Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Dress-Ups Box: Part The First

Over the life of this blog I've made mention that I sew and make costumes a number of times. I decided it was time to document the costume works I have made over the years. Then I figured if I'm taking pics of them, I might as well do some sharing with you guys! So here is the first part of a loose kind of series where I'll post pics from the dress-ups box.

Curiously, even though I'm proud of all these pieces I feel kind of shy sharing them because... well... it's still dressing up you know? You either get that it's fun to play dress-ups every now and then, or you think it's the last refuge of the truly weird (in reality it's about a 90%/10% split).

I used to play with a historical re-creation group called "The Society For Creative Anachronism", and lots of the costumes I have made were made in the context of participating in the SCA. Many people scoff at the whole re-enacter scenario, sometimes with reason, but for me it was a positive experience. I was actually drawn to re-enacting through the creative side. The events, although often really good fun, were never the main drawcard for me, and in fact once going to events started to become onerous I dropped out. Costuming, embroidery, painting 'illuminations' for calligraphy, making other artifacts, and especially the research aspect of it all, were the original lure.

Dressing The Past 2

My SCA 'persona' was a late Elizabethan era Italian, and I made this olive green and black silk suit fairly on in playing with the SCA. It was the first heavily researched outfit I made, and I put lots of effort into getting the shapes and basic construction right.

Dressing The Past 2

It's fairly lightweight silk, fully interlined and lined, and tailored so as to be more like clothing than a smoke and mirrors 'good from a distance' theatrical costume. The 2 piece curved sleeves tie into the doublet at the armhole, an authentic technique that was probably designed so that replacement or maybe even contrasting sleeves could be worn. The paned trunk hose (or 'slops') tie into the bottom of the doublet also, keeping the pants up and stopping the doublet from riding up.

Dressing The Past 2

I used to mostly wear this suit with a fairly simple shirt and a white neck ruff. Ruffs are quite uncomfortable to wear, so I made this 'falling band' or 'falling collar' style shirt to wear some of the time. It's made of fine linen, with cotton lace at the collar and cuffs and fine ties at the cuffs to hold the turnback cuffs in place.

Dressing The Past 2

So that's costume #1 described and shown. Phew, not so bad. No cringing or sliding into a 47 paragraph dissertation on Elizabethan era men's clothing (I could do it you know, in fact I've taught classes on it).


So, on to costume #2.

Dressing The Past 1

In 2005 two friends of mine held a Trafalgar Dinner to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, complete with authentic period food and drink. It was a fantastic night and I blogged the event here.

This suit was based on an English military uniform of the era I found in a book, and made in a lightweight navy coloured wool. I scrimped a bit on construction because it was only designed to be worn for the one night, so it isn't lined and some of the details (like the button holes) were done a bit rushed. Every time I look at it I think they could do with being oversewn by hand to make them look more period. (But then, that's me.)

Dressing The Past 1

The shape is authentic, and I drafted the pattern after pouring over engravings and any garment research I could find from the period. My kind of fun. It's a little shapeless on the stand because I was a bit fatter back then (and if I wasn't, I would have been after the basquillion courses we had for dinner).

Dressing The Past 1

I did however spend an absolutely insane amount of time doing a miniscule hand rolled and sewn edge on the metres and metres of linen used to make the long narrow stock (tie) for the shirt. Hi, I'm insane, nice to meet you.

Dressing The Past 1

The breeches were fun to make, figuring out how to fit pants is hard at the best of times (hello, have you seen the crotches on Project Runway?) and figuring the drop front was extra fun. The end result is a good fit, and quite flattering. How do I put this gently? These sorts of breeches, when worn correctly (ie: without tightly binding modern underwear) really do wonders for your man parts. Seriously. Check out the crotches on any Beau Brummel/Jane Austeny era drama where the costumes are really authentic. Guessing who dresses to the left (or right) is a no-brainer.

Even I'm surprised I went there, but really one of the fascinating things about the history of clothing is what it says about societies. The 19th century was archly conservative and yet men wore breeches that enhanced and flaunted their manhood, and for a brief period women even wore damp gauze dresses that made them look almost naked. It was inappropriate for Elizabethan men to be seen outside the bedroom in their shirtsleeves, but lavish codpieces were ok.

The past is a foreign country, and researching this stuff is a bit like getting a temporary visa.


yani said...

Oooooh... colour me jealous. Not that I have the skill or patience to actually make any of it, and I'm not sure whether I'd have the proverbials to wear one out in the world, but I like!

I have a book on my bookshelf called Patterns for Theatrical Costumes that has a lot of Ye Olde Outfits in it... and I used to pour over it back in the day...

Cecilia said...

This is so cool! I can't wait to see more of your creations.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

lovely lovely lovely TOA - so nice to see some of your clothes recorded!

btw love the new banner :-)

Peter said...

Working for tailors myself [administrative work] I admire your work.

Paul said...

The colors and craftmanship are stunning! You are SO talented!

jason said...

wow! I'm amazed and jealous.

I've been thinking of doing something similar to that Renaissance one myself, but am far too lazy.

The Other Andrew said...

Thanks everyone! I haven't sewed anything for ages it seems, and looking back at the stuff I've made has made me realise how much I miss it. Time to take a stab at designing and making some 'regular' clothes for myself I think! (Nudged along by watching episodes of Project Runway...)

IRV said...

Impressive to say the least! WOW, I'm totally blown away.

thombeau said...

Fabulous, Andrew. This makes me love you even more!

The Other Andrew said...

Hey, thanks guys! I'm feeling the love!

Tall & Handsome said...

Oh- your creative skills is one of the things I love about you. I consider myself *very* lucky to know someone like you, who is very talented.

Ur-spo said...

those are fantastic; such style and grace
i wish at times we still dressed with such elan

The Other Andrew said...

Hey tall & handsome, thanks. :) ::blush::

Ur-spo, agreed! I'm a huge fan of other eras, like the 20s, 30s and 40s, where people really dressed up too.

Lara said...

Now that my internets is fast again, and I can see the pictures, I have a whole new level of love and respect for you. These are amazing, and I can't wait to see more of your work.

I love those pleated bloomer pants - I've always wondered how they were made.


The Other Andrew said...

Thanks Lara! They're actually individual strips rather than pleats, with an outer lining layer, some padding (in this case, scrunched up tulle) and then an inner layer. Yes, HARD. Once I figured out a pattern and how to do it though I felt like I'd solved cold fusion.

Anonymous said...

I am in England< about to tour with The Tempest and I have to make the cossies as well!! I wish I lived near you just to lern - you are amazing!


Maddie said...

I have to have a picture of men's clothing from the Elizabethan time period. Would the olive green piece be a good representation of that time period?

Debbie Amor said...

I know you created these costumes years ago, but I just tripped across them while doing a little Elizabethan clothing research (I have a vague idea about writing a piece of fiction)and I just had to say how beautiful your work is. PS I also loved the 100 things about you, and recognised number 64 too!