A week in the life of a Costume Maker!

The last week has been incredibly hectic, with not one but three huge Costumes being made in the Studio. The first was another for Celebrity Cruises who wanted the Evil Enchantress Costume I made up earlier this year in Blue…

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The Collar was again constructed by hand using layers of Crin, Net, Calico and Blue Lycra (the base fabric of the Costume) with the addition of those fab Laser Cut Butterflies.

Each Butterfly is individually sewn on, which as you can imagine take quite a while. Indeed, I had someone just on Butterfly duty!

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Front, side and back of the final Costume. The Skirt is separate for ease and a Quick Change. I’m not sure, but I think I like the version better than the Black one!

In total this Costume took about 100 hours and three people to create however; we only had three days so you can imagine how quick we were stitching!

The second order was two Georgian Dresses for a Media Ball. Again, a little bit of a rush job but with myself and my trusty seamstress assistants we just about managed it.

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One was a delicate and flouncy affair, with Silk Ribbons, gorgeous Linen Toile du Juoy Underskirt, delicate silken Pinked and Scalloped Ruffle and Satin Bows.

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The second was a darkly Gothic creation made from lovely, heavy striped Velvet with a dark Purple line which inspired the dark Purple Silken Pinked and Pleated Ruffle with Black Satin Bows and Black Lace detailing across the Bodice and Front of the Skirt.

With over 10 meters of Boning in each Bodice, over 20 meters of trim in each and taking about 80 hours to create these were managed in a 2 and a half day period as a last minute order. We stitched until the last possible moment, but these fair ladies made it to the Ball!

After a few days off to look after my Husband who has just had an operation I shall be back at the Sewing Machine on my next order… but also at the drawing board for a huge Costume Design Commission I will be building in the new year, eek!

Happy stitching!

18th Century gorgeous-ness.

So, a few years ago when I was about half way through my Costume Degree I decided to take a trip across the UK and visit as many Costume Collections as I could. Some eluded me because of refurbishments and opening times mainly however; it took about a month but I saw some amazing things, met some wonderful people and thought I would slowly start to share some of the amazing pictures I collected along the way with you.

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1700-20 Waistcoat – Fine linen top and coarse linen underneath, quilted all over with cream 20 ply silk in back stitch. Design of small feathers and ‘rose window’ marguerites threaded with twisted sheep’s wool. Ground of small lozenges. Fronts curve away – slashed at sides and centre back. Sleeveless. 9 eyelets over sewn for front  [Stomacher is missing] lacing.

The first is this simply stunning Waistcoat, still my favourite piece from any collection I have seen (and I’ve seen many around the World!) however; I hadn’t noticed its awe inspiring beauty until the Curator, Althea Mackenzie, lifted the piece and the cold blue light of the mid-morning sun illuminated the expert craftsmanship.

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We had been gazing at Quilted Petticoats from the late 1700’s at the Wade Collection for some hours, and this piece was just one in many but it still resonates with me. I have long been a fan of Quilting as a decorative form- having been taught to sew through Patchwork and Quilting- and this is the finest example of that I have ever had the pleasure to be in the presence of. A Ladies waistcoat, dated 1710, with subtle flaring and two slits at the back to allow for the fullness of the skirt, this is just longer than hip length and the curve at the front would have also slightly flared out over the skirts. Gorgeous.

Similar to a Gentlemans waistcoat I have cut of the same period, I long to re-create it for myself! It is exquisitely quilted, with hand worked eyelets and genuinely has to be one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen in my life. They really could make fabric do things I think we have now forgotten- the neckline would have gently but oh so slightly turned back on itself when wearing, as would have the bottom hem line under the lacing. The combination of Quilting and Backstitch also interests me, and I think contributes to the Embroidered feel. Lovely. There are more Quilted Waistcoats out there, Killerton holds a particularly stunning one which has a slight contrast colour in the stitching.

I have a storage box stuffed full of similar images, and I shall start to sift through them and share the unusual (burnt and blackened Corsets found in a Chimney and Thatch, which was a slight trend amongst the Victorians’!), the beautiful (some hand painted silk with the stencil still showing) and more. I shan’t follow a time line, but pick and choose as I please!

I do hope you find this as lovely as I do… any collections suggestions? I shall be travelling across Europe later this year and would love suggestions any where!

Happy stitching!

Birthday sparkles!!

It is my birthday today!!

My gorgeous Fella has made Laura After Midnight all official & purchased my domain name… so now Laura After Midnight is a ‘dot com’!! I feel a little bit grown up!!

In other news, I have added a Custom Spats listing to my Etsy store… this means anyone can purchase any spats they like by buying this option & messaging me with their requests. How fancy is that?! I shall be adding more as necessary so remember to check back with my Etsy store… click the picture for the link!

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With that I am off to make a lovely cup of Earl Grey tea & eat far too much cake!

