Something Fishy About Them Florals

It should be a familiar story at this point.  I see a garment online/in a store/on Man Repeller.  It’s beautiful.  I want to be the sort of person who wears whatever that is.  But HOLY FUDGING SKIT-BALLS BATMAN IS THAT THE PRICE??!!  HAHAHAHAHA!  NOPE.  Cannot afford.  Nooooooo.

This time, the garment in question was a little sun-dress from The Reformation.  Now I am usually vehemently Not A Dress Person.  I often have places to be via foot or bus or train with multiple bags of bricks to carry (you know how heavy bags sneakily make your dress ride up at the back until everyone on the train platform gets some accidental fan-service?).   I also hate being the person clutching their skirt with grim determination in a 24 knot gust, wishing they had more hands to hold the damn thing down.  The rest of the time I hate how I suddenly look 12, or I associate dresses with auditions and get jumpy, or they just feel… unfinished.  But this time…. ?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s the slightly grungy insouciance with which they’ve styled their models?  Maybe it’s the fact that they were wearing white Converses and I too (I know, surprising!) own a (very scuffed) pair of (used to be) white Converses.  Maybe it’s how El Niño took so long to bugger off that Sydney was still 20+ degrees in the middle of freaking May. Maybe I’ve been watching too much anime and have been coming to terms with the fact that looking cute is, well, cute.  Whatever it was, a cute little mini-sundress suddenly looked a lot more appealing than its ilk has in years.

Sadly I can’t say my take on it is as environmentally sound as The Reformation’s.  My fabric is a synthetic (viscose/rayon, I think?) from Darn Cheap Fabrics which created God-knows-how-much carbon dioxide and waste water (and also I’ve heard rayon’s very bad for you long-term), but they let you order online now and they often have a good range of unusual prints.  I know.  Synthetic.  I hate it.  But it’s the only way I’m not going to be precious about it and actually wear it in casual situations. The best thing about it is the print.  It looks like a floral from a distance, but get up close and:

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THEY AREN’T FLOWERS AT ALL! (APART FROM THE BITS THAT ARE)  THEY’RE GOLDFISH!

So down to the nitty.  While I wanted my dress to look close to the original, there were also a few things I wanted to change.

  1. I wanted a slightly more flared skirt because a true quarter circle skirt (as I suspect theirs is close to, just cut in panels) ends up needing shaping to fit both my hips and my waist, and I’d rather flare the skirt more than have to shape it at the top.  I ended up taking the pattern from the horsey mini and adding flare.
  2.  Pockets.  One of the things I hate about dresses is automatically going to hook your hand into a pocket and then realising with great sadness, after pawing in at the side of your hip for five minutes, that there are no pockets.  And then where do you put your hands?  Because it’s awkward now. You fold your arms.  You unfold them.  You put your hands on your hips, but that’s wrong too. Pretty soon you’d give your kingdom for a pocket.

Mostly it was trouble-free to pattern and put together.  Apart from the bit where I need to re-do the back of my bodice block because it’s always a bit tight across the shoulders, and in my attempt to correct this on the fly I introduced about 2cm too much excess fullness across the bust which needed to be taken out at the end.  Fortunately I’d included a CF seam, and strangely enough my shape likes a bit of CF seam shaping.  The sleeves were a total fluke, patterned from my French sleeve block, but again with extra fullness added into the top on the fly.  The innards are all finished with pinking shears, because this stuff doesn’t seem to fray easily (win!).

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I apologise for the blurriness of that photo.  I dropped my phone shortly after I took the other photos and the camera is no longer what it was.  But you can see all the adjustments I ended up making to the basic pattern in all the taped-in bits of tissue paper, as well as the tiny fold I ended up taking out of the back because I still can’t seem to get the fit right. Damn my prominent shoulder-blades.

And next up in What Strange Hemming Method Will She Try Now? is tying 18th Century costume garters around your legs and pinning your hem to match them.  I didn’t take a photo because I was too frustrated at the time.  The manga-stack method I used for my PANTS gets a bit unwieldily once you get above the knee.

Then it was just stick-an-invisible-zip-in-the-back time, and done!

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And behold!  It pairs well with gold Supergas and over-the-knee socks in my opinion.  And stupid poses.Photo on 26-05-2016 at 2.37 PM

The setting of the zip could be better, but I only have a normal zipper foot, so all things considered it’s pretty good.  You can’t tell in a blurry photo anyway so why am I even telling you?  Geez Belinda, shut up!

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And tbh who even cares about zip setting when there are pockets and goldfish, and the fit is good.  Honestly I put on a RTW skirt this morning and almost died at how appallingly it fit, so I think next up will be making some more skirts.  Maybe.  You know how scatty I am.

