Opera and Cosplay Duke it Out

When I last posted I had this vision that a heap of things were going to be done by now.  I was going to be finished the Junketsu and I was going to have worn it triumphantly at PAX.  I was going to be churning out shirts and skirts and things for summer.  I was going to have finished all the performance dresses that I stupidly started right before comps and concerts.  Hell, at one point I even thought I would make a gown.

Haha, NOPE.  It’s a crazy story.

So I entered the New Zealand Aria the night before entries closed.  Then I realised that it was on at the same time as PAX so there was no point finishing the Junketsu (wrong, but we’ll get to that in a minute).  Then I cut out two Man Repeller-inspired ruffled shirts for My Wardrobe S/S 16, but sewing the pleather for my Attack on Titan cosplay had killed the tension wheel on my Janome and it went off to be serviced.  Two weeks of waiting for it to come back and consoling myself with fan art later…

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I tend to only ship characters with musical instruments.

…I should have done all the finishing on the fuchsia performance dress then, but stupidly I chose to binge on Noragami instead.  Then I did an audition for Opera Australia in Sydney.  Then I got a callback, so I had to cancel on New Zealand SO THE MORAL OF THAT STORY IS IF I’D JUST FINISHED THE DAMN JUNKETSU I COULD HAVE GONE TO PAX ANYWAY.  I was sad and happy and confused so then I entered the Diamond Valley Eisteddfod (again the night before the damn thing.  Noticing a pattern?). I hand-hemmed the fuchsia dress at the venue on the day, and then I won the aria section.  Then I found out I had the job with OA.  Then I didn’t sleep for about 48 hours.  Now I’m doing weird random procrastinatey sewing things instead of finishing the summer clothes that I know I’ll need up north.

Like how I suddenly decided that the arm and pocket badges on my AoT jacket look wrong and need to be fixed.  The method I’m  using now (just appliqueing on a big general wing-shaped cut-out and then zig-zagging the lines on over the top) is a lot quicker and easier than the first method I used, and I think it reads better too.

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Way better, right?

I’ve started on one of the summer shirts, but I’m currently baulking at the buttonholes because my machine is still a bit hit-and-miss with buttonholes.  It’s just the frumpster shirt pattern with the sleeves cut in further, and a ruffle on a strip of bias binding added over the top.

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If it looks like it’s spent the week scrunched up in a corner, that’s because it has.

The Junketsu has now been hemmed.  Behold it in its shortness if you dare, along with my best attempt at a faux-fringe (which really just ended up looking kind of vintage.  Oh well.  Satsuki’s kind of a pin-up anyway).  I ordered a wig online yesterday, taking my chances with a random cosplay wig shop on AliExpress.  The shipping times are so variable that I just put in the address as my parent’s place in case it takes a month and I’ve moved out of the sharehouse, so Mum, if you get a very long blue wig in the post please don’t get a shock.

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As if getting a wig in the post could be any more shocking than the length of that skirt.

I have decided I’ll attach the sailor collar with snaps, but the ones I have in my stash are tiny, so I’ll zip out to somewhere and get bigger ones.  I’ve glued  I-don’t-know-what-you-call-thems on the boards.  They’re the bits that you pass epaulettes through to button the boards on.

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They don’t look very nice because I glued them on and used Fray-Block to finish the edges.

I will add epaulettes to the Junketsu and then the boards can button or snap on.  I was worried that the boards were too big, but even just pinned on they look really good.  The scarf tie things are another story though.  I’ll take them off and make them smaller and pointier.

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With both boards in dynamic pre-transformation pose

I’ve also ordered the white stretch-PVC for the boots, and I’ll put them together on my friend’s serger, because I really don’t want to be servicing my poor old machine twice in as many months, and comparing my sewing machine to Sergei the serger is like comparing an elderly lady who’s still ok walking the dog with some kind of super hardcore Russian SAS person with muscles on their muscles.  Then I’ll get a pair of op-shop heels and glue them over the top.  The PVC was a bit expensive, but there’s really only one place in Australia that had it and I only need a metre for my scrawny pins so it’s not that bad.

