the blog

Elsa photo by Little Noise || Mina photo by Little Noise || Femshep photo by Little Noise

wig work, make up, body art, armour, dance-wear, formal gowns, historic dress, embroidery, and finally large scale prosthetic work.

Costume maker and performance artist since 1999. Diploma of Performing Arts, 1997 Mistress of the Order of the laurel (Society of Creative Anachronism)2007 Head coordinator and judge for New Zealand’s largest media costume competition from 2007-2014.

what a day at least I have a skirt

That would be a new row added at the hem and all the rows tilted slightly. (the black net is because my Elissa support is perfect for this too- it is being made to be separate and able to swap out between frocks.)

But after this my life got a bit complicated.

I decided to clean my cooler in my PC. And when i fired her back up no screen and an A0 q-code. Which I should have recognisewd as AllOkay.. but freaked, reset and then got an A2 error, still no screen.. So after a bit of pulling everything out I realised I put the hdmi cable in the hdmi slot. Nope. Should have popped it directly into my graphics card.

So that A2 error was one of fans being slightly slow every so often- by less than 10 RPM which is ridic to beep at me and you know..

Anyway, so then I put my SSD and HDD back in and whoops, hope.

Took SSD and HDD out and still nope.

It was a SATA cable. JUst one. So I now how a power cable and SATA cable group set aside to put them all back in but not right now.

Also I was supposed to close up my PC and let the fans do their work properly but no my site was down. For an hour.


My theme. The theme broke. My first thought was the CF thing, but no. Just really incredibly bad timing of the theme breaking!

But I had a cleanout of themes and plugins so that’s something….


Also before I goofed I managed to transfer most of my media files to different arddrives so pretty soon will have the ability to be nice and portable.

But really it’s been about 10 hours from cleaning my cooler to.. now.


phantom wedding dress

This project is super long term and matches my Elissa gown for length of time since starting!

However the skirt is finally getting the lace flounces! I decided to just go ahead and make this like the show gowns which is to not use my delicate vintage lace but a lovely net lace that I removed colour from 🙂 This has left the net ever so slightly pink and the flowers arctic white. The dress is a very creamy crepe and there will be opalescent organza (vintage- it’s not the super slick stuff now) and there will be some pearled lace appliques and ruched ribbon headings

Amazingly the lace was pretty much in the perfect lengths for full ruffles (3 times for each row)

So I started by gathering and quickly decided tiny pleats made more sense.

Not to sure how I managed to make the left side flatter, but the florist pins at the top of the skirt in the last image is where that side will be raised to before the lace is stitched down. I’d love to have used my vintage lace as it’s much wider but really I think the lace will look much better once the pins are out 🙂

So this skirt is feeling very mid 90s UK in style. Funnily enough 😉

The bodice is very much mid to late 90s UK too 😉 But you can see the organza is more subtle than more recent ones such as used in Wicked 🙂

So this has undergone many changes, a few piccies from when i first made and wore it:


This was the last iteration. Notice the wooden doors behind? Yeah that means this was before the fire. After the fire the bodice had a lot of soot damage so a lot of the hard work got undone.

Yes, when I was well I did a quickie trip to Europe and saw the show in Hamburg, London, And Copenhagen. And wore this frock each time. Long before it has become okay to cosplay at events btw. In fact this was just a few months before Rheumatoid Disease became part of my life.

1876 draft update

The draft really didn’t need a huge amount of adjusting, I may just need to adjust some of my measuring 🙂

The back is lovely, it’s just too wide in the shoulders, and my mannequin does have a higher shoulder than me.

The front is a bit of a mess, I always have this trouble with drafting systems from this era though, so it’s no different. I can however use the changes made today to determine how to take measurements for the next run through.

So basically the same issues as with corsets I have scaled, with other patterns- I have a proportionally narrow torso. I am hour glass but I do not continue to taper out past my lower ribs.