Robe a la Revamp

The robe a l’Anglaise strikes again.  One of my housemates loves costume parties, and decided to have a 1980s movie themed birthday party.  I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to make a whole new costume, so I decided it was a good opportunity to fix up the robe a l’Anglaise (shh.  Amadeus was made in the 1980s.  Terrible, terrible costumes.  But shh.  This totally counts).  I was never really happy with the skirt the first time, and it needed a bit of trim, which I’d mostly done earlier, but needed an excuse to finish.

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The trim was just strips cut out with pinking shears and then pleated prickstitched to the sleeves and neckline.  I only had one cuff left to do, so that was easy.  It was pretty crumpled from being in the bottom of the sewing chest for so long though, so I steamed it as well, using a pair of chopsticks to zhoosh it out while I was steaming.  Don’t hurt yourself with steam, kids.

I was kind of dreading re-doing the skirt in a faint pit-of-the-stomach, this-should-be-easy-but-god-I-hate-it way that’s normally reserved for filing my tax return.  The original problems were that it wasn’t long enough at the back, and the pleating was meh.

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You can see a good 6 inches of petticoat at the back in that picture.

Weirdly enough, the solution wasn’t that hard.  The skirt had been made of two rectangles sewn together selvage to selvage originally, but I HAD left them longer at the back… I’d just been a dill and sewn the wrong selvages together.  The short ones.  The ones that were meant to go at the front edges. So I took it off the bodice, unpicked the CB seam and re-did it on the right edges.  Problem solved.

I then decided that seeing I’d been such a grownup and done my tax properly the last couple of years, how hard could re-attaching the skirt properly be?  I just needed to approach it with a strategy for a change.

The strategy, for all ye who struggle attaching skirts to quarterback-style Anglaises is that I measured how far around the bodice I wanted it to go, then measured that length on the ironing board, putting pins at the ends and at the half and quarter-way marks.  Then I divided the skirt in halves and quarters and pinned it to the ironing board where the marker pins were.  Then I knife-pleated it until it fit and basted the pleats in place.  Then I just backstitched it to the bottom edge of the bodice.  The back point isn’t as pointy as last time, but the whole thing just sits better.

Finished product:

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Who’s your favourite 18th century babe?

Also, behold my mad hedgehog skillz!  It partially works because my hair is very layered at the moment, but also because period curling techniques work really really well.  And all you need is some tissue paper and a hair straightener.  I didn’t even use curling product this time and it still worked.  Then brush it out with a bristle brush, tease the crapola out of all of it except the long curls at the bottom, hairspray till you can’t breathe, and boom, you have a hedgehog.

I don’t think I’ll be wearing this dress again though, unless I let it out a bit.  I’ve gained some muscle in my new job.  Not much, but enough that I should be wearing the stays looser, but the l’Anglaise doesn’t close unless they’re done up all the way.  So it wasn’t very comfy, and on top of the fact that I was super tired already and loathe late nights, I spent half the party napping on a chair in the corner.

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Who’s the life of the party?  Not me.

PANTS

Sure, I’ve been doing a bit of sewing over the summer and never got around to blogging about any of it.  So what’s dragged me out of the non-blogging stupor?

PANTS.  In capital letters because they’re not just pants, they’re PANTS.  HUGE PANTS.

Long story short, I finally got around to drafting a pants pattern just before I moved out of the share house in Melbourne, and I tested it by making a pair of shorts for me (which are ok but not mind-blowing), and a pair of pyjama shorts for my sister, which have the best stripe matching since the beginning of time.  Which sadly I can’t show you, because I can’t for the life of me find the photo.  You’ll just have to believe me.  The stripe-matching was mind-blowing.  EVERY SEAM.  EVERY STRIPE.

Photo on 9-04-2016 at 1.27 PMForgive these shorts for they are not ironed. 

The main flaw in the more boring, less stripy test-pants was that the proportions are off by a smidge.  So they’re kind of tight in the hips but saggy in the butt.  I think this is because the standard figure for which the block is meant to be is more of a usual shape with a more pronounced butt and less pronounced hips, whereas I don’t really have a butt, but I’ve got hips for days.

Then I moved up to my parent’s for a month, and I made another pair of shorts (or short culottes really), which again aren’t mind-blowing, but I was working with remnant fabric so I didn’t exactly have room to play around a lot.  I also sewed my first fly-front, using mostly this tutorial, and it was vastly easier than I expected.

Photo on 9-04-2016 at 1.26 PMSlightly disappointed by those shorts (though now I have no idea why because they’re actually super cute), I then made a shirt out of super-gauzy grey checked cotton with a pussy-bow instead of a collar, because by this point I’m just enjoying farting around with the shirt pattern and seeing how far I can push it.

