Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Tis the season

Bea will prove it.

She has recently begun to assert her personhood in ways that kind of surprise me, because I didn't really expect them until later. The talking in full sentences was a shocker. And bigger than that was:

getting dressed her own damn self.
Now, I have to say that I approve, within limits. For example, I do not care that she chose to wear leopard print pants with a fairy princess dress. In fact, when I asked what pants she wanted and she answered, "Ummm, leppid p'int" I nearly applauded. It was the choice of the size 12 months fairy princess dress that I objected to. I practically had to corset the child to get her into it, and she couldn't lift her arms above her collarbone all day. The moral of that story is of course, that Momma needs to get on the ball and make a fairy princess dress that fits, preferably one in fuschia and lavender. I also feel the need to draw attention to the socks, barely visible, which she insists on wearing every day, since they have penguins on them.. Bea likes penguins. A lot.

She even got a stuffed chick from Sarah R.R. for Christmas. Sarah is Bea's hero. You will notice,please, that my darling's outfit in this picture is just as charming, tho not as individual, as the one in the preceding picture. This was taken a mere three hours later. She wouldn't let me wash her hair, so I gift-wrapped her.

Changing the subject, I hate slippers. I hate them because I would rather be sewing impractical 6-yard New Look circle skirts out of hot pink shantung taffeta, and cowgirl shirts with tattoo fabric yokes and pearly snaps, and retro style dress coats in deep violet wool melton. I have all those patterns, and even some of the fabric (the wool cuts a little too deeply into the pocketbook), but instead I am making slippers. Pair after pair of slippers. Sigh. After the New Year I am going to embark on another project, which I think will be a shirt to wear while I learn to play slap-bass. I am asking Santa for a double bass this year. He hasn't gotten me what I wanted since he brought me a cat and Huey Lewis's "Perfect World" when I was twelve. He has some making up to do. In addition to the bass, Santa, I want the complete Sun Records Story, and a pair of cowboy boots. And a motorcycle jacket. And a new stereo receiver. And I hope you liked the cookies last year and say hello to the reindeer and I love you and do you like me too? I like eggnog better than cocoa, so that's what I left you and thanks for the neat stuff last year,



Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Do not disrespect the Bassman. I mean it.

So La Fab has indicated to me on the phone that she thinks that Mr. Lee Rocker, who is my current weird obsession, might not be as pleasing to the olfactory senses as he is to the auditory ones. She points out his predilection for vintage clothing (which always smells like Grampa's closet) and his liberal application of hair product, which she contends is pomade. She even made a reference to his being a "Dapper Dan Man." I say, he is NOT Clark Gable. That is clearly not pomade, but instead hair GREASE of some kind, like Brylcreem. A little dab'll do ya, if you know what I'm sayin', and I'm sure you do. And besides, can any of you play double-time slap bass whilst standing on the side of said instrument, as has already been proven of my friend Mr. Rocker? I thought not. I rest my case.

It's sort of funny, tho, because Ms. L. and I were also talking about how various rock-type boys might smell, and she advised me that the rockabilly boys I currently swoon over were probably the best of the bunch. They might have the lingering scent of engine grease about them, or even Brylcreem, but at least it was honest working sweat you were likely to smell, unlike the sickly sweet heroin drench that probably poured off my other heroes, the Clash. Watching Rude Boy the other day, I was struck by how obviously drug-addled Joe Strummer was. I'm vaguely surprised he could stand up, let alone make fine political protest music. Just goes to show... And while we are on the subject, let's discuss the Ramones for a minute. Anyone ever notice that, unlike the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, there are never ANY ladies standing close to them in the pics? That's because they smell like they haven't showered since they boarded the bus in Peoria three days ago and they have been having Jim Beam and m.j. brownies for breakfast every morning for a week.

None of this stops me from desperately wanting a motorcycle jacket. It is maybe the one item of clothing that I could not make for myself that I really desire. I would probably not write CLASH CITY ROCKERS in white paint across the back, but I can't say that I wouldn't put a tasteful portrait of Joey Ramone up there. Or at least an extra button with his face on it or something.

Lastly I want you to go here and look at the boy haircuts on these Teddy Girls. I am especially taken with the DA on the blond girl in the 2nd and 3rd photos. I think that this is a bit of what I was envisioning when I said I wanted all my hair cut off. Now I think I have to wait a while until the razored bits grow back, and then I can have the whole thing reshaped to look more like this. I realized that I have Vietnam-era Jane Fonda hair right now. Not exactly as rock-n-roll as Karen O or Joan Jett, which I got compared to.

And a final thought: in Britain, the front part of a pompadour is known as a quiff, which sounds kind of dirty in a good way to me. Say it out loud. Quifffff. Yeah.

Friday, November 24, 2006

They bill themselves as the Greatest Living Rockabilly Band in the World.

It's the Stray Cats.

I can feel your eyes rolling back in your head as I write this, because undoubtedly you are anti-Brian Setzer, or anti-80's, or even, heaven forefend, anti-rockabilly (although you have certainly stumbled into the wrong blog if that is your stance.) All I know is that I have only wanted to watch rockumentaries and biopics about country stars lately, and my two favorite things are, "Sing to the babies, Loretta" and the Stray Cats' Rumble in Brixton, which celebrates their 25th reunion with London. I say with, and not in, because they were a bunch of high school dropouts who found themselves panhandling together on the streets of London before walking into some small recording studio and laying down "Runaway Boys." It would shoot to number one on the British pop charts in the summer of 1980, and the boys would become the darlings of the British airwaves while making themselves somewhat known as a novelty act here in the good ole U.S.A. The rest of this chapter is basically a review of this DVD, so if you've got something better to do, or if you think I have finally gotten around to ordering aubergine colored wool flannel for my fabulous repro 40's dress, go get yourself some chips or something.

