Robe a l’Anglaise Envy and Other Envies

Envy is probably my go-to sin.  Apart from posting on Good Friday.  That’s probably a sin too.

Anyway.  I have a roaring case of robe a l’Anglaise envy.  I’ve just had two days of a delightful virus (pretty much all of Lent crammed into two days of dizzy, nauseous, achey-painy starvation, with my Dad helpfully informing me on the phone that I wouldn’t actually starve to death for another six days.), so I fed my eyes instead with lots of piccies of robes a l’Anglaise.  I want an excuse and or occasion that is both solid enough to withstand Catholic guilt and yet doesn’t cause me to hyperventilate over a silly self-imposed deadline.  My handsewing is like a French bulldog: sturdy, but not fast or pretty. (Though having said that, I rather like French bulldogs.  They have cute scrunchy faces.)

Sizzle-reel time:

LACMA RalA 1785-90

Mmm…. stripy goodness…  Loving the crisp silk twill!  Feeling it wants a sash.

LACMA RalA 1785-90 back

Love the back point and the puffiliciousness… also the not-quite-perfect stripe-matching. It’s like some ancestor of mine was at work!

????????????

Always always ALWAYS love a contrast petticoat!

All above images from LACMA.  SO GOOD.

I also particularly love American Duchess’s Revolution Dress.

I have a feeling this is going to be a terrible addiction.

Now, if I can justify stays I can sort of justify a robe, and I can justify stays because Mozart.  Mozart is the cornerstone of just about everybody’s repertoire, and most houses still like to go with period costume for Mozart (because people like it, so money), so I feel like it’s a safe bet that one day, somewhere, I will be singing Zerlina or Despina or Susanna or Blonde or the Countess or (fingers crossed!) Fiordiligi dressed a la late 18th Century (SQUEE), and so I would like to have my own comfy stays to sing in.  Having worn other people’s corsets before I can safely say that off-the-rack really doesn’t work out with my odd measurements in a comfy way, and I know that in the great cableties vs spring steel debate I prefer cableties.  Spring steel is great if you have some assets there to squish, but yeah.  Total lack of squishability.

I finished the toile last week, and, like everything else I’ve ever made, they are Mysteriously Too Big.  WHERE DOES THE EXTRA WIDTH APPEAR?  I took a good two inches off a tight bust measurement and a good inch and a half off the waist before I even patterned, and somehow they still manage to close easily and I can feel oodles of room in the damn things.  I followed all the rules!  I basted on the seam lines!  I whipped and butted them closed like a good seamstress (only messier)!  I need to curve the side seams more, but there’s so much to take off the bust that it’s going to mean some interesting adjustments.  I took a good 2cm out of the CB seam last night and it fixed the waist but not the bust. So I think this means taking it apart, adjusting everything and re-seaming.  Whoopee.  At least I didn’t run into armscye issues.  I never seem to have armscye issues. Thank the Lord.

???????????????????????????????

Stay toile ahoy.

???????????????????????????????

Arg stay toile fitteth not.  I know it looks like it does, but that’s just my ass going for contrast. 

Hopefully the acquisition of some kind of dressform will help with draping the robe.  I looked into it last year when my mother offered to get me one for my birthday, and found that, like everything else, they don’t exist in my size.  I could probably get a child’s one and pad the hips out, but it wouldn’t be long enough in the waist, which is one of my main fitting issues anyway, so purpose defeated.  I’m starting to think that if I sew up a very sturdy version of my tried-n-true princess seam block in upholstery fabric and stuffed it very tightly that it might approximate well enough?  Should be just like re-stuffing a chair.  I have some upholstery fabric lying around from the UMSU Theatre garage sale…  Maybe today.  I’m feeling I need it for my second load of envy:

???????????????????????????????

Here are my sketches.  Ignore the hand-shadow.

The Bottega Veneta dress envy.  Tucked in a secluded corner of this month’s Vogue is the inspiration for my Fabric Store silk-cotton ikat dress.  The colour and the detailing aren’t what got me (peach silk with what looks like the reflector tape on my cycling vest, only with studs…) but the cut is perfect.  It’s a good big picture, nice and uncluttered; just four of the models hanging out backstage and thankfully the one in my dress isn’t holding a bag and is towards the front so I can see the details of the dress.  Thanks, anonymous model!  So helpful! The print of my fabric will provide some visual interest to make up for the lack of studs and applied contrast… it’s the skirt patterning that’s bugging me though.  I think they’re crisp knife-pleats that’ve been tacked under the contrast strips, but how I pattern that sleek but relaxed shape for someone of my distinctly un-runway-model-like waist-to-hip ratio boggles my tiny soprano mind.  I’m not sure how to proceed.  Here’s my pattern so far, but the skirt is a bit too mega-flare:

???????????????????????????????

It’s like the ’70s.  Oh dear.

