Saturday, July 12, 2014

Medieval Nursing Dresses

My kiddo is still on the boobajuice, and Pennsic is fast approaching.  Up to this point I've been wearing the same, sad outfit to every SCA event we've been day-tripping to.  Unfortunately for me, that will not be possible at Pennsic without becoming very stinky very quickly... so more nursing dresses. 

Which means, more research into HOW medieval women nursed their children.  Even today Boob Access is an issue, though you'd never guess it from our advertising world.  I say "if I can get a breast out, it's a nursing top" and that is pretty much true.  There seem to be several ways our ancestresses handled this particular life-stage, and I get the feeling that dress seams got split & re-sewn on a regular basis.

The main one seems to be the front slit, which goes from early representations in the 900's up through to today.  The slit depth has to depend on breast height, and methinks some artists took a bit of liberty in anatomy and fashion to accomplish these illustrations. 
1170 Huntarian Psalter, Psalm 71.
Aside from her breasts coming from her neck you can see a lined dress & chemise both slit in the center and a veil/wimple combo. 
Do my eyes deceive me, or does that monk have a handlebar mustache?  For those of you not in the know, this is likely Charity, who feeds "the world" from her own body.  Usually 2 men or 2 toddler boys are the ones nursing. 
1450 Jean Foquet's Lactating Mary (probably Virgin Enthroned but whatever)
OK, since I've nursed a kid, I can tell you this is totally possible.  It's reality People.  No joke.  She's just missing the leakage on the other side.  He doesn't look hungry.  I sympathize with her.
I love this gown, but I'm not sure my kiddo will sit patiently long enough for me to unlace to feed him.  You can see that the chemise has a wide enough neckline that the breast goes over it vs. having a slit.

Then there is the Front Slit with Sidless Surcote combo, which is what's been keeping us going.  I just leave the front of the dress unlaced, which is covered by the surcote and then pull the outer to the center & the under to the side & a little impatience from my kid makes a meal on the go.  This method (so far) is the most modest to modern eyes.  Most people don't even know I'm nursing unless they scare him out of his food trance & he bites me.  Good for 1100's-late 1300's

The next is a button front gown.  This is on the To-Do list just because they are so lovely and I wants one.  This gown can have both side lacing and front buttons, but I'll be honest, it looks odd in real life.
1380, Lady de la Pole and her husband Sir John de la Pole, Essex (as it happens my father's family was from Essex about the same time).  Me needs a goffered veil.
I have a tippet dress, but it's side lacing.  Was great while pregnant.  Now I want one that buttons so I can nurse.  And BUTTONS!  When I do this, I will do it with raglan sleeves and possibly a binding strip at the neckline. 
Please note, I am not this thin, and never will be.  But the style suits larger figures quite well.
Next up is the "over the neckline" nursing dress.  The necklines here are cut down far enough to allow the dress to be pulled down just a bit, so kiddo can nurse.  Usually worn in combination with a partlet of some kind or a veil, making it incredibly frustrating for costume historians to decode the exact dress construction.

Roger Van der Weyden was kind enough to give us "St. Luke Drawing the Virgin" 1435-40
The neckline is low enough that she can just lift out, nurse & put back without much fuss. 
I used to think his expression was unrealistic until my own kid did that.


Last are the chest slit fashions, mostly from Italy in the early 1500's, but some as early as the 1200's in Western Europe.  Some show lacing, but most are just gathered material that close over the bust when not in use.  I cannot see this ending well for me, so we'll skip that particular fashion.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mincemeat Pie, Bilbo's Pantry and Chaos... Total Chaos

Long time no write Dear Readers!  Babies are time sinks.  Delightfully so, but wow.
Here's a bit of chaos, and to my grief the last piece was eaten yesterday.

Amazing Mincemeat pie, with cheese.

The Challenge: 
1. Literary Foods  June 1 - June 14
Food is described in great detail in much of the literature of the past. Make a dish that has been mentioned in a work of literature, based on historical documentation about that food item.

I knew I was going to use The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein for this challenge, and while Dwarf Jelly was quite enticing, I had difficulty deciding which meat to substitute for Dwarf as that is harder to find than dragon these days.  When my husband requested chicken I knew this dish would not happen, just as it didn’t happen in the book. 

