Friday, June 16, 2017

My thoughts on the Costumes of the 2017 "Beauty and the Beast"


First of all, to not be redundant, let's see what the internet is already saying about these costumes! In my research I was not able to access the multiple video interviews on the topic, due to my deafness and lack of subtitles on said videos. So they will unfortunately not be a part of my discussion here. However, I did find the following interesting articles:

Fashionista's wonderful interview with designer Jacqueline Durran includes a variety of interesting details, particularly in how they balanced the historical influence with the demands of the story.

People Movies also interviewed Durran, and their article includes additional details, as well as Durran's design sketches. Further design sketches were originally released on Entertainment Weekly here and are a treasure trove for those looking to understand and recreate these pieces for cosplay. While you can see more of the sketches at the above link, I wanted to share my favorite here. (I'm not entirely clear on whether these sketches are her original designs, or drawings of the finished product done for promotional purposes. If anyone can clarify this, I'd be grateful for the details!)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tudor England Era Corset

I have been obsessed with the clothing of the Tudor era ever since I was a young girl. In fact, at one point in time, I hand-sewed a self-drafted gown of blue velvet, at which time I was perhaps 12 or 13. (Yeah, I was very geeky.) And the very first costume I ever made with a pattern was this (laughably inaccurate) Purple Tudor Gown.

In those days, it was difficult to find reference books detailing the historical costume of the period, so I had to make do with guessing from portraits. Nowadays there is a significantly larger trove of details, in particular the excellent book "The Tudor Tailor" by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm Davies. Getting this book as a Christmas gift from my parents was a long-awaited dream come true. Now all that remained was to complete a full-Tudor ensemble...

When creating a historical costume, one must build from the foundations up, to ensure the correct shape and sizing of each piece. I started my Tudor Ensemble with this White Shift. Next, I needed to construct a corset. This ended up being a much longer project than I intended. Between health and home responsibilities, it took me about 9 months from start to finish - closer to a year if you count writing this blog post! 

(While the historical term is 'stays' I am so used to calling this a corset, that I hope stricter historians will forgive me for using that term in this piece). 


Although I have done boned bodices before, this was my first piece that really worked as a proper corset. Although I largely followed the pattern in the Tudor Tailor for shaping and structure, I had to make some additional modifications to accommodate a significant curve ratio. Thus my corset is not nearly as flat as the fashionable style of the period. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Downton Experience - Part 3

The time has come, my friends, to celebrate the final post of the Downton Abbey costumes that I was able to see in person. If you are behind, you can check out post #2 here! 

As before, all photos were taken by my husband, Nathan Hajek, and the clothing details were sourced from the pamphlet handed out by the Exhibition. 


My favorite Downton dresses usually involve velvet or beading, so it is no surprise that this piece was one of my favorites of the exhibition. Worn by Edith in Season 5 (1924), it features a gorgeous burnt orange velvet and a rose-hued slip of crepe silk. The draped velvet is the highlight of the dress, but a closer look reveals exquisite embellishment in a few key places.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Emma Swan's Wedding Dress

Sorry it took me so long to get my reaction up. Okay, two days isn't really that long, but gauging by the spike in visits I've had over the past 24 hours, I have a feeling some people are hoping for my reaction to this big OUAT costume!


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If for some reason you haven't caught up with "Once Upon a Time," you ought to skip this post as it will definitely spoil some big things for you.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Refashioning is less of a modern fad than you'd think

"Refashion" and "Upcycle" are trending words these days. The ranks of Instagram and the blogosphere are swelling with people who give thrift store finds new lives by radically remaking them into trendy (or timeless), well-fitting outfits.

But did you know that, rather than being a new fad, this mindset was actually the norm for the large part of history? In the past, a garment would be remade over and over, sometimes for generations! When there finally was no longer enough material for a serviceable garment, the fabric would then find its next life as a quilt, rug, or rags. This is why we actually have relatively few examples of historical garments surviving today.

One blogger I follow is remaking a historical gown into another historical garment, and discusses what it is like to follow the footsteps of history. Although you see this happen regularly with modern clothing, it is not often documented with costumes because we modern costumers dislike pulling apart our works of art. Anyhow, I found it interesting and worth a look!

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Downton Experience Part 2

This is a multi-part series on my trip to the Dressing Downton Exhibit at the Mall of America in January. You can check out the first post here!

All costume facts are sourced from the pamphlet provided by the exhibit.


This burgundy day dress is made of Moroccan silk and worn by Lady Mary in Season 6 (1925).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Case of the Missing Costumes

I had a scare the other week wherein I thought I had lost my very favorite costumes. As you can imagine, this is a seamstress's worst nightmare, and I really thought that I was facing the worst.

I'd decided that I wanted to embellish one of my old costumes further, so I decided to dig through my stash and pull it out. To my surprise, this costume (which I had always kept readily at hand) was nowhere to be found! I was annoyed, but not too concerned. We'd moved twice in the past three years, and I figured a box was misplaced somewhere.

That weekend, I asked my husband to hang up a rod in the laundry room so that I could hang up all of my more elaborate ensembles. He did so very sweetly, and also carried in all of the boxes and garment bags we could find that might possibly have costumes, and helped me hang them up. We got them all nicely arranged in chronological order, but... that one costume was still missing!

And then I realized...there was another costume I couldn't find either! I was a little concerned now, because we'd gone through our whole house, but I figured they were still at my parents. Costumes keep coming out of the woodwork over there. Every few months my parents would tell me "We have more costumes/fabric to bring over, do you have space for them now?" It's almost like they raised a seamstress or something.

So, I texted my sister. As I did so, I remembered another costume that hadn't turned up...and this too was one of my very favorite pieces! Curiouser and curiouser.

My sister, however, was quite sure that all the costumes had gotten transferred over to my house. She promised to come and help me look the next day. We looked through every possible place in every possible room. And... still, no costumes.

"I'll check mom and dad's again," said my sister.

I remembered another missing costume, this one the piece that I had put over 30 hours into. I was starting to have visions of a pile of costumes lost in a parking lot during some move.

My sister texted me the next day. "No sign of them here, I looked everywhere!"

Now, my sister is an incredibly thorough person, so I knew she had done a diligent job. I chose another costume to begin embellishing at this point in my free time (see my sewing instagram for photos), and tried not to stress too much. There was still a remote chance that the costumes had gotten stored at my grandparents. I also decided to deep clean the bedroom. I didn't think the costumes were in there, but...well I had to do something, right?

Then I got another VERY excited text from my sister, who humorously relayed how she'd found the costumes in the garage after checking it for the umpteenth time. The label on the box had been somewhat misleading, and she'd thought it was another batch of clothing. BUT. It wasn't. It was my special costumes and I was so thrilled! Turns out, there was also ANOTHER box of fabric. (Oh mom and dad. I'm so sorry....)

Anyhow, no heart attack warranted, my costumes were SAFE, and my sister triumphantly transported them to my house yesterday. After several years of having all of my pieces boxes up and hidden in garment bags, I finally have everything airing out, in easily referenced order, and all of them in the same room. (It's also the basement room that we had just made floodproof, so once I get a transparent dust curtain in place, my costumes will be very well protected.)

I think only my fellow seamstresses will understand what a source of relief and comfort this is to me.

For other seamstress confessions, click here!