August 10, 2016

The Lotta Bustle: Running Around In My Underwear

The tragedy of making period appropriate undergarments is that no one ever gets to see them. All that hard work, and they're always hidden under layers of fabric! Unless you're me, in which case you take every possible opportunity to flaunt your historical skivvies in public. Rather than make a new frock for Friday night at Costume College, I decided to give my "Lotta" bustle its first wearing outside of the sewing room.

Extant "Lotta" bustle from a defunct Ebay sale.

Last year I happened to find a photo of the weirdest, most wonderful extant bustle. I figured it was a strange custom one-off, until I stumbled across a photo of a second surviving example. It had a different number of bones, so it couldn't be the exact same one. Then I noticed the same design hiding in a period print advertisement among several of the more familiar types of bustles. The ad called it the "Lotta" bustle. Intrigued, I dug further and found several patents that described similar contrivances.

Attempting to mock up the Lotta bustle.

This spring I wrote an article for Your Wardrobe Unlocked that involved reproducing and comparing 6 different bustles. (Psst, use my affiliate link to sign up for access!) Of course, one of the six had to be the Lotta bustle, because I am insane.

This is the strangest bustle I have ever made.

Twelve yards of hoop boning, some seventy plus rivets, much frustration, and a pair of very sore hands later- success! I had my New Favorite Bustle. Now if only I had a bustle dress...

Marsh corset worn at Maker Faire, steampunk style.

A fabulous bustle needs some fabulous undies to go along with it, so I paired it with the Marsh Patent Challenge Corset that I made for Foundations Revealed (here's my affiliate link for that site too) and my reproduction of a pair of drawers in my collection. The leather used in the Marsh corset is the same leather I used for the sides of the Lotta bustle, so they match!

That scalloped foxing. That swooping top line. That contrast stitching. YES.

Even better, I got my AMAZEBALLS Balmoral boots from American Duchess just in time to pack them for Coco! (Not an affiliate link; I just really love AD shoes.) What's super comfy all night long, beautiful, and has curves that don't quit? These boots, y'all.
Why yes, it is all my hair. I paid for it.

To top it all off, I threw together a Bustle Era updo from a donut, two thick braids, two twists, a few clip in barrel curls, and one of the curly bang clip ins from my crazy Romantic Era hair. If there's interest, I might be able to do a how-to post or video of the process.

Taking it down at the end of the night was... interesting.

I had a blast rocking my undies and hair! I'll be sad to cover them up once I get around to making that dress. Bonus: we discovered that the Lotta bustle has a high carrying capacity, resulting in fits of giggles all night.

A whole "Lotta" junk in that trunk, and absolutely no apologies for that pun.
Photo courtesy of Lauren from American Duchess.

Hey, at least all those snacks were handy when we got hungry.

August 5, 2016

Romantic Redux

For a woman who wore a buzz cut for 4+ years, I have become more than a little obsessed with 1830s hair.

While staring down the gauntlet of a rapidly approaching Costume College weekend, I realized that I simply wasn't in the mood to run myself ragged trying to finish new outfits. Instead, I focused on spiffing up some old ones with fabulous hair and accessories.

Like many historical costumers, I used to loathe the 1830s. Since then, I've figured out the secret: go big or go home. If you're attempting to out-ridiculous the original Romantic era, you're pretty much doing it right. The 1830s simply do not accept any sort of half-assing it.

Like you wouldn't make this exact face.

Apologies are in order, because I didn't take a single photo of the construction of the hair pieces. It was based it on this fashion print. I carved down a styrofoam disk to form the ring structure, then wrapped 24" hair wefts around it. A touch of glue at the end of each weft was enough to keep the hair in place. The ring is stitched to a buckram base so that I have a way to bobby pin it to my head. The rest is just various 3 and 6 strand braids arranged in various loops, also stitched to the base, or to the ring as needed. I clipped the buckram base down as closely as I could, then pinned it atop my head. I French-braided my own hair from the nape of my neck upwards, then wrapped my braid around the base to disguise the join.

I'm taking it off here, but you get the idea.

