Any Excuse Will Do…

As in pretty much any excuse is good enough for me to make a dress.  And a very, very long post, so schedule loo breaks now, ladies and gentlemen.  This is an actual transcript of the conversation that happened between Logic Brain and Soprano Brain:

Logic Brain: Liederfest is coming up.

Soprano Brain: So it is!  QUICK!  TO THE SEWING MACHINE!

Logic Brain: Errr……. shouldn’t that be ‘to the practice room?’

Soprano Brain: Oh poor foolish Logic Brain.  Surely you realise that there’s no point in practicing for a competition if I have nothing to wear.

Logic Brain: But you do have things to wear.  Why not wear that dress you wore last year?

Soprano Brain: Because I wore it LAST YEAR, duh.  How passé!  The reek of bad technique clings to it like the stench of burning rubber to a smoke-tainted wine.

Logic Brain: Stop it.  You’re getting carried away.

Soprano Brain: This year’s dress shall be bold!

Logic Brain: Are you even listening to me?

Soprano Brain:  It will necessitate an extravagant trip to the Fabric Store!

Logic Brain: You can’t really aff-

Soprano Brain: IT WILL BE LIKE THE ARMOUR OF A VICTORIOUS KNIGHT AND SHINE AS A TESTAMENT TO MY AWESOMENESS!

Logic Brain: Fine, whatever, I’m not talking to you when you’re like this.

Now really, I’m sort of on Logic Brain’s side here. I only have nine days to whip this thing up in, and I will not be sacrificing practice time to do it (seeing it’s Liederfest, not Seamstressfest).  I have other dresses I could wear.  The main problem is that I made a massive rookie error on my break at work the other day and spent most of it drooling over the Christopher Esber website, oogling masterfully-cut, ridiculously beautiful garments I will never be able to afford.  I also rummaged through my wardrobe with a friend deciding on clothes for photoshoots the other day, and was palpably disappointed at the lack of badassness therein.  Everything’s a bit frumpy, or a bit dainty, or a bit vintage, or just too… safe.  Which I know is what adjudicators-of-a-certain-age/the Opera Police* tend to go for, but it’s not how I want to represent myself, and I want to have the sort of stage wardrobe where I feel like I can grab anything that’s weather-appropriate and just feel right in it, Opera Police be damned.  If you don’t feel like you’re offering up yourself on stage, you can’t expect the audience to feel a genuine connection with you.

So I had a think.

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Le Fou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking…

I examined my current daytime performance dresses with a critical eye. There’s a grey cuoprene/silk Alpha 60 dress for summer, a black Viktoria Maine for winter and a rust-coloured Victoria Maine for in-between.  The rust one’s pretty stained and gaps badly at the CB neckline (also I feel about 40 in it, which isn’t how 24 year olds generally want to feel), the black one is nice to wear but a bit underwhelming, and the Alpha 60 one requires tape (which isn’t great when you go to put it on and then realise you can’t find the tape, and then have to rush around madly in the 40 minutes before your Masters recital trying to find something else that you can wear to perform in 35 degree heat without flashing anybody.  True story).

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Classic case of party at the back. Super-deep-cut armscyes, ergo tape.  With a slip it looks suspiciously like some kind of dressing gown.

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This is the one I wore last year.  It’s inoffensive enough.

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I used to like this one.  Now I think it’s boring.

What I gathered from this sartorial navel-gazing were these lessons:

-No boob-tape-dependency.

-No more frumpy/underwhelming.

-Fit is paramount.

When proper designers design things (I imagine, at least…) they think things through carefully.  In each collection, there’s almost a character in their mind; their girl; their muse.  Who are my muses?  What qualities and features and traits do I like?  Who is my girl these days?  I had a look back through my sketch folder at my recent fan sketches, looked at my bookshelf, at my favourite movies and shows – in short: what I’m interested in because I actually like it, not because I feel like I should, or to prove a point – and I noticed a trend.

