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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Attack on Cosplay Part Two – The Thousand and One Infuriating Straps

I’m not gonna lie, I would seriously rather hand-sew another set of 18th Century stays than make another Attack on Titan harness.  True, the stays took me like 8 months longer, but they didn’t involve trying to make my craptacular Janome come to terms with pleather.

Internet research confirmed that pleather is a special snowflake, and because it’s both stretchy and sticky, it needs extra help to go under the presser-foot without bunching and puckering.   Some recommended a roller foot (sounds awesome but couldn’t get one), or the ol’ paper trick, where you pin paper over the fabric and rip it off after.  Others recommended a teflon foot, which I got, as my local Janome dealer didn’t have a roller foot.  The poor shop lady looked at me with plain distress on her face when I said ‘cosplay’ and ‘pleather’ in the same sentence.  Sadly, when I got the foot home it only kind of vaguely worked, more on that later. Pleather’s other extra-special attribute is that it doesn’t like pins, because it’s not woven and pins will leave holes.

But this is me we’re talking about, and I like leaping in at the deep end without checking for pointy rocks/stingrays/Cthulu first.  I already felt I’d done enough planning by drawing up a ton of notes on what attaches where.  Bear in mind there are much MUCH better diagrams in google images, and even though I’d drawn these out, there was no guarantee I’d follow them perfectly in the moment.

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Haha, even just reading those back now there are so many places where I deviated from the plan.  Because I am Captain By-The-Seat-of-My-Pants.

So first I just made oodles and oodles of strapping from the pleather, with the non-stretch direction lengthways. Turning a tube was too hard because the right sides stick to each other, so I folded an 8cm-wide strip in half, wrong side to wrong side, topstitched the fold, then folded in the other edge a cm or so and topstitched it too.  Because by that stage I hadn’t had a chance to haul my butt to Maribyrnong to get a teflon foot, I used the paper method, and because pleather dislikes pins, I used bobby pins.  It helps that because I have stubborn hair, I have extra-strong bobby pins.  BOBBY PINS ARE THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.  Also, if you are someone with Hermione-levels of hair like me, you probably already have loads of them lying around.  If you have short hair/love office products, I hear paperclips work too.

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Yes, that’s La Traviata.  It was in an old subject reader from my undergrad so it was an excerpt anyway.  I wasn’t sacrificing actual sheet music.  The paper rips very cleanly off in this instance because the pleather doesn’t try to come with it the way a knit fabric does.

After I’d made metres and metres of the stuff, I started with the back pad and made my way down from there, sometimes using Dido the dressform, but trying it on me every now and again because sometimes she goes a funny round-shouldered shape that’s not helpful.

The back pad (and both the scabbard pads, for that matter) were a cheap grey poplin underlined with felt leftover from a dragon plushie I made for a friend’s five-year-old a while back and forgot to blog about.  Problem is, this is the colour of the felt:

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Naw, how cute was it before it got loved to death?  Anyway, back to AoT.  Turns out when you underline grey poplin with green felt and then expect to cut what are effectively large buttonholes for straps to pass through, you inevitably see the green felt on the inside of the slash, like your harness is secretly Bruce Banner or something.  Not a massive problem, but weird up close.  And cartoon-prompting.

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Have a very dark photo of the pattern, because I can’t be bothered lightening it.

Then it was a matter of trimming straps to size and adding them one at a time.  The upper back first, then the sternum buckle, then from there.  Somewhere along the line I realised it’d be easier to make the whole thing in one rather than trying to keep the top and bottom separate.  I’m sorry I didn’t take better notes as I went, but it was pretty damn confusing, the whole process lasted a couple of weeks and I’m not entirely sure I knew what I was doing at the time.  There was wine was involved at several points.  Also some pretending to be Levi, some pretending to be Veronica Lake, and some wearing the flower crown from when I was Woodsprite 1 in Rusalka earlier this year. Pro-tip, don’t drink and sew, and definitely don’t let a soprano have access to wine, cosplay and a camera at the same time.  Do have a montage though.

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By the end it was crazy trying to get the whole thing under the needle…

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And sometimes I resorted to some dumb tactics…

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Most of it was sewn together using a variant on this criss-cross pattern:

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Right up the top in that photo you can see what I mean about the green felt too.

Some of the details ended up being pretty crucial.  For example, I realised early on that it’d be silly to permanently attach any of the straps to the scabbard pads in a way that they couldn’t move.  So this is the arrangement I came up with on the back, using fabric loops.  The thigh straps just feed through enormous buttonholes the way the shoulder straps do in the shoulder pad:

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The buckles were just sewn on and the holes for the latchets were made with a stitch ripper because my awl (and by awl, I mean very sharp pencil) didn’t work.

