October 30, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Almost anyways...give it another hour and it will be, officially, my favorite holiday: Halloween!

So, how is that Cinderella costume coming you might ask...well, rather than sewing, I may have become a little distracted the past few days (no thanks to Pinterest), and pulled out the colored pencils & paper instead!  I was given a set of watercolor pencils a while ago that were just begging to be used, and Pinterest kept tempting me with ideas for Victorian fancy dress, and, well, the rest is history!  I mean, really, when the creative muse demands, who would dare to resist?  

My Creative Process 

"The creative process is a process of surrender, not control."
~ Julia Cameron

Each of my costume renderings begins as a simple thought, a picture that I see in my head that demands to be realized on paper.  Inspiration, be it a historical garment, image that I come across, a simple color laying next to another, etc. comes at any moment.  Morning, noon, and night I think and dream of costume designs!  Alvin Ailey described it best when he stated that the "creative process is not controlled by a switch you can simply turn on or off; it's with you all the time."  However, very rarely do these designs in my head ever make it to paper.  But, when they do, the start as a basic pencil outline:

Nothing fancy, just a good, old, #2 pencil from the pencil cup and a brief sketch laying out where "things" go.  To help keep in proportion, I usually draw guidelines for the figure first, and then build on the clothing.  For the past two days, I've collected quite the stack of pencil sketches!

Another pencil sketch, 1880s.  I think I was going for a "checkers" fancy dress...
 I really like the shape of that hat brim though!

If I am pleased enough by the pencil outline, and the muse demands it, I will move onto inking the sketch.  Again, very few sketches move onto this step...this time, it was only four designs.  Yes, I am far too critical for my own good when it comes to my drawing.  Often details will be worked out in pencil first.  After inking (employing a fine "sharpie" pen), all of the pencil framework is erased:

Then, color...this is the scary part for me!  I tried a new medium this time, watercolor pencils.  I began the same way as with regular colored pencils by filling in the lightest colored areas and adding shading.  The gold took several, different layers to achieve the color I was looking for:   

Then, I transitioned to the darker colors:  

Perhaps paint in a suggestion of a background, and, ta-da, a finished costume rendering!

Overall verdict:  I'm still not sure how I feel about watercolor pencils...they are definitely harder to use than regular colored pencils or watercolors.  And, achieving the color intensity and specific shades I wanted was a challenge, not always met.  Something to continue experimenting with...

The Finished Victorian "Fancy Dress" Results

(1) The "Lady Archer"

Inspiration came from this original fancy dress: 

Fancy dress costume designed by Jules Helleu for the House of Worth, c.1860s.
(Image via: V&A Collections, E.22036-1957)

(2) "Lady Chess" Fancy Dress

You can see that I am trying to add some sense of movement to my previously static figures.  The blue did not turn out the way I wanted, so it sort of reminds me of a 1950s diner...and, yes, coloring in those checks took forever.  Inspired by this period fashion plate:

Fancy Dresses by Capewell and Kimmel
for "Frank Leslie's Family Magazine," c.1858
(Image via: Pinterest)

(3) "Starry, Starry Night" Fancy Dress

Again, the blue proved unpredictable, despite layering like 10 different colors...Inspiration came from this natural form gem:

Toilette de promenade, c.1875-1880
(Image via: Pinterest

(4) Last, but not least, my most favorite:

Bustle drapery detail shot.

And while we're at it, some accessorizing for Cinderella:  
To prove that she's not forgotten...  

Warm wooly number one - a handmade sontag shawl, knit by some very talented hands (not mine!).  Eeeeeee, I love it so much!!

Warm wooly number two - fingerless mitts.  Because my blouse is short sleeved, and it's freezing cold out there, mitts are a must!  I found these fingerless gloves a while back thrift store hunting for a two dollar steal.  I think they may have had "Love" embroidered in sequins on them.  After some seam ripping...

...A perfect pair of hand warmers for Cinderella!

"I'm a very restless person. I'm always doing something. 
The creative process never stops."
~ Oscar de la Renta

October 29, 2015

In Lieu of a Catchy Title...

"Some Sewing Stuff" just didn't cut it...Titles seem to be the hardest part, always!

Anyways, hello, loyal readers & welcome, new friends!  Today's post is a catch-all for the busy weekend last, with Spirits of the Past & Trick or Treat Day at the village, and a "throwback" to my earliest attempts at millinery:

Bustle dress & hat on the stairs of Hyde.

But first, you may have noticed a few changes to the blog...probably the most obvious addition is the new banner!  Yes, The Young Sewphisticate finally received the banner it had been waiting well over a year for, and I hope you like it is much as I do.  Also, speaking of overdue updates, check out the completed GCV&M Internship.  Lastly, I discovered that I somehow deleted quite a few pictures from earlier posts.  So, I spent some time combing through my posts and updating those broken links.  If you ever come across similar problems with my blog, please do not hesitate to let me know!

Even though the museum season has officially ended for the year, there are still plenty of opportunities to be had onsite.  One of those great opportunities is Spirits of the Past!  Very much like the Yuletide Tours in December, these spooky, after-hours, theatrical tours run for two weeks during October.  And, on the tours, guests are led by candlelight through the village to see and partake in the horrors of popular, 19th century literature.

A costumed tour guide resting on the steps of Hamilton.
Poor & bloody Mary has some nasty scratches - she warns her guests
to stay close and be on the look out for demons...she's never lost a guest, yet.

