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Something about the ’60’s going on here…

So what does a Renaissance Faire refugee do, she marries a MOD. So after this mad costuming dash for opening day of the So Cal Renaissance Pleasure Faire and a 1560’s attire, times three [pray for me and my sanity, people], it’s off to the 1960’s for some MOD-o-icious fashion for my honey because I’ve just bought two very cool vintage patterns circa 1965 to make a couple of shirts for him and if they meet his exacting standards, they’ll be added to the shop as we expand the collection.

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Eleanora of Toledo Gown — part 6

It begins.  Be afraid, be very afraid.

Okay, here’s my sewing frenzy work plan:

Today:  Ordered what I hope will be a 20 yard piece  of a very nice black and silver-gray jacquard ribbon that has the feel of the original trim work on Eleanora’s gown.  Humorously enough it’s from a vendor on Etsy from my next of the woods [go figure.]

New Black & silver trim

Next stop is to order linen from for the lining because the Thai silk is a bit lightweight to stand by itself.

On the sewing front, it’s underpinning day so it’s time for corset making, chemise and with any luck, I’ll find my farthingale pattern… well, actually any farthingale pattern will do, mine, the one I bought from Mantua Maker or heck, even the Simplicity one will do.



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Eleanora of Toledo Gown — part 5

Fast forward 9 years . . .  Yes, nine years and a brief “retirement” from costuming and I finally back on track for making this gown and it’s going to get done in the next month.  Instead of being for me, it is part extravagant birthday present and part reciprocity for proof-reading a novel I am writing for a friend and co-worker [Yes, I am a victim of NANOWRI disorder.}

Also since so much time has passed, I’ve been able to rethink some things about construction and linings and stuff and by luck, my friends at Reconstructing History have taken the time and inclination to create a pattern for the EOT gown so now I don’t have to spent hours swearing while drafting patterns from the scale graphs in Patterns of Fashion.

Wish me luck as I’m changing body type gears from a BBW Californian to a very buxom, petite Russian import.

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Eleanora of Toledo Gown — Part 4

A slight change in plans . . .  (cira. 10/17/2004) About a month ago, I went ebaying to see if I could track down more of the original lime silk because I wanted to make sure that I had enough for the sleeves. The merchant had some, their last piece in fact, but the dye lots didn’t match when it arrived here. *pout* So rather than trying to over-dye it to match. I decided to go hunting again and see if other Thai silk merchant (the one from Singapore that sends fun little nic-nacs in their package) still had some more of what they call “Plunket Blue” and behold they did – bonus, the dye lots match. Thus, I’m switching my primary colors and making the deep blue-green to the gown and the lime (or “Gooseturd” to be period-proper) petticoate. Oh yeah, I found some lace for my camica too. Here’s a scan of the fabrics.

I’m also still trying to figure out how to use my scanner and the “special HP photo tools” that came with my new PC so the scans are kinda crappy . . . sorry.


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Eleanora of Toledo Gown — Part 3

All things work together . . .  (cira. 8/3/2004) My silk arrive from Singapore on Saturday. The second piece of the lime green is more celery and it have to be will be dyed down a tad and the turquoise is considerably darker than the photo, much teal, sorta that rich deep Aegean sea blue-green. Its by far less stark and “constrasty” than the Turquoise would have been. It should make wonderful guards, but now what do I use for my corded petticoate? [Can you tell I’ve been watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer on DVD, again?]

Since I was ironing, I had to take the lime silk out and iron it out and drape it on the chick. This fabric is very lightweight and almost sheer so I will have to underline the whole thing. I’m thinking bleached muslin because I want to keep the outfit on a whole very light but still have enough opaqueness that whatever color petticoate I end up with doesn’t distort the lime, which is less neon with the new teal trim.

Photo ops will appear shortly.

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Eleanora of Toledo Gown — Part 2

Yipes, that’s loud!  (cira. 7/30/2004) I’m an impatient person occasionally, when it comes to wanting to jump in a start a new project, especially this one as I’ve had the trim for nearly 20 years. In lieu of starting the gown I’M waiting for my petticoat fabric and another piece of the lime silk to arrive, I whipped out my copy of POF and made a photocopy of the dress. Then I carefully matched the silk to my Prisma colour pencil and colored away.

