April 28, 2015

An Announcement

Greetings dearest readers & friends!  I have some *exciting* and joyous news to share…

(Image via: http://vintageborn.tumblr.com/image/77389555008)

As many of you may know, I have spent the past year, since graduating from high school, onsite at the Genesee Country Village & Museum interning with a nationally-recognized period seamstress, our local treasure, and, best of all, my mentor.  There, from day one, it has been the utmost pleasure and privilege of mine to work with such talented people – the costume shop ladies, all of the staff and interpreters – learning and gaining immense appreciation for a collective past.  I am eternally grateful.  Without doubt, the breadth and depth of the experiences have been incredible, and have truly modeled me into a better student, seamstress and professional.

Now, to the question of much thought and debate over the past few months: simply, what's next?

At the beginning of the month, I was honored and blessed with both academic AND artistic acceptance into Point Park University’s prestigious conservatory.  However, believing Point Park, for sure, to be out of my reach financially, I decided on a plan B - to remain at the museum that has become so near and dear to my heart for another season while continuing my education at our local community college.

Until, just recently when I received a generous stipend offer along with a costume apprenticeship at the conservatory, which I view as the path to my future in costume design and construction.  My heart fluttered as the possibility of attending Point Park became real again.  However, already set on continuing to work at the museum, I felt conflicted between the two great opportunities.  So, I wrote just about the most persuasive proposal of my writing career to defer admission until the spring semester...

(Image via: https://emilystroia.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/the-road-less-traveled/)

And, as I just found out, the answer is YES!  My request for a semester deferment was granted, which will make it possible to continue my stay at the museum that I adore as a historical interpreter for the entire upcoming season.  Not only will this allow for so many more opportunities to teach and connect with the public, but I am so, so looking forward to continued learning and practice with historical dressmaking techniques as I experiment with and create 1820s, 1830s and 1850s wardrobes, underpinnings and all, for village interpretation.  (As well as document the process here, on this blog, and in a new portfolio to present to the conservatory!)

Then, in the spring, I will be relocating to Pittsburg, PA to join the conservatory program – it’s a win, win, win situation as now I will not have to miss out on any of the life-changing opportunities offered at both institutions!  I honestly couldn't be happier, and there has been much singing, dancing and rejoicing around the house.

Finally, I'll end by stating that it is my firm believe that continuing to strengthen the lasting relationships I have made at the museum over the course of another season will allow me to bring strengthened skills, appreciation and an even greater, invigorated passion for costumes and living history to college and beyond.

Thank you, everyone, for your continued support!

Most sincerely,
Anneliese :)

April 25, 2015

A Medley of Miscellany

As the title may suggest, tonight's past projects post is a medley of miscellany!  Four shows and various accessories, though none enough to make a post of their own, I still wanted to share...

I'll begin with senior year:  As I mentioned previously, in addition to costuming for A Christmas Carol High School, I had the privilege to costume for two more shows with the Young Open & Honest Players (YOHP).

All photos via Facebook.

First was Picnic (2014), the 1952 drama by William Inge.  (Thanks again to Stages for loaning us costume pieces.)  Pam Mount, our beloved directer, and I co-costumed the show.  I had injured myself in a car accident (long, complicated story...) about two weeks before the show, so she had to step in to finish as the show must go on - and it did, perfectly!

Next was a series of one acts, Nothing is Written (2014), written and directed by the very talented Emma M., who I am so lucky to consider a good friend.  She has some real talent, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if she became a professional playwright!  What I like most about YOHP, besides the people, of course, is the flexibility of the troop.  Pam Mount has been absolutely a gem, offering plentiful opportunities for aspiring actors, playwrights and stage managers to express and explore their passions - and even offering me the chance to do what I love best - costume!

Emma's play consisted of five, separate and brilliant one acts:
  1. "Breaking and Entering" - set in the kitchen of an elderly Russian lady, early 2000s.
  2. "Victoria Terminus" - two strangers at a train station in Mumbai.
  3. "The Doll Doctors" - my personal favorite which chronicled the wartime correspondence between two doctors in the allied forces: one in a Belgium hospital, the other in Arabian barracks.  
  4. "Away with the Bathwater" - a very moving conversation between two women in Central Park NYC, 1939. 
  5. "La Maupin" - set in the French countryside, 1692. 
Anyways, to make a long story short, we had about two weeks to throw the entire show together.  Challenge accepted.  Despite the complex costume needs, there was definitely some late night sewing involved, somehow everything came together!  Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures...I was too busy frantically sewing having fun! ;)

Image via: Facebook

STAGES, the Children's Theater at Rochester's Auditorium Theater, allowed me the great opportunity to return to student costume two shows senior year.  The first was Doctor Dolittle (2013) (post pending), which served as my "senior show" and the highlight of my portfolio, and the second was Into the Woods (2014)!  For the Sondheim fun, I was asked to create several headpieces.  The directer specifically asked for the costumes to have a "medieval" flair and approved my sketches for the party headpieces as well as some velvet caps.

