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>> Monday, November 2, 2009

I used to make costumes for theater, back when I was in college, and I miss it.  I've gotten good enough with a sewing machine and fabric that I can even often make things up as I go along without a pattern, or at least make major modifications to a pattern.  However, I have very few excuses for doing so.  I don't have time for donating my efforts for a local theater troupe, no kids in need of Halloween costumes, and honestly, it's way more fun when I'm making costumes for myself rather than someone else anyway.

Hence, my love of Halloween.

Halloween allows me to be one of my alter egos for a few hours.  And I have soooo many alter egos.  The ones that are generally vying most aggressively for a night on the town are the historical ones.  A few years ago Spouse and I attended a Dickensian-themed holiday gala, for which I created this:

With a somewhat better view of the detail:

I made that whole blasted thing on an antique sewing machine that didn't even have the ability to do button holes or zigzag stitches.  It stitched - sort of - a straight line.  With a lot of effort.  It took me a month of weekends.

From top to bottom I tried to maintain some semblance of historical accuracy, and included hoop skirt, petticoats, corset, bloomers, and even a velvet bonnet and cape that aren't pictured here.  The only somewhat obvious problem with the historical accuracy, aside from a quiet concession to a hidden zipper (I couldn't stomach hand stitching all those hooks and eyes) and a subtle use of elastic (the damned sleeves hated me), is the color.  Spouse picked out the fabric - a rich gorgeous brocade with black flowers on a lustrous red background.  It wasn't until after I was done sewing the bodice and skirt and was in the process of stitching them together that I discovered that in the 1860s, the only women who would have worn red were - ah - ladies of the night.  So,  I told Spouse he would have to make do with going to the gala with a high class Dickensian "escort".  At least it made a great story.

Spouse rented his costume for that gala, and wouldn't you know, you can still rent a tuxedo that's pretty darn historically accurate (at least at a glance) for the 1860s?  Either men got fashion right long ago, or else they're sorely lacking in creativity.

I had such fun with that get-up that I'm constantly looking for opportunities to do it all again.

This year's extravaganza was a 17th Century Masquerade Ball for one of the not-for-profit organizations I am involved with.  I bothered less with historical accuracy because I had a lot less time to dedicate to the project.  I managed to re-use some petticoats and other oddments from my Dickens costume, which saved me a great deal of time, and whipped the rest together on a much more modern sewing machine (well, 1970s vintage, anyway) with a lot less swearing.  It has sort of pseudo-Marie Antoinette style skirts with wide panniers.  The Venetian-ish mask that we picked up at the Ithaca Farmers' Market is made of leather and is truly a work of art.  I even had my hair done by my amazing hair dresser, and voila!  A nod to old time Masquerades:

We should have taken more photos to show the cool train that runs from the collar, and the truly absurd width of the skirts.  The biggest advantage this outfit had over the red one is that I could breathe in it - the corset was a lot less restricting.  As I age I am less inclined to do that whole pain-for-beauty thing.  It's easier to sit in panniers than a hoop skirt, although also easier to trip over the hem.

Sadly, spouse refused to dress the part for a 17th Century masquerade.  As soon as I said the words "doublet and breeches" his face turned slightly rigid, and he solemnly pronounced he thought his three-piece suit and a mask would do just fine.  Spoil sport.

What fun!  I can't wait until the next costume gala.  There are dozens more eras I can think of that I need to dress for.  Renaissance damsel?  Jane Austen heroine?  Roaring 20s flapper?  It's an endless list!


ZipZapKap November 2, 2009 at 11:32 PM  

My goodness, these are stunning. A pox on historical accuracy - that color is gorgeous on you. Very well done.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: November 3, 2009 at 5:13 PM  

Thank you, ZioZapKap!

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