Then the only thing will be the sword, Bankuze.  It’s basically a big white katana with a fancy cross-bar (no idea what you call that part on a katana, and behold my apparent inability to google it).  The internet has many which are expensive, not super great-looking and of dubious customs-passability.  I’m contemplating how hard it would be to make a passable Bankuze-like-object out of cardboard or papier mache or plastic or something.  Satsuki doesn’t even usually bother to unsheathe it unless she’s fighting Ryuko anyhow.

 

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Ok, I Admit It, I’m Dead

Struggling, at any rate. I can’t actually remember when I last posted.  I’d need to look at it and check and I don’t think I actually want to know.  Wait, yes I do.

LAST YEAR. OH DEAR GOD.

dontwanttogoonthecartBUT I DON’T WANT TO GO ON THE CART!

You know what I’m blaming?  Opera.  So far this year I’ve made two role debuts (Mabel in Pirates of Penzance and Woodsprite 1 in Rusalka), and studied Czech diction because we did the Dvořák in Czech.  And for that one I also helped out with costume alterations.  Between that and working full time I have been one busy little sausage.  At one point I worked out that I was putting in 50+ hour weeks.  And my costume for the G&S was effectively a large lemon meringue pie (as is customary).

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This is how I looked.

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This is how I felt about it.

Understandably sewing’s taken a backseat while I’ve been putting in production calls and learning what sound a ‘ř’ makes.  I had one mad rush when we did a Czech art song concert and the director told us she wanted brightly coloured cocktail dresses as a dress code.  (FYI my concert wardrobe is the picture in the dictionary beside ‘funeralcore’)  I had a grand total of 10 hours to either a) find something in the shops that fit the bill, fit me and didn’t break the bank (I actually had a breakdown in Emporium and had to go home.  I was very stressed out at that point) or b) make something with the 4m of fuchsia silk a friend had made me buy on the offchance.  Turns out that friend is pre-sentient.  I went for hurriedly making something, whilst having an actual panic attack, and because I am completely incapable of doing anything the easy way, I went with the muslin that had been sitting on my dressform for the last 6 months that I’d pinned on there in a daze of admiration for tight pleats.  You can see where this is going, can’t you.

I didn’t bother to hem it, and had only just finished the zip when my friends swung by to pick me up.  This is what I ended up with:

fuchsia dress

WHY THE HELL DID I EVEN?  WHEN ARE PLEATS SENSIBLE FOR THE TIME-POOR?

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Again, why?  And that’s not even the half of it, because look at the inside:

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Yes, that bodice is fully boned.  I still have no idea how I did this in 5 hours whilst hyperventilating.

Looking at it now I am completely amazed at what an idiot I am, and simultaneously thinking that my skills must be improving if I can turn out something like that under massive pressure.

Fortunately the other two/three things don’t have such dramatic backstories.

Thing the first: I finally used that chartreuse silk satin seersucker for something.  A boxy cami with a creative strap arrangement and a by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants triangular panel detail.

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By the seat of the pants as in, I only looked up a tutorial on setting in triangular panels AFTER I’d sewn it.

Thing the second: a ruffle-bottom racer-back cami in silk ikat with cotton lining, based on a Tibi one that I saw online that would have cost me $400 if I hadn’t had a metre of this still sitting in my stash from 2013.  I made it yesterday, and because I was calm and everything stressful is finished, it’s all neat and pressed properly and symmetrical and stuff.  This is the standard to which I could hold myself if I wasn’t so bloody minded under pressure.

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I still haven’t figured out why I’m making all this summer stuff.  It’s like 10 degrees in Melbourne right now.

And here they are all together with a skirt that I altered from a dress a few months back in order to be less 1980s French maid and more 1990s sailor scout.  It hasn’t been ironed.  I give no craps because you can’t see it properly in this photo anyway.

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And you’d think the ’90s were back judging by the number of spaghetti straps in this photo.

Next up, as many button-down shirts as I can possibly make.  They are my uniform, so I may as well make a ton while I have the time.

Still Not Dead

Wow… July.  My last post was July.  How many months ago is that, even?  I’m not sure I want to know.