Happy stitching!!

New poster!

I’m going to paint the town red with them!

About a week ago I had to brush up on my long dormant Photoshop skills. Truth be told, I hadn’t used Photoshop in about a decade… was it even Photoshop back then?! & I just fell in love with it. So much so that I have finally gotten around to designing myself some, if I say so myself, awesome fliers, a poster & business card.

They all feature my delightfully naive illustration style (naive, not rushed… it’s all in the marketing!), & in designing these I had to set myself the task of working with Black & white only as I do not yet have the resources to print colour fliers however; I think they sum up Laura After Midnight really rather well. I’m still tweaking the wording but I’m really happy with them.

I’m going to start placing them tomorrow, wish me luck!

Happy stitching!

Sky Blue Mini Tricorn Hat Commission

Just thought I’d quickly share some pictures of a beautiful Sky Blue Mini Tricorn Hat I’ve just finished for a customer…

 

                               

Made from 100% Sky Blue Cotton, overlaid with slightly darker net, this features Vintage Lace carefully cut out and hand mounted to reflect the shape of the hat. The lace is echoed across the brim on 100% Ivory Shantung Silk, which has been flipped up and secured with one delightfully industrial Vintage metal button, and two very cute 50s Kingfisher Blue and Gold buttons.

A true one of a kind piece- I have no more of the lace- this lovely little creation has a silk rosette, pearl and Swarovski crystal charms and the customary Laura After Midnight embroidered lining.

I am always delighted to make up something unique for a customer, and welcome future commissions.

Happy stitching!

Wedding flair!

After embracing twitter (follow me @midnightlaura), I discovered the wonderful Off Beat Bride (@off beatbride) website. They have a whole section of ‘wedding porn’ which includes anything from JR & Mikes Spontaneous Steampunk Wedding to Chayla and Corey’s Gothic Garden Wedding… take a look, they’re amazing!

Inspired by all of this, and not a little bit envious, I’ve created a delightful little Mini Top Hat perfect if you are getting married in a unique or ‘off beat’ kinda way, or just want something beautiful, handmade & delicious atop your head if attending a wedding this summer…

White Silk with Pearls Mini Top Hat

Entirely hand stitched this pure white elegant little hat is made from Silk with Pearl detailing. To one side it has a beautiful piece of Antique Corset Lace carefully mounted, with a feather artfully sweeping around the brim. This side has been buttoned up with a Vintage Art Deco button which has a lovely pearlescent finish. A folded satin hat band completes this beautiful creation.

Inside this little hat has been finished with a striking black hat band, & the embroidered Laura After Midnight lining. Supplied with a Pearl Hat Pin, I can also sew in a comb or clip.

Click here to purchase a little piece of scrumptious hand made millinery!

White Silk with Pearls Mini Top Hat White Silk with Pearls Mini Top Hat White Silk with Pearls Mini Top Hat

Happy stitching!

New listings on Etsy…

Laura After Midnight on Etsy is growing! I love some of my new products, especially the gorgous dove grey pinstripe waistcoat with its unique lining.

Take a peek & treat yourself…

Grey Pinstripe Fitted Victorian Waistcoat Grey Pinstripe Fitted Victorian Waistcoat Grey Pinstripe Fitted Victorian Waistcoat

100% Fine Cotton Pinstripe Grey Waistcoat, this dinky little fitted waistcoat is cut high on the waist. Curving gracefully towards the points at the front this is designed to be worn over shirts or dresses, & has been inspired by Victorian & Edwardian Gentlemens’ Waistcoats. With subtle design flourishes like contrast kingfisher blue stitching on the vintage buttons, which is carried through to the lining this is a lovely item of clothing, & the first for Laura After Midnight.

Made to order, at just £46 this ships in two weeks. Click here to buy https://www.etsy.com/listing/100076130/grey-pinstripe-fitted-victorian

Happy stitching!

 

Worth and Mainbocher online exhibition.

In 1860, Englishman Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895) founded a Parisian atelier that defined the luxurious standards of the haute couture and set high fashions stylistic course for the balance of the 19th century…

Well worth a quick peek, this is from an online exhibition bringing you works from Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895) & Mainbocher (Main Rousseau Bocher 1891-1976), the ‘masters of Haute Couture’. Exploring the ‘garments’ histories, details &  construction from the inside out’ this is a fabulous resource in to someone like Worth whose work I have seen very little of over the years. It seems to be cloistered away for fear of damage when possibly the real damage is the hiding away of such pieces of art work. My favorite is the above, a Wedding Dress from December 1878. They have provided background on the piece, as well as construction and fabric details:

The Victorian formula for the virginal white wedding gown—orange blossoms and tulle—is challenged here by the rich cherry clusters of the dress made for Annie Schermerhorn. The silk tape fringe and elaborate pearl embroidery underscore an elegance closely aligned with the house’s ball gowns. Although wedding protocol closely delineated the rare exceptions under which one could re-wear a wedding gown—foremost being presentation at the Court of Saint James—the opulent beauty of this design must have presented countless temptations for a repeat wearing. 

