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.