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Lady Washington Wins the Battle, AND Our Hearts…

The historical costuming group, Somewhere in Time, Unlimited met up with the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftan for some fun.  We enjoyed eating alfresco on the dock under brilliant blue skies, while dressed in 18th century attire.  Pirates were welcome.

If you’d like to see images of the day and you are a Facebook enrollee, I invite you to visit the Fan Page for CostumingInSeattle!  Enjoy….

Feel free to visit our regular website to see what’s coming up next:  www.CostumingInSeattle.com

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Posted in All Blog Entries, Exciting News!, Patterns we've used or reviewed...

Titantic “Flying Dress” – Gets a work-over

It needed it.  Something.  A little “bling” as it were.

As many of you know, Sir Harry of Essex and I are historical costumers and belong to Somewhere in Time, Unlimited (SITU).

A few years ago, SITU held a Winter Event called “Titanic – The Survivor’s Ball”.  There was a 13-piece orchestra, 7-course Edwardian dinner, the lady guests came in beautiful Titanc inspired gowns, while the gentlemen arrived wearing swallow tail tuxes.  It was very elegant indeed.

In time for this event, I had designed and put together the same navy blue velvet top that Kate Winslet had worn in the “Flying” scene.  Mine is very pretty with the heavy lace center piece, but the collar looked rather naked.  I think I’ve solved that problem.

Top of collar with lace flower vine.

The Butterick pattern calls for this contrasting lapel area to be beautifully set apart from all the velvet.

I found some interesting vine patterned stitching which was attached to net backing.  Probably intended for a VERY expensive gown (the product was $60 per yard), I chose instead to stitch the vine carefully by hand onto the lapels, removing the the netting as I worked.

In this photo, you can see the lapel top area, as well as the dupioni white silk which I had over laid with heavy bridal lace which I found at JoAnne fabrics.  The vine lace, which BTW matching perfectly in tone with the outfit, I found at Nancy’s Sewing Basket (a specialty store for the discriminating seamstress), located on the top of Queen Anne hill in Seattle.

Lapel area at bottom with lace vine.

Why did I want several years before I attached the lace?  Well, in the beginning I didn’t have time to get the lace onto the garment in time for the event.  I just kept the lace handy so I could put it on later.

 Well, “later” finally showed up.  Sir Harry and I were invited to a swanky cocktail hour with the French-American Chamber of Commerce.  They were holding a Belle Epoque event at the Arctic Hotel in downtown Seattle.
 
The organizer, Madamoiselle Casey, had seen Sir Harry and I at a Port of Seattle Centennial Celebration, where we appeared in 1910 attire.  There, Sir Harry wore a frock coat and Banker’s hat, while I wore a custom designed and made 1910 day attire. 
 
The large blue hat I wore, I personally replicated from an historical photo I had found some time ago.  Each of the ivory fabric roses on the hat were hand crafted and sewn into place.  There are a few Swarovski crystals which have also been selectively sewn into place on the roses in order to reflect some sunlight when worn in a parade.
 
These are the same outfits we wore in a documentary movie directed by Vaun Raymond for the Port of Seattle.
 
Fun clips of this documentary are available on the SITU Seattle website if you have interest…
 
I digress.  Back to the French event –
 
Sir Harry and I were requested to arrive “fashionably late” at 7 pm.  We did so.  Upon our arrival, we stepped off the elevator and were “announced” to the massive crowd who had gathered for the evening’s entertainment.
 
At the event, we also spotted our local friends, the Baron and Baroness Von Kleinschmidt.  We chatted briefly and then began circulating about the room greeting people.  Several members of the French Chamber expressed how delighted they were in our appearance at their event, stating how we lent such color and classy flavor.  Several of the gentlemen had arrived in tuxedos.  The Baron and Sir Harry were both wearing swallow tail tuxes and white tie, along with the obligatory top hat! Very classy event put on by the Chamber!
 
Here are a couple of photos of my finished “Flying Dress” work-over, an image of Sir Harry, and then one snapped indoors on an iPhone by an attendee of the event.  If you’d like to learn more about Lady Victoria and Sir Harry of Essex or Somewhere in Time, Unlimited, please visit the website.  We look forward to having you “come dress up with us” soon!!!
 

 

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“Wheel-less” Pirates – A “No-Show”

It was like a date gone bad.  Like you planned your prom dress and your date doesn’t show.  I digress.  Back to the start of things.

In the beginning, I was a young child and I had a love/hate relationship with the Seattle Seafair Pirates.  They would come down the streets of Seattle (and surrounding communities), setting off their cannons on a mighty ship of sorts and those who walked beside the ship, were scraping their swords along the pavement, setting off sparks.  I was terrified and yet delighted by the strength of these swashbuckling, handsome men in tricorns and bandanas, plus really aaaaaawesome 18th-century costumes.


