Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taking It Easy

I have my 1780s jacket nearly finished, with the exception of the sleeve cuffs and a fichu. I've been procrastinating, truthfully, and I've needed a break from heavy sewing (i.e. costuming) - I've just been petering out. Still desiring to sew (or be creative in some respect) I decided to lay the costume to the side for a moment and direct my sewing efforts toward something easy to bring in the Spring. While gathering up bags of goodies to donate to the thrift store, I held back a blue brocade tablecloth set (which I love but rarely use because I do not like to cover my wood tables). I decided to repurpose them into simple (yet elegant) runners for my foyer and dining pieces:

 - Made patterns from computer paper and newspaper -

 - All cut out and ready to be worked -

 - Created some very simple little tassels for the ends of the runners -

 - I made several of these half runners for my smaller tables -

- This runner looks so lovely on my Danish credenza - 

- The fabric and the color of the runner compliment my blue glass -

To reward myself for a sewing project well-done, I visited the thrift store on Saturday and found a few useful treasures I am excited to put to use:

 - A 17" vase, which will make a delightful centerpiece ($3.99) -

- Costume hats, for sure ($4.99) ...

 - Vintage fringed dress to be repurposed into another garment ($6.99) -

Now that I am creatively refreshed and my sewing mojo has returned, I will be completing my Georgian jacket by week's end. Hummm, I should take it easy more often - ;)

Blessings and happy sewing!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Costuming in Historic Photographic Art

Over the last month, I have presented many wonderful examples of extant costuming - folk, theatrical, and whimsical pieces that give hints and highlights of another era seemingly far removed from our own. These historical examples do not merely reflect the artistic, aesthetic, or skilled craftsmanship of a bygone era (or simply the utility, socioeconomic status, or geographical location of the wearer), although these attributes are certainly necessary in our understanding and appreciation of historical modes of dress. It's more than this, deeper than this. These surviving pieces of extant costume (in remarkable preservation) are evidence of an innate human desire for self-expression. Drama, exhibition, mockery, intimidation, fancy - whatever the case - our ancestral kinfolk were just as enthralled with disguise as we costumers, masqueraders, and reenactors are today.

Aside from paintings, sculptures, and et cetera, or the rare opportunity to examine surviving examples in their respective repositories, the advent of permanent image technology almost two hundred years ago has made available to us an opportunity to study historic costume with greater convenience and within another context: through the photographic lens. My intention here is not debate which visual medium (i.e. painting versus photograph) provides the more genuine view of reality, but rather to demonstrate through an alternative medium how people of history have interpreted, presented, and employed historical modes of dress. 

The following photographs were taken between 1910-1913 by amateur photographers Alfonse Van Besten and  Charles Corbet, who wanted to show that photography had artistic as well as technical value. Their image collections can be viewed in their entireties at Autochromists From Belgium, along side the works of several of their contemporaries. The photographs presented here are copyrighted and courtesy of Florent Van Hoof-Williame.

Alphonse Van Besten - Symphony in White, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Veiled Lady in Abbey Ruins, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Ancient Times, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Grecian Times, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Group Antique Composition, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Innocence, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Lady in Garden, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Japanesesque, 1913

Alphonse Van Besten - Lady on the Garden Bench with Flowers, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Nero Playing the Harp, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Pink and Green Wigs, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Portrait of Lady with Roses, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Purity, 1912

Alphonse Van Besten - Study of Mrs. Van Besten as a Flemish Princess, 1912

Charles Corbet - Young Lady with a Fan, 1910

Charles Corbet - Young Lady with a Fan on Couch, 1910

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Even More Fine Examples of Extant Costuming

I have to remark on the thoughtfulness put into each of the vetements featured here - the construction, the design detail, the fabric choices, and the time it has taken very skilled hands to construct these. Those of us who sew our own garments (or garments for others) have little difficulty understanding and appreciating the time and skill needed to create a wearable piece of art. I am particularity curious about the Romanian folk ensemble (featured last). Here the colors, fabric, and decoration (aside from being magnificent) have significant cultural meaning, which I'd like to know more about. I am amazed by the hand embroidery and appliqué on the vest - very pretty. 

Blessings and happy sewing!

1). Black silk and velvet Elizabethan costume, circa 1890-1909. Metropolitan Museum of Art

2). Ming dynasty warrior costume made of silk, metallic thread, metal, and glass, circa 1770-1790. Metropolitan Museum of Art

3). Multicolor costume silk, lace, cotton, and metal by Maison E. Devause, circa 1880. Metropolitan Museum of Art


 4.) Red silk and metallic trimmed Elizabethan costume, circa 1890. Metropolitan Museum of Art

5). Romanian folk costume made of silk, cotton, wool, and metal, circa 1870-1880. Metropolitan Museum of Art


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Choosing Modern Historically Inspired Shoes

I originally featured this topic on my partner site, the Emerald Parlor, and wanted to bring it here to you. Most of us are not reenactors (who must follow rigid historical guidelines for our costumes), but rather costume enthusiasts, and this allows us greater freedom when choosing accessories to compliment our regalia, especially shoes. But for the costume enthusiast on a budget, shoes can often be the most expensive part of his or her ensemble. There is a pocket friendly alternative to purchasing historical, vintage, or reproduction footwear: the modern department store shoe (carefully selected for its historical-like qualities, of course).

