hsifeng: (Ladies Sewing Circle)
So what did we accomplish as a group?

Mucha Maidens - Gala Project - CoCo 2013
The Whole Canvas

Claudia, Vivienne, & Kris - Mucha Maidens Gala Project - CoCo 2013
[livejournal.com profile] claughter713, her adorbs daughter V, and our dearest K

Cathy, Scotty, & Tonda - Mucha Maidens Gala Project - CoCo 2013
[livejournal.com profile] harmanhay, our gentleman S (as Alphonse Mucha), and beloved T

Marion, Michelle, & Carol - Mucha Maidens Gala Project - CoCo 2013
[livejournal.com profile] mmcnealy, the fabulous M, and amazing C

Laura & I  - Mucha Maidens Gala Project - CoCo 2013
[livejournal.com profile] ladykalessia and myself

Cybil, Kim and I  - Mucha Maidens Gala Project - CoCo 2013
My niece C, my sister K, and myself - the fact that my family got to do this with me is PRICELESS to my soul

What can I say? This group of women is amazing. And I mean that in every sense of the word.


[uh-mey-zing] Show IPA
causing great surprise or sudden wonder.

Every time I turned around, both in the production of these costumes and during the course of CoCo 2013, this group worked together to produce both brilliant costumes and a loving and supportive experience at the event. I am truly in awe of the fact that we've all found each other.

Don't plan on going anywhere ladies. You're mine.


Tonda Sums It Up
T Sums It Up

PS: Bonus, Sunday Undies - wherein not all members of the group had recovered enough to be present at at time conducive to a 'brunch' event...  ;)

Kris, Laura, myself and Cathy - Sunday Undies, CoCo 2013
In All Our Fluffy, Under-slept Glory
hsifeng: (Ladies Sewing Circle)
We all sew in here, right? That means you all know how it is with us – our own projects always come in dead last when it comes to prioritization on a timeline. Same story here.  Now that my niece and sister were solidly on their way to finished dresses, I had to start my own.

And I was stumped.

Let me clarify; I knew how I wanted to put the dress together and how to get it done. The problems were:

1)      I had *too many* ways that I could proceed – nothing like choices to slow you down;
2)      I was pretty sure the best way involved a whole lot of things I have never done before…

As with all projects, I spent a lot of this time pondering my stash of freshly purchased fabric. I am actually very proud of my selections, especially in light of the All Purple, All The Time palette from my inspiration image. I managed to find a range that looked good together and got pretty close to the original colors/textures of the piece. Woo hoo!

Fabrics for the CoCo 2013 Mucha Project - Bieres de la Meuse Original Inspiration
The Palette (from L to R): Main Dress, Narrow Sash, Shawl

Then I spent another few days messing about with my accessory pieces. I started with the ‘fabric pauldron’ support structure you see on the left shoulder of the inspiration image. My sneaking suspicion is that Alphonse added this bit as an artistic whimsy (“Her shoulder would look so much better with a huge flying buttress of material…”), but since it was in the piece I had to try and make it work in my real-world dress.

Flying Fortress of Fabric

I started my process by strapping Eloise (my dressmakers dummy[i], a gift from [livejournal.com profile] claughter713) into my intended support garment. I knew I was probably going to end up draping the dress in the long run (although I feared the results) so I traced the shape of the Merry Widow onto Eloise’s form; this way I would be able to determine if my draping was going to cover the undergarment, even if the undergarment wasn’t on the form at the time of the draping. BTW - This was done with one of my favorite sewing accessory EVAH…

Not Your Grandma's Tailors Chalk
Click On The Pic To Get Your Own - I am not the only one who loves them.

Eloise - Chalked And Ready To Go

First, I made a paper mockup of the general shape I thought would work for the pauldron which I pinned to Eloise’s shoulder, making sure to overlap the line of the undergarment[ii] . This also gave me a chance to check the 'angle' of the pauldron's wear - not too sharp or droopy a line from my own shoulder.

Paper Pauldron

I checked the result from all angles, trimmed and shaped it a bit, and then cut two layers of my craft felt[iii] base, and an additional 'edging piece' of the same felt that matched the outer curve of the pauldron. Using my machine I sewed all the layers together along all edges, on the outer edge I sewed a number of channels, spaced approx. 3/8 of an inch apart. Between this stitching and placing a section of featherweight boning in the outermost channel, I achieved the level of firmness in the shape that I needed.

Not as effective at taking down small prey as I would like.
Weirdest fabric boomerang ever...

I then cut a cover from my fashion fabric using the same paper pattern and covered the whole shape, handsewing the final seam. Now I could work on placing my dress fabric over a support structure that looked (essentially) like another bit of draped fabric.

Easy Smeeshesy Items

Next up were the sash and the shawl. The making of both is pretty easy, so let’s skip on to the next project.

Miles of Silk Intestine One Seam Is All You Get!

The Medallion Belt

Early on in the project (like, back in April) claughter713 and I scoured the interwebz looking for a source offering oval belt buckle blanks for a price that was almost reasonable. What we discovered was that a wholesale license was going to be needed in order to get the quantity necessary for less than an arm-and-a-leg. Then I remembered, I *know* a costuming couple with a wholesale license – Better Yet! – they make custom belts!

I called A&B of Legendary Costume Works, they confirmed that they had the necessary blank on hand and were willing to give them to me. Hooray! Best of all, they hand delivered them at the headdress workshop.


Now I had the materials on hand, but they required both modification and painting in order to work the belt configuration I had in mind. So after I removed the original ‘mounting hardware’ on the backside of each, they got four holes drilled in them[iv] and a coat of paint (or two) inside and out and then mounted them on (yet more purple) rawhide cord.

