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Pockets on dresses are pointless. Nothing that's important to carry can be carried comfortably or attractively in a pocket.


Do I want my iPhone crammed in the pocket of my skirt, making a big old bulge and banging around my legs while I walk? NO. If it even fits in there, which it never freaking does. Will my wallet fit in a pocket in a dress? And even if it does, do I want it to look like I'm growing a hip tumor? If the pockets are big, and you can actually store important shit like that, it's so heavy it just drags on your clothes and looks stupid. If they're small, nothing fits! Oh, look, I can put my change in my dress pocket! I'VE SUCCESSFULLY KEPT THIRTY-EIGHT CENTS ON ME! SO USEFUL. I sure hope it doesn't like fall out if I shift myself the wrong way. I CAN WARM MY HANDS IN THERE. On the days where it's warm enough to wear a dress, anyway! MANY USEFULS. MUCH BIG DIFFERENCE.

I guess you could give everything one of those stupid kangaroo pockets like on sweatshirts! But that's EVEN MORE FLATTERING though, right!? I mean, every woman looks better when you strap a bulge on that padded part just underneath the bellybutton. THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD MAKE THAT BETTER IS TO SHOVE STUFF INTO THE BULGE TO MAKE IT EVEN BULGIER. Or just slap one on the front like an apron! Then you can look like you're a six-year-old in a pinafore! With your shit bouncing around on your crotch as you walk, with the attractive bump leading your way!


So: pockets on dresses? POINTLESS. Bah.
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I've been working out in the gym at Lesley University lately. It's been very convenient, as I can go after I teach my classes, and it has very nice facilities. Mostly I just want to run indoors while it's cold outside, as I tend toward weird asthma-like symptoms when I breath cold air for too long.

As a faculty member, I'm allowed to use the gym for free, which is nice. But I've never seen anyone other than students in there-- at least, never anyone I thought looked like post-college-aged adult. I've decided not to feel weird about it, as I know I'm allowed, but it does seem a bit odd. Where are all the other people like me who can use it as a job perk? Why do I never see them? Is it just the timing? Or are there just not many others who choose to use it?

When I'm teaching I dress very professionally to give myself some authority, but in the gym I wear my typical workout clothes, often just a sports bra and leggings. I dislike seeing students of mine in there, as I don't know if it makes a weird impression. Like, hi, I'm in charge of your grade, and here's my midriff? God, I've been dreading running into one in the locker room. I know I would not have wanted to be around my professor while one of us was changing.

And I wonder how the students who don't know me read me. I've been mistaken for a student at Lesley before, but usually by other employees; only once by an actual student that I know of. Do they assume I'm one of them, or to kids of their age, am I obviously older?

I mean, I know I look good. I am beautiful. Honestly I'm in better shape than most of the students, not just in general but even those I see in the gym. But I wonder how old I read, at least to people younger than me. I turn thirty this year. My skin has been really clear lately, thanks to the excellent acne medication I've been using, but I've begun to worry about the two spots on top of my cheeks that I think are beginning to look sun damaged, or possibly just showing age. I'm afraid my metabolism might slow down at any time.

Only a ridiculous person wants to look twenty forever. But aging is a great fear of mine. So I cling a little bit to things like when I get mistaken for still a college kid. But the truth is, I'm not a kid anymore, and I worry when that's going to catch up with me.

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My stress level is through the roof right now. I'm trying to manage several difficult things (some of which I don't feel able to talk about for various reasons, some I'm just too burnt out to go into in detail) and I feel like everything is teetering on the edge of disaster. I've started to get a little bit of a handle on them, which is somewhat reassuring, but I'm not out of the woods yet.

What amused me is I've always been a productive procrastinator, so in the face of all the stuff I needed to manage that was stressing me out, you know what I did? I found myself drawing designs for a fashion line. I mostly certainly will never have the time or wherewithal to make it. But it's been in my head, at least the ideas of it, for a long time. And it relaxed me to switch gears and be creative on something that wasn't such a struggle. I can't necessarily affect some of the things that are overwhelming me, and I didn't feel in the headspace do any writing, so I found myself doing something completely fresh to try and reset myself.

