Thursday, March 25, 2010

Updated Dressform Complete!

A few weeks ago I decided I wasn't going to procrastinate any longer, wasn't going to wait until I lost those few extra pounds, nor keep debating with myself over "corset/no corset" before I re-did my dressform. Enough of waiting!

I made my first Duct Tape Double dressform in 1998. (You can read about my experience (and an early online review) Here at Leanna's dressmaking studio site. Scroll down and click on "Jennifer - Stand and Taping Ideas.")

That form was good back then. It served me well despite the fact that I kept my hands on my hips so the shoulders were raised out of place. This caused issues when trying to fit garments over that area. 'sigh' So for the last few years I've said I wanted to re-duct tape myself for a better and more accurate dressform. I woke up on a Wednesday and told myself I would be doing it that very weekend.

A quick trip to a discount store brought me rolls of silver tape, beige tape and stuffing. I also picked up two cheap t-shirts for the tape to go on. (You wrap your body over the shirts which you then cut through both the tape and shirts to remove the form.) It took about three hours for my husband to wrap me (keeping my arms down at my sides of course!) and another two to drape it over my current form and stuff to fill out the new layer. I will say that it was much easier this time as my fitting skills are SO much better than before. (And that includes my time spent in fashion school a couple of years after the first form was made.)

Measurements were taken before we cut the form off. As I stuffed and taped up the back I took the same measurements so the form was my perfect size (despite it not being my ideal size. Custom sewing is so clothing can fit YOU perfectly; NOT display a number dress size.)

I think the best thing about having a true dressform again is for draping and pattern fitting over the back (a hard-to-fit spot when sewing alone) and getting the armhole cut just right for movement (crucial when making well-fitted historical clothing). And even though corsets will alter the body shape, the upper back won't change much. With time, patience and a good mirror or two, I can manage fitting issues on the front. Even having the hips the right size will help skirt fitting when I throw on a bustle or hoop and petticoats.

I'm so excited to try out the new dressform with my current Regency project. Stay tuned for an update on how it goes. (A new corset is first on the list.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring - The Season of Sewing

I just love early spring weather! It promotes promise and excitement. It's inspirational, rejuvenating and kind (not freezing or burning hot). Despite the occasional allergy issues, Spring is wonderful!

And as soon as it starts to appear, so does my longing for those unfinished or simply imagined costumes. Every idea starts to swirl around my head: new 18th C. stays; that upper class Civil War day dress in a bright color, complete with new bonnet; the 1890s inspired Steampunk outfit to go with my fur-lined goggles received as a Christmas gift from my mom; a new Civil War shirt for my husband; the embroidered white 1845 ball gown; the 1862 ball gown; a 1916 dinner gown for a summer party; and the Regency everything.

And I do mean everything for Regency. I absolutely LOVE the fashions of that era. But since I can't make it ALL right now, I have a few select pieces on the docket.

You may have heard that I am a special guest speaker at the West Coast's first annual Jane Austen Festival, hosted by JASNA, on May 8th in Fresno, California. I will be presenting a "Dressing A Lady" lecture. Now, I'm not actually the one getting dressed; but I do need to be fabulously attired in new garments for the occasion. (But of course!)

My thought is a new day dress with elbow-length sleeves. Perhaps a chemisette for the day which will be removed for the evening ball. And I'll need to sew up my first pelisse. My model will have a Spencer jacket, so I want to have a pelisse available as a second example of outerwear. (Below is a silk pelisse from the Museum of Costume, Bath, UK.)

But before that I'm tossing around the idea of making period stays. My current early 19th C. corset is fine, but the bust gussets are a bit too small. (A point I discovered is EASY to do when fitting this type of corset. Don't take in the gussets too much to compress the bust. It should be gently cupped and not firmly held like later Victorian corset shapes.)
I'm considering the Past Patterns transition Stays but am unsure about the bust gussets for a full-busted woman. I may just make it up anyway and add a good amount of fabric support in that area along with a strong drawstring around the top.

And before the month is out I want to re-duct tape myself for a new, more accurate dressform. I made Jennibeth in 1998.

I think it's long past time for a new one. Then I can actually drape a new Regency dress. I SO want to have a period one with a tiny back and wide-set sleeves. Draping is the best way to accomplish this; and fitting oneself on the body just takes way too many attempts to get it right. I'll keep you posted on the dressform re-make.

So enjoy this new season. Be inspired. Be creative. Look to nature's new wardrobe colors for how to add them to your own historical closet.

Happy Sewing!