For Some Reason This Belt Makes Me Want An Astromechdroid

I tried them on Eloise and was pleased as punch with the results. But now I had no more ‘distraction work’ to do and needed to get on to the final project…


Seriously y’all, if I spend as much time sewing projects as I do *thinking about* how I can sew them, I would have an entire wardrobe full of gear.[v]  I knew that the dress could be done in a variety of waysm and this was what I had been considering:

Plan A: Fully draped dress mounted to a fitted underlayer with no actually ‘patterning’ in sight;
Plan B: Fully patterned dress with some level of decorative draping over the top;
Plan C: A combination of the above (with about 12 variations possible dancing through my head at any given time).

So I hemmed[vi] and hawed, I did test drapes and cried at how they looked. I searched the internet for resources on how other people had made their Mucha creations, and found none. I leaned heavily on the trust that my fellow LSCaCS members were getting along with their projects, and they looked great (so mine could hid in the background if necessary).   Then I realized I needed to just pull the trigger on Plan C if I was going to be wearing ANYTHING[vii] to Gala.

So I started with an underlayer. Using Eloise as my base, I draped a pattern for a basic strapless bodice with a dropped waist. I bit my lip as I made my mock-up and then had my niece help me with a final fitting.

And what do you know? It. Totally. Worked.[viii]

The Front The Side The Back
With a bit of tweaking, the wrinkles seen here didn't end up in the final pattern

Transferring The Pattern
Making the mock up

Once the basic bodice was cut using the same pattern as above for the fashion fabric and lining, I got to play with featherweight boning for the first time. I literally applied in the Exact Same Manner And Location as shown on the product packaging.

Pictorial Instructions FTW!

Of course, what I failed to note was that the resulting bodice promptly rolled itself into a tube.

Bodice Taco

Apparently, plastic boning should be heat treated to get it to lay down flat and behave *before* you add it to your project. Since I had failed to do this utterly, I simply pinned the whole bodice to Eloise and then steamed it into submission with my iron.

This also works, by the way.  ;)

Finished Bodice
Finished Bodice - I cannot lie, this result made me very happy. :D

Once the bodice was complete and pinned securely in place (no back closure yet, since Eloise is just a *schosh* bigger than me – even when dialed down to her smallest size) I attached the fabric paudron and simply began draping.

The big head ache here was that my fabric, which I had purchased 8 yards of, was really *chunks* of yardage. What was left on the bolt when I purchased consisted of 2-3 pieces of 1.25-1.5 yards and another few longer bits. I loved the fabric so much that I had convinced myself that this would be OK to work with. Now that I was actually doing so, I wasn’t as sure.

I started with the shortest bits first, ensuring they were long enough to drape from the center front of the bodice and still hit the floor. They were. Then I worked my way around to the back of the dress, adding fabric and playing with the shaping of the draped bits as I went.[ix] This tutorial was very handy in calming my nerves and giving me a direction to go in.

Despite my initial misgivings, I was pleased as punch with the results! Eventually...

First Draping Final Draping
From L to R: First attempt - which resulted in a stiff drink. Second attempt - More Pins! = Success!

Next, handsewing. Lots and lots of handsewing. I made my way all the way around the bodice, removing pins and tacking the fabric in place. The biggest concern was not sewing all the way through the bodice and into Eloise – which I managed to only do twice!

Tools Of The Trade - NETFLIX
I could never do this much sewing without Netflix, praise be to the internet gods!

This handsewing included one bit of machine work which was installing the hook-and-eye tape at the center-back of the bodice. The closure was largely covered by the draped fabric that gathered at the back of the gown in a manner not unlike an 18th C sack-back gown (only much more free form).  That portion which was visible was then covered by the drapery that had been swagged and attached to the pauldron at the dresses shoulder being tucked in once the dress was hook-and-eyed closed.

At this point, all that was left to do was the hemming. Given that the dress was entirely draped, I had a lot more fabric at the hemline than you would normally encounter.  After checking to make sure that Eloise was as close to my height as possible[x] I placed her on my sewing table and then simply chalked a rough hemline into place. This allowed me to play with the shaping of the train a bit before any cutting was done, and the added height helped ensure my back wasn’t in agony.

Hemming Made Easy
Draping from the back - Eloise ready to help me hem
(the bit draped up over her neck is the tail of the fabric pauldron draping, placed up and out of the way)

I had intended to use the same method of facing the hemline that was employed on my niece and sister’s dresses; but in the end it wasn’t practical to attempt to create pieces that matched the cut of my draped-and-pieced hem. Thankfully, the ‘inside’ of the dress fabric was beautiful and I didn’t care if it showed (and I had taken the time to French my long seams), so I just used my chiffon hem finish and called it a day.

As soon as the dress was finished, I nervously tried it on over my Merry Widow and discovered that a) It Fit! B) It covered the undergarment completely. C) I loved it…

Sans Wig
Why yes, that *is* my inspiration image on my phone cover...also, that dog is not dead - no matter what he'd like you to think

So ends the saga of my portion of the Mucha Maiden’s project. I had an amazing time, learned a ton of new sewing techniques, and generally discovered that I can survive outside of my 16th C comfort zone.

