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!

Sale!!

I have reduced the price of ALL my Mini Top Hat Kits on Etsy!! I need to clear some space for Winter stock, so grab yourself a bargain now!!

pink hat 2 red 2 red vin 2 tweed 1# white 2 white wed 1

All of these beauties, and more!, available on the Laura After Midnight Etsy store right now!

They make excellent Christmas presents for someone who is learning to sew, or sews but would maybe like a little challenge, or would like to perfect their hand sewing skills. The pattern can be used again and again- so brilliant if you are planning a wedding or event- and they are just so gosh darn delightful! I have displayed the ones I have made on stands about my workroom, and they look so pretty!

I’m planning all sorts of new ones for the Winter, so these need a home soon! If you see a couple you like, make me an offer via Etsy… I’m sure I could offer group discount too!

When you buy anything from Laura After Midnight you get a little email gift (£2.00 off when you spend £10.00), as well as a little something sent in the package too! How sweet is that?!

Happy stitching!

Found on a Friday

MossSkirt  elisalex

The Moss Skirt from Grainline Studio, the Jasmine top from Colette, and the Elisalex Dress from By Hand of London all independent Pattern manufacturers. 

Owning your own business is an ever changing landscape. I find myself constantly evolving, questioning and developing to new demands. In this, my 2nd year of Laura After Midnight, I have really run into some stumbling blocks. I know why, and I am scrambling to rectify the situation however; it has taught me some very valuable lessons. The first of which is: have and maintain targets.

Last year I had a clearly defined goal in place: to make £50 a month from Etsy sales, to blog at least once a week and to do one Vintage Market.

These simple targets propelled me through the year magnificently. They were simple. They were clear and concise. They were achievable (although I didn’t think so at the time!).

This year I have only just put my targets in place. I think I have struggled because I am slowly ‘turning a corner’. I am making money from what was formerly essentially a hobby, all be it a paying hobby, but something I did in my spare time none the less. People are starting to talk about me and my products, I am getting requests and lovely feedback from customers and my ‘brand’ is developing. I am about to get (fingers and toes crossed) my first pieces of press in place. I have stockists. All of this has I think, slightly scared me!, and I have spent almost half of the year in free fall just trying to catch up with it all.

So, on to targets and what I have just discovered today.

1. To make £100 a month from Etsy sales. Not much I know however; my sales have been flagging this year so I would like to keep this target achievable.

2. To have a stall at at least 8 Christmas Vintage and Craft Markets throughout November and December. I have a sub category target for this: I want to make £1500 from these markets in that time frame.

3. To release more Kits, including my first Sewing Kit with Pattern as well as more smaller ‘gift’ Kits.

There, wasn’t so hard after all!! It was in writing these out that I started to wonder how people like Colette, By Hand of London, Sewaholic and Grainline Studio et al manage to design, create and afford to print their own patterns. So, to Google!

It would appear there are several options out there, and that it is not that expensive. The Sewing Directory helped with a post about smaller batches of independent Sewing and Craft Patterns, which lead me to SewPrint.uk  where the minimum order can be as low as 50, at £1.20 per piece which is well within affordability for me. This has galvanised me in to action, and I have decided that the Laura After Midnight Pattern and Kit range should be almost exclusively ‘alternative’. This is in response to the many questions I get teaching classes, on my Facebook page and here about making things such as historical Men’s waistcoats, Top Hats, Corsets, and historical/Vintage dresses.

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The Robson Coat  from Sewaholic, the lovely Belle Bow Blouse from In House Patterns and the simply gorgeous Grace Hipster Panties from Ohhh Lulu.

I am already designing a Spats Kit, which will be available as a full Kit with fabric and buttons, as well as a Pattern with instruction booklet which can be bought as a hard copy or as a downloadable PDF (I’ll get Fellas help with that lol!). I am also developing a Corset Kit based around my lovely Victorian pattern, which I have developed over the years to fit and mould the modern form beautifully. This too will be available in the three different versions above. Other ideas include Tap Pants and Fitted Victorian Waistcoats amongst others.

I think this is an excellent place to start, as I can design, develop and print these initial patterns myself. It will allow me to get a feel for the market, and see if there is a customer base for alternative patterns like these. I know that there are already companies offering Patterns like these however; they very rarely come with full instructions, and if they do they are never illustrated. the patterns themselves are often a straight copy of the historical garment, with little or no concession to the modern form and on the whole not many of them are accessible to the beginner… and that is predominantly my customer base. I’d also like to utilize my Pattern Cutting skills and make then available in many sizes, for every figure!

So, this is what I have found this Friday… my target, and some wonderful pattern and pattern printing companies (for a bigger list click here or here). Do have a look at some of them, they’re really excellent, and designing Patterns which are unique and often very simple to make up. I am slightly obsessed with the quirky way in which they package their Patterns and instruction!