Basically it boils down to this: my muses are almost invariably Fierce Armed Ladies (and gentlemen).  Buffy.  Anita Blake.   Katniss Everdeen. Shaun Mason from Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy (fights zombies, busts conspiracies) Sabriel, from the eponymous book by Garth Nix (has magic bells). Nimona, from the eponymous web comic by Noelle Stevenson (turns into things, including a SHARK.).  Mr Virgil Tibbs, from the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night (not just a fearsome dude, but also possibly the biggest crush I’ve ever had).  Pretty much every character from Norihiro Yagi’s manga Claymore (the basic plot is: genetically-altered ladies hit monsters with swords whilst questioning their humanity).  Even the characters I invented in highschool to indulge the rather niche combo of rococo fashion and dragons now help to fuel my love of rococo fashion… and zombies.  The dragons got dropped at about year 10.

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Princess Sharianne slays zombies now.  My boss thought I was a tad disturbed for drawing this on my break.  And now, dear internet friends, you have the opportunity to find me disturbing too!

Hell, even the singers I like best have an element of steel to them: Billie Holiday is still my favourite singer ever, and she was one fierce lady.  There’s no amount of Edda Mosers singing die Hölle rache that will ever replace Billie for me.

So the dress must reflect these influences whilst still being appropriate stagewear and not tremendously offensive to the Opera Police.  So the list of direct influences had to be narrowed down a bit, and mixed in with some proper fashion.  The final cut was:

– Christopher Esber, for this shape:  It’s like a rococo waistcoat and yet somehow armour-like.

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From his AW13 collection.

-Dion Lee for the futurism, and how his designs remind me a lot of the wetsuits from Catching Fire; there’s a sort of action/functional look to them (even though body-con dresses are never really very functional).

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Also via the website. Watch out, the homepage makes noises.

-The suits from Claymore.  I’m nicking the CF and CB seams, because they’re quite distinctive and not often used in these sorts of dresses, and also the colour scheme.  I want my dress in grey/white/silver.  Plus a bit of emphasis on my gigantic man-shoulders probably wouldn’t go astray.

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From my very own copy of Vol. 4.

This is the design I arrived at:

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After a bit of sleeve editing and fiddling, I got the toile to the following stage, over a RTW pencil skirt (the skirt’s going to be the easy part, I say flippantly now, probably to my later regret).  It looks very wrinkly and wonky mostly because I had to pin myself into it with great difficulty.  In the real deal there’ll be a CB invisible zipper, which I can do now because I FOUND MY ZIPPER FOOT!!! HOORAH!!! As far as actual flaws go, the collar needs more building up, the ‘shoulder protectors’ need reshaping (it’s my first attempt at a raglan sleeve; once again I’m trying to run before I can walk), and so do the front and back waistcoat tails, and the bust darts need moving.  But hey, it’s a toile.  Corrections are what they’re for, right?

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I’m also very proud of my new shoes.  They’re pointy.  And taxi-coloured.

*Opera Police: a friend of a friend recently used this term to refer to the stuffy, usually middle-aged and older self-appointed gatekeepers of operatic validity, taste and propriety.

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Oh wow, oh yay!

I just got nominated for a Liebster Blog Award by Montana Designs!  (If you haven’t read her blog, btw, get over there and do it NOW.  If for no other reason: she recently knitted a super kawaii hat with ears on it, and not just that – she sews too. Awesome with a capital A) And it certainly has brightened up my weekend! 😉

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Well pip-pip-hurroo and how’s your uncle!

*unsubtle Blackadder reference*

Liebster Blog Awards are designed to share the love of blogs with less than 500 followers, (I’m just counting it as WordPress followers, not facey likes or anything, fyi, because I’m a soprano, ergo numbers confuse me) with these rules:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you
3. Nominate 11 other followers with less than 500 followers
4. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answer
5. Tag your nominees & post a comment on their blog to let them know you nominated them
Here are the 11 questions Montana Designs gave me:

1. Why did you start crafting?

Because clothes are expensive and ill-fitting.  At least if the ones I make don’t fit me, I can only blame myself, and as a soprano on a budget it’s better to spend $150 on silk for a completely unique, structurally-sound, exactly-how-I-want-it gown than have to go to a store and spend $500+ on a lacklustre, polyester thing that needs 5″ taken out of it before it’ll fit right.