Which of course means there are a TON of new projects to consider…


[i] Thankfully, Eloise is very close to my own figure; although she is a bit taller than me and her conversational skills leave a lot to be desired. At least she doesn’t steal my drinks or scream when I stick her with pins. Which I did. A lot.
[ii] At the time, I was thinking of sewing the pauldron directly to this layer…but later thought better of it when I realized just how complex that could make the draping of the garment top…
[iii] I think I actually had to burn my Historical Sewing Card just for touching this stuff.
[iv] My poor, long suffering husband helped with this portion of the activities by helping me figure out the best removal method and setting up the drill press and a template for me to use. Without him I am sure that I would now be down a number of fingers…
[v] OK, maybe TWO wardrobes; since really I do have at least one already.
[vi] Sewing pun alert! Of course, if I had *actually* been hemming there would have been more progress at that point…
[vii] BTW – naked was a totally legit choice in my head, after all Alphonse clearly enjoyed the unclad feminine form. I was pretty sure that CoCo administration would frown on that choice though. :P
[viii] You could have knocked me over with a pin. This was the moment that draping when from exotic art form to a skill I actively want to cultivate. Because seriously – WHO NEEDS TO EVER BUY A PATTERN AGAIN?!?
[ix] In the end, I didn’t even use the longest piece of fabric.
[x] I checked this by standing next to her and looking in a mirror to see if our bustlines were at the same level.
hsifeng: (Ladies Sewing Circle)
So now we had fabulous headdresses that were beautiful and drew comments from every random stranger we passed by[i]: clearly the pressure was on to produce gowns to match.  And that was when my sewing reality hit me like a ton of bricks.

See, my sister and my niece were coming out to CoCo with me for the first time. Having never been before, and having not been ‘in the sewing game’ for a while (in my sisters case) or as a costumer before (my niece), I realized that they were going to need a bit of help getting their Mucha dresses together.

Like, from the ground up help.

Fabric procurement, pattern drafting, mock ups, assembly, final fit – the whole rodeo.

So I wasn’t working on one Gala dress, I was working on three.

*head desk*

OK, let’s be honest here: I love this stuff! Three different gowns that are all based on artists sketches which only bear the most passing resemblance to how *actual* gowns fit and *actual* fabric flows? Sign. Me. Up. But holy hell, this was for my family members and my normal ‘mess around until the last minute and then blow it all out at once’ would never work (not just because of the volume to be done, but because I needed their Actual Physical Forms present for a lot of draping and fitting work).

That mean procrastination was not going to be my friend.

So we got right to work.  The inspiration images had already been selected:

Nieces Dress
Inspiration Image - Cybil

Sisters Dress
Inspiration Image - Kim

We bought our fabric at Stone Mountain & Daughter and at JoAnne’s. I beat my fiber snob fairy into submission.[ii] The selection was cheeringly wide, and cheap, and made me feel better about not forcing everyone into silk. We bought satins, and textured poly, and the Demon Chiffon. We bought WAY more than we needed (I had no idea how much all this drapery was going to take). My sister and niece were champs about my guesswork, but I suspect they will have new curtains to match their gala gowns at some point…[iii]

The principles we used in selecting fabric here was much the same as those used in the headdress construction workshop. We knew the colors we wanted, but we tried to ensure that we used a VARIETY of textures and fabric weights. This helps to add depth to the finished pieces.

The next step was for me to put my brain hat on and try to figure out HOW to put these dresses together. Let’s be clear. Alphonse Mucha did not paint many women in dresses. Mostly he painted them in sheets and curtains. I mean that literally. Sheets and curtains.

Its a Curtain - Not a Dress Its a Curtain - Not a Dress v3 Its a Curtain - Not a Dress v2Its a Curtain - Not a Dress v5 - Clutch It Like This DearIts a Curtain - Not a Dress v4 - Nudie!

Yes, that is a boob. It's art people...get a room. ;)

A number of the ladies in our project actually *did* this, literally took bed linens and uncut yardage and made their dresses from it. And, might I add, to great effect! I am still really hoping that [livejournal.com profile] ladykalessia will do a write up on her dress and the technique she used to make it because – ladies and jellyspoons – this little number is GENIUS.

Laura's Dress
Photo Credit: American Duchess - CoCo 2013

But oh no…not me.  When I looked at the inspiration images for these dresses I saw structure in the fit of the bodices and the drape of the skirts.[iv]

So I had the girls come over and we did some duct tape pattern making. For those of you who don’t know this process, a mini-tutorial on using this technique for a basic bodice is here.

Of course, unlike my prior uses of this technique, I realized that I could actually use *darts*[v] to fit my bodice patterns in this period[vi]/application.

Also of course, I have no idea how to use a dart to save my life.

A Rough Translation From The Duct Tape Base

The Mock Up - Don't Judge

The Bodice - Prior to Skirt & Trim Application: This Is When I Knew The Darts Had Won

Again, thank god my family is forgiving.

The darts aren't horrible, but I realize now that I could have put them UNDER THE BREAST to better effect. *sigh* I got this right in my sister's bodice, and thank god my niece has a naturally beautiful figure that helps to make up for my errors in pattern making!

Once we had the basic bodices down, it was time for the skirts. Based on the fashion plates of the time, I used the fabulous tutorial available here to make a basic, trained skirt form.

Seriously folks, if you have to make an Edwardian skirt from scratch, Use. This. Tool.  It was dead simple and that is coming some someone who has *never* drafted a pattern from measure before.

Hard to See, But I Swear There Is A Pattern On That Paper

My Cat Begging For Death and the Implement Of His Potential Destruction

Success! - the Muslin Proof on Eloise

The original idea was to use this pattern for my niece’s garment only. But upon looking more closely at my sister’s inspiration piece, I realized that with the addition on a ‘false apron’ to one section of the skirt, I could achieve as similar ‘wrapped and tucked’ effect[vii].  I had my sister wear the muslin mock-up we had created and simply pinned and drafted the apron bit from another section of muslin.[viii] Perfect!

Now we had both bodices and both skirts patterned and a plan of action. Over the next few weekends, we met repeatedly to put the garments together; the work order went something like this.