The good news is that I’ve still been sewing in that time, to the point where I’ve actually finished a few things, including ripping an op-shop dress apart and turning it into a miniskirt that any Sailor senshi would be proud to fight evil in, and finally finding something to do with that chartreuse silk satin seersucker (try saying that three times fast), which was make that sucker (ha) into a cool-as-a-cucumber summer cami pretending to be that elusive beast the going-out-top.  Not that I get out much in summer.  I’m just fooling myself into thinking I need something in case I did, and then wearing it around in non-going-out contexts with sneakers because I’m desperate to look like I don’t take myself seriously.  Seriously.

I haven’t managed photos in either of them because I’m lazy, and because I got sidetracked with other creative interests.  Insert shameless plug for new Tumblr!  Check out my geek art!

So I wouldn’t have anything to report, but then I joined the Melbourne Opera chorus on a whim, and they did a thing on Saturday involving the O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, which is fun, and I enjoyed breaking out the misheard lyrics video on Youtube and having a merry chortle.  The dress code was gowns for ladies.  As usual.  The forecast was cold and rainy.  Most of my gowns are backless.  Bad combo?  Wrong.  Excellent combo.  Why?  Excuse to make new gown.  With sleeves.  And maybe even a back.  But perhaps not a front.

The inspiration was mostly Gucci…

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With a dash of Ralph Lauren…

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…And a whole heap of dressing gown.

First step, I ripped apart the Green Soprano Gown, salvaging roughly 5m of relatively undamaged silk satin.  Then I had a play:

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I liked this idea a lot.  So then I had a think.  I wanted a really relaxed, draped look, so my normal method of mathsing out a pattern and then testing with a billion toiles wasn’t going to really work.  I’d enjoyed draping on the form so much that I thought I’d give moulage a go.

DSC_0684First I made a fitted back lining, then started draping the other parts onto it.  Kind of in a robe a l’anglaise-y sort of way… shh.

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I backstitched the back panel on over the gathered front, then turned in the neckline and point a rabbatre-d it.  Then came a long debate over what to do with the side skirt seams, which was resolved by putting it on, pinning them where they looked right and sewing them down.  It was liberating after having been pretty strict with myself about sticking to patterns for the past couple of years.

The only sad thing was cutting the back hem.  I loved the look of a big long train, but past experiences of people stepping on them have taught me they’re not a good thing.  Cue anecdote about having the back of the Atonement dress stepped on just before the bows at a Mozart Requiem in 2012. All the snaps at the back came undone and I had to hold it together to preserve the innocence of the first violins.  Not good.  (That link will also show you the gown that I ripped apart to get the fabric for this one)

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It was still sad to cut away that swathe of silk though.  So very sad.

The sleeves I wasn’t game to drape, so I just patterned them like usual.  They’re a straight-up French sleeve, with tucks on the inner elbow for bendage. Finishing involved three rolled hems, a twill waist tape, one hook and eye and a discreet tack to keep the split in the skirt from flapping too far open.  I still need to make a proper sash for it, but for all intents and purposes it’s pretty much done.  It goes on like a dressing gown.  Funnily enough.  It sure looks like one.  So I struck some vaguely film noir poses and had a little fun:

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You can’t think little old me responsible for that grisly murder, can you?

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Dammit, Johnny, fix me a scotch already.

 It’s got me addicted to moulage now (seriously, the whole process was so organic and fun, and a helluva lot quicker then draft, toile, redraft, toile).  I’m thinking of doing more while I have the time, and filling in some of the gaps in my audition/day-performance wardrobe… Stay tuned.  But not too tuned.  In case I don’t post for another six months again, you know?

I’m Not Dead, Honest!

Though I’d forgive you for thinking I was. What it means though, is I’ve got a whole backlog of creativity that I should have posted about ages ago, but didn’t get around to doing it. Usually because the minute I had a second (… or the second I had a minute? Wibbly wobbly timey wimey…) that’s either when I’d get a text from a friend going “Tea?” or remember urgent washing that needed doing, or be so tired that it was all I could do to put on Outlaw Star/Fullmetal Alchemist/Chobits/Hellsing (stop judging me) and then zone out over a full pot of tea.