There are  several detailed close ups of each piece, with further information attached. It’s quite the treasure trove & I haven’t even touched on Mainbocher!

http://collections.mcny.org/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MNYO28_2

Take a look.

Happy stitching!

Laugh a minute those Victorians!

Mistress: “Here is a three and a half minute glass Bridget; you may boil eggs with it.”

Bridget (five minutes later): “The eggs is done, ma’am, but I have me doubts about the glass.”

(Really this is just my excuse to treat you to some truly awful jokes- I am sure they thought so too- but some truly lovely photos of Victorians laughing. We see them looking happy so infrequently. . . )

Happy stitching!

The Victorian Aesthetic.

From the BBCs new series of Sherlock & it’s filmic counterpart, from The Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec to the passion for Steampunk, Victorian inspired design seems to haunt me wherever I look nowadays.

Dredging up memories of my History of Dress class at University I remember two distinct aesthetics from this period, one the reaction to the other & whilst I adore the theory & passion behind Rosetti, Morris & Burne Jones to name but a few, it is the more mainstream fashion from this time which is piquing my interest at the moment.

So it is with glee I turn to my old friends The Cut of Women’s Clothes, Corsets & Crinolines, Taste & Fashion, & the many other books I have collected over the years on this very subject. I want to refresh the basic principles you see, readdress my design ethos if you will and generally re-energize my inspiration.

In taking myself back to the source material I hope to emerge with new & interesting ideas on how to wear Victorian and Victorian inspired clothing today, & of course pick up some handy hints!

The ‘cuirasse’ bodice started the beautiful back seams of the early 1870s, in response to the need for a closer fit. The ‘front of the bodice was still fitted by darts, but as the sides were on the cross grain a horizontal waistline dart, taken from the bust dart to the side seam, lifted the material back to the straight to give a good fit around the hips’. Handy hint number one, & my thanks to The Cut of Women’s Clothes! I simply adore the labored seams in the back of the bodices from this period, they so beautifully emphasize the line & curve of a lady, & can easily be manipulated to work to her advantage.

The 1860s actually saw the first bustle skirt, & by the 1870s these only had fullness at the center back which is what we are most used to seeing nowadays. The over skirt ‘was at first just caught up on the seams, & at the back tapes were sewn inside & at the waist which, when tied together, pulled the material into puffs’. This is a tried & tested look & I am sure we have all seen modern examples of this as well as extant. The ‘fourreau’ or ‘tie-back’ dress came next which used the basic lines of the cuirasse bodice & had tapes sewn into the side seams which tied center back  to draw the dress close in to the figure; honestly some of these dresses look as wonderful on the inside as they do on the outside. Effectively the over skirt which was previously puffed now pleated and fell.

Tailor made jackets with matching skirts became the fashion in the 1880s, & it is understandable why they are the popular choice when wanting to wear something Victorian today, the cuirasse bodice cut higher on the hips to allow for the return of beautiful drapery which, in previous styles, had ‘been produced largely by the cut of the skirt itself, in the 1880’s the draperies & decorations were all separate pieces arranged on to a foundation skirt’.  Another useful insight!

What I am noticing in all of this, & have been for some time now, is the decoration, the pleats, the pin tucks, the bows & general loveliness! I find this is sometimes missing from their modern counterparts, which is a real shame as oftentimes this is the most beautiful part. I think I shall delve further into the adornment from this period, as I am finding it really most interesting.

Now, obviously I am swinging with great abandon through about 40 years of history here however; it is having the desired effect & I can feel my creative juices flowing! In my experience anything can be used for inspiration & I am currently trying to gather enough to inform my designs to move forward. In starting Laura After Midnight I thought that years of pent up frustration at having to interpret others ideas would break free & I’d easily be able to dash up a collection. This has not been the case & I find that, after a number of very frustrating weeks, I am to start from the beginning and gather inspiration as I would for any other job the only difference is that I am now the ‘Director’!

I want Laura After Midnight to do something new & different, something innovative & interesting and I am hoping that my costuming background will help. As I have said, a lot of modern Victorian reinterpretations miss out the most delightful things of this period & for this reason I am starting with pleats & pin tucks, with handmade flowers & hand stitching, with lace of all varieties & visually arresting seam lines & simple natural fabrics like lawns & silks.

I have also made the decision to start on the small things and work my way up. . . expect my range of silk flower corsages, mini top hats & other frippery & finery to adorn & delight to come out in the next few weeks.

Following that, I have some rather exciting ideas for waistcoats I cannot wait to get started!

Happy stitching!