Along with some pictures of the party headpieces, here's some fast & easy DIY turban instructions (originally published on my previous blog), perfect for any medieval or regency costumey outings and children's dress up boxes!  There are two easy styles you can make: the "open" turban or the "closed" turban

The "open" style turban band.

The "closed" style turban.

  • Batting for the tube (I actually used 3 layers of mesh because that's what I had on hand at the time)
  • 2-3 fashion fabrics to match the main outfit 
  • Decorative trims, broaches, feathers, etc. 
  • Basic sewing supplies: measuring tape, needle & thread (or hot glue gun)

Directions for making an "open" style turban:
  1. First, measure the circumference of your head (all of the actresses' were around 23").  Then, to make the base, cut a band measuring 3" wide x circumference of head + 1" (for seam allowance) long
  2. Sew long ends right sides together and, when finished, flip to right side (you should have a flat-shaped tube).  Iron and stitch short ends of the tube together to form band.
  3. Cut a rectangle from the batting measuring circumference of head +1" or 2" extra.  Roll into a tube and secure the ends. Stitch the ends of the batting tube together.
  4. Cut generous rectangles of 2-3 fashion fabrics.  Experiment with width (I'd use at least 5") and the length should be at least twice as long as the circumference of head (I rounded to 5" x 60").  Optional: to prevent fraying, cut with pinking sheers, stitch a narrow hem or serge.
  5. Wrap fabric rectangles one at a time around the batting tube securing with a few stitches or a drop of hot glue every turn or so.
  6. When satisfied, wrap and secure beading, pearls, thin ribbon or other trim for contrast.
  7. To finish, whip stitch the base to the inside of the decorated roll.  For more sparkle, feel free to add any other decorations - broaches, feathers, etc.  Enjoy your new turban!

The stepsister's party headpieces:

Party Headpiece #1.
Materials included: baby pink taffeta, pink taffeta, "pearl" trim & patterned chiffon.

Party headpiece #2.
Materials included: silver satin, light purple stretch velvet, beaded "pearl" trim & silver chiffon. 

Directions for making a "closed" style turban:
  1. First, measure the circumference of your head (all of the actresses' were around 23").  Then, to make the base, cut a band measuring 3" wide x circumference of head + 1" (for seam allowance) long.
  2. Stitch a narrow hem on both long sides of the band and sew the shorter ends together (you should have a flat shaped tube).  Fold the tube in half and iron
  3. Cut a generous-sized circle of fabric (mine was 20" in diameter) and gather with 2 rows of running stitches.
  4. Stitch the gathered circle into the band, enclosing the raw ends, to form a base. 
  5. Follow steps 3 through 7 above (from the "open" turban instructions) to finish!  Have fun turban-ing!

The stepmother's and Jack's mother's party headpieces:

Stepmother's headpiece.
Materials included: mystery glittery mesh (backed with black polyester lining),
white stretch velvet, black satin & "pearl" trim.

Jack's mother's headpiece.
Materials included: medium weight polyester lining, red velvet & white, shimmery, mystery fabric.

I'll end with Junior year:  Penfield High School's annual musical was Hello Dolly! (2013) and I had the chance to sew some much-needed set pieces as well as assist backstage with quick changes, especially those for Dolly:

(Image via: Mrs. Abrahamian's - PHS music teacher and vocal director)

Mrs. Darling (the drama teacher) had me busy sewing curtains for the milliner's shop and 13 table clothes for the Harmonious Gardens scene.  Each table cloth, made from sparkly 100% polyester costume satin (shudders), needed to be hemmed on all four sides, and I am so, so grateful my mom stepped up to help with that task...I also was pleased to notice that some of the hats I made for Stages were borrowed and appeared in the millinery shop!

Curtain & table cloth material.

Curtains in action!
(Image via: Mrs. Abrahamian's school webpage)

And finally, in-between shows, I like to sew gifts for my friends!  For Elizabeth's birthday, as she is the bookworm of the group, instead of trying to come up with a book that she has not yet read, I decided to put my sewing skills to the test and create something special for her.  When asked her favorite colors, she replied "cobalt, deep purple and blood red," I really hoped she liked it!  The purse is fully lined, washable and closes with a snap:

The finished purse, no flash.