Nieces Dress[ix]:
·         Cut and line bodice in blue satin
·         Get ready to cut trained skirt from off-white satin
·         Realize that satin is so thin a moth could fly through it without damage
·         Gnash teeth
·         Realize we can line satin skirt with cotton muslin already completed during patterning phase
·         Have a celebratory drink
·         Actually cut off-white satin for skirt, as well as additional facing sections to create lined dress as per the instructions here (see 'Step 3': again, DEAD SIMPLE – except for the part my niece had to do with all the hands sewing… )
·         Cut cream chiffon for skirt cover
·         Realize that [livejournal.com profile] love3angle is completely correct and that chiffon is the DEVIL
·         Have a bracing drink
·         Cut the trained section of the skirt pattern after having ‘expanded’ the overall size of the patter piece by three times, this included expanding the overall curve of the train so the chiffon over layer would be evenly expanded over the whole hem
·         Consider cutting each of the other skirt pieces individually
·         Finish the bottle that you are drinking
·         Decide that the remainder of the skirt can be constructed of a rectangle composed of the remaining SEVEN YARDS of chiffon
·         Attach ‘trained’ chiffon section to large chiffon rectangle
·         Use a gather stitch and an army of pins to attach the gathered waist of the chiffon to the lined satin
·         Baste the two together
·         Hem all nine yards of chiffon using this technique (Bless You Pinterest!)
·         Open new bottle, start chilling the third...
·         Add skirt to bodice, ensuring a split in the back waist for getting the dress on - with a proper modesty panel
·         Add hook and eye tape for closure
·         Drape, pattern and add a dropped sleeve/strap to one side of the bodice in the same blue statin as the body proper
·         Trim the neckline of bodice and top of the sleeve/strap with a constructed ‘ruffle’ of various textures of fabric hand cut, stitched and trimmed to a variety of heights[x]
·         Construct and add ‘chained arm decorations’ to alternate arm
·         Dip dye ornamental scarf in orange

I know that my niece didn’t get a chance to add the additional embroidery and metal blingy bits to the bodice of the dress and that the 'chained arm decorations' abandoned ship not long before we hit the Red Carpet, but I hope she goes back and adds these all later because it will take a beautiful dress to gorgeous!

Sister’s Dress:
·         Cut and line bodice in white – to be used as a base layer for attaching the skirt to and draping the burgundy material onto
·         Cut trained skirt and false apron from gold satin (hem with facing in the same manner as the skirt above)
·         Thank the gods that you don’t have to line this one too…
·         Attach skirt to base bodice layer
·         Add hook and eye tape for closure
·         Cut and assemble sash from burgundy satin[xi]
·         Drape and hand sew burgundy layer over under bodice, leaving the shoulders free in white fabric (see footnote, as above)
·         Cut and assemble false ruffle/drapery from a variety of textures in white fabric[xii] and affix to neckline of the base bodice layer

What did we achieve?

Lessons learned?

You know, sometimes draping and pinning really *is* the way to go.

Start sooner.

In our next installment we will explore the insanity that was the real draping and handsewing nightmare: my own gala dress. See, all this time working on the gowns above was really just a means for me to avoid having to make a decision about my own clothing…

[i] This is what happens when you wear these things out in public, en masse, for no apparent reason. Who knew? Well *clearly* we weren’t waiting until AUGUST to wear them for the first time… *grin*
[ii] “What do you MEAN synthetic fabric is going to pass under my sewing machines pressure foot?!? NEVER!!!” *whack whack whack*
[iii] OK, that might be a *bit* of an exaggeration in some cases – I know that my niece’s skirt fabric was pretty much spot on and we used every inch of chiffon, but I think my sister and I could make a whole second dress from our cuttings.
[iv] Trust me, you don’t have to tell me to get my vision checked. I know. *chuckle*
[v] My normal application being 16th C. German costuming…which apparently also has some proof of darts being used per research done by those better versed than I!
[vi] “Period? What period? The period of the forest nymphs?” Let’s just say that I was trying to roughly base my construction styles (in some cases) on the fashion forms used during the time that Alphonse Mucha was painting these images.
[vii] Little did I realize until later how much ‘wrapping and tucking’ would go into my sister’s final gown…
[viii] This was the first bit of *actual* patterning from draping I have EVER done. Needless to say, it was not the last in this project…
[ix] To be clear: My niece and sister did the lionesses share of the handsewing and construction on these garments. I basically just ran the weekend sweatshop that helped get the pieces cut and basically assembled to send home with them for finishing
[x] In the original dress, this was probably just the top of the sheet sticking out around the neckline where the blue wasn’t wrapped high enough to cover it… But you know me… STRUCTURE! *head desk*
Structure! In Progress!
[xi] Remember when I said before that I had no idea how much ‘wrapping and tucking’ would go into this dress? Well, my original plan was to create a two yard long, 4 inch wide sash out of the burgundy fabric (to create the drapey sash in the inspiration image) and actually drape and sew the remaining burgundy sections on my sisters white under bodice.  In reality, my sister ended up making one HUGE sash (approx. 5 yards long and 10”-12” wide that we pinned and wrapped around her on the night of Gala. And you know what…? It totally looked just like her inspiration image.
[xii] By ‘cut and assemble’ I mean, while standing in a hotel room with your freshly burgundy wrapped sibling, holding safety pins in your mouth and muttering under your breath about not having time to tack the filmy bits in place. Again, the result was *spot on* for the original image. W.T.F.
hsifeng: (Ladies Sewing Circle)
So, taking up where my prior entry left of; how did we make those Mucha things anyway?

We started with the headdresses.

