Bomb(shell)s Away!

So my housemate the Adorable Folkey and I also sing together in a duo called The Bombshells, where we basically do Andrews Sisters covers and sway in a semi-coordinated manner (we’re really not very good at the swaying.  We look like we might stop singing at any moment to lumber off in search of braaaaiiiinnnnssss….).   We’re getting to the point where we’re starting to do stuff like put together a website, and a facebook page and business cards and stuff, but something else we need is some cute matching ’40s style outfits, because every other group that does this sort of thing looks darn spiffy.  It’s lame to show up in sneakers and ponytails.

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LAME.

I’ve been doing a bit of research (because I want them to be semi accurate of course!) and thinking carefully from a drafting perspective because my pattern-drafting manual was first published in ’61, which is close enough to the ’40s that a lot of the techniques would still be very similar, especially in the basic edition. And the author does talk quite a lot about how ‘our mothers’ used to do things. Well.  My mum barely knows what end of the needle the thread goes in, but I think they meant more like her mum, who was a nurse in the ’40s.   Every time I start thinking about ’40s style I think of my Nana, and of Aunty Izzy, who still dressed in killer ’40s fashions right into her 70s.

Because Adorable Folkey and I are both very pear-shaped, I’ve gone with a quarter-circle swing-style skirt with two box-pleats in front for striding (Folkey never walks, she only strides).  It’s mostly bodice and sleeve options that were up for debate, and because we’re also both card-carrying members of the flat-chested community, anything that looks good on one of us will suit the other.

My research took me to these two lovely blogs, (Lucky Lucille even LOOKS like Aunty Izzy used to!  It’s incredible!  And now I also know why there’s never any good fabric at Savers… because this awesome lady gets there first!) and between oogling their vintage patterns and taking random suggestions over facebook and from Folkey (because I really want her to like these costumes so she’ll actually wear them), I drafted a sailor-esque bodice with little pintucks at the waist and a dropped front shoulder seam.  The consensus over facebook was that our friends preferred navy blue out of all the options I gave.The other two were khaki and grey because Folkey is famous for being allergic to bright colours and prints.  She’s not really.  But I wanted to go for a more uniform-esque aesthetic anyway, so solid colour it was!  I got oodles of navy blue cotton voile and a bit of white too, because I don’t want us to bake doing Bourke St Mall in summer.

So basically, this is where I’m up to:

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Cue Handel Messiah: HAAAAAAAAAAA-LE-LU-JA!!!

It looks a tad odd on Dido because she’s spent the past few weeks wearing my robe a l’Anglaise, and so she’s still all compressed and hasn’t puffed back out to a non-18th-century shape yet.

Construction-wise, it’s actually been pretty good!  I haven’t run into any major barriers yet, and I’ve had enough foresight to do things like reinforce the front edges where the buttons are going (with some heavy canvas stuff) and so forth.  The only thing that hasn’t gone to plan is that my zipper foot is missing, so I can’t make piping until I source a new one.  I compromised by just peeking the lining out a little from under the shoulder seams.  It’s not as bold, but I sort of like the way it sits really flat and doesn’t distract from the massive bias-cut sailor stripes on the collar.  I’m also very proud of my pin-tucks and topstitching.  I’m not normally good at things that need to be even and/or symmetrical, but BEHOLD:

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Not totally even but pretty damn close.

Sadly my phone is being pissy and refusing to release the photos of the topstitching; you’ll just have to take my word that it’s awesome.

I also got a set of pinking shears.  I’ve been meaning to for ages, but the fact that pinking was a popular method of seam finishing in the ’40s tipped me over the edge.  I LOVE THEM.  It’s so quick and easy and attractive and doesn’t waste butt-loads of thread.  It also means that I might get around to trimming that robe a l’Anglaise, but that’s for another time.

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Pinking is cool.

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Little Yard of Horrors

I have discovered another hobby to add to the already ridiculous list!  Hooray!

It’s gardening!  Veggie gardening, to be more specific.  If you know me in real life, you’ll be sitting there going well duh, it’s not like you’ve been talking about anything else besides your freaking garden for like the last month, but hey.  The good people of the interwebs haven’t had the chance to be overexposed to me jumping up and down, eyes maniacally gleaming, squealing “MY BABIES ARE FLOWERING!!!” yet.  My friend Death is an extremely skilled and creative gardener, and she got me into it and has been watching and helping and guiding me (and giggling at me from a safe distance), and I now see why just about every retiree/wanky eco-family/school with ANY non-tarmacky ground is really into it.  It’s ridiculously calming and enjoyable and nowhere near as complicated as I thought.

