Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I'm going to TRY and finish some UFOs.
I hear that laughter. I have started many a project that lose steam for as many reasons as there are excuses. I know you know. I was going to try and de-stash this year, too. After some internal wrestling, I figured I love fabric more than keeping to a tidy hoard, so that didn't happen. Know yourself, I say.
I was going through the half finished, half remembered to give away a UFO to a friend (that's one way to finish them) when I came across this.

Black lace over silk, what's not to like?

Sleeves "donated" from something that had outlived it's welcome.

I love the lines on bustle bodices.

  I don't remember what this was for. I think it may have been a Victorian Halloween of some sort. Who knows, but it will  make a nice dinner dress, for....... a nice dinner. Don't hold me to anything, I reserve the right to abandon it. I think the basic bodice is a cobbled front and back from a few TV patterns. It's always a mix and match over here with deviations, lots of deviations.  I have lots more jet in the stash so I'll festoon the front with sparkles. I have a ladies tea coming up in February, one would think it would be perfect, but I have another plan which involves paisley velvet and silk taffeta. It's a sickness.

I here by absolve you from stash-busting. Buy what you love and give away the UFOs to someone who will squee with delight. Everyone wins!
Every Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Am A Plaidypus

Dickens Fair was so much jolly fun, a lovely meet-up with many old friends. Friends so dear that the passage of a great deal of time still reveals all the same affection. We drank and caroused, we quipped and cajoled. We were on a tear, a spree, we kicked over the traces and cut up didos. I think you get my meaning.  And all in plaid.
All forlorn on the dress form
And in the low light of the fair

There were many other lovely plaid dresses, Aimee Major http://aimeemajor.com/wp/2014/12/15/dickens-fair-2014/#comment-28212 and Val Labore, http://timetravelingincostume.blogspot.com/
Who also have many more pictures than I took the trouble to take, being "Madame Mischief".
My dear friend Todi in her Music Hall costume, she is a spawkling diamond!
Sunday I was a demi-Harlequin, in a saucy short skirt which was very handy for traversing crowds. 
If I were a better blogger I'd have more pictures. Go over to Aimee's blog she has tons!
Ever Your Thimble,
Miss Brilliantine

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Velvet Booties

Just catching my breath after the ball gown sew-a-thon and getting ready to fly up to San Francisco for the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. I strolled about the Pasadena City College flea market on Sunday and found these.
Velvet is so hard to photograph 
Curvy little heel, square toe, what's not to like! They do have a rather thin sole I may have a rubber dance sole put on just for cushion. I bought them for a bustle day dress but they may make it into the regular rotation.

Speaking of Dickens Fair, I finally finished a UFO jacket cut out about two years ago. The skirt I've had for almost 20 years! (Gulp). It was asking for a jacket and I caved, see.

Use all the jet!

Flashy and respectable, it can be done. Now to pack petticoats and hats and hoop skirt and..... well you get the picture.
Ever Your Thimble,
Miss Brilliantine

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Am Not Worth-y

Dragonfly dress done and worn and danced up a storm!
Close up of bodice with dragonfly embroidery.

Full length, but who is behind the tantalizingly open door?

At the Social Daunce Irregular ball
The dress wore well, I have to say I need to fix the lining on the bustle back. It's cut on the bias and tends to billow. It has more to do with the very light silk I used and less to do with the pattern which was the back portion of Truly Victorian 364, 1886 Autumn Overskirt. A very fast and easy sew, BTW. I'm going to try it in velvet next time. The side drapes and bodice pieces were draped by me, dragon fly embroidery courtesy of my friend Carolyn, who should institute a strict "bring your own thread" policy.
Now to clean up the shambles of the sewing room and start again!

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Thanks for petticoats and redingotes, gigot sleeves and rococo slippers. Fancy dress and hand sewn stays. Embroidery- hand and machine. Crinoline cages and lobster bustles, paper patterns and scaled up grids. Lids, hats that is, all kinds, even paper ones. Stockings with stripes and silk with clocks. Cloaks! Dolmans, lace shawls, pelerines and pelisses. That crazy 18th c. hoodie, the Brunswick. The humble Sontag. Gloves, gauntlets and mitts. Under-sleeves made of lace-suitable for so many periods. Hedgehog wigs and horsehair (stuff it in the sofa or wear it on your head). The Directoire! The actual one and the revival. Cork rumps and mouse brows and white face paint. Tudor doublets and Jacobean ones. Farthingales and cheesy plastic bridal hoops. Nylon netting for all our bombast needs. Parasols. Pierrot jackets, caracos and hot coco. Skating costumes, bathing costumes, tennis costumes. Casaquins and Harlequins. Liripipes, fun to say and to wear. Ouches, rosettes, and fontanges. Shoes! Every single kind. Corsets and pairs of bodies, chemises and shifts. Kilts, chitons and cummerbunds. The fabulous fibula.
In short, every single dress-up thing that gives us joy, online and in real life. And the lovely community that fuels the fire.

