torsdag 24 augusti 2017

"Pro tip": Remaking and adding to costumes

Some days ago, the prompt for CostumeBlogWritingMonth was "Pro tip". I definitly am not a pro in costuming, but if I was to share a tip, the first half of it would be to not be afraid to change or add to your existing costumes. That ties in closely with the second half, "if possible, wear a new costume to a smaller event before The Big Event". My idea is that having a smaller occation to wear a new costume forces you to finish it well ahead of the big one. Also, you get a chance to wear and try the new costume in a setting that is more relaxed, and have time to change those things you did not like, in order to look the best at The Big Event. Details that looked good in the sewing room can feel like they look a bit odd on photos, or maybe you just realize you would prefer a different look. 
Here, I do not talk about fixing a dress that turned out wrong, when the fabric was wrong or the fit way off - in those cases I prefer to just go on to new projects that I feel more entusiastic about. Here I talk about the cases where you feel like the dress is just ok or feel like "meh, good I guess", but you feel that it could become great if it looked a bit different. You like it, just not as much as you could do. In those later cases, I think it is well worth the effort of redoing the thing you are not happy with, or remodelling an older dress.
The first picture is of my first 1880's dress. Over time, it became too small, and I found it a bit on the boring side, being so plain. THerefor I added lots more decoration to the hat, and inserted a fake vest and blouse.

Before and after remaking.
This over-skirt in the next example looked good on the draping stand, but I was not happy with how it looked in the real World Pictures. Adding red and gold detailing and using with for the "uniform " bodices worked better.
Over-skirt, Before and after.
 This steampunk dress have been blogged quite a lot, as it is this year's Big Project for me. Here, I knew already  before the event that I was not happy with the brown half of the bodice, but convinced myself that it was okay and that I should just get it finished, not be a perfectionist. After the event I liked the dress but still not the brown half, so I decied to spend some hours remaking the dress. I am much happier now. I am also adding and changing the trim on the hat a bit, and have added a small collar to the bolero, as I thought it would be more flattering to my long neck (especially when wearing  a tall hat).  

Steampunk dress and bolero- Before and after

The next dress is not really adapted or added to, but has to do with not being too sentimental about m costumes. It is my first "medieval" dress, and I loved it. In, like 2004. Now I would never wear it since I have become more interested in historical accuracy, but the fabric is a very nice wool. I picked it apart and made a dress from The Tudor Tailor. Which is turn is in the process of being remade again, as the front had a tendncy to buckle in a very non-flattering and uncomfortable way. (An example of lying pictures, as the front looks perfectly smooth in this picture - believe me, this in not how it looked most of the time!).
"Medieval" dress - fabric reused for a Tudor dress.
Probably, adapting or changing part of a costume is easier for fashions like women's 1880's dress, which is often heavily decorated and made of separate bodice, skirt and over-skirt, than for a menswear suit, or a more plain gown, but I believe there are often some things that can be changed if you are not happy.
This was some example of the costumes I have changed or remade. Have you remade /part of / a costume after wearing it? Did you like the outcome? Please comment and tell!

onsdag 16 augusti 2017

The joy of putting stuff on hats

Hats! I love making hats!

1905 - big!
 But why this sudden declaration of affection, you might wonder? Well, todays theme in Costume Blog Writing Month is small project, and that had me thinking. I very rarely do project that in their entirety are quick and easy enough that I could call them small, but I do make smaller garments as part of the bigger project. Interestingly, it is often those parts I end up liking the most. Liking both as in enjoying making them and as in liking the outcome. And a typical "small part project" for me is a hat. The hats for the historical eras I like are, to put it mildly, heavily decorated, which makes it very fun - I can really be creative with them. And generally I can make or adapt/decorate a hat in 2-5 hours, which I would call quick compared to a 30-40 h dress. So, here they come, a collection of some of my small projects, mostly hats.

Before and after modification...

Look how happy I get in a historical hat! Or is it the knowledge that I will soon be eating ice cream that put that smile on me?

The first hat/headdress I made, for my Tudor dress like ten years ago. The dress is scrapped, but I still like the hat.

1860's - a bit pinker than I generally do.

I didn't hear "over decorated" did I? the 188o's really liked to put stuff on their hats!