I actually kind of like what I came up with. I've always wanted to design a high-fashion collection with a distinctly post-apocalyptic aesthetic. I probably never will actually make it-- my sewing skills are probably not quite up to par, and what would I do with it even if I did? --but the ideas never stopped percolating. I drew six looks in a couple of hours. And they weren't bad! They'd need a LOT of editing, I think I combined some of the pieces wrong and some of the foundations are not as carefully chosen as they could be, but the bones I think are there.

I just wish I could draw better. I can see them so clearly in my mind, but I am not very good at expressing them on paper. I think I'd be able to better refine and clarify my ideas if I could visually represent them more accurately, given what a visual learner I am. Maybe I just need to keep drawing them until the practice improves them to the point where they're useful. Again, I doubt I'll ever actually do anything with them. But it was a really refreshing change of pace to try something from a different part of my brain that didn't have so many challenges attached to it.
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My favorite blog these days is Tom and Lorenzo: Fabulous and Opinionated, a style and media criticism site that really attacks the subject from a perspective I can get behind. They are a married couple, one with a background in film and the other in fashion, who do commentary on the world of fashion and have a roster of television that they review. I’m very interested in fashion design, but I get frustrated with the associated toxic consumerism, body image, and superficiality. From Tom and Lorenzo, however, their knowledge and perspective keeps it in the realm of criticism of the art of dressing and clothing design.

Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez are extremely educated and intelligent. They predicate their work on the ideas that clothing is communication, dressing and design are art forms, and different circumstances call for different approaches. They make critiques as to how things look and what a given person might have looked better in, but they openly acknowledge that fashion should be fun and that in the real world people should wear what they want. They never criticize people’s bodies or looks, only how they are styled and how their clothing, hair, and makeup choices affect their appearance. They are aware of issues of class, race, and gender, which influences their perspective, and they make special effort to feature people of color and events that are specific to them.

Where they really shine, in my opinion, is their television crit. Tom in particular— being a nerd with a film degree —is incredibly observant of what’s going on in a particular TV show, and always has something incisive to say about the story meaning, the design choices, and the value thereof. They’re super-good about always taking a show on its own merits, but never dismissing anything just for its genre or conventions. I’d really enjoyed what they’ve had to say on many diverse shows, from Mad Men to American Horror Story to Daredevil. They particularly shine when they’re analyzing well-done costume design. Their series Mad Style, which examines the storytelling contribution of the truly excellent wardrobe on the show Mad Men, is not only freaking fascinating, it really is an education experience on how really narrative costuming is done.

I highly, highly recommend their blog for their intelligence, their perspective, and their taste. Anyone who loves to examine how various types of design speak and tell stories is going to love their work.
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
Feeling a bit burnt and overstretched lately, but it's not that bad. Been spending a lot of time lately running from one appointment to the next, which for me is always more exhausting if I have more things to do but I don't have to travel between them. Festival is coming up this weekend, which I'm super excited about, but I'm scrambling to make sure my new game Woodplum House is ready to go. The sheets are done, but there's lots of in-game bits and pieces and environmental stuff to put together, which is tricky. Between work and rehearsals, I'm slammed.

This kind of slight frustration usually comes out in me as some kind of vague discontent I direct at something I have an ability to fix or change, which I think explains why lately I've been super bored and annoyed at my appearance. I hate my hair and all my clothes right now, which likely has more to do with the fact that I can do something about it, but still is annoying me.

I kind of want to change my hair, but I think I would end up hating anything that I did to it. I have recently become weirdly fixated on the idea of getting an undercut, like Natalie Dormer has in the Hunger Games. I don't know why. It probably would look super stupid on me. But I've been thinking how they say everybody should do something crazy with their hair once in their life and I never have. And it's just hair, it grows back. I've even heard if you do it right you can make it so you can have enough hair to flip it down over the shaved part so you don't see it all the time. But my wardrobe is definitely not badass to be compatible with a look like that. And it'd probably look stupid, the idea of is unbearable to me and my Narcissus-like self-obsession.

