Monday, May 26, 2014

Mundane Monday's Costumer Spotlight -Loren Dearborn

Our next costumer spotlight is Loren Dearborn

What started you in costuming and what was your first costume?

My mom's an artist and we didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up, so she often made my costumes, and she was the one who first taught me how to sew.  So that's where it started but I didn't really get into making my own costumes until around the end of college.  I lived in San Francisco then and did some events with this group called the Cacophony Society, some of which required costumes.  Through them I found out about the Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild and eventually I started going to their events.  I think my first was this mermaid costume I made for a Halloween costume party my roommate and I were throwing in college.  I basically made a long strapless stretch dress out of a sparkly fabric then sewed panels of cellophane to make a tail that sort of draped out behind me.  This blurry old photo is the only picture I have of it.

Many of us are not fond of our first few costumes, but can you tell me a couple things that you did like about yours? What about them inspired you to continue and make more?

I think from the get go I had my own sense of style with my costumes that continues to this day, not sure I can put a finger on it but even with those very early attempts it was there - even if fit, construction and materials were not!

One of your costumes that first drew my attention to you and your costuming was your pink 18th century pirate that you wore to Costume Con 26. I was just learning about about Historical Costuming and there you were with a very historical shape, but it had a very unique twist. Can you share with us, why you choose to undertake that dress.  Are there any interesting things you learned while making that dress? 

There was a wonderful Pirate Feast in Maryland that some friends and I'd been going to for a few years but I was tired of wearing the typically dark and ominous pirate costumes and wanted to do something totally different.  A few of us talked about making pink pirate costumes instead - and this was mine!  I'm not sure I learned much construction-wise while making that since it was a pattern I'd made a few times before, but I DID learn just how different you can make the same pattern look by using different fabrics and colors.

Which of your costumes is your favorite and why?

I think my favorite costume may be this bright floral 1780s gown I made.  I just fell in love with the fabric, so much so in fact that when I had the chance I bought some more so I could make a matching petticoat.  

What inspires you most when choosing what costumes you want to make?

That's a tough one!  I am certainly drawn towards certain styles, color and patterns, but putting my finger on exactly what it is that compels me to make a new costume is hard.  Costume events help shape that, in that I may be searching 1880s silhouettes because of an upcoming event during that era, but I guess  what really inspires me is fabric.  I see a fabric and fall in love with it and have a vision as to what I think it should be.

Which costume did you learn the most or progress the most as a costumer and why/what did you learn?

I think the Duchess Movie's Victory Gown reproduction I made was maybe one of the biggest leaps I made in costuming, in learning how to take a period body block (18th Century) and use that as the base to draft a completely new garment (the jacket) that fit well from the get-go.

Are there any fields in costuming that you think are interesting, intimidating or that you just haven’t gotten to yet, that you still want to try? What about that specific part of costuming makes you want to try it?

Tons!  Most of my experience has been in the late 1700s through 1880s, most other eras are a mystery to me and seem daunting as a result.  I'd love to learn more about time frames outside my comfort zone, but also techniques I've never tried.  I look at some of the amazing armor I've seen cosplayers make and think, I'd love to try that sometime!

Any big projects planned for the future that we can look forward to following and /or its big reveal?

I don't know that I have any big secret projects planning for the immediate future, but I'm a bit obsessed with Game of Thrones at the moment, so look for a lot of Cersei Lannister's gowns!

In true Mundane Monday fashion please share a couple links that you found interesting or inspiring this week. 

I've been fascinated with Sarah of Mode Historique's posts on the chemise gown.  She just came back from England where she was studying one of the few chemise gowns still around and has been posting interesting updates on what she's learned. 

I thought this post on Archeology and Art on reproing a Mycenaen barbecue was pretty cool.

And I also loved Katherine's of the Fashionable Past's 1920s hoops.  It's rare you see people reproing the Robe de Style look so it's very cool to get a tutorial on hoops for that style of gown.

You can follow Loren at her blog: A Costumer's Closet

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mundane Monday's Costumer Spotlight - Laura U

Our second Costumer Spotlight is Laura U.

How did you get started in costuming? What was your first costume? Do you have any pictures?