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I didn’t end up attaching the straps at the front with buckles to the belt because I couldn’t really think of a way to do it, I ran out of buckles, and really I was just looping them around the belt loops of my jeans and using the belt (which is totally separate) to hold them down.

Here it is in its completed (if slightly dodgy) glory:

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I tried taking a couple of videos of putting the whole catastrophe on to see if I could document it clearly, but it didn’t make it any clearer and it takes roughly ten minutes (I can see why humanity is dying out if it takes their strongest members that long to get their kit on and off, you know what I mean?), so make do with a talkthrough:

  1. Lay the catastrophe on the floor, front side up.  Make sure nothing is tangled (HA)
  2. Sit yourself down smack-bang in the middle.  Shimmy thy legs under the bit that will cross over just below your stomach in the end.
  3. Then get each leg down into the leg loops until your feet are at the bottom.  Make sure nothing’s twisted again.  If something is twisted, swear at it for a while until it goes away.
  4. Do up the thigh straps.  Adjust the crap out of all leg bits so that everything sits where it should.
  5. AWESOME FUN TIP: Put on some socks now!  It’ll keep the foot loops from leaping off your feet when you stand up, and stop them squeaking like you’re walking through a rubber ducky warehouse in stilettos when you put your boots on.  My socks have cats on them.
  6. Grab hold of the back pad over your shoulder and stand up.
  7. Squiggle all the straps up over your bum at the back.
  8. Pop your arms through the arm-holes at the top and shimmy the top half on without throwing your neck out.  If you can’t turn your head after, time to swear some more and then call the physio.  Make sure those straps aren’t twisted first though.  See earlier swearing comment.
  9. Do up the sternum strap.  If you are a boob-owner and need to move yours out of the way, do that now too.  If you just have massive pecs like Captain America I can offer you little advice except good on you for having them, and can you do that thing where they pop individually?  That’s hilarious.
  10. The ends of the straps that come from the back button on around the front ones (because I found if I sewed them down I couldn’t get my hips through it.  Your mileage may vary if yours don’t prompt strange older women to compliment you creepily on your physiological suitability for childbirth.)
  11. Now’s when I add the belt over the top.  I’m about to tell you about the skirt too. If you’re still reading that is. If you’re not then I guess I can call you a spleeny bat-fowling scut and you’ll be none the wiser. Thankyou Shakespearean Insult Generator…

The skirt thing was a lightly shaped arc thing with holes for the belt loops so I could still put the belt through them.  It tied on to the belt loops with little ribbons (aww).  It goes on after stage 10, and there are slits for the belt loops of the jeans to go through so that the belt can still be threaded through them.  Then the ribbons are tied on to whichever strap is closest.

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It’s pretty hard to see in these photos.  Sorry.  The areas of shaping and the edges were folded over and topstitched, and this is where the teflon foot came (vaguely) in handy.  Vaguely because it was only a bit better than the metal foot, but on seams in the middle of a piece of pleather the paper method gets a whole lot harder.

The bit that really made sticking hot forks in one’s eyes sound like fun was the boot covers.  I loosely followed this boot cover tutorial, mostly because I didn’t want to have to destroy any of my shoes and I didn’t want to buy any new ones to cover.  First I was going to cover a set of riding boots that I can be seen wearing in most of the above photos, but the problem is I have scrawny wee calves, so the boots aren’t fitted.  So the first one looked completely wrong and the top flaps were more flops.  So I re-drafted them to go over a pair of ankle boots and then fit directly to the leg.  Much better from a fit perspective, but such a nightmare from a topstitching perspective.  And the teflon foot did a very half-arsed job. Then when I thought I was out of the woods, the top flaps were still disappointingly floppy (yes, I’m being dirty, you love it) because the pleather was quite soft, even after being interfaced with heavy linen.  So I went with my usual sewing panacea of using twill tape to create a bone casing and putting a cable tie in it.  That appeared to help.

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The other inaccuracy was that the cords on the AoT boots are brown.  But I had green rat tail left from when I butchered the green soprano gown (the gown as it was, and as it is now and ever shall be).  So I have green cords on my boots.  Shh.

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You can’t really tell, right?

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So that’s a wrap really!  I’ll make a cloak at some point to add to it, but I’ll wait for the perfect green wool so that it’ll be warm and rain-repellent and heavy and gorgeous. In the meantime, have some more pictures of me and my friend having fun outside the movies in our costumes!  I may have taken to photoshop and done a Who Framed Roger Rabbit on two of them… couldn’t resist.