While I usually use my own hair for the front curls that are so common in this era, this time I purchased two of these bang extensions and curled them up ahead of time. SO MUCH EASIER. I'm never using anything else again.

From there it was simply a matter of adding flowers, a butterfly, and a bird. If anything, there's not enough STUFF in it. I need to add more ribbons and flipperies. The 1830s did not skimp.

I've also come to accept that I may have been a bit harsh on the pink dress in my last post. I wore it again with a few improvements for the 2016 Costume College Gala and fell in love with it for the first time since I made it. The inside may still be a hot mess, but the outside is looking good!

To be fair, when I originally made this dress two years ago, it was a last minute compromise. I needed an 1830s frock for an event, but  knew I didn't have time or cash to make the dress I wanted. I threw this together in less than a week. I used a reject sari that had moldered in the stash for years because it turned out to be super synthetic and the complete opposite of what I thought I had bought. The sleeves were the first wearable prototype of a pattern I was trying to create, and fell short of the mark I was aiming for. I took every shortcut I could while making the dress; the seams were so badly finished that it barely survived its first outing. On its debut there was no sash, not enough petticoats, and my hair was kinda sad; all of this contributed to my dislike of the dress.

Even when I fixed some of the shortcomings, added a sash, better hair and wore the much improved version out this last spring, I couldn't shake the disappointment that accompanied its first outing years previously. Though the dress was vastly changed, that original discouragement carried over to my post about it.

Flash forward to this last weekend: I made a new bum pad that worked wonders, re-vamped my Ugly Puffer (see HistoricalGarment's instagram photo of American Duchess and my scandalously unhistorical puffers) and worked up that FAB new hairdo. The low hotel lighting mellowed the shiny metallic-poly shine of my sari into a lovely soft sheen. I listened to my friends, who loved the dress (thanks again Lauren!). I forgave my sleeves for not holding the sharp pleats I originally ironed into them, and simply reveled in the ridiculousness of the poofy wonderfulness.  AND IT WAS AWESOME.

The sash, undergarments, hair and
ATTITUDE make all the difference.

Sometimes a few tweaks are all it takes to turn a disaster into a success. Sometimes it takes a while to move past perceived shortcomings. Sometimes you've got to just let it go.

And sometimes you just need really fucking awesome hair.

March 10, 2016

Romantic Era Confections

Big floofy sleeves? Check. Sari fabric? Check.

Even though sewing errors doomed my attempt to finish the 1890s dress in time for last weekend's ball, I still wanted to go. Trouble is, I didn't have anything from the later end of the Victorian spectrum, so I decided to dig out something from the closet that was similar to what I'd been working on (sari fabric! giant sleeves!) only from the opposite end of the Victorian era. It's a good thing PEERS isn't overly picky about sticking to the costuming theme!

Remember this old pink romantic thing from two years ago? Turns out that it was such a rush job, I never showed you what it looked like after I finished it! I originally threw it together in a week, and it shows. While it will never be anywhere near decent quality, I was able to patch it back together enough for another outing.

They look great before you try to move in them...

The fancy pleated sleeves were one of my early (failed) experiments to recreate those glorious origami confections from that pink romantic era LACMA dress we know and love. These days (and many, many iterations later) I'm much closer to a viable repro sleeve, but at the time this was as close as I could get. They're not full enough, they collapse and pull weirdly, and there's some funkiness with the shape of the underarm portion, but unless you've got your nose in my armpit they look decent for a first wearable try.

Of course, the damn things ripped right out at the underarm during the original wearing, so I sewed in some hasty gussets to give me a little more range of motion. I also mended some other tears, tacked down some bits that never got properly sewed in the first place, and patched the areas where the fabric had frayed so much it had disintegrated.

By range of motion, I mean my right arm can
go about two inches higher that this, tops.

I added a silver silk taffeta sash and bow- something that the original outfit sorely lacked. For whatever reason, the sash takes it from eh-just-some-random-nonspecific-fancy-dress to 1830's hell YEAH.

While the pink dress is fun to wear but is still a bit of a hot mess even with repairs, my hair game for the ball was SPOT ON.

