Wednesday, February 29, 2012

End of February Already!

I think I read somewhere that the older you get, the more quickly time seems to pass since each year represents a smaller and smaller fraction of your overall years lived. Like when you're five, a year represents, well, a whole fifth of your life, so waiting to turn six seems like ages. Makes sense to me...and also February is an especially short month. Anyway, here are some links I've enjoyed this last month: 

  • I really appreciated this blog post about conquering knits from Lladybird, because even though I started sewing on knits, sometimes I fall into a wovens rut and get scared of knits all over again. Her post contains lots of helpful hints about sewing stretchy fabrics successfully. 
  • Made by Rae posted about Pinterest and photo copyrights. I don't have kids whose faces I want to hide from teh interwebs, and I don't think anyone is pinning photos of Walnut, but it's definitely a good question for those of us who create things. I'll be interested to see what Ben's reply is. 
  • Simple Simon & Co. talked about lessons learned from sewing. I can totally identify with all of these! Especially #5, as I can be quite a perfectionist, and therefore quite hard on myself.
  • I don't think I ever had thoughts about the word "dainty," as broached by Peter at Male Pattern Boldness, but my mom definitely tried to impress on me the Chinese equivalent, being 斯文, that is, polite and gentle and refined and cultured and, when used to describe a female, ladylike. Which if you lump that all together, is essentially "dainty" without the frills and ruffles. I like that a lot better. I may not always be ladylike, but I would like to always be the rest of those.
  • Not sewing related, but I appreciated these thoughts about how the Asian-American identity intersects with faith. Having grown up in a Chinese church, with very very Chinese parents, sometimes it's tricky sorting out which of my values are Chinese church culture, and which are actually biblical. My ethnicity definitely influences how I interact with God and people, and it would be foolish to deny it.
  • Extant Gowns is a blog dedicated to showing photos of vintage, nay antique gowns. If you're in the 1912 project, trying to make your own version of Lady Mary's wardrobe, or trying to sew up a gown for a Titanic party, this is an invaluable reference. These are real pictures of the insides, the details, the construction when possible -- all the stuff I'm interested in seeing. 
  • Boing Boing linked to this dictionary of vulgar language from 1811; I knew a few of the words from reading historical fiction, but a lot of them were new to me! For example, words for talking about the bust area: apple dumplin' shop and cat's heads! Readers, let's start talking about a small apple dumplin' shop adjustment, or full cat's heads! 

And lastly, I was so thrilled to see that my little fake-torials* have been helpful to other sewists out there! Monika made this lovely, lovely dress from my maxi dress directions -- doesn't she look so glamorous? And the talented Liz actually referenced my cutout dress directions to make her V-Day dress! Have you used any of my fake-torials to make your own projects? I'd love to see pictures!

*fake-torials = fake tutorials. Fake, in that I don't realize until afterwards that I might want to make a tutorial out of my steps, so the photos aren't always complete/the best, and then I get embarrassed about actually calling it a tutorial.

Just so that this isn't an entirely pictureless post, have another gratuitous Walnut photo:

Walnut is a quality vegetable (he does nothing but sleep all day),
he wakes up fresh 'n' natural (not quite: his salmon breath is anything but fresh, but at least it's natural?),
he was organically grown (he grew up on a raw meat diet as a kitten!),
and his fluffy coat will keep him warm even when refrigerated (not that we've ever done such a thing).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blank Canvas Tee Turned Jason Wu

As in, 3hourspast's Blank Canvas Tee turned into a vaguely Jason Wu knock-off, not into Jason Wu himself. Gosh, if Jason Wu suddenly materialized in my sewing room, I'd be a blushing, embarrassed mess, given its current state of disarray. Right. Anyway.

Side view.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a seamstress faced with the task of finishing up the seams in a completed dress will instead opt for an easy and satisfying quickie project. I still need to bind the raw edges on either side of the zipper in my Alice dress, as well as sew on a hook and eye, but, having already taken photos of it, it feels much less pressing. I even repaired my husband's jeans instead, but even that wasn't enough procrastination for me. So what did I do? Print out and tape up Steph's free pattern, then cut into my lovely rayon knit from the F&S remnants bin. Two hours later, I had a nice simple top that feels like a dream to wear. I feel like I'm swimming in butter. Or dreaming about swimming in butter. Whatever. Suffice it to say, this tee is super comfy, while still looking put together.

