Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Discovery

Earlier this week I was reading a bit on what Wikipedia said about Steampunk. It's not a terribly new genre of styling, but it has really picked up steam (pun intended) in recent years. And the fact that Steampunk happens to be the theme for next year's Costume College, this trend is starting to go widespread.

I've always been a lover of Victoriana. Soon after college I went through the activities in What Color Is Your Parachute and racked my brain at what kind of career existed for one with a love of sewing, Victorian decorating, and travel. As the years passed and my closet of Victorian clothing expanded, I realized I could never be a true Victorian - I like my Starbucks and Internet too much (among other things).

In my costume sewing, fantasy costumes have never really entered my "playlist." Personally I've been grounded in everyday clothing, the occasional pillow set or window covering, and eventually, classically styled 19th C. fashion. Those ideas off the beaten path intrigued me, but no space was left in my current list of projects.

Then I heard about Steampunk. A couple years ago the name crossed my path, and I casually read more about it. The base is (generally) a Victorian silhouette combined with elements of steam-powered engines and 19th C. Sci-Fi authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.

Ahh... like Back to the Future III and Clara's purple 1890s costume on the steam train time machine. I got it.

I think Steampunk can give my creativity an outlet without straying far from the Victorian daywear I love. Plus, it throws in that element of travel - time travel that is - something I'm naturally curious about anyway.

So back to the Wikipedia Steampunk article: I came across a term - Neo-Victorianism - that was new to me so I clicked to find out more.

Turns out that is EXACTLY what I am. A Neo-Victorian. This was both a 'duh' and an enlightening moment. A lover of 19th Century stuff (living, memorabilia, clothing, decor, etc.) and trying to integrate those ideas and styles into my modern life. Adding touches of Victorian fashion to my modern clothes sewing. The chivalry and romanticism. (My husband opens doors for me.) The picnics and balls. The dreaming of puffed sleeves and Camelot a' la Anne Shirley.

My house, although trying to be of French Country decor, is sprinkled with treasures flavored of the past. I read Victorian Homes magazine and collect Godey's Lady's Books. But I shudder at the loss of toilet paper, fluoride toothpaste, running water, vacuums, refrigerators, Advil and dozens of other items that make my 21st Century life easier.

I long for the "good ol' days" - but not their trials. I was born a century too late - or was I?

No, I enjoy my modern conveniences too much. But I CAN incorporate my passion of Victorian ideals with my blue jeans and call myself a Neo-Victorian.

I have found my place. Now, about that Steampunk costume....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

1870s Cuteness and Sewing Breaks

My, but I’ve been busy. And nearly 3 weeks without a post is too long even for me. (Sorry for not posting more in-progress updates on the Lizzy 1875 Striped Summer Dress.)

I’m in the middle of what I call Sewing Overload and desperately want to NOT sew for about two months. Alas, as I finish my stripe-y cuteness I’m jumping into three more projects to be completed in under three weeks. Yes, I’m insane. (I won’t comment on my unnamed friend’s frothy white & red organdy bustle dress that she STARTED three days before the picnic.)

The 1870s picnic on Sunday was well attended with about 40 to 50 in costume. Everyone looked yummy and it was a pleasant group. We ate, took tours through the Banning House, played badminton and croquet, ate some more, shared stories, relaxed on the cool grass, laughed, delighted in the young children as they ran around in their period-appropriate clothing, and generally had a very nice afternoon.

My dress, in my humble but unashamed opinion, was the cutest costume I’ve ever made. (And I like most (but not all) of my completed projects.) It was 100% finished by Saturday afternoon. However, I was still up late finishing the trimming on my new hat. Exhaustion reigns but I love my outfit.

Being sheer fabric with a lightweight muslin base, the skirt was surprisingly easy to move in and frolic over the grass lawn. The bodice was flat lined in lightweight denim and was just as easy to wear. I think my old ruffled petticoat made from heavy-duty cotton (before I knew better about making petticoats in light/stiff fabrics) was just as heavy as my trained skirt. Yikes! That sucker was dense and hot.
I'm only wearing my lobster tail bustle and pad for support as it's on the end of the First Bustle Era and Natural Form was starting to appear. I wonder how the skirt would look under my Truly Victorian bustle?

And, of course, I have the perfunctory Victorian bow on the bodice back pleat.

The two lower bodice buttons are meant to be unfastened so the bodice lays flat over the hips – partially my fault by not making a mock-up first to test the hip circumference over the skirt, but if you look at old photographs some women show the bottom of their bodices not fastened all the way down for the same reason. So I’m going for a period look here.

… I haven’t stopped with the sewing projects since early July and I crashed in the middle of this bustle project. Just didn’t have the power to keep going. But I did and I’m really happy with the result. But no break for me – yet.

I’m currently planning a Regency Autumn Soiree in early October for my reenacting group. My husband and I are hosting the elegant dinner party complete with period English cuisine for both the afternoon tea and the dinner, a bit of dancing, cards and conversation all by candlelight.
Because this is a costume required event, I’m putting together a quick late 18th C. outfit for the caterer/cook consisting of a basic petticoat, undress jacket and apron. And, of course as hostess and to satisfy my insanity, a new elegant white gown will be furiously put together for myself. All in 17 days.

So the sewing continues. Ahhh…for a break!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Welcome! How Can We Help You?

Just want to give a shout out to all of our new Cloak & Corset members: A very warm welcome!

We hope you enjoy the monthly newsletters, vintage articles, recommended resources and much more found here. Sara and I are busy discussing new ways to give you the information you seek to sew beautiful 19th Century clothing.

But we want to hear from you Today so we can discover what you really need to know for your current and up-and-coming projects.

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