After tossing around the idea of making Beorn’s honey cakes, a sort of hard-tack; I threw it all away and went for Bofur’s mincemeat pie and cheese in honor of the FDA not banning artisanal cheesemakers from using wooden boards.  I purchased a nice aged sharp cheddar and some rye bread, several half-chickens (musn’t forget Gandalf’s cold chicken & pickles), and then everything to make mincemeat pies.  The grocery bill wasn’t pretty, but thankfully it’s a lot of pie filling and the rest is going towards our dish to pass at an event.

The Recipe:
From Buckeye Cookery 1877.  It is an American recipe, not an English one, though it shares many elements with the English versions. 

Mince Meat
Two bowls chopped apples, one of chopped meat, with one-fourth pound suet, grated rind and juice of one lemon, two tea-cups molasses, one large tea-spoon each of cinnamon and cloves, one nutmeg, one pound raisins, half pound currants, one-fourth pound citron cut fine, one quart cider, and sugar and salt to taste.--Mrs. J. R. Wilcox, New Haven, Connecticut.

My Interpretation of the original:
9-12 lg. Apples, chopped
1 lb. chopped meat, beef brisket or neck
¼ lb suet, frozen and grated (1/2 c. veggie suit or butter or lard)
1 lemon, grated & juiced
2 c. molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 grated nutmeg
1 lb raisins
½ lb currants
¼ lb citron cut fine (substituted diced lemon peel)
1 qt. Cider (4 cups)
Sugar to taste (1/4 c.)
Salt to taste (1 tsp)

Chop meat while frozen, as small as you can.
Put meat in a skillet on med-low heat and cook slowly until just brown.  Turn off & set aside.
Grate lemon, orange or other fruit rind.  Set aside.
Grate frozen suet & set aside.
Peel & chop apples until you have roughly 2x as many apples as there was raw meat.
In a large pot, combine all ingredients and simmer 30 minutes or more.
Pack away in jars or freeze in 2-4 c. amounts.
Let sit overnight for best flavor (refridgerated) before baking.
Bake in a double pie crust or tarts: 425F for 15 minutes, down to 350 for another 30 minutes.
Makes 2 pies & a large tart.

Date, Year & Region:
Buckeye Cookery was printed in 1877, and the recipe was adapted from  Mrs. J. R. Wilcox of  New Haven, Connecticut’s contribution.  The Hobbit came out in 1937.  I chose an older recipe because the “feel” of the people in the Shire is much more old-world.  I’d put them somewhere between the late 18th c. and rural 1870’s.  With all the ingredients this mincemeat has a lot of Hobbit Appeal. 

Time to Complete:
1.5 hrs of prep for the mincemeat filling (less if you use a food processor).
30 minutes of cooking the mix on the stove.
15 minutes to make the pie crust 
45 minutes to bake.

Total Cost:
$4 apples (had leftovers)
$5.75 cheese
$3.00 apple cider (1/2 left)
1.24 suet (a lot left, so can use for another recipe)
17.24 brisket (used 1 of 4 lbs)
unfortunately the specialty food store didn’t give me a receipt & the prices were not on the bags.  I believe it was $25 for everything.  I have some molasses left over.

How Successful was it?
My father says “excellent”
My husband says “it was good”
My mother says “it was delicious, yummy yummy yummy” (talking to grandkid)
I say “fabulous with the cheese; on the 2nd day it’s even better.”
My son did grabby-hands for more, but dislikes lemon peel & spit that out.

How Accurate is it?

Pretty accurate in terms of ingredients.  Substitutions were listed as suggestions in the instructions for a larger recipe; orange rind & lemon peel in place of citron, which would have been a 100 mile drive to obtain.  I was able to get everything else from the butcher (Grizzly Custom Cutting), a specialty food shop in the next town (Jane’s Pantry) & the local grocery store.
I did use modern equipment; gas stove, cutting board, bowls, etc., but cut everything by hand, which made the prep time longer. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Copyright & A Baby

My friend Carol has suggested that I do a blog post a day just to keep my mind sharp while I numb it through breastfeeding, (no really, it's all that oxytocin, your mind is in this happy fog of motherhood... pretty awesome when you think about it).  I'm not that ambitious, but a few things have been rattling around in my head other than rattles, and while the munchkin sleeps in my lap I'll take the opportunity to babble to y'all.