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How much bow is too much?  Am I bowverdoing it? Geddit? … ?

After that I started working at OA for the schools company, and I’ve pretty much lived in activewear for the past two or three months, and had very little reason to sew anything.

But then I saw a pair of pants in COS, and they were green wool, high-waisted and super wide-leg, like palazzo pants and flares went and had a baby together.  These weren’t pants, they were PANTS.  And even though I didn’t think I needed giant pants before, suddenly there was a gaping hole in my wardrobe that only PANTS could fill.  They’d be Going Out PANTS, Family Occasion PANTS, even maybe Audition PANTS in the right circumstances.  They’d magically look put-together and insouciant at the same time.   They’d trick people into thinking they were a skirt and then BAM I’d take a stride and they would shockingly reveal that they are actually PANTS.  They’d be massively comfy and make up for the fact that I’d probably only want to wear them with stilettos.

But they didn’t have them in my size anywhere.

So I got my pants block, went through the motions of adjusting it for extra fullness as suggested in the Fashion Supplement at the back of More Dress Pattern Designing, and then slashed up to the darts, closed them off and taped in a heap of extra fullness at the bottom.  I won’t deny that looking at the pattern freaked me out a bit.  They could so easily turn into Circus PANTS, which I didn’t want.  Especially seeing the soft wool twill I got was a bit expensive, and they were going to use A LOT of it.

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As in really A LOT of it.

But they went together really easily.  I just used pinking shears so I didn’t have to finish anything, I popped in a side zip and then I hemmed them using a method called Stack Two Books on the Floor and Try and Pin the Hem Up So It Sits Level With the Top of the Books While Checking in the Mirror and Then Swear A Lot When It’s Fiddly and Time Consuming and I Wish Emily Was Here to Help Me But Now We Live Interstate and URGH.

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Manga isn’t just entertaining, it’s useful.

The hem itself was originally going to be a micro-hem, but then I decided a folded-up-twice hem would make it sit better.

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Surprisingly neat, all things considered.

And now I have PANTS.

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They’re stealthy.  You think they’re a skirt, but no!

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They are in fact PANTS!

Photo on 9-04-2016 at 1.24 PMWhat’s huge and dark green and coming to get you?  PANTS

I highly recommend them.  Make yourself some PANTS.

 

Wigging Out

 

Allow me to start by apologising for the postage drought, I was moving house.  I’ve got such a backlog to blog about though.  I’ll start with the exciting thing, so loo breaks now guys, this is a long one.

My Satsuki cosplay wig arrived in the mail! I was pretty concerned when I was vacillating between options on Aliexpress, not sure which shops were treasure troves of soft, silky, Pantene ad hairflick-worthiness and which were quagmires of manky plastic head-tumbleweeds, but fortunately the gamble paid off and the one I picked belonged to the former category. They all appear to use the same stock photos. It truly is a gamble.

I will now reveal the way that I was taught to put on a wig properly at my very first professional operatic engagement. I presume most cosplayers do it similarly.

You’ll need bobby pins, those wide V-shaped pins, and a stocking cap (basically get a pair of stockings you don’t like and cut the legs off.). Though a hair net would probably do, a stocking cap is better because, unlike hairnets, stockings spend a lot of their time holding people’s stomachs in for them so they can definitely handle holding your hair flat to your head and securely out of the way for a three hour opera (or a convention).

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My hair and its mortal enemy prepare to face off in an epic battle…

So first you’re going to flatten your hair out of the way. My hair has grown a lot since 2013 and I’m light on bobby pins right now, so instead of dividing it into sections and pin curling it flat like I was taught, I braided it into pigtails and pinned them flat in loops at the back of my head. Like a pretzel.  Or Princess Leia on a lazy day.

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If you have the pins, do pin curls though.  Seriously.  It’ll look better than this.

Next you’ll get your stocking cap and put it around your neck. drag it up around your hairline, making sure you tuck in all the fly-aways.

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Then you’ll fold the ends of the cap in nice and tight and pin them in place with those wide pins.

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TRIUMPH!

Now get your wig and carefully pop it on over the top. Zhoozh it out a bit and then if it’s a heavy wig you can even use more of those wide pins to secure it in place under the top layers of hair. Pin through the stocking cap and into the pin curls/braids and that thing will not move.