Advertisements

The Peplum of Irony Sees a Countertenor

The Peplum of Irony is done!  The lining is finished!  The hems are all bias bound and tacked invisibly! The yards and yards of beastly pink basting has been removed!  And it has had its first outing, to the MRC to see the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky ( for the uninitiated, a countertenor is a guy who sings mostly Baroque music in a very very high voice.  It’s weirdly hot.  I personally prefer a more brutto sound to Philippe’s melty little milk-and-honey tones, but hey.  His sound is actually harder to achieve, so credit where it’s due.), who I think at one point had the most views on Youtube of any video not featuring fluffy kittens or something like that.  He seems to control his pitch exclusively through his right shoulder, so the more florid the line, the more he gets his funky little coloratura-dance on.  And boy was there some coloratura.  If he could convince someone to pay him per note, one aria would have him set for life.

So my peplum is looking a bit squashed from having been sat on for hours.   But please ignore the squash-squash, and my grumpy food-deprived face (I was unlucky enough to not have time for anything after breakfast today), as I ignore Philippe’s funky shoulder.  And the light makes it hard to see my wonderful mustard-coloured stockings.

??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

 

And yes, my cello wears a scarf and two hats.  What of it?

Botherpower, Irony, Peplums and… Lieutenant Hornblower?

Because my apple-green linen is so very very nice (and was so very pushing my frugal nature cost-wise) I decided to make a working toile yesterday of the Peplum of Irony skirt.

Ironically enough, the fabric I decided to use is a completely different weight.  I don’t remember what it is or from whence it came, but for the last three years (at least) it’s been sitting in my stash as two metres of this black and white strangely-woven, strongly-suspect-it’s-upholstery-fabric stripy stuff.  In fact, it’s spent a lot of time pinned/draped over various bits of furniture in pretty much all of my student flats, slowly absorbing all sorts of nasty grime and stains.

???????????????????????????????

The fabric.  It’s sorta stripy and lumpy and nasty.

But it was what I had, and I couldn’t be bothered actually getting other fabric,  and I was up for a bit of a stripe matching challenge, seeing I’m about at good at stripe-matching as most dogs are at making soufflè.

My pattern-drafting is mostly ok these days, so I used the basic skirt pattern from my Jigsaw skirt-refashion, and drafted some pleated peplums, two parts-per side.  I thought about cutting them in one, but the stripes gave me too much capacity for epic screwups.  Unfortunately I didn’t think the bulk thing through, and now I have these fat peplums.

???????????????????????????????

My pleaty peplum draft.  And the bum end of my cello case.

???????????????????????????????

Front with pleated peplums basted on.

Strangely, I was suddenly bothered to do the whole thing PROPERLY.   Properly as in baste EVERYTHING, bias bind the seam allowances, and bag out the peplums with Lincraft’s infamous $1.99/m ‘polypop’, which for those who aren’t familiar with this beastly stuff, is nowhere near as fun as it sounds.  Also, I am one of those rare people who detests making bias binding.  It’s one of my absolute least favourite things to do, and I’ll go to great lengths to avoid it.  But lo!  The whole thing is nothing but bias binding on the inside, and  (yucky acetate lining so I can wear the damn thing with stockings and not have it do the annoying ridy-uppy thingy that happens otherwise.)

???????????????????????????????

Carefully matched and basted stripes.

???????????????????????????????

LOOK!  BIAS BOUND SEAM ALLOWANCES!

???????????????????????????????

Bagged-out pleats.

???????????????????????????????

Almost matched stripes on the back.  To quote Kryten: ‘Smug Mode’.

The other reason why I don’t normally do things properly is that it takes me literally forever to do anything.  I start doing something and I suddenly end up outside the space-time continuum for what feels like a few minutes to me, but in actual space-time is more like seven and a half hours.  It’s a special skill I’ve inherited from my Ronnie: my dear grandad, who can take up to a week to eat breakfast, and entire seasons to vacate the bathroom.  So what I do to make sure I don’t suddenly look up and find it’s 3:30am and I haven’t eaten anything for 18 hours, is I watch things while I sew, and when something ends, it pulls me back into normal space-time and I can see that x amount of time has elapsed.  It started as a productive sing-along with Nixon in China (SQUEE!   My very first professional opera is going to be Nixon in Freaking China!  So unimaginably excited!), then the most recent episode of 24 Hours in A & E, then a doco about the links between private security and the diamond trade in Liberia (I’m not kidding, and it was actually very interesting, thankyou very much), and then it finished up with Horatio Hornblower.  Which is fine for watching, but not so fine for sewing.  It’s all, oh no, French warships!  and woah, plague!  and look out, fireships! and I’m like, WHERE?  QUICK!  FIRE THE CANONS!  LOOK OUT MISTER HORNBLOWER!!! OH CRAP I JUST SEWED THAT UPSIDE-DOWN.  And of course there’s the very best uniforms that ever existed in the entire history of the world.  Oh the crisp stocks and neckties…  The bicorn hats…  And I sit there thinking, why am I making this stupid skirt?  I should totally be making one of those uniforms instead.  And then I can go to fancy dress parties as Horatio.  Fan-girl?  Who, me?

funny hornblower face

Keep dreaming, daggy fan-girl, you’ll never make a uniform as smart as mine!

