December 20, 2012

where to find the deck of fashion history playing cards

I broke out the cards last night and they worked! I've played with decks where the paper stock is too flimsy or the numbers have been difficult to read, but I'm thrilled to report these cards shuffled and played exactly as a deck of cards should. Yea.

Just so you know, even though I designed this deck and work at the museum that produced them I have no financial interest in these cards. I'm just so excited to see such a wonderful collection presented in such a fun way. So then, for those interested in purchasing a deck (or two!) they are available in the Kent State University Museum gift shop. The museum does not have an online store but you can order via email. The cards are $7.95 per deck, plus shipping.

Have fun!

December 18, 2012

historical costume playing cards

I've been away for way too long. I did make eyelet progress using the eyelet-a-lunch plan. But then my lunch breaks started being used to meet with advisors, or write papers, or work in the studio. The good news is my thesis work is underway and, even though it not is at all corset related, I'll share images once I take some.

I do have something fun to share that is costume related, a deck of playing cards with images from the Kent State University's collection!

This has been a pet project of mine and I'm so happy with the finished deck. Fifty two pictures of beautiful gowns from all eras, details of intricate bead and ribbon work, and a couple of corsets too. When I see my family over the holidays I'm going to force them to play card games with me.

I'm also bringing the 1650s bodice with me so I can make more of a dent in those eyelets. What are your holiday sewing plans?

October 4, 2012

getting my eyelet mojo back

The eyelet-a-lunch-break plan is working. You can see it took a few days before I regained lost eyelet skills.

The eyelet on the left is the first one done after a two year break. (Two years?! Yikes.) It's pretty sad, but yesterday's eyelet, on the right, is a perfect little wagon wheel. Thanks for all the words of encouragement!

October 2, 2012

rebel chic

My enthusiasm for books I've purchased has been documented. So you can image how thrilling it is when I've had some involvement in the production of a book.

Katharine Hepburn: Rebel Chic, written by Jean Druesedow, director of the Kent State University Museum, is being released today. It celebrates the unique style of Katharine Hepburn. In addition to essays contributed by top fashion historians, it also contains never before seen images of her costumes and personal wardrobe. Many photographed by me!

Let me show you my favorite photo in the book.

That is the make up case of some one who was very aware of her appearance, all the while cleverly convincing the public that she couldn't care less. The book is filled with wonderful publicity and behind-the-scenes images. Fans of Katharine Hepburn will of course find plenty to enjoy about the book. But so will those interested in costume design and of course those who love Hollywood's Golden Era.

If I owned a pair of khakis I'd wear them to today to celebrate her sense of style, but I don't. I'm not nearly as sensible as Miss Hepburn.

September 28, 2012

one eyelet down

It's just one eyelet, but it's a start.

Or rather, it's a continuation. I'll stitch another one during lunch today, maybe even two. Well, I shouldn't get overly ambitious. For all of you out there picking up abandoned projects we'll just keep stitching together. One eyelet at a time.

September 27, 2012

one eyelet at a time

I have to finish the 1650s bodice. And the 1844 corset too, but I can start on the 1650s today by tackling an eyelet a day during my lunch break.

Above is my work kit, ready to be rolled up and carried in a tote bag. There are a lot of eyelets to be sewn so I need to just sit down and start sewing. Anyone else out there sewing eyelets? How about just picking up a project that you've put down for too long?

September 19, 2012

a beauty from warsaw

I've wanted to share images of this corset since I first saw it in storage at the Kent State University Museum.

KSUM 1983.1.1500 Three quarter front detail

I recently photographed it as part of the preparations for the upcoming Undress exhibit so I have a few nice pictures to post. Yea. The corset was made in Poland in the 1880s from two layers of silk. The exterior is black brocade and the interior is pale blue moire. If you look closely at the picture below you can see black thread is used for the warp and brown thread for the weft resulting in rich background that helps bring the solid black motifs into focus.