The obvious response is, of course, "Why don't you just change it to a more conventional hairstyle?" Frankly because I'm concerned anything as simple as cutting it short would make me look like a soccer mom-- dorky, unflattering, with the air that you've given up. See above, Narciussus-like obsession with my own image. I guess there's dyeing it, but I'm generally not a fan of how non-professional dye jobs come out, and the salon ones are very expensive, not only to get but to maintain. I'm not sure any other hair color would suit me anyway; I have very classic fair-skinned brunette coloring.

I also want to throw out all my clothes. Recently I started a joke with myself, when I found myself getting dressed in the morning and not being totally happy with my look, "Well, today's not the day I'd like to run into Chris Evans, but it'll do," playing on the fact that he's from the area and occasionally returns to visit. But now it basically just feels like I'm embarrassed to be seen at all. Yes, not everything needs to be the gorgeous but low key, effortlessly chic but simple, not trying to hard but still totally sexy ensemble I would choose to win the heart of my celebrity crush, but I just hate everything and want to replace it all. Unfortunately that's also too expensive a proposition of me.

The wardrobe thing at least is very likely related to the fatigue of winter clothes, and feeling completely bored of all the layers and sweaters and stuff I've been forced to wear to keep warm. Once the weather really changes and I get to wear cute stuff I haven't touched in ages, I might cheer up. That would be nice, as my pocketbook would not like me to pitch out everything I own right now.
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I am one of those people who thinks it's a shame that there is no real "dressing up" anymore. Mostly I think it's a good thing that in our daily lives we're allowed more freedom of expression in how we dress, and that we're not always being held to some rigorous arbitrary standard. But I do wish there were, in addition to that freedom, more occasions where it was expected and normal to dress according to formal rules. I love the way people, specifically men, look in formalwear, and there's just no occasion to ever wear black or white tie anymore. It's just so striking, so attractive. It lends an air of elegance, power, taste, discernment, and it looks so damn good.

Last year, the Met Gala theme was white tie. It was one of the few places outside of Downton Abbey one could actually see real people in white tie. Honestly most people didn't wear anything close to it. The handful of people who did didn't always execute it traditionally, and the aesthetic effects were variable. But the one person EVERYONE was talking about, as not only having nailed it, but having knocked it out of the park, was Benedict Cumberbatch.

Now I'm no Benedict Cumberbatch fangirl. I think he's charming and talented, but I really don't like how he's freaking everywhere, even in roles he's not suited for. I get how he's attractive but he doesn't really do it for me. But have you ever seen him in what he wore to the 2013 Met Gala? It's quite possibly the most exquisite white tie ensemble I've ever seen.


As I said, I'm a Downton Abbey fan, so I have a fondness and a familiarity for men who look GOOD in white tie. I still keep every image from the couture men's formalwear shoot the male actors did a couple years back on my iPad. They all look hot, though most of the articles have some kind of modern twist to them. But Benedict's here is so perfectly styled, so carefully composed, so exquisitely tailored that it makes for a sort of ur-example of a classic ideal. It flatters his figure, and the details are so thoughtfully chosen-- the exact distance of the waistcoat below the cutaway, the single Albert watch chain, the perfect length of the trousers. And it SO technical and correct, going back to the earliest codifications of the style. They throw the word "timeless" around, especially when it comes to the varying levels of men's formalwear, but dressed like this, Benedict could walk into a ballroom at any minute going back to 1870, and every woman's head would turn and murmur, "Who. Is. That?"
breakinglight11: (CT photoshoot 1)
Body positivity is a weird thing with me. I tend to have a pretty good self-image, and through rigorous mental retraining I'm learning not to apply my crazy ideas to anyone else's body, but I have a hard time letting go of them when it comes to my own. Sometimes my crazy comes out in weird ways.

