Confessions of a Seamstress.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
I'm an experienced seamstress with a blog dedicated to providing resources for fellow costumers and fans. This blog is a peek into the world of a seamstress and how someone who creates clothing perceives fashion and costume choices in the media. Blog by Elizabeth Hajek.
Because it isn't strictly sewing (or even very much about sewing, although there is a quilt), I posted about my recent bedroom redecorating project over on my personal blog. If you're interested in such things, you may enjoy checking it out!
More photos and notes at elenatintil.blogspot.com.
Here we are! The final photos of the finished corset (which I like to call the 'Slytherin Green Corset'). It was quite an adventure stitching this creation, but I'm very happy with how it turned out!
(Missed parts 1 and 2? Start reading here)
It's quite difficult to sew creations like this and then send them off. I took a bajillion photos of this one.
Here you can see the
Corset-making is an intense process, but it is so cool to see the finished piece come together. Part 1 covered the initial construction and busk insertion. Part 2 will chronicle the rest of the process.
Having completed two fittings and established the proper fittings of the corset, I now needed to cover the inside seams. I made bias tape out of black satin and stitched them down.
Corset-making is an art of its own. One can be a fabulous costumer, and yet know nothing about crafting corsets. I am still very much a novice in this area, but I did complete a project for a friend this past year that I am pretty proud of.
This corset is loosely Victorian in design, although I'll admit to giving it plenty of modern flare in order to make finishing the project on time
Several years ago I was given a length of textured brown fabric that struck me as being perfect for a replica of Eowyn's brown coat from "The Two Towers." I got a coat zipper and a bit of cheap brown fur and whipped the coat together. It was a little tricky to piece out all the necessary pattern sections, but I managed to pull it off! And, if I recall correctly, this was my first time working
If you are a seamstress who wants to boost your profile on social media, you need good content--and you also need pretty content. Today we are going to talk about how to take good photos that do your sewing talents justice. And don't worry, we're going to do it the economical way!
First, my personal background. I started photographing my sewing projects almost ten years ago. While I am still
I wish that I could show you the actual video above, because it explains so much about my obsession with sewing. However I don't have access to it right now, so I'm going to explain to the best of my memory. Up there is a screenshot of me shortly before my third birthday. I am taping thread onto fabric. "What are you doing?" my mom asks. "I'm sewing," I say. "Like Wendy in Peter Pan."
Yesterday, one of my friends sent me the link to a really excellent article discussing Belle's Gold Gown from the new Disney "Beauty and the Beast." I felt that it had a fantastic rundown of why so many people were unsatisfied with the dress that Emma Watson wore, especially in comparison to the general approval (corset aside) of Lily James' Cinderella dress.
I found myself inspired by this blog
First of all, to not be redundant, let's see what the internet is already saying about these costumes! In my research I was not able to access the multiple video interviews on the topic, due to my deafness and lack of subtitles on said videos. So they will unfortunately not be a part of my discussion here. However, I did find the following interesting articles:
- People Movies also interviewed Durran, and their article includes additional details, as well as Durran's design sketches. Further design sketches were originally released on Entertainment Weekly here and are a treasure trove for those looking to understand and recreate these pieces for cosplay. While you can see more of the sketches at the above link, I wanted to share my favorite here. (I'm not entirely clear on whether these sketches are her original designs, or drawings of the finished product done for promotional purposes. If anyone can clarify this, I'd be grateful for the details!)
Design by Jacqueline Durran, released on Entertainment Weekly, retrieved from People Movies
...and these articles were just what I found on the first two pages of Google! Undoubtedly this film has sparked a louder conversation about costume than just about any other film in recent years--even more so than the live action Disney Cinderella (and you remember how much press that one got!) As a professional seamstress and costume designer, this thrills me to my core and I'm so psyched to finally have a chance to properly weigh in on the discussion!
I will also add that in the following critique I will use the term "historical accuracy" a lot. Though this is a fairy tale, it is very clearly set in a fairly specific time in French history, a decision which as reinforced by almost every garment on screen (and those that break the mold will be discussed).
(Though there are now close-captioned movie theater options, my fibromyalgia sensory issues mean that large screens, even television screens, provoke migraines. I have to wait for everything to be available for home viewing so that I can safely watch it on my laptop screen. A pity in this case, because the lavish visuals of "Beauty and the Beast" are so clearly meant to be properly enjoyed on a large screen!)
Now settle in, because we have a boatload of costumes to get through! (Click on any picture to open the full-sized photo-viewer.)
First off -- oh my goodness, the foppish prince! I feel fairly certain that Dan Stevens had a blast with this get-up. The make-up truly is crazy. I wish we got a better glimpse of the coat, as according to the interviews there were some pretty nifty crystal embellishments.
Full ensemble view.
All of the ball attendees were women dressed in white, a fact which makes the prince's ensemble stand out. It's easy to gloss over these dresses, but I always find it fascinating to see how many different ways you can make one garment with the same color and era perimeters. This photo is a good look at the different variations on display.