1). I spotted these Anne Klein pumps about a month ago at my local DSW - I was debating on whether I should snap them up, and decided against it, reasoning with fate - if they were there the next time I did a shoe run, it was meant to be and I'd buy them (on clearance for $20). They were, and now they are added to my 1950s-1960s inspired shoe collection. Note the low, slim heel, the pointed toe, the stark ivory patten binding along the top-line (in contrast to the black patten of the shoe), and the chic little ivory patten bow at the toe.

Compared to...

Leather pump by Bruno Magli, 1958. Metropolitan Museum of Art

2). I bought these Nine West suede Oxfords about three years ago from DSW on clearance for $25, and they have served me well. These booties have a 1940s-1950s appeal: the blocky heel, the rounded toe, the key-hole lacing placket across the vamp, the suede leather, and the Oxford design.

Compare to...

Advert from www.glamourdaze. com

Leather booties by C. Nannelli, circa 1954. Brooklyn Museum Collection

3). Again, another DSW find: Bandolino wingtip Mary Jane's for $25 on clearance (noticing a trend, here?) - how can you go wrong? lol! These have a 1920s-1930s flavor: note the round/almond shaped toe, the strap across the upper vamp (and the button on the strap), the (lower) thicker heel, and the wingtip design.

Compared to...

1930s advert compliments of www.eng.shoe-icons.com

Leather oxford by Thomas, circa 1928. Metropolitan Museum of Art

4). These 5th Avenue dress sandals are another recent buy - JC Penny's for $5 (they were 90% off) - which I bought purposely for a late-1920s suit I would like to make for late spring. These have an easy 1920s-1930s flavor to them: the low heel, the two-toned leather, the closed toe and heel design (with open sides), the T-strap and buckle closure, and the round/almond shaped toe. 

Compared to...

Silk dress sandal by N. Greco, circa 1926. Metropolitan Museum of Art

1930s avert compliments of www.slv.vic.gov.au

5). Here are a pair of Mainframe fashion leather boots I purchased in 1998 at Sears for $10 on clearance (I bought these specifically for a late-Victorian costume I made). Note the historically inspired characteristics of this boot: (soft) pointed toe, front (or side) button detail, low French-style heel, and ankle length boot shaft.

Compared to...

Leather black boots by Hellstern and Sons, circa 1900-1910. Brooklyn Museum Collection

 6). These Easy Street pumps were bought yesterday at DSW (on clearance for $18) as an Edwardian dress pump. Since April marks the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, several of the girls and I are making evening dresses for the occasion and going to dinner. I was worried I would not find a suitable pair of shoes - then Viola! Note the (low) thicker heel, the slim design of the shoe, the pointed toe, and the bow decoration.

Compared to...

Satin evening pumps by Nancy Haggerty, circa 1918. Brooklyn Museum Collection

Satin wedding shoes, 1903.V&A Museum

7). I also bought these Life Stride black pumps yesterday at DSW on clearance for $18 (indeed, I was on a shoe buying binge). What is interesting about this shoe style is that I can use it for two very different fashion eras - late-Georgian/early-Romantic and late-Victorian. Note the historically inspired shape: the long, slim design of the shoe, the flat squared toe, the short, thick (French) heel, and the straight, flat line of the shoe's sole (there's no apparent arch).

Compared to...

Dress slipper (English), circa 1860. Brooklyn Museum Collection

Silk slipper, circa 1785-1800.Metropolitan Museum of Art

8). This pair of black leather BCBG pumps I bought at DSW (no surprise there!) for $14 on clearance. I did not buy these for costume, but rather for work - but as fashion trends dictate, they went out of style with my ever changing wardrobe, so I recycled these 1700s inspired cuties to my costume closet. Note the long pointed toe and the elevated French heel:

Compared to...

Of course, none of my modern shoe examples are exact in all historical aspects of their inspired (or ascribed) shoe era, but they do have key design attributes that make them usable for historically inspired costume. The trick is to know what makes a Victorian shoe a “Victorian shoe”, or what makes a 1940s bootie a “1940s bootie”. Making note of these style details will help you in choosing an appropriate modern alternative to an historical, vintage, or reproduction shoe.

Happy sewing!