This got to have two pictures because it is biggest! :-) Also, it is one of only two hats I have that are actually useful for protecting me from the sun.

Slightly weird Tudor/steampunk hat.

Not a hat, obviously, but decorating it was a small a fun project just like the hats.
The most recent one - steampunk. Currently I am adding more decorations to it - neither my hats nor steampunk aestethics in general are known for "less in more"

Do you like making hats too, or what is your favourite small project?

tisdag 15 augusti 2017

Steampunk dress - finding my way to the "right" design

I have already shown the forrest/mechanical steampunk dress I have been working on for a while. In this post I will show how its design changed with time, and my thought behind the design choices. I will also give some more details on its construction. Lots of text this time, but there will be lots of pictures as well!
Summary of this post - the first sketch, and the last (maybe not final) design!

This project has taken a lot longer to finish than expected. The main reason was for this was not because it was hard to construct or sew, but that I had a hard time getting the design like I wanted. I had a sketch to start with, but when I started I thought that it was both hard to make, and would not look like I wanted. This means that this gown have been a half year of pinning stuff onto stuff, trying to find out how I wanted it to look. Here I will shown some of the in progress photos I took, so you can se how it evolved.

Normally, I want a story or character behind the dress, when doing steampunk, but this time I just went for the visual elements I felt like having. This way of designing meant that I had no problem making for example the staff without having an idea of what the character would use it for. Even then deciding on those took way to many hours stuck in pinterest looking at other people's work. Also, I want every new project to be more spectacular than the last one - as I have relatively few opportunities to wear steampunk, why would I wear anything I like less than the ones I already have? As I like both my uniform and my ghost hunter outfit a lot, this did make it a bit hard to come up with something I was sufficiently enthusiastic about. In the end, I decided that I wanted to combine green with the look of plants with silvery mechanical parts. Also, I wanted a more romantic style than I usually do, and I aimed for the look of lots of details everywhere that I often admire in other people's steampunk work. Actually, I first wanted a green fairy gown, but I decided it would be  much more useful to me if it was steampunk, and I then I liked the idea to "steampunk it" by combining soft green with hard steel. The brown velvet was a later addition.
This is the first drawing I made. As you can see, it is a lot of crinoline and a quite small dress. The idea was to make half of it look mechanical like some kind of steampunk robot dress and the other half look plant-like.
I soon realised this would take A LOT of work, in making or sourcing the mechanical parts, so I thought I would just make some mechanical parts show through holes in the green part of the dress.

Then I started making it, and ... it changed. Here is a lot of pictures of how the dress looked like during different stages of experimentation/construction. Cronological order.

First idea: a hole in the upper part of the skirt where the Brown "tree trunk" is visible. Velvet draperies at side and back.
Closer look of the hole. I was very fond of the idea, but did not really like how it looked in reality.
Adding a flounce and leaves.

Trying out a more bustle like draperi at back and sides instead.
Back drapery (that still is there in the finished dress, althou a bit different draped. )
Added two flounces. Removed most of the side draperies, but the hole is still there will a small drapery. Here, trying without the back drapery.

Removed the hole, added "flaps" hanging from the waist on skirt, and horisontal stripes on bodice center front to soften the change from Brown to green.

Same version, from the side.

Trying out different methods of fastening, and colors.
For a while, I wanted a brown drapery on the skirt as well, to make the brown half of the bodice tie in better with the rest of the dress, but the brown fabric is thick and has stretch so it was not suitable for this.

Getting closer... Removed most "flaps" as I thought that they looked too much like something for a little girl dressed up as a flower

Finally found another fabric with a color that suited for a third flounce. Changed to leather fastenings on front for more steampunk feeling. As worn on NärCon. With a small Bolero/shrug thing, hat and staff.


The last version, after changing the brown bodice half  to green, and adding more accesories. Some things still just pinned on.

I have had the problem that I wanted to include way too many ideas in the same dress, but finally, I am happy with how it look like.