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Seeing this is the first time I’ve cut a wig, I looked up a heap of tutorials.  It appeared to be a 50-50 between people who prefer to cut while the wig is on a styrofoam head and people who prefer to wear the wig while they cut.  I chose the latter, as I figured it’d be easier to get the length and shape right around my own face, and with the stocking cap on firmly it’d be pretty hard to accidentally cut my own hair.  The downside to doing it this way is that occasionally you will flick little ends of cut hair into your eyes, which is a billion times worse than getting real hair in your eye.

Most of the tutorials advocated holding the scissors vertically, which I did for all but one step (getting rid of super excess length).  One of them also suggested that for doing the fringe it helped to split it in half and do half a at a time.  Given this was what the fringe looked like beforehand, I heartily endorse this strategy:

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Cousin It Senpai

So I popped a plastic bag in the sink, split the fringe in half and cut away the bulk of that side to just below eye level with the scissors horizontal.  Then I turned the scissors vertically and started to neaten it up a bit, curving it up towards the temple.  Satsuki’s fringe is longer in the middle and curves up at the sides.  I clipped the rest of the hair back to avoid accidentally getting any.

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Once one side was done, I did the other to match, using a bit of hairspray to keep everything in place.  Then I separated out the two shorter locks which come over her shoulders and cut them off at chest height.  I’ll go back in there once more to round off the pointiness of the front, but it’s pretty much done.

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I’m super pleased with the colour though, and with how long and silky it is. But the sink looked like I’d shaved Cookie Monster in it.

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For shame.

The costume is still mostly but not completely finished.  I finally sewed the boards down, but have yet to stick a hook and eye in the front of the collar or fix up the scarf ties.  I haven’t made a sword or hair clips yet either.  And I need to do some serious work on the boots to stop them falling down so much.  But apart from that, behold!

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The wig is super long too:

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And once I had the wig and my face on, I couldn’t help taking dumb selfies, as one does.

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Ryuko, I am shocked.

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Naaaahhhhhh!!!!

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My tea is cold!

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What evil plot…?

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Srsly Ryuko one more word

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Resting Bitch Face.

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Notice me senpai!

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Blue Steel.

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The Ultra-Frown

Behold the Field Where I Grow All The Things I Have Finished!

Lay thine eyes upon it and thou shalt see that it is full of finished things!

I’ve been super good recently and finished a bunch of things before I start other things.  Aren’t you proud of me?  So far I have:

Made a slightly rude cushion for a housewarming present.

Made another dragon plushie for my friend’s sproglet’s birthday.

Finished fixing the badges on my Attack on Titan jacket.

Finished that blue ruffly shirt even though my sewing machine reeeeally didn’t want to.

And I am a whole two steps closer to being finished the Junketsu!

But for now, allow me to focus on the rude cushion.  I’ll post about the other things another time. Everyone’s come across the Bayeux Tapestry memes, yes?field of fucks

A shining example of how gloriously pertinent a meme can be.

I have an aunt who had recently moved, and who I was sure would appreciate said meme.  I also found that embroidery hoops are surprisingly cheap.  So I got about a metre of canvas, a cushion insert, a zip, four tassels, a couple of skeins of embroidery cotton, and went for it.  First I drew up a square 35cm x 35cm to match the cushion insert, and then using a mechanical pencil I copied some selected design elements directly onto the canvas.  I figured I was sewing over the pencil anyhow.  I chose the little man in the pale kirtle (is that a kirtle?)in the foreground, and the words, because I didn’t want to get in too far over my head.

I used backstitch for the words and outlines, and satin stitch (without the outlining or padstitching) for the fill colours on the little dude.  The dots and full stops were done with a french knot (I didn’t bother swapping needles).

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The little dude with the field.

When I was done with the embroidery, I put the cushion together using the Dreamstress’s foolproof tutorial.  I lightly basted the tassels into the corners before I sewed the front and back of the cushion together.  All in all, a surprisingly fun thing to make (especially seeing embroidery combines well with sitting up in bed and watching an entire season of Nisekoi).  And much appreciated.

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Pre-sewing

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Post-sewing up, with tassels.

I apologise for the poor lighting in that photo.  The light in my room’s been broken forever and seeing I’m moving in about a month, it’ll be easier to install a new one when the room is devoid of furniture.

Stay tuned for a lightning-quick dodgy guide to how to make the most darn-tootin’ adorable, 100% sproglet-approved dragon plushie, which I promise I will upload soon and not in like a year.

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. 🙂

Back in the (Shirt/Cosplay) Game

I think I’m finally getting the hang of this whole sewing by machine thing (I know, it’s taken me long enough, right?). In all seriousness though, the past month and a bit has seen me get the hang of shirts.  Shirts!  That staple of my wardrobe that I never thought I’d master.  Now I see shirts in shop windows/on the internet/on actual people and, given I have the right fabric, buttons to hand and about 5 hours, I can make them mine for half or a third of the price.  It’s scarily addictive.