KSUM 1983.1.1500 Busk detail

The M Grochovska engraved on the busk loops is the maker's name, it's also woven on the label inside the corset. There is an image of the label and a bit more information about this corset on the museum's blog. But before you click over there let's take a closer look at the flossing.

KSUM 1983.1.1500 Three quarter detail

Wow. And the bow at the center front.

KSUM 1983.1.1500 Bow detail

Now that's a bow. There are two blue elastic suspenders to support stockings placed at the center front. They were my reference for attaching the garters on the 1911 corset I made. This corset is very shapely, but it isn't small. Laced closed on a form it measures bust 40 inches, waist 29 1/2, and hips 44.

KSUM 1983.1.1500 Three quarter front

So pretty! Don't you agree?

August 22, 2012

paper wigs

It's so fun when craftiness and research come together.

This is a paper wig I made to complete the look for the 18th century gown displayed in the Fashion Timeline exhibit at the Kent State University Museum.  Such a pretty gown deserves pretty hair, right? The wig looked large and over-the-top in the workshop, but when it was put on the dressed mannequin it was missing something. It need a bit more sparkle. So I made a paper feather and bow and as soon I set them on the wig the 'do looked finished. You can see more of the paper wigs on museum's blog!

August 17, 2012

underpinnings, yeah!

The exhibit "Undress: Shaping Fashion and Private Life" will open this September at the Kent State University Museum. I've been photographing all the pretty things that will be on display.

There are some very nice pieces and I'll share some detailed images of a few in future posts!

July 12, 2012

the reverse side side of 18th century embroidery

A couple weeks ago I said I should share more of the historical garments I work with. And here one is. Or rather, here is a part of one that you normally don't get to see.

KSUM 1983.1.1302

This is the underside of an 18th century embroidered waistcoat. What you see here is the bottom edge of the left side. The basting stitches below the embroidery are holding the bottom of the pocket flap in place. Let's take a look from the front.

Look at that perfect satin stitching. Wow. There is a picture of the entire panel, and a bit more information about this object on the museum's blog. Enjoy!

June 22, 2012

working with the prettiest things

Look what I got to photograph.

© Kent State University Museum, accession number 1983.1.8ab

Wow. This circa 1760 robe a la francaise will be on view as part of the Kent State University Museum's upcoming Fashion Timeline exhibit. While the curator and I were dressing it I snapped a couple pictures of the interior.

The yellow silk faille used for this gown is 49 centimeters wide, or just a bit over 19 inches. The seam allowances are a centimeter wide and the pink and blue selvedges create playful stripes running up the inside of the petticoat and robe. A plain old running stitch was used to assemble the panels of the petticoat and robe, and tiny whip stitches connect the bodice of the robe to the linen lining. Here you can see the stitching at the back of the bodice behind the pleats.

There are more pictures of the gown over at the museum's blog. The museum has such a wonderful collection, I really should to make an effort to share more of the lovely garments I work with. It seems like the least I can do since I have no progress on my corsets to share. Tsk, tsk.

June 7, 2012

fashion timeline

I had so much fun illustrating fashion silhouettes for an upcoming exhibit at the Kent State University Museum.  Here they are from the 1750s to the 2000s.

I'd like to wear the dress from the 1990s (bottom row, second from the right) and I'd like the dashing 1810 man (top row, far right) to take me out to dinner. What are you favorites?

June 4, 2012

self portrait

I know, I know. I've been away for too long. Juggling projects means that sometimes corsets have to wait a bit. Boo. Although I have no new corset update I thought I'd share one of the other things I've been working on.

That's me. It reads as plain old black and white, but this self portrait is woven with silver wire and black cotton. It's impossible to capture how the image shimmers and disappears as you view the portrait from different angles. But if you are in the San Jose area between August and October you can see it in person because I just found out this portrait was accepted for the International TECHstyle Biennial. Yea.