Steph has generously made the BCT available in multiple sizes for people to download and try. I used the smallest one available, meant for a bust of 35", but it's still a little bit big on me width-wise. The neckline is much wider than the illustration, and the back is definitely bigger than my normal tees. Which is totally fine, since I like this loose-fitting look; if I decide I want a tighter fit, it should be easy to grade down. That said, I did have to add three inches to the length, as well as leaving it unhemmed, to get the length I like, but then I know I have a long torso. I can still add a band at the bottom if I want, later, but for now I like it as it is. The pattern calls for a medium-weight knit, which this tissue-thin rayon most decidedly is not, but I think it still works. Combined with the larger size, it's nice and drape-y and will be great for tucking into that black circle skirt I'm planning to make at some point in my life.

The back view. Loose, but I like it.

This is what it looks like when I'm just standing with my arms down.

To make the black collar tie, I cut a long strip out of a black stretchy mesh that I almost threw away (a lady at church gave me a giant bag of fabric, which I was initially psyched about, until I discovered that the entire thing was sequined spandex in old lady floral patterns, and hideous synthetic knits. I did save the more normal pieces, like this plain black scrap). I made a 44" tube 1.5" wide, turned it, and sewed it to the neckline. I left a little half-inch gap in the middle so that I could tie a knot. I'm still contemplating cutting another strip to make make a bow, since mine isn't long enough to tie a nice one.

You can see how ridiculously thin and drape-y the fabric is here.
Also, that mesh was impossible to press into any semblance of a crisp edge.
Fabric: 2/3 yd green rayon jersey knit, a 3" of 44" black poly mesh knit
Notions: None! I love that knit sewing means no closures!
Techniques used: None, aside from remembering to switch to a ballpoint needle. Since the neckhole is so large, I didn't even have to use a stretch stitch. This tee is so simple and easy!
Hours: Two. It would have been half an hour if I hadn't put on the tie. Seriously, I cannot say enough how easy this is. And even with the tie, it would've been only 1.5 hours except that I managed to sew it on inside out the first time...
Netflix queue: Another couple of episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs. Can you tell I've been going through Downton Abbey withdrawal?
Will you make this again? Undoubtedly. As its name proclaims, it's a perfect blank canvas.
Total cost: $3! I love free and remnant fabrics! Much better than the $23 for the Jason Wu version, which was only available for like, five minutes after it launched. I went to my local Target and they had only one sad, ripped XL left in the less desirable color scheme.
Final thoughts: I love that I can wear this with jeans, or with my imaginary circle skirt. It's perfect for dressing up or down. Stairs. Hah, sorry, I couldn't resist.

And in case you're wondering what's going on in the background of these's Walnut, eating his afternoon snack.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Alice in Wonderland Inspired Dress

This week's Sew Weekly challenge was to make something inspired by any movie that's ever been nominated for an Oscar. I decided that and movie ever so much as nominated was too broad; I do better with limited choices. I decided to stick with movies that had actually won for costume design, and with that in mind was able to narrow it down to a few recent ones whose costumes I fell in love with: The Return of the King, The Duchess, and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. As I mentioned before, I figured that ROTK would involve something slinky, which I didn't feel like tackling just yet, and The Duchess would require proper undergarments first. So that left Collen Atwood's Alice. I love all of her light blue and black dresses; I think it's a genius color palette. I knew I didn't want to make an exact copy of her main dress; I wanted to keep mine a wearable length and use one of the patterns I already had, and most of all, I didn't want to do any embroidery. So the aspects I decided to keep, beside the colors, were the tiered skirt, the princess-seamed bodice, and the little point at the waist.

I really, really didn't want to do my normal tiny hem, but I just didn't have
enough fabric for a nice, deep, two inch hem.
I had a pale blue twin flat sheet for my fabric, which was unfortunately stained in a couple of areas (both questionable brown ones and a couple neon pink blotches), even after washing on the hot cycle. This necessitated some tricky cutting, and I still had to use a couple of the less questionable parts for the pockets, which nobody is going to see. To capture the original dress hem's idea of delicate black work, I chose to use black lace, both large and small trims, as well as a giant applique piece that I've had sitting in my stash since my first trip to the fabric district. For the pattern, I went with my trusty princess seam bodice, New Look 6723, and modified the neckline to fit the applique. New Look 6723 also conveniently includes puff sleeve pieces. The skirt is just gathered rectangles, sized appropriately for the tiers. As an afterthought, I also piped the waist seam for more emphasis and to bring in a line of black somewhere in the middle, too.

