Hail to the King!

Midnight Costume Services is finally at the end of a long run of Costumes for an Entertainment Park, and this job comes to a close with a Panto! Dick Whittington… and I thought I’d share the process of making some of the pieces, like King Rats Tail Coat!

Easily my favorite Costume to make so far, I decided to loosely Hand Tailor the Tailcoat to support a couple of incredibly dramatic Shoulder Pads. To get the right look I played about with layering existing Shoulder Pads and felt but in the end- even though it was more work- I had to resort to a more traditional technique and ended up layering the felt in decreasing sizes to build up a pointed, exaggerated Shoulder. As you can see in the first picture using the existing Shoulder Pads looked super clunky!

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Using a mixture of hand stitching, machine stitching and a little bit of glue, each Shoulder Pad has about 20 layers of felt and is quite malleable, allowing me to gently sculpt a curve. I haven’t some this in a while and I was super pleased with the results!

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I found some (pretty disgusting, but amazing for the purpose!) quilted fabric which I thought looked a little like Bin Bags… it’s the kinda thing I thought the King of Rats’ would have a tailored jacket out of!! In a concession to the performers I created the sleeves from a stretch Leather- which is why they look a little like they’re pulling- but means the Jacket will fit multiple performers and wont restrict movement.

The mannequin this is pictured on is a little too large, but I think it still looks majestic!

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I find Panto a difficult beast to design for, I want to do character analysis to find their motivation and design around that, which doesn’t really work here. It’s all a bit too tongue in cheek, shiny and primary coloured for me but in starting with King Rat I helped myself a lot! Deciding that as a character he would have had quilted and embroidered bin bags fashioned in to a Tailcoat got me on my way.

I also fashioned medals and ribbons for the lapel, because of course he would be decorated!, and used lace and matt black sequins to applique and embroider detailing in the lapel and jacket. With a final sprinkling of darkly glittery hot stones and a Top Hat I think he turned out to be quite the dandy!

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The hat was hand stitched and created using strips and fragments from the Tail Coat machine embroidered on, with layers of sparkly net and sequins overlayed. Slightly battered- he does live in the sewers after all!-the ears were made from faux fur, a lot of dye and sprayed dye.

As I have a commission to create a White and Gold Louis XVI Sun King Tail Coat I am really pleased this turned out so well. The Sun King Tail Coat will have to be much more viciously tailored to create a base for a spectacular Gold Feathered Shoulder Piece, and I can’t wait to share it!!

Happy stitching!

Wordless Wednesday

This weeks Wordless Wednesday is of my own work! This is Maya from Borderlands 2… I’m pretty happy with my work and the Client loves it!!! 

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In direct contravention of Wordless Wednesday rules I’m going to tell you a little about it!

Commissioned by a Client in Australia, this took me about twice as long as I thought because of the pieced nature of the ‘Body’. Yup, you may not have noticed but that baby is just shy of 50 pieces of individually patterned and cut Lycra, Satin and layered Lycra with Mesh. Yes, yes I am mad! In fact I’m so mad that, when the first wasn’t working… … I scrapped it and started another. I’m so pleased I did because this is a whole tonne better!

After patterning (using the Basic Bodice Block, then the Basic Swimwear Blocks with adaptations), I patterned the Costume as best I could using source material the Client had sent and looking at what other CosPlayers’ had managed. Because this is from a Game, I noticed that the illustration took a few liberties with reality to I had to adjust parts! Once Patterned, the pieces were cut and sewn together using my Dress Form to cope with the pieces… I’m not going to lie, a few were almost sewn on upside down because it is so complicated!

The Trousers were the easiest part, and once everything was made I got to break it down and make it dirty! I love that part!!

Everyone who has popped their head around The Midnight Atelier’s doors has gotten a peek in the last few months and I was enormously pleased with the compliments. Mainly because, as I am not a Gamer myself, I was worried it looked ok!

I have to say that I think this takes place of the 17th Century Wedding Dress I created- and had to put a bullet hole in to!- as my favourite Costume I have ever made. It’s just so unusual and uses one of my best skills- Pattern Drafting.

I am sure I shall be sharing a few more pictures of the creative process soon, but for now I though you’d like to see the sort of thing you can Commission from me! Up next are two stunning Edwardian Skirts for a Client in America! Yay!!

Happy stitching!

Lovely new dresses!

 

Introducing a small selection from the forthcoming range of Dresses I have been working on here at The Midnight Atelier!

The first is a lovely, light cotton Dress with a Scalloped Neckline both Back and Front, and gathered skirt. The bodice is fully lined, and this can be made up in any size, colour or pattern! I can’t wait to show you one made up in a plainer fabric as the Bodice has a beautiful Fan Dart detail… this look especially beautiful with a petticoat, which will also be available soon.

I think this look would be stunning for a group of Bridesmaids, in matching or different colours!

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Next up is this really scrumptious take on a Wiggle Dress! With it’s Fan Bust Darts, beautiful scooped V-Neck and Tulip Skirt this is a truly stunning dress. I have used the last of my Navy Cherry print for this, and can only lament I didn’t have enough to make it in my size!

This style too can be made in any colour, size or pattern- and looks great on a fuller figure!

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Lastly, is this stunning 60’s inspired Cocktail Dress made from Duchess Satin and Polka Dot Net. Fully lined and Interlined with Net- so the Tulip Skirt holds it’s shape beautifully- this dress is really lovely.

Hand finished with a row of Stab Stitched across the front, the Polka Dot Net has been backed for strength but is still see-through, and dips very attractively at the back!