These cats were made to be seen in concert. This was only a movie, and I was snugged up cozy-like in my bed, but I got all caught up in the excitement. They play like they really, really like what they do, like twenty five or six years hasn't blunted the awe they feel at actually getting paid to play their instruments. They jump and scream and stand on their monitors and on their drums and, in the case of Lee Rocker, on the SIDE of his silver glitter double bass (can you feel the waves of jealousy from me right now?) Once you step away from Brian Setzer's incessant show-boating and the weird faces he keeps making (Look at me! I'm a Rock Star!), you can see Slim Jim Phantom pounding the drums like he's beating them into submission, and Lee Rocker doing a great Sid Vicious snarl while screaming his lungs out. Plus, as much as my tastes lean towards blond pompadours, Lee Rocker in his vintage leopard trim leisure coat and his Roy Orbison glasses and his skintight black jeans kinda made my heart do a weird little thing. Then he started standing on the side of his bass and carrying it around like it was a little gi-tar and stopping while Brian Setzer was talking to comb back his 'do, and my heart kinda did a little double-time thing. And finally, in the special features, they had a bit of backstage stuff, and he did a 15 second slap bass demo thing that I think actually made my heart stop beating in my chest. There was hero worship and attraction and I don't know what all all mixed up in one. That does bring me to my one issue with the DVD. While the sound is remarkable for concert footage, it is weighted so heavily towards Setzer's lead guitar and vocals that you can barely hear the bass, and sometimes even the drums. This leaves it sounding a little flat, especially when there is obviously harmony that is damped down. Once or twice there is some solo stuff that they don't bother to highlight, and the really huge bass solo in Stray Cat Strut is under-emphasized, with an unnecessarily loud back-up guitar. Also, you can see bits of Slim Jim doing crazy-ass gymnastics while standing up to drum, but they never really focus on it until the second encore, when he takes the whole stage to get up to an impressive run.

Long story short? Get yourself a six-pack of longnecks and settle in for the weekend, because seriously, it's amazing how long fifteen seconds can stretch into when you view it a couple thousand times.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

So I was trying for rock star chic...

But I don't photograph well, so in all of these shots I look like I ate something weird.

Also, I should probably put some lipstick on before I try to take my own picture again. And my eyebrows need some work. I never look as fierce as I feel.

The one thing about having such a modern haircut is that I feel like it doesn't quite jibe with the retro-romantic feel I have been wanting to achieve. I guess I just have to love the punk rock, right? And besides, that's what scarves are for.

I don't really have much to add, except that I am excited about bass guitar. I just wish that my skill level matched my enthusiasm. At least I have the proper equipment to play REAL LOUD. Hmmph.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I just wish I actually knew how to play the bass

Cuz there is a really pretty one on eBay right now. And I could probably justify buying it if I thought that I would get use out of it, like if I thought that this group would get off the ground and have a performance of some sort. But I am leery. There doesn't seem to be much direction - and I am practically a virtuoso on the bass compared to the other - and I am not sure anyone else wants it as much as I do. I mean, they want to play music, and I think they see themselves onstage, but with the exception of H, who is nearly as theatrical as I, I don't see the hunger for applause that drives me toward making a go of this. So no lovely purple acoustic bass for the time being.

I got the 40's patterns in the mail and realized that even with wartime corner-cutting, I don't have a single length of material in the house long enough to make any of them. Okay, except for the citron linen that I mistakenly thought would make a good dress for S.'s wedding. I thought it was apple. It was Kool-Aid lime instead. Not only is the color difficult (read:appalling), but it is most certainly a summer fabric, and I want something wearable now. I am holding out for a rose-red lightweight wool flannel, but this may exist only in my dreams. It would be for the dress with the skirt with overlapping tiers like petals of a rose. The dress features parachute sleeves, too, which are making a comeback this season in exaggerated silhouettes. You know the ones, where they are fullish at the top but gradually add volume, and then gather in at the wrist or slightly above it. (Now is the part where I kick myself for being so technically incompetent that I can't show you pictures of these patterns. I don't have a scanner, and I can't find the pics on eBay. Trust me, they are lovely.) The one beef I have is that as much as I adore the structured, pre-New Look lines, the skirts are all relatively slim. I really go for the full circle skirts of the late 40's and early 50's. They are a little more forgiving of curvy girls.

So these dresses might be my next sewing project, if I rustle up some suitable material. Also, S. and I are contemplating making corsets - pinup style ones, to be exact. And of course I have the mountain of slippers to complete before Christmas. I should get moving on that.

This was supposed to be a pictured of a dress from the 40's with fabulous balloon sleeves and a full skirt. It's not here, obviously. I went to find the damn thing on eBay, and it's not there anymore, either. It might have been a complete figment of my sleep-deprived imagination.

And one more thing, because I am charmed beyond reason by it - over at Paris Breakfasts, there is a little piece today on dresses made of chocolate. I adore the ballgown with the pale gold tulle and gold leaves. I am a sucker for fairy princess gowns.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fast forward 175 years...

La Fab has suggested that I not abandon this blog. She seems to think it is the thing that keeps me from going more than slightly crazy. Perhaps she is right. I have been in the worst kind of doldrums since MA was finished; I don't know if it's the ashes of the creative fire or if it's simple exasperation that I went to all that trouble for four hours of dancing, most of which I did in the bits I thought no one was gonna see. But now I have not been eating or sleeping well, and I keep daydreaming about stupid shit that has no business anywhere except inside my head. I have even faced some uncomfortable truths about how my goals have changed in the last few years and what the hell I'm going to do about that. But I haven't planned another project.