But strangely I had to lower the waist at the side and raise it at the front. This is partly because I clipped the armscye and smoothed the excess towards the upper back and that then also spread down the side.

I also lowered the bust dart points, mainly because I think this mannequin has a very long shoulder to bust measure vs me. But it’s nice to see that this was a relatively easy remedy.

Overall? would recommend for someone who is used to these kinds of drafting tools.

The instructions are lengthy but a bit confusing only because the diagrams are super simple so it can be hard to work out immediate if you are looking at the the draft lines or the tool. But it was pretty easy to do once I got the hang of it. 🙂 Next step is to see if the tool will give the same corrected shape with the new measurements 🙂

The basque was very easy and worked really well for me for over a natural form shape 🙂


1876 basque

The science and geometry of dress
by Jackson, Louisa L., Mrs. [from old catalog]

Published 1876

So, the trouble with the system is the “bust” measure is a sort of not really measurable distance where the armhole (arm size) and the side seam end.  And then you take the back measure separately. Not a full measure all the way around. I used my padded form but still estimated where the side seams would sit. I think I need to tweak it a bit more. But other than my near universal shoulder/side of bust fitting issues I think the scale works.

If I look at the patterns taken from existing garments the arm hole is most definitely not as per the first pass of the tool. I need to get a bit courageous about trimming here! Also to adjust the super rigorous dart placement- the drafting tool is quite old fashioned in that it feels like it’s from the 1860s-very early 1870s. This is about the time there should be two side back seams that slope a little more gently. So I think the tool will work, it just won’t look like the diagrams but will look like the extant items.

The additional steps to make a basque though are brilliant. And it does show exactly why the cross dart sits where it does. This is where fabric naturally folds in at the waist with the basque (called skirts in this book.)

You can see how the fabric is super full in the armscye and above the bust. I’ll smooth the fabric over the stand and then compare to the tool to see what I would recommend in terms of using modern equipment.

The book is very unyielding in the  sens that the distance from CF and CB to first dart is specified. And the distance between darts also specified. The tops of the darts are also very much decided by the tool (while the height is adjustable the distance from centre front is not.


I do love the basque and how the darts are formed! If nothing else I am keeping the dart tool!

I compared the diagrams to extant patterns and yes, I will need to do what these do: rotate  the armscye towards the centre front.


These are all from Patterns of Fashion.

1876 tool update

Okay, so the body templates are very wrong! My scale isn’t too far off but the markings on it are not perfect. I will do an annotated run through. One problem is the book says to lay the front waist tool 1″ from the edge of the material. but the tool already has a 1″ mark (A). That is not the 1″ that it needs to be set from the edge. Not if the bust measures are to work.

Having tried this tool I know now that the miniature is really not a perfect scale of the full tool as it will appear. The dart and side seam rules are good so I have now made a single file of all the miniature tools.

Some of the markings are wrong. The vertical measures should all be identical distances ditto the perfectly horizontal. So I scaled to the dart rule and made sure the distance between the edge and the lower bust mark as 9″ and this now makes all the “standard” measures line up.

The science and geometry of dress
by Jackson, Louisa L., Mrs. [from old catalog]

Published 1876


thumbnail of 1876minitoolfront thumbnail of 1876minitoolback thumbnail of 1876minitooldart thumbnail of 1876minitoolsidecurve

So these all match, I started with all the mini tools on one file and scaled. everything that I know to be inches seem to match up.

I’ll update my earlier post with the new files 🙂


some gems from the manual

The science and geometry of dress

by Jackson, Louisa L., Mrs. [from old catalog]

Published 1876

We cut on the fold due to wide fabrics, this explains why cutting fronts is best done individually.

Yes! The side is where you can do some final fitting tweaks. But it was better to adjust everywhere else first.

How to space buttons for a large bust- it depends on the button size.

The crossdart! (Fish dart) And how it was used and how the third dart came about (I think seen in at least one PoF garment).