The Seattle Seafair Pirates are an icon in the community.  They show up on the dot for parades.  They go to the local hospitals and visit with kids.  They do tons of charity work.  They “land” on a beach in Seattle, the same stretch of beach as the  historical landing location for Seattle’s Founding Fathers.  The pirates have all sorts of mysterious and sometimes tall tales of old in their history, but to most of us, these guys are “Da Bomb”.  Literally.

The Pirates manage to move around on a VERY cool, supped up WWII amphibious landing device that can navigate waters and dry land.  Did I say it was cool?  Yeah.  It really is.  They have cannons on board, flags, tricked out everything to capture your imagination.  It’s called “The Moby Duck”.  It can haul backside around corners like you can NOT believe!

Last Spring, I happened to be in a parade and so were the guys.  Their Duck let’s say, “had issues” and it was all they could do to duct-tape, chewing-gum-glue and say “Hail Mary” rosaries, just to get The Moby Duck into the parade.  Organizers, The Pirates, and the kids in the audience, were all counting on The Duck.

I digress.

Fast forward to Spring 2011.  Here I am, dressed in my silk 18th-century attire (complete with 2 long curls and fancy hat), extending my invitation to the Seafair Pirates to come join Somewhere in Time, Unlimited in our 18th-century event over in Port Angeles on May 28th, as we greet The Lady Washington, a tall ship, as she comes into port.

I got an answer back to my request for a date.  It’s doubtful they can make it – at all – by anyone.  The Moby Duck is injured. You could say she must’ve been “injured in flight” somewhere along the way.

Yes, The Duck is up on blocks, or in the nest, as it were.  She needs a drivetrain and power source.  (Know anyone who might be a helpful resource?)  The Seafair Pirates have a plea on their website asking for donations so they can get on the road in time again for this summer.  It means that they can’t do parades using the Duck and be visible in the community as usua,l until The Moby Duck can fly again!

So, now what is the next step?

  1. Hop out to the Seattle Seafair Pirates website to help with a donation via PayPal.
    Yes, it’s tax deductible too.
  2. Consider joining up with Somewhere in Time, Unlimited and participate in the picnic event.
    Just click on the link to find all the full details.
  3. Tell all your pirate friends and those who enjoy wearing 18th-century attire.  We’re going on on The Lady Washingtonin a mock battle with The Chieftain on the open sea, cannons-a-blazin’.Gonna be a blast… 
Posted in All Blog Entries, Exciting News!

Victorian Tailor

In case you haven’t heard the news, there’s a new guy in town.  Literally.  He’s moved to Seattle from the UK.  Quite exciting actually.  Just how often do you get to meet and work with a cool, hip, “Bespoke Tailor” anyway?

Jason MacLochlainn’s the name and Victorian or Edwardian Tailoring is his special game!

What’s especially newsworthy is that Jason is not only an accomplished Victorian Tailor with a long list of satisfied clientele, but he is also a published author.  Impressed yet?  Should be.

Available both in the U.S. and in the U.K., is the bea-uuuuuu-tiful book called The Victorian Tailor.  It has hit the stands in a big way.  Not limited to interested females who sew, men are buying this book as a “bible” for tailoring and techniques for menswear. 

Yes, you can snag your own affordable copy thru Amazon.com or Borders Books and other sources.  But, if you happen to be in the general area and shoot me an email, we might be able to “hook you up” to get your copy autographed by the author himself.

P.S.  On April 3, 2011, Jason will be teaching a Tailoring 101 Workshop in Seattle.  VERY affordable, lots of one-on-one time, small class of people, located in Seattle.  Hop out to the Somewhere in Time, Unlimited site to see all the details.

Come on.  What you waiting for?

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Patterns we've used or reviewed...

Victorian Bustle Era Dress

What else conjures up the image of a Victorian bustle dress better than an outfit complete with ruffles, lace, extensive pleats, swagged overskirt and plenty of trim?

With impending holidays looming in the near future, this historical costumer decided to tackle the construction of a bustle outfit (or dare I say two?) in time to be all festively decked out with ample “junk in the truck”!

Having already visited several fabric/textile stores in the general Seattle area, I had scoped out and then purchased, my stash.  Additionally, I had attended an estate sale, managing to pick up wooooonderful Pendleton wool fabic in smaller yardage quantities, but I think I can make it work.  Victorian fashions after all, seemed to be about as colorful as the homes in which they lived!

So where to begin?  Fortunately, Lady V already has a beautifully constructed corset, originally designed and built by the famous Marie Cooley of  “The Fitting Room”  Over this would be a corset cover (just bought a pattern for a new one!), followed by, ta-daaaah, “The Bustle”.

What exactly IS a bustle, say you?  Most simplest of terms, it’s the cage, wires (padding too), contraption, covered in fabric, which holds all the subsequent layers of the outfit away from the body.