I actually started making costumes in high school. I have a lot of family members who quilt and sew and making Halloween costumes was a very big thing. (My aunt made an epic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfit for my sister once!) The first one I made completely by myself was a Raggedy Ann costume. Sadly there are no photos remaining, but I was very proud of myself for creating striped tights by taping off nylons and spray painting them! Then I got married at 21, had my first child at 23 and suddenly I was making their costumes too. I didn't start making any for a living or even for a hobby till 2003 or so when a friend was making a Professor McGonagal hat and asked me if I would make the cloak. After that it was all wigs and costumes and make-up, oh my!
This is the oldest photo I have of me in a costume I made. It is a nun costume that I made of bed-sheets that I wore to a costume contest in the Army. I also made the pope costume.
Laura made both of these costumes. We covered the gentleman's face for privacy reasons since we can't ask his permission first.
Many of us are not fond of our first few costumes, but can you tell me a couple things that you did like about yours? What about those few inspired you to continue and make more?

I have always liked the costumes I made, even the older ones. I've always been particular about using nice looking fabrics and trims, and I've always tried very hard to have outfits fit the shape of the person they were meant for. Poor fit and bad fabric can make an outfit look way more sloppy than it is. Because I got better with each outfit and tried more and more things each time, it gave me the encouragement to keep going. There was always something more to learn.

I first met you at Costume College 2009 when you were wearing your Camo Elizabethen. For someone who had just discovered historical costuming, you blew my mind by combining genres. Can you share with us, why you chose to undertake that dress?

I do love my Camo Elizabethan costume. I chose to make it because my costuming group at the time was going to dress in costume for the "Day of Wrong" at Bristol Renaissance Faire. We decided to do "historical silhouettes" in wrong fabric. Because I had been in the army, it seemed a no-brainer to do it in camo. I re-used some army uniform pieces that belonged to me and bought and repurposed the rest. I am particularly proud of the partlett I made of the old BDU t-shirts. I wound up wearing it at Costume College because it was literally one of the only outfits I had done (or mostly done as I sewed some of it in the hotel room) in time for CosCol! It was a great ice breaker because it was so wacky. I also discovered at that point that I really love turning genres upside-down. Straight-up historical isn't always my bag, although I have made things that I love that are very historical in structure.

Being a sailor myself, I'm not sure who I should root for.
This is my favorite photo of me in the Camo outfit. It is me (as Army) fighting the Navy guys at the MN Renaissance Festival, lol.

What inspires you most when choosing what costumes you want to make?

 Anything can inspire me. Sometimes I see two things next to each other and think, "That would be fun!" Or I see a vintage poster, or find a piece of jewelry that gives me an idea. I get a lot of ideas brainstorming with my friends. Fabric is a big motivator, though.

What is your favorite costume of all that you've made and why? 

I don't really have one favorite costume that I love. I learned a lot making the Steampunk Clown and Eleonora, but I equally love the Jedi I made for my 6 month old nephew and costumes I have made for my daughters. My favorite costume is usually the one I am currently working on!

Cuteness overload!
What costume did you learn the most or progress the most as a costumer and why/what did you learn?

The one I learned the most on was actually a group - when I did the Six Wives of Henry VIII. I learned a lot about research and historical fit, I learned to make hats (sad hats, but still they were hats!), jewelry, corsetry, cod pieces, tights, etc. I learned how to shop for fabric and how to recreate a portrait. And how to manage a group of people in costume. It was the single greatest learning experience of my life from costuming. It has affected everything I have done since. And I hope to do a better job when I do it again next year....

Are there any fields in costuming that you think are interesting, intimidating or that you just haven’t gotten to yet, that you still want to learn? What about that specific part of costuming makes you want to learn it?

There are various genres and historical eras that I haven't gotten to. I used to say never about some things and then had to bite my tongue when I decided to create something, so I have learned to be open to everything. I am not particularly interested in recreating different sorts of corsets. I admire the work and talent that goes into making them, but I just find undergarments to be tedious to make. I want to get to the fitting and the trim! I am all about the trimmings. I would like to learn more about hat-making. I will likely never make shoes. I have such particular feet that it is better for me to buy modern shoes and modify them. I would very much like to make a Medieval costume at some point. The hats are so amazing.

Any big projects planned for the future that we can look forward to following and /or its big reveal?