A few years back, during a period where peak depression intersected badly with a much more sedentary schedule, and I gained a small but noticeable amount of weight. It wasn't obvious to most people, but it made it so my clothes didn't fit. I had an incident where I popped a button off of a pair of jeans due to being too big for them that really left me upset. I should have just thrown them away, but I stuffed those jeans in a draw in a rage and tried to forget they existed.

I slimmed back down relatively soon after that, and all of my old clothes fit again, including those jeans. It's very satisfying to me that I can now fit my hand inside the waistband where once I wasn't even able to close them. I put a new button on them, but because the old one tore up the placket so much, it's probably not going to stay attached much longer. So they're kind of a pain to wear. But I keep them, I keep wearing them, instead of throwing them away. Because to get rid of them would be to admit they DEFEATED ME. And my crazy WON'T ALLOW THAT.
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I'm in the hotel room right now, trying to use the couple of hours I have before Joe's wedding gets going to get something done. The bridal party is all off getting photos taken. Bernie's the best man, and it's very nice to see him in a tuxedo. He's usually so resistant to dressing up, but here he is in a suit with a real tie and regular people dress shoes. The fit is not great, sadly-- I love his V-shaped, boxer-built upper body, but it is rare enough that a tuxedo rental is unlikely to be able to show it off to best advantage. :-P Still, he looks pretty good; I'll have to come home with pictures of my own.

Having a bit of a hard time focusing, but I've got so many things on my plate right now I'm trying not to waste the time. I need to get ready myself at some point, and I expect that to take a while.
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I’ve been resisting it for some time, but I think I really do need to redesign the dress in The Tailor at Loring’s End.

As I’ve mentioned, my big inspiration for the look of it was the green dress Keira Knightley wore in Atonement, specifically the long, straight silhouette and the hip swag. They don’t often these days design really iconic dresses for movies anymore—not like they did for the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly —and I thought that was the only such example to come out of the movies in years. If this movie got made, I would want this dress to be iconic in that way, so that people remembered it and saw it as a tribute to that classic sort of costume design tradition. “The Bethany Loring dress, in cornflower blue, with lily shapes beaded on the bodice.” I was even pleased when I realized that what I was imagining was roughly appropriate for the 1930s, given that most of Tailor takes place in 1934.


What I hadn’t taken into account, however, was the fact that the other part of Tailor takes place back in 1917— and the dress was actually designed back then. Which made my mental image of it totally wrong for the era in which it was made. This frustrated me, as I was actually pretty attached to my mental image, but it was just too far off even for artistic license. I ignored it for a long time, as I didn’t want to deal. But now that I’m writing a treatment for Tailor, the problem jumps out at me again.

Fortunately, since writing it I’ve become a fan of things like Downton Abbey, which as given me more of an eye for the look and design style of 1910s gowns. I think I can reasonably translate my vision of the dress into something that wouldn’t look totally, utterly inconceivable for the time. Especially since the major design elements I’m imagining— a cowled overlay on the neckline, a beaded bodice, and the Atonement-inspired hip swag —all could be reasonably included on a 1910s evening dress.

Of course this is all a pretty minor thing. If the movie ever got made, even in my wildest dreams, an actual costume designer would be making those decisions instead of me. Still, the design elements are referenced in the script, and some of them are even plot-relevant. To a certain extent, there would be a need to interpret my vision. So I’m glad I’ve finally come around to the changes it would be necessary to make.
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My dress for A Turn on the Radiance Rose arrived!

I used my usual trick of searching on eBay for a dress with the appropriate style for the period. I did a lot of research for the right look, both for this and because I'll be costuming a production of Chicago for this spring. I actually had a bit of a tough time finding this one. I wanted something very fancy, bright and beaded, but all the best options were way out of my price range. I also wasn't sure about the sizing for period-appropriate silhouette reasons. You'll notice that the fit is a touch baggy, certainly looser than I usually like. My personal aesthetics tend to a much more form-fitting silhouette. But in the 1920s the preferred shape was very lean and straight up and down. Representative design details are drop waists and a completely undefined bodice-- the breasts are as obscured as possible. So I picked a dress probably one size too big for me to make my shape seem very straight. It's a hard silhouette to wear, as it hides the definition in the waist and can make one look tubular. Even the very lean women who wear them on Downton Abbey look a little on the boxy side. It's also kind of an unusual color, this blend of sea blue and peach. Not to my usual tastes, but it's certainly eye-catching and interesting, which I tend to look for when I costume for larps. If I need a dress for a game, I always go for colorful and attention-grabbing if I have a choice. I am reasonably happy with this look, especially the drapey detail on the bodice. The color and the fit combine to mean it's probably not my most flattering look, but I think I look nice for the purpose.