For my complete outfit, I chose to work with patterns designed by the sisters from “Truly Victorian” patterns. 

The photos I am showing you here, are of pattern TV101.  Laying out the pattern was very easy and the instructions to put the item together, were also very straight forward.  With very little exception, I think that even a novice could understand the directions enough to put this together.

To make life easier and so that I had sturdy wire to use, I ordered the correct lengths of wire from Truly Victorian.  These arrived with the ends of the wire beautifully covered with “tips” to protect my fabric from fraying, due to the stress of being bent and straining to pop flat again.

One of the big challenges of the garment, was to sew down channels for the wires to travel within.  I used a wash-out-able, pink marking pen to designate where I’d need to stitch down the channels.

My friend, Miss Bobbie, who had already created the same garment before, advised me to use heavier fabric as my base, to help lessen the wear from wire from punching through thinner fabric.  The only place where I have used this heavy fabric thus far, is in the triangular back section which will house the bustle wires. 

Keeping this in mind, I chose to use a left-over, flat-fold item that appears to be white duck, twill, or possibly denim as my base.  To create the channels, I chose not to cut strips of fabric.  Instead, I purchased enough length of corset bone channeling, plus enough for turning and double-thickness for the ends.

Lickety-split, this part of the project went together  quickly.  Now it was on to preparing the length of fabric which would become the ruffles to cover and hide the structure created by the wires.

The bottom flounce and subsequent back ruffles, are all created from white eyelet.  The flounce has a 3″ hem.  I also clean finished all the seams using a French seam method.

On the inside, I was instructed to sew strings, ribbons, tape to hang down loosely inside the structure.  These would be tied together eventually (left to right), forming the “u” of the cage needed for “Da Look”. 

As you can see, I used ribbon instead of string.  The type is flat and has the little “bumps” along each edge.  My reasoning (tho I might be incorrect in this assumption) is the more texture = better traction to hold the bow the ribbon gets tied into in order to hold that “u” shape of the wires.

Next up: Ruffles.  Good GOD Margo!  How many yards are we talking about?  I sewed all the 13 strips, end-on-end together. For a moment, I thought it stretched as long as my house is wide.  Then I clean finished the “hem” edge of the entire long strip.  At this point of assembly, I’m tired.  I either need medical attention, caffeine, or assistance from the mathematical and carpentry genius – Sir Harry of Essex – to help me measure and cut the long strip of fabric into the pattern specified lengths for each layer of ruffle (there are 7 of them in my case) used.  At least the pattern designers were smart and started with the longest ruffle first, or we might’ve committed hari-kari… (wink)

Like a knight on a white horse, the shy Sir Harry rode in to save the day!  He whipped out his reading glasses.  Firmly grasping on the fabric and tape on one end, he worked to measure the accurate lengths before snipping them.  One by one, I then ran a row of basting stitch on the unfinished long edge.  Working together, we then proceeded to pull the stitching up and pinned each layer to the correct position on the back over panel.  What a guy!

One question we figured we’d face on Monday was, “Sooooo, Sir Harry, whatcha do Saturday night?” 

To which his reply would be, “Oh, I was busy sewing and pinning ruffles on a bustle….”  What would you give to be a fly on THAT wall???

The panel went together quite well and easily.  The far edges of each layer were then caught into the clean-finishing along each side of the panel.  Very clever, very tidy!

I had added the waistband at one point in the process.  Realizing how much stress is put on a waistband’s hook-and-eye closure and the likelihood of the fabric being stressed (okay, I’m fat….), I opted to make it out of the same heavy twill fabric together with the fashion fabric. Turned out well, we think.

Once I have all the pieces of the Victorian bustle outfit completed, I will post photos of each garment on-body so you’ll have a better idea of how they will work together.

Now, I’m on to sewing the “underskirt” of silk, as the next step in the project.  It’s quite beautiful fabric.  Has that one-way it’s beige and another-way it’s burgundy sort of weave.

Oh, Sir Harry – I’m gonna show you how to help me make a “poof” in the skirt….

Posted in All Blog Entries, Exciting News!

The New “Victorian Calling Card”

Calling card avail at Victorian Trading Company!

In Victorian days gone by, when a respectful person went to someone’s residence, the person would  hand the maid or butler a beautifully printed (sometimes embossed) calling card, in order to be announced to the resident of the home they were visiting.   The resident would then decide if they had the time (or inclination) to invite the owner of the calling card, deeper into the residence for a chat.

What would a Victorian lady or gentleman use today? 

That thought crossed THIS Victorian Lady’s mind when reviewing that wonderful old courtesy of the calling card.  It occurred to Lady Victoria, that nowadays people tend not to do as much visiting in person any longer.  The lack of time, due to family, work and church obligations, together with the great distances in this great nation we call the United States, makes it a particular challenge.