After I regained my vision, I was quite pleased with the initial result. When the turquoise silk arrives, I’m going to do the same thing and color in the guards. Back in the day, I once made an orange, yellow and mustard oversized-hawaiian print (on a white background) “Jackie O” style outfit and wore it after hours at faire site. (It was a final exam project for FIDM. The garment design was, the fabric was my own twisted sense of fashion sensibility.) The boys from Queen’s Guard threatened to call HazMat on me – it was great fun. Ah those were the days.

I’ve done a little research into Period Venetian colors. Thanks to one of my favorite places in cyber space and the woman that convinced me that BBW can still wear period attire and look marvelous, Oonagh’s Own. Her article on period color got me thinking. While my Lime Green is fairly close to being dead on, the Turquoise has me confused. I can’t think of anything Italian, especially Venice, without thinking brilliant blues and greens.

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Eleanora of Toledo Gown — (aka “the gown that took me 25 years to finally make.”)

The Beginning:  (cira. 7/22/04) The infamous Eleanora of Toledo Gown – The gown the was 30 years in the making . . .well, not really; but I have had the trim since I worked for House of Fabrics since 1986 or 1987. [Seriously, I could never bring myself to part with it.]

elenoraLike everyone else, I feel in love with this gown the first time I opened my copy of Patterns of Fashion. So the winds of fortune finally blew my way clear to make this delightful gown . . . in 70’s colors so hideous, it screams 16th Century Italian across three counties.  Back in the day, next door to this HOF (that I was babysitting) was a JJ Newberry’s and they were having a clearance sale (they were closing out their fabric department) and lo and behold, I picked up this trim for 50 cents a yard. I couldn’t resist.  I was going through my rebellious RPF costuming phase and wanted to see how farI could push the envelope before they threw me out for clashing or fainted . . . or offered me the head costumer’s job because I knew more than she did.

I had an epithany this afternoon while ironing when I glanced up and saw this Lime green Thai Silk and “bink” a light came on and I ran to my office and rooted through my boxes and found the trim and they match, perfectly. Even my husband is amazed. [“I wouldn’t normally go for these colors, especially not together, but wow!” ~ Bryan] This silk is another one of my ebay steals and even with turquoise that I picked up for a corded petticoat, this whole outfit’s going to cost me less than $50 and its all going to be silk!

lime_silk turq_silk

I’ve also got some hatobi silk that I’m going to be making a camica out of for my Venetian gown and it will work out perhaps even better for this gown. I’m thinking that this will be a good outfit to wear to Devore next spring, so I’ve got tons of time, which is good because I’m on a “diet” and with some luck and perseverance, will be about 75 lbs lighter by then.



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14th Century Commoners – part 1

The assignment: 14th Century peasant clothes for a “couple of guys who will be out digging in the dirt” for period piece.

I dug though my fabric archives (“stash”) and pulled out several pieces of unbleached 5.3 oz. linen and both large and small pieces of hunter green, reds and what I call mouse-brown, but if memory serves the retailer called it “tobacco.”   I also pulled out about 5 to 6 yards of a prewashed chocolate brown wool flannel and a 5 yard piece dark gray tweed that had flecks of blue, rust, taupe and tan; a piece of unwashed rust flannel and unwashed black flannel; some odds and ends of a light weight, bright  finally and prewashed “popinjay blue” wool crepey flannel.  [Yes, I really did have all of that my stash … and then some.]

Since time was of the essence, rather than draft my own patterns, I chose to go with a Reconstructing History pattern — RH004: 12th through 16th Century Peasant Man’s attire.   I’ve had the pleasure of working with this company several yeas ago and beta tested a couple of her early patterns.   I trust scholarship that goes into every pattern, although I have disagreements with construction instructions, but that’s probably more due to the fact that I almost exclusively use an industrial straight-stitch machine and avoid handwork where possible (well, these days anyways because of the carpal tunnel) and the charming and lovely Kass has put entire period ensembles together by hand, for which she has my never-ending admiration.

The Shirt: As this pattern covers the basics for 12th through 16th I chose the early shirt option, which has a modest center front and back gore.  The construction is fairly simple, and once you’ve made the first one and worked out how to assemble it, you can easily put one together in 3 to 5 hours.