I also have a rhinestone tiara I ordered still on its way. All that remains now is to figure out how to style my long hair in such a way as would be appropriate for the 1920s, when short styles like the bob were fashionable, and the right shoes. I think some nude heels of some kind would be right; too bad my character shoes are black instead of tan. Hoping I can find an appropriate thrift store option that won't be too difficult to wear.

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Had a lovely afternoon crafting in the company of Charlotte and Gigi. I started on a project I've been turning over in my mind for a while now. I've always been a fan of the "post-apocalyptic" aesthetic, where everything's hard-edged, deconstructed, and hacked together from other things. I wanted to make a sort of post-apocalyptic jacket, with a high-fashion twist. I want it to be leather, cobbled together with pieces taken from thrifted jackets, with lots of buckles and straps. I'm not sure what I want every part of it to look like, but I knew how I wanted the sleeves. To that end, I bought a bunch of brown and black leather belts from the thrift store.

I hung one off of each of my dress form Adelaide's shoulders. I cut a big wide belt in half to make sleeve heads. Then I measured the circumference of my arms at the widest point-- a little over ten-inches. So I linked all the belts together by the buckles, punching holes where necessary, and cut ten eleven-inch lengths. Then I attached them temporarily to the belts hanging off the shoulders with masking tape at even intervals, with the lowest ones about where cuffs should be. I like idea of air between each straps, the sort of faux-sleeves they make. It won't be the warmest or most practical jacket to wear, but it doesn't need to be. It's FASHION.

I haven't decided how to attach them permanently yet. My sewing machine is technically rated for leather, but the belts are awfully thick. I may end up using Barges, the leather epoxy recommended to me by excellent resource Also I may end up buying more belts and adding more straps into each sleeve. But I like how it looks at this point.

I'm still not sure what the rest of the jacket will look like. It's crossed my mind to try and make it entirely out of belts somehow. But I may also cut pieces from preexisting leather jackets and reconstitute them with these sleeves. But it's a start! And it's nice to shift to doing something crafty.

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Who has two thumbs and found a white silk-linen Giorgio Armani suit in her size for twelve dollars in a thrift store?


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So I sketched another attempt at a designed blouse. This is a case where the shape of the garment is fairly conventional, but it's the piecing together of the textile choices that is supposed to make it unique.

To reprint my notes on the design:

- navy, purple, and white plaid shirting
- solid navy shirting

A fitted button-up blouse with a mandarin collar and cap sleeves, no cuffs. It is pieced together in quarters. The front right and back left quarters are done in the plaid on the straight grain. The front left quarter and the left sleeve are done in the plaid on the bias. The back right and right sleeve are in the solid navy. The mandarin collar is three-quarters straight-grain plaid with the right front quarter of the solid navy. The hem has a short version of traditional shirttails. I originally thought maybe there should be narrow side panels of the solid, but I think maybe they're not necessary with this quartering. The buttons can be navy or a contrast, maybe as pop of a new color.

I actually really like this, and I think it's something I would actually wear. It's probably not too far outside my capacity to sew, either. I could probably find a pattern that was close to this and alter it to suit my needs. I just wonder if I could find a plaid like I imagine, in navy, white, and purple, and then a solid in a matching navy. That might be the most challenging part.

breakinglight11: (Femme Fatale)
I love Project Runway. Despite the irritating reality show, melodramatic, producer-manipulated nature of it, plus its need for constant corporate synergy in order to push merchandise, it is one of the few things I've ever seen on TV about sewing and clothing design, so I watch it religiously. And as is typical with me, whenever I see somebody else doing something cool creatively, I think, "I want to do that too!" And while I've been learning to sew recently, design is something I've never really tried my hand at. While I'm not yet advanced enough to make complicated patterns and things from scratch, I do wonder if I have any particularly interesting ideas in me, even if I can't necessarily make them myself.