First we had a massive trip to Bunnings, testing both our Tetris skills and the structural integrity of Death’s car.

Then in the front yard, I used my new mattock to clear out all the manky grass, then dig down through the soil to churn it up until it became sort of fluffy and edible-looking.  The grass went in a pile on the veranda so that it would dry out and become all innocuous.  It sounds quick here, though in reality it took a whole afternoon mostly because I’m not the Hulk, but I did it nevertheless, and by the end of the afternoon I felt like I had the hang of how to use a mattock with relative efficiency.  I now feel confident that in the event of the zombie apocalypse, that mattock could get me a few extra minutes.  Then one of my housemates helped me carry the rotten old bookcase out the front that’s been mouldering out in the back yard for however many millions of years, and I just kicked the back out of it and used it as a raised bed.  The shelves got propped together to form another raised bed behind it.  Behold!

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MY BABIES!!!  Back when they were babies… *tear*

November garden

On the top left are two types of potato, on the top right are five heirloom tomato varieties (tigerella, red dwarf fig, green zebra, lemon drop and mortgage lifter), and then at the front are snow peas and normal peas.  As the potatoes grow, you pile pea straw around them and they break it down into soil.  The higher you pile, the more potatoes you get.  Death likes to grow them in cheap laundry tubs from Kmart with a hole bashed in the bottom for drainage. Neat and productive!

The peas may look a little stunted in the second picture, which is mostly because while the snow peas chose to put their energy into growing tall with big leaves, the peas put theirs into, well, peas.  Like these:

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After.  Except then I ate those bits too. 

My tomatoes are also starting to fruit!  They’d probably be a bit more on their game if Melbourne could maintain a solid run of warm-ish weather (honestly, it’s two weeks away from summer and it’s been cold and rainy for the last two or three weeks)  Efforts to pollinate them with a paintbrush are somewhat hit and miss (maybe I need to put on some 70s music for them?  Handcuff them? Play them explicit videos of other tomato plants pollinating?)  But at least so far the green zebras and the lemon drops have started to get the message:

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The lemon drops will get a little bigger, but turn yellow.

Out the back there’s pretty much only one spot that’s not concreted and wasn’t already being used for something, so I pulled out the stubborn, unfriendly grass that lived there, tilled it up, added a little blood and bone (to the delight of the local cats) because the soil’s not as nice as it is out the front, and then planted some pumkins and  some curious plants that came courtesy of Death’s odd mother called ‘tree onions’, which apparently produce edible onion-like things at the top rather than under the ground.

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Wittle pumpkin-lings…

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And again only bigger now.

The tree onions have begun to develop buds at the top, which release these sort of tentacle things.  I have no idea what they’re doing…

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“Taking over the world, puny earthling!  Soon I will be invincible! Mwahahahahaha!!!”

Not turning into onions yet though, that’s for damn sure.  In the meantime, I have some herbs to content me also, which look faintly wanky yet fetching in their assortment of pots on chairs and whatever outside the door to the kitchen.  Tasty and convenient!  I have taken two photos with appropriate hipster-filters:

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Only it was all dark and rainy this arvo so the filter didn’t work so well.

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The photo from just after I planted was better for hipsterlicious instagrammy glory.

Ermergerd they’re on, like, chairs and stuff in like, non-matching pots. Does it count as wanky if it’s totally unintentional?  If I literally just used random old crap we had lying around because I couldn’t be bothered buying stuff?  And then took a photo with a silly filter for giggles and then realised OH GOD THIS LOOKS SO PRETENTIOUS.

But tasty.

And for the final twist in the tale, I chucked an old potato I found last time I cleaned out my kitchen cupboard (it had grown legs and possibly developed intelligence and was trying to escape) into a big pot with some compost.  Look what happened next:

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It’s aliiiiiiiiive! 

On Such a Roll.

I keep finishing things.  WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME???

This morning I finished the Bootleg Bottega Veneta dress, which I then wore to Oaks Day (ie: Ladies Day at the races) with friends.  I don’t really like the races, and this is the first time I’ve been to a Spring Racing Carnival thing at Flemington.  Probably due to the slicey wind, it was actually pretty tame, though some of the hats and outfits were pretty funny.  Now I’m not against crazy fashions, but it’s when people are deadly serious about their hat – or turquoise pea shrub gone bonkers,  or Loki’s helmet from the Avengers, or giant beehive made of nylon foliage, or scarlet basket starfish, etc – that I, in my manky old straw sunhat, couldn’t quite contain the gigglies.  Fashions on the Field takes itself way too seriously.   Also, ladies who know they’ll be walking on grass and still wear stilettos.  Try maintaining your dignity while hobbling along stiltedly like a praying mantis through a bowl of molasses.   Never was a better argument made in favour of chunky heels.