2. Would you consider making a business from your crafting?

Eek no!

3. What other hobbies do you have?

Drawing (constantly), drinking litres of tea (also constantly), eating, wallowing in my favourite trashy novels, nerding around with manga, anime and board games, growing scraggly vegetables, pretending I’m wildly fashionable, and patting other people’s cats.

4. What music do you like?

For singing: Puccini (when I can sing this thing without stopping to cry…) and Berg (hang out for the high D at 2:04).  For listening: French Baroque music.  For thinking: Webern (it starts at 0:50). For general awesome: The Rite of Spring (this video has an animated graphic score, which is mesmerising)

5. What films are you into?

Anything so long as it’s sci-fi, Western, horror, animated, related to superheroes or has Arnie in it.

6. Favourite colour and why?

Orange.

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Because Rupert.

7. Where are you from and what’s interesting there?

I’m from a small town called Berry on the South Coast of NSW, Australia (oh hi, stalkers!).  It has scenery, the fragrance of cowpats, too many tourists on the weekends, and Rupert.

8. Who inspires you?

Pretty much everyone I know.

9. Who do you craft for mainly?

Myself. Because I’m selfish.

10. What do you like making the most and why?

I like making things that are challenging for me, or that have a couple of new techniques in them that I can dive right in there and suss out.

11. What really annoys you and why?

Rude entitled ‘special snowflake’ customers at work.  The Stompy Boots of Entitlement don’t look good on anybody, especially when you pair them with the Oversized Cocktail Ring of Rude, the Pants of Flagrant Privilege or the Muumuu of Misdirected Whinging.

So without further ado, my 11 blogs are:

1) Bryce Halliday.  I know this is more of a website than a blog, but the more people know of Bryce the better.  I went to school with him and he is one hilarious duck.

2) Creating Miranda. The food posts get me every time, my keyboard has so much dribble in it.

3) The Patient Cook.  You are also to blame for my dribble-clogged keyboard.

4) Aesthetic Contradiction.  If I could wear latex on stage and not get mugged by elderly audience members, this is where I would get it from.

5) Women on the Shelf.  Because women write stuff you should read.

6) Bobbins and Whimsy.  Sewing, wit, wisdom, cats… what more do you need?

7) The Pragmatic Costumer.  Because we all need more pragmatism, and the result she gets with even the most minimal materials is enough to make any theatre or opera costumer weep with jealousy.

8) Tanit-Isis Sews.  If you’re wondering how to take a Big 4 vintage pattern and then make something so completely individual and awesome no-one will believe you used a pattern, this is how.

9)  Thanks! I Made This Myself. I have the deepest admiration for anyone who quilts.

10)  Matt’s Mutterings.  Ponderings, wonderings and general cogitations from a maths-mad friend of mine.

11) Ashlee’s Costume Closet.  This ain’t just cosplay, this is seriously amazing costuming.  I wish I was her.

HOORAY!

My questions for you are as follows:

1) Cats or dogs? (or armadillos?)

2)  What was the last book you read? (graphic novels count)

3) Who is the best Doctor?  (non-Doctor Who fans, just give this one a miss.)

4) What is your favourite global cuisine?

5) Which is your favourite season?

6)  In the inevitable zombie apocalypse, which five people would be on your dream survival team?

7) Whose shoes would you like to spend a day in?

8) Coffee or tea?  (or neither?)

9) If you could gain instant proficiency at/afford any musical instrument (that you don’t already play, musos amongst you), what would you pick?

10) Thoughts on David Bowie? (gosh I’m getting desperate for questions now, aren’t I!)

11) What is your standby go-to meal to cook when you don’t have anything in the cupboard and feel flat as a tack?