I was so glad that I bought two sizes of black lace trim...the tiny one was perfect for the sleeve cuff.

This is a dress of firsts. It's probably the first really embellished dress I've ever made. Normally my dresses are really simple, mostly because the fabrics I choose are already crazy enough. It's also the first "real" sleeve I've ever put in; previous dresses have all been sleeveless, cap sleeved, or so ineffectual at covering my arms they hardly counted. Unfortunately, I didn't muslin these sleeves at all, so...I can't lift my arms. Or move them forward much. I think it's because my sleeve cap is too high? Hmm, time to consult my sewing bible, the Reader's Digest handbook. At any rate, this dress is just for standing around in and looking pretty (and confused and in awe in turns), so it's kind of okay.

The buildings really spoil the effect, don't they?
Going for the classic pose Alice has in all the promotional pictures.
My husband got down into the mulch to get this "Alice looking down the rabbit hole" shot. What a stud :)

Out of the bushes, so you can see the poofiness of the petticoat from the side.

Fabric: thrifted poly-cotton twin flat sheet
Notions: zipper, ~3/4 yd black piping, ~1/2 yd narrow black lace trim, ~2 yd larger black lace trim
Techniques used: My first time using piping! It looks so good; I want to pipe everything! And then the usual hand-picked zipper, but no waist stay. The waist seam got so thick, I didn't want to add in more bulkiness with a grosgrain ribbon.
Hours: Hard to say, since I interrupted work on this with making last week's corset. I'm guessing ten hours? Enough to watch a good portion of The West, Sense and Sensibility, and two episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs. 
Will you make this again? Not this exact costume, no, but seeing as how I've already made a good handful of dresses with this pattern, I don't see stopping any time soon.
Total cost: The sheet was $3, the applique $2, the zipper $2, and the laces a whopping $0.15/yd! I also managed to use up an entire spool of thread on this, so the whole thing was probably about $10. Much better than this $40 polyester monstrosity.
Worn with: My thrifted-skirt-turned-petticoat, and black wedges with white socks to mimic the look of Alice's boots. Am I resourceful or what?
Final thoughts: Aside from the not lifting my arms thing, I really, really like this dress. I was so excited, I talked my husband into doing a slightly more involved photo slightly more involved, I mean we didn't just step outside. I went poking around our very manicured apartment complex trying to find an area that looked slightly more overgrown, like the landscapes in the movie. Granted, these nicely shaped bushes aren't exactly giant mushrooms, but oh well. There was a family having a barbecue about ten feet away, so I certainly got my share of side eyes, poking around in the bushes with my frothy petticoats. Their little girl gave me a wide-eyed look, and I'll just tell myself that she was thrilled to see a character step out of a story, and not because there's a crazy lady peering out from behind the bushes.

Walnut did NOT want to pretend to be the Cheshire cat.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

FIDM's 20th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition

We were greeted by this beautiful confection of a dress, Anne Hathaway's gown as the White Queen from last year's Alice in Wonderland film. It was surprisingly not nearly as white as it looked in the film. {picture}

Today was a red letter day. I not only got to see real live movie costumes, but I also got to meet a fellow sewing/costume blogger for the first time ever! I met up with Ginger, the Seamstress of Avalon, at FIDM's costume exhibit, and let me just say that I was not disappointed. Ginger is just as awesome IRL as she is online, and the costumes were just as spectacular as I was hoping they would be. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures at all, so I've combed teh interwebs for pictures of the lovely, lovely frocks I saw.

From The Artist. {All exhibit photos from here.}
From Jane Eyre. 
From Anonymous. There was a lady there who pointed out that the blackwork on the queen's sleeves was done by machine and not by hand. She seemed quite put out about it.
We also got to see this amazing gown (among others) from the film W.E., about Wallis Simpson. The line matching on this gown was A. MA. ZING. Especially the back. {photo}

It was a treat to be able to put my nose up to these costumes and see the level of detail put into the beading, the pleating, the laces...all the things that make my heart go fluttery. Best of all, it wasn't just movie costumes -- they also had several historic gowns on display, mostly from European royalty.