It’s also fun toying with the pattern I’m using (which is pretty frumpy), to see what different results I can get and what makes a shirt look fresh.

Stage one of the pattern-fernangling produced this:

DSC_1093Ignore the wrinkles.

Ie: a navy cotton voile shirt (leftovers from the Bombshells dresses) with contrast cuffs and under collar.  I followed the pattern pretty closely.  I just removed the waist darts and shaved an edge off the cuffs so they weren’t all pointy.  All in all it’s not bad, but I still feel vaguely like a basic soccer mum when I wear it, which isn’t how I want to feel.  In retrospect the recommended distance between the buttons is too far, the collar shape’s still a bit off, curved side seams are stupid and the cuff slits shouldn’t be faced in a heavy fabric.  I’ve learned my lesson.

DSC_1094Not that you can really tell.  But I know.

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Business on top, party underneath.

Using a heavier fabric for the undercollar and outer collar stand was a good plan though, because screw interfacing.

The next experiment was conducted in leftovers from the zodiac dress (which btw I never wear).  I added a 4cm box pleat to the back for added squareness, shaved a bit of the pointiness off the collar, and put the buttons closer together.  I didn’t have enough fabric for full sleeves, so I did half sleeves, rejoicing at how it also meant that I didn’t have to wrangle cuff slits again.

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The angle of the collar is slightly wider and less ’70s.

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Shell buttons are what I had.  Forgive the wrinkles, I wore it yesterday.

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Trust me the sleeves look slim-cut on.

I couldn’t be bothered putting it on to take a photo, it’s freezing here.

Emboldened, I have embarked upon the foolish venture of cosplay once again.  Not 18th Century this time though.  because when do I ever do the same thing twice? I had to go to the completely opposite end of the spectrum:

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The only character with resting bitch face better than mine and eyebrows better than Cara Delevigne, Satsuki Kiryuin from the decadently OTT anime Kill la Kill.  I really love the design of Junketsu, her uniform.  It’s got a great balance of elements and influences, and just enough patterning challenges without requiring too much engineering or working with awful stretch fabrics (which as I have mentioned before are the spawn of Bealzebub).  Because it’s got a very stiff military aesthetic, I got a mid weight cotton twill, which has got a similar hand to the fabric used in naval dress uniforms, even though it’s a little thicker.  I didn’t want to fiddle around too much with lining, so it had to be thick enough that it’s opaque.

Pattern wise I started off with a plain ol’ princess bodice and worked from there.  Behold my illegible plan:

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Most of the vertical seams will be hidden by the gold detailing, which is important because this fabric shows its seams no matter how crisp it’s pressed.  Bearing this in mind, I wanted to keep that really smooth effect at the front where it appears as though there isn’t a waist seam and the pleats flow directly out of the front panel.  Solution: godets.  Only, I pressed mine into pleats.

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I think we should call them pizza-pleats.

The little square pieces added at the sides are because I overestimated my bodice length.  Of course I didn’t test it with a toile, this is seat-of-the-pants stuff as usual.  Then I added on the side and back panels.  (The skirt side panels will be pleated and pieced in separately, so yeah they’ll have a waist seam. Shh.)    Fitting it, I’ve realised that I need to take it in a bit under the arms and cut the armscyes out more at the back because I have what Natalie Bray refers to in Dress Pattern Designing as ‘especially erect posture’, as well as square, prominent shoulders. The sleeves will be from my shirt pattern, because they work and have enough ease for the elbow-crinkle she’s got going on, and the collar will be a separate piece and I’ll snap it on or something.  This is the stage it’s at now:

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Excuse the pyjamas.

Should have mentioned as well, an extra bra with some socks in it is lending me some aid.  Satsuki-sama (like the rest of woman-kind, let’s face it) is a couple of sizes up from me.

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I think I keep up in the resting bitch face department though.

Dang, you can see the wrinkles that my posture causes though.  Should have twigged ages ago when the pattern book said its recommended armscye shaping was for the ‘slightly rounded posture of today’ (by which they mean, like, the ’60s).  My back’s more like a board.

Next step, skirt side-panel wrangling, sleeves, collars and cuffs.  And then I can get to do the detailing, order an enormous wig and a fake katana, and work out how the hell I’m going to do those boots.  Other cosplayers before me have used stretch PVC over a boot or shoe, and held the resulting boot-stocking/leg-glove up with Hollywood tape.  The thought of my cantankerous Janome encountering stretch PVC makes me shudder.  It’s bound to be exciting.

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.

ikat cami

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.

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.

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.