norma shearer gowns progress

I worked on both my marie Antoinette gown and Upstage gown today. For Marie I cut the silver lamé to fit the skirt. It will need to be stitched in a specific order so no pics today as it’s a bit of a mess. It will be all overlocked tomorrow though as the weave is very loose. Not too bad on the straight but the diagonal.. I’m worried.

I went a little overboard with the length. BUT I DON’T CARE!!! (Marie Antoiette is folded and hanging up on the wall behind. Not very exciting stage!)

I am totally redesigning the skirt front as I am not a fan of the short underskirt. This will overlap at mid thigh and I will maintain the stretch of the line using hand and machine stitching. Honestly, mostly hand because the long pile of the velvet had already proven it cannot walk a straight line.

The upper half was draped in pink crepe earlier so I may transfer that to the lime green and just tidy it a little, the dress will be silk velvet with a lining of either silk charmeuse or rayon charmeuse- it depends on how much I need. Probably the silk as it is already terrible pinky-beige.

I was going to make my magic Flame inspired bodice switch out with the Upstage but there may be enough velvet for both!!!

yep, I am obsessed by slinky velvet dresses from a time where slinky is not remembered! But I do have a full post on slinky dresses already!

fitting wrinkles 1

I may have been reading too many of my Girl’s Own Annuals again!

Anyway, fit has been on my mind a lot recently.

I think there is a fear of fitting, and I totally get why. It’s incredibly invasive! If someone helps fit you they have to lay their hands on you and move your body in unfamilir ways.

It is such a matter of trust there are only a few people I will offer to help one on one, and that is generally if I trust the garment, and the person is an adult.

So here is a very first start to a lesson series. Or guide, or tutorial.

 

I have three mannequins here. I can make them all the same measurements. here is the closest match to the calico covered form.

Ignoring the length differences, notice the height of the busts.

Busts:

Notice the shape and gravity defyingness. Also, the direction and placement.

When placing a dart under the bust or a seam over the bust and down to the waist there is a division of the front of the body. If I were to make the same garment for each, they would have to be adjusted for each form as generally the distance between bust points over sizes scales, the shape of the sides, and how they curve around the ribs changes.

I look at a garment on the stand and think it looks lovely, then I put it on and it is not flattering, to me I’m very circular in cross section so darts/seams don’t sit like on oval forms. So I test on all three forms for fit and balance. Nothing wrong in fit, nothing wrong in the shapes of us, just that they are different.

Hips:

The dark brown form has very round hips in cross section. They are set to the same size as the others but because the fullness is almost perfect even garments will hang very differently, and vice versa.

The bust points are also different and requires a bit of math to work out how to set the dials to bring them together/further apart- also the torsos are in four parts, there is not a lot of transformation possible!

The hips also slope slowly or curve out abruptly.

I am a mix of these three. I wind up using the dark brown form for upper hip and armscye fittings.

Backs and shoulders:

The forms also show very different stances! And when a pattern is made to fit, it will sit differently on me if I don’t match the stance.

The peachy-tan form has a ballet back! The back of the pelvis is turned under for a turn out.

The calico form has a slight sway back.

The dark brown form is bent forward slightly at the shoulders.

I haven’t called them flaws, because I stand like all three depending on circumstance. But it means I do have to really check what era is best matched 🙂

They also really are distinctive modern historic fashion stances. The dark brown in particular has a 1950s and 60s shape. The peachy-tan one looks very 1980s (the shoulders are not large but from handling this form it is easy to add shoulder padding, in fact easier than any other.) The calico form is much more modern. Built in shoulders mean no room for extra padding and an expectation of a muscular upper back.

Padding:

I use the calico form for nearly everything else as I am able to pad her to a victorian shape. I add extra hip and bust padding, which is squishy, so I can see the effect of pinching fabric in at the waist and how to taper darts or use an S shape in my dart to create an exaggerated bust.

So I use padding not only to match my shape but to match the shape I want. In the case of Mina.. that has been seriously challenging! As I am circular in cross section I cann’t squish underbust at all. So it always looks bigger in proportion. I have to wear extra.. enhancements to balance that, and even more to get that magnificent sweep of the bodice that made me fall in love with the gown.

I do generally add padding anyway.

 

 

There is so much more, obviously, there are shelves of books on the subject. Photos, diagrams, text.. anything you could want. But sometimes it takes seeing something unfamiliar to make that connection.

 

So that’s why I keep sharing my experiences. As both someone who has had to tackle fit for my own body and to make them both work for historical styles.