This seems simple enough, until you try to find flowers the size of the ones in the inspiration images, or at least my inspiration image:

Alphonse Mucha - Bieres de la Meuse

Poppies. That. Huge. Cannot. Be. Had. Anywhere.

After poking around online I had found sources for all my floral needs except these enormous beasts. A few places had 5” poppies, but they were asking $20+/flower and 5” was still too small. Great. Now I sound like a flora size queen.  *chuckle* I was up in the Bay visiting friends on another sewing related adventure when I found myself at Beverly’s Craft & Floral. I was delighted to find that they had All The Flowers there that I needed – except my damn poppies. That was when T stepped in and pointed something out:

“Why don’t you just buy some of these red peonies and modify them?”

Red Peony - Unmodified


So that evening we gutted the central section of one of our peonies with the help of a sharp pair of embroidery scissors. These flowers are constructed with a small plastic ‘basket’ that holds the central section of petals closed around the stamen of the flower; we found that if you cut this basket off and remove the petal sections it contains, you end up with a nice, open flower with a bright yellow stamen center. After applying black fabric paint to the ‘new’ central petals[i]– and perhaps also to the center-facing portions of the next layer out – you end up with a HUGE poppy.

Red Peony - Modified

Now make a bunch, because you will need them.

The whole group met up the last weekend in June at the fabulous Sewing Circle Retreat[ii]. What did we take with us? Here is the general list:

·         Fabric flowers & greenery (procured at Michael's Craft & Floral, Beverly Fabrics, etc.)[iii]
·         Floral tape & wire (I personally recommend the fabric/tape covered floral wire)
·         Wire cutters
·         Glue gun & glue
·         Any 'bits and bobs' you are adding to your headdress for bling (sparkly bits, ribbon, etc)
·         WIGS[iv]
·         Head forms – because being able to *see* the darn thing being worn makes all the difference, and you don’t want to drip hot glue on your own head…

Things to keep in mind when you are making your headdress:

·         Ensure that you have enough ‘range’ in your materials palette to provide for variety in both color (different types of greenery, for example), size (big focal point pieces – like poppies! – plus smaller interest pieces make a more interesting looking result), and effect (drapey bits that hang down, stiff bits that stick up, etc.).  Worst case scenario, you have enough left over for another headdress!

·         If you aren’t sure if it is big enough yet, it probably isn’t. Seriously. Aim for just shy of this and you will be there…
Bracken Buck

·         This is a 3D piece of art, make sure you fill in any gaps and that it looks good from all angles. Place the headdress on a head/wig form and check it out from behind, in front, on top. Fill in as needed.

·         There is a stage in every headdress where you are sure it is a disaster, just keep working on it and adding bits – you will eventually hit a critical mass point where it becomes FABULOUS

·         If you are making yours based on a piece of art, keep that image handy and check back in often.

The ‘Construction’ Steps:

Start by making a ring of your floral wire that is slightly bigger than you want your finished piece; the extra space will be filled out by flower and tape bulk as you build.

When your ring is the right size, bend the wire where the two ends meet into a pair of ‘hooks’. These will hook around each other (and possibly be bent around each other to form a permanent ring) and allow you to open and close the ring base of your headdress as/if needed during construction.

Using your floral tape, begin by making a small bundle of interesting floral and greenery bits. Think the size of an overgrown boutonniere. You will probably be cutting flowers and bits of green off of larger bundles, but be sure to leave enough ‘stem’ to wrap around as you gather them together. Keep the principle of variety in mind here – color and types of bits.

When you have a tiny bouquet that you like, make another. Having two or three of these under your belt makes the idea of facing a whole headdress a lot easier.

Now.  Starting at either the center front or a focal point location on your headdress design[v], place the tiny bouquet on your floral wire ring and tape it in place with your floral tape. This should be done as securely as possible; while trying to avoid using so much tape that you end up with a wad. Don’t worry – this will become easier as you work along. Also, if the thing won’t stay you always have more floral wire and hot glue[vi] if need be.

Add more tiny bouquets to the ring.

Occasionally throw in a larger flower (size variation) or drapey/pokey bit (effect variation).

When you have gotten all the way around the ring (or covered the portion your headdress requires), place it on your head/wig form and check it for holes. Can you see the wire anywhere? Obvious bits of floral tape showing?

Grab your glue gun and some spare floral bits (smaller sizes work well here) and greenery (left over leaf bits from your flower bunches are perfect for this). This is best done on a wig/head form because Second Degree Burns Hurt.
Forms Help Make This Happen

Fill in the holes.

This is also a chance to add any ‘blingy bits’ – jewelry bits, sea shells, crystals, small birds, bones, etc.  These can either be glued in place or added by stringing them with bits of floral wire and affixing them that way.

Check for holes again and repeat above as necessary.

Now, try on your headdress over your styled wig. Does it still fit? Too loose? Too tight? Adjust it at the ‘hooked ends’ of the ring and add/subtract flora as needed to accommodate.

Once the headdress is sized you can either permanently twist the ends of your ring together to cover with floral tape and more flora; or you can leave the hooks in place, allowing you to adjust the size. This second option is better for folks who may have to open their ring in order to get it around wig bits or hats in future.

Eventually you will find yourself with something like this:

Mucha Headdress Workshop, June 2013 - Cherylyn as Bieres de la Muse

And now, some general Oh My God This Was So Much Fun shots:

Mucha Headdress Workshop, June 2013 -  Jessica
J, wearing one of the original White Picnic headdresses that started this whole thing off...

Mucha Headdress Workshop, June 2013 -  Amy and Brayton
A & B Rock The Mucha Look

Cathy Visits
[livejournal.com profile] harmanhay - winner of the longest distance traveled to attend (via Skype from England...)