Notes: If you choose to the tapered sleeve option, unless the gentleman who will be wearing it has smaller hands you will need to leave the bottom 3 inches of the sleeves open and use some type of closure (I used wooden beads and made loops with pearl cotton).  Make sure you transfer the marks before you start sewing; it will make it easier all around.  Attach the gore to the sleeve and sew the underarm seam (think set-in sleeve) and then sew the sleeve to the flat shirt rather than sewing the flat sleeve to the flat shirt pieces — much much easier.
The shirt and the tunic are essentially the same construction, the exception being gores.

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My 2 cents on Showtime’s “The Tudors”

WARNING: The following contains a RANT. I hereby tender my apologies to all the might be otherwise offended.

Furthermore, this has been copied over from my other blog from 2008, and while updated because the show’s costuming department cleaned us their act and as each season got better, I still have issues, but it still bears repeating in a more appropriate arena.

I just finished watching “The Tudors” on Video on Demand. In addition to really wishing that the love of my life knew more about 16th century history, I spent even more time constraining myself from yelling back at the telly about the very pretty to look at, but oh so horribly wrong costuming […like the TV could do anything about it.] Dudes, you do not spend half of your adult life getting paid by people to research and make and oh yes, beta testing patterns for Reconstructing History and not end up without learning a thing or two about Tudor and Elizabethan clothing.

I ask the somewhat rhetorical question:

How it is possible that with the plethora of readily available resources of books, innumerable portraits and bona fide professional Tudor and Elizabethan costumers who have meticulously produced patterns from extant garments which they sell on the freakin’ Internet no less (Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies, authors of The Tudor Tailor and renowned English Tudor era costumers and Kass McGann of Reconstructing History in the United States), that so many things could be so horribly wrong? The answer lies within the costumer’s very own words: it was deliberate.

To the costumer on this show, I commend you for your efforts of having to coordinate such a volume of work, but it stops there.

I watched your interview on Showtime’s website. I fully understand your desire and felt need to make the clothing accessible to the modern viewer. I really do. I did Renaissance Faire costumes for performers for nearly 25 years and yes, certain concessions were made to help convey a sense of class structure to help the average Faire goer distinguish between peasant, middle class and nobility. And yes, other concessions were and are still being made because of the climatic differences between 16th century England and 21st century United States, specifically southern California.

However, because so many of us have grown up on our local Faires, and have seen the multiple Oscar winning “Shakespeare in Love” innumerable times, and have seen both “Elizabeth” movies (both not without their faults, but still brilliantly done), and will be seeing “The Other Bolyen Girl” shortly as well as numerous other 16th period pieces: this era of clothing is not new to us. Early Tudor attire might seem a bit odd with its strange sleeves and ladies’ hats that look more like bird houses than hats, but still….

Yes, I agree that the King and his nobles were the equivalent of rock stars in their day and that their clothing would and should reflect that. No argument there. What I take issue with is:

