Costume and Graphic Design

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Victorian Dress Finished

The Victorian dress is finished, and made it’s debut on Saturday, at Can’t Stop the Serenity. I was not able to bring my camera, as I still cannot locate the battery charger… toward the end of the move, I think it may have been tossed into a random box, and I can’t seem to find it. I may have to bite the bullet and buy a new charger, and when I find my old one, I will have a backup! Yay!

I was not expecting to have any pictures at all, but I was fortunate enough to have been photographed by someone at the event, who then posted the pictures on the Facebook page. I wish I could give more direct credit than that, but I do not know the person’s name. They must be one of the admins of the Alberta Browncoats page, because that is who posted the pictures. I thank you, who ever you are, for posting the pictures, and I hope it is ok that I am sharing them here, as they are the only photos I have of my dress! If I ever find out your name, I will give you full credit for the photos!
And on that note, here is the full dress:
It was pretty dark in the room, and there were few details to be seen in the picture, so I boosted contrast and brightened things up a bit. It made the photo grainy, but you can see a bit more of the detail this way! When I charge my camera, I will take it into the yard and get some more pics.
There is a closeup of the front:
I wish I had thought to put the popcorn and pop down!! 
The woman who was taking the pictures snapped a shot of the back of my head when I wasn’t looking, and got a wonderful detail photo of my hair and hat.
Again, I wish I didn’t have the popcorn right up near my shoulder!! I spent 2 hours doing my hair that morning, and wasn’t able to get it dry in the curlers in time. I pulled most of the curlers out of slightly damp hair, which resulted in limp curls. But, that is what I get for choosing sleep over fashion!! Lol! 
Overall, I think it was a success! Like every project after it’s first run, I found things I would like to fix. 
The jacket wasn’t designed to fit over such a full skirt, so it puckered a lot at the top of the bell. I may need to make the top of the hoop skirt narrower, and consider adding a bustle over the back of the jacket for added volume in the back. It was fun wearing such a full skirt, but I think this particular dress just isn’t designed for such a full set of hoops! My Queen of Hearts is, so that will have the fullest skirt I can manage!!
The ruffles around the collar and the wrists were too stiff. I used organza, as was suggested by the pattern, but I think this stuff might have been just a little too stiff. The result was a ruffle that stood right up, and often caught my hair, and made eating difficult as the sleeve ruffles jutted out right over my hand, and would not stay back if I pushed them up. Also, the sleeves were too long for me, by about 1.5 inches, so I will most certainly be shortening them for next time. That might help with the the ruffles at the wrist, pulling them back off my hands a bit. I am considering putting some beading around the edges of the collar ruffle, and that will add some weight to the ruffles, forcing them to lay flatter. 
Some of the pleats didn’t iron straight, and it showed when I had the skirt on. I do want to wash the skirt, because those little white marks are still there!! That will remove the starch, and I will have to re starch and iron the pleats again, but seeing as I need to do that anyway to fix a couple of crooked ones, and remove the dust from the gravel parking lot… I will have a nice clean, neatly ironed set of pleats for next time. I plan to wear this again for When Words Collide in Calgary in August. Not the full thing, but I think at least the skirt. I will see. WWC isn’t a convention where everyone dresses up, so I don’t want to go too crazy and costumey.
Until next time, Happy Sewing!

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I have wanted a hoop skirt, or crinoline, for a long time, and had tried, with disastrous results, to make one myself. Ultimately, I want a big one for my Queen of Hearts, but first, my Victorian Geocacher needed one. Sad side note, we had to cancel the Victorian Geocaching day, so I have yet to wear my outfit. But that is OK, I managed to pick up some extra hours at work instead! And it bought me another two weeks to finish. My next chance to wear this outfit is the Can’t Stop the Serenity event, on June 23rd.

I looked for patterns, instructions, even looked at buying one on eBay. After shipping, they were not as affordable as they were at first glance… A $20 set of hoops is great until you account for international shipping! And no one in Canada seems to be distributing them.

I found a site,, where she has a great set of instructions on how to make one, but the best part was her suggestions for materials. Once again, Home Depot has come to the costumer’s rescue! She recommends using soaker hose for the hoops. It is flexible, yet strong, and is made of a foamy rubber. It is also inexpensive! I used a little over half of a 50ft roll, at $12 per roll! While it is not as light weight as other materials, it is certainly not too heavy. I tried on the finished product with no corset for support, and it was comfortable to wander around the house in, and didn’t dig in at all.

I won’t rehash the instructions on how to make it, as hers are pretty clear, complete with diagrams. I will show some photographs of the pieces, and make some suggestions of my own, in addition to her instructions.