 I am planning on recreating the Lady MacBeth dress as worn by Ellen Terry in the UK that was featured in the Singer Sargent portrait. There is a lot of knitting and crocheting in that gown along with metal-work that is new to me, so I figure it will take awhile. I also am working on a wearable art sort of historically inspired coat outfit for a Queen Titania costume for next year. Lots of quilting, 3-D flowers and some leatherwork. I also will be learning how to make my own wig which both excites and terrifies me. And I am creating a Game of Thrones costume, just like everyone else, lol. My daughter has a Daenerys costume, so I am making a Rhaella costume since Rhaella is her mother. I may just make a habit of making the Mom costumes to my daughter's costumes since there are a lot of fun options out there! Although I really can't imagine what Ms. Frizzle's Mother (from the Magic School Bus) would look like!

And in true Mundane Monday fashion please share a couple links to blogs, pics, tutorials, WHATEVER that you found interesting or inspiring this week. 

1.  Have to give a shout-out to Shear Madness, because I started it so that people who love all different kinds of costuming would have a space to gather. The blog and the FB group

2. Pinterest. LOVE Pinterest. I see more inspiring things and tutorials on there everyday. 

3. Game of Thrones costuming group on FB - really great folks who are supportive of each other and do amazing work!  

4. There are so many really great blogs and groups out there. Jennifer Rosburgh, Loren Dearborn, Your Wardrobe Unlock'd, LiveJournal, etc., etc. Just so much great information from bloggers out there. I could spend all day (and have!) just reading their sites.

You can follow Laura on her blog, Rocking the Frock. She is the Mistress of the Madness over at the Shear Madness group, also.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mundane Monday's Costumer Spotlight: Katherine C-G

As I mentioned last week, the end of my school semester is upon me, but I didn't want to abandon Mundane Mondays. Thankfully a few of my favorite costumers have been happy to help fill the void while I am gone.
It was a little hard to choose who to ask because so many inspire me on a regular basis. Of course this gives a positive outlook to being at the beginning of my college years. I have many, MANY more school semesters to wrap up, and hopefully many more costumer spotlights. In deciding who to ask this time around I chose to ask costumers who inspired me when I was first starting out and who continue to inspire me today.

Mundane Monday's first costumer spotlight is Katherine C-G or, as she is more often known, Koshka-the-Cat.

What started you in costuming? What was your first costume? Are there any surviving pictures? Any that you are willing to share? 

One day I was bored and looking things up online. I don’t even remember what. I came across the Sense and Sensibility website and the instructions to make the Regency dress and thought, “I could do that!” I ordered the pattern, bought a sewing machine, and that was that. 

This was in 2001, and I really need to get that film developed! 

Many of us are not fond of our first few costumes when we look back on them. Can you tell me a couple things that you did like about yours? What about them inspired you to continue and make more?

I’m not sure how, but somehow I managed to get my first few costumes to fit pretty decently. They definitely weren't the most exciting things, but they fit.
 I wore my pink linen 18c dress to my first Costume College gala, and while that made me realize how plain it was, it also made me realize that fit was the most important thing about a dress. The rest is just fabric choices and decoration! Just being around so many gorgeous dresses there convinced me I had to continue. 

What inspires you most when choosing what costumes you want to make?
It’s usually pictures. I rarely have an event that requires a particular costume, so I mostly make whatever I want. I like to think of places like the Met as my own personal catalog. And Pinterest is the best thing ever. If I do have that rare I need something from a time period event, I’ll look through extant clothing and pictures or portraits of the time period. 

I have been following you for several years and am always inspired by your costumes. But your magenta silk 1869 Evening Dress, was one of the first to completely "wow" me. Can you share with us, why you choose to undertake this dress. 
I showed my mom Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. She saw the dress on the cover and said, “You couldn't make that, could you?” I told her that I could, but I’d never find the fabric. A little while later, I was looking for something else at Fashion Fabrics Club, and they had the fabric. Of course I had to get it! I made an evening dress because I wanted to wear it to the Costume College gala. I later made the day bodice that’s pictured inside the book. 

Day Bodice
Close up of the sleeve detail.

What is YOUR favorite costume of all that you've made and why?

It sometimes changes to my newest costume, but it always seems to go back to my black 1860s ball gown. 
 I’m really not sure why I like it so much. I’ve always liked black though, and it has a little bit of sparkle, and a low neckline, which I always enjoy wearing more than high necklines. 