First: Copyright on the Internet.
My friend Bea has gone on quite a rant about it. Here is her polite blog post with links to resources about copyright.  (Bea's blog, you'll love it)
Trystan's is also great

I've been considering watermarking the stuff I put on here that's actually mine.  A good bit obviously isn't, as the artists have been dead for ages, though I do try to cite when possible.  Every once in a while I even go back and correct things or update info.  I admit I'm a bit hazy on the sharing of museum owned artwork by long dead artists and Trystan addresses that...
BUT for my purposes I'm totally cool with people using my (personal) images/info for educational purposes via links, excerpts with citations or credited pictures.  This means you credit the source (me) and don't make money off my stuff without express written permission, and this is not that.  If it doesn't come through the USPS in a signed contract it's not written permission.  If you blatantly steal my stuff and put it in a $10 for sale packet I will hate you forever, call you out on your BS and if you don't immediately make it right there will be lawyers... just sayin'.  If you lift my research and turn it in to your college professor as your own without even changing my lame jokes, I will email said professor and let you wonder why you failed that course (yes, I saw that, the costume world is small and the internet is even smaller, Plagiarizers Beware)... My black little heart enjoyed that.  Anyway, I blog tutorials for free for a reason and having someone copy a blog post and then obnoxiously charge people for it is just rude. And illegal.  So don't.

Child break...

Next day... (you see how much I got done?  Amazing, isn't it?)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cloth Book for Baby

Whew it's been a while! 
I've been up to my eyebrows in motherhood and my life is boob-pee-poo-play-cry-snot-boob-look.I'm.a.bed.don't.move.or.he'll.wake.up-boob-rockabyebaby-puke-ABCDEFG-TIRED-repeat for 3 glorious months.

Happy New Year!

And without further ado, here's a cloth book I made for the kid. He likes it.
He loves the dots and tries to grab them.

He's keen on the red but only cares about the lace bit of the orange.

LOVES the yellow.

Boy likes yellow.  Ducks are yellow.. I have no idea why you keep saying "blue" Mommy.

Black textures.  The silk heart on the net is acceptable, but not the favorite.
I was not particular about my stitching lines or sizes.  Approximate was good enough, Little Dude is going to gnaw on it & probably puke on it.  Cloth books from the store are generally about $15 or so, and I needed construction to stay in the time frame of THE NAP.  All told, it was about 2 hours, so my "budget" was blown, but a lot of that was my own dithering.  The next one will be faster.

Essentially you pick a theme: colors ROY G BIV (WB) in this case, nursery rhyme, animals, an activity (playing with a ball), etc. and go with it.  Keep it simple.  Don't fret.
Kids this age just basically like colors, contrast, things to touch and most importantly, things to chew on.
As long as everything is secured and there's no choking hazards it's all good.

Each panel here is cut 7x7, different fabrics, lined with cotton for more bulk (the kid loves quilting, so that's next), then stitch right sides together with a binding strip, clip the corners, turn and topstitch.  The binding strips were sewn together in nice sloppy lines.  Pin those buggers, that much fabric likes to squish and slide.

You cannot do this wrong.  Just make it washable and it's all good. 
This is the bazillionth blog post about this, so it really is that easy.
Go for it!  The kid will love it.
Nummy book.

BTW, this is John Robert.  John Robert, this is your first blog appearance.  Congrats kid.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

One Life, One Death

WARNING: This is not going to be a normal AB&WOC post; I'm afraid I'm a bit on the emotional side, considering I'm in the 9th month of this whole Kid House thing, bare with me... it's about to get very personal.  Don't read this if you might be upset by it.

(I had to consider if I should publish this or not, and I've decided that while it's deeply personal, it might help someone else get through what we've gone through... I'll tell you that there are some situations that will never be "OK" and you don't get past them.  You go through them and you keep living.  Big difference.  But life is worth it).

Yay hormones!

