Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Her Universe Bespin dress

This winter Her Universe released a dress inspired by Leia's Bespin gown in The Empire Strikes Back.

This is one of the most gorgeous costumes in the whole Star Wars saga and it's on my dream list, when I feel ready to take on a fullength coat of embroidery.

The Her Universe version of the dress is in one piece, isntead of a tunic with a coat over, with the distinct collar and a few of the embroidered pieces.

I had to have this dress, and as soon as it showed up on emp-shop I ordered it. I also had a  30% off coupon to use since emp had failed with an earlier order.

I have recently had problems with Her Universe sizing. I am normally XL, and on good days L, but the last time I ordered a Her Universe dress in a non-stretch fabric it was a good 15 cm too small in the back, despite being an XL. For this I decided to order a XXL, since I really didn't want it to be too small.

I found the XXL to be clearly too big for me. Now this is a model that's supposed to hang loose, and as such it's not a disaster that it's too big. It makes it really roomy and comfortable, but it's maybe not the most flattering dress for my body. I would have loved a belt to emphasize the waist, just like the original costume.

It has a nice swing and drape to it. I love the embroidered pieces. The most negative thing with the dress is the quality of the fabric. It's not the first time I've felt that Her Universe is using really cheap fabrics, and for the price you pay I think that's a shame. The dress arrived really wrinkled, and it is a thin and flimsy poly jersey fabric. It will be really hard to take out the wrinkles. I will also be weary of using it too much since I don't want to wear it out too quickly.

I wore the dress to work today, and it's a great example of everyday cosplay. My regular style is definitely geared to fun and quirky dresses, so it defintely fits with that. I got really nice compliments from my coworkers, and thehy thought it was both a folkloristic dress and an historically inspired dress, nobody guess it was Star Wars though. I paired it with my black officer boots, that I also use for TLJ Leia.

All in all I really like the dress, and I must be careful not to use it too much. I would recommend using a discout or wait for a sale though, since I'm not sure that the quality of the fabric is worh the full price.

Friday, 2 March 2018

18th century fabric find

At work we are renovating our old restaurant, and that also means getting rid of the all the curtains that used to be there. Turns out all the curtains are 18th century reproduction fabrics, and of course I couldn't say no to the chance of getting hold of fabrics like that.

Most of the fabric is this with fabric with a brown print on it.

This is actually quite a unique fabric, printed by a local textile studio that isn't working anymore. It as a family business run by two sisters that started in the 1950s. The text on the selvage says "18th century pattern from Dalarna" - "Blomrike" (name of the print) and Westmans is the name of the studio.

There are a lot of curtains, but some of them are quite worn and sunbleached in places. I'm going to use the worst places to make neckerchiefs and aprons for our little costume wardrobe that we have at work, but the rest is all mine.

The other is a print from Ljungbergs textil. I wasn't the only one interested in these curtains, so I didn't get quite as much of this fabric.

The text on the selvage says "East Indian printed cotton 1760-1770".

I don't have any clear ideas on what I want to make out of these fabrics, since I'm not really into the 18th century at the moment. I would love to make a saque gown with matching petticoat from the Ljungberg textile, but I don't think there is enough of it. I might be able to make a jacket and a petticoat, or maybe an English gown. 

For now they will go into my stash though.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

A stitch in time - a must see BBC documntary series

This week I stumbled upon the BBC documentary series "A Stitch in time", and I must say that it's a must see for anyone interested in historica costume. It's not just row after row of pretty dresses, it actually shows the process of recreating historical costumes. The series is hosted by fashion historian Amber Butchart and also follows historical seamstress Ninya Mikhaila when she recreates the pieces. Maybe that's not a name you are familiar with, but it's one of the authours behind the Tudor Tailor, and she is one of the best in the world when it comes to recreating clothes from the past.

What I really love about this series is that we get to follow Ninya Mikhaila in her studio, with her assitants, when they are both figuring out how the garments are constructed, when they try different techniques in order to get the wished for result, an of course when they are working on it. 

The series seems to be in six episodes and they recreate:

Charles II's suit (17th century)
Arnolfini's green gow (15th century)
A hedge cutter (18th century)
Dido's dress (18th century)
The black prince's coat (14th century)
Marie Antoinette's chemise à la reine (18th century)

All episodes can be found on youtube.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

HSM2018 - Challenge 2 The finished 16th century shift

I have finally finished the shift. I had a lot of other things going on this month, including a very bad cold, so it took me some time to actually sit down and sew the sideseams and the hem.

The shift is all handsewn with waxed linen thread, except the smoking that is done with silk thread at the wrists and silk and wool around the neck. The thinner silk thread was used to secured the gathers before I smocked it with wool. The neckline contains so much fabric, and a lot of wool smocking stitches so it doesn't need any support or facings to stand up without falling down.