Today is the watershed. Most notably because I am sick, and so have forced myself to stay home, desperately trying to recover before my awesome teacher arrives tomorrow (hahahaha, even I laugh at this vain optimism. I’ve used about a hundred tissues in the past 24 hours, and sustained a burn when I sneezed in front of a friend’s log stove).
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The Girl Who Sneezed at Fire.

Secondly, although the weather is balmy and sunny, I don’t have enough dirty clothes to make it worth taking out whoever’s washing was left abandoned in the machine this morning. If they want to waste this glorious drying weather, that’s their problem.

Thirdly, and most distressingly, THE KETTLE IS BROKEN! My beloved kettle! Boiler of water, genesis of tea-based beverages! On account of my self-imposed housebound-ness, I refuse to go and purchase a new one until tomorrow, so I’m boiling water in a saucepan in the meantime. I’ve only had one pot of tea today. I know, I can’t believe I’m surviving either. Only by the powers of distraction – also known as writing a blog post – will I get through this, until the time when I can go to Big W and purchase a new kettle without snotting all over the sales assistants.

So down to business.  As usual, I have started more things than I have finished, so I’ll chronicle things in this order: Finished things, Paused things and Started things.

As far as finished things go, the list is short but awesome.  I made a shirt!  

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ACHIEVEMENT!

I salvaged the fabric from a manky, rather yellowed dress the Adorable Folkey fished out of the Theatre garage sale last year, which I suspect is a poly-cotton, given its dislike of high iron heat. I also used – dun dun duuuuunnnnnn!!!! – a commercial pattern!

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Ok, so it’s a bit like attack of the frump, but the essential bits are there.

The pattern came from an op shop where I also found the most magnificent old dresser, which should have been in an antique shop, but it had a big ding on the front of it (nothing a bit of oil couldn’t fix) and also needs a screw to reattach one of the drawer handles.  Just proof that if you sift through enough suburban op shops you really do find gloriously under-priced gems.

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Ten points if you can spot the ding.

 But back to the shirt.  Since it was only ever meant to be a toile, seeing I haven’t used a commercial pattern since about 2009,I hadn’t thought about how yellow the fabric was in places.  But it was really rather noticeable, and it looked like what it was: gross.

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Nasty.

Once it was finished I gave it a tea bath (oh how I lament the loss of my kettle!) in an attempt to counteract the unevenness of the yellowing and some big blue stains which I only found afterwards.  It worked a treat on the blue stains, and it’s got it to the point where the faded colour is more peach than yellow (you can’t really see it in photos, but in real life it was a huge difference), and it looks nice enough under a jumper.  Being my first attempt at a shirt I was terrified of how it would turn out, and whether I’d encounter issues with the collar stand, but I guess reading lots of Male Pattern Boldness has sunk in, because it went together calmly and with no swearing.  Thanks, Peter!  I now feel emboldened (hur hur) to make shirts for my friend Brave Sir Robin, who has the classic problem of Veuve Cliquot taste on a Toohey’s budget.  I’m thinking of finding some vintage shirt patterns and then grading them to fit.

I also starched some lace to my window, so that I can have natural sunlight without feeling like a zoo exhibit.  I got the recipe for the starch mix from Manhattan Nest, after having used other, weaker recipes that resulted in much, much swearing.  I cut the lace to size, dipped it in the goop, ensuring it was all soaked, and then squeezed out the excess goop and applied it to the window.  It was like being midwife to Cthulu, and I was pretty glad I had elected to protect whatever dignity remains in the ancient sharehouse carpet with a large flattened cardboard box. Then I let it dry, and when I one day break my lease and move on, it’ll come off a treat with some warm water, and the window will probably be cleaner than how I found it.

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Behold the offspring of Cthulu.

As far as the Paused/In Progress things go, I started adding some pinked pleated trim to my robe a l’Anglaise just for funsies, I keep meaning to fix/finish the cuirass dress but keep not getting around to it (I did end up wearing it at Liederfest, probably looking a right mess with pins holding it together.  Damn my stubbornness), and I gleefully butchered the green soprano gown with the intention of making something else out of it. My last sketch stands thusly:

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Whoops, I accidentally drew a giraffe.