Instead, we are “virtually visiting” each other, using email, streaming media over our computer’s camera, posting favorite images on Facebook (either as an update or as a photo album), and now the courtesy of dropping in on your friends has extended to Tweeting on Twitter.

What’s a genteel Lady living in the 21st century to do?  “Facebook” and “Tweet” with the best of them, of course!

Yes, Lady Victoria has now entered the posting of random information on Facebook (look for me as: Lady Victoria Seattle) and the fast “stream” on Twitter under the handle of: @SITUSeattle

It’s so AMAZING what information is readily available and the wonderful conversations that can be engaged with interesting folks world-wide, via these two vehicles.  No longer does one have to submit an email or calling card to only one person in a household, to wait and see if that someone has time in their day to chat.  Now, the whole world is literally listening and willing to jump into the conversation!  What would Alexander Graham Bell have to say to THIS invention????  Party-line to the 3rd power!

Yes, Lady Victoria is very amused and delighted with all the new friends she is gaining, many of whom have historical costuming, Victorian dress, Victorian decorating, 18th century attire, sewing and glittery parties on their minds!

And so, on that happy note, Lady Victoria of Essex would like to encourage you to link, follow or engage via the various avenues.  Be sure to introduce yourself and tell me that you found me from this blog.  I’m sure we will have much to discuss….

Posted in All Blog Entries, Costumes we're workin' on!, Exciting News!, Patterns we've used or reviewed...

What Women Wore in 1910

So you’re doing research what people wore in 1910?  Interested to see what you too, can make as a custom hat, befitting the era?  I’ll show you.  My example is probably intended for someone of a higher status in society, but the results are quite lovely.

To begin with, yours truly has been a very bad reporter in recent months, but I hope I shall be making up for lost time!

In a previous post, I had informed you of a workshop provided by Somewhere in Time, Unlimited, wherein the attendees were encouraged to build a hat from scratch using buckram, wire, beautiful fabrics, trim, and decorations.  The workshop was quite affordable and Miss Mary was a terrific instructor.

My hat’s inspiration came from an image I’d spotted in the New York Public Library collection of images.  Someone had sent me the image, saying how it reminded her of Lady Victoria’s style.  Oh, how I immediately fell in love with the design! 

So, being a good historical costumer, I promptly brought a copy of the image, blown up large, to the workshop to learn how to recreate the hat. 

Now fast forward to August.  The members of Somewhere in Time, Unlimited (a historical costuming group based in the Seattle, Washington area of the United States), were invited stroll the vast grounds of the LeMay Car Museum in early 1900’s attire.  Lady Victoria of Essex chose to represent 1910, exactly.  The LeMay Car Museum is the largest privately owned collection of vehicles.  Although there is a new facility under construction, many of the cars, trucks and unusual equipment are still housed in two locations – Marymount and the LeMay Estate.  I digress.

When I was planning the structure of the hat, I took into consideration that I wanted to have it come out almost to the width of my shoulders.  I’d need a LOT of heavy buckram and at least one pass around the edges with thick wire.  My teacher voiced her concern whether this was a good plan.  I push onwards.  Weeks were now invested into the construction. 

Navy blue ultra suede fabric made the hat plush and gave it depth to the onlooker, as if real suede had been used.  Hand sewn fabric roses were stitched in 2 sizes to mimic the roses in the “inspiration” image.  A super large satin bow created out of fine quality satin and back-supported by 2 layers of interfacing and 1 layer of Wonder Under, gave the bow the stability to form giant loops on the back of the hat.

After having assembled the multiple layers, stiching into place the many fabric roses, the large bow completed the festoons.

My dress is actually a 2-piece outfit, using thrift store found and reclaimed fabrics!  Again, I turned to vintage images for inspiration.  Since there aren’t any dead-on patterns out there presently (for what I wanted to create), I turned to what I had already in my collection of patterns in the hopes of doing some creative alterations.

The bodice of my outfit was fit EXACTLY to my form, first in muslin over the corset, then cut and sewn in the final cotton fabric.  The skirt is a version of a Butterick pattern I used for my alterations.  In the original pattern, it suggests 2 layers of fabric for the skirt. 

I decided that I wanted to have the lower layer to be pleated.  My first attempt was to borrow my friend’s pleater, a cardboard sort contraption which many quilters use.  Didn’t work well with the thickness of the gold fabric.  In the end, I had to hand pleat the entire length of fabric, pinning it at 1.5″ with a 1/2″ or 3/4″ return.   Together with the gray-green fabric over the top, the skirt has beautiful movement when walking, whether at the LeMay Museum, or in a parade!

Here are the images taken at the LeMay Car Museum grounds. 
 

I hope you enjoyed these images.  If I can be of any help to you or answer questions, feel free to contact me.  Very best of luck in creating your own beautiful outfit!  LadyVictoria “at” SITUSeattle.com