Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Foray into corsetry

Apologies to those attempting to read this, the post editor won't change the font colour to black even though it's selected. So I've tried to change the background colour to make it legible.

This is my interpretation of the 'Gold Exotic Corset' in Jill Salen's Corsets. Its made of two layers of heavy linen, which are boned with cable ties of varying widths, and an outer layer of blue dupion, bound with blue silk. The belt is made of the same blue silk embroidered with peacock feathers. Salen says that the belt on the extant example was attached all the way around by a series of eyelets punched through all the layers of the corset but looking at the photos of the existing piece, I don't think thats true. The eyelets have an even spacing while the boning is irregularly spaced, and you can even see through a couple of the eyelets to the corset layers underneath. I believe the belt is only attached at the ends and the eyelets are decorative only. The belt on my corset was painstakingly fitted to lie flat but not tight against the tightened corset and is only attached at the front and back closure panels.

I'm really happy with the shape this gives me, couple of things I'll do differently next time. The front bust gapes a little so I had to add the purple ribbon drawstring at the top. The back (no pictures sorry) gapes at the hips but meets at the top so I will have to modify the pattern a little. Overall, its really comfy to wear and shaves 3 inches off my waist. Some of the silk at the front was sewn a little loose so it bags a bit but the rest looks pretty good.

To go over the top is this lovely red velveteen 1874 casque jacket with gold braid. I still have to do ten buttonholes by hand (grumble grumble) before I can finish the front braiding. There will be more braid on the collar, pockets and back seams.

 The braiding does actually meet at the bottom here but looks wonky in this picture
 This is what the front braiding will look like all the way up
Shoulder detail with buttonholes

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Red-Gold Venetian

My brilliant fiance and I took advantage of the sunny sunny day today and went down to the local native bush reserve for a photoshoot. The aim was to take as many pretty pictures of me in my red-gold handsewn Venetian in the hope that at least some of them would be good enough to use in my application portfolio for a diploma in costume construction course starting next year. I ended up with about forty good shots (as is ones where I don't have a funny expression, don't have my eyes closed in the blinding sun, not blurry etc). Here are a selection.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Crazy times

My friends Sancha and Stefano have been planning a Victorian picnic for over a month to celebrate their five year wedding anniversary. Up until now, I have been unable to attend as I didn't want to take the time off work. Until today when I looked at the roster and low and behold, I start work just as the picnic is ending. Shall I go? Yes! Do I have any Victorian/Steampunk clothing? No. How long do I have until the picnic? One week today. 6 days to throw together an outfit, while working full-time. Yay for spontaneous crazy!

In the four hours since I decided this, I have already whipped up a wired bustle, minus the waistband, and cut out the buckram frame for a mid-Victorian bonnet (pattern by Lynn McMasters). Not allowed to go to bed until I have cut out the pieces for a chemise. I'm planning to make an 1870's evening gown out of an old queen duvet set, with a velvet coat and the bonnet. I can do this. Watch this space.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Time flies when you're having fun

Wow it has been a loooong time since I remembered that I had a blog. Almost a year to be exact. New resolution: to write a small entry at least once a month on what I've achieved in my costuming. Since my post last February, I have done plenty of work, not just for myself. Here's a list, mainly to remind myself just how much I have done.
For me:
Re-covered my Elizabethan stays with a sturdier fabric
Embroidered camica
Handsewn Venetian gown with matching lace on sleeves
Flag fan, gold organza veil, pearled corset cover, fur-lined muff
Elizabethan doublet with matching detachable skirt and Spanish sleeves
Underskirt with embroidered forepart
Underkirtle of blue and green taffeta
Black velvet tall hat
Black-worked shift
Linen gown with shoulder rolls

For my man: (oh yeah, he asked me to marry him about a month after my last post, I said yes and promptly collapsed into a sobbing mess)
Gold worked shirt
Pirate jacket
Embroidered badges for his rapier guild scarf
Lining for his embroidered cloak

For friends:
Couple of men's shirts
Re-made a shift
Green silk Venetian
Red velvet Tudor
Blue satin Elizabethan stays
Black-worked cuffs

And then there are all the projects that I started but never completed, like the matching brocade covered choppines for my Venetian ensemble and a Svante Sture outfit (with padded codpiece) for hubby-to-be.