The wedding gown worn by Elisabeth of Wied, Queen Consort of Romania, in 1869. {photo}
One of Queen Victoria's classic black mourning gowns, from 1897. Goodness, I knew she was a short, stout lady, but this dress is practically hobbit-sized! I think if I met her, I would, unfortunately, burst out laughing and offer her a pint and some Longbottom leaf. {photo}

All in all, a totally inspiring exhibition, even if it was a bit small. But hey, it was free. If you're ever in the LA Fashion District and have an hour to kill, check it out! And now, back to work on my own Alice in Wonderland dress.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Big Damn Movie...errr, Dress

After all that wibbling about the issues with my UFO dress, I finally have pictures to show! It took long enough to finish the dress, and about equally long to get pictures, what with a combination of gray skies and husband being gone and Jeremy Lin playing what seems like every night. Even these pictures were sneaked in during yesterday afternoon's game.

Anyway, since it's inaccurate to keep calling it the UFO dress, seeing as how it's finished now, I'm renaming it the Big Damn Movie Dress. If you're at all familiar with the Firefly fandom, you know that the long-awaited Serenity was nicknamed the BDM; I don't think anyone's been waiting for this dress' unveiling except myself (and possibly Shayna, but only because she is so kind), but here's my BDD, since LBD it's not. It's rather too floofy and un-sleek for that. And it certainly felt damned while I was working on it. Even now, though I feel okay about it, it's definitely not one of my proudest creations. But hey, at least it's out of the UFO pile. Thank you, Sew Weekly, for giving me the kick in the butt I needed to finish it off.

You can totally see the wrinkles in this blown-out shot.
I added a big be-flowered grosgrain ribbon belt in an attempt to hide some of the wrinkles.

Without the belt. My petticoat is showing, and the lining is caught on it...

I love the gold zipper on the back.
I'm not going to say too much more about its construction since I already ranted at length about it, but I will add a couple more thoughts. First, my SBA apparently wasn't S enough, as I had to stuff socks in front to fill out the B. Also, on going back and reading the pattern instructions, I found that I was supposed to have interfaced the entire bodice. Well gee, maybe that would have helped with all my lumpiness and wrinkling issues! Fellow sewists, here's a PSA: please learn from me and DON'T ASSUME YOU DON'T NEED TO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. You're welcome.

I am pretty pleased with the inside of this dress; everything looks so nice bound up in that pink seam binding. For once, I feel like the insides look nicer than the outsides...maybe I just need to run the lint roller over the bodice and iron my tulle. And only wear this to events with dim lighting.

You can see the edgestitching, the nice seam binding on the zipper tape edges, and all the stuff stuck to the plush.
Gosh, it looks pretty awful in this picture.

Pattern: Vogue 1042
Fabric: Some kind of polyester black plush fabric with a very short pile, just enough to make it difficult to iron, but without any of the luxuriousness of plush. Also attracts cat hair like no other. I lined the bodice with my husband's old 100% cotton flannel pajama bottoms, but only because it was my muslin and I hated to see such a nice muslin go to waste. In retrospect, I wish I had chosen something with a bit more body to it, and something not quite so green-plaid for the times you get glimpses of it. That said, the inside of the bodice is like wearing lovely, soft, butter. But breathable butter, since it's cotton.  The skirt is three yards of tulle and some nice polyester lining. I am a walking synthetic cloud of fabric.
Notions: Gold "fashion zipper" from Joann's, seam binding
Techniques used: Edgestitching on the bodice, French seams (my first ever, on the lining of the skirt), and screaming.
Hours: I don't even want to think about it. Upwards of thirty, I'm pretty sure.
Netflix queue: I think I'm going to start adding this category into all my summary posts. This dress, fittingly, was constructed with all of Firefly and Serenity going on in the background.
Will you make this again? HAH. HAHAHA. THAT IS A FUNNY QUESTION.
Total cost: The bodice fabric was purchased four years ago for another project (my first and only Ren Faire bodice), so I think by this point it counts as free. I still have more leftover, because back then I didn't know how to estimate how much fabric a project would need. Bodice lining = definitely free, skirt lining was $4, tulle was $6, huge gold zipper $3, so a total of $13.
Final thoughts: I was going for a Dior New Look-esque look with this dress, and I think I kind of got there. Even if it was way more trouble than it was worth. I do like my final dress, although like everything else I make, every time I wear it (if I ever wear it, poofy monstrosity that it is) I'll be secretly worrying that people are disdaining my shoddy bodice construction.

