Current Projects

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

1780s Continental Army Gainsborough/Portrait Hat

Guys, millinery is hard.

The Huntington Beach Historical Society's annual American Revolution event was back in February, and I'd been planning to attend in costume for a long time (definitively since I finished my chemise gowns in August, but theoretically even since last year's event). I had last year's French Revolution Zombaes dress and undergarments as the base, but I needed new accessories for a bit more historical realism and less theatricality. A hat was a major part of that.

I used a lot of historical portraits and illustrations for design inspiration. Dames a la Mode's Hats From History is a great source, and this portrait in particular was one of my main starting points.
Abigail Adams Smith, 1784 via Hats From History
It took me a long time to come up with a theme and color scheme that wasn't too theme-y. I was making this for a colonial American impression.  But red, white, and blue gets real match-y real fast. I ultimately went with Continental blue, buff/white, and gold. Classic, aesthetic, and patriotic without being PATRIOTIC.

I used American Duchess's Amazing Craft Hat (Part 1 and Part 2) as a reference for construction, starting with a straw craft/gardening/? hat and reshaping the brim to give it that curve in front and back.

By chance as I was thinking about fabric options, I found navy blue silk track pants (???) and a black tulle-lined evening gown for dirt cheap at a vintage store sale. So I cut large circles from the silk and both the light and heavy tulle and stitched them together, gathered it, and glued it to the crown. (I chose not to cut the crown off the hat itself so the fabric would have a little more support if needed.)
Like actual real 100% silk track pants
  I had zero ribbon, so with my Continental theme in mind I got a few blues, gold, and off-white.
The red was an alternate waist sash idea that got scrapped and returned.
I layered some of the ribbons together and stitched/gathered those to create a trim for the crown, and did black bias tape around the brim edge.
This was the ribbon testing phase. On the hat itself I liked the right side with wider blue ribbon better, but the left looked better when worn with the white dress.

I was going to get some hatpins but ran short on time, so I did some ribbon ties at the sides instead. It's a little fussy and deformed the hat shape a little, but there's (kind of) documentation for it and it kept things secure. For future upgrades, I'll definitely be getting hatpins and maybe leaving the ties just as security but not having any real tension on them.

And that was the bulk of it done.
With my French Revolution Zombae wig, though I didn't actually wear them together.

In action at The Revolution
Just in the past few weeks I busted the hat back out for some upgrades.

Part of the reason I left it plain in February was because I couldn't decide on feathers or extra ribbon (bows, cockade, etc.). So I finally figured out a grouping of feathers I liked and made up a neat little beribboned cockade on the fly.

The cockade is a scrap of the same silk as the crown. The thin ribbon is the same from the trim around the crown, and the wider ribbon is the same as the ties. The button was from the stash.

I also tacked down the center top of the silk crown to the straw beneath to combat some problems with wind billowing the lightweight fabric too much. And I found some short hatpins in the stash. I still want a single long one that can go straight through the crown, but one of these on each side is fairly secure (if a little fiddly).

It's still not quite right to me somehow. Maybe it's still not frilly or ostentatious or large enough. But it's definitely an improvement and I'm really loving it.

Hopefully I'll get some more decent photos of this thing being worn at an outing next week.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

18th Century Beetlejuice and Lydia Deetz

I don't even remember when this idea first happened, but in a moment of delusion a few months ago I decided this year's Labyrinth Masquerade was a good time to do our dream project of Beetlejuice and Lydia a la 18th century.

For the most part, the movie costumes will be translated fairly directly to 18th century fashion, with some embellishment of the film designs and thematic/dramatic exaggeration of historical accuracy. Beetlejuice will be a little dated in some amalgam of a 1770s-1780s zone-front gown with a redingote collar mirroring his suit. Lydia will be more fashion-forward in a mid-1780s chemise gown to mirror her blousy dress.

I'm using Simplicity 8161 with American Duchess's historical hacks as a starting point for Beetlejuice, and I'll be using the same chemise gown pattern from French Revolution Zombaes for Lydia with some added ruffles.

Everything's kind of at odds and ends right now. I've ordered Lydia's lace trim and we've got Beetlejuice swatches on the way, and I've been slowly gathering little accessory pieces and working on what we already have.

For Lydia's hair, I'm reusing my most recent hedgehog wig that I initially styled for HB Revolution earlier this year (more on that someday). The wig came with bangs which I removed, but because I'm a craft hoarder I saved the wefts so I was able to easily stitch some of them back on.

I unexpectedly found some amazing little bugs (crickets and locusts) at a small craft store during a recent visit home. Not completely sure what to do with all of them yet, but some will definitely go in Beetlejuice's hair and maybe in a few strategic places across the costume (I'm thinking on the shoes will be fun).

Luckily between everything from French Revolution Zombaes last year and the extra petticoats I did for HB Revolution this year, all the undergarments are already done which makes a project of this size feasible at all.

And because this is a big project, like French Revolution Zombaes last year, I'll probably break up the posts into topics.

Stay tuned!