This style best suits Satins and Silks however it too can be made in any size or colour.

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I shall be premièring the full collection soon however; orders are being taken now. Please do not hesitate to contact me… laura@lauraaftermidnight.com.

Don’t forget to add yourself to the Newsletter for news on my Open Studio, Bristol Sewing Club, new products and Markets!

Happy stitching!

Studio Snippets

Today I thought I would share some images of some gorgeous Medieval inspired Costumes I Designed and Made Up a couple months ago. I think I am in love with quilting again, and intend to make up some Bolero Jackets and Spats featuring this rather elaborate technique…

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This is a technique I have employed before for Historical Costumes. Not only is it accurate (-ish, I do it by Machine), it is a cost effective trick to create a brilliantly elaborate piece!

I first made a Paper Pattern for the Doublet, then drew the Quilted Design on to it to make sure it would work, and that I liked it. It is very easy to become a little too intricate so drawing out the pattern is a very good exercise! I then- somewhat free hand- drew the Pattern on to the Jerkin with tailors chalk, making slight adjustments to ensure it matched both sides because there were to be eyelets and lacing down the front and a seam at the back.

I backed the Blue Linen with very thin wadding and a lining- cut about 10cm larger than the Linen as there is to be expected some amount of movement when machine quilting- then started in the middle with the circles and worked outwards. When employing this technique I use a medium large stitch on my sewing machine and just take it slow. The whole jacket took about 7 hours to quilt in full but I am so pleased with the results, and can’t wait to see pictures of it in action!

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Above is some fabric I created for a Dark Queen Costume around the same time as the Doublet. I made it up on to a Waspie for the Costume, which looked just fantastic.

I worked with some Black Coutil for the base, then placed two layers of Gold Lace, a layer of Matt Black Sequinned Lace on top. I then Machine Stitched in Gold to outline the Pattern of the Sequins. This looked simply gorgeous and I fully intend to create a full length, Victorian Corset using the technique. It only took a couple hours because tracing around the outline of the Sequin pattern was done semi-freehand.

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I think I am becoming a little ‘known’ for my Machine Embroidery techniques!!

This above is a sample of some freehand machine embroidery I created for Dark Queens costume. I adapted and echoed the pattern from the Sequinned Lace and added in my own embellishments to create this piece of fabric which was ultimately cut up in to little strips!

Whilst machine embroidery is a relatively quick technique- which is why I use it so frequently in my Costumes, as if done correctly it can look like Medieval style hand embroidery or Black Work- it can still take time and I think I spent about 20 hours Quilting and Embroidering for this commission! I was quite content though, and adore the out come.

If you like the look of Machine Embroidery, why not check out Bristol Sewing Club to learn? I am also working on a handy little Zine full of hints and tips for the budding Machine Embroiderer too. I think it is a wonderful thing to master and can be used so many different ways.

Happy stitching!

Strictly (Victorian) Ballroom!

I have just finished the Victorian Ball Gown commission, in a flurry of last minute details as always! We changed a few things from the original illustration, mainly due to time constraints however; I love the final garment!

The skirt, the pattern for which was from Truly Victorian– which my client had already purchased otherwise I would have been drafting one from The Cut of Women’s Clothes by Norah Waugh- went together like a dream! It took about two hours to cut out because it has about six meters of fabric in it which I would caution anyone making something like this about… you need space! It sewed up in only a couple of hours though which is amazing to me as I am used to taking a lot longer to not only figure out what the pattern is asking me to do (historical & ‘hand made’ patterns not always having the clearest of instructions), but also to maneuver that amount of fabric through my sewing machine! Thank the stars for industrial machines!!


The corset was drafted from a pattern I already had made up from Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh. This book was a revelation to me, & I use it constantly for both reference & drafting corsets of all styles. If you haven’t come across it already here is the blurb from the jacket:

Corsets & Crinolines is a study of the changing shapes of women’s dress & how these were produced, how simple laced bodices became corsets of cane, whale-bone & steel, while padding at shoulders & hips gave way to the structures of farthingales, hoops & bustles. Added are contemporary tailors & dressmakers accounts, illustrations, index, a glossary of terms & materials, appendices on the repair & manufacture of corsets and crinolines.

Obviously some changes have to be made when drafting from the book to fit both the modern body & different body shapes & sizes however; once done nothing compares to the 1880’s corset I use from this book. The pattern is below, & I simplify it slightly for the modern form making the curves a little less severe, straightening the front top line out & shortening it slightly so as not to dig in to the wearers hips. My client didn’t want a busk, which was the biggest change from the original  & makes the curves less obvious. The fit was perfect, & the graceful curves of the corset really accentuated her curves.

We layered the fabrics for the corset, to create an interesting texture & look. Using Coutil, of course, for the base fabric, a modern crinkle Taffeta overlayed with an interesting ‘watered’ look Net. Obviously this made the sewing up more difficult but I am more than happy with the results.

Some hints when making a multi-layered corset: baste the layers together by hand once they are cut out, & write the piece name in white fabric pencil on the back at the top of each piece- I do this with every corset because the pieces are incredibly easy to confuse & I hate, just hate, to unpick things!

Probably most of the work was done in decoration & finishing details. We added lace sections to the bottom edge of the corset, for a more decorate flossing detail, a net ruffle to the top & strings of beads. To the skirt we added a bias cut band of black velvet & meters of lace trim, instead of the original, more complicated design along the hem. I think this look is simply stunning, & I shall definitely be using it again!!

It really was a truly satisfying commission, & I now have a few more booked for the following months which is a dream. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Happy stitching!