The Ladies' Tea Guild

Friday, January 17, 2014

New(ish) costumes: mending and adjusting one costume to work as a different one.

vintage 1940s poster.
I've been watching the Historical Sew Fortnightly costume activity for a while; although I've never had the time to finish anything on schedule, it's fun to see what everyone else does.  The current (well, the due date just passed, but you still get full credit even if you finish late) project is a "Make Do and Mend" theme.  I have such a pile of mending, both costume and mundane clothing, so I've gotten out a few projects to work on for this challenge.

The first one was fixing my hooped petticoat.  It's one of the cotton petticoats-with-tucks-filled-with-hoop-wire numbers that have been around for years, and it's served me pretty well for over 12 years.  I had removed the top hoop wire (it's a 5-hoop petticoat) because the petticoat was too long for me, and threaded the drawstring through the now-empty space where the wire had been, shortening the petticoat by about 6 inches.  No hemming -- all was good.  Unfortunately the drawstring was not all that strong, and it broke on my friend, who had borrowed it to wear to the Dickens Fair.  While she was wearing it.  Thankfully, it had been slipping down all afternoon, and she was in a dressing room when the breakage occurred, but we panicked for a while!  She ended up buying a new hoop petticoat at the Dickens Fair, and I brought my old one home, and shoved it in the closet.  Until now, when I looked through my stash and found a length of corset lacing that I had bought years ago, that ended up not being nearly long enough, but was a good length for a waist drawstring.  I promptly took it out, found my bodkin (I love those!), and threaded it in the empty drawstring space.  My hoop is usable again!

Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Next, I started to work on my alteration project.  I've been working towards a historically accurate 16th century English working-class woman's outfit for several years now.  I'm also a member of the GBACG and we have our annual meeting and Open House tomorrow, which involves a fashion show to advertise our upcoming themed costume events.  I have been a model in the fashion show for a few years, but since I don't have all that many costumes, I'm running out of ones that people haven't already seen.  I was originally asked to wear my Edwardian costume, but then the show organizer sent me a message that she didn't have anyone to represent the Hobbit-theme event, Bilbo's Birthday Bash, and could I dress as a Hobbit?  Well, not having seen the movie (or even read the books) I wasn't sure I had anything that would work, but a quick Internet search brought me some photos of female Hobbits, and I decided that I could use my 16th century costume with some alterations.  Here it is, as I wore it last year.

Production photo: Lavenda Jones.
Here are some production photos of female Hobbits:

Production photo: Lavenda Jones. 

 So the goal is to make my 16th century English country woman's outfit look both more 18th century (ish) and more "Renaissance Faire" (ish)!  I'll be wearing a different shift underneath: instead of the linen one with the high neckline, I'll be wearing my Italian (ish) camicia, which has poofier sleeves and a lower neckline.  I'll probably be wearing my Victorian corset underneath just to get a smooth silhouette, because my 16th century bodice is soft enough that it doesn't support me (you can probably tell from the photo!).  I'll also be tucking up my skirts to make them as short as the Hobbit women's skirts, and I'll be curling my hair (into a mass of ringlets/tangles) instead of wearing my coif.  I'm also making a triangular stomacher to wear under the center front lacing on my kirtle.  I have some gold-colored upholstery brocade in the stash, and that will be the visible fashion fabric.  The stomacher will otherwise be two layers of cotton canvas stiffened with narrow rows of cording (also from the stash).  I'm currently poking holes in my fingers while stitching all the rows for the cording!  I have no way of getting properly hairy Hobbit feet, or pointy Hobbit ears, so I'll just have to go barefoot and forget about the special effects makeup and prosthetics.  I'll post a photo when it's done!

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)