Project Runway is about high fashion. As I recently posted here to make of a note of it for my reference, I would define high fashion as "maintaining a balance between the heightened nature of the art of design and a certain aspirational wearability." Meaning that while your pieces must technically function as and read to the observer as clothes that have something about them that makes you want to wear them, they must also have something extraordinary about them that elevates the aesthetic level to the status of art. Part of that is prizing innovation, what is new and exciting, and being on the cutting edge. My personal taste is a bit more classic than that, so oftentimes I don't respond to hyper-modern high fashion looks, nor do I exactly have the sensibilities that one would need to be successful on Project Runway. But I thought, just for fun, I might give it a try and see if I am capable.

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Excuse my terrible sketching! This is a military-inspired coat designed to sit just off the shoulder. It has a huge "collar" coming out from that line and huge cuffs, which are pointed and made in the same contrasting material. It has a faux double breast with five buttons on each side. The pants would be slim and dark, and the top underneath would be dark with a high neckline. The boots are knee-high leather and have a low heel. The gloves are black and slim (though in the sketch they look like they are connected to the high cuffs, which they are not.) The broad-brimmed hat would be the same color as the body of the coat, and the band the same as the collar and cuffs.

I made an effort, as I said, to keep this look as high-fashion as possible. I think the fact that the coat only comes up to that spot off the shoulder is the primary detail that qualifies, and I'm fairly certain I've not seen it done before on a coat. It makes it fairly impractical and borderline unwearable, but that's a bit more excusable in high fashion-- it's not supposed to seem like something you could find in any department store. There's also the size of the collar flaps and cuffs that help.

To make it more high-fashion, I think I would pump up the asymmetry. The front breast should lead into a right side that falls across the entirety of the front at belly-level, while the left side should just cut straight down into the left tail. And maybe the right collar flap should be much larger than the left, and come all the way across the chest. I could probably also change the tail from the currently very traditional shape it has.

I know it's no great shakes, design-wise. But from a completely uneducated, inexperienced dabbler, it's kind of neat, I think. I plan to play around with it more and maybe make it better.
breakinglight11: (Ponderous Fool)
A working definition of high fashion I have thought of, noted here for my own reference:

High fashion is maintaining a balance between the heightened nature of the art of design and a certain aspirational wearability.

I find this a useful idea and don't want to forget it. 
breakinglight11: (Bowing Fool)
Today, when a work meeting was unexpectedly canceled, I decided to go ahead and dye the Twenties dress. The color I selected was aquamarine; for some reason that seemed right to me, though I wished I'd been struck by a color less similar to the only other dye job I did. It went easier this time than the first time I attempted a dye project, as this dress was light enough that I could stir it around with a broom handle instead of having to use my hands. I watched it swirl around in the blue for thirty minutes like a fish. and I could tell right away that this was going to come out differently.


In the exact opposite of the Mary gown, the lace barely took any color at all, while the polyester underlayer turned out much more vibrant. I could see it even as I swished it around. But again, the different materials all turn out a little differently. The bib, made of a cottony material, is more of a baby blue than I expected, and surprisingly so is the sash, which is something satiny. The underlayer, which [ profile] polaris_xx observed was somewhat yellowed with age, is the most "acquamarine" of any of it, likely mixing with the blue. It's not what I expected, but I think I like it, particularly the pale lace over the aqua body of the dress.


Again, sorry for the blue dress in the blue room. But all I need now is a complimentary cloche hat, eh?

breakinglight11: (Cavalier Fool)
So what I ended up doing is drawing a line along the pins to take in the sides, then sewed along those lines on my machine. It was a bit tough to get on, as the waist is much narrower than my hips, but look at it. The fit is way better now!