A peak at the lining, with flash.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

April 18, 2015

Zombies, Sprites & Ghosts, Oh My!

I feel a little silly writing today's post, and not just because of the title, but given the gorgeous weather we have been treated to today as well as the past few days...however, continuing right along with the past projects, the Young Open & Honest Player's (YOHP) A Christmas Carol High School (2013) is up next!

During senior year, I had the opportunity to costumes for three productions at the Young Open & Honest Players, Penfield's community theater.  Each show - Christmas Carol High School (2013), Picnic (2014) and Nothing is Written: A Collection of One Acts (2014) - seemed better than the last, and I could not have asked for a better time.  I am just so grateful to Pam Mount, the director, and the fabulously talented actors over at YOHP (who also willingly agreed to pose for portfolio pictures - thanks!)

A Christmas Carol High School,  the wild play written by Mark Landon Smith, is a spin off of Dickens' beloved holiday classic.  Set at West End High School during their holiday play, Romeo & Juliet, Meredith Priestly, the most popular and meanest student in the school, has a change of heart after five ghosts visit to show her the error of her mean ways.  (Look!  We even made the newspaper: http://blogs.democratandchronicle.com/penfield/?p=6572)

The drama unfolds...

This show featured a complex costume plot - from Romeo & Juliet play practice costumes, to cheerleading uniforms, and to various "flashback" scenes at prom and at the children's holiday party.  (Many thanks go to STAGES for letting us borrow costumes.)  College and creating a portfolio was definitely on my mind at the time, so I choose to focus on the costumes for the five Christmas characters - Gwendolyn, the head ghost; Patty & Patrick Prince, the zombie cheerleaders of Christmas past; Lilliput, the sprite of Christmas present; and, Death, the silent figure of Christmas future.

A happy family of Christmas spirits.

Starting with the Gwendolyn, the slightly crazy, winged, Victorian ghost, weighed down for all eternity by the empty tomato cans of her awful, past deeds:

Our resident, Victorian, "friendly spirit."

Or, in other words, the most difficult and most time consuming of the ghost costumes.  I had originally wanted to create a late-Victorian style dress with a large bustle and the whole nine yards, as they say.  However, the actress literally had seconds to change in and out of the costume as the scenes switched from the present to the past and future; so, the dress, wings and wig were more than enough to worry about.

The before: a wedding dress that had seen one too many performances
and was literally falling apart at the seams...

The after: an outfit fit for a Victorian ghost!

Back view with the lace train.

Gwendolyn's dress was constructed in three parts - the dress, the bustled overlay and the belt with various cans suspended from fishing line.  To achieve that "came from an attic: look, I attacked the dress with plenty of leaves, hollyberry clumps and layers of cobwebs, especially to hide the belt.  Really, there was no plan or order, just lots and lots of safety pins as the clock was ticking!  Scraps of lace were also tied to each can.

For just about every show I've costumed at YOHP, this actress, who is a good friend of mine, has received some sort of crazy wig!  This time, I hunted for out-of-control curls, teased them and added a holly branch wreath and cobwebs.

Issuing a warning of the doom to come...
Next up, the two zombies of Christmas past, Patty & Patrick Prince, who were once cheerleaders at West End High School - that is in the 1950s.  They received red uniforms and the "W's" to match the loaned cheerleading costumes:

Smiling to the grave, 1950s zombie cheerleaders!

Lilliput, the friendly sprite of Christmas present!  This sprite is not to be confused with the caffeine-free soft drink:


For Lilliput's costume, I was aiming for something gossamer and sprite-like.  Through lots of playing around with pins and sewing, I ended up splicing two separate dresses together.  Clumps of holly branches were tacked to the shoulder and side, along with some package bows to complete the costume and play up the "present" joke.  (Sprite of Christmas present, not present as in the gift that comes wrapped with a bow, haha...terrible, I know.)  A dark red wig (that, for the record, needed combing every five minutes) with Christmas elements was added for a merry pop of color.

The before dress.

The after dress front.

The after dress back.  I just loved how gossamery the costume turned out!

Also of note, I made a pretty, pretty princess, pink and sparkles, cone hat for Juliet!  The base was constructed from Pellon ultra firm stabilizer, covered with pink satin and an overlay of pink chiffon with sequins(?), and lined with white poly-broadcloth.  Also featured a light pink chiffon veil and sequin trim.

Best friends forever...

Thanks for reading!  