I need one of those cartoon-y thought bubbles that says "Hmmm...are they looking at all the wrinkles?"

I would like to get some gold dress clips for the corners of the sweetheart neckline, but that's not in the budget right now. Maybe I can hack some out of old clip on earrings and my button stash.

Let's go back to standing in the shadows, shall we?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Red Corduroy Corset: Finished!

I feel like a pirate queen. If there even are such things. Actually, I'm pretty sure red corduroy is totally malapropos for a life of swashbuckling and treasure hunting, but hey, maybe the bloodstains would show up less? Kind of like Mord-Sith and their red leather outfits. Um. Anyway, as you can see, I'm finished with my corset! I finished trimming down the cable tie "bones," added a few lines of narrow black lace, bound the edges with black bias tape, and re-laced the back with a less blinding ribbon. 

The top is not laced as tightly as it could be.

Red is ridiculously hard to photograph, never mind the corduroy.

Even though it's not perfect (especially inside), what with the lack of steel and coutil in its construction, I am really thrilled with my first "real" corset! The Bellatrix leather-grandma-pants thing did its job, but it was definitely very costume-y and difficult to put on and take off. Since there are hooks and eyes in front, and the back doesn't go up very high, I can put on and lace this one myself. The cable ties and corduroy are quite thick, so even laced tightly it's still on the bulky side. Whatever, this is strictly for wearing over, not under my clothing.

You can see where some of my lining seams didn't match up with the outside, hence ugly wavy seams in the middle of my boning channels. Also note the water-soluble ink marking the waist stay placement that I forgot to wash out.

Sketchy hand-stitching of the folded-over bias tape ends. I didn't know how I was supposed to finish the facing on the back, so I ended up just cutting it close to the last boning channel and then using seam binding to cover the raw edge.
Hook and eye tape instead of a proper busk.

Fabric: The outer layer is 2/3 yard of 44" red corduroy, of unknown composition, given to me by a church lady, who in turn got it from her cleaning lady, who in turn got it from an old lady whose house needed cleaning; the inner layer is a linen-looking 100% cotton curtain remnant from hemming a friend's super-long IKEA curtain. Yay for giving materials new life!
Notions: about 10" of black hook & eye tape that I've had in the stash for years, 20 grommets (unfortunately not the fancy two-part kinds), grosgrain ribbon for the waist stay, black lace, black bias tape, black satin ribbon for lacing
Techniques used: Making boning channels, setting grommets...and cutting plastic cable ties? That can't be right. I feel like there should be a lot more techniques involved. But really, making a corset doesn't involve any complicated sewing, more like fitting. But I think this pattern is pretty forgiving. And it's free, to boot!
Casualties: This was a dangerous project. Two sewing machine needles broke, but thankfully didn't fly into my face. I also managed to gash my thumb with the awl while making holes for the grommets. Not really sure how that happened. Like I said earlier, good thing the red hides blood, right? Just kidding, it was a very tiny stab wound that didn't bleed much. 
Hours: Somewhere around 17? I worked on this for a good ten hours while my husband was in SF, and then another seven or so on President's Day. It was enough to watch a good deal of Ken Burns' The West documentary, and now I feel incredibly sad for the Native Americans. For all that my dad rants about racism against the Chinese during the gold rush era, Native Americans definitely got the shortest end of the stick. To break up the sadness, I also started re-watching Season 1 of Downton Abbey.
Will you make this again?  I originally made this as a wearable muslin corset, hence the inferior materials. But now that I'm finished, I don't think I'll be making another underbust corset for a while; I prefer the overbust look (and I don't have to figure out bra underwire issues). Thank goodness this one is perfectly serviceable as a costume piece.
Total cost: All the fabric was free, and the grommets I got from my dad, so I only spent money on the bias tape and ribbon ($4) and cable ties ($4 worth). The hook and eye tape I bought ages ago, but I'm guessing its cost was about $3. So a total of $11! Not bad at all!
Final thoughts: This was a good experience. I didn't get too frustrated despite all the finicky cutting and sewing, and now my appetite is whetted for more corset-making! I like my final corset; it turned out well enough that I wish I had gone ahead and bought steel materials and coutil so that it could be a "real" corset. Right now, this is like the wooden Pinocchio of corsets; I need the Blue Fairy to come make it real! But then, knowing my previous sewing experiences, if I'd used expensive stuff to make this, it would've been a big flop somehow and I'd regret spending so much money on it. That's always how it is with my projects...