What have you found this Friday?

Happy stitching!

Fascinating Feedback!

I have just received the first feedback from a Fascinator Kit I sent out as part of a give away on Facebook for Laura After Midnight. If you shared or ‘liked’ the image of my new Fascinator Kits you got put in to a hat to be sent one! The response was phenomenal, & everyone seemed to love the idea of the dinky & oh so pretty Fascinator Kits.

The ones I sent out to the lucky winners were the first design, since then I have added a pattern sheet with three different patterns to follow. There is now a choice of Tear Drop, Circle or Heart, & of course I have changed to packaging slightly to reflect the ‘look’ of Laura After Midnight. They are now branded as a product, & I think they fit in well with the Mini Top hat Kits.

Fan of Fascinators 1   Fasc Kit 1

Above shows the first design & packaging concept on the left, with the new look Fascinator Kit on the right. 

A5 Equipment and Supplies    Pattern Sheet

The above shows the original Pattern Sheet with Supplies on the left, & how it looks now. Much clearer!

So it is with many, many thanks to Adele W that I share the following images! Adele has photographed them beautifully on her favourite Vintage plate & is extremely happy with the result… as am I!

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”Hi Laura… As you can see the result is wonderful.

It is fun n flirty and was incredibly straightforward to make. I thought the birdcage veil was very clever (I’ve definitely learnt something new there).

I even think I have found some dress fabric to make an outfit (just need the right occasion now).”

ADELE 4

ADELE 6   ADELE 1

Thank you so much for the amazing review, & wonderful photographs; yet again you have come up with a way to use the ribbons and decoration provided in a way I wouldn’t! I am looking forward to seeing you all put together with an outfit to match!

I am always looking for people to try my Kits out, it is wonderful to have the feedback from complete strangers, people new to the craft or just enthusiastic sewers alike. As I am currently developing Press Packs for these little darlings the feedback I have received has certainly helped me develop the Kits, iron out any language barriers (as a long term seamstress I sometimes forget steps which are obvious to me, but not so to others! A hazard of my trade I am learning!!), & generally make me a little more confident in the product.

I look forward to sharing more images from the other winners as I receive them.

Happy stitching!

This is the second Kit Adele has given feedback for. Her first was a Black Silk Mini Top Hat Kit.

New stitches

I thought I’d share what I have been working on in my downtime this week. I’ve really gotten into embroidery over the last few months, and I am excited to try my remembered skills out on my Mini Top Hats!

I am making quite a few Mini Top Hats at the moment as my Etsy shop is sadly lacking in this department…

white hat 1 white hat 2

I get quite a lot of messages on Etsy about commissions for White Silk Mini Top Hats, so I thought I’d make up this little number. As the wedding season is fast approaching, I have made it a little more romantic than I normally might but I have to say I am very pleased with the result. The flowers are appliqued, then embroidered over. I shall probably add in some beads as well for the texture.

When I have finished decorating I still have to trim… can’t decide if I want feathers or not but I am definitely going to add in a buttoned on Birdcage Veil. I haven’t done one in a  while & in looking back over my Etsy sales they were popular, & look fantastic with the added bonus that they can be removed.

I also have a couple Mini Top Hat Kits in White Silk, & wanted some example photographs to show people what can be done with the plainer kits. I have been surreptitiously listening in to the conversations customers have about my little kits & one of the notes seems to be that the more colourful  Kits really stand out but the plain black or white look a little dull, & they wonder what to do with them! Hopefully this will inspire…

Happy stitching!

Bath Artisan Market

Tomorrow I shall be at the biggest market I have shown at to date! Somewhat disappointingly I have been unable to finish my capsule collection of dresses for it as I had hoped however; this is because I displayed some restraint & decided to make them immaculately rather than rush as I normally would… so in the end it’s good news as I shall soon be able to look forward to photographing my first model shoot outside of Film or Theater work! Yay!! Of course I have to find my model first, which is proving surprisingly difficult, but interesting.

In the mean time I have the following to show you. The very beautiful flier for The Bath Artisan market:

BAM-March-FLYER-final

They have just released the line up of bands and they sound great! I shall definitely be letting you all know how this goes!!

Secondly this:

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How crazy awesome is this hat?! It has been residing on the mantel piece in my living room, & every time I am bored I have been adding more & more detailing to it! It will be debuting tomorrow, & I shall list it on Etsy if it isn’t snapped up by some lucky lady. I have been getting a lot of commission orders for bespoke Mini Top Hats- which start at £45.00, & ship in 7-10 days so get your order in for the Summer wedding season!!

Lastly:

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New packaging for my Fascinator Kits! Isn’t it adorable? They look like delightful little chocolates, all ready to be snapped up. They too are debuting tomorrow & I can’t wait to see the reaction they get.

It’s all happenin’ here at Midnight Heights, wish me luck!

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!