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Two Hanges are better than one.

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Levi’s kicking himself he picked the berry paddle-pop when he could have had dulce de leche but didn’t want to look like he was copying Hange 2.

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Eren’s wondering if the Hanges would catch him if he tried to escape.

OH!  And if you haven’t already done so, check out the Society 6 store I just got!  I do way more art than just photoshop characters into silly photos, and you can get it on a mug or a phone case.  It’s pretty awesome. 🙂

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.

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.

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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.

A Sojurn in Toontown with Alexander the Great

And here we go with the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? references.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go and watch it this instant.  It’s the best.

However it’s not Roger that’s inspired me back to my (old) tooning ways, but Hark, a Vagrant, which is also the best, and is even better if you’re a massive history nerd.  Now back in the day, I took Ancient History in high school, and spent most of the time up the back with my two other Ancient floozies, drawing reams and reams of cartoons.  Mostly of our diminutive Canadian teacher getting eaten by mooses (Meese?  Moosi?  What the sam hill is the plural of moose?!), but also of Alexander the Great, who is such a card.  Seriously, he got so drunk at a party at Persepolis that he BURNED THE PALACE DOWN.  So I started a series of cartoons entitled “Alexander the Not Great”, wherein he tries his hand at many things and discovers he’s not great at anything other than hitting stuff with swords.  The older ones are on the Book of Face (I might transfer them over here one day), but here are my fresh batch!  Straight out of the oven, by which I mean my brain.   Enjoy!

*I am aware that probably only my Nixon people will really get the Alexander the Not Great at Opera one.

**I apologise for the poor scan quality.

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Does My Bum Look Big in these Alligators?

Please excuse me if this post is effusive and/or ebullient.  I just had chocolate and then dumplings with my dear friends Death and Brave Sir R-. I am full of chocolate and good-quality dumplings and pleasant company.  I AM EBULLIENCE ITSELF.

I finished my geeky 18th Century garters on the 3rd.  What a massive coincidence that the day after was May the 4th.  As in May the 4th be with you, as in May the FORCE be with you, as in International Star Wars Day.  I had to explain that multiple times to various perplexed people down at my opera company yesterday.  Verdict: geeky opera singers are not as common as I might have bet, or I have spent way too much time hanging around with composers.  Oh well.  I guess this is an opportunity to remind myself how blessed I was to have an adolescence saturated in the glory of multiple forms of geekery, Star Wars being prominent amongst them.  Here, by the way, are my finished garters:

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If Obi-Wan was into Georgian period cross-dressing, these are what he would wear.

So in a continued vein of geekery meets Georgian-ery, I’ve started another accessory that will be essential in achieving a plausibly Georgian shape when I *finally* get around to finishing my stays and making this fabled robe a l’Anglaise.   Everybody who’s anybody references this amusing cartoon:

Lewis Walpole Library Bum ShoppeThe Bum Shop, from the Lewis Walpole Library.  (On their website you can zoom)

Yes, when a lady of the 1780’s asks you ‘does my bum look big in this’, the right answer is ‘does it ever.’  In the cartoon, they’re selling ‘rumps’, ‘bum-rolls’, ‘false bums’, or whatever you want to call them (‘posterior petticoat-plumping pillows?’, ‘arse-augmenters?’, ‘decoy derrieres?’) in order to give their patrons the fashionable bootylicious shape.  I saw a couple of other funny cartoons about the fashionable shape on my travels through the blogosphere…

Lewis Walpole Library Back BitersThose are small, Paris-Hiltony dogs sitting on the ladies’ bums.  Back when it was the magnitude of your bum that mattered, not your tote bag.

Lewis Walpole Library Bum BailiffThe caption reads: ‘The Bum Bailiff outwitted, or, the convenience of fashion.’  Notice the lady making her escape.

Again, the zoomable versions of both of those are in the Lewis Walpole Library.  Type ‘bum’ into the search box and you’ll find them.  It’s very satisfying to use a Yale library search engine to search for ‘bum’.  Try it, and tell me it’s not titillating.  Great word that.  Titillating.  Oh God I had way too much chocolate today…

Back to the bum.  There appear to be many varieties of bum in the shop picture, so I went with a crescent-y shape, like you can see at the bottom (HA) left hanging on the wall.  I didn’t have a lot of calico left (what do we make of a seamstress who routinely uses up her stash?  Sacrilege!), so I had to piece it, but I tried to piece it in the sort of segmenty-pumpkin way that they appear to have quilted their bums, so that I’d have a good guide to sew down later if I needed to.