The good news is that I finally bought some vintage patterns in sizes that won't need any grading ( I am a lazy bitch, and so never bother to fix things that aren't quite right), and that are maybe appropriate for winter weight fabric. All the patterns I'm drawn to, it seems, are short or no sleeved and floaty skirted and tiny bits of things that will indeed be perfect for our mythical sojourn to France, but are impractical or impossible for the realities of ANOTHER FUCKING ALASKA WINTER. So maybe these mid-forties Rosalind Russell type suits in a nice lightweight wool are just the ticket. They are not here yet, though.

So instead, I'm starting a band. Let me just say that I can do three things - sing passably well, shake the shit out of a tambourine, and work a crowd. Great, but I think I really ought to brush up on the playing of some sort of instrument, like say the guitar or keyboards. Otherwise the crowd is going to get mighty tired of listening to me whale out Blitzkrieg Bop for the three thousandth time. On the bass, no less. Electric bass, even, not even upright. I have this vision of belting out slightly hard-core renditions of Patsy Cline tunes, but this is a technical improbability without some kind of backup.

So if you have come for the sewing, which maybe you have, I apologize. There is going to be a lot of chatter in the next few weeks, but little of it is going to have to do with the trials and tribulations of dressmaking. If you really can't go without, hit A Dress A Day because erin over there is better at talking that stuff up than me. If, however, you are a friend of mine, are just along for the ride, or have nothing better to do, stick around. I'll be fuming about my musical untalent and raging about my bandmates in no time. In the meantime, here's some stuff to look at to get you in the mood: The Pinup Files. This is sort of the aesthetic I'm reaching for. Without, you know, the lingerie and stuff. Or rather, with it not showing so much.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Well, it's finished.

I am done, as you can see. These photos were taken at the beginning of the night, before I embarked on an ill-advised round of general debauchery that culminated in my complete inability to actually have anything to do with a living, breathing member of the male persuasion who expresses admiration for me in any form. To wit, even stripped down to my chemise and related underpinnings, even dancing my fool head off, even when being flirted with overtly and outrageously, I still could not work up the gumption to actually act on any sort of impulse that might actually get me any sort of action. In other words, I choked up on the bat, and bunted.

I had to remove most of the costume, after the contest, which I did not win,

45 hours of work notwithstanding. I really wanted to dance to the band, the Dusty 45's because they were swinging like tomorrow's just a word, and it was not happening with eight yards of satin appended to my shoulders. So off it came, and I danced around in my chemise, looking scandalous and making sultry-type eyes at Billy Joe, the lead guy and flaming trumpeter extraordinaire. This behavior unfortunately did not see its logical conclusion, i.e., when the ball ended. Instead I had to drag it out until very, very late Monday night (or early, early Tuesday morning if you must) when I ran away from the boy who was singing Ring of Fire and smiling in my direction. Damn principals for intruding and reminding me of his conspicuously absent wedding ring.

Now is the let-down. Inevitably, this project has come to its conclusion, and now there is really no reason for me to continue this blog. I suppose I might have a few more pictures from tonight, but that, as they say, is that. Now what? is the question. All of my musings, and what it ultimately comes down to is the best damn birthday a girl could ask for, barring a few stolen kisses with a rock and roll boy, and a very heavy, antiquated set of clothing whose real purpose was to stave off its creatrix's impending winter depression. I suppose I will have to invent something new to help me hold back the darkness, or succumb and spend the rest of the winter indulging myself in what L. calls the Braffian doleful stare and trying to block out the memory of a pair of tight blue jeans topped with a truly magnificent smile. Or I could just give in and make a late Victorian bustle-back evening gown, a picture of which I might add later. Suggestions from my adoring fanbase? Comments? Applause or derision? C'mon, people, would it kill you to say a thing or two?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Don't you judge me!

I know, two weeks is unacceptably long between posts. But in my defense, I have actually been working on my costume rather than gadding about online. I have managed to do lots of stuff - cut the crap out of a pair of shoes, cut the crap out of my finger, cut the crap out of a yard of my not terribly expensive but scarce fabric, and actually complete the jupe and a muslin for fitting purposes of the lining for the contouche (see, I said I was going to call it this). Of course, there were several moments when I realized that I am in WAY over my head here, such as when I realized that the sleeves in no way resemble modern sleeves. Of course, I also figured out from doing some judicious (read: panicked) research that the pattern I chose is notorious for ill-fitting sleeves, and that the redraft I did is nothing more or less than anyone else has done. They are snug on me, I won't lie, but I will probably fudge them rather than fix them properly, because I am starting to feel the press of time. Instead, I chose to spend six hours this weekend rebinding the corset, because when I tried on the lining muslin, it would not lie flat over that evil phlegm of Satan disguising itself as faux-suede trim. In the process, I also trimmed down the unnecessarily bulky shoulder straps, and miraculously, this seemed to make the corset fit better. If you care at all, which you probably don't, I am still getting a tiny gap at the back of the armscye, and I can't for the life of me figure out what to do about that. Whatever.

I am just going to pretend that I meant to do it. You will notice that although there is little I can do to actually appear slender, the shape I manage to achieve is very like the ideal 18th century silhouette. Thank Dieu.

I have ordered some gigantic ostrich plumes for my wig, and I am going to start working on the embroidery for the stomacher tomorrow, if I can figure out what I did with the sketch I made.

This is on an entirely different subject, but I discovered the name of my mystery crush and immediately disqualified him. Not because of his name, which is disturbingly like the last name of my ex-husband, and not because he's (ahem) eight years younger than me. No. It's because he is a JV. That's Jesuit Volunteer for those not in the know, and I have to say I have nothing against them. Except they are very Catholic and they go on retreats together. And most of them are vegtetarian. Not that I have anything against vegetarians. But I don't really want to date one. It's the same way that I love tiny purse-dogs, but I would never subject myself to the calumny of owning one. He is lovely though, and funny. I will have to content myself to prodding fun at him, and smirking in satisfaction when he can't follow my train of thought.

