Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hat problem solved!

Maybe anyway...

The stiffening issue for my truncated hennin style hat has been really bothering me.  I was trolling around the forums on Ravelry today for no particular reason (avoiding packing/laundry/cleaning) and stumbled across a post about some earlier period Spanish hats called toca.  The relevant point is that they were stiffened with paper!  Vellum to be exact, and there actually is one extant!  Hurray!  There is a good paper about recreating one here.  The vellum makes so much more sense to me, especially after looking at the Spanish hats and the similarity in shape (somewhere between the hennin and a bishops miter).

That being said, I think using paper is not the best plan for durability sake and I don't really know if I want to try to track down vellum, so I will probably still use buckram.  At least I now I have a better idea of some plausible base materials though, and that makes me feel better.  I'm not making a modern substitution blindly. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I need a new dress form.  I have one.  She is lovely.  She is about 100 years old (literally, we can roughly date her to 1910 or so), which has it's uses but has a lot of draw backs too.  The silhouette is all wrong for modern bodies and and I'm not really willing to corset her or pin into her to reshape her.  Because she is old.  I'd like to stop using her she will last longer as an antique and get a new, more adjustable, right-shaped dress form.  The adjustable thing is important as I am really trying to loose some of the weight I have gained since my car accident, and now that I'm in the post-op world that should start getting easier rather than progressively harder.  Plus I do sew for other people, in a small space, so the adjustable thing would come in handy when working for clients (so long as they fit within the size range for the form).

I've seen some forms at my local Hancock and Joann's which look like they would be ok for my current purposes priced at around $100, depending on the current sale.  I think they are made by Dritz.  Has anyone had any experience with these?  Are they a total waste of money?  They don't like like they would hold up a 45 pound houppeland terribly well on the adjustable stand, but I would think some clever use of PVC pipe would solve that problem.  I've never found an adjustable stand that *would* hold up such a gown (at least not for long), even when I had the luxury of using industrial forms.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More hat pondering

Petrus Christus, after 1460, Portrait of a Young Girl
So I've been poking around at all the Burgundian hat pages I can find (not too many, sad to say, though there are a few) and the current generally accepted "right" way to make these things seems to be willow, cane or some other basketry method as opposed to stiffed fabric.  Huh.  I suppose this makes as much sense as another else, we know they knew how to weave straw, we know they wove straw into hats, so why not?  Of course, we also know they made felt and fabric hats and some of them (like the Phrygian style caps and loaf hats) are pretty architectural so I'm not really 100% convinced, but lacking any extant hats to look at, it's as good an argument as any.

What bothers me about this argument though is that many, if not all, of these cone type hats seem to be covered with fabric (though I can think of one that sort of looks like woven ribbons or a basket type surface, it's hard to tell).  Covering woven straw or reeds with delicate fabric seems like a bad plan, as the straw would wear through some of the clearly very delicate cloth that's on these hats. Sure, you can pad it out to protect the cloth, but that makes for a pretty chunky looking hat.

I don't know.  I have a lot of buckram so since I have that to hand and am not entering that hat in an A&S competition, I'm going to use that for the first version of the hat.  I've always loved the simplicity of the hat in the Christus portrait, and the neck drape is all kinds of fun, so I might go with that look instead of the more formal gold thing in the original painting I'm basing the actual dress on.  The black hat strikes me as less formal somehow, which I think would work better with my wool gown.  The dates on the paintings are close enough that I don't think it will be a problem, plus the hats are very similar in shape and sitting in the same position on the head (the gold hat is a little more rounded in shape) so the style doesn't seem to have changed much.

One other interesting structural mystery about these hats is the loop.  What are they for?  What are they attached to?  You can see in the Memling picture here, showing ladies with loops but no hats, that the loops appear to be attached to headbands or something attached to the hair, not the hat.  It might be that the hat sits over the loop/headband thing and attaches to it, with the loop acting as a counterbalance.  This makes a certain amount of sense to me.  When I was in college, I had to do a theatrical version of a horned hennin as part of my senior project and it was very difficult to counterbalance.  I solved the problem with some creative shaping in the back of the hat, which looked ok but prevented me from turning my neck in certain directions.  That same semester we had to make these big bubble-shaped head pieces based on the same hennin idea and solved the problem with little close fitting caps that went under the whole mess, so perhaps the loop-band is serving the same purpose. 

Duchie Award!

I was reward to checking on all the blogs I like to follow today by finding out that Edyth at The Completely Dressed Anachronist nominated me for a Duchie Award!  I now feel shamed into actually sewing something historical this week, not just making knitting needle cases and taking naps (why oh why am I so sleepy?!)