 

Being able to talk about the forms and their shapes

2016 year in review

I made nothing from what I can remember. Just straight up nothing. I started the year well but with the passing of my darling Booheart I started grieving and it just never really let up. I was not able to focus through to the end of anything. And then my disease management started to peter out (as it does after 6 months) and so I never had the chance to play catch up during that time. I was just trying to keep up with health.

Oh yeah, my site was hacked and destroyed do I spent a lot of time trying to rebuild that.

I did a heck of a lot of prep work though. I got projects started, and research sorted and tidied and a huge amount of headway on my book of patterns and some very novel research, I even got a lot of costumes nearly finished.

And I cleared away a lot of stash. A lot. My studio is also back to working and there is a lot of new space 🙂

 

So all of these will continue through next year 🙂

Research

Album Amicorum: started, patterns were made years ago but converting them to be hand coloured stalled- can’t find good watercolour paper that doesn’t pill. Pages on stitches put up but I may want to replace them if I can mimic 16thC hand better.

Two big research projects at the point of editing for publication. I just get myself down a citing rabbit hole. So I have had to take a break and am back to looking at layouts already established and the hook to get people interested.

Also older pages are back in my site, including scans from my Girl’s Own annuals, and pages of information from Der Bazar.

 

 

Sci-fi:

Ahsoka: patterned, leather work tooled some formed, sculpt finished, molded and three tests made. That was really a heck of a lot…

Mon Mothma: dress remade it’s far too short. Might just toss it unless someone under 5’2″ wants it! New fabric is resistant to dye remover so 6m of abstract blood orange lace anyone?

Senatorial Leia: new wig. Two lace fronts put together and the new buns look really good. Got that big central shape and a single turn around the outside. Got photos to add to my page on how to make the style. Boots to make over bought, as well as soles that are a better match (she has no separate heel) and very smooth flexible vinyl for the tops. Belt and dress got idied. I made it like 4? years ago? A. got to wear it, the belt got misplaced and I just got tired trying to replace it. But I have two full sets of plaques and buttons also to go to a new home!

Padme light blue: Well the 19m of fabric just barely made three full sets, so I do have two to go to a new home but my own has stalled due to my dress form bust being totally wrong in shape. Got to pad to body squish really.

 

Fantasy:

Elsa: new cape!!! And I did finally find a source for all the thousands of sequins I want, and have tested a tool for punching tiny holes 🙂

Maleficent: New horns sculpted (I am indeed just going to smooth them, digitise them, and do textures in Sculptris. I cannot get the texture the way I want and it may get lost in digitising anyway.) Gown remade! It needs sewing and my sewing machine hates it.

Freya: leather work figured out!!!!!! Now I get to do a scaled pattern and then create a full sized template for cutting. I’ll have to be super smooth!

Cersei: I have decided to use braid as pretend embroidery, and to paint the darn lions. Maybe. It may wind up my lazy butt non decorated at all frock.

Historic Early

Princess of Cleves doublet: ready to line.

Basquina y jubon, y manga redonda (silver); lining in progress.

Saya entera (Valois): lining of skirt in progress- might be changed to something easier to sew!

Cleves velvet; new hem half done- all hand stitched, all heavy, all wibbly fabric!

Cleves accessories: pearls and leaves and sequin additions are happening!

New cleves gowns: OMG!!!!! SO inspired, actually making twonow that I will have space wil the passing on of other garb 🙂

 

Historic Inspired:

Mina: new bodice lining made and fitted, stay tape decoloured, extra leaves made.

Marie Antoinette: hoops nearly finished, materials gathered, skirt draped!

Satine wedding: ummmm.. potential saree for border base found and paid for- waiting for banks to send payment through tomorrow)

Satine Pink Diamonds: fabric cut, bodice lining overlocked.

 

Historic Late:

Robe de Style. Okay I did make this from scratch. That is one project then 🙂

vvdovvdo2

Sheer dress started- princess undergown needs decolouring, and sheer layer is pinned only.

walking dress fabric set aside, pale blue striped, and embroidery relocated.

sheer saree day dress tested. Will go over the princess petticoat.

I think that is enough to try and finish…

 

form and function

Over the years I have come to the conclusion I have a very distinct style, even across multiple eras and genres. There is a very obvious pattern to what appeals when one is a maker first, fan second.

I am a fan of when function meets form. So working out a puzzle of construction is incredibly satisfying. If it has to be draped on the stand all the better. Fabric manipulation for fit especially.