Shoes next time, my lovelies!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I'm only a few days behind my self-imposed deadline

But I'm not really done. True, the underpinnings are wearable, but they aren't really finished. The chemise is unhemmed and the sleeves do not have the engageantes, I still want desperately to change the trim on that ridiculous excuse for a pair of stays, and the pocket hoops need a different closure or they won't last the night. But it is sufficient for me to begin the part that people will actually be able to see, and none too soon. Halloween is right around the corner, although I am sure there are lots of you out there who think that a few days or even a week or two is lots of time to think about what to be and how to accomplish that. Well, fie on you. I'm not inviting you to my fabulous Halloween party, which I'm not even holding this year. Or have ever held, for that matter, but I think about it a lot, and how intensely marvelous it would be. I have a whole list of ideas to make it great. Or I would if I were the sort of person who makes lists. The point is that I have four or five times as much work ahead as I have already done, and that means no more slacking. Just working.

The picture you see to your left is B-Fed, who has taken a few minutes out of her busy schedule promoting her new album(Nap this, B**ch) to endorse my brilliant mothering skillz. You will notice, please, the tiny baby wife-beater, the low-slung jeans, the bare feet, and the insouciant expression, all courtesy of yours very truly, although the Look I'm not really sure I should take credit for. Rebellion is the natural consequence of neglect, which is what I feel I'm doing when I spend three hours holed up in the sewing room, ripping the same seam over and over again because the damn chemise is just rectangles, you can't tell top from bottom, and I'm too lazy to actually mark things with tiny notches the way you're supposed to. I know that this blog isn't about me, it's about Her Majesty, La Reine de France, but L. pointed out to me on the phone that I am the only blogging parent on the face of the planet who hasn't posted a virtual wallet foldout, and so this is my obligatory nod to my babes. I will hunt up a suitably intriguing photo of Cap'n Jack for next time, if I get around to it. And if I feel like it.
And by this time next week, the jupe must be finished and I think the toile for the robe finished. I think I should start calling the robe the contouche, tho, because that was the contemporary term for it. There is a little evidence that robe a la francaise was actually a French term of English origin. Damn Brits.

Alrighty, kiddies, that's the update. If anyone find a suitable cicisbeo to accompany me, my dance card is remarkably free of entries. Send 'em my way.

Friday, September 08, 2006

My pouf has arrived!

I'm really excited about this, as you can tell. Now, I have to confess that between the departure of La Fab, and catching an irritating cold (not evil, really, unless it was caused by a really minor demon, possibly an imp), I have not taken a single stitch on this costume in a very long time. This is not to say I haven't been working on it, just that I haven't been sewing. I've been researching a lot, and I've decided on the embellishment for the robe and for the stomacher, and I've almost cut the pocket hoops twice. I really don't want to order hoopwire just to make these stupid paniers, so I am trying to track down a suitable replacement, and that is causing a considerable hold up in the whole process. I can't fit anything properly until these hoops are done.

I am in a fit of doubt about my own abilities again. The robe pattern I purchased is not quite the way I would like it, and I think that I am going to have to draft a pattern instead of using it. But anyone who knows me knows that I don't really buy into the process-not-product argument, and will take almost any shortcut in a reject, provided it does not cause a gown to magically melt away from my body. For example, I once made and wore an Alaska Day gown that had all the trim - almost thirty yards of it - applied with fabric glue. It warns you right on the bottle not to get it wet, and I just prayed that we would see one dry October day. Luckily, I got a ride, because it did rain, and I would have ended up looking like Cinderella at quarter after. The point of all of this is to say that pattern-drafting is painstaking and not for the faint of heart or for the impatient. But, dammit, the alternative is a gown that WILL NOT flatter me. I need a waist seam! I do! And this pattern is without one. So draft I must. All this necessarily takes place before the sewing.

And for those of you who are not costumers or obsessive checkers of facts like myself, a pouf is a construct of wire and wool that ladies of M.A.'s court wore to support the ridiculous hairstyles of the day. In my case, it is a wig of honey-blond curls and ringlets that I intend to stuff with tissue ( so it will hold its shape) and hairspray and powder to mimic those architectural miracles.

Once again, I have no pictures for you, but I have nothing nothing worthy of documentation, so there you are. I have given myself a new goal: all underpinnings completed in ten days' time in order to move on to more exciting things.

Fifty three days until Halloween. Fifty until the Ball.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Dear Sofia Coppola,

Well, I hope you're satisfied. You and your lousy little movie about the pop-ification of Kirsten Dunst, Baby Vampire/Reine de France have flooded every single thing there is to flood about popular culture and fashion this fall . What little is left after the complete enshrinement of women's bodies in overlarge, men's-wear stealing hideousness is inspired by Marie Antoinette, or in homage to Marie Antoinette, or because the designer is the big, fat best friend of yours and knows how much you love Marie Antoinette. Because of you, M.A. is on the hot list of every self-respecting magazine worthy of having a fall fashion issue. There are new biographies of M.A., there are articles galore praising your genius or lambasting your faulty sense of revisionist history ( and taste in books - I mean, Antonia Fraser? Really.), there are pictures of her EVERYWHERE. And that's where I have a problem with you, my little rockstar babymama.

My costume idea for Marie Antoinette was inspired. Halloween is all just a big excuse to dress up as sexy as possible, and there is nothing sexier than the good dying young. I was going to wow the crowds with the lusciousness of my constricted Orbs of Delight, I was going to shock them with my dramatic interpretation of her stately march to the guillotine, I was going to amuse them with my bon mots and double entendres, all of which had to do with cake. And I was going to do it in a manner that required little more research than a few viewings of Dangerous Liaisons, a novel by Rosalind Miles called To Dance with Kings, and what little I remember about the history of the Ancien Regime that I picked up while flirting with Jeremy Bailey in my World History class in 11th grade. But no. You had to come along and make a movie about her, and you had to do it in a really big, Oscar-buzz sort of way, and you had to debut it way early but not release it until the week before my big event. In short, you had to go and tutor the entire planet about MY ICON, so that every schmo I run into will engage me on my opinion of her political acumen while ogling my Orbs. Not only that, but half the town will be aware that the gown I am choosing to make and wear represents only the first decade of her reign, and is therefore entirely inaccurate for the aforementioned march to the Blades of Death. Shame on you! My weakness exposed! I hate being called on my knowledge of all things trivial, and if even one person, even one, so much as mentions that my meticulous robe a la francaise is made from synthetic material, well, I hold you wholly responsible.