Anyway, the rules for receiving the Duchie Award are to post on your blog, in any order:

  1. Five things you love about historical costuming
  2. At least three blogs to pass the Duchie Award onto
  3. A link back to the blogger who awarded you the Duchie
 Starting from the top...five things I love about historical costuming.  Just five?  
Cloths as experimental archeology - I think is this is more obvious as applied to medieval and earlier clothing, but the same can be said for later periods of fashion as well, but you get a better sense of how people actually lived when you try to live in their clothing.  Literally walking a mile in their shoes gives you a whole new insight into how it was to live/sleep/eat as an Elizabethan, Victorian, Roman or whatever.
Attention to detail - Unless you are lucky enough to wear couture, modern clothing is mass produced usually in sweatshops.  The finishing is sloppy at best.  Sewing allows me to focus on the detail work, finishing things properly.  Historical sewing opens up a whole new level of detail, not just finishing the seams and paying attention to details of fit, but doing it in different ways than we use today.
Gotta love a challenge - Everything about period costuming, from researching to pattern drafting to sourcing materials is challenging.  Some things are certainly easier to do than others, but there is always a way to make it better, more authentic.  Even a simple tunic can be a huge challenge if I want it to be, and that keeps me interested in what I'm doing.
Playing with colors - In real life I wear jeans and a lot of grey, browns and black.  Sometimes I get crazy and throw some pink in there, maybe burgundy.  When I create historical costumes I get to put aside what modern tastes say are fashionable, what "goes" and get creative.  I can wear goose-turd green and pink and red all at the same time.  Or crazy striped fabric that gives most people a headache, or red shoes with yellow stockings and blue garters.  And this is fashionable.  Plus I get to figure out how to do all this with plants, and that's just plain old cool.
Geek out!!- The best thing, if I have to pick just one best thing, about all of this, if that I get to geek out on stuff that I'm interested in.  I like pretty things and playing dress-up, but I also like the technical parts of all this and figuring things out.  It turns out there are people, and sort of a lot of them, out there who  are just as geeky as me about weave structure and sheep breeds and dye materials and how to set a sleeve as I am.

And lastly (because I already did #3 at the very top), my nominees,

Demode - because Kendra is amazing.  She makes beautiful cloths (not costumes, cloths) and does excellent research.  Her focus is later period that what I've been doing of late, but it's still inspiring and I know where to go when I get around to making an 18th century gown!

The Costumers Closet - again with the mostly later period than me stuff, but the work is beautiful and really inspiring!  I appreciate that she  posts a lot of in-progress pictures so we can see how she's putting things together, something I aspire to do more faithfully.

Katie Jacobs - Lovely work, again later period, but more importantly she posts how-tos and sourcing tips, and other great information useful if you going to actually *wear* some of the cloths you have made to a reenactment.  She gets the looks head-to-toe, which so many people miss.

Monday, October 10, 2011

12th Night Planning

I've spent the better part of the weekend being productive for the first time in what feels like a hundred years.  It was wonderful.  I made cornhole bags (don't ask), knitting needle cases, finished some embarrassingly backed up work from over the summer, and redesigned my jewelry web site.  I've spent a huge amount of time at the sewing machine and the ironing board, and my leg does not hurt.  Hurray!  Sure, I got tired, but I lasted longer that I would have even before the surgery for we're on the right track.

Anyway, the theme for our kingdom's 12th Night is the Court of Maximilian I in 1500.  So, German.  Which sounds interesting, but not something I would be likely to wear again.  However my persona is Flemmish, so that's close enough, and I've been wanting to do this red gown forever, and it dates to 1450 so, again, close enough.  I have some red wool to make the gown out of, it's actually red shot with navy, kind of a tiny hounds-tooth, and ends up reading a really rich burgundy.  It's a little light, so I may have to line it, but I have some burgundy linen I can use for the lining.

The collar and cuffs look to have a very short pile, my guess is it's fur.  Finding a good low-pile fake fur is not going to be easy so I will probably just use velvet, hopefully in a silvery or cream color so it looks like the picture. 

I'm really *really* excited about the hat.  Especially since it isn't black.  It sort of looks like the crown might be rounded too, but that might be a trick of the veil.  I've got to decide how I want to build this thing, doing it with buckram will be easy enough but I'm not sure if that's how they were most likely made.  It could also be a felt form that's been decorated.  I doubt it's straw.  At least I know what I need to research.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rijksmuseum digital exhibition

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has launched a very cool digital exhibition called Accessorize.  It's in flash and sort of a bandwidth hog, it loads fine for me over FiOS but your mileage may vary depending on your ISP.  Anyway, it's worth whatever wait time!  The exhibition covered accessories from 1550 to 1950 and you can drill down in the images to an insane level of detail.  It's a bit late for my interests, but there are several pieces of gold work embroidery in the 1600-1650 section that are really stunning.  There's lots of great inspiration, who doesn't love goldwork?