 

Contrast. Big colour and texture blocks. But that can sometimes be subtle, like the seam details on the backs of late 18thC bodices.

I keep flicking between eras/genres and it’s because I want to understand how the very different constructions affect fit and perceptions of ideal body types. The 1920s velvet gowns I’m making superficially look like the bias cut gowns of a decade later but really rely on different fabric use to achieve it.

Right now I’d love to do an essay on how extant items can tell us more about how clothes were made than first appearance. But it is a bit reliant on getting some of my own gear finished. So that is the aim this year. Finish the historic projects to really highlight what I want to say.

Got a lot of writing and sewing to do to actually get there though!

this year, the reproductions

It’s at LACMA. It was being restored for display in a travelling exhibit but I’ve not been able to figure out where/when. But LACMA is a place I’ve wanted to go for a long time. The blue satin mantua is one reason 🙂

Anyway, lots of room for interpretation based on patterning in the 1930s, Adrian and his desire to be historic, and the really not at all 1930s or 1770s patterning. The bodice is glorious. It’s ideal for my figure as it has delves into late 19thC darting. This will have to be patterned on my calico covered stand as the bust is closer to what I need than my other forms. Also the stand is able to be made as tall as me (neither dressmaker stands do and I ask myself how on earth my friends in the US deal as I’m pretty short at 5’6″!

 

Oh look, another Shearer gown. There *maaay* be a folder just for her 😉 Thi s is the Upstage gown. But well the front is not exactly flattering* so I’m also taking from The Magic Flame and using the front of Vilma Bankey’s gown- to the right. If there is enough velvet who knows…

Actually there should be. The velvet was going to be for the maleficent battle robe but I have the main gown nearly finished again 🙂

But this gown is more achievable for my hands than the Sunburst so I’m moving my Feelz to this to make it work. There are challenges in this that will push but not punish. So say hello to the newest/last embroidery project 🙂

(Suddenly WP won’t let me upload an image- it’s the insert media window- I can upload via the upload page- wanted to add Maleficent here..)

My work on the horns is nearly done. The 3D scanning app works, and I may be able to get sculptris to work on adding nice texture. Okay hand warming day then sculpting tomorrow.)

Cunning plan for the epic hoops is to use plumbers coil, tapes, and felt as a brushbraid type deal. Okay, time to rescue the felt that was tossed…

And finally:

This one is really doing my head in but I have a test in foam that looks really good. It’s translating what works nicely on my cutting board into what looks good in reality! Also I’m not sure I can afford 50lbs of leather, that is many many many skins. But boy is this pretty!

And finally tidy the Mina. Just made the few extra leaves to hide the hook and eye closure of the bodice but it was rough so just need to get some more ribbon. Lots of firm cotton twill tape has been purchased to bind the seams and reduce the stretch of the cotton while being worn. There will be a waist stay as well. The rip stop cotton is very firm and so far is holding shape 🙂

New petticoat or skirt lining, not sure what to do. But the pleats are sewn in so many rows that the stitching can get caught so they need to be protected.

Oh yes! Ahsoka!

Cunning plan for casting the montral has worked!!! In fact so well that the few wonky bits are frustratingly there and not worth fixing. But I have latex to do this in the next few days 🙂

Spent far too long on the pc today to actually do anything. Time to get a hot water bottle for my hands and rest.

Upstage gown draping

Well also my Magic Flame inspired bodice 🙂

This is my Magic Flame inspired gown, I may actually have enough to make both gowns, but hey.

I’ve been using 1920s appropriate fabrics (silk charmeuse lining, silk velvet shell) and techniques (which are just weird, really weird. I have an entire post dedicated in my mind about the weirdness!

It’s kind of even weirder than bias as it’s not bias and it’s not based on a system.. it’s just.. weird.

 

So this was a nightmare, but I have the shell mounted to the lining and a lovely cotton tulle border 🙂

Next up I decided to use my pink crepe intended for draping to actually drape 🙂

The skirt front is an inverted V which helps with shaping (as per my last blog post) but it’s not the most flattering of options so I have decided to use the top most line of the feather details to hide a hip level seam.

So this means the entire front is cut in one and all shaping is achieved through the points at the side of the bodice. I am also using the photos of the back of the gown as a guide- I prefer how they appear to sit further around the side of the ribs.

I started by pinning the fabric to the CF line. This is the anchor for all the stretch and all the shaping. The second anchor is the hip, I’m not entirely sure if I’ll manage to keep the hip seam nice and horizontal and on the grain but that is the aim.