Photos will be added as soon as my temperamental computer allows me to post them.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Three weeks. Three weeks of hard sewing to finish all the boning channels, stuff them and bind the edges of each piece. Three weeks to completely finish my handsewn corset. On the one hand it fits me wonderfully, I can breathe with ease while still achieving the period torso from the mid to late 16th century and I can knock my fist on my side and it makes a hollow noise back! And the red velvet with black edging looks awesomely sexy. But that's what's also causing the problem. The velvet is ripping at the edges because its under strain. So far its contained to just a few little spots around the seams, especially on the back piece. Disappointing, as the plan was to make it in velvet in order to show it off. I was hoping to let it be seen in an Arts and Sciences display or even wear it as a piece of pirate garb (even though I don't believe its a proper period look - it just looks wench-like). Cue tantrums and throwing the damn thing across the room.

Lucky for me, I have a logically minded man to point out that I could create small patches out of the remaining scraps of velvet to cover the rips. Hopefully these will help contain the tearing and will not look especially hideous. If I'm careful enough.

Lessons learned for next time I make one
1. Don't make the delicate covering fabric too tight, I knew this beforehand but thought I had it under control.
2. Don't trim the straps because they seem too big in the preliminary fittings. The straps have ended up too short to touch the top of the front of the corset.
3. Make the armscye bigger. Gets me every time I make something.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Wow! I've just found out that the dress that I re-created off Alessandro Allori's 1555 portrait of one of the Medici women is going to be showcased on Realm of Venus! (the flatmates can attest to me screaming and bouncing around the house upon recieving the email) That is the pinnacle of success for me, and I'm deeply grateful to Bella for wanting to show my work off to the world. Woohoo! Here are some photos of me in my dress, but you can refer to the Showcase for more details.

The photos turned out much better than I hoped. Hopefully though, this won't be my only showcase, despite Bella deciding to end the Showcase at the end of this year. The plan is to make Venetian courtesan gowns for me and my best friend Corinna Roussin this year, mine in red/gold, Corinna's in green/gold. Here's the twist - mine will be entirely handsewn from the corset up, while hers will be made (much more quickly and efficently) on my machine. As I said in my previous blog, I've already started on the corset. One piece is almost entirely finished except for some strengthing stitches around the edges. The channels were sewn into twill and then covered with a layer of dark red velvet, while the edges have been bound with black polysuede. Very gothic and sexy. I also managed to do 17 eyelets on the one piece over the weekend. The second front piece has a few more channels to be sewn before the boning can begin.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Back to it

So I've been rather quiet lately. Mainly because I've been in Egypt for a month and then got back in time to frantically finish my creations in time for Canterbury Faire. And best of all, I'd finished my re-creation of Marie de Medici's dress by Alessandro Allori, wore it to the feast, caught the eye of every single Laurel in the room and was given the Order of the Golden Lily the next day!! So over the moon! Two days later, my awesomely speccy man Lord Diego was called up in court and given the Order of the Silver Helm for his rapier garb, the first rapier combatant to get such an award. He'd spent several weeks working on a black velvet jerkin with gold ribbon, with matching pluderhose and a goldworked shirt, with a few tantrums when it seemed he'd never get it done in time, so I am so proud of him for getting his most deserved award. Photo's to come as soon as I can get a hold of the right cord for this camera. Next project already underway. I've gone a little cuckoo and am handsewing myself a corset based on the Queen Elizabeth 1 effigy corset. Two layers of striped twill with an outer layer of red velvet. I'm using waxed linen threads to sew all the boning channels which will be stuffed with reeds. Using period methods, all three pieces will be completely finished before I whip stitch them together. I have yet to decide what the binding fabric will be around the edges. So far in 48hrs, I have sewn 17 channels in backstitch.