I'm a bit worried about a friend of mine who has a similar history of pregnancy loss, ectopic pregnancy & general medical mess as me.  She's pregnant again & not quite as far along as is comfortable for people who have suffered multiple early losses.  Everything looks good for her so far, but it's still nerve wracking, waiting to hear and knowing exactly what she's going through.  I've tried to express that concern to a few people who promptly ignore and move the conversation to more comfortable topics. Understandable, and there's nothing they can do, not much to say, and it's so hard to relate... but it's frustrating all the same.

That her life is a scary parallel to my own, witnessing the total indifference of others is difficult. As my mother says, "nobody cares but you."

People try to be comforting and they say hurtful things without thinking.
"I'd stop trying after an ectopic!"
No.  No you wouldn't.  If you want a child and it's safe to keep trying, you keep trying.  It's as simple as that.
Ectopic pregnancies suck.  They suck so much I can't even begin to say how much they suck.  Not only is there absolutely no hope of survival for your might-have-been-child, it could easily kill you too.  And the solution to the problem (while not as horrible as it was decades ago) also sucks.  You are sick for weeks (maybe); it HURTS... it hurts more than a broken bone, more than being hit by lightening (trust me, I know).  It hurts emotionally because it's all so utterly hopeless.  And they don't tell you about the possible side effects of the medication because it's listed as "generally well tolerated."  Well, lemme tell ya, as a person who does not generally tolerate medications well, that was one heck of a roller coaster.  While I can't say for certain it's what caused my stroke last year (too many factors there), it was a contender, especially when you consider that I got the worst possible advice on what painkiller to take with it.
The one blessing in all of that is that I didn't have to make a conscious decision to end the pregnancy, I was spared that by fate & doctors playing "pass the bombshell" long enough that I miscarried naturally, but had complications that required treatment.  The ectopic was confirmed during surgery, but the whole communications mess that just made it worse. 
Now take those losses, the doctor-induced PTSD, a mini-stroke and months of recovery time... and after all that, no, you don't stop trying; not when both tubes are fine & you are medically cleared.
"Why don't you just adopt / take in foster kids?"
Well... lemme tell ya...
First, there are certain (very strict) qualifications a couple has to meet in order to adopt in the USA. 
Let's not even discuss going out of country.One is an income requirement, which my husband & I do not meet.   Basically you can work your tail off & meet the income requirements and not the time requirements, or you can luck into a job that pays enough & offers enough free time that an adoption agency will feel comfortable handing you responsibility for another human being.
The next is a house with so many square feet & room requirements for said human.
Health insurance to cover the above-mentioned human.
The list goes on & on & on & on.  It's extensive, but not impossible.
When we were doing the "full work-up" (that's what genetic screening & a bunch of tests to find out why we couldn't grow a kid past 12 weeks is called) we talked about this.  If we couldn't have natural children, we would have worked to become adoption eligible.
Second, and perhaps the most important aspect in all of this (that many people miss) is that I want my child.  Some people can adopt without batting an eye.  Others can't.  It really takes a special person to adopt a child, and I don't think I'm that person.  Maybe I don't give myself enough credit, but I want to see my grandfather's smile on my child's face.  I want to see hints of my mother peaking out in his eyes.  I want to see how much he looks like my husband's family, if he'll giggle like mine or chuckle like his.  I grow my own food, make my own clothes, own my own business.  Why would I do it any other way with my family?
As to the foster kid thing... I still might consider it.  Again, there are criteria that must be met that we do not currently meet, and it's a tough gig.  Those kids often come in with broken hearts.  100% understandable, but I'd have to be very confident in my ability to take care of them and be prepared to lose them on a moment's notice, not to death but to bureaucracy or paperwork or justice, or even back to their own parents (which is the outcome you hope for there).  That's hard.  Love is not so easily thrown away for me... after losing so many of my own, could I let go of a child I loved & see them go to someone else and not know if they are going to be OK?  Am I willing to put myself in a situation where I know my heart will be broken?
"What's wrong with you?"This may seem like a logical question, and when asked with sensitivity it is reasonable. 
But like many couples who either suffer early losses or infertility, the medical answer is "we don't know."  Amazingly, 50% of couples in our situation do not get a definite medical diagnosis.  The good thing is that there's always a chance in the "WDK" category that you can have a healthy, living child.  The bad thing is that you have no logical answers & the human brain craves those.