Here is our first glimpse of Belle and her iconic blue dress. As I stated in my reaction to the EW photos, there are lots of lovely layers and textures involved in this costume. Although I was originally uncertain about the red accents, I found them much more subdued in the actual film than in the publicity photos and hardly noticed it--which means it did it's job nicely of adding depth to the dress without taking away from the iconicness of it.
As the interviews above state, one of Belle's "rebel styles" was to wear her skirts tucked up with her bloomers showing underneath. This isn't quite so rebellious as it might sound, as bloomers began to be widely worn by women just a few decades after this film is probably set. Maurice says that everyone thought Belle's mother was weird until they started following her lead...what to guess the same is eventually true for Belle?
(I will talk more about the time period of the film in my movie review over on my personal blog.)
I haven't included too many photos of the townspeople, but I wanted to highlight one or two because they are marvelous. I just adore the styles, colors and fabrics used. I'm sure that a serious fashion historian of the period could probably spot some inaccuracies, but at my level of study there was nothing that jumped out to me as unfitting for the period.
Well...except for the fact that the dressmaker's shop seemed a little too fancy for such a quiet village. However, my guess is that this dressmaker was involved in dressing many of the guests of the prince's ball in the beginning. The townspeople were enchanted to forget the castle, but this dressmaker had to keep making a living and it doesn't seem that her skills were forgotten. I love the way she smiles at Belle--I don't think she thinks Belle as odd as some of the other folks do. Perhaps an unconscious part of her mind remembers other well-read beauties that she's forgotten under the current enchantment.
Gaston's clothing was so perfectly done throughout the film. I loved every single outfit he wore and don't have a single complaint.
The "Silly Girls" are often regulated costumes that I find ugly in the stage show, however I absolutely adore their ensembles here. Overdone, of course, and crazy pink, but it is a nice shade of pink and I love how all the busy prints actually work together to make a harmonious whole.
Here Belle wears a beautiful jacket (the proper historical term is 'Caraco', I believe). According to History.org, such a garment was:
considered day wear at home or for informal activities. It was always considered "undress."
I really love how changing just one piece creates a very different looking outfit.
I adore the combination of the muted stripes and the embroidered birds.
Here we get a look at Belle's full length ensemble.
This is one picture I recommend clicking to get a better look at -- the floral lining of the cloak is clearly visible when magnified.
Here Belle wears another Caraco, also blue.
And here we get a good look at the back of the garment. Look how much fabric is in the peplum!
This scene really made me laugh! I love how the Wardrobe was SO excited to have a girl to dress that she just vomited up everything girly she could and it looks crazy and Belle can just climb right out of it. HILARIOUS.
Red is such a beautifully striking color and it is no wonder that Gaston's scarlet coat is so memorable.
I've made a few coats in this style before, and it is always surprising to realize how much fabric they have in the 'skirt.' Here you can get a good look at just how many folds there are back there!
I also enjoyed the design of the animated servants more than I originally anticipated. Here is a particularly good view of Lumiere's coat.
That said, Plumette's design still weirds me out, yet I did get a kick out of her jewel-bedecked costume in "Be Our Guest."
When it comes to cosplay, it's the detail photos that are gold. I included this shot because it gives us a good look at the closure to Belle's blouse. Looks like there is a button and loop holding it together.
And here is a shot of the back of Belle's floral blouse, one of my very favorite pieces of the whole film!
The icing on the cake, of course, is that this is also the dress she wears for the library reveal...which as a bookworm, is one of my favorite scenes of the movie.
Good 3/4ths shot of this ensemble.
Here we can see some shoulder detail. It's a little difficult to figure out whether the blue is an underblouse, or an accent piece.
This photo gives us a nice look at Belle's shawl as well as the Beast's new vest look. He's dressing more human-like, but still not fastening all of the buttons on his vest.
Another look at the shawl. There has definitely been a surge in 1700's knitwear since the advent of the "Outlander" tv series!
The beautiful cloak unfortunately prevents us from getting a good look at this caraco. It appears to be fairly simple, made from a single-tone fabric. This works well, however, as it allows the cloak and apron to shine. (I adore that apron, even if the embroidered nature of it makes it completely impractical to be an actual apron!)
Another look at the cloak embroidery. The cloak appears to be a simple circle cloak, with the neck opening set off-center.
It is the gorgeous yet simple trim that really makes this cloak--and alas, will make it difficult to recreate.
I have been obsessed with the clothing of the Tudor era ever since I was a young girl. In fact, at one point in time, I hand-sewed a self-drafted gown of blue velvet, at which time I was perhaps 12 or 13. (Yeah, I was very geeky.) And the very first costume I ever made with a pattern was this (laughably inaccurate) Purple Tudor Gown.
In those days, it was difficult to find reference books detailing the historical costume of the period, so I had to make do with guessing from portraits. Nowadays there is a significantly larger trove of details, in particular the excellent book "The Tudor Tailor" by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm Davies. Getting this book as a Christmas gift from my parents was a long-awaited dream come true. Now all that remained was to complete a full-Tudor ensemble...