This year's theme was grim and gruesome tales from the Brothers Grimm.  So, each building along the tour featured a short, theatrical retelling or scene pulled directly from the pages of classics like "Cinderella," "Frau Trude," "Godfather Death," and many more.  Sometimes guests stood witness, helpless to save characters from impending doom, and other times they even became part of the scene.  And if the stories didn't scare them, the spooks of the night sure did!

Snow White at the head of the table.

This year, I was thrilled to have the chance to play Snow White in a two-part scene.  The first, in the Hamilton "castle," featured one of the two queens (double cast role), a huntsman and the royal cook; the second, in the Davis "cottage," the same, vengeance-seeking queen and Snow White.

Set & props for Snow White's cottage - the guests loved the dwarves'
place settings which featured each name in German!

Snow White foolishly disobeys the dwarves' warning not to let anyone but them in and is tricked by a harmless looking peddler, the evil queen in disguise, selling irresistible, ivory combs!  

Dressed rehearsal photograph courtesy of Maria.

While the comb may have only put Snow White to sleep, the apple got her!

Dressed rehearsal photograph courtesy of Maria.

Anyways, it was cold, but lots of fun thanks to friends!  And last weekend, the last weekend of tours, we sold out!  So make sure to reserve your tickets next year to take part in the spooky, historical fun...you won't want to miss out!

Sunday, October 25th, featured another Halloween museum event, this time much sweeter and more family friendly: Trick or Treat in the Village!  Children had the chance to partake in all kinds of holiday fun, including, meeting our historically accurate, Disney princess, roasting marshmallows, face painting, coloring spooky cute pictures, and, of course, knocking on historic doors in search of candy!  We were absolutely SWAMPED with children in cute, little costumes!  I heard it was a record breaking day - and the traffic jam to prove it - with attendance figures of over 5,300 people!!  (Wow, I sure wish every museum event could bring in those numbers!)

I was stationed in the grand Hamilton House for the day - lucky for me, next to my good friend and partner in crime, Ariana, in Hyde.  There was a non-stop line of trick or treat-ers between our two buildings, and we both had to be rescued with more candy.  At a rate of just one Kit-Kat per child, I went through three entire tubs of candy in 4.5 short hours...

So, my costume for the day...any guesses?

If you guessed a young, Queen Victoria, than you are correct!  What happened to your Cinderella costume, a few of you loyal readers may ask...well, I didn't end up finishing it for Sunday.  Instead, I fixed up an older costume (more on this to come).  But, never fear, Cinderella is not forgotten and she'll get her day yet...Anyways, I think it was a hit as I've never been called a "princess" or had my likeliness taken so many times in my entire life!!  I'm happy that the children (and their adults) enjoyed it :)

Ariana & I even slipped away at the end of the day to have a few royal portraits taken on the porch of Hamilton:

Doesn't she look regal?  I love her bustle dress!

Photograph courtesy of Ariana.

Photograph courtesy of Ariana.
AND, she even posed and allowed me to take a few more detailed shots of her 'seventies hat!  Many thanks!  This was my first attempt at millinery ever back in 2011:

Front view of Late Victorian tilt hat.

The vintage(?) straw base had to be cut to size, wired and bound with bias tape.  Then, it was attacked with flowers and cheap craft feathers...perhaps not all that period correct, but we all had to start somewhere, right?

She's so photogenic!

Someday, I'll get into the bustle era...but, for now, here's another early millinery throwback from The Secret Garden (2012), directed by Elana Gizzi.  My first hat that made it onto the stage (and, on second thought, may have actually been my first attempt at millinery, hmm...)

Pulled a hat from the box, covered it in fabric and proceeded to tack just about everything I could find onto it.  Yup, I've come a long way...

On stage.  I also made the ghost costume furthest to the left!
It was a challenge to get the fabric to drape and stay the way I wanted.
Photograph courtesy of Facebook.

Well, back to sewing I go!  Unless I "dye" first...more on that to come.  Thanks for reading!

October 21, 2015

Cinderella Dress Diary: Day Three

More progress to report, and finally, some pictures to show for!

Good news, Cinderella as is right now could be worn (and hopefully recognized), though I am looking forward to completing the over dress & bodice to break up the bleh off-white color.  

Wednesday, October 21st

Blouse:  Done!  So I went to put in the sleeves, and I realized I had made two rights and no left.  Le sigh...pauses for a moment and reaches for the seam ripper...why does this always happen to me?

Ripping away the evidence...


And, finally, we have a shirt!  Wish I had thought to measure first,
because it turned out a little too big, oh well, next time.

Red Petticoat:  Finished!  Easy enough after I tamed the directional pleats!  Thank goodness for the divide and conquer method.  I made, well I'm not really sure what they're called, let's say "stacked" or "doubled" knife pleats.  

Pleats ready to be hand basted.

Just look at those directional pleats, score!

Finished red petticoat!

Close up of the patches.

Side back of skirt.

Apron:  Completed!  Instead of just gathering the apron's skirt and hiding the stitching under the band, I thought it would look cool to extend the gathers...I liked the result!  What about you?  

Gathered panel & pressed apron ties.

Close up of the gathers.

Ta da, the finished apron!  Notice the 3" hem.

I think I may have gone a little too patch happy...

And now, putting it all together...

Definitely still needs the grey over dress & black bodice!  Also, some warm woolen accessories and a coif to complete the look.  

What was playing:  Pandora - Jay Ungar & Molly Mason Radio; Pandora - Celtic Fiddle Festival Radio 

Three days down, three more to go!  We're half way there, folks! 

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