I have to clear a few other projects from my work table then I'll get back to the 1844 corset. And the others waiting to be finished.

March 26, 2012

1911 - the corset on a form

Here is is, the 1911 corset, finished and on a form.

Yea! Thanks again to all of you who were along for the ride, whether you were sewing along with me or helping with suggestions. And thank you for your patience these last few weeks while I was unexpectedly away. It's nice to be back and I hope to maintain the momentum I gathered during the sew along. I'm so glad we did it! Now for more of the corset.

I realized while dressing the form that I hadn't made a bow for the center front, and I still think it can use one, but I was not going to hold off taking pictures for that. I'm very happy with the shape. I hope it looks as nice on me as it does on the form. I love the Liberty print. Love it. I also am glad I chose to add that small edge of lace beneath the trim on the top edge. It's just enough to set off the top against the black and white flowers. Let's take a look from another angle.

Not bad. You can see the start of an inflatable form blow out here, please ignore the stuffing that is falling out at the center back. That's not pretty. Look instead at the pleasing curves and long lines. Here's the view from the back.

The form is askew because as I pushed the stuffing up under the corset it started tipping off the support pole. It fell off after I snapped this and was so deflated I couldn't continue using it. I got more use out of that blow up form that expected, I guess it's time to find a real one now. But the corset looks alright. You can see the flossing arrows aim toward the center waistline on both the back and the front. The flossing on the single 1/2 inch bone is where the direction changes.

All in all, a nice corset. When I get a chance to throw it on I'll post more pictures. As always, the list of statistics.

approximately 1 yard fabric - Liberty of London cotton scarf flatlined with white cotton shirting
1- 10 inch busk
8 - 9 inch ¼ inch wide flat steel bones
8 - 16 ½ long inch ¼ inch wide flat steel bones
2 -10 inch long ½ inch wide flat steel bones
1 yard – lace
1 yard twill tape for waist stay
10 yards - 2 inch wide bias to trim top & bottom edges, bone casings & garter covering
5 yards - 3/4 inch wide bone casing
1½ yard - elastic for garters
6 garter slides and grips
40 - size double zero grommets
7 yards - double face satin ribbon or cord for lacing
1 - spool thread

number of seams picked out - 1

March 22, 2012


After a few weeks away I've returned home and I'll be photographing the 1911 corset tomorrow. Yea! When I left it was cool and rainy, I came back to this.

Gorgeousness. I can't decide which flowers I like more, these or the ones printed on my 1911 corset fabric.

March 15, 2012

the new corset, short above the waist

This dress is described as an "odd gown" in a March 16, 1912
article about what the best dressed women are going to wear.

I don't think it looks any more or less odd than any of the other dresses pictured in the the Ogden, Utah Evening Standard. It definitely would be odd if worn with a turn-of-the-century S bend corset instead of "the new corset, short above the waist, and with it's accompanying brassier." I think any of the Henderson's corsets shown in this ad found in the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune ad qualify as "the new corset."

I've been looking for an ad with a corset cut just like Norah Waugh's 1911 patter and haven't found one. The second one in the top row comes close, but without gores. The corset on the top right looks like the post Edwardian pattern used for the sew along. Are there still stragglers out there finishing up sew along corsets? I'll be posting photos of my 1911 corset next week, if you aren't quite done you've got the weekend to finish those last details. Just keep sewing. Don't forget to share your images on the flickr page. It is so exciting seeing the finished pieces! They are looking great, you are so talented!

March 12, 2012

pay no attention to the cute smiling child

I know she looks like the life of the party in her stylish wig, but it's the studious one you should be looking at. The five year old with an embroidery hoop. That's me! I don't know if you can see the similarity between this picture of my sister and the clothespin doll I made of her, but I'm sure you'll agree I haven't changed a bit.

March 6, 2012

a completely different 1911 corset

I've been called from my desk/sewing machine and will be out of town for the next week or two. I won't be able to post any images of the 1911 corset until I return. I will have sporadic corset related posts though, starting with this patent of a completely different 1911 corset.