I'm so glad I added the lace for a special touch!

I'm so glad I decided to tackle the "Paint the Town Red" challenge for Sew Weekly, even if it is a little late. So far I'm six for six on Sew Weekly challenges! Now back to work on my Alice dress...

Next in the corset queue: a Georgian conical corset so that I can make my The Duchess-inspired dress!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dabbling in Corsetry

I know there hasn't been much sewing blogged here lately, but I promise I'm not just turning into a Jeremy Lin blog (incidentally, thank you all for sharing your thoughts about that and agreeing that we should NOT go back to the old days)! My husband was gone for several days for an interview in SF so I haven't been able to get pictures of the UFO dress, and I've been working on my Alice-inspired dress but don't have anything much to show for it. But since my husband was gone, I decided last Thursday night to start a new project instead of finishing any current ones. Cutting and laying out patterns and fabric are easier when I have the whole living room floor to myself.

After my experience with the amazing Dark Garden corsets at the Vintage Fashion Expo, I decided that it was high time I just bit the bullet and started working on a corset. I did my research (mostly using advice from House of Marmalade and Steam Ingenious), found a free pattern for an underbust corset, and purchased a packet of 24" plastic cable ties from OSH for $5.99. In an effort to keep my costs for this first foray into corsetry as low as possible, I used fabric that was already in my stash: some stiff-ish (but as I later discovered, simultaneously loosely woven) cotton leftover from hemming IKEA curtains for a friend, red corduroy (from a bag of donated fabric from a church lady) for the red Sew Weekly theme, and black hook and eye tape instead of a proper busk.

Right after I had followed the instructions to lay out the pattern pieces for marking so that I wouldn't mix them up,
Walnut woke up from his nap and walked over...
"Oh, I'm sorry, did you need to do something with these little pieces of comfy fabric? Also, did you need more work to do? Because I've got all these little red corduroy bits in my fur that need to be brushed out now."  

The pattern was easy enough to use, being only four pieces (with the fourth piece mysteriously upside-down -- so make sure you rotate it if you use that pattern!), but I think I'm not used to being quite so precise in my cutting and stitching. My inner and outer layers definitely did NOT match up! As a result, once I sewed my boning channels, the inside looked pretty ghetto-tastic. Also, my topstitching on the corduroy just looks wonky. That said, once I painstakingly cut and filed my boning and set all my grommets, it was really exciting to lace it up and try it on.

Excuse the odd choice of lacing material...this ribbon was all I could find that was anywhere close to long enough.
The cable ties were curled up in the package, so they're still a little bent.

I was scared to lace it too tightly, as I don't trust my own construction. There's no coutil in this, and my grosgrain ribbon waist stay is a little too high for my actual waist. As a result, it doesn't actually reduce my waist any, but it looks pretty cool (at least, for being totally unfinished and missing binding and all) and will be perfect for if I ever get invited to a pirate-themed costume party. Or possibly a very campy Western saloon party?

Awkward shots in front of the bathroom mirror.

I really need to clean that bathroom mirror. And that side seam isn't exactly straight, but the other side is. Also, I feel like the top of the underbust part gets uncomfortably high, but I'm not sure if that's normal. It's starting to run into the underwire of my bra.
I shot this over the back of my shoulder, so it's not in focus at all, but you get the idea.

Tomorrow, I'm going to get some more bias tape for the binding, as well as pick up some pearl buttons for the cuffs of this lovely thrift store find:

Front of the blouse: it closes with a series of hooks and eyes down the front. One of them was missing, but otherwise the blouse is in very good condition. No sweat stains or anything, as is common in thrift store white blouses.

I took these in front of our shower curtain since I was taking pictures in the bathroom mirror anyway? Not sure.