Picture via Entertainment Trivia: UK Edition | Knight

I digress.  The skirt is so close to done.  Here it is modelled by my curvaceous 19th Century mahogany dining chair (the best find ever, after the battered Danish Deluxe I found on the side of the road).

???????????????????????????????

Yeah, I know, that fabric’s a bit thick for pleating, and it looks very huge and wonky on my chair!

???????????????????????????????

It just needs hemming, some of the basting taken out, and a hook and eye for the back.  The stripe is what makes it ironic, I think, and the fabric.  The fabric is way too thick for pleating, but somehow it sort of works.  The stripe-matching still isn’t perfect, but I guess that’s practice. The other weird thing, it’s slightly too big at the waist.  I don’t get it.  I draft a pattern with no ease in it, baste right at the edge, sew inside the basting, using a bulky, non-stretch fabric, without even including any fabric allowance, and it STILL ends up sort of loose-ish.  Maybe my darts were a little conservative? Who knows.  It’s a mystery.  Hopefully it won’t happen again when I make my green linen version.  Now I’m thinking of tweaking the pattern though, because pleats would work better on someone who doesn’t have the insane waist-to-hip-ratio that I have.   Seriously, Horatio doesn’t know how lucky he is to have that straight-up-and-down guy-figure of his.  Fitting clothes would be so much easier.

Now the cool weather’s back, Bella the cat has re-discovered her frisk.  She thinks rightly that all fabrics from Lincraft  – polypop particularly – are hostile incursions into my stash and need to be dealt with using a strategy code-named Operation Pounce.  I managed a couple of blurry action shots.

???????????????????????????????

Attack!!!!!!!

???????????????????????????????

Once subdued, the polypop is carried a safe distance into the hallway.

Also, I have more illustrations in this month’s Farrago!  Pick it up from Union House!

Fabric Joy

Ah the Fabric Store… if I wasn’t a poor student I’d probably be there all the time, buying all of the delicious fabric.  As it is I have to content myself with occasional *small* splurges, carefully whittled down after frolicking madly around the shop fondling all of the fabric like a crazy lady patting other people’s cats and then making the excruciating decision as to what one I’m going to permit myself to take home. (I don’t do that with other people’s cats, for the record.  I mean, yes I pat them, but no I don’t take them home.)

Yesterday’s frolics yielded:

Yummy silk!  For a pretty summer dress, the likes of which I stopped wearing years ago:

  ???????????????????????????????

It’s all soft and drapey and has a beautiful ikat-like print in a mixture of soft shades.  The dress I’ve been drooling over (which belongs to a friend of mine), is all floral and pink, but I look supremely stupid in floral and/or pink, so this is my substitute to still look vaguely feminine without looking like a hat-stand with a manky curtain draped over it.  Unfortunately it was pricey.  But there was no other pattern that was so perfect, and I knew if I got a floral I wouldn’t end up wearing the end result.

The next win was a remnant-bin find:

???????????????????????????????

The photo doesn’t do it any justice.  It’s a lovely granny smith apple-green linen, light and crisp at the same time (geddit, crisp?).  I’ve got some Anthropologie-based skirt inspiration going on, namely, a take on a peplum skirt that doesn’t go LOOK AT ME I’M A FREAKING PEPLUM ERMEHGERD AREN’T I JUST SO FASHIONABLE.  I never liked the trend when it started, and I have the strongest feeling that it is to be Over very soon.  All ye who continue down the path of peplum consider yourselves warned.  However, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of irony, except when you’re a Hipster and nothing you do say or wear can be taken seriously.  So perhaps the two evils of Peplum and Hipster Irony can be combined in token amounts and some kind of good Ironic Peplum will come of their union?  Or am I sounding a bit much like Dr Frankenstein?

The last bit of joy is this:

???????????????????????????????

WOW!  Foil covered linen?  THE FUTURE IS HERE!  Space-age and breathable!  Fished from the remnant bin, my first thought was ‘Shiny Awesome Stays of Non-Historically-Accurate-Shininess yet Vaguely-Historically-Accurate-Fibre?  That is so far up my alley it’s practically about to get mugged by my alley-thug!’  Then I remembered a post from the Dreamstress with a sinking heart…  Apparently this stuff can be warpy and isn’t particularly iron-friendly, and I’ll take the professional’s word for it and proceed with extreme caution!  I’ll do a quick test iron on a corner and some experimental pulling to see what happens.  How do you tell if fabric is warpy or not anyway?  I thought it was kind of eerie because I wanted mine to be front-and-back lacing too…  though my pattern is more 1780s/90s than 1750s and I’m one of those weirdos who likes binding eyelets (phew?).