The back adjustment system is something I plan on trying. It will be a few corsets down the road, but there is a Corset and Crinolines pattern I have in mind for testing it out. I will not be bathing in the corset though.

For those working on sew along corsets, keep sewing, keep posting images on the flickr page. Even though I won't be adding updates about my corset for a bit I'll still a click or two away to answer any questions that come up as you are constructing your corsets.

March 5, 2012

1911 - flossing front and back

The flossing is done, which means the corset is done. Yea. Today I have some up close flossing pictures to share with you. Flossing seen from the front of the corset,

and from inside.

The stitches were done according to my diagram, the only difference is I did round the bottom edge instead of stitching straight across. I tell myself the irregularity of stitches from the interior lets you know a human made this corset, not a machine. I like the arrows to point toward the waist, leading the eye up and toward the center of the body rather than directing it outward.

Flossing is a hand killer, kudos to all of you who added it to your sew along corsets. Did you embroider with a hot water bottle nearby to rest your weary hand on like I did?

March 2, 2012

savoye corset

I was going to post the flossing on the 1911 corset, but after two days of looking I have not found the floss I purchased. I bought it, brought it home, where did I put it? I'm sure once I buy more floss the original bundle will magically appear. In place of flossing I'll share a corset I made a 1905 patent diagram and also wrote about for Foundations Revealed.

Emile Savoye's design has always intrigued me and I learned so much by making a corset using the information found in his patent. Unfortunately, not all corsets turn out perfectly. Sad but true. This one is still pretty good though.

Pros - Decent fit, very interesting pattern, clean construction, pleasing color scheme, the desired silhouette was achieved, learned new ideas about boning and patterning, and I enjoyed learning about the man who designed the corset.

Cons - Wonder Under. You try new techniques, some you like and will use again and some leave you cold. Fusing silk dupioni to cotton with Wonder Under is one of those that left me cold. The resulting fabric had no give and the bias drape is vital for this corset since there are only three pieces per side. Maybe part of the problem was my choice to use dupioni to begin with, it's not a fabric known for it's figure hugging abilities. But the fusible certainly didn't help.

The article is now available for free on the Foundations Revealed site so if you'd like to learn more about this corset pop over and enjoy a read!

A quick word to those working on the sew along corsets, just keep sewing. If that corset is close to being done you're almost there. Slide those bones in, sew that binding on, attach those garters, add some flossing, what ever those last tasks are let's tackle them this weekend. The pictures of finished corsets are coming in on the flickr page and they look wonderful. I am so impressed with all the skilled work! I look forward to adding mine to the bunch!

March 1, 2012

1911 - this end up

I decided to let a small edge of lace peek out under the bias trim at the top of the corset. Just enough to tell me "this end up."

Of course the garters already say, "this end down," but you get the idea. I'm still ambivalent about the trim on top but I think most of my problem is the shine. I wanted the garters to be satin and I wanted the rest of the trim to match so shine I got. Anyway, best to quit second guessing and just keep sewing. Tomorrow I'll show the flossing from the front and the back and I'll take photos of the finished corset this weekend.

Those of you sewing along who stuck to the schedule are amazing. I am impressed. And those of you who a running a bit behind, like me, just keep sewing. Anybody else finishing up the last steps?

February 29, 2012

if I were making a 1911 dress

It would be this.

© Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number WW.523

This illustration was made by Mela Koehler, if you would like to see more of her work click here. I believe the fabric used for the dress was designed by Koloman Moser. Evening gowns are pretty, but the simple lines and bold prints of the Weiner Werkst├Ątte trump lace and beads for me. Is anyone going to be wearing their sew along corset under a simple day dress? With or with out a giant hat like the one shown here?