Variety is the Spice
Seriously, Buy More Flowers!  Also, berries, hops, nuts, twigs, ferns....

Mucha Headdress Workshop, June 2013 - Tonda
T, in all her Bracken Buck glory...

[i] Painting Tip: be sure to ‘fade’ the black paint out as you move away from the center of the flowers, this prevents a harsh black-to-red transition and looks more natural.
[ii] Not the real name of this establishment – but if we had a club house, this would be it!
[iii] LOTS of flowers and greenery. Mountains would not be an underestimate here. Basically, if you think you have enough, get a couple more pieces just to be sure.
[iv] Cosplay wigs rock for this. They are cheap, long, and you can style the crap out of them with the addition of a couple swags of plastic fake-hair and some foam rats. You will want your wig around when you are making your headdress because you need to be able to get the headdress ON TO your styled wig-wearing head. ;)

But I warn you, you will NOT look like yourself when you are wearing them...
Wigging Out
[v] For example, my headdress doesn’t have a central flower on the front, but rather two large arrangements of poppies over each ear. So I started there on each side and worked my way around to the back, finishing the project by filling in the front with bits of green.
[vi] As a total novice at this floral wire and tape game, I found hot glue to be my best friend.
hsifeng: (Ladies Sewing Circle)
You know how you sometimes think, "Why don't all my people know each other more?!? My friends are the greatest and my family rocks! We like the same things! Costumes! Booze! Adventure! How can we all spend more time doing that stuff together...  I have a brilliant plan!"

And thus CoCo 2013 was born.*

[livejournal.com profile] claughter713 and I were lazing around on the interwebz one afternoon** when she sent me a set of pictures from The White Dinner hosted in SF. The images were of our friends, T, J & K, in a series of beautiful shots that all featured the amazing floral headdresses that J had put together for their table's guests at the event. I wish I had those images to share with you here, but basically our reaction is summarized as follows:

"OMGOMGOMG!!! MUCHA MUCHA MUCHA! We need to do this for CoCo!"

A plan was hatched.

We set up a secret pin board and began collecting images, and then we started talking to the folks we normally room with. Would they be interested too? Did they have anyone they'd like to have join in as well? What did we need to do to organize this thing? Etc., etc., etc. We ended up with 13 ladies, some of whom had never been to CoCo before (and some who still need to make it out - *cough*[livejournal.com profile] sewinggoddess*cough*), and a couple of whom hadn't done any costuming to speak of prior to this project.

Thank god for having a deep pool of talent to draw on!

[livejournal.com profile] claughter713 set up a space for workshops, J taught us all how to make fabulous headdresses, [livejournal.com profile] harmanhay shouted encouragements from England, we all hunted the internet for resources. And that is where we hit our first snag...

Dude. The internet is supposed to have EVERYTHING right? Then why are tutorials on how to make dresses in the style of Alphonse Mucha *so damn thin on the ground*?!? Sure, Deviant art and Tumblr have a hand full of images of folks who have done similar projects in the past - but none of them blogged the process of making the darn things!


As a result, a few of us have said we'd write up our processes in an attempt to populate the WWW with something useful to say.

This isn't that post.

But that post is coming soon.


PS: The headdress workshop was amazing and we are trying to convince J to hold one as a class at CoCo 2014 - because EVERYONE NEEDS A MUCHA HEADDRESS RIGHT NOW.

PPS: The best thing about owning a Mucha headdress? Wearing it for non-Mucha related activities. I am not sure I can ever go to Mexican food without one on again. Life. Changing.

PPPS: There may or may not be a secret society as a result of all this. There may or may not be a secret handshake for that society. There is definitely a secret cocktail.

Mucha Maidens CoCo 2013

*Ok, there may be more to it than that (some of these folks may have already been going together for years and others may have been going regardless, whatever - The Plan Was Still Brilliant).

**i.e. Linkspamming each other via FB chat between projects at work and generally going, "Oh! Oh! But have you seen THIS case of humans being ____ today!?!"
hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
First there were hours of draping. And pinning. And draping some more. And crying. Then pinning myself. And unpinning ALL THE THINGS.

/white russian break

Then a flurry of drape-pin-drape-pin-drape-pin.

And then I had something I am OK with.

Now for hours of stitch, tack, stitch, tack, stitch, tack.


I swear to god. If Disney doesn't send me those sewing mice soon I am going to be so @&*#}+<&...!


/goes to make another white russian
hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
...teaser image!

One of these things will be *very much* like the other. And no, there were no pyrates involved in the making of this gala costume. Not yet anyway...

hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)

Never ending and obsessive thoughts about sewing methods and patterning prevented most of my sleep last night. What little I did get was interrupted by puppy snoring, toy squeaking, and the fact that I am sharing a bed with my husband and two dogs to both seem to think that they need more space than any single human body would occupy.


I need a nap.


I need a drink.


I need to be home sewing rather than at work.




hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
You know that thing you do, that thing where you plan to Sew All The Costumes and Wear All The Things....

And then you procrastinate. A bit.

Or maybe a lot.

And then THE EVENT looms. Ack!

In the past I have waited until the very last minute (or close enough) and then performed acts of sewing miracles in order to produce a wearable garment. This applies ONLY to costume events outside of my normal period (the 16th C) and only to costumes that I am sewing for myself. The cobblers kids and all that.*

Last year for CoCo this was solved by the plan to rent a tux for Gala. Timetable you say? What is that?

"Please sirs, take this grubby money and make me look swagalicious!"

This year, not so much.