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The unfinished cuirass dress and the trim on the Anglaise.

In the Started corner, we have ‘teaching my workmates how to sew’, and gowns for Death.  My workmates are fast learners and picked a nice easy first project, even though it’s a dress, so they’re rocking along well.  I’ll need to pick up the pace once I’m better though.  It’s good for me to lug the sewing machine to work and back, and combined with the serious attempt I’ve been making at building some upper body strength, I am proud to announce that I can no longer do the zipper the whole way up on the zodiac dress.  Seriously, watch out Arnie, I’m taking you down in our next arm-wrestling match.  

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Though I’ll probably be too busy using my guns to smash the patriarchy to arm wrestle Arnie.

I’ve been jogging too, and steadily.  I know.  Me?  Jogging?  You better believe it.  Nothing has ever motivated me to keep at exercise before, I guess because I’ve got genes that conform to the modern ideal of stupidly-skinny without any effort, and fitness wasn’t enough of an end in itself.  But a while back I invented a character in one of the dumb little stories I write as a sidekick to the main character, and I’ve come to realise that she’s pretty much me.  Hell, even my hair has started copying her, doing the side-fringe-one-side-with-a-weird-sticky-outy-flyaway-on-the-other thing.  I didn’t make it, it did it by itself.  However, the biceps I need to work for.

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If I was allowed to have violet hair and a sword.

The gowns for Death are a little easier seeing I can work on them whenever, and seeing she’s more of an hourglass than I am, her dress block looks more like a dress block and not like bacon the way mine does.  Her preference for circle skirts also means that the skirt drafting is just going to be all maths and none of that stupid faffing around with skirt blocks.  The first design is a sci-fi influenced, colourblocked number, to be done in a beautiful ivory duchess satin and a lovely heavy rayon-nylon.  I’m thinking of cording the shoulders for added oomph, especially seeing Death loves Star Trek and Blake’s 7, and the more sci-fi references we can cram into a gown the better.  And what says sci-fi like strong angular shoulders?

2014-07-16 14.47.44And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an overt Star Trek influence?

I’ve started patterning, and just need a heap of cheap stuff to make some toiles.  Unfortunately Lincraft is closed for renovations, so my usual 10+ metres of disgusting $2.00/m polypop is out of the question.  Oh well, Sydney Rd it is.

So I have a very very busy month of sewing planned.  I seriously doubt I’ll get through it all, but I’ll give it a shot.  I’m getting better at drawing up my patterns meticulously, and I’ve started adding on the seam allowances and notches.  They look a lot better now and the garments go together more quickly and accurately, so who knows, I might actually save some time.

Now I have to go eat some toast before OQ rehearsal.  That’s the opera quartet a few friends put together a few months back to do corporate gigs and shamelessly make money.  We’re called Operation Quartet. Check us out. I know, I know, I said I was housebound, but I won’t be singing.  Promise.

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.

End in Sight!

I’m now ridiculously close to finishing those Bombshells costumes.  All mine lacks is a hem and a little hook and eye behind the belt to prevent any gapping.  Folkey’s is super close too.  The skirt’s done, and all it needs is the belt, waistband, buttons and hem.  Very excited to go busking in them!  The only thing, buttonholes are monotonous.  Another eleven to go and then I don’t have to do any more until I stupidly decide to go and make some other thing with an idiotic number of buttons.

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Victory!  Well, sans hemming, but victory nevertheless!

DSC_0142Smug mode.

Of course, I couldn’t help myself…

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MOON PRISM POWER!

If I did make a sailor scout costume though (which of course I am massively tempted to do.  Hey, it’d be cheap – hardly any yardage!), it’d be Sailor Jupiter.  I haven’t had hair like Usagi/Serena since primary school.

Progress!

Having finally finished my Masters degree (eep!) I now have a bit of time to work on finishing those Bombshells costumes.  It’s now at a point where to finish them properly I have to go to one of the cheapo fabric shops in Brunswick and get some cheap vintage buttons, and hopefully some belt buckles too.  At the moment the skirt of mine’s just pinned to the bodice, because I’m going to make the belt a built-in feature of the waistband, so there’s (again) not much point in attaching it until I have a belt buckle.  But what it does mean is pictures!