My High Holiday will not be ruined because of your so-called masterpiece. I will hold my head high, and I will answer each and every question that I am asked, and each time someone begins with, "Well, in the movie...," I will make a mental tick against your name. Soon you will be seated in my mental principal's office, miss, with some explaining to do.

Sincerely yours,

P.S. - If you are considering a biopic about the love affair between Gustav Klimt and anyone before next year, please reconsider. Otherwise I will get a restraining order. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Becoming Anne Bonney

The corset made its official debut at the Pirate Jamboree on Saturday. I know most of you reading this were there and therefore ogled it in all its (and my) glory, but for the two or three of you who are passing thru or reading this and never commenting, here it is. Of course, La Fab was interested only in was what UNDER the corset, and so all the shots are of the front. The back was unremarkable, except that I only awled half the eyelets and left them unfinished because of time (I was too busy making the treasure chest cake.) I decided to awl them rather than cut them because of the rather tempetuous nature of the rayon brocade I chose as the fancy outer fabric. It likes to fray a lot, and I worried about it fraying under either the metal eyelets or under the hand-binding ( I have yet to decide which I want to do). Since an awl just pushes the thread aside, you tend to have less issues with weakening and with fraying as well.

I used the world's crappiest faux-suede as a binding for the seams, as I have seen several examples of period stays that are bound with fine skin of some sort, either kid or deer. Unfortunately, the synthetic stuff I used had NO stretch at all, not even on the bias, and it was thicker than I wanted and deceptively tough, too. I started hand-binding for neatness, but eight inches into it, I gave up. Six layers of fairly tough material was too much for my meager hand sewing skills. I resorted to the machine. It did not turn out so well. It was bunchy and uneven and just. plain. wrong. It looks fine in these images, but it was so stiff on the armholes ( the cap, not the scye) that it made it stand out from my body and deformed the line I was trying to achieve. You can also see in the pictures that I managed to sew the top line completely crooked. Luckily, it's so close to the Twins that no one will ever be looking at that. The chemise I am wearing is actually a nightdown that I hacked off at knee length and tucked wily-nilly into my gauchos. I plan on doing a very simple chemise in a sheer cotton (no can do flax linen) at some later point, and provided I can find some lace that seems fine enough.

First I need to concentrate on making the paniers and the toile of the robe a la francaise. After actually feeling the weight of the fabric I plan on using, I think my original plan of going with 1/4 " boning spring steel is not going to work out. The hoops will collapse under the strain. So I need to find something stronger, and hopefully inexpensive. I want to maybe try to see if I can finagle some lumber strapping from the local timber yard, or maybe they can give me pointers. Ahh, hardware stores. A costumer's best friend. If that fails, we'll go with the pattern recommendation of doubling featherweight flexible boning, but with the understanding that they will have to be replaced sooner rather than later. One night's dancing is all they are likely to take. Like I'm planning on making several robes that will require paniers that can withstand more than six or eight hours of dancing. Sheesh.

As the papaya satin was prohibitively expensive - at $9/yard - I have reluctantly made the finally decision to not have the peachy confection of a gown I was pursuing. I will let you know about the colors next time, soonish I hope.

BTW, Blogger doesn't like the pirate pictures as they are. It steadfastly refuses to load them. Go figure. I will try to mess a bit and see if I can make them ore blogger-friendly, so you can actually see what I'm talking about.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006


This whole week has been spent cutting boning for the stupid corset. I am working feverishly to finish it before La Fab's Jamboree in three days. The most trying part has been cutting the spiral steel, of which I needed thirty pieces. I ended up cutting like thirty five because I kept screwing up. All the corset making sites are so breezy about it - merely clip the wires on either side of the boning and pull it apart gently. Pardon my Francaise, but bullshit. This stuff is made out of steel, and I think it must be some kind of tempered steel, and it requires not just clipping but wrenching, twisting, cursing, scratching, more cursing, and bleeding. You would think the burly-lookin' shears I got for this purpose would do the job, but no. The wire laughed at it, and managed to dent the jaws, as well. After many bitter tears, I managed to get all the pieces cut this afternoon, finally. I am giving my hands a break before tipping the last half dozen. I did not cut them in the manner explained in the instructions, which was to cut each one to fit the channel you've just sewn. Screw that. Too much switching. I finally started cutting the bones one section of the corset at a time, and inserting them all at once. I am also not basting closed the ends once the bones are in, but the corduroy is holding them in okay. It only took me about six bones to figure out the most efficient and secure method of attaching the tips to the spiral bones, too. Oh well, live and learn, right? I am planning on making another, and next time I think I'll find it a breeze. It will probably be an Alaska Day costume, just because AK Day gives an opportunity to actually sport all of that fun mid-Victorian costume. I do enjoy the late Vic. era stuff, too, the square necks and bustles and bare arms... Hmmm... I begin to see a long line of lovely costumes ahead of me.

My hands hurt too much to take pics. I'll get completed ones at the party.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What do the simple folk do?

First off, if you can place the title of this entry, why, you're almost as dorky as me. A cookie for you. Now down to business.