    1. Mixing eras: The theory is that this drama is set in the 1520’s and perhaps even as late as1530. However, I saw clothing that was decidedly Elizabethan in design rather than Tudor. A 1580’s doublet is not quite the same as the gown men were wearing in the 1520’s. The character of Sir Thomas Bolyen was dressed far more appropriate for the period. Contemporary portraits of Henry VIII prove that. These two examples 1520, two years prior to Anne’s arrival at Court and and 1526, when it is purported that Henry first took notice of her Another example is a somewhat famous portrait for 1536, the year Anne was beheaded.
      (As a side note, it should be noted that Henry was 45 years old at the time. Anne was a mere 27 …34, depending on your sources. So the actor playing Henry is a bit too young and besides, the actor cast as Buckingham would have been a much better cast both in physical appearance and “presence” — I’m agreeing with my Pastor on this one — gotta sex it up for the ignorant masses …grumble, grumble.)
    2. Hair: Men’s hair was too short and the women’s hair was down. Find me a source or non-allegorical portrait to prove otherwise. The wearing on women’s hair down is a 20th century development. Something about it being a sin for a women to show her hair in public.
    3. Hats: Where were they? Not nearly enough hats. Everybody wore some type of head covering at almost all the time. Anybody aware of the fact that Henry passed a law that everyone in the realm must a wool hat on Sunday or be fined or imprisoned? Something about it being a sin to have your head uncovered for anyone but the Lord?And what’s up with the flocked fishnet veiling Anne was wearing?And for that matter … where were the French Hoods that she brought to England from the French Court that it’s said that she wore nothing else. Please do not tell me that those tiaras-thingies that the actress wore are French hoods.
    4. Sleeves: Again, where were they? No one would have been seen sleeveless. Again, exposed bare flesh was right out. Not a single one of those funky false hanging fold-back sleeve to be seen.
    5. Chemises: Again, where were they? (Yes, yes, I’m sounding like a broken record.) We’re talking about a time period that didn’t bathe regularly and when they did, they did it in their all-purpose undergarment know as a chemise. Again, exposed bare flesh, yadda, yadda, yadda.
    6. Necklines: Way too much cleavage being flashed about. Clear examination of portraits prove that. The best way to simply describe Tudor era necklines is to locate your armpit, and then connect the dots as it were between the armpits across the chest and you’ve got a proper neckline.
    7. A visible zipper placket: self-explanatory.
    8. Recycled costumes: I’m down with the idea of saving time and money and taking advantage of Western Costumes when you can. But if you’re going to rent costumes, could you make sure that they weren’t worn by Gwyneth Patrow in Shakespeare in Love? (The orange velvet picadilled jacket and tapestry skirt when she met with Wesicks and slapped him for kissing her and the pale green surcoate / dressing gown that she wore throughout the movie.)

Here’s the thing, the key to good period costuming is to recognize that whatever we do that it is an interpretation of historic design – a sentiment that I used as my business’ tagline for many, many years. We can never fully reproduce clothing in the manner that they did then and make it cost effective for any sort of production. Personal costumes where we have the luxury of hand-sewing is another story. The fact of the matter is there are weaving and construction techniques and fabrics that have been lost to us five centuries later. What we can do is be a faithful as possible to dutifully convey the details of the period as accurately as possible. There are times where we must substitute fabrics because the period fabric has been lost in time or is completely cost prohibited. Been there, done that … However, as I progressed in my craft I learned what and when to substitute and how to do it convincingly.

Perhaps more importantly, we should never “dumb-down” our work and make concessions to audience to the point where we suddenly become Doc Brown dressing Marty McFly in 1950’s western wear (from Nudie’s Rodeo Tailor, no less) to go back to 1885 and expecting him to seamlessly blend in. It never works and I believe we lose a certain amount of integrity in doing so.

And to answer to unasked question: YES, yours truly is available for hire as a consultant or outside contractor. Travel on Sundays is always out of the question.

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In the beginning . . .and nearly two years ago

Recently my Pastor preached a message and amongst the salient points were “returning back to your first love.”  I’ve had two great passions in my life, both date back to around the same time: God’s Word and period costuming — the former a subject of a different website.

Even more recently, the two have come together and after five years of retirement, I am now making period costumes for a religious documentary (for lack of a better thing to call it).  Yes, I really did make a commitment to “share materially” (pun intended) with the one that taught me some eight years ago and now, God’s apparently going to hold me to it.  I don’t know the final destination for the project, and honestly don’t want to know the details. . . just tell me what to make and how soon you need it.

Now why the blog?  First, I’m going to be making things I’ve never made before so I want to document it.  Second, because of brain-burps in the not quite so recent past, I want to document the work I’ve done — especially the things from scratch — so I can remember what and what not do to again . . . like letting a cute kitten use 5 yard of wool as a bed and then have to vacuum out cat fur three and half years later.

Now, how much will religious references appear in this blog?  As often as the Spirit moves me.  My apologies to my fellow costumers that do not share my faith, but I’ve taken the time to research others and can safely say that giving praise and thanks to the Creator of all for just enough fabric in one’s stash shouldn’t offend anyone: just insert the name of the deity of your choosing and rejoice with me.  Now for theology ramblings, I’ve got a whole domain for that and my cats have their own twitter as well, so the plan is to keep things at the minimal but you know it is who I am.

What’s first? 14th century peasantry and scholastic wear