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Not perfect, it's a bit loose over the lower belly, but certainly a lot better, as compared to the last picture. Pardon my dark underwear showing through, I just threw it on to show it to you. A twenties-styled dress is supposed to be very straight up and down, and I took the waist in just a bit more than that, but it mostly hits the silhouette.

Now that these are done, I can finish the armcyes. Then I can dye it. I'm really excited to see the finished product, so maybe I'll dive right in and move on!
breakinglight11: (painting)
I had such fun altering the Atonement dress for Carolyn that I thought I'd take on another alteration project. This time I found a dress in the thrift store that I thought had potential to be altered into a look for the Roaring Twenties!


As it is, it is an tube. Unflattering, completely unstylish. But the drop waist and the bib collar make me think it has potential. I already cut off the hideous sleeves and removed the ginormous shoulder pads. But as you can see, it needs more work. It is way too wide one me, lacking the sleekness that was part of that twenties style. Looks like I'll finally get the chance to take something in at the sides! But it has a lace overlay, which makes things tough. Probably the proper way to do it would be to undo the side seams and take them in separate and rejoin them. But I don't want to do that.

Instead, I flipped the dress inside out and put it on Adelaide, my dress form. The I took pins and pinned it down her sides from the bottom of the armcye to down to the sash around the drop waist. I took care to keep it smooth, pinning it and repinning it three times until it was right. The new long dressmaking pins I bought were great, they are so luxurious to use! As per usual, I pinned it as closely to Addie as I could, because something a little too tight on her should be just right on me.

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I haven't tried to take it off her yet, because I'm a bit nervous that getting something this tight off will shake the pins loose. I might draw a line on it to follow on my sewing machine to make a new side seam, or I might put in a basting stitch by hand. I haven't decided yet.

I am certain, however, that I am going to dye this dress once I've altered it to my satisfaction. No self-respecting Roaring Twenties dress would ever be white. I had such nice success dyeing a lace dress with the Mary Stone ball gown I'd love to do it again. I bought a bottle of aquamarine dye at Jo-Ann Fabrics; for some reason aquamarine seemed right.

I may even have a use for this dress in the near future. I won't say anything about it until I'm certain, but that would be a nice confluence of events.
breakinglight11: (painting)
As I posted about a few weeks ago, I have been altering that knockoff Atonement dress I have to fit the lovely [ profile] niobien. I already did the work required to make the bodice fit, shortening the straps and lowering the top of the zipper. The other part that needed alteration was the hem. It clearly needed to be taken up so as not to be trod on when worn, but this dress has a long train in the back. I was a bit stumped about how to properly take up something that isn't supposed to be the same length all the way around. I pinned up the front while Carolyn was wearing it to match it to her height, but I just left the train in the back the way it was and decided I'd think about that part later.

Yesterday [ profile] nennivian, [ profile] morethings5 and I had a little bit of a sewing party at my house, all working on various projects. I pulled out the dress and solicited some opinions. Jonathan suggested making sure it was taken up the same amount all the way around, while Charlotte said it could probably be transitioned from the new length into the train. I ended up combining these two. I measured the distance from the waist seam to the new length, and determined it was taken up by four and a half inches. So to keep it even, I took up the hem by four and a half inches all the way across the front. Then, once I had the front all even, I just carefully folded a smooth transition from that into the train. Today I pressed the crease of the new hem so that it would be sharp and flat, then I laid the dress out as flat as possible to check if it was even and balanced.


Not too bad, huh? That darker fabric crumpled up in the center is the lining. I will figure out what to do with it after I finish the real hem.

My plan was to sew in a blind hem by hand. A blind hem is when you keep the stitching holding the hem up invisible by only putting the needle through a few threads of the fabric rather than punching all the way through to the outside. I knew it would be a lot of work on a hem this long, but it was the proper way, and it can't be done truly invisibly by machine. But when I tried it, I found the fabric would not allow me to pick up any of its fibers just on the back, even the slight picking with the needle pierced it all the way through. So much for the blind hem then! I had no choice but to choose a method where the stitches would show.