The French Revolution is suddenly everyplace, fashionwise. It probably has something to do with the new Sofia Coppola movie about M.A., but I don't care. First Vogue does a tribute to British designers in May, and John Galliano's rococo ballgowns make an appearance. I thought it was a fluke, a mere coincidence. But no. I pick up Vanity Fair's Sept. issue, and in quick succession, Juicy Couture has a girl in a huge pink wig and a full skirted, empire-waisted gown; Dolce and Gabbana has a whole four page ad/spread featuring ringlets and (again) Empire-waisted gowns, young men in frock coats - well, models really, but the idea is young men - all of which is set in a darkening garden on gilt chairs; and Daniel Swarovski has drapey Greco-Roman tops and ringlets again. This is entirely ca. 1790, several years later than the strictly Rococo, pre-Revolution era court gown I am making, but it interests me, not the least because someone is confusing the downfall of the sun Kings with Students' Revolution of 1830, and possible with a Jane Austen novel. Then in the article on Kate Moss, she is dressed as Gloria Swanson dressed as Catherine the great, and there is a brilliant example of a modern take on the 18th century caraco, complete with hooped skirt. Of course, this is almost overshadowed by the brilliant photo of Kate's ta-tas, with the hoop removed from the skirt, but no matter. There are cravat-like ruffles and sleeve business and even a train on the Gaultier ensemble she half-sports.

On top of that, Chris B. asked me a great question today. First he asked who M.A. was, and I impressed even myself with my recall of Ancien Regime history, and then he asked me - Why all the hoopla? What's so great about a self-centered, pampered icon of the French monarchy? And here's what I think: (self-important aheming) We cannot imagine in this age, in this culture and society, being defined by our circumstance. We are masters of reinvention, we have a firm faith in self-determination, we view those stranded in untenable situations as too lazy or weak-willed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get a move on, dammit. But life was not like that even a century ago, certainly not two and a half centuries ago, and certainly not for a member of the aristocracy. The only way that you survived was by playing the game by the rules. What happens to someone trapped by circumstance? When you are stifled by expectations in the same way you are stifled by the corseted fashions of the time? When you are a political being not allowed to participate in political process? When you are an icon, an idol, the wife of a man descended from a self-declared god? When you are in the company of others every moment - from the second they bring your chocolate in the light of mid-morning until they remove the pins that hold the wig to your head before you sleep at dawn - so that you never know a moment's privacy or peace? How do you raise your children? How do you learn to love? I think that M.A. was a woman trapped by circumstance. She was never offered, at the age fifteen, the chance to be anything other than the Dauphine and eventually the Queen of France. She never was allowed to do more than play pretend at the life she might have chosen, if choice had ever been a consideration. And we, looking back from the rosy future that she could not have conceived of, thank our lucky stars that we are not she, no matter her beautiful gowns and priviledge. In the end, the people of France knocked her from the pedestal she had occupied since birth by taking the cruelly humanizing step of expediting her death. I can't remember now what philosopher said this, or perhaps it was just a friend with a dark sense of humor, but I am reminded of a saying I once heard: The inside of every coffin lid looks the same.

By the way, the spell check on this template does not recognize the word 'blog'. Oh, the irony.

Monday, August 14, 2006

So... Here we are again.

There has been some muttering on some fronts that I do not update this blog quickly enough. Don't bother wondering who you are; there are only like three of you out there. I am trying, but for heavens sake, I have a lot to do - I have sewing, and research, and Oreo cookies to eat, and novels about Marie Antoinette to read (she went by her Austrian name of Antonia, BTW), and stell boning to be frightened of cutting ... The list goes on and on. But here you are, you ravening masses, you. Some proof that the project progresses. I am ready to start the seaming that will hold in place the boning that will hold in place, um, me. But it is a liitle intimidating. I have read a review of this pattern that wqarns of the top edge rolling once boned, so I am thinking again of modifying the pattern a bit to suit my purposes. But my determination to have it finished by the Pirate Party is complete; I will stand for nothing else.

On another note, I purchased a copy of Dangerous Liaisons to use as costume research, and now I cannot stop watching it. So many things about it: first, that the costuming is indeed dlicious, and enviable; second, Malkovich was actually strangely sexy; third, the very meaness of it is what appeals. Don't we always wound the ones we love? Can't boredom drive us to terrible heights?

See what happens when ladies aren't allow to slump in chairs? They have to almost recline! The most interesting thing, though, is that it makes me wish that I had chosen something other than peach for the color of the gown - the cafe au lait taffeta with rust trimmings that Mme. Merteuil wears is divine, even if it is a day dress. There is the peacock satin evening gown, though, with the shell pink trimmings, and the rosy thing with the acid green petticoat, that also appeal. It makes the monochrome palette I chose seem insipid, almost. Anyhow, now I am investigating the inkling of an aquamarine overgown with peachy-pink petticoat and robings, even though I said no ice blue. It's hard not to get caught up in the minutae, especially when that is what the Rococo aesthetic was all about.

But before I persue that, which is after all a long ways off, I have steel to cut and tip.. I hope the yellow of the tipping fluid doesn't show. I can't imagine how it will, through the opaque satin and even opaquer (new word!) cotton twilled corduroy.

I just fixed the Rococo link, if anyone is interested.

Friday, August 11, 2006

It's about damn time!

I have now basted and marked the pieces of the corset, as you can see. They really don't look like much yet, but believe you me, it's gonna be something. You might also be able to tell that my koi are swimming upside down. That other piece of material is what I wished I could find by the bolt to make the whole thing out of. It is, in fact, a remnant I bought on eBay for $4, approx. It will become a trim of some kind, perhaps a deep flounce or ruffle on the hem of the petticoat. I also ordered some pale peach scalloped lace for the sleeve flounces.

I am having some difficulties imaging precisely how this cutting boning to size thing is going to work. The tipping fluid I bought takes four hours til it's touchable, and 24 hours to cure. I might just have to measure against the pattern. Whatever. It will all work out.

