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!

Week III: Reproducing Historical Corsets

So, I have designed The Eventide Corset to be a ‘gate-way’ Corset Pattern, to introduce easily the magnificent world of Corsetry! If you have not made a Corset before, or want a challenging Sewing project then the Eventide is a wonderful choice however; I am sure you- like me!- have been lusting after the glorious Historical Corsets I have been sharing on my Wordless Wednesday posts.

It is more than possible to use the Eventide to start your journey in creating wonderful Historical and Historically inspired Corsets, indeed The Eventide is actually taken from an 1880s Corset but has been adapted both for the modern figure and ease of use. A great many of the processes don’t change all that much… the finishing does a lot though!

    

A small selection of Corset Books from my collection. Click on the image to read more/buy. 

You will need to have, or gain, a good grasp of basic Pattern Cutting principles, and the first book I would suggest you invest in is Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

It has an amazing selection of Historical Corset Patterns, taken from extant examples from the beginning of the 16th Century right up to the 20s. I have made many of the Corset Patterns up and they do need to be adjusted for today’s figure, wasp-waisted almost doesn’t cover it!

The Victorian Corsets in particular have the most amazing seaming, as well as details like Cording and Flossing. Extant examples of similar Corsets can be found in many Museums, as well as online using resources from Museums like the V&A and The Met.

    

Images from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

As you can see, there are a few Corset Pattern and Construction Books out there. I have all of the above (and more, I’m addicted!) in my collection and these are the ones I would recommend. Waisted Efforts contains a lot of construction details and techniques whilst The Little Corset Book contains very simple to make Patterns, with a little construction advice, and was the inspiration behind The Little Book of Corset Tips. Jill Salen’s Corsets has Vintage and extant Corset Patterns with details on their original construction and The Basics of Corset Building is a How To Guide.

Almost all of these books will require you to Grade or Scale up the Patterns yourself. They all inform you on how to do this, and more information on this subject can be found here.

I shall be illustrating different methods of making Boning Channels in future posts however; one of the best on-line resources for Corsetry Construction is Foundations Revealed. I highly recommend them if you would like to research or read further in this area.

Whilst many of the techniques of Construction may be familiar, many too will be new. One of these will be Flossing- the decorative stitching at the top and bottom of a Boning Channel. By no means limited to Historical Corsets as it is an excellent way to reinforce and protect the fabric from the Steel Bone rubbing through and creating a hole.

Corset embroidery detail, 1895, Symington Collection, Leicestershire County Council. Black flossing on scarlet longline corset. Victorian Corset Detail by Verdaera.deviantart.com on @deviantART

Some examples of Corset Flossing from Pinterest, click the images for more details. 

As you can see, it can become incredibly decorative!

Cording, which you can see in the above right image, can be used to flexibly support areas of the Corset Boning may not be able to. It’s a simple technique however; I wouldn’t advise it without an exceptionally good domestic Sewing Machine or an Industrial Machine as it is a lot for the machine to sew over. Cording will give support whilst still allowing the wearer to bend and move, which is why is was used historically in predominantly in lower class Corsets.

A lot of this information can be found on-line in the pages of Farthingales, Foundations Revealed, and more. This article on alternative Boning was also a great read.

Well, I’m off to take some pictures of all my wonderful Boning Channels for you luck peeps- there’s so many ways to make a Boning Channel!- and to brush up on my Flossing skills.

Have a lovely afternoon and happy stitching!