Small blessings that I ended up with a surgery that fixed whatever the problem was due to a misdiagnosis (All Better! as evidenced by my rather kicky kid) .  So, problem fixed, but lab tests were still inconclusive as to what that problem was.  This leaves us with uncertainty for the future.  We're good at getting pregnant, but once we have a living child, do we risk future pregnancies and possible losses?  How do you tell your son that mommy was going to give them a little brother or sister but now that's not going to happen because they died before they were born?  Moreover, how do you tell your son that he is your ninth child when he's the only one standing here?
"I don't understand why you keep trying.  I'd stop after X miscarriages."
Oddly enough, it's because we want a living child.
You see... there's this state called Parenthood that some people just want to enter into. 
Some don't & that's fine. 
But when you want it, no force on earth can stop that craving but to attain it.
For most couples (and singles), it's easy: want a child, have a child.
Not so easy for some unlucky people.  It becomes all-consuming.  It's your joy, your hope & your grief.  It's faith in the future.  It's love.
What deeper love can there be than what's between parents & their children?
What greater act of love can there be than to create a life through the physical expression of it?
When you have lost... You see, when you bring a life into this world, you've also brought a death into it.  One life, one death.  The only variables are how & when and what you do with the time in between.  My little ones who came before this healthy boy I'm about to birth... I loved them so fiercely.  Even knowing they would never live to draw breath, I loved them.  I begged God to let them stay with me, to grow, to live; and through the tears & the blood I loved them.  Even knowing the grief and the pain about to take us both, I loved them; at that point love was all I could give them, so I flooded them with love.  That painful grief is itself an expression of deep love.  Love is worth risking pain.
So no... you don't stop trying after some arbitrary set number.  You try until you can't try anymore either through emotional exhaustion or physical inability.  And then you may just try once more out of a last desperate hope.
Because that love is worth it.
Today the ones who came before are in my thoughts.  Some had names, some didn't.  Some spoke, some didn't (yes, some pregnancies aren't just weird food cravings & puke, they come with a voice too... it's a bit creepy to start, but it's a reality that science is slowly catching onto).  I wonder if he's one of them come back to me?  It's always possible.  While the body genetics wouldn't be identical, the spirit might be the same. 
I know he's not Brian... lord was that a bad match!  I wish that little soul luck in finding the right parents because we sure weren't it!  Anyone in California near a good surfing spot looking for a totally rad son? 
He's not Her... she was so afraid of life, so afraid of being hurt, so afraid of coming into the world.  I promised I'd love her, that we'd love her and that the world was safer than she thought, that it was beautiful... but she didn't want any of it.  I fought to keep her for a while, then realized that the least I could do was give her the choice out of love, and she fled moments after I told her she could stay or go, that living was her choice. 
The others didn't want to go any more than I wanted to let them go.  Some hovered for a while, not understanding that life wasn't going to happen. Others left when life faded, and perhaps before.  On average women will carry about a week after fetal death, sometimes as much as two.
I buried them all in the same place, a favorite childhood spot.  You see, when you have early losses, depending on your state laws they are not considered human, they are medical waste.  And so with all that love and grief, I should then give my children over to strangers hands in a cold lab to be analyzed & incinerated with the other trash?  No.  I'd rather go without answers and know I buried my babies with dignity.  Understand that is a very personal decision.  One not easily made because the quest for answers is compelling.  So while this was the right decision for me, others may handle this differently.
As of Sunday, my son will be term.  As far as we can tell he's a healthy, fat little baby boy in a good head-down position and moving downward as I type.  He likes music and dislikes gunfire (if you think a 36 week kid can't ninja to the other side of your uterus like an 18 week fetus, just go to a reenactment & stand next to the guns; he about knocked me over).  At least we know he can hear.  He thinks my walk time is his romper time (ya know that myth about "they sleep when you walk"?  Yeah, right).  He wakes up when his daddy comes home & loves to hear him talk, but won't move when someone touches my stomach.  He loves eggs & hates fish.  He's snuck soda by me multiple times (I can no longer count the glasses I've realized I'm drinking on the last swallow), but he's also a fruit eater like me.
We are both healthy.  This pregnancy hasn't always been a picnic, and I was terrified I'd lose him... and I think I would have if we hadn't gotten some really good advice from a retired midwife.  We put me on light duty & bedrest until I could move without pain.  I won't breathe easy until he's out & breathing on his own -  and that's not just because he's kicking me in the diaphragm.   Losses are a blessing and a curse.  You don't rest easy, you don't enjoy the pregnancy, when I bled a while back my heart was ready to break... it turned out to be no big thing, but I was terrified until he moved.  The blessing is that you know exactly how much this little person means to you.  You are keenly aware of their mortality, and of your own.