Have fun with those and share the love onwards 🙂

Skirting the Issue (geddit? Skirting?)

Eighteen days since the last post; two new skirts.  Plus a shirt toile, but it’s nowhere near ready to be seen by the good folk of the internet yet.

The first is a mini with pockets, made from a cotton twill (so essentially denim) fabric that I found in the Nowra Spotlight of all places, which was surprising because it has an unusual and quirky horse print on it:

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Construction was pretty basic, just the standard  mini pattern I made when I altered the lace Jigsaw skirt, only plus pockets and flat-felled seams, and minus lining and a fair bit off the bottom.  The pattern matching is… passable.  I tried for perfect but I was a bit too impatient to achieve it.

It’s not one I’ll be riding a bike or climbing a tree in, but at the same time it’s definitely not the awful nearly-a-mini-but-not-trying-hard-enough frumpster length that I was complaining about many moons ago on another post.

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Frump it hath not.

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But pockets it hath in spades.

The other skirt is, to put it bluntly, a knockoff.  I saw a vintage organza Chanel skirt in a book and remembered the 6m of black (sadly polyester) georgette that’s been languishing in my stash since a friend gave it to me after a de-clutter at her gran’s.  I also had various scraps of black opaque silk left over from sundry projects, and one very short metal zip.  Because the polyester frays like a son of a bitch, construction was more of an issue, so I went with what’s basically an 18th-century petticoat construction: i.e. rectangles sewn together at the selvedges (woohoo!  No fraying and no finishing?  I think we can call that a win.) and then gathered into a waistband.  Only, I added a zip-side fastening and to kill frayage at the hem, I added a black silk facing that I turned to the outside and whipstitched down by hand.

It doesn’t look much like the original inspiration garment, in retrospect (I couldn’t find a photo on the internet), but it still looks pretty interesting, and offers up various opportunities for layering.  Or not, if one feels daring.  Transparent skirts have been floating around a number of designers for quite a while now, and aren’t unheard of in RTW either (although, I must offer up a prayer of thanks that I no longer see those impossibly vile mullet-cut ones from Supré around anymore.  WHY WERE THEY A THING???).  One of my favourite ever Vogue covers featured Bella Heathcote in a translucent-skirted Christian Dior dress, there was plenty of inspo floating around – Dries van Noten, Nonoo, a particularly risqué Jean-Paul Gaultier – and of course there was Jennifer Lawrence (on whom, along with the rest of the universe, I have a gigantic lady-crush.  Can’t you tell?) in that transparent dress last November.

Here’s my version styled with a black pencil skirt and, alternately, a blazer and heels, and a scarf and clogs.  Also, unlike all of the inspiration garments mentioned above, mine was effectively free!  All pre-loved stash materials, scraps and leftovers!

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Oh consarn it, the damn thing’s dipping at the front.  Even hemming’s never been a strong point of mine.  Also, I look like my face is made of plastic.  What’s up with that?

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Feelin’ sorta vaguely maybe even a tiny bit French.  Hence wolfishly triumphant grin.

Now for some construction pictures:

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It’s a bit uneven where the zip’s gone in, but that’s my own carelessness at play, combined with the warpy, uncooperative nature of the polyester.  This is why I always splurge on natural fibre.

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From the inside, the whipstitches holding the exterior facing up.

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The one seam in the exterior facing was flat felled.

Finally, some slightly more daring styling: the JLaw-sanctioned bodysuit combo.  Now’s your warning to mosey on outa here if it’s going to be too weird for y’all, though to be honest, I have shorts that are worse than this that I wear in public, it’s just once you reference that a skirt *should* be there, it seems kind of strange.  JLaw’s just too badass for us mere plebs.  I have attempted my most angry badass face to complement the style.

DSC_0293 Sadly I think the badassness would be better complimented by large boots.  Or maybe brogues.  

Now that I’ve fed my inner high-fashion-monster for the moment, time to skulk off and make some t-shirts.