The first thing I did was to choose a fabric that had stripes. All the seams in this are straight lines, and having a fabric that has those lines printed in it made it so much easier to sew!!

My first mistake was choosing a fabric that had stretch to it. The elastic properties of the skirt, combined with the rubbery hose made it very difficult to feed through the channels. My solution: tape. I wrapped a loop of tape around the hose at regular intervals, about 8″ apart. I could then shift the fabric from one patch of tape to the next, working my way around the loop. Once I got the hang of it, it went quite quickly!

When the hose had been thread through the entire loop, I used a piece of hose, about 3″ long, that fit inside the hole of the soaker hose, to snug the pieces closed.

I started with the bottom hoop, and worked my way up, until I had finished all the hoops. In the case of this one, I had 4 hoops. It isn’t a wide skirt, so I didn’t need as much support. For my Queen of Hearts, I will probably need to go with 6 hoops, and a fuller shape.

The finished product turned out quite well!

I will make a small pad to hold the back of the hoops out more, and probably sew ties to the inside front that loop back around my bum to help flatten the front and give it more poof in the back. But for now, this does the job.

I am also missing the petticoat, which I will tackle tonight and tomorrow. This should allow for the fabric to move smoothly over the hoops, and even out any bumps they cause. I did find that the fit was a little tighter than I intended, so I will consider shortening the hoops by a couple of inches to avoid puckering and bunching in the outer layer. It is easier to shorten than to lengthen!

With the outer garments over top, it looks very nice!

When I find the charger for my good camera, I will go out and take some nice photos! Probably in my yard near the maple, but I will get some and post those.

To recap, lessons learned while making this crinoline…
– Soaker hose is rubbery, don’t use elastic fabric, or be prepared to use tape as lubricant.
– Striped fabric does wonders for keeping your channels straight!
– It is surprisingly easy to move and sit in!

Thanks to Death by Chutney for the great tutorial! Your suggestion for soaker hose was the major piece to this puzzle! Of all the tutorials on how to make a hoopskirt, yours was the only one with a suggestion for the hoop material.

****Update**** I noticed today that Death By Chutney’s website is no longer available. Hopefully, it is a temporary thing. But, seeing as the great tutorial is no longer available, and as such, my links do not work, I will try to set up my own tutorial instead.

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An Inspirational Woman

I have recently discovered a blog that I find to be absolutely fascinating. At she shares her fashion ideas and make up tips, and are the kind of ideas I had been discovering myself.

Many years ago, I was very much into the dark and mysterious. I got into making my own outfits because I could not afford the beautiful clothing in the boutiques. Working a part time job while in high school, I was still not able to afford the luxurious fabrics the store versions were made from, and my sewing skills were lacking in experience, so I ended up with flimsy costume looking articles. That was fine for a kid, and at the time, I was so proud to have a collection of gothy outfits to wear.

I carried on, to a lesser degree, through college. My after school jobs prompted me to buy more “mainstream” clothing, and I started to feel like it was time to “grow up”. Efforts to conform in the professional world took me further and further from my previous looks, and I began to look more like the girls who picked on me in grade school. But part of me never stopped loving my dark and romantic clothing.

In recent years, I started to feel like I was less myself, and wearing a “costume” to blend in with everyone else. I began to cultivate my own personal style again, this time focusing on a few higher end pieces… adding a well tailored blazer, or a jewel toned scarf. I tried different hair styles, but the salon artists didn’t seem to grasp that I wanted something a little more dramatic than they did. I think they were afraid that I would regret having something so different, and went the safe route. I am now growing my hair out so I can style it simple or funky, whatever I feel that day.

This bring me back to the blog I found. Victorian Kitty has found a balance between her personal sense of style and work appropriate clothing. I think the basic message is that you don’t have to leave your personality at the door, but use your head and observe what might be acceptable or overdone. Bustle skirts and corsets may best be saved for weekends, but a black skirt and blazer with a colourful blouse works well in an office setting. I am finding that her style is very similar to my own. I don’t want to be a copy of her, as personal style is just that… personal (I hate wearing tights, but she seems to love them!) It is an expression of your own tastes. I love that she has found a way to bring her own flair to the workplace, and that is where I find her to be inspirational.

I have been sorting through my own wardrobe in search of items that are highly work appropriate, yet a perfect expression of who I am. One of my favourites is a black shirt with red flower print, perfect for under a cardigan or blazer. I can layer in the air conditioned office, and just do the shirt for a summer evening. I still love my pink summer dress, and I am not going to stop wearing it because it lacks the “dark mystery” that I enjoy. I just tend to pair it with black high heal sandals, instead of white flip flops!

Perhaps, once I am finished with my Victorian outfit, I will work on some pieces that I can wear for work, but with my own personal twist!!