I do like the outcome, but at some points I was quite tired of this project. As I had trouble finding  a look I liked, I could not spend much time sewing, so the progress was slow. Also I was afraid that I would not be satisfied with the end result, despite all the thinking (luckily I was wrong about that!). From this project, I have learned how much longer it takes when you make things in the wrong order. I have also learned that it became harder for me to design it as I had so few limitiations in the design. I would have thought that that would make it easier, but it did not, not for me, I did not have to think "why would a character wear something like ..., what would a character like ... need?", and I did not need to keep in line with historical fashion either, so it was very hard to choose, and to keep from using too many conflicting design elements at the same time.

Which version did you like best? Have you had a costume project that transformed during the sewing process, or tried to fit way too many ideas into a single garment/costume? Please comment and tell!

The  facts:

What the item is: steampunk dress. A steampunk dress with the base shape based on early 1860's fashion.

 Cotton and polyester fabrics of various qualities.

For bodice, I used Truly Victorian 1859 Pagoda Bodice, omitted sleeves, and used the alterations for fit I made for my 1861 dress. The skirt is just a pleated rectangle (as typical for the earlier crinoline era dresses), with flounces on (also common in that fashion). It would have been a lot easier to attach the flounces before I pleated and sewed the skirt to the bodice, but at that stage I had not yet decided to use flounces, so that gave me some extra work. The back drapery is also a rectangle. The crinoline is based on my earlier 1860's crinoline, but shorter and with a bit more width at the top.

 Hours to complete: About 40-50 h for the dress.

 First worn: For NärCon two weeks ago, se here.

 Total cost: perhaps 700 kr, about 70 Euro (in fabric, clasps, leather bands, and steel for crinoline). I also paid 240 SEK for a very large box of Clock hands, of which I only used a few for this dress. I also had to make investments in glue, paint, craft foam, and such (for the crinoline decorations), of which I used just a little for this project.

måndag 7 augusti 2017

Steampunk meetup at NärCon

Previous Saturday, I went to the big cenvention NärCon here in Linköping. Most people does cosplay, and there are lots of anime/manga/games character I do not know, but I had arranged a small steampunk meetup.

Sara Örn Tengstrands foto.
Steampunk meetup at NärCon
I went there with my friend U, but sadly I forgot to take a picture of her nice Spirited Away dress. I also got the chance to meet Johanna of Costumekullan in person for the first time, and we discovered a shared like of 16th century dress (and, sadly, lack of events to wear them at). Also, I really like her fan fashion dress! I think I need more fan fashion - clothes that can be  worn for normal, but that other fans can recognize.

For the occasion, I wore my Steampunk mechanical/forest dress for the first time! The costume consists of the crinoline, dress, shrug/bolero, hat and staff , and belts with a bag I decorated for the Tudor steampunk gown. Everything is made by me, except for the undecorated bag. My previous steampunk projects (in fact, most of my costuming except for the 1876 dress) are a bit severe, and often inspired by men's wear. Here, I wanted more girlish, and I also aimed for the look of lots of details everywhere that I often admire in other people's steampunk work. Thank you U for these pictures.

Weird face, but you can see the ear ring made from a clock hand.

... and more clock hands on the hat

The staff was fun to have, and I only forgot it and had to go back for it once. However, I think I need to practice posing with it to make it look good, as I did not know what to make of it. It also was the first time I used makeup with a costume. I used a very simple one, but it was interesting to see the difference - as I do not normally use makeup, I felt very different. With a dress like this, I felt it was not so bad if the makeup was visible (overdressed is basically the idea for lots this kind of steampunk anyway), so I used a lot of it, but still I can hardly see it in the pictures. I guess my glasses hides most of the eye shadow...

The dress was surprisingly comfortable for a whole days wear. I do wear a corset, to spread the weight of the crinoline, but the corset is not tightly laced. Also, as I used cotton as base and a shear curtain polyester fabric for flounces, the dress is not at all heavy. The neck opening as opposed to a high necked wool dress and the crinoline which keeps the skirts away from the body also contributes greatly to make the dress cool.