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Words cannot express how proud I am.  My machine sewing is normally horrendous, but these are all even and neat and stuff.  And yes those are more cartoons in the background.

DSC_0132So I watch Sailor Moon while I sew.  What of it? …

… well, apart from meaning that the bodice of my dress has spent the last few days looking like this:

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Sailor Soprano!

Oh, and in case anyone’s curious/hasn’t seen it doing the rounds on the book of face, here is one of the cartoons that was on the wall behind me.  They’re doing the Ring Cycle in Melbourne at the moment, you see, and I managed to score a ticket to the dress rehearsal of Siegfried.  A particular scene towards the end had me and Folkey giggling.  Unfortunately, this will only make sense if you’re familiar with the opera, but I’ll try my best to explain:

Siegfried’s parents were siblings (Wagner is unfortunately chock-full of horrible horrible incest, FYI), children of Wotan, king of the gods.  Understandably, Siegfried is not very bright.  A little birdy (literally) tells him that there’s this chick called Brünnhilde who’s basically doing a Sleeping Beauty atop a mountain surrounded by fire and only the manliest man-hero can get past the fire and wake her up and so on.  Brünnhilde is actually Wotan’s daughter, so it’s another whole level of ick-Siegfried’s-going-to-do-his-aunt-ness.  Anyway.  So Siegfried, who literally can’t feel fear because he’s too inbred, goes and rescues her, but there’s this whole scene where he forgets he’s up there looking for a lady (because he’s inbred and also he’s never actually met a lady-person) and gets a rude shock.

Siegfried Suppresses

Siegfried might be suppressing something.

Also, in the actual opera that whole exchange probably goes for about 45 minutes.

Also also, I apologise for the poor picture quality on some of my earlier posts.  They were bigger before, I swear.  I guess I’m still on the ol’ WordPress learning curve.

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.

Circus Daks and Angry Ladies

I got a commission!  Yay!  I’m making a late 17th/early 18th century sailor’s outfit for a circus friend.  Because of the nature of ropes acts, there have had to be some compromises accuracy wise, but the effect is going to be pretty cool, I hope.

There’s a shirt, made to the standard rectangles and triangles pattern that was common in the period, only, it’s made of a vile 2-way stretch cotton that’ll be soft and breathable to wear with plenty of give for acrobatics, but has a faint stripe in the weave that gives it the appearance of linen from a distance.  That’s from a distance.  That stuff was an absolute son of a bitch to sew, even with every trick in the book, like using paper under the seam, and it’s full of little wibbly-wobbly-seamy-weamy things.  *unsubtle doctor who reference*  I’m currently baulking at sewing in the final sleeve.???????????????????????????????

Or we could just cut an arm off my circus friend…???????????????????????????????

Because wibbly-wobbly-seamy-weamy.

There’s also a waistcoat, which will be brown linen, very simply cut and with fake buttons painted on (because real ones can result in nasty bruises when combined with ropes acts).

Finally there’ll be a set of breeches, also stretch for flexibility – but not stretchy enough to qualify them as the Breeches of Satan – gathered to a cuff below the knee, again to avoid rope burn.  I haven’t started on those yet.

I reckon the overall effect will be quite good, but the primary concern is functionality.

And while I was off buying fabric for that, I got some to make a petticoat and jacket!  The fabric for the petticoat is a lovely soft white silk twill (I’ll make other cotton petticoats to go under to boof it out a bit), and the jacket  fabric is a beautiful honey-coloured stripe, which I keep forgetting to photograph in daylight.  I’m dubious about my stripe-matching ability, but it was so pretty I couldn’t pass on it.  If the bodice goes well, I’ll just pop down and get a little more and lengthen the skirt to a full on robe.  If there’s any left.  The sales assistant was eyeing it off too like a seagull after a chip, so I might have to suck it up and get it soon.

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Pretty.  It’s more white with honey-stripes in daylight.

I couldn’t find any linen or cotton I fancied for a chemise or these fabled other petticoats, so another day I might pop down to Cleggs or *shudder* Lincraft and have a trawl through their selections.