The way the original hem was finished was just a tiny bit of a fold over with a line of straight stitches very, very close to the edge. I decided I would do the same. I loaded my machine with a green thread my mom's had in her sewing stuff forever which just happened to match the dress perfectly and ran a line of stitching all the way around the new edge, then pressed it. It came out neat and seems serviceable, except there is so much material tucked up behind it that it's flopping down. If I'd been able to do the blind hem I wouldn't have had to worry about it, as I could have put the seam up high enough to hold that extra up, but I didn't want a visible line of stitching four and a half inches up the skirt. I'm not sure what the best way to deal with it is, though I guess I will probably have to cut it off. As I recall when I opened up the back of it, the material is a bit ravelly, though not too bad. I'm slightly resistant to that as it may make it a bit ugly on the inside, but I guess it doesn't matter too much. For that matter, if I just wanted to hack the inner lining up to the right length, it will be concealed as well, which would save me some labor.

I can't wait to try it on Carolyn again, I'd love to see how it looks!
breakinglight11: (Bowing Fool)
You may recall the knockoff Atonement dress that I bought myself for my birthday last year. As I recall, the eBay listing from which I got it said it was a commission that they were now reselling, so I think it was a custom fit. That original owner was petite but even less curvy than I am, and remarkably short-waisted, so I was never quite happy with the fit. I considered altering it, but the biggest problem for me seemed to unfixable, as the slightly-two-narrow hips liked to ride up on me and make the front all crinkly. Still, the dress has interesting bones, so I hated to just donate it or something.

It occurred to me then that I could work it to fit somebody else. That would give me practice altering fit, as well as make a nice present for somebody I like. I immediately thought of Carolyn, my favorite model, who is also more petite than me and might not have the same hip issue as I did, nor the problem with the zipper and the broad rib cage. I've been meaning to practice taking things in at the side anyway. So I asked her is she was interested, and she kindly obliged.

When she tried the dress on, shockingly it turned out to be a bit of a tight fit. She too is longer-waisted than the dress is designed for, and despite her much greater delicacy in the trunk than me, the zipper just barely closed and make it pretty tough for her to breathe. It didn't need taking in on the sides at all. But still, it looked pretty damn good on her, better than it ever looked on me, and could work if tweaked in some other ways. It was too long, and it definitely needed the straps shortened. It also occurred to me, because I never could get the damn thing zipped, to slide the zipper down a couple of inches. Carolyn said it was much more comfortable that way, and it fixed the creasing problem in the front. Now that is something I can work with!

So here's what I did. I opened up the top seams on the back of the dress. It's really sturdily and cleanly made, with a complete lining of another layer of the fashion fabric. You can see where the two layers are seamed together here.


I took my seam ripper and picked the two layers apart. I also removed the straps while I was in there, to resew them in place a good bit shorter than they were before. I also detached the zipper from the lining-- but not the outer fashion fabric, you'll notice. You can also see the slightly spongy interfacing they used to pad the bodice here.


Then I folded each of the two layers of dress material inward, along a straight line going from just inside where the strap attached and the point to which I had pulled the zipper down. That spot would be the new top of the zipper. I noticed that the way it was designed, the zipper had no stopper, the track just disappeared into the seam between the two fabric layers, so I decided to do the same thing. I folded in the zipper above that point in between just the same way. The I sewed the folded over parts of the two layers together, so that the stitches would not show on the outside.


I did the same thing on the other side. Here's the current state of the dress's back, finished and pressed.


It's not perfect, I could not make the new seams quite as clean as the old ones, but no switches show, and the fabric stayed smooth and everything is still symmetrical. I also managed to make the zipper disappear into the seams such that it now terminates at a lower point! I can't wait to try it on Carolyn again. I think it will work much better.

I still have to hem it, and figure out how a shortened hem is going to interact with the giant train it's got. But one thing at a time, and I think I pulled off the first stage nicely.


breakinglight11: (Default)

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