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Costume Update… 2 down, 1 (maybe 2) to go!

This week has been rough. Someone I love dearly is dying too soon… choosing happiness despite the circumstances is a real challenge. But I’m still trying. I’m using some of the mental tools I learned here, and they seem to be helping to corral the sadness back into its place. There are times and places for grief… and some corners of our hearts that will always be grieving… but grieving doesn’t mean being wholly without joy. Grief and happiness can coexist even if it seems improbable… giving yourself permission is all that is required.

One thing bringing me happiness in this tricky time is that I HAVE to finish these costumes, which means that, no matter how crazy life is, I simply have to carve out time to sew. And I love sewing. So this is a forced (self-enforced, really) stress relief activity and I am grateful for that! And it’s been scientifically proven that both gratitude and altruistic service enhances happiness too, so this project really is a triple win.

Except for pressing/steaming and adding some important hooks to hold the cape in place, both Snow White dresses are done (phew!). One of the dresses had to be more authentically royal, where the other is supposed to be a costume-y costume (an actress playing Snow White vs the Real Snow White). So I made the royal costume with inset velvet sleeve details (rather than basic appliques on the actress costume), nicer velvet for the sleeves, and a velvet bodice vs a utility sort of cotton duck (from my stash) for the actress dress. The actress costume dress got a shorter, unlined cape as well, whereas the royal costume had a longer, satin lined cape. The dress below is the royal costume dress. It was not possible to hang the dress on a hanger and have the collar stand up properly, but I hope in reality the kids will remember to flip it up for the play since it will actually stand on its own in the style of Disney (thank you, interlining foam). The skirt and satin lining are both fabric from tablecloths, the collar is leftover curtain lining, and the cape velvet was from that roll that we found in the garage when we moved into the house. So I am sticking well to the budget of “do it as cheap as possible”. But I don’t think it looks as cheap as it is 😉

Snow White costume

I have not worked a lot with velvet, and this synthetic/rayon non-stretch velvet had a gorgeous nap which was a bit of a bugger to sew. But it ultimately complied with my will after I read a few instructive articles about sewing velvet:

The Evil Queen costume, currently in the works, and the (hopeful) doublet costume will both involve various velvets, so I really needed to learn how to cope with its quirks. I am feeling much more confident now, and even inspired to maybe possibly consider incorporating some velvet into a selfish sewing project if I am not completely sick of sewing by the time I finish the next two costumes (goal is to finish Evil Queen by tonight, and the doublet ASAP next week). Time will tell…

sewing room tea

Costume Update… Muslin Making is Done!

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My Snow White and Evil Queen costumes are coming along… Last week, I took measurements, then completed the muslin making for each of 3 bodices and tested them out on the girls. No major tweaks needed, even the Evil Queen’s bodice with the giant collar I drafted (!!). To save my sanity, I plan to eliminate the yoke pieces by making a separate collar piece (which needs to be a white and heavily reinforced anyway, and perhaps attached to the cape). I can start cutting real fabric and making something much more exciting than marked-up scrappy beige shells. 2/3 of those marked-up scrappy beige shells can now become bodice linings (I am reminding myself that these are middle school costumes, and the insides don’t have any business being beautiful).

evil queen bodice muslin

Some of the tools I used to make the muslins include a cutting and craft board, wax tracing paper and a stiletto wheel. Two of the three dresses (and possibly a third hacked doublet for my own kid’s costume) need to come from a single tissue pattern, so I don’t want to cut into it (yet, anyway). Most of the craft boards and wax papers I use have come from estate sales (in case you are like me and love treasure hunting! oh, how I love treasure hunting!), but they are inexpensive items and can still be found easily online and at places like Joann Fabrics. My favorite needle-point stiletto wheel came from WAWAK.com, which is a great place to get sewing tools and consumable supplies like thread and zippers if you need more than a small order.

cardboard sewing and craft board wax tracing paper needle-point stiletto

The Lost Art of Dress

The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish

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Last Fall, I heard a very interesting interview with Linda Przybyszewski on NPR regarding her recent book, The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish. The subject matter – the one-time rules and rewards of fashion – though of historical note in the book, remains of utmost importance today if you plan to invest time and resources in sewing garments that you hope will both enhance your appearance and stand the test of time in your closet. The author is also currently a professor at the University of Notre Dame, my alma mater, and I figured if I couldn’t presently walk across the quad to sneak into her class, I could still read her book. And it was wonderful.

The Lost Art of Dress chronicles the contributions to home economics education of a group of women known as The Dress Doctors. These knowledgeable, savvy women made great contributions in the fields of science, art and beyond, furthering the advancement of women in education and life in general at a time of disparate opportunity. Przybyszewski writes with passion and humor about the days when there were established rules guiding how we dressed, what types of clothing and accessories flattered various figures, and the fact that practicality in clothing choice should be a primary consideration. I thoroughly enjoyed the book; it was intellectual and engaging. I found it hopeful in a time of “anything goes”, delightfully entertaining, and completely relevant to the current fashion scene.

I liked it so much, in fact, that I emailed “Professor Pski” as she calls herself, to say thanks. She responded graciously, as you would expect based on her writings, and she included a promotional PDF that is a really nice introduction to the book which she said I could share with my friends and my book club. And that includes you! So I am attaching it here as a download, but I thoroughly recommend the whole book. You should be able to get it from your library, as I did, though I absolutely plan to buy a copy at some point since it was definitely a keeper.

Read the author’s PDF teaser for the book here.