The sideseams and the seams connectng the sleeves are felled, the neckline and the wrists are finished with  a small rolled hem, and the bottom hem is a 1,5 cm double folded hem. It reaches down to my mid calf.

When I started the smock it was a plan to make a fairly simple shift, but I couldn't help myelf and this shift is much more elaborate than I had first planned, including that I added freshwater pearls to the neck. Once I decided to go totally upperclass with it I started too look more at this portrait of Margareta Vasa, from 1528.
Now this is the king's sister, I didn't want to make it quite as rich and detailed. That is why I used wool thread instead o the metallic embroidery around the neck, and not quite as much fabric in the sleeves. All in all I'm thinking that this would be a shift suited for the Swedish upper class, but not quite as rich as the royal family.



Inside of the neck. The smocking is covered with a linen strip and closed with three pairs of hook and eye.

The cuff with honeycomb smocking, makes it elastic enough tht I don't need any extra opening at the wrist.

The sleeve when worn, with the same kinds of of folds as Margareta Vasa, just less fabric.
The neck
The smocking around the neck
 The full HSM facts

The Challenge: 2 - UnderMake something that goes under the other layers.

Material: 4 m of white linen


Year: late 1520s

Notions: waxed linen thread, silk thread, natural wool thread, freshwater pearls, 3 pairs of hook and eye

How historically accurate is it? This is as close as I can make something accurate, I would put it in the 90%.

Hours to complete: 40-50

First worn: not yet

Total cost: $50

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Smocking the 16th century shift

I have finished the smocking of the shift now. Previously when I have worked with smocking I have used honeycomb smocking, but I felt that with the amount of very tightly gathered fabric that wouldn't be a good solution for the smocking around the neck.

I did use a lot of the information about pleatwork and smocking that can be found at The German Renaissance of Genoveva. Looking around at references it seems as if the stitching was mostly done in black or metallic thread. I am not a fan of that look though, so I decided to instead make a whitework embroidery, using unbleached wool yarn instead.

I did not use a specific garment or picture reference for my embroidery, but I was definitely influenced by the embroidery on the wedding gown of Maria of Habsburg from 1520.

I also found that I had a handful of small freshwater pearls that I added to my embroidery.

For the cuffs I used honeycomb smocking though. It's an elastic smocking stitch, so I'm hoping that will mean that it will be possible for me to sew the sleee shut all the way, and not having to fiddle with fastenings at the cuffs.

The things I have left is to sew the sideseams and sleeves, do some kind of fastening for the neck and of course hem the whole shift.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Working on my 16th cenury shift, and a magic pen

I have started working on the 16th century shift, and despite all my talk about doing something suitable for the local people, I couldn't help myself. I have started a shift with so much fabric that it's clearly an upperclass/nobility shift. I guess that only means that I need to make another more suitable shift, but I actually enjoy making them.

For the general pattern and instructions I have followed the tutorial from Katafalk. It gives a total circumference, and neck to be smocked, of 4,5 m. That's a lot of fabric.

This is where I have marked the dots for the smocking and sewn my gathering threads. For such a long length I have divided it into several parts, and I use different coloured threads to sort them out. It gets a bit complicated when it's time to gather them, but I rather to it this way than work with a single length of thread and all the potential for tangling and breaking.

Working with marking all the dots got a lot easier when I found a magic pen. I read the Dreamstress post about Pilot Frixion pens some time ago, and decided to try them. Frixion pens are erasable pens, the secret though is that they are erasable with heat. When you use a pen on paper you use an eraser to create heat with friction, but in the sewing studio there is another source of heat - an iron.

This is a video I made when I tested the Pilot Frixion pen, I didn't dare put bright red dots all over my white linen until I had tried it.

The Dreamstress has made a lot more tests with the pens than I have, so I really recommend reading up on them. For now though I think I will never use chalks or tracing paper again.

All that fabric was eventually gathered into a collar.

To keep the gathers in place I have fastened them at the top and bottom with a stem stitch in white silk. I keep the gathering threads in place, I will just remove them when all is finished and secured.

As of now I need to decide how I want to smock the collar, and with what thread. Until I have decided that I will smock the end of the sleeves.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Some thoughts around my 1520s outfit

I feel like I need to get down some of my thoughts around the 1520s project. This is going to be a wardrobe building projects, I already have several different ideas for gowns. I want to start off with a a fairly basic gown before going into more elaborate things. For me it's also very important that the clothes I make are suitable for the clothes in Sweden in the time period.