I find myself with a list of things to do. And what is worse, a list that includes things FOR OTHER PEOPLE. And that means my procrastination period ended this past weekend with the development of lists and timetables and meet-up schedules. It may have also introduced a pet-ulcer, but I don't know yet. *snerk*

Will I be blogging about any of this, that remains to be seen. I may do so just vent and maintain my sanity if nothing else.


See you on the other side, in something fabulous! :D

*I rarely screw around when sewing for other people, and the desire to procrastinate vs. real production timetables *may* be one of the reasons I tend to hate taking commissions of any kind. *shrug*
hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
Crossfit. It is apparently soul consuming.

What I mean by that is, I really like this style of exercise. But as [livejournal.com profile] vanessa_lynne pointed out in a recent entry, it drains almost every drop of energy I have at the end of my days. This is normally not a huge issue, but with CoCo looming I need to start carving out time on the weekends to work on costume projects. I have a plan, we'll just see how well that plan works.

Oh, and I am adding to the distraction pile by introducing the following element the first weekend of July:

Meet Nigel...
Nigel Bed

Nigel Leap

Nigel - Selfie (he's down with the young crowd like that)
Nigel Eye

So, in addition to Crossfit, I have added morning runs - Every Day - into my schedule. Because both my 'old man' (Fritz) and the new guy (Nigel) will need some exercise and training on a consistent basis to make sure that we have a happy doggy home. And then there are all the other 'puppy extras' when it comes to time consumption.

You know what? Totally worth it.

Don't be shocked when I show up to Gala in a modified hotel sheet.

hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
By the way, just because I am not posting my own projects and commenting all over the place doesn't mean that I am not watching your dress diaries and drooling my head off. So, to [livejournal.com profile] harmanhay, [livejournal.com profile] kimikosews, [livejournal.com profile] love3angle, [livejournal.com profile] jenthompson, [livejournal.com profile] cathiegrace, [livejournal.com profile] trystbat, [livejournal.com profile] bauhausfrau101, [livejournal.com profile] jubilina, [livejournal.com profile] koska_the_cat, [livejournal.com profile] vanagnessayem, [livejournal.com profile] the_aristocat, [livejournal.com profile] dailyreenactor [livejournal.com profile] americanduchess, [livejournal.com profile] dreamstressblog...


I can't wait to see an assortment of you lovelies at CoCo this year! :D

PS: Honorable mention goes to [livejournal.com profile] the_bloggess; because Jenny wins All The Awards and she likes to play dress up too y'all!

PPS: Also to [livejournal.com profile] claughter713; thank you for keeping me 'sane' darling! ;)
hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
OK, two years of Costume College attendance down and I have this to say:

I. Fucking. Love. You. Guys.

*happy sigh*

Seriously, how is it possible for this many kick ass women (and men!) to fit into one space for a weekend? It feels like being dipped in a pool of light and honey and coming out the other side neither blind nor sticky... *chuckle*

First off; my roomies (both those actually *in* the same room with me and the extended membership of the Breakfast Club!). Ladies, you are never allowed to move to another room. Never. Unless that means that you are moving to a room that is CLOSER TO ME or IN THE SAME SPACE.  Two years going and never a moment where I am not thrilled to get every second I can with you lot (despite the sadness at our lack of [livejournal.com profile] claughter713 in person - although she was there for Gala Prep via Skype!).

Next year, more rooms closer together and some with adjoining doors!

Also, Extra-Special Gold Stars for [livejournal.com profile] harmanhay for making it down to the gym with me every day (and Super-Honorable Mentions to [livejournal.com profile] ladykalessia for making it most of the time - despite the ridiculous hour - and fellow tux action complete with drink-tax!). 

Second: The ladies of the Bitchy Roman Lounge-wear and Pretty Pink Princess parties - y'all were a blast to spend time with and I am totally bummed that I didn't get a chance to join you in draped silk goodness (and [livejournal.com profile] love3angle - you're my hero for having made me something to wear even though I couldn't attend in the end). It was an honor to join [livejournal.com profile] zoccolaro in the cabana league and I'll happily do it again if there is space at the bar for me next year! 

Third: To my co-learning circle provider (OK, [livejournal.com profile] mmcnealy really just taught the class while I took notes and drooled at her work), teachers and classmates - thank you, thank you, thank you! I learned a TON of stuff and took home both ideas and techniques that are going to serve me for a long time to come. You guys are all an inspiration! 

Fourth: The organizers - You are all full of awesome and wonderful. This event has become a mainstay for me and one of the only chances I get to see some of my dearest friends. I cannot repay this kindness, I can only tell you that I appreciate everything you do for us. 

And in conclusion - The No Sew Gala Plan? It worked. (Also, K: Thank you for taking care of the 'girly' hair and make-up bits, this would have never worked without you!)

In the Tiki-Tiki-Tiki-Tiki-Tiki Room
Dietrich Drag

The Ladies (and Gentlemen)
The Glam Girls - CoCo 2012

Now I just need to figure out what to do with all the left-over swag that came in the pockets of this tux... *chuckle*

EDIT: An example of the extra swank that this tux came with on display via the Red Carpet

[livejournal.com profile] harmanhay reminded me of something that happened right around the time this photo was taken.

Apparently one of the gentlemen watching this display of bad-assery hollered something like,"You know that hat is very early period for the rest of your garments."

To which I replied, "Really, when you have two women that look like this on your arms who CARES what period the hat is..."

She claims there was a roar of laughter and general applause at this point; but honestly I don't remember and Ms. Dietrich isn't telling me. *chuckle*
hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
Mah schedule; see a space where you know an awesome class exists and I got nuthin' going on?