Now back to the dress.  Hooray I didn’t cut loads of corners! Well, the zip set-in could be better, but everything’s hemmed or finished or tucked away so that there can be no frayage, and it’s not ugly as sin on the inside for a change.

Instead of the original back with long straps that I’d envisaged, I went with a big floppy 70s-style tie which looked more balanced.  Knee length is a funny length on me because I’m such a pear, and especially with the cut-away neck it needed something up top to even out the froof.

I even have a metre left over of that ikat fabric, which is quite lovely apart from the tendency to pucker, and I think I want to use it to make some kind of summer top that I can wear more often.

So without further ado, here are some photos of the finished thing:

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I don’t know why these always turn out so blurry.

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And one of the back. 

Oh, and I finally got some pictures of my sexy flute friend in her new 1920s dress…

                                       naomi dress back           naomi dress front

I can guarantee it’s at least six times hotter in real life even.  The train just flows as she walks.  Slinky.

So That Construction, Eh?

I said I’d post about the construction of that robe a l’Anglaise later, and this is later, so here we go.  In case anyone else is crazy enough to muddle their way through one of these as a beginner, here is my experience doing just that, for better or worse, with all the links to things that I used.

I finished the stays first (well duh), in all their historically inaccurate glory.  The multicoloured thread is particularly great.  You can just see it here in this picture, where I’ve only lined half.  Luckily, extant stays are pretty messy on the inside too, so I don’t feel quite so bad.

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Messy, neat.

Basically, I drafted the pattern myself, flying very much by the seat of my pants and relying heavily on the stays-related posts from the Mantua Maker and the Dreamstress, because they’re professionals and know what they’re doing.  Mine are nowhere near as nice, but they are my first set and they do the job.  I decided on a 1780s-y ‘prow-front’ shape, made a toile and fiddled with it until it vaguely fit me.  Then I cut out the two layers of calico (because I’m a cheapskate), basted them together around the edges, sewed the channels with a backstitch, (gosh it sounds so quick here.  In reality it was like 6 months of jolly procrastination), then cut the cableties that were the bones to size (without hurting myself this time.   When I made the Green Soprano Gown back in February I managed to take a chunk out of that bit between the thumb and index finger cutting cableties with blunt scissors.  DON’T DO THAT.) and put them in the channels.  Then I whipstitched the seam allowances down and joined the pieces together with a whipstitch as is the done thing.  Then I covered them with brown linen and a spaced backstitch, cut the tabs, attached the shoulder straps and bound the edges with a bias binding that was sloppy as all hell because I suck at bias binding.  Possibly also because I did it while working Theatre box office shifts, having to sit out front for 2.45 hours doing nothing while they did the Tempest. I was dog tired.  Then I poked lacing holes (spaced for spiral lacing) with my dodgy-brothers awl (a really really sharp pencil followed by a size 5 metal knitting needle), and bound some very sloppy eyelets that look like wilty daisies.  Then I lined it.  Behold:

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Functional wilty daisies.

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But also vaguely attractive.  The maroon ribbon was a good choice, I feel.

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Here they are with and sans petticoat.  Dido hasn’t quite got as broad shoulders as I do, so the straps sit funny on her.  But on me they’re vaguely indecent, so Dido’s what you’re getting.

Stays done, and maximum uplift achieved, I could then pattern the robe.  There’s also another great post, again from the Mantua Maker, about draping and constructing robes a l’Anglaise which was EXTREMELY helpful.  It seemed like gibberish until I had the bits in front of me – much like pinching the laterals off tomato plants seemed unintelligible until I actually had tomato plants with laterals to pinch – and then it became crystal clear.  Basically, I put my stays on Dido and draped the pattern over her.  Sadly she’s…. just a little less squishy where it counts, let’s put it that way, so I made a toile first and then tried it on myself, and a little adjustment was necessary.   It’s a really efficient way of patterning though, because you don’t have to true the seam lengths or do any geometry, as fun as that is.  This was the pattern I ended up with:

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Complete with curved back seams. Hawt.

Then I cut out the fabric and lining (eek):

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Yes, I’m aware stripes are scarier, and I’m not the best at stripe matching.  I’m both an idiot and a sucker for a pretty stripe.