When creating a historical costume, one must build from the foundations up, to ensure the correct shape and sizing of each piece. I started my Tudor Ensemble with this White Shift. Next, I needed to construct a corset. This ended up being a much longer project than I intended. Between health and home responsibilities, it took me about 9 months from start to finish - closer to a year if you count writing this blog post!
(While the historical term is 'stays' I am so used to calling this a corset, that I hope stricter historians will forgive me for using that term in this piece).
Although I have done boned bodices before, this was my first piece that really worked as a proper corset. Although I largely followed the pattern in the Tudor Tailor for shaping and structure, I had to make some additional modifications to accommodate a significant curve ratio. Thus my corset is not nearly as flat as the fashionable style of the period.
I also chose to work entirely with materials I had on hand, which means that my choices were not always the most historically accurate. In the end, my goal was to make a pretty, functional garment that created the most period accurate silhouette that my figure was capable of comfortably achieving.
Because my proportions were so different than the 'average' figure for which the pattern in the book was intended, I didn't bother with scaling it up. Instead I followed the lines of the pattern in the book, but completed drafted my own pieces on my dress form.
As stated, due to budgetary constraints (and an overflowing fabric stash), I did not purchase a single new thing in creating this corset. This meant that I did not have coutil, the fabric favored for making corsets. I chose to use denim as a sometimes suggested substitute, with light interfacing, for the interior of the bodice.
Brocade outside, denim/interfacing interior, another layer of stiff blue fabric for further stiffness and a fake poly silk lining. So. Many. Pieces.
Here you can see all of the pieces lined up!
I wanted to add a further special detail to the corset, so I chose to embroider a complimentary flower on the back of the brocade. It makes for a sweet little unique detail.
One measure I took to cut down on time was to stitch each inner layer in with an outer layer. This cut the time sewing seams together by 50%, and made no significant difference to the final fit of the garment.
Because I had four layers of fabric on each seam, I decided to topstitch down each side, to help it lay flat and provide further strengthening. This was not a historical detail, just a functional decision I made.
Then it was time to bone. Thankfully, I had a lot of boning on hand. Not so thankfully it wasn't super stiff. The finished garment is pretty strong, but not quite as strong as it really ought to be. However, it works well enough for the purpose.
The proper way to stitch down channels is to draw them first. I did draw some of them, but, if I recall correctly, at some point I stopped drawing and just went by the seam allowances and it worked fine. Inserting the boning got very tedious after awhile, and at this point I put the project aside for several months.
Part of the reason for the long hiatus was my fibromyalgia. I get significant pain in my fingers and I was really dreading all of the handsewing that would be necessary to finish the binding for the corset. Thankfully, in the fall of 2016 I started a new chiropractic treatment that relieved my hand pain enough to allow for some hand stitching. By winter 2017, I was able to stitch the binding on the corset.
Originally I think I planned to use some sort of pink for the binding, but I didn't really have anything on hand that I liked. However, as I was digging through my fabric stash, I found a really cool gold material. I'm not entirely sure where it came from or what the fiber content is, but it seems to be at least a good quality mock silk duponi.
The binding was cut on the bias. One edge was stitched to the front of the bodice, right sides together. The binding was thing flipped over and stitched into the interior by hand.
The next requirement of the project was the lacing holes. Originally I hoped to get away with metal eyelets, but I did not have the correct size and color on hand. Since I wasn't buying new materials for this project, this left me with the option only of doing stitched eyelets. Thread eyelets are actually correct for the period, so this wasn't a bad circumstance, especially as by now my hands were up for the stitching. Technically, I could have set my embroidery machine to do machine stitched eyelets, but, as it happened, my husband and I had embarked on a huge Pandemic Legacy marathon and I had just enough time in between my turn to get enough stitching done to move the project along nicely. The eyelets turned out really well, and I was quite happy that this detail, at least, was historically accurate.
Sneak peek of the lacing in action!
The very last pieces required for the corset were the shoulder pads. I did these with fewer layers than the corset itself to reduce weight and bulk. After all the work of the corset, doing the little binding and few eyelets required for the shoulder straps was a breeze!
And then, finally, the Tudor corset was completed!
I am tremendously happy with how this project turned out. Although there are a few details I would do differently if I had the budget/time, I would not change hardly anything if I had to repeat this piece with the same constraints.
This is my favorite detail shot!
And even though the corset will not be seen when I wear the costume, I still really love how pretty it is.
I must say, however, I'm really glad that I didn't know how long it would take to complete this piece, or I might never have begun! Which would have been a shame, because it is so thrilling to finally own a (reasonably) proper Tudor Era corset.
If you are interested in creating a corset of your own, I highly recommend checking out the book "The Tudor Tailor" as it really is a fabulous resource. (Unfortunately, due to my current fibromyalgia and stress-related health issues, I'm unable to take on costume commissions at this time.)
Lookng for more historical sewing tutorials? You may be interested in: