Thursday, 29 January 2015

One Bodice, Two Looks

A while ago I took out an old UFO, and decided to finish it. It is a hand stitched wool bodice lined with linen, fully interlined, and boned in front. It also laces in front over a half boned stomacher. (Meanwhile, that was a good invention – so easy to adjust to size!) The bodice is of good quality, but not quite historical. For other costuming adventures it would be perfectly fine though. As I don’t see myself having much use of it, I mean to sell it. Still, it is nice to have good pictures of the things you’ve made, and I hope that good pictures will make the bodice more desirable for potential buyers. To show that this simple bodice can work for a variety of characters, I've had two little photo shoots this week.

The Washerwoman
In Sweden there is a popular LARP series called Krigshjärta (War Heart). It has several different cultures, with very different religions/ideologies, social life, politics, and, of course, dress. Though I’ve never attended a LARP in my life (though I have lots of friends who do so frequently), I have always been a bit intrigued by one of the peoples, the Jorgaler. This people are a highly religious group, who see it as a severe faux pas to outshine what their god has created, and thus dress in a very simple way, keeping trim and decorations to a minimum, almost glorying in what is lowly as it where. Bodices and skirts/dresses are worn by the women, as are some form of kerchief on their heads. Tobias and I considered going to one of the Krigshjärta LARPs and play a couple of Jorgaler when we were newly-weds, but what with pregnancies, babies and life in general, that never happened. I was still interested in composing such an outfit though, to see if I could make plain look pretty.

So I had the bodice. The rest I was pretty sure I could dig out from my historical clothing and fantasy costume wardrobes, and my fabric stash. It worked rather well I think. I used the same old hobbit shift, an 18th century linen petticoat, a raw silk skirt for the apron, and a piece of fabric for the kerchief. Medieval wool hose and leather shoes completed the outfit.

As props I used an old laundry basket that usually holds toys, an even older washing bat, an inherited copper tub, and several historical linen shirts, shifts, braies and aprons. I lugged it all out in the garden and took pictures using the trusty self timer, a dear friend when documenting my costuming adventures. 

I like how the bodice looks very plain and… almost boring really, when laced with a neutral cord. It doesn’t attract any notice at all worn like this. Actually, I love this outfit! It would have looked better with a wool skirt though, and a larger kerchief.

The Hobbit Larder
I keep exploring different ways to dress hobbit women. I have liked both the styles I’ve tried so far (the bodice/skirt and the dress), but as I have a skirt trimmed with the same fabric this bodice is madefrom, I just had to combine them for a hobbit to wear. My hair actually did get curly this time round – rolling it up on rags for more than 24 hours did the trick. I don’t think I like this hobbit look as much as the others I’ve tried, but it still looks nice. I think it’s the hair – I didn’t manage to get it quite hobbity, even though it was properly curly. It actually looks too frivolous, if that is possible for one of the merry little people. More experimenting is needed! (EDIT: I think I figured it out: the rest of the outfit has a vague 17th century feel to it, but the hair is more 1790's. A bun in the back and curls framing the sides of the face would have been the very thing here, I think.)

I wore an 18th century-ish shift, two petticoats that are hardly seen, the wool skirt, and some fabric from the stash in my hair.

For these pictures I transformed a corner of my sewing room to a larder – a very suitable setting for a hobbit. Good thing we have lots of appropriate bowls, jars, jugs, cups and baskets to use as props… 

Using a cord that matched the skirt made a really nice look for this outfit; it became a decoration in itself. It also makes the bodice quite versatile - get cords in the same colours as your skirts, and you have a bodice that will match pretty much anything :)

Conclusions: colours make a lot of difference; it transformed this simple bodice from being dreary to being delightful.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Winter in the Shire

I finished a new dress recently. I mean to wear it for everyday (yes, it does work, when combined with other tops and cardigans), but it also works nicely for a Hobbit – which was sort of the point. As costumed photos are the most fun I decided to do a Hobbit photo shoot. I asked a friend and her kids over for lunch, cake baking, and some picture taking. 

 The petticoats have been worn quite a bit on their own since 
made last spring and summer, and have faded a little in the laundry.

The day before my intended photo shoot the boys and I took a walk in the neighbourhood to find a good spot for it, and in the end a corner of the playground proved to be the best. A few apple trees grow there and the bushes are dense enough to hide any modern things. I doubt that Samwise Gamgee, or any other hobbit with pride in his garden, would let them grow wild in this way though. Taking the pictures in the playground was very convenient, as it made it possible for the children to play while we took pictures.
There was a little bit of frozen snow on the ground in the shadowy places, which was nice, as it made it really look like winter, and not just like autumn. But oh! was it cold for my feet! They were numb by the time I put on woollen stockings and boots. To think that many people through history (and still today) had to go barefoot in the winter is very sobering.

So, the dress. It’s made from the same fabric (an old cotton curtain from a charity shop) as my old hobbit petticoat, also worn in the pictures. When I overdyed the paisley fabric for my 1840’s maternity dress, I tossed in the hobbit petticoat and remaining fabric as well, as I prefer more muted colours. I wanted a vaguely 18th century feel to this dress, but without the need to wear stays under it. The front panels are cut on the bias, for visual interest; in the rest of the bodice I tried to align the plaid nicely. The bodice closes with hooks and eyes in front. I pleated the skirt to make the vertical stripes in the bodice continue down the skirt. The corners of the skirt are softly curved, and all edges but centre front are bound with bias tape. The whole dress is hand stitched, because… well, I like hand sewing. Mind, I will really try to become friends with my sewing machine this year, when my non historical sewing is concerned. It does go much faster.

The tricky thing with making tight fitting clothes after having a baby though is that you loose weight for months and months– even if a bodice fits really tight when first made, it’s soon too large. Breastfeeding also plays tricks with your figure, not only in a longer perspective, but on a daily basis. A bit frustrating, that. As the dress no longer supply enough support, I’ll need supporting underwear instead. I’m working on that, as my whole wardrobe would benefit from it. I contemplated boning the bodice, but as I want this to be comfortable when going about my housework, playing and cuddling with my babies (without having to resort to a historical pattern of movement) I didn’t really like that idea. Ah well, in the pictures I try to look like a simple hobbit woman popping out to the root cellar on a usual workday – maybe she’s just wearing the Shire female version of a grubby, saggy pair of overalls or old sweats?   

The dress was worn over the shift I made for my first hobbit costume, and the same two skirts. I filled in the neckline with a piece of brown cotton for a kerchief: the dark colour seems suitable at this time of year, and for doing chores. It doesn’t really show in the pictures, but it’s pinned with a reproduction brass pin. I also wore my knitted wool mitts.      

And the hair… I put my hair up in pin curls the day before, and wore a thin scarf tied round my head the whole day, to the great amusement of little B. He’s got a good sense of humour that boy :) I slept on the curls, and didn’t take them out until an hour before the photo shoot, but do you think my hair got curly? No, of course not. What little resemblance to curls there were had soon disappeared, even though I sprayed each curl to an inch of its life as I took it out. So, though this is the kind of volume I wish my hair would normally have, it isn’t exactly hobbity. Meeh. I could have used the hobbit bonnet to hide the hair malfunction, but straw don’t seem quite the thing for winter... A bonnet wouldn’t be required for just fetching apples from storage, so I decided to forgo headwear in spite of the hair. Well, at least it wasn’t straighter than straight, as it usually is – that’s something.


And as a bonus, here’s a picture of a squirrel that was foraging for food in and by the trees at the playground. 

He didn’t give any notice to us at all - but then I didn’t reach for a stone.

Monday, 5 January 2015

A Most Peculiar Mademoiselle - Now on Facebook

To celebrate the new year, and having passed 300 followers on the blog, I decided to do what several other bloggers have done recently, and get a Facebook page. I have one for my Swedish "historical clothing for beginners" blogs, but felt this needed one too. You can find me here.