But in the meantime, I’m having lots of fun rolling around in my new voice like a dog rolling gleefully around in a pile of poop.  It just feels so right.  I’m now an official card-carrying member of the fach of Angry Ladies, which is great because I am an angry lady.  Anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn’t seen me pissed off yet, or perhaps has been reading this blog. Gushing about robes a l’anglaise is calming.  Many, many things are angry-making.  Like the assumption that being tiny means I only have a choice of singing Zerlina or Susanna and that’s it, ‘kay thanks.  Not that they’re not great, but if you’ve heard me sing vedrai carino recently… it’s something like trying to use a chainsaw to cut a sponge cake.  Comical, but overkill.

Anyway, I have compiled a glory reel of angry ladies singing pissed-off arias, some of which I have the incredible good fortune to be learning, and some of which I’ll probably never do but can’t resist putting them on the glory reel:

Ahoy Diana Damrau as Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail getting pissed off at the Pasha Selim (who always looks like Max Brenner in every production ever for some reason).  He’s just threatened to torture her if she won’t give in, betray her lovely man Belmonte and do him, so her reaction is pretty fair.

Laura Aikin, upon whom I have the biggest lady-crush ever, as Alban Berg’s Lulu, who’s fed up with being used and objectified by everyone and their dog and is about to shoot the man on the floor, who is one in a string of jealous, controlling husbands.  Twelve-tone coloratura.  That’s right, bitches.  You do not get more hardcore than that.

Miah Persson as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Her anglaise could use a bum-pad and some extra petticoats, but her triplets are insane and I think she looks a bit like Tara from Buffy. (Plus there’s surtitles on this one)

Edda Moser, as the Queen of the Night, my other giant lady-crush.  Oh.  Mein. Gott.  This is what voices like mine dream of growing up to become.  If anyone ever decides to write Anita Blake the opera, she has to be like this.

Birgit Nilsson as Puccini’s Turandot.  I will never ever sing this, but she is just a gun.  Calaf looks dismayed because he knows she’s walking the crap all over his sound in her steel-capped-boot high Cs.

I could keep going, but after Birgit you have to let the eardrums rest a while to recover from the magnitude of her awesomeness.

Clothes for the Recital that I’m So Glad is Over.

Do excuse my recent lack of postage.

I FINALLY did my first Masters recital; the evil one; the one that got postponed last year because I had a month’s worth of the flu and pharyngitis; the one that I’m so so so glad is finally over, despite the fact that I had a cold and had to keep dashing off stage to blow my nose, much in the manner that more normal sopranos might dash off to swig from glasses of water.  I thought putting the tissues on the piano would be a bad idea, though it was mighty tempting.  Then maybe my level of professionalism would be on par with the con’s; they managed to bugger up my program notes, which I had given to them formatted to a tee after adhering to all their pernickety editing suggestions.  Fancy that… a red squiggle.  Wordpress doesn’t think pernickety is a word.  It keeps suggesting ‘pumpernickel’. Which is a great word too, don’t get me wrong, but not so relevant in the context.

And I actually managed to finish my skirt and top ensemble.  At 12:15am the night before, admittedly, but yes.  Finished.  Now I have things to wear when performing in winter.

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Ta-daaaa! A blurry photo.  Excuse the general mess.

The skirt took about a week, partially because I was working around loads of practice and trying to maintain some semblance of contact with other humans, but mostly because my Janome is to the lovely Fabric Store silk as hot wax strips are to Wolverine: not exactly as Kryptonite to Superman, but it’s still not a fun combination, and the result doesn’t look very attractive.  I should’ve known, because I’ve used this particular kind of silk before when I made my lace crop-top back in the mists of time (*cough* last year *cough*) and my machine has horrible memories of needle-breakage associated with it.  But in the lead-up to my recital, soprano-brain was a bit of an issue and I figured that last time I’d been trying to flat-fell chunky seams and use bias binding (ie: more layers), so if I used a brand-new, sharp-as-a-psycho’s-scalpel, small-as-I-could-get needle and set the thread tension very very carefully, what problem could a mere two layers possibly pose?  (OH THE STUPIDITY)