Then I basted the back panels together, wrong side to wrong side, seam allowances inwards, and sewed them together with a backstitch very close to the edges, leaving a little gap at top and bottom for turning in at the end.  I used some twill tape to make boning cases for the CB.  Then I did the same on the front, only sans twill tape.  I finished the front edge with point a rabbatre sous le main, and then I pinned the front and back to my stays (on myself) and worked out the placement of the side seams from there.  At this point I had a strange dream (well, strange for me.  Most of my dreams are incredibly violent and involve using machine guns or Buffy-style kickboxing to fight either zombies or Voldemort.  I kid you not.  For me, a bloodless dream qualifies as strange) that I went to New Zealand for a costuming workshop run by Leimomi from the Dreamstress, and got loads of help fitting the robe, so she’s now the Dreamstress quite literally.

I found these tutorials from the Fashionable Past immensely helpful too, even though I wasn’t making mine en fourreau.  She uses so many pictures and is so clear.  It’s impossible to miss the point, really.  I’m thinking if I’m crazy enough to attempt another of these, I’d make a jacket with an en fourreau back (I don’t even know if that’s really historically plausible, but hey.)

Then was the bit I was secretly excited about: the sleeves.  I’m not great at modern sleeves, but I feel like the 18th century version had more room for adjustment, so I was interested to see how it panned out.  I drafted a pattern, tried it on and adjusted it.  This is what I ended up with (and then I closed out the dart because it ended up laying flat that way anyhow):

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Sleevilicious.

And exactly as I anticipated, the 18th century method of sleeve setting in was easy, fun, quick, and generally awesome.  This post from American Duchess made it very clear.  Because Dido is as armless as a Greek statue, I did make sure to try them on pinned first, but there was relatively little wrestling required, and I even fluked some bonus stripe-matching.  Here is my catalogue of stripe-match flukes:

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Top-sleeve fluke-match.

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Two more flukes.

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Yet more sleeve flukes.

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Here’s some of the damage the robe took when I kept trying to reach glasses on the top shelf in the kitchen.  Stupid.

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This stripe-match was deliberate.

Also the last photo shows how I closed it with pins in the end.  I had hooks and eyes, but they were stupidly fiddly getting dressed, and after ten minutes of struggling I caved and broke out the straight pins.  Next time I’d do buttons maybe.  Or just pin it again.  Hell, here I go talking about next time again like it’s a thing.

Then I attached the skirt.  I know that’s meant to be the easy part, but I struggled.  Next time I’ll do it differently.  (Bad Belinda.  Stop talking about next time.  There is no next time.) I may even detach it and try again if I get massively bothered (no I won’t, what am I saying?)  It was a big rectangle. Why are rectangles hard and yet sleeves are easy? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  I am that crazy lady who can sing the Lied der Lulu standing on her head, yet would prefer to be disembowelled with a plastic spoon than sing Vedrai carino.

The petticoats were a different matter though.  Nice and simple.  There’s a tutorial from A Fashionable Frolick that had way more detail than I needed, not being any kind of re-enactor, but was also very straight-forward and made it a breeze.  I made two.  I was going to make three, but two seemed to cut the mustard, especially with the Alligator Bum underneath, and I didn’t have loads of time.  The under-petticoat was a plain cotton that had loads of body, and was hand-sewn, the outer was of a soft off-white silk twill and was machined because I ran out of time.  I also half-hand-sewed/half-machined a chemise, and didn’t bother to finish the neckline or hem (again because time).  Then I didn’t bother to roll a hem on my fichu either.  God I’m lazy.

So to summarise:

The corners I cut:

-I didn’t make pockets.  I used a small drawstring bag I made when I was like, 13 tied onto my petticoat waistband.  I started pockets but never finished them.

-I didn’t end up bothering with stockings.  It was 28 degrees, and I was wearing an anachronistic pair of red patent clogs.  Also, I found that my legs are so damn skinny that even with the garters tied below the knee as was the done thing, they fell down pretty much right away.  What did skinny girls do back then when this happened?  I’m curious.

-General lack of finishing/trims.  I will trim it someday.  I like it plain, but I feel it wants a row of pleated or ruched trim around the neck and sleeves.

-Various material inaccuracies.  The chemise is cotton, not linen.  Basically anywhere a linen thread would have been used, I used cotton because I’m cheap.   The waist sash is unknown content synthetic that was in my stash.  The structural layers of my stays are cotton calico rather than linen, and the ribbons are nylon rather than… whatever was used then. I’m pretty sure they didn’t use nylon.

-The mad machine rush to the finish line.

The things I would do differently:

-I’d try another method of attaching the skirt.  I found that really tough.