February 28, 2012

1911 - all the steps in one place

Thank you everyone who participated in the 1911 corset sew along! I couldn't have done this without you! Your input not only helped me with my own design questions, but more importantly served as a guide for instructions needed and also forced me to be organized. I'm still putting the final touches on my corset and will have photos soon. Yea! I thought I'd put links to all the steps in one place for future corset sewing.

supplies needed
sizing the pattern to fit your measurements, more here and also here too
adding length if needed
flat felled seam construction
sewing gores for the Norah Waugh's 1911 pattern
patterning front facing
patterning back facing
busk, loop and stud sides

Here is a link to the flickr 1911 corset sew along group page where you can see images of the corsets in progress and finished work. Well done sewers along! I hope you've had as much fun making your corsets as I have!

February 27, 2012

1911 - lacing, and perfectionism rears its ugly head

I can not tell a lie. My corset is not finished. I know! I should be done, right? I'll go into the lame explanation as to why it's not done in a moment, but first I should go over how I'm lacing this corset for those who have stayed on schedule.

Before I start threading the lace through the grommets is tie a small slip knot in the center on the lace. That way I can't accidentally pull the laces through with one side way longer than the other. Once the corset is laced I just undo the knot. Easy. I bring the lace through from back to front, or from the interior to the exterior, of the corset.

When I reach the waist I skip one grommet.

The loop is made by threading the lace on the open grommet above on the same side, then crossing to the grommet below the threaded one on the opposite side.

The loop on the other side is made the same way.

Then I continue lacing back and forth to the bottom of the corset.

The ends are tied together in a bow. Making the loops at the waist with the extra cross keeps them from slipping when you are putting the corset on. The extra cross isn't necessary, it just helps.

So now on to why my corset isn't finished. I'm still having issues with the top edge. I bought lace and ribbon and spent Saturday morning dying both. The lace was originally so white it glared against the fabric, and of corse there was no ribbon to be found that was the same color as the garters and trim on the bottom. So I bound the edge with black bias and pinned the lace in place. Maybe, OK, obviously, I'm over thinking it, but the lace isn't quite right. It's too sugary for my taste.

You can see I pinned ribbon over to get an idea of what it would look like if I bound the edge with aqua bias and left just some of the lace showing. But I'm still not sold. It competes too much with the print of the fabric. Here it is with only plain ribbon to mimic the aqua bias.

That is my favorite. Of course by time I finally arrived at this point the Oscars were ready to air and I had to watch. But I've made the correct decision, right?

February 24, 2012

1911 - flossing diagram

Before I dash off to purchase better thread for flossing I thought I'd share the stitching diagram.

The needle comes out from the interior to the exterior of the corset on hole number 1, and goes back in on hole 2, out at 3, in at 4, and so on. Stitching in this order allows the thread to show on the front of the corset, but only small stitches will be visible on the interior of the corset. I may round the bottom of the arrows instead of keeping the straight line, and I may need eight stitches across instead of seven, but you get the idea.

Week eight of the sew along is done! I'll finish the flossing this weekend and lace the corset on Monday. Sew along participants who feel like they are off schedule can catch up this weekend too, and please do share images of your finished work on flickr group page. It is so exciting watching the progress of everyone's corsets, I can't wait to see more as they are completed!

February 23, 2012

1911 - functional and decorative

Flossing not only keeps the boning snug in it's channel, it's pretty too. Yea. By the nineteen teens the era of elaborate flossing had waned, but that's no reason you can't go crazy and add ornate embroidery to your sew along corset. Just grab and embroidery needle and thread. The thread can be silk, or a few strands of embroidery floss, or button hole twist like I used on the black sample below.

The aqau is the same thread I used to sew the bias trim and garters and it's a bit spindly, but good enough for a color test. Let's get a better idea of how it would look on the corset.

Aqua, right? The black creates a triangular hole on the corset and is also too geometric against the organic print. The aqua is airier and picks up the color of the bias but doesn't compete with the flower on the print. Who's with me? Aqua!