Ever You Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Short Post About Waistbands

Antique petticoat. Business in the front, party in the back.
Perfectly period for bustle petticoats, so why not underskirts?
I dislike above all things to have too many waistbands on my actual waist. I've adapted a petticoat construction for my underskirts. I get a nice flat front and as much looseness as I need to have the skirt hang just a little below the waist.

Front and side front sewn together and finished with a bias tape at the waist. The back is finished with a gathered drawstring and then sewn to the front. The ribbon must be in the casing before it's sewn.  

Ever Your Thimble,
Miss Brilliantine


Monday, November 10, 2014

Another 99c Store Costume Hack

You may know I loves me some 99c store. I'm very fond of the re-make or up-cycle however you term it. Some things I use as intended and some I rework. I bought these gentleman's Sunday go to meeting socks and thought "hmmm", they have a high cotton content I bet they would dye beautifully.
Gent's fancy dress socks, quite tall almost OTK

Dye vat with helpful chopstick for stirring

I put them into a bowl of dye and walked away. They dyed beautifully!
If the dye package says Sea Coral, believe it.
Hack the Second-

Stretchy anklets as mitts. The are basically a stretchy tube, if they fit your feet they'll fit your hand.
I really liked the pattern and thought mitts!
Mitt hack modeled by my Sis-in-Law Heather, who always has a manicure.
Super easy, cut off the sewing at the toe. I was going to carefully unpick the seam and it was faster to just cut off the stitching. It doesn't unravel just rolls a bit. Hand stitch between the thumb and fingers and you are done. 100% period-no. But passable at a few feet and well, 99c.

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Take on the Scallops

Here again is the inspiration dress. Not a note for note copy, more like collaborating with the past.
Worth ball gown Philadelphia Museum

Here's how I manged the scallops. First I cut out the pattern on card stock, measuring the hem and dividing it by the number if scallops I wanted.
I drew the pattern on the lining, and pinned it. Then I crossed  my fingers and sewed.
And it worked!  I cut out the scallops very close to the sewing then turned and pressed.
So far so good. Now let's see if the other side cooperates.

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Little Sad, A little Spooky and a Little Dog

My dear Sister died in 2008 after a years-long fight with cancer. She was determined, valiant and tiger-hearted. She taught kindergarten until practically her last day. I can't do her justice here, but you need to know or the rest seems more unlikely. I was lucky, lucky to be close (after a career collapse, but who knows what is good and what is bad, ultimately) so I could be with her every day. Her struggle was mine. I could never be part of her pain and physical struggle but I would have taken it on if I could.
When she died, I lost the mainstay of my life and went through a grief that left me on the "blasted heath" with King Lear, buffeted by winds and weather. She was such a part of my emotional life but also my everyday.  And everyday life is what propels you forward.
A year later my little dog Cleo passed away, she was sweet and completely devoted to me. She would follow me from room to room laying on the rug in the bathroom when I showered or under the table when I sewed. No beauty, a little snaggled toothed with cropped pointed ears and a touch of gargoyle around the eyes. She hated riding in the car but on the rare occasions I took her out people would ask "What kind of dog IS she?" I loved her.
So when both my parents fell ill at almost the same time, I was just starting to feel the cascades of grief had started to ebb. My Mother in the hospital after cancer surgery, my Father getting a pace maker for a faulty ticker and Cleo starting to make an appearance in the kitchen or under the table.
This stressed me even more. I would see her out of the corner of my eye all the time. Under the table where she loved to hide but still keep an eye on the world or in the kitchen by the water dish that was out for my mother's dog.  I would tell her I had nothing for her, she was beyond my reach. It felt like another needy soul and I was tapped out. I started to have the stabbing feeling under my left shoulder blade like I had when my sister was sick.
I kept this mostly to myself, knowing it made me sound crazy. I was very aware that the level of stress I was under could very well be the cause. Super natural experience or hallucinations of a disordered mind- it's a toss up.
After my Mother came home from the hospital she wanted a little company and asked her friend Elizabeth to dinner on Sunday. After a few hours when dinner was over she asked me "Where's  your little dog?"  I told her, reluctantly, that Cleo had died the year before, she said "I saw her under the table when I walked in the house" I said it was my Mother's little dog, Amorsito. She said "No, he was on the sofa".
 The jig was up.
I told her I saw her all the time. She gave me such a look of incredulity and said the hair on her arms stood on end. I told her it was fine, she was just keeping me company. And you know after that I felt comforted by her. I realized she didn't want anything from me, just to keep me company. After that I saw her less and less, and then not at all.
My Father died two months later, my Mother is fine. Cleo stays wherever she lives now.
I do wonder if our bias for words is what keeps us from understanding the depths of attachment and emotion of the animals who share our lives. Are they self-aware vis-a-vis our relationship with them or on their own? It's a little arrogant to think so, I know.