Anyway.  No sewing will happen until this heatwave ends.  Apparently it’s been the longest consecutive number of days over 30°C in Melbourne since 1911 or something.  I don’t care how long it’s been, I would just like it to stop please so I can stop dribbling on my fabric and actually make something.

The Sewprano Sings Too? Never Would Have Guessed.

Which is mostly to what my lack of bloggery lately has been due.  Also partially to it being very hot again.  The sewing machine and the iron just don’t go on when it’s over 32°C as a matter of principle.

But a lot of singing is being done because it’s that time of year when you’ve got to start thinking in competition mode, and I intend a sort of merry sweep through as many of them as I have the time/energy to do properly.  I have some absolutely scrummy Wolf lined up for the first cab off the rank, then it’s going to be aria central for a while; if I actually learn any arias that is.  I’m not renowned for being the most aria-obsessed soprano who ever lived, so I begged some suggestions from my effin’ awesome teacher this afternoon, who started with: it’s better not to leap into the big warhorses, it’s best at your age to start off with smaller simpler stuff; and then promptly rattled off some suggestions including some Lucia di Lammermoor and Peter Grimes.  Did I hear someone say simple?

Chamber’s still my happy place, so I have some stuff in a concert tomorrow – Shepherd on the Rock (the appropriate response is to chuck out some horns and bang your head around – it is unassailably awesome), some Spohr, some Roussel, and some Michael Head.

Now, don’t let me get started on Michael Head. Oh whoops, I am started, and now I’m probably going to offend somebody, but hey, this is my blog. His parents should have named him Richard.  His writing is so twee and sugary and pointless that it makes Dulcie Holland look like the next J.S. Bach. IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT SO MANY GRATUITOUS RALLENTANDI AND AD LIBATUM-I (ad labotomy more like, in this case) INTO YOUR MUSIC, THEN WHY BE SO DARN NITPICKY ABOUT NOTATING EVERY INANE LITTLE RHYTHM? By default anything he writes is So Not My Fach.  So why am I bashing my larynx against this fluffy, poorly-constructed brick wall?  Because societally-conditioned-nice-girl brain was first to the consent buzzer. Now we see how feminism and singing intersect… But that’s another story.  Now I’m doing this damned piece and my [admittedly lovely] instrumentalist mates get to be on the receiving end of what happens when sopranos step outside their fach, and it ain’t pretty.  Once I’m done with it tomorrow I am no kidding going to take the sheet music out to the backyard and burn it.  Probably involving some kind of feather-waving, goat-sacrificing ritual so that it can never come back and make me sing it again.

…Unless I keep it to use for sewing patterns, that is.  Despite having the sewing machine off I’ve still been doing a lot of sewing, just mostly by hand while watching Buffy downstairs because I think it’s still below 30°C downstairs and my favourite housemate and I went halfsies on a box set of Buffy for Christmas.  So far I’m about a third done with an acetate pleated tulip skirt made from some acetate I picked up at the UMSU Theatre garage sale, and it’s going to be very poufy at the top but sort of nipped in at the bottom like an upside-down ’80s bubble skirt (I know it sounds ugly, but this is just like when the girl behind the counter at the deli at Vic Market questioned me buying 150g of goat cheese for a cheesecake,  TRUST ME. It’ll work, and it’ll be gloriously A/W 2013.  The cheesecake was great too, if you’re wondering.  I can’t find where the original recipe I used went, but this one’s fairly close, the base of mine was mostly butter and digestive biscuits… or what was left by the time I made it. They’re too moreish for their own good.  Damn it, now I want some, but it’s too hot/I’m too lazy to ride to the supermarket).

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

What is the top doesn’t look like it in the pattern… and a bad photo of the pleats and the waistband.

Also I’ve been working on a toile for a pair of 18th Century stays as a totally gratuitous romp to refresh my mind after too long staring at my Nixon in China score.  Also to improve my hand sewing.  I look at amazing blogs by incredible people like Before the Automobile and Diary of a Mantua Maker and I get all inspired and then my hand sewing is more crooked than a medieval Pom’s teeth.  But the shape is generally looking on track and the fit (as much as I can extrapolate at present) is good, and also I guess there aren’t many people who memorise Nixon and make stays.  Even super wonky stays.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

For your viewing delectation, my abominable hand-sewing.

Once again, check out my illustrations in the next edition of Farrago, available from A Fair Few Places on the UoM campus, and COME TO CLASSICAL REVOLUTION AT OPEN STUDIO IN NORTHCOTE TOMORROW AT 5!