Now that I am immersed in the particulars of construction, I have less time to concern myself with the philosophical questions that have engaged me since I began this project. Most intriguing: still, why? I have actually begun to feel a bit obsessed with this. I am reading biographies of Marie Antoinette and her portraitist, I got books on pattern drapery from the period and the details of extant costume, I think about if I should make drawers and a chemise or just get by with modern bits... It's really reached ridiculous proportions. I am even planning another costume after this one - first a mid-Victorian corset in red and white striped taffeta, and then a lawn day dress from the Regency period in England - you know, a Lizzie Bennett sort of a thing. Maybe Mr Darcy will magically appear, looking aloof and stern, and sweep me off my feet so that I will never have to take another stitch with my needle to support myself. Ok, I don't support myself now with it, but you know what I mean. What will I do with them all once they are finished? I dunno. Rent them out for amateur theatricals, maybe. I can't think of anything that would be more appropriate than that. I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Work commences...

Well, I finally went and did it. The bits started trickling in yesterday, and I cut the corset pieces. It took some creative overlaying of seam allowances to get all of the interfacing pieces out of the low-pile twilled corduroy I used, but I cut all of them. And then realized that the reason people buy expensive scissors is so that they have sharp ones when they need them. My less than perfectly sharp ones wreaked havoc on the slippery satin brocade I chose as the outer layer, and I thnk it affected the exact size. Oh well, I'm pretty sure that's why the seam allowances are so big.

On the bright side, I got to buy heavy duty equipment at the hardware store. I was standing in the aisle with a pair of metal cutters - aviation snips for anyone who cares about that stuff - contemplating the hacksaws when a very confused, very dirty, slight man in a filthy flannel said, "That's a handy little one, right there." I looked at its petite self and thought about the likelihood of its cutting forty pieces of 1/4" steel boning, and said I thought maybe something a little burlier might be in order. I gestured with the wicked metal jaws of my new aviation snips, and that pretty much stopped the conversation dead in its tracks. Then I bought myself a new Xacto knife with faux-Delft patterns on it. The snips work a dream, although I think I might need some goggles. N more cutting of metal yet, tho. I have sewing to do.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I gotta get some pictures up here.

I have just been perusing some of my new favorite blogs. This is interesting because until about a month ago, I didn't like them. Hated them, in fact. The only one I liked at all was call In Passing, in which a snotty San Fran grad student wrote down all this things she - ahem - overheard. But then I discovered the wonder that is A Dress A Day. Now I am thoroughly obsessed with them, especially the ones that have to do with fashion. Someday I will work up the gumption I need to write a really catty, witty , delicious something, but this blog is not about ME, it's about MARIE, dammit.

On another note, I almost finished the mythic brown eyelet dress for DJ Fab, who has been patiently awaiting my sewing expertise for six weeks or so. I screwed up the collar by not paying attention to directions, and by the time I got things steaming thru properly, I neglected to notice that it looks like crap. I've done something hellish to the shoulderline, which makes the dress hang funny, and it's only about two sizes too small. Now, La Fab is a normal sized girl, but in 1952 when this pattern was printed, women were apparently dabs of things with nary a lush handful of delight to be held. I know this because the dress would not even pretend to wrap around her waist in the manner proscribed for wrap dresses. The only solution is to immediately visit my favorite pattern site and buy the rerelease of this, sized to modern figures. Sorry, honey. I promise you that someday you will have the marvelous vintage-style dress I promised you.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Waiting and whistling...

I have started this post several times and deleted it. I am not, as you might have guessed, a world class writer, and I have yet to be perfectly satisfied with what it is I've written for the world to see. The problem is not that I am a perfectionist, per se, just that I can't help but hold myself to the standards set by other people. My talents seem small, if that makes sense.

The problem is that it doesn't just pertain to writing. I am beginning to fret the making of this project before I've cut a single piece of fabric. I am intimidated by the ones who are a little better than me at noticing the drape of a piece of cloth, or who are determined to recreate an entire historical costume by hand without using modern tools, or who have such a flair for decoration and color that my efforts look like a colorblind righthanded kindergartener using lefthanded scissors made them. I envy those people, and I admire them, and I hate them. I feel stifled and useless in their presence. Usually I just go and eat some cookies and the feeling goes away, but the longer I wait for the right pattern to come in the mail, the more I'm allowed to second-guess my abilities. I am just waiting for the moment when the scissors slip and oops, there goes the pleated train.

I persevere, tho, because I have already told so many people about this stupid costume, and about this stupid blog, and the natives grow restless and beat drums. I have no desire to end up in a big stew of told-you-so.

May be I should just be a pirate for Halloween instead.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

'Tis folly to tease the gods...Let them eat cake, indeed.

This is what happens when you attempt tomake light of something that cost people's lives. The gods of toast crumbs abd sticky things that won't scrape off take heed of your wretched, ill-conceived existence and conspire to take you down a peg by irritating the holy hells out of you, one tiny thing at a time. First the UPS thing: I managed to track down almost all - almost - of the components I needed from various sources, and THEN I get Sarah's email telling me to have it all shipped to her parents house. Then this girl goes and makes my dress. Not nearly my dress, or something like my dress, but my dress, down to the colors and the serpentine ruching I was planning and the slight train and whimper whine whine whine. I actually had that fabric bookmarked because I thought it would be fun to be a little flashy, before I realized the power of subtlety. But in the half light she used to photo her work, it looks an awful lot like papaya. (Before anyone gets indignant on my behalf, let it be said that I am still going to make my dress according to plan.) Then I find out that the corset pattern I am so worried about isn't actually period-correct, which probably doesn't sound like a huge deal to the rest of anyone, but since the other patterns I am using are period correct, we could have problems with fit and hang. Namely, the bosoms have to be flat, flat,flat, and nearly at collarbone height, and that would be ruined by a big lump of lacing in the middle of them. So I need to modify the front of the stays.