Happy Halloween from me and Cleo, wherever she is!
Spectral image to the right of her is an actual spot on the Polaroid, don't be alarmed
Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Old School and the Pinterest Thingie

Pinterest got me. I was blissfully going from board to board without a care in the world or having to sign up. Then they started to put a dark band across half the page so you have to sign up to see anything. Crafty. So no more old school pictures downloaded from the internets and actually printed out on real photo paper. You can hold them in your hand or stuff them in a book or spread them all out like playing cards.
Old school Pinterest
Now I'm in, I'll link it to the blog. It's under my other, other alter ego "Manzanita".

Ball gown is slowly appearing, and I mean slowly.

Front and side front of the underskirt, it's progress.
I did find some lime green silk/cotton to line the side panels, I'll show you soon.

Ever your Thimble Servant
Miss Brilliantine

Thursday, October 23, 2014


What would Worth do? Charles Fredrick Worth that is. I've been sucked into serious costume ADD and had started a new ensemble for the 'Great Dickens Christmas Fair' in San Francisco, if you are even remotely close it's not to be missed, we drive up from So Cal. www.dickensfair.com/
Yes I have a perfectly lovely plaid silk jacket and skirt, but I've worn it every year for about 4 years and now I want something else. Then I found a piece of dragonfly silk at the local flea market for $1. Yes a buck. How could I resist.
It's really a crazy lime green. Then this popped into my head. I wasn't going to make a new ball gown for our Victorian Grand ball in Nov.......space is getting scarce.
Philadelphia Museum of Art

I am not a re-creationist, but I love to borrow elements or "collaborate with the past" if you will. Like all the great designers, really (18th c. revival anyone?) And if they can do it, so can I. I thought I'd use the green dragonfly silk for the scalloped side panels. But to line or not to line? I need to face the scalloped bottom, but the entire side piece? It's going to make it rather thick and there are a few more layers on top. Dilemma. WWWD?
See the blue peeking from under the green silk? That's the abandoned skirt for Dickens.

Of course the room is complete chaos with fabric, books, trim for more that one project. I'd show you but you'd only *tisk*.
Old plaid skirt and new turquoise moire, cruelly abandoned.
So HALP! What would Worth do?

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Monday, October 13, 2014

Piero Tosi and the Real Thing

"Lady of the Camellias" 1981 and  "Sparrow" 1993  
Oh Pinterest. So many lovely things pinned without attribution or provenance. Which would be OK if the re-pinning didn't propagate the misinformation. Wonder what I'm getting at?  The amazing creations of the costume designer Piero Tosi and the misrepresentation of his designs as extant garments. Which is very easy to do when you see them. And since many of these designs are 50+ years old and most of us haven't seen the films, well you do the math.  Marvel here at the genius.
"Ludwig", 1972

"Death in Venice" 1971

"Death in Venice"

And a hat to die for, in Venice
And of course "The Leopard" from 1963, not the first Tosi effort but a milestone in movie costuming.
"The Leopard" 1963
Tosi has a close association with  Tirelli, the costume house and director Luchino Visconti.
There is a nice article from a few years ago about an exhibit of his designs here http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/oscar-honors-costume-designer-piero-tosi/26/http://and a nice blog post here, http://www.beatricebrandini.it/index.php/piero-tosi-and-its-magical-and-visionary-costumes/?  
Claudia Cardinale
"The Lovemakers" 1962

He also costumed a mid-19th c. film call "The Lovemakers" which looks amazing but stills are very hard to find.
Have a snoop around the internets and tell me what you find, www.tirelli-costumi.com/
is a great place to start.

Ever Your Humble, 
Miss Brilliantine 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Scurry to the Seaside

This weekend was very hot and little me thought the seaside would bring some relief. Not really, it was hot and humid, so humid it made my pleatings droop and my hair go all out of curl. But we soldiered on and just drank more. Pt. Fermin Lighthouse in San Pedro was our venue. A lovely light house built in the 1870's, buildings of this era are rather rare in So. Cal. as we love to pull things down and build more modern buildings only to pull those down again. It's a forty year cycle.
Hey, where's my cupola
 We are kindly allowed to picnic inside the lighthouse fence like tame Victorians.
jolly Tars

Emily, from the blog The Ginger Minion
Paul and the picnic pooches
Jake sports his new linen coat
 The hat was very satisfactory, I did have to remove the tattered vintage ribbon, it was dissolving before my eyes. (And I think it's time for a new corset.)
Peek-a-boo waistband
 The aqua dress was a moderate success, I did notice afterward that my waist band had come  unhooked  and the dress was dragging on one side.
Six inches deep in mud and I finally got to wear my American Duchess Tissot boots!

I finally got to wear my new American Duchess boots, very comfy the first time out even if they did get a little muddy. The  enthusiasm for this outfit was dampened by the postponement of the picnic. I'm ready to put it aside and start on something else. Maybe a fast and easy 40's frock, as a palate cleanser, like Roman punch between courses.

Ever Your Thimble Servant
Miss Brilliantine