April 15, 2015

A Fabric Haul & Internship Update

“When I have a little money, I buy [fabric]; 
and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” 
~ Erasmus

My life is a bit of a whirlwind at the moment!  Between college classes, increased responsibilities at my internship, the fast-approaching start of the new museum season demanding research and clothing to be made, and not to mention the BIG college question as Point Park has recently offered me both a generous scholarship and apprenticeship...I have a full schedule!  Right now, I just need a breather...and what usually helps is dreaming up and planning new clothes!  Cue the shopping spree and fabric haul...

Costuming needs for the season:  This season, I will be time traveling each week between three decades!  I have been assigned to the 1820s School House, 1830s Thomson's Tavern for children's games, Hosmer's Inn as one of the hostesses for the historic dinner program and the Foster-Tufts House, as well as returning to the 1850s Romulus Female Seminary.  I am so excited!  However, before the museum opens, I need to do a lot of research and would like to pull together the bare bones of wardrobes for all three decades - the beginning of a full-season long project.  My plan of attack is to focus on the 1830s throughout the rest of April and start of May where, so far, I have nothing!

1830s (Thomson, Hosmer & Foster Tufts)
  • (2-3) Early-style chemises
  • White tucked under petticoat - stash fabric
  • Light blue petticoat - stash fabric
  • Brown linen outer petticoat - I just placed an order for three yards of chocolate brown linen from Wm. Booth Draper & previously purchased several yards of chocolate brown, lightweight broadcloth which will be used for multiple linings and facings where needed
  • Red 1830s short gown
Purchased four yards of this reproduction fabric.

  • Striped linen half apron
Purchased 1 yard remnant from Jo-Anns.  100% linen.

  • (2) Neckerchiefs made from plain, white cotton & black silk 
  • Add cotton ties to patchwork pockets

1850s (Seminary)
  • Fix tucked petticoat with a new button extension
  • Attempt to starch petticoats if time...

Eventual Wants:  Projects hopefully to be completed throughout the spring & summer of the season...

1810s:  I really want a kit for 1812 weekend - classic white sheer gown with a slight train, a pop of color with a silk belt or under petticoat and a printed cotton day spencer jacket - however, I need to convince myself of the unrealistic nature of this desire.

1820s: (School House)
  • New strapped or bodiced petticoat that actually fits!
  • Red 1820s dress - perhaps I could stretch "Regency" and use this for 1812 weekend?
Purchased 7 1/2 yards of this reproduction fabric.

Still THE inspiration for my 20s dress.
Dress c.1825-1830, Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
(Image via: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1349130)

  • Navy dress with silk trim & pelerine (intended for Hosmer or Foster-Tufts)
Purchased 8 yards of this reproduction fabric.

  • Another short gown (intended for Thomson)
Perhaps from this fabric?

  • Finish that corded petticoat!

  • Day dress with a clean, darted bodice and double puffed sleeves (intended for the seminary)
Purchased 8 yards of this reproduction fabric as well!
Advertised as a plum color, the background actually turned out to be black.
Or as some have told me, a dark brown or blue...

  • Finish the chemise & pair of drawers half started
  • Basic mid-century work dress
Still debating on this fabric...

Impossible?  I don't think so.  Crazy?  Maybe... Ambitious?  Yes!  

Besides sewing clothing for the upcoming season at the museum, I am still busy stitching away at my internship!  So much has happened since, well really the beginning of March, when the Sophia Project was finished, as I may have mentioned before.  Aside from helping wherever I'm needed, I had the chance to model two dresses in a timeline fashion shoot - which was a lot of fun.  And, best of all, professional photos were taken of Sophia on a real, live model for the first time at that shoot!  (Post still pending for completed Sophia pictures).

Also, for the rest of March, I worked on the wool jean cloth (I found out) waistcoat that I had started over the summer.  I tried my hand at pad-stitching the collar, polished my prick-stitching skills on the collar lining and attached the fronts to the back at the shoulders.  Then, I became absorbed in my new project: costumes for the summer fairy school camp!

My first stab at pad stitching!

A long trapezoid ready for lining.

The finished collar!

It was so kind of Cheryl to finish the vest for me!  Not only did she attach the collar and finish all of the inside lining stitching, she did all of those neat buttons and button holes.  Cheryl is amazing!  What a unique and challenging experience in men's historic clothing:

Finished front of waistcoat & my first attempt at welt pockets.

Polished cotton back of waistcoat.

Speaking of fairy camp costumes, as the last and final project of my internship, I am responsible for a fairy queen outfit as well as a pattern and example each for the young girl and boy fairies in training!  At the moment, I am hard at work on the fairy queen's grand costume, which will eventually include a puffed sleeve chemise, embroidered corset, bedazzled stomacher, and petal and leaf skirt with a full tulle underskirt.  Wish me luck & thanks for reading!

Rough preliminary planning sketch & notes for the fairy queen costume.