I then pinched a dart from the side hip to the side of the bust point. This is based on Draping a Magic Dance Frock, and Art in Dress. In Art in Dress there are a few bodices where shaping is achieved with darts or slashing at the side waist.

Detour for obligatory helping photo.

I then started to push the excess fabric at the side waist up to smooth the fit over the lower front. ANd then cut the fabric close to where I wanted the upper arrow shape to sit.

There is a bit of guess work in draping and I know I will have to try this again, my cut is slightly misaligned.

A lot of shaping relies on the seam allowances to be cut to allow the fabric to ease into and around curves. However once you cut the fabric it of course spreads and can spread further than you expect. This is especially true when using the natural stretch of woven fabrics.

Even pinning from one direction will pull the fabric off line.

Just a little further smoothing and easing.

By this stage I decided I really should have put in the straps that appear at the back of the gown as these are very not stretchy and need to be more accurately tested.

After a bit of adjusting I was happy with the shape and curve and used the excess fabric at the shoulder to drape the shoulder arrow.

So yes, my side arrows are slightly uneven. But tidying that will be in my next test pattern. It will be fluoro-green charmeuse.

And finally I tested my half circle skirt to see where I could arrange skirt flare. I think I’ll actually cut the back on a slight diagonal as there will be a seam there anyway.

 

The shaping is quite pronounced!

 

the slinky dress- 1920s

Right now I am working on two velvet gowns inspired directly from two that were used for film of the late 1920s, these are very representative of a style worn through the 1920s.

I have endeavoured to credit the design or wardrobe team where possible.

Vilma Banky in The magic Flame (1927, uncredited designer), and Norma Shearer in Upstage (1926, Kathleen Kay*, Maude Marsh and André-ani).

Both of these gowns are from the height of the flapper era, and yet both are designed to cling to the body from shoulder to hips. And they are not alone!

 

Nita Naldi, Cobra (1925, Adrian), Anna May Wong, Nita Naldi Cobra, (1925, Adrian)

These gowns are clearly designed to make a stark visual impact and yet the materials are soft and flow around the body.

 

These gowns have defined body shaping. It is achieved using inserts and cutouts to take in or spread out  V shaped elements- using decorative elements to achieve a closer fit, and was used a lot in the 1920s to shape clothing.

From experience it is a style that is best draped on the stand. French bias* is used through the 1920s which affects stretch in seams and this style makes most use of barely diagonally cut fabric.

It can be seen on long clinging gowns, short gowns, and even what I am calling a demi skirt- a flared rather than gathered skirt that ends below the knees and before the ankles.

A hip seam (straight or also v shaped) is of benefit in anchoring the bodice to the torso especially for skirts that are gathered or flared.

*french bias is barely off the grain and is usually used on the CF line. True bias is cut at 45 degrees to the grain. A lot of shaping of this time is not true bias, but uses the same extra ease offered from french bias

  

Dorothy Sebastian & Anita Page, Our Dancing Daughters (1928, David Cox), Colleen Moore, Clara Bow

 

Norma Shearer, The Last of Mrs Cheyney (1929, Adrian), Joan Crawford, Our Dancing Daughters (1928, David Cox).

And the fit was even used for Robes de Style!

 

Arlette Marchal, Clara Bow, Jacqueline Gadsen

Anita Page, Our Modern Maidens (1929, Adrian)

 

In this case the fit is from the hips up to underbust at the side and then the excess from the bust is eased into the scooped neckline.

Paul Poiret evening gown, 1920s, Christies auctions.

This gown makes use of the seaming needed to create the geometric patterns to also fit to the body. This use of decorative seams to hide functional seams can also be seen in Patterns of Fashion, a blue silk crepe dress from 1925 has teardrop shaped panels that are used to take in or spread the ground fabric.

1921 evening dress, Les modes, “where there’s smoke” by Patterson.

 

 

updates to be

 

While researching the Robe de Style I kept coming across gowns that were fitted to the body and accentuated curves. This is surprising to many followers of fashion however it really shouldn’t be 🙂

Then as now there was a lot of media covering fashion, many styles that had short lives, many that had long lives. What is remembered tend to be what is most shocking or memorable to later generations.

I’ve lost the date for a number of photos so to make anything I share here pertinent I am going through several antique dressmaking books.

I always feared the 1920s, but the drive then was not for shapeless, there is a lot of knitwear that makes you just wonder what might have been… it’s no coincidence the bias cut developed in this era to flourish the start of the next decade.

The roots of the slinky bias cut were well in place.