Category Archives: featured finished works

throwback thursday-barbieshep

In anticipation of @bioware @masseffect andromeda, #femshep #commandershepard

Photos by @littlenoisephotography

Costume, props, styling: michaela de bruce


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Filed under featured finished works, projects: media recreations

era: c1840

material: cotton with padded front

found: 2004

I am fabiliar with padding being used in some later gowns- mainly areound the front of the armscye to help reduce wrinkles, but this is quite different. Also effective! This era is post romantic stays with the long rigid busk that pushed the bust upwards, and the start of the opening busk and slightly lowered bust that came with it. This padding helps maintain raised bust, or creates one.

Other construction notes are to follow the pattern direction- the waist is on the grain, only diverting in the front point. this helps stabilise the waist.

While this is a cotton bodice, the lightness of the construction can be seen across most garments from this era and beyond. all the support of skirt shapes and body line is created in undergarments.

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Filed under featured finished works, rock the frock

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.


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.


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.


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

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Filed under featured finished works, fitting a fashionable shape, garment construction, projects: late historic, Uncategorized

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.

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Filed under featured finished works, sticky, Uncategorized

Marie Antoinette Stays

While these stays were worn for a specific scene, it is a really interesting look at how the bodices in general seem to have worked. It’s very modern in some aspects but not in others. So while not historically accurate in any way, it winds up as an interesting insight into Hollywood being creative, and also using the techniques they had.

invaluable, Profiles in History Auction



featuring property from the career of David Hasselhoff Day 1 session 2by Julien’s Auctions

H1088-L52100084 H1088-L52100089

Front and back. The front uses the same seam placement as on the bodices for Norma, with two long lines over the bust,  and straight seams from side around the back. The very large unboned tabs look functionless but have given me an idea- they would help protect pressure from the weight of the skirt around the waist- like real tabs in real stays through the 16th-18thC. I am not sure what kind of stays I do want to wear but I will be wearing something to pad my upper hips as I know too well the pressure of skirts right there.

H1088-L52100090 H1088-L52100094

These details feel modernly vintage- that lovely ruched ribbon work around the edges especially.



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Filed under extant garments for study, featured finished works

Rheumatoid life

Fatigue edition.

I occasionally realise that people don’t experience pain in the same way, let alone experience different types of sources of pain. There are also different kinds of tiredness so that it can be hard to understand when someone with a fatigue symptom can appear to be okay.

Tonight I was supposed to go to an SCA feast but with the time frames, the distance traveled, the time waiting, I simply couldn’t commit. This is fatigue- looking at the full time frame and working out how long I’d be sitting upright, how long I’d be walking, how long in a car, how long standing. It’s a calculation I wish was much easier but it’s not, and I don’t always get it right. This is because it is complicated and relies on variables that can change in under an hour.

This is not about prioritising, not about saving energy for people and things I love, it’s the on the day calculations and working out if there is a cost, and at what point it will come up to pay. If it comes up during a time I’m away from home I have to err on the side of caution. It’s not about making choices of who to spend time with.

Fatigue itself is not about being tired, it’s more like misfiring communication between different parts of the body and brain. Right now I am upright and not really going to be doing anything different to what I would be, on the surface at least. But there are few consequences for myself or other if I stumble a bit, or bump into things.

Mistake making is high when brain and body are not quite fully in communication with each other. It feels like there is lag between thoughts and between thoughts and actions. That delay is okay when I can self correct, but it’s tiring on top of being tired to try and stay vigilant for errors. Am I going to trip, where are my feet, where are the feet of the people around me, is there a rug, or equipment? I am not naturally tidy, but I have had to make sure that anywhere I go there is a clear path on the floor. Not just because of fatigue but because I can’t just step over or around if my ankles or knees have inflammation.

I am avoiding a fatigue crash because it is so vile. We talk about brain fog, or the methotrexate hangover. And for people who have experienced being hung over it really is the same. The seasick feeling, the delayed response, the sensitivity to light and sound and smell.

But imagine that if there was no payoff. That you didn’t have a crazy night out.

And yep, there are times you just say if I’m going to be this miserable after then just do it. Today is not one of those days because I know the time frame would be too short for me to manage it.

Other times I have been able to. So that is always something to hold on to- there are times where everything works out.

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Filed under featured finished works, life with disability/illness

Extant Gowns I adore-3

I’m cheating, these are all doublets.


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Costume bodice, Spanish, possibly early 20th century, in the style of about 1600

If this is a copy it’s a remarkable wonderfully accurate copy! I know there was a lot of interest in historic costume and collecting extant items in the late 19thC especially but this has a good cut.So I’m keeping this here until I know for sure. There is a fold under the right arm that looks like a long dart, but that would be closer to the 1950s in terms of placement, as the same kind of side darts in the 1920s were shallower and longer on the whole.

So if this is a copy, this is the kind of copy I aspire to. It’s so well made that you have to look for details that show modern workmanship- the weave of the fabric, the order of construction, and nods to contemporary wishes. However this bodice keeps the conical shape while fitting for a more curvy shape than the fashionable ideal. The curved front join is correct for the period but also only until the late 19thC and it’s rare to see a garment deviate from established systems of cutting.


Museo del Traje- Jubón

Jubón femenino de seda con bastas flotantes por urdimbre de color gris que dibujan una decoración en zig-zag y roleos.

This is very definitely of the time! But it is for a different body type. This is almost certainly intended to be worn under a ropa as there are no shoulder wings.


Les Arts Décoratifs- Costume: pourpoint espagnol
Création: France, 1589-1610, Henri IV

Now this is what I mean by the MFA looking so close to the original. The placement of the trim (There are two distinct placements of trim on Jubons) the shape of the shoulder wings, the texture of the main fabric, the shape of the nib front, the proportion of the waist tabs. The most obvious difference is the set of the shoulders in the MFA.

As far as fitting this has a very similar method of shaping, which is to do the bulk of the general size in the back and pull the fabric from the sides to the front to pinch out for customised fit. You bring in under the bust and to the waist then smooth over the bust and over the point. And spread the fabric from the bust up and out to the shoulders. This way the most stable part of the fabric, the closest to the grain is under the bust and to the waist which then allows some ease over the bust and to the throat.

This is sort of similar to Victorian fitting as well and was mainly lost in modern pattern draping and drafting systems. It is still seen today in modern tailoring. ANd that is because these garments above were made by a tailor, dress making came about with the rise of the Mantua and lead to a very different kind of patterning and construction.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art-Jerkin

Medium:silk, metal thread
Credit Line:Gift of Bashford Dean, 1926
Accession Number:26.196

This garment is earlier than the rest but shows a shaping feature often overlooked in the various tailoring books, the side front seam. This appears to be optional as they are only drawn in occasionally but they do sit in the same place. But you can see some issues with trying to sew on this slight curve on the outside of the seam to our right. There is more fabric eased on the outer curve than on the opposite side.

This garment was patterned for Blanche Payne’s History of Costume. It’s not easier than the normal three part bodice types but it does allow for a little more ease over the bust and into the armscye.

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Filed under extant garments for study, extant gowns i adore, featured finished works