There are a few days or weeks before our lives change in the biggest way they will perhaps ever change.  All 8 lbs of it.  I know it's not going to be sunshine & rainbows - it's going to be poo & tears & puke & sleepless nights & silly shooshing noises until we hyperventilate... followed by "OMG where's my toddler?!?" standing in the road/up a tree/under a cow...and coming home from school upset about something, and (eek!) romance, and then god only knows what.  I know we'll screw him up somehow, every parent does.
But we'll also have sweet baby-kisses, chubby hands learning to pet a cat, those moments that are the Best Ever, and god only knows what after that, with love.
So, when someone asks "why keep trying?"  This is why.  A chance at life and the deepest love there is.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kid House

Yup, I'm a kid-house.
As many of you probably know by now from reading my FB page, my husband & I are expecting our first child in about a month.  I say "about" because the little darlings never show up when they say they are going to.

While this pregnancy hasn't been a piece of cake, it hasn't been totally horrible either.  At this point we have a very reasonable expectation of a living child.

I spent most of the first trimester on partial bedrest.  We were so afraid of losing another one, it was worth tracing the tiny cracks in the plaster of my bedroom ceiling over & over & over & over & over again. 
The second trimester was like "wee!  energy!" tempered with "Don't Lift THAT!!!"  I was able to go for walks, sew a little bit and regained a touch of normal life. 
Third trimester has been up & down.  Bed rest again for a bit, followed by some minor prego issues & borderline test results.  Nothing to indicate an unhealthy pregnancy, but things that do need to be managed.  When I push myself is when I get into trouble.  So no pushing.  I've been assured that we really are healthy, but I won't downplay the paranoia.

Mommy Brain is absolutely horrid.  I couldn't sew if I wanted to... it's as bad as being drunk, though not quite as bad as it was after the mini-stroke of last year.  The boy will be getting a lot of reenacting clothes with crooked seams & bad hems.    Somehow I doubt he'll notice or care.  I've sewn the wrong things together, linings to outsides, squiggly seams, cut original patterns vs. tracing over & making new ones, misaligned things, and a whole host of other bone-headed mistakes.  I'm told this will pass rather quickly & I'll look back on it with humor.  I certainly hope so.  I swear they steal a bit of our brains to make their own.

Upcoming Projects

All of this means that the business is closed for the next few months.  Tentatively we will re-open in February or March depending on how things go.  Once I can wrestle dummies around & take pictures of all the "new" stock that I never uploaded onto the old website, we'll have the new website up and running.  Though we haven't been taking custom orders for a while, when the new website goes up it will be purely off-the-rack.

Please feel free to call or e-mail and ask about what we do have in stock, but don't ask me to sew anything!  We'll both regret it!

Tentative plans are to attend Ft. Frederick in the spring, either as a vendor or as a camper.  This will entirely depend on how the boy & I are doing and if I have an assistant, and if they let me in after I skipped out on them this year (see First Trimester Coma).

Between now & then, I'm focusing on research (ha!  try that with Mommy Brain!) via photocopies, highlighters & notes in the margins.  Once I have my head on straight will any of it make sense?

- The main project is a timeline of patterns with research summary going from 1000 to 1500 for men & women in S/M/L.  These are outfits, not just one-off garments, and they all require fittings.  I will post the research & some pictures either here make a new blog specifically for this project and link to it.  It's an SCA thing and I have no intention of publishing or marketing the patterns.  Right now I have 4 outfits done, 6 to go.  I won't do much until I can actually sew things together to check how the patterns work, but I'm not in a rush to finish it.