Which costume did you either learn or progress the most as a costumer and why/what did you learn?

It’s been a very gradual process for me. I don’t think there’s one costume that I really made that jump in. One of the more surprising moments though, was when I was making my first court dress. I was using my 1780s stays pattern as a base, and I added a trial amount to the back to make it close in back. I guessed the right amount. I thought it was a fluke, but similar things kept on happen
ing, so I finally took it as a sign that I knew what I was doing!

The spotty dress is probably my most technically challenging dress. With three separate closures and highly decorated skirt, it was somewhat crazy to put together, especially as my friend Aubry and I were making matching dresses while 2000 miles apart. It was a great exercise in communicating techniques!

Are there any fields in costuming that you think are interesting, intimidating or that you just haven’t gotten to yet? What about that specific part of costuming makes you want to try it?

I’ve actually tried pretty much everything I’ve wanted to do. That said, there are many areas of costuming that I find impressive and intimidating! Anything not made with fabric, to be exact. Armor is just amazing. As for work with fabric, true tailoring is just beautiful and at the same time, something I’m happy doesn't really appear in women’s clothing for my usual time periods. I’m very historically based, and even the fantasy I’ve done is historically based fantasy, and I’ve approached it using mainly historical techniques.

Any big projects planned for the future that we can look forward to following?

I have an ambitious line up for Costume College this year. New dresses include a King’s Landing style Game of Thrones dress with beaded embroidery and beetle wings, a 1920s tennis dress with hand hemstitching, a silver and black robe de style with real machine hemstitching and about a million (ok, 180) thread covered beads, and a spencer covered with braid. I think I can do it all! And then, finally the 1890s bicycling sweater I've wanted for ages for next Costume College. 

You can follow Katherine at her costuming blog: The Fashionable Past, Her dress site, her Live Journal, or her Flickr account.
She also has a blog dedicated to her antiques that she takes detailed photos of and offers invaluable construction details.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Motivation for fighting a Mundane Monday

Week of May 5, 2014

Mondays can often be downers. It’s the beginning of yet another work week. That’s 5 whole days before you’re free, be it to craft and create or to attend the next event. But instead of letting the weight of a new week stifle my creativity or energy I’ve collected some links to use as inspiration. I’m sharing them here to give you a little Motivation for fighting Mundane Mondays.

1. The tyranny of style blog wrote an interesting article about a talk between costume designer Sandy Powell and Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis about designing "The Young Victoria". The article also mentions the The Getty Center's exhibit "A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography." which I have personally gone to see. If you are able to, I would recommend it. Old photos offer so much in how the clothing was worn and how it looked on a person that fashion plates and mannequins can't. And if you like history there are lots of little tid bits throughout the exhibit about Queen Victoria, her family and how photography, an emerging technology, played into their lives.

2. Cinema Makeup School is having a "Next Level of Cosplay Scholarship Contest". Check out the entries!

3. Ever want to add lights to your costumes. This tutorial shows how to 'sew' LEDs into your costume.

4. I'm always jealous of those who have costuming buddies or a guild nearby. This week that envy was directed at the east coast because there were many who shared about their outing at the Fort Fredrick 18th century market fair. Historically Dressed, and A Dedicated Follower of Fashion, both shared LOTS of pictures of the event.

5. An interesting take on how to make armor. She is using it as a Fem Thor Armor but it could be applied to others.

6. Costume Con 32 was last weekend and pictures are starting to show up all over the web. Here is a link to a Flicker search. So many fun costumes!

7. I have followed this dress' story since close to its beginning. She had some ups and downs while trying to create it. Yet because she shared them with us along the way, it made seeing it all come together and her wearing it a great pleasure.

8. This weekend I attended the Southern California Renaissance faire. I wore a 'this 'ol thing' outfit but I did have a few new accessories.
My new Elizabethan shoes, American Duchess' Stratfords made their debate. I do have one complaint which is they run small, and I ended up with blisters. But they are stunning! I'm already plotting outfits that will coordinate and show them off better.

As I enter my last couple weeks of the spring semester I know my motivation and inspiration levels will be sapped away by term papers, projects and finals. But don't worry I have asked a couple of my favorite costumers to share with you, about their costumes and what inspires them. I am extremely excited that they have all agreed and promise you, you won't lack from inspiration to help motivate you while I am gone.