Tips on how to draft a princess dress. I am so happy about the polonaise comments! I have been wondering if there were rules about this but no 🙂


dress form extreme make over

This particular form has a few features I have, a pronounced upper ribcage curve, high bust, round ribs. Her hips are a bit too round in cross section but that is easy to adjust by dialing the front and back dials a size larger and the side dials a size lower.


I used very taper shoulder pads to fill in the upper side of the bust, a corset is meant to lift and support so I want this in the same position as I want to achieve.

The padded bra is foam bonded to lycra based fabric so is very soft. I also filled in the gap between bust point and edge of should pads with a bit of foam.

And then a lycra shell was stretched over and basted at neck before I started basting through all layers including the velour form cover.

I darted to the armscye and took a dart out of the back panel on each side.


And voila, a form that is me but exaggerated (also at a height for wearing heels, I should have dropped her down for the photo but hey.

The form has a slight belly which is good for spoon busk corset types, but not so exaggerated as to not appeal modernly..

Making the tools

As per my previous posts I now have the tools for the 1876 drafting system.

The science and geometry of dress
by Jackson, Louisa L., Mrs. [from old catalog]
Published 1876

I printed and used contact spray to lay them on the inside of a cardboard box my new mirror came in. So nice to have an honest mirror that I can also move for best light/view 🙂

So I think I got the bodice close, in comparison to the size of the dart anyway. If I have any concerns I know I can redo them using the miniature dart form.

Last night I also padded and resized a dress form to be the ideal shape. Which means today actually draping and drafting 🙂


1876 tools

I am not completely convinced the size is correct but I have isolated each tool from:

The science and geometry of dress

by Jackson, Louisa L., Mrs. [from old catalog]

Published 1876

I only know the dart and the skirt tools are correct for printing- as pdfs. The waist and curve… not so sure. I need to really go through the full text to make a bodice pattern to check the placement. Anyway. If you have photoshop you can rescale the files anyway. If you have a pdf viewer choose “poster” as print type and it will automatically print to size.

thumbnail of tooldartrule

The dart is true, I have seen these only in printed form inside books so had no idea just how big they are. I think in terms of centimeters. The curve feels far too big, I scaled to match the 1,2,3,4 as inches. (since trying, these are indeed quite large.)


(I have switched out these files to be more accurate! These are mini tools meant for teaching, so only the “standard” marks are true, I will be marking additional sizes as the scale proper becomes more accurate)

thumbnail of 1876minitoolfront thumbnail of 1876minitoolback thumbnail of 1876minitooldart thumbnail of 1876minitoolsidecurve

These were very hard to figure out. I scaled using the waist length as true to size so is scaled so the distance between each “inch” is one inch.


thumbnail of tooldressskirtrule thumbnail of tool

These two were much easier. What I love about the first skirt tool is it does show some care in deciding on the angle of the side of the skirt gores! The rest of the skirt is basically as per “Nora” (as seen in Patterns of Fashion) but this is about the angle from waist to hip, aso that is very cool 🙂

I also spent the noight padding a form to my most ideal “Victorian” shape. So I can make corset and bodice patterns that give a very good exagerated ideal form. Not easy when I have a shape that simply has not been fashionable. Okay. c1480 and say 1550-1610 in Cleves and Spain. But that’s kind of it.But that’s for another post. I need sleep!

Oh look, the perfect book!

The science and geometry of dress
by Jackson, Louisa L., Mrs. [from old catalog]

Published 1876
Topics Dressmaking


So this is really interesting and does indeed help explain the fish dart in some garments.


The basic pattern blocks for bodices were still based on ones from the 1860s. This is to say the end at the waist. I’m started printing the pages up . The first section is for the basic bodice block, then there is a saque, next up are basques (ie bodices that extend past the waist.) So this is very exciting 🙂 My printer is liking the pages so that is also good!