So with that I have singled down my time period to the 1520s and my geographical area to Sweden. This is problematic since there are almost no sources for the early 16th Century, not even for the higher classes and even less for the lower classes. For the first gown in my 16th Century wardrobe I want to make clothes suitable for a master miner's wife or daughter. The master miners the ones controlling the mining and copper production in Falun. They were a class with a lot of Contact with the trading partners in the Baltic sea, the Church in Falun from the 15th Century is more connected to North German architecture than other Swedish churches. The most successful were able to send their sons to higher educations, and in this time period one of them would rise to be both a Bishop and member of the king's council. At the same time their wealth was based on themselves being able to handle all parts of the copper production, and they were also farmers and needed to support themselves and their underlings with what they could grow. This gives us a class with contacts, and possibility to import fashions, well outside the local area but at the same time they needed to be practical and working people as well.

I've spent some time gathering, and trying to organise my pinterest boad for the 16th Century, but here I will summarize my thoughts around it.

The main Resources if you want Contemporary depictions of clothing are altar Swedish altar shrines from the early 16th Century, Before the reformation. The problem is that most Swedish shrines were imported from the low countries, so they don't need to reference the local fashion. In religoius imagery there are also Conventions on how to portray holy figures, which makes them timeless. I've tried to avoid looking at how the MAdonna or St. Birgitta were portrayed, due to those Conventions, and instead looked at women that are supposedly less holy.

Vain maidens on a shrine from Vaksala, medeltidbild.historiska.se/medeltidbild/
Most women seem to be wearing long gowns with wide skirts, a Square neckline and different kind of fabric rich sleeves, either with small puffs or simply just very wide.

The wide sleeves seems to get narrower closer to the 1520's though. Here I would like to add one of few portraits of an actual historical person. The portrait of Kristina Gyllenstierna on the shrine in Västerås.
This shrine was made in Antwerpen in 1516. Kristina Gyllenstierna was at this time married to the regent in Sweden, and the shrine was a gift from her and her husband. It is similar to other dresses, with a Square neckline and a skirt that pools around her. I'm Reading the photo to show a more pleated skirt than seen on the more religious figures, her sleeves are also tighter and there is possibly a little shift cuff at the end of the sleeve. Even if the shrine was made in Antwerpen, by a person who had never met Kristina Gyllenstierna, a rich and wealthy giver would probably have been disappointed if the woodcarver had shown her in old fashioned or odd clothes, so for that reason I still Think it can be an important reference.

For more Picture references it will be necessary to move outside of Sweden though. As I mentioned previously Sweden, and Falun, was well connected with the Baltic Sea trade. The main trading partner was Lübeck, more or less all copper from Falun was sold through Lübeck merchants, but from the late 15th Century Danzig, nowadays Gdansk in Poland, had started to challenge Lübeck as one of the major trading Towns on the Baltic. Looking at where the Swedish and Danish Royal houses chose to intermarry we end up with several states in northern Germany and along the German controlled Baltic coast. At the same time Sweden and Finland were one untied country and so one shouldn't forget the Finnish Resources.

This is a particularly nice portrait of a Young lady from Lübeck, dated to exactly 1520. Except for the interesting colourblocking she shows the same general elements of dress as Kristina Gyllenstierna, with a square neckline and a narrow but not tight sleeve. 

From Turku/Åbo there is this Little fresco of a couple, dated to around 1530. The woman wears a shift with a collar, the skirt is pleated with a wide band of darker material and the sleeves are tight. Overall the style of dress reminds me a lot of Cranach's portrait of Katarina von Bora, wife of Martin Luther.

Katarina von Bora, is interesting because of her social class. She came from landed gentry but not the richest nobility. She came to take a prominent role in the reformation, and as wife to Martin Luther she developed the role of the respectable, protestant wife. This fits well with the master miners social standing as well.

Finally there is a source that I find very fascinating and that is because it actually shows working women. In the middle of the 16th Century the German Agricola set out to write down all available knowledge about mining and metal production. His book, De Re Metallica, is filled with woodcarvings showing all aspects of the industry, includng quite a few women.

Even if the woodcarvings are later than the 1520s, they probably depict a fashion that wasn't quite modern. Most of the dresses show similar elements though, with their Square necklines, some with guards, shifts with low necks or non-pleated collars, sleeves are either narrow or non-existant showing off the shift instead, the skirts are usually pleated.

Taking all these sources into account I Think it will be possible to create an outfit that wouldn't feel strange in Sweden in the 1520s. I'm thinking of doing a gown with Square neckline, long narrow sleeves and a skirt pleated to the bodice. To the neckline and probaly down the center front I will add guards, but I will not have any decorations on the skirt and no puffed or slashed sleeves. The shift should either be low necked, or have small collar with standing lapels.