All in all, I am quite happy with how the dress turned out, but I think I have changed almost everything from the original plans (See future post!) and as a result, I think it looks a bit too busy, so I want to do some more changes before I wear it again at SilwerSteam convention in September.

torsdag 3 augusti 2017

Steampunk hat and bolero

For my forest/mechanical steampunk dress, I made some accessories, to go with the crinoline and dress (a post about the finished dress will come soon). 
The hat is a 3/4 sized top hat, which I made in brown velvet. The pattern is my own, and quite simple. I just had to do some testing to find a size and proportions I liked (for some reason I don't like wearing those mini top hats that are so popular in steampunk, even if I think they look good on other people.) Then I made it up the same way as my previous hats, with wired buckram, as described here. It took maybe 3-4 hours, as hand sewing the band on the brim took its time. Then I tried to put as much decoration stuff on it as possible without it looking too odd. I still think I am going add some more. Sewing all the decoration on was a bit fiddly and took a while, but I did not want to use glue, as I have a habit of wanting to change the trim on my hats (or just add more, as turned out to be the case here). The very green thing is fake feathers, made of polyester. I instantly knew I needed them for this dress when I found them at Easter. 

The staff is quite random, thrown together the night before just before I felt like having some prop. Also, I wanted to make use of more of the very green fake feathers, and of the cooper coloured globe things I cannibalized from a home decor LED light thing (and I also wanted to use my new glue gun!). 

I also made some kind of shoulder garment, I am not sure if it could be called a bolero or shrug. Anyway, it is made from the same velvet as the hat, lined with cream cotton, and piped with polyester piping. Using silky piping with the velvet meant that things never stayed put even when pinned, so I hand sewed the whole thing. The result is looking a bit wobbly, but I still like it very much. I even allowed myself to add two gears just for decoration. Normally I prefer to be restrictive in my use of decorative gears in my Steampunk, as it is so common, but here they fit so well I could not resist it.

And a sneak peak of them worn together with the dress. I spent the overwhelming majority of the time on the dress, but when wearing it, I think I am most fond of the look of the shrug and hat.

Have you made a project where the accessories became your (or other people's) favourite part? Please comment and tell!

tisdag 1 augusti 2017

CoBloWriMo and presentation

This month, I will be part of something called CoBloWriMo - Costume Blog Writing Month. CoBloWriMo is meant to encourage blogging about costuming, and to build the costuming blog community. I will not attempt to blog every day, as I am preparing to move to a new city, but I think it would be fun to take part anyway. Therefore, here is some presentation of me, for CoBloWriMo. Might be some fun facts for you who know me as well :-)

So. I am Sara from Sweden. I am interested in (at some times obsessed by) historical costuming and steampunk. I blog, not regularly, mostly about my finished costumes and my research for them. I have been sewing historically inspired things for 15 years (am I already old enough to be able to say that!?). I am self taught regarding sewing and costuming, as my university degree is in engineering physics, which is not terribly useful for sewing.  But at least it made me unafraid of scaling and constructing geometrical shapes for patterns... I like writing, and find it refreshing to be able to use the language any way I want, in contrast to the strictly scientific language I have to use in reports and scientific papers at work.

Cross dressing in English Tudor/steampunk.

Currently, I am mostly interested in steampunk, when sewing. My mind tends to get a bit obsessed by things once I start on them, but I try to not get all caught up in sewing, as I want to have time for the important persons in my life and other hobbies. Which of course means that some times I miserably fail the "not too obsessed", "getting fresh air is nice" and "my husband are able to get my attention" goals... I have also been seen behaving strangely on public places, like biking in jeans, 1876 bodice, and hat, and then dressing on the spot of the photo shot.  Well well. 
Normal behaviour, right!?

 My costumes take up more space in my wardrobe than my normal clothing, and I have managed to fill the hat shelf in our walk in closet with historical hats. I have also, on several occasions, tried to find a hat on that shelf that would actually protect me from the sun when I am my modern self, and of course failed. How could it be harder to buy a normal hiking sun hat than to make an enormous turn-of-the century hat or an overdecorated steampunk top hat?
Do not use for hiking!

I do not have a cat, but try to get the required amount of "cat walking on my fabric" by sewing with friends who have cats. My husband and I do have a pet octopus who is a big fan of Captain Janeway of Star Trek Voyager (just like me!), and a rich and over-intelligent rat who borrows my computer all the time for his shady business. Or maybe we just have a nice and lively imagination...

My Star Trek Voyager cosplay

All in all, I am very happy that I have this hobby that I like so much, and I am grateful for my costuming friends, both IRL and on the net. Thank you!