This is the end of night somewhat squashed
version, and it is still EPIC.

Mind you, just before I started my hair, a big storm blew out our power. This was all done by the light of a camp lantern!

To make it even more challenging, I had to find a way to take this towering monstrosity through ferocious rain and wind to get from the house to the car, and car to the venue. The paper bag I used as a shield wasn't quite up to the task, but my hair made it mostly safe and sound. Shoes, not so much...

My front curly sections were quite high and bouncy to start, but after wind, rain, and hours of dancing and sweating, they lost their buoyancy. After the ball I experimented and discovered that I could pin up the bottom-most tails to revive the original look, so that's something I'll keep in mind for next time.

Sad, floof-less curls by the end of the evening.

Floof revived!

All in all, the dress was a sparkly, fun bit of nonsense to wear again, the hair was a great conversation piece, and the night was a success. I love the ridiculous 1830's, so you'll be sure to see more floofy sleeves here in the future!

One last thing before I bail- I've got another bustle article up at Your Wardrobe Unlocked, and this one comes with a free pattern! It's a complete how-to on making a lobster tail bustle with removable bones. Even better, the pattern is not just multi-sized, it's also designed to let you swap out the bustle pattern piece so that you can go bigger or smaller as needed. Go have a look!

March 3, 2016

Don't sew after midnight

See the mistake?

How about now?

Yeah, that's my combo facing/hem support pinned wrong sides to wrong sides with the skirt. Sewed all the way around before realizing it. 

I'm being an adult and allowing myself to let this one go for a few days. I will not completely drain myself struggling to finish the skirt and the as yet un-started bodice in the very little amount of time left before the ball. I'm going to have a nice bit of dinner, snuggle the cats, and watch a comedy or read a book.

I will wear something else to PEERS on Saturday, and will not bemoan my lack of a train or ginormous poofy sleeves. I'll tackle the gown again starting Monday, and will have time to finish it at a far more leisurely pace before the Rite of Spring Ball.

This is progress, yes?

March 2, 2016

Trained Skirt in Progress

While I finished my petticoat, you'll have to wait till the weekend to see it as I've gotten completely sideswiped by another large, last minute project!

Quality control by Kitteh

I've only squeaked out this quick break to post because I'm waiting for the fray check vapors to clear out of the sewing room. (There's a reason they card you when you buy that stuff!) With luck, I'll have this dress finished for the PEERS Ball this weekend.

Until then, I've only got a few teaser photos of the skirt and its overlay (another sari, who would have guessed?) in progress. 

Square peg, meet round hole

We'll see if I finish the whole shebang on time, or if the fray check does me in first.

February 7, 2016

Every Day I'm Bustling

2016 is already shaping up to be FAR more productive than the previous year. If I haven't posted here much yet, it's because I've been busy making SO. MANY. BUSTLES. for a Your Wardrobe Unlocked article.

Now including combination bustle/tea service

If you want to break out of the lobster tail mold, or just see what your other options for increasing the square footage of your rear end are, go have a look! I've constructed 6 unique bustles in order to contrast and compare size, shape and wearability, among other things. Included is this fabulous monstrosity-

Have a gander, and I'll see you here next week for some petticoats to cover up all that glorious badonk-a-donk.

January 2, 2016

The 2015 That Wasn't

This is literally everything I managed to complete in 2015 (it ain't much)-

A "1-hour" (hahahahahhaha) 1920s dress that was so
awful, I have no photos from the shoulders down.
Marsh Corset worn steampunked out
Remake of the Marsh pattern with added 3rd
bust gore, more hip room and revamped back
Crocheted miser's purse.  That only took two or three years...
Stuffed whales for nephew
Spoonflower pleated skirt.
Redo of the lattice gown bodice; TBD a third
time because I don't like how it turned out
Reconstructed the ugly ass day bodice
from the Polka Dot Dress into an evening
bodice; still unfinished but it's wearable!
Skirt for the Christmas tree

And fully half of those were items started or remade from previous years.  2016, we have to do better.