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My one remaining piece of calico.  Cue Mulan music: “This is what you give me to work with?  Well honey, I’ve seen worse!  We are going to turn this sow’s ear, into a-“.

A bum.  That’s what we’re turning it into.

I also made the top bigger around the outside edge than the bottom, so it’ll puff more and sit more like a bum than a plate.  I have no idea if this is period or not, but hey, I’m embroidering it with alligators, and I’m pretty sure that’s not period.  That whole thing about enjoying being an amateur again.

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Exhibit A: gator.  His eye is a teeny tiny sequin.  (Also, wow, I matched the grain lines at the seam!  TOTAL FLUKE FOR THE WIN!!!)

The gator is part of a larger pattern that references the decadently violent Anita Blake series.   When Anita has multiple preternatural nasties out to kill her, she likes to say that she’s ‘ass deep in alligators’.  Seeing as this is a fake ass I’m making, I figured it was a priceless opportunity to use that gem of a quote (well, I’m normally arse deep in scores, not alligators, but gators are more fun to embroider and I still have oodles of yummy emerald green silk thread left over from my green soprano gown (which I’m thinking of putting through a refashion… but more on that another time)).

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It’s not done yet.  It’ll have two knives crossing at the front and another gator, and possibly some skulls for good measure.

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I’m particularly proud of the roses.

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Illustrating the probably-not-period pattern.  The upper layer will get pleated into this smaller layer.

I’m happy to say the whole thing is hand-sewn so far, and I’ll keep going like that.  It’s very nearly as quick, and it’ll be easier in the awkward curvy bits.  I’m getting pretty fast at hand-sewing.  Well. Fast for me at any rate.

I’ll stuff it with scraps (because I have a massive bag of scraps) and attach it to some twill tape.  I went to Clegs (ooh Clegs) and got loads of it.  I never realised how cheap it was, but despite its cheapness they don’t seem to sell it at Lincraft (grrr, Lincraft).  The problem is that I like the staff at my Lincraft; they’re all friendly and pleasant and the Clegs staff are all snooty and have the temerity to ask you whether you’ve made a toile yet when you’re buying fabric.  DO YOU MEAN THERE’S A COMPULSORY ORDER I HAVE TO DO THINGS IN???  Are you going to sneak round to my house and check that yes, there’s a toile pinned to my crappy home-made dressform before you’ll sell anything to me?  Hell, they should be glad they’ve never met my Gran.  To her, toile only means Toile du Juoy.  Rant over.  Then once I’m finished my bum all I have to do is finish my stays, whip up some petticoats and Bob’s your Uncle, I can (cue drum-roll) pattern a robe!  FUN.

Dido the Dressform Gets a Boob Job

I’ve decided to keep Dido.  I found a nasty memory foam pillow from IKEA that my Mum got one time she was visiting because she has a bad neck and had forgotten her normal pillow, and then left it behind because it was no good.  It’s perfect stuffing for Dido though, because it naturally wants to spring back into a rectangular shape, so it holds the cover in a flatter-front-to-back-than-side-to-side shape that’s a closer match to me, and it’s really good to stick pins in.  I added some extra, stiffer padding in the shoulders in the form of wadded-up cotton remnants (and I think I’ll add more), but she was still somehow lacking.  Behold:

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Dido stuffed with a memory-foam pillow.

She was actually more flat-chested than I am.  I didn’t think it was possible, but there you go.  So I stuffed a natty old pair of socks with some old shredded-up linen:

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Dido’s boobies.

She looks way better now, and finally we have matching bust measurements! After I’ve re-stuffed her shoulders, I’ll sew down the tucks I’ve made in the cover to keep them in the correct spot.

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Post-op Dido.  It’s not a massive difference, but at least she looks like a girl now.

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Tucks to lift and separate.  Mostly separate.

I also decided to jump the gun and decorate her a bit.  She has a bow on top, a ribbon to mark the waistline and some fairly hideous nylon lace around the bottom to hide the stripy shirting I’ve used to keep the pillow in the bottom.  It’s all only pinned on at the moment, because I still have some padding to do.  But she looks very pretty and might even turn out to be functional!

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So pretty!

She’s already been really helpful in making some much-needed adjustments to the toile of my stays. I tried them on again this afternoon after pinning out all the bits that needed pinning out on Dido rather than having to sit and measure and measure again, and I didn’t take any photos because they were effective to the point of indecency.  I have instead done a small cartoon:

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It’s a bit hard to read.  Sorry.