CoCo 2012 Schdule

hsifeng: (Beat Down)

I leave for one weekend and suddenly my LJ feed is OVERRUN with Comic Con 2012 and CoCo 2012 event information...

*jaw drops at the number of messages to go through*

Um. Guys. If I missed anything important in the past 48 hours you'd tell me....right?


Now to go and dig out from under a mountain of fandom related posts to find *actual* costume information and details about - you know - real people I actually know.

This whole post brought to you by the letter "W": As in, "WTF have I done to my LJ! Where did all these fandom feeds come from!?!"

PS: On the other hand, lots of eyecandy shots from Comic Con... so... *shrug*

hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
Tailed tux rental?           CHECK!
Borrowed topper?  CHECK! (many thanks to the Fabulous Francis!)
Vintage vest?        CHECK! (belated b-day gift from my darling [livejournal.com profile] claughter713!)

Yes m'dears... we have achieved swanky...

Who wants to be on my dance card? *grin*


May. 19th, 2012 08:11 pm
hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
Signed up for four limited classes at CoCo.

Got into all four.

And I'm acting as a model in one of them (which means I get Free Pattern Goodness!).


hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
For Gala this year, I am coming as this hot piece of tail...

Make that SMOKING hot...

At first there was angsting about finding a vintage tux, cutting it down to size, tailoring a white waistcoat, etc. 

Then I realized: THEY RENT THESE THINGS. They rent them right down to their shiny patent leather shoes and carefully folded hanki square. Then I found out how much they rent them for (especially when the guy who owns the rental shop is the one helping you and he is *clearly* excited about the idea of you showing up for a costume gig in this number).


"But hsifeng! The point of your Gala outfit is to slave over it for months; crying tears of blood from your fingertips and tears of cash from your bank account! You can't possibly RENT your Gala costume! That's cheating!"

Blah blah blah...

I hear your argument, and I counter with this: Part of costuming is Knowing Your Resources.

If you are doing costume work for theater or screen and you have to come up with a tuxedo for a cast member, you don't sew that bastard from scratch (unless you are insane or you have a no-limit-corporate-credit-card and private jet to Hong Kong where they can knock that tux out in less than three hours using hands smaller than your iPod). 

You BUY it. Or in this case, rent it. 

And yeah, it would fit me better if I had the thing tailored. But seriously? It's for one night and I am modeling a woman who loved to drag it up in men's fashion on occasion.

I'm going to channel Greta** Marlene and go with boy clothes. ThankYouVeryMuch.


**The internet is FULL OF FAIL. As both [livejournal.com profile] claughter713and [livejournal.com profile] grlfuryboth pointed out - this particular hot blond is Marlene Dietrich, not Greta Garbo. Apparently my 'Want To Dress Like The Pretty German Women' thing is still in full effect no matter what century I choose to play dress up in. I have no problem with this...

PS: Don't freak out. I am still sewing. I am just sewing on things that will actually remain productive parts of my costume closet for years (ie Things Not From The Last Century). 

PPS: I hereby claim First Official Drag Privileges at CoCo. If I see anyone else out there in this outfit I am going to demand a drink in reparations payment. This is how you avoid the tangled web of telling everyone in advance what your Super Secret Gala Outfit is... *chuckle*

PPPS: *psst* Meet me at the Gala, I'll be the one wearing the big, white flower.


hsifeng: (Creative Sewing)
As you may remember, I had decided awhile back to tackle a project to recreate false braids ala the 16th C in Germany. These items, known as 'Zopfe' in Nürnberg, were frequent items in the dress indices of the period of study covered by Jutta Zander-Seidel's research in the "Textiler Hausrat".

I actually started with an attempt at a reconstruction back in 2010, only to put it aside in favor of other projects. I got as far as making and stuffing a number of mock-up 'tubes' for the basic braid forms, but no farther. Then, this past June I decided to resurrect the project as something to work on while I was at an event for my birthday. I grabbed the stuffed forms (muslin sausages with synthetic batting for fill - hey! - they were mock ups!) and some left over silk from flag making and got to work. 

The resulting items would NOT work in my hair (which is thin and was only just past my shoulders at the time). But they did OK in a friends much more copious locks:

[livejournal.com profile] vanagnessayem That is my version of your hat I am wearing there...

So, the size was bad. Going back to the 'Textiler Hausrat' image of the gentleman holding what Mrs. Zander-Seidel believes to be Zopfe, it was clear that my scale was *way* off. So I started over. 

Here Be Pictures... )

Honestly, I couldn't be happier with the results! I now have some amazing (and period!) Punk Rock hair accessories to have fun with for feasts. I look forward to finding reasons and opportunities to wear them in 2012! ;)

Oh CoCo...

Sep. 7th, 2011 09:28 am
hsifeng: (G&T)
Why do you only happen once a year?

[livejournal.com profile] sstormwatchcame over for a fitting last night and we got to talking about CoCo 2011. And then she sent me photos from the red carpet (which totally prove that [livejournal.com profile] claughter713and I were in the same place at the same time!).

Then again...I could NEVER keep up with the sewing I'd have to do if there was more than one of these in a year!

My husband had his usual response to this...



hsifeng: (*Arrrrrrrr!* Sewing Pyrate!)
 First of all. Damn you all. All of you with your hot, HOT, super cool costumes. Here I was, all happily ensconced in 16th century Germany –  [livejournal.com profile] claughter713 , stop your smirking about your 19th century corruptive influence! – and then WHAM, BAM! Literally hundreds of costumes that made me make my patented Grabby Hands Of Want And Misery in every direction I looked.

You bitches have it out for me. You hate that I have any free time, don’t you?

Why do you do this to me?

*whimper* )


hsifeng: (Default)

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