-No hooks and eyes.  They are the work of bealzebub.

-Shorter petties.  Like, walking length.  To show off my anachronistic clogs and keep them out of the damn way.

-The clumsiness of the tabs on my stays bugs me.  I want them more tooth-y and less deflated-balloon-y.

What I liked:

-Silk thread is great.  It’s like butter.

-Spaced backstitch is awesome.

-The period method of setting in sleeves is fabulous and I wish modern sleeves were as easy.

-Fishing around the blogs of awesome people for inspiration.  You are all magnificent and wonderful.  Particularly American Duchess, the Dreamstress, Before the Automobile, Temps d’élégance, The Fashionable Past, the Diary of a Mantua Maker, Dressed in Time, and Démodé.  I am always inspired by what you do and in utter awe.  Many a happy hour was spent procrastinating and not writing program notes for my recital.

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This is how it is now, on Dido.  God I need to piece a wedge onto the back of the skirt….

So I Finished a Heap of Stuff

Like a Masters degree.  Well, almost.   I finished classes, and now all I have to do is my final recital!

Also, I kind of finished my robe a l’Anglaise.  And two petticoats.  And my stays.  And a vegetable garden.  And the 24th year of my existence.

All round, it’s nice to finish things, so I can start other things (hooray!).

I also apologise, this is going to be a massive post.

But back to the finished things.  I don’t have oodles of photos of stuff on me, because I’m a strangely lazy individual – quite happy to spend weeks sewing various projects, but unwilling to bother with putting them on and photographing them.  Maybe I should do that now while it’s Sunday and the house is clean (as clean as it gets anyhoo) and there’s not a massive backlog of dirty clothes for washing.

So on that note, remember way back in the mists of time when I altered a dorky op-shopped Jigsaw skirt but never put up a photo of the finished product?

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Before.  Icky frump.  Like ecky-thump, only not cool.

Also, what’s a girl of my age doing making Goons jokes?

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After.  Much better.  The lace is too nice to hide with a black lining.

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Strategic arm placement to hide the seams, which in retrospect I should’ve done a little differently.

I love that skirt.  Never was $6 better spent at Savers, nor a better three hours spent driving myself batty altering something.   And the mystery-content synthetic I got from one of the little dodgy fabric places on Sydney Rd is perfect: doesn’t stick to the stockings, looks crisp and not too shiny.  Little dodgy fabric shops can be awesome.

Next, that bubble skirt I made way back in summer from some shiny green stuff I got at the UMSU Theatre garage sale.  The hem’s too deep, and it did something funny to it when ironed, but in general I like it.  None of the photos do the green justice.  It’s quite a deep rich hunter green.  Not dusty olive, not grey.  Speaking of, my legs aren’t actually that orange either.  Them be tights.  I tan like a redhead.

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Before.

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After.

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It’s considerably bubblier from the side. And there be my best surly model face.

Now I know what you all want to see.   That fabled robe a l’Anglaise that I’ve been banging on about for however long. Drumroll please:

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Hello sailor!  Where did those come from and why do I not have them all the time?

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About to pop the bubbly and whack the neighbours house with the cork.

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The Duchess feels that goggles compliment her coiffure a l’enfant perfectly.

I was going for a hedgehog hairdo, and got a coiffure a l’enfant instead because that’s how my hair rolls… er, curls.  Pretty much no matter how I do my hair, this is what it turns into within an hour or so.  What the heck is a hedgehog, I hear you say? Demode Couture has an excellent post that explains the hairstyles and cosmetic trends of the 18th Century, including the coiffure a l’enfant my hair ended up resembling most.  I swear it looked like a hedgehog in the morning.  I followed this tutorial by Lauren at American Duchess, only sans hair extension.

Anyway.  I’ll post about the construction and stuff at another point, because I just want to show off my clever friends and their costumes now.

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From left to right, we have Wolverine, my housemate the Clever Coffeemaker as a monk, another friend the Retro Economist in the best skort I have ever seen.

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And the Adorable Folkey as a mad scientist and one of my workmates the American Guy as a thief.

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The Sardonic Bassist as Audrey Hepburn, and Death as Little Red Riding Hood. 

Here is Brave Sir R. as himself at a concert… DSC_0146small

…and the Gorgeous Daredevil as a 1950’s babe.

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My lovely Baroque Flautist made her own suffragette outfit, and The Coat and his girlfriend came as a matching Doctor and Tardis, which was AWESOME!

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Finally the Quirky Composer came as an alternate reality version of the fourth incarnation of the Doctor.  And then she too found the goggles… oh those goggles…