I really like the longer bangs on my wig.  Elsa doesn't have them, but I may see what I can do to incorporate them.

Since these photos I have added the finishing touches, including invisible straps on the shoulders, and bodice hem decoration.  Look forward to the photoshoot in about a week!