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Exhibit A: Nasty buckly seam.  In centre-front of all places.  😡

Doesn’t seem to matter how fine a needle I use or how few layers I have or what my thread tension’s set as, I end up with a buckly seam.  So I thought, stuff you Janome, and hand-stitched the rest of it.  What can I say?  I’m a control freak who likes to watch things while I sew.  Many, many episodes of Buffy later, I have a rather nice skirt.  The buckly seam thankfully hangs in a fold, hiding its shameful buckly nature from the eyes of good citizens.  Then I just stitched the silk over the top of the foundation layer of the waistband with backstitch so you have these little lines of topstitching, which the silk will eventually fade around so it’ll look a bit interesting.

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Pinned and ready to go.

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Little backstitches are prettier than buckly machine mess, anyway.

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Then it was slipstitched over the pleats.  Hot-damn I’m proud of that neat curve.

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Okay, so the inside’s all messy.  But it’s secure and there’s no chance of fray-age and I could not give fewer damns.

The skirt ended up being a circle skirt cut to twice the length of the waistband and then pleated on (haphazardly).  The zipper was set in with a pick-stitch, because I HATE sewing zips on the machine.  Hate hate hate, like stompy eye-pokey-outy hate.  Only on the morning did I notice that on me the lining hung more crooked than it did on the dressform, and so I had to emergency-tack it up a bit, but it’ll be an easy fix for The Weekend That Never Comes.

The top was my first foray into jersey-land (aka Mordor.  Stretch fabric is clearly the work of Sauron), negotiating the perils of Twin Needles and Clear Elastic Stay Tape of Doom.

MordorHere dwell the dreaded jersey fabrics.

via lotr.wikia.com

I cut the pattern off a skivvy I had that fitted nicely (though I ought to have gone a little roomier because my jersey didn’t stretch quite as much as I thought), and it sewed up relatively quickly.  I couldn’t figure out how to do a drapey bit at the front, so I improvised one on after and covered the joins with some bows cut from the remnants of my silk.  With a singlet under it, it was *just* warm enough in Melba Hall.  A friend of mine the Best Baritone I Know nearly froze to death in his exam the other week, so I thought it’d pay to be cautious.  Boy did it ever.  My poor accompanists… it seriously looked like a scene out of Dickens backstage with them huddled there in their coats with their hands under their arms.

Now, Clegs doesn’t normally hold much fascination for me with the Fabric Store to compare it to, but when I went down there the other day to pick up the twin needle and the elastic, they were having a remnant sale.  Remnant sales are very dangerous.  I had to be prudent, but when they’re getting rid of just enough of just what you’re after for about 1/4 of the normal price per metre, you must strike, strike like the bargain-cobra.   Now I have enough silk crepe satin to cover my stays when I finish them (I would use it for something else it’s so nice, but that colour really doesn’t suit me unless I’m fancy dressing as a zombie.  My skin cells wouldn’t know what melanin was if some came along and bit them on the endoplasmic reticulum), and half a metre of the most airy and delicious silk georgette which is going to be a nasty beast to sew, but I’m not intending to make anything super fancy from it… maybe just a fichu for my as yet hypothetical georgian costume…???????????????????????????????

So pretty!  It’s like if soufflé could be a fabric.

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Guaranteed to make me look about 5 days dead.

And then there’s sissy-poo’s kitty-shaped hot water bottle cover.  The toile (do you call it a toile when it’s clothes for a hot water bottle?) is assembled, but I’m still trying to work out if the vaguely 3D face is going to work in practice when darts aren’t meant to be a thing you do with faux fur.  I guess the pile’s not too deep, I figure I’m going to treat it pretty much like velvet and see how it goes, unless somebody warns me off it in the next 24 hours.  There’s enough faux fur that I could probably make two or three attempts before I throw in the towel.???????????????????????????????

There will also be legs and a tail but I didn’t bother to pattern them.  I’m not sure how I’ll do the nose and eyes yet, but at any rate, this is the look I’m going for:

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Via au.catsadoptions.com.  KITTY WITH NO FACE NAWWWWWWWW!!!!

It beats doing tax.