I know it's not nearly period accurate, but it's a 100% cotton white embroidered blouse with tucks and hooks and eyes, which are all at least period appropriate, I believe. There's no shaping to it, so it will poof out nicely with a high-waisted skirt. And guess what! My VPLL 1912 project pattern for the month is a skirt! So it's perfect. I'm trying to decide between a dark blue cotton or a forest green wool/poly blend. I've got nine yards of the former and "only" five of the latter, but the recommended fabrics are wool, silk, linen, or twill.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vintage Fashion Expo Recap

This was just one half of a booth.
Imagine hundreds of these booths in a giant hall.
Two Sundays ago, I got to drop by the Santa Monica Vintage Fashion Expo, thanks to a tip from one of the ladies from the 1912 project. I meant to write up my experience earlier, but life (and Sew Grateful Week!) intervened. So here it is now!

I went into the expo not entirely sure what to expect, but also pretty sure that I wasn't going to buy anything. I was mostly hoping to get a chance to examine some Downton Abbey-esque clothing, since museum pictures don't really give one an idea of actual construction. When I walked into the Santa Monica Convention Center, I felt like I had just walked into Comic-Con, but for vintage was amazing! Although, for the record, more people are dressed up at Comic-Con. I did wear my Pan-Am dress, it being the most obviously vintage thing in my wardrobe; several ladies there commented on it and one even thought it was an actual vintage piece! She was very sweet when I said that I had made it myself, although I didn't tell her I made it from a poly-cotton bedsheet for less than $3.

[Incidentally, if you're planning on going to Comic-Con, ever, either paid or as a volunteer, you need to sign up for a member ID. It's not a commitment to go, but more to streamline registration. *end PSA*]

There were a ton of vendors selling clothing (mostly more modern vintage, think 1930s and on, but there were some Edwardian things a couple of absolutely lovely Victorian pieces), accessories (hats! gloves! belts! jewelry!), notions (lots of lace trims and appliques and crocheted pieces!), and shoes (not especially interesting to me). I did see a couple of stalls with sewing patterns, but they were frankly not that special and kind of overpriced ($8+, when normally I get them for less than a dollar each).  Unfortunately, most of the clothing was waaaaay out of my price range, even if I'd been interested in buying. I did snag a few pictures, courtesy of kind vendors, but the lighting was quite bad and I only had my iPhone.

The front of an Edwardian era blouse. Note the high neck, lace insertion, tiny decorative buttons, and amazing embroidery. Try not to note the fact that it's out of focus. This piece was $125.

I love the look of white on white embroidery. Pintucks and lace insertion seem to be common design features. This more elaborate piece was $250!

The back of these blouses mostly closed with tiny buttons or snaps. Another thing they all had in common was the relatively short back, with a much longer front, presumably to get the poofed-out pouter pigeon look.

Beautiful 1930s dress with a pink slip and a pale pink embroidered net overdress. This piece was $400. 

The bottom of the dress. Love the glorious drapey skirt.

I really need to learn how to do this whole bias-cut gown thing.

I loved the back of the gown. I also didn't even bother trying to find out how much this piece cost.

The highlight for me was getting to try on a couple of actual corsets from the famed San Francisco company Dark Garden. Their corsets are extremely well-made, but well out of my price range, unfortunately. It was still a treat, though, to see what a steel-boned corset should feel like: very supportive, like a tight hug, and nothing at all like the cheap, plastic-boned one that I used for my steampunk costume. The kind lady running the booth laced me down to 23", which looked a little too exaggerated an hourglass for my taste. And while I can't imagine Scarlett O'Hara's 16" waist, or Ma Ingalls' "when-I-was-married-Charles-could-put-his-hands-around-my-waist," I can see how some of those extreme-looking, old-timey photos of women in corsets weren't actually that extreme; the women were just smaller to begin with.

The only things I brought home with me were a pair of white 60s-era gloves for $5, as well as an assortment of trims, which I'll hopefully utilize in the 1912 project.

4 yards of the wide lace, 4 yards of the mint beaded trim (do I see a Lady Mary-esque evening gown in my future??), and 4 yards each of the other crocheted lace trims; all of these were from the same vendor, for a total of $14! That's not bad, right?  I'm hoping to make a blouse with lace trim like the creamy one Lady Mary always wears with that belted, slightly flared skirt.
Let's just hope that the 1912 project drawings are in my favor!

The Santa Monica Antique Mall and the Rose Bowl Flea Market are still on my list of vintage-y things to check out, but I don't know when I'll be able to go. Hopefully their prices will be better than the ones at the expo! Does anyone know of any other sources of vintage clothing in the LA area?