The final blow, though, was opening the pattern for the robe a la francaise (technically a lengthened pet-en-l'air) and finding inside a pattern for a completely different gown. Minor, I know, but it will be at least ten days to exchange the damn thing. Meanwhile, I check every day to make sure no one has purchase more than 110 yards of papaya-colored satin, as I need at least 11 to make the thing.

For anyone who cares, the pattern was for a 1770's style caraco. It is similar to the pet-en-l'air, so I can see how it got mispicked.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Und now is the time on Shprockets when we whine.

There are a few things about living in ALaska that I hate. I hate when people call me at 6 am because they forgot the four hgour time difference. I hate when people complain about the rain, even though they live in the world's largest temperate rainforest. And I hate, absolutely hate, when I try to order something online and it either costs $9 zillion to ship, or they don't ship to AK at all. I ran into this problem yesterday. I have set myself the date of August 25th as the completion date for the corset, becasue DJ Fab's Rocking' Pirate Adieu/Birthday Jam will be held the following day, and I intend on debuting the corset as part of my pirate gear. I realized, then, that I needed to get my Francophilic ass in gear and order the materiel for the underpinnings at least. I spent an hour just trying to decide whether or not I really needed to order coutil - a specialty fabric manufactured just for corsets - and then I finally found a website that would provide all the things I needed at a reasonable price. After poking around the site, and deciding on purchasing even a few things I wouldn't normally, I went to check out - and lo and behold, they only ship to the continental states, and they ship UPS at that (UPS shipping to AK is prohibitive.). So now I begin my search again, and hopefully I will find someplace that sells everything I need so I don't have to place several separate orders. Feh.

On the bright side, I have finally managed to choose colors: a dusty coral color that is inexplicably called 'papaya', trimmed in a muted seafoam green and pale gold. I am just waiting for the robe francaise pattern to arrive in the mail so that I can figure out yardage.

I will be digging out my Ren skirt to wear with the corset, I think. I want to modify it so it can be hiked up a la polonaise - a little cooler in August. Sometime soon I will begin adding pics to this site - stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Still asking myself what the point is.

As the first flush of creative fire dies away, I am beginning to question my own motivations for undertaking such an enormous task for so little reward. The real reason, aside from wanting to because I can, was that my best friend is leaving for parts unknown at the end of next month, and I have no earthly idea how I will pass the time without her around. (insert sniffling here.) I jokingly told her that once she is gone, this dress will become my best friend. She was less thoroughly amused than I thought she might be. This could be because she had chosen to move to literally the end of the earth, the point at which you are so far from civilization that you begin to head back toward it again. This is the place that used to be in the time zone past Hawaii, the one right before the International Date Line. Then she changed her mind. Something about being so close to tomorrow...

Anyway, I can no longer use her for an excuse. To be sure, she is still heading far away, but it still seems closer than her last choice. If you are wondering, she is contemplating Japan, which is, I realize, on the far side of the IDL, but it seems closer somehow.

So then, if distance is not the motivator, the question remains: What is? I refuse to believe it is sheer ennui.

It is puzzling, to be sure, but if I dwell on it I think that I will become obsessed with finding the answer to that in place of the truly important and daunting task before me. I received the patter for the underpinning today in the mail, and I am now attempting to figure out precisely how much spiral steel I will need - doesn't it seem that 12 yds is a lot to hold in one (admittedly increasingly matronly) figure?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Shell or dusty pink?

In my research - which has admittedly been on the web, and so could be considered somewhat suspect - I have found lots of interesting facts, some that are even pertinent to this project. The one occupying my thought-space right now is this: rococo dresses were invariably in shades of pastels, with blues and pinks being right at the top of the list. I tend toward colors that are a bit brighter - my favorites this season are the saffron yellow that Michelle Williams wore to the Oscars and the ever-popular paprika, as well as teal. The pastel thing, then was a quandry. I knew at once that I could not sport ice blue, tho it was apparently La Reine's favorite. She is pictured in it more than once in the portraits done by Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun, and since she was Austrian and presumably blond (she seems fair in portraits), this would suit her well. I have an unexplainable aversion to the color, though, so I decided that something in the pinks family would work better. The question is, of course, which of the pinks to tend toward. A dusty mauve-ish sort of pink ( I know, mauve itself wasn't invented until the mid-19th century, but who is going to quibble?) or a warmer, pale shell pink? Today, my inclination is to go with a sort of apricot and honey approach, a peachy pink with gold accents. All of this is speculation, and contigent on my finding this fabric online and reasonably priced. My dream, of course is silk, but this is, after all only a Halloween costume. It seems to me that it would be unwise to spent a small fortune in the fabric alone.

I have ordered the patterns and am awaiting their arrival. Until then I shall bookmark fabrics that I like, and hopefully sometime soon I will begin to gather supplies.

Monday, July 24, 2006

This is probably not what you think.

It has nothing to do with the new Sofia Coppola movie. It has nothing to do with a latent Freudian-style desire for a public castigation and subsequent death. It has little to do with a sense of connection with a beautiful, powerful woman who longed for a life of simplicity and peace. It has everything to do with a poorly-hidden obsession with shiny, soft, crinkly things in which to drape myself. In short, I am going to make myself a dress. Not just any dress. A full 1780 French court dress, with hoops and four layers of ruffles. I feel you asking, "Why? Why in the name of Dolce and Gabbana would you do such a thing?" Well, because winters in Alaska are long, and besides, I think I can. This is the first in a series documenting the drama that will be the construction of said garment, and the paraphenalia that accompanies it. The deadline is the 28th of October, the day after my birthday, and the night of the Stardust Ball, where I will compete against several professional fishermen in drag for the top prize: the adoration of the population of a town with nearly nine thousand citizens. Wish me bon chance.