- Spinning has been a wonderful no-impact past time.  I've slowly managed to make a few more skeins of yarn and I'm not unhappy with the results. 

- Moving the store out to the stone building (which is still dirt floors & broken windows) is on the back burner.  It must be done because the child will need his own room soonish, but there is a lot of heavy lifting involved that I'm simply unable to do right now.  I would like to have the floor poured before it gets cold, we'll see if that's possible or not.

- Diapers & Kidlet Clothes.  Yes, I've been making those silly cloth diapers that so many people love.  We managed to score some pre-mades which will fill out about 1/2 of what we need, and the rest I can do as he grows.  Reenacting clothes for the boy; trying to keep it fun, simple & functional.  Using quite a bit of scrap fabric.

The benefit to cloth diapers is both economic & environmental.  Also, much, much cuter than the plastic things.  And no chance of latex, perfumes, dyes or mystery chemicals.  I always wondered why I choked up around Huggies, and IDK if you know this, but they contain latex!  Uurgh!  So great, I need an eppi pen to change my kid's poo sack.  No thank you.  Cloth it is!
I got better at making them as time went on... this one - not so good.  It'll catch poo, but it's kinda ugly.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Real Models

Sometimes in costume design you have to sketch things out for a client or yourself before beginning a project.  The typical fashion design template is going to be something along these lines:, which is fine if you are actually working in the fashion industry or marketing your designs to a corporation or manufacturer.

Unlike mainstream clothing design, historic costuming is a whole other ballgame.  First, no human being in the world has legs that are 6 heads long.  Most women range from 5-8 heads tall total, not 9 or 10 (or 12) like the Barbie-esque fashion industry would have us believe.  The average woman, American or not, has a much higher BMI than these ultra-thin sketches would have us believe; so to get a realistic idea of what my clients are going to look like in a given outfit, I go straight for the camera & photo editing programs, print the master copy out & go to town designing over their "real" bodies. 

The first set is from my own wedding dress designs using various patterns & fashion plates that I stretched to fit my own body in MS Paint.  I think these were from 2006 and it was the first time I used this technique.  Since it was my wedding, not a reenactment, I mixed a lot of time period elements.

First I start with the body blanks (now I take front/side/back)
Take the photos from the mid-level of the body to avoid foreshortening.
Edit out the background for a clean white copy.  
I also trim off things like t-shirt sleeves & other clothing bits that hang out beyond the form.  Skirts usually aren't an issue for me but if they don't fit your design have your model wear pants so you can see their legs.

This is the design I ended up going with.  The patterns were purchased from Truly Victorian with a few minor modifications.

BTW, Heather's patterns are awesome.

I fiddled with a few other cuts & time frames, but really liked the Monet's Picnic theme, so we stuck with the 1860's fantasy dresses.

You get the idea... same commercial sketches, slight variations in how I stretched the images to make them fit my own body.  It let me see what a 150" hoop looked like vs. a 100" hoop.  I also got to play with colors, though I knew I was going with red after having weeks of White Dress Nightmares.
We made a trial dress to get the idea of the shape (bodice not fitted here) and then went on to make the final outfit. 

I changed a few things as we went, rounding out the hoop, shortening the skirt, the neckline & waistline shapes changed a bit. 

If I had it to do over again (please, no more weddings), I would pick a different cut for the neckline & take more care in fitting the shoulders, but these are the things we learn in time.

Today I prefer to use a print-out master copy of the front/side/back photo & draw the designs with colored pencil.  This is especially helpful when a customer doesn't know quite what they want.

Below are recent sketches for Vicki's gowns from various time periods & locations across Europe.
This lets me plan an outfit from the skin out, listing the necessary garments & any important facts that go with them.
Hand drawn is faster than digital and I can easily explore slight design changes without cursing my mouse.

1430's Vander Weyden dress

1500 Italy, St. Catherine of Alexandria dress

1530's Anne Stafford dress

1580 Ball of Henry III dress

Let's face it; we like to look good & know what we are going to look like from behind.  "Does this dress make my butt look big?" can be a loaded question when asked by a reenactor.  Should it make your butt look big?  Does it look big in a good way?  This technique, while not fool-proof, will help you & your customer make good design choices from the beginning.