Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

Mid-March can purr.
Mostly it roars, don't count on the fickle feline to give you fine days. She giveth and taketh away.
Buffeting your fine silk and new shoes, making you put a coat over it (nerve).
Then you find just the thing, waiting for you all along...... Roses!

She followed me home, and I kept her.

 Spring is coming when flowered hats fall into your hands unbidden. Then all you can think of is chiffon and the kind of mid-30's frocks and hats that go with champagne and French 75s. Swell strappy shoes with or without peep toes.
Dame Fashion proclaims that Spring is made for saucy hats that peep.
 In fairness I have to admit I live in a particularly benign climate. Not Narnia, not Narnia at all.
Enough with the Winter wonderland, if four adorable English school children come to your door, don't answer it.

My friend's backdoor in upstate New York. Chantal, I grant you a Pimm's Cup.
I know "Some nerve!" also "Well, I never!"
Story with a moral-
When my mother was a girl she was sick with an anemia that would keep her in bed for weeks. Because it was the olden days and you could have your shoes made to order, her father would have them made for her. She would lie in bed with them on her feet and admire.
If you are snowy or icy or wet, wear those new shoes. If not outside, then in and wait for the lamby days.
My new American Duchess Tissots
Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Emperor Norton and the Rest

I packed up, bags and baggage. All the hats, boots, petticoats, chignons and everything needed, or perceived to be needed for an audience with an Emperor. Let me tell you, that's a lot of stuff, my perception is keen.
 Held in the library of the classical stone and steel Mechanic's Institute, we arrived and I was immediately asked if I was wearing American Duchess boots. Funny kindred spirits.   

On my way up, in my American Duchess "Colette" boots.

 The Emperor was there in splendor, greeting subjects, he was everything affable and condescending.
All gussied up in epaulets and orders.
Waltzes and quadrilles played in the background, champagne and absinthe were there for the asking with a lovely spread of tasty things, all cheesy and sausagey. We mingled and when the toasts were held, they were (wisely) brief, the Emperor was invoked and we went back to imbibing.

The picture is slightly out of focus, I leave you to your own conclusions.
 In honor of the Emperor, a local distiller had made a gin called "Bummer and Lazarus" after his dogs. They may be apocryphal, but the gin was delicious. It was so smooth it rolled like round vowels, the beginging of a new Romance language.
My dear friend Todi happily joined us. She always makes it more fun.
How far would you trust them?

And the rest-
People are always giving me things. It's a generous if random impulse, it can be an attic full of turn-of-the-century clothing and mementos (I still have a box full of WWI postcards) which delighted my treasure hunting heart. Or the occasional discarded, unloved and unwanted wedding dress. (I don't want to know the backstory.) I accept them, they way you do when your dog brings you something she caught. "You like it, don't you?"  I do.
I was given a giant bright blight a week ago. The thing was huge and needed to be carved up and rendered down. like this-
It might be time for new proverb-

"Marry in polyester, repent in linen".

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Monday, January 29, 2018

January Austen, Gaul-ic Fringe and Buttons

 January you've done your worst, but like an Austen character dear reader-let me persuade you to follow my example, and take a turn about the year. -- I assure you it is very refreshing after sitting so long in one attitude.
I did go to the annual Jane Austen Ball in Pasadena, dressed in my slightly out of fashion Turq(ish) jacket and "Italianate rump". Not cork, but padded and definitely not wearing mouse brows. I painted them on with burned cloves as fashion dictates. I should have stuffed by cheeks with wool and been a la mode 1789.....  We all re-live our youth.
Giving good Goya

Gaul-ic Fringe
Why Gaul-ic? Because it's divided in three parts. 

Individual drops, bobble trim and fringe. I added the cut down fringe, sewed on the bobble trim and added the drops between every other bobble.
That's going to kick up something fierce, all my edges tremble.

These have to be sewn on individually, a bead, a drop, another bead and home again. Repetitive work is kind of soothing.

See, three parts.
Last month (was it only last month) my brother lost a button from a vest I made and became unaccountably sad. At the loss of a button. He is not sentimental, but he is effusive and grateful for a new bit of sartorial splendor. But buttons spill from my pockets, I leave them in my wake. I cry button tears and comb them out of my hair. I have them in pseudo-military metal and fragile tissue wrapped glass, with "made in Czechoslovakia" on the label. I have candy colored plastic ones from the Sixties ready for a knock-off A-line dress. I have Art Deco and Nouveau. I would never make a garment that didn't have extras, am I mad? I think ultimately I am made of buttons, buttons and clay like a sewing golem (I always knew). Animated by singular sentimental buttons.

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fitz&Starts and the Kinetic Edge

Fitz&Starts, you know that august establishment. Frustratingly closed all weekend and then inexplicably open at 2am on a Wednesday.
Don't shake your dainty fist and curse the Gods, that's time better spent sewing, any minute you can be called away. Progress is progress, a sleeve cut out or buttons sewn on, it all adds up and it will start to look like something.
Pinning counts.

Bobbles and jet.

This tie silk shows it origins when cut on the bias.
 I want this to have movement and gravitas, it IS for an audience with an Emperor.

The Kinetic Edge-
We are so used to seeing dresses from this era in photographs and museums we forget that they were meant to be seen moving. The sculpted silk gave way to the kinetic edges of fringe, tassels, bobbles and pleats. The close fit belies the movement, it sways, winks, pulses out with every step. Never static. Walking in them is a joy, dancing ecstatic.
Imagine going to an Automotive museum and thinking they never went fast because they are standing still.

They were never still, can you imagine it?

Circumscribed by satin and velvet, distended by armatures, but revenged by the kinetic edge.

Ever your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Friday, January 5, 2018

I Am Highly Distractible

There is a reason Janus has two faces, the common wisdom is he looks to the past and the future. I think it's so he can talk about you when you're not in the room.
I'm partial to the 'ember months, but they must all be gotten through. I could burrow into the sofa so deep it becomes an intaglio of my ass.....mustn't give in.  Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you and sometimes you curl up beside him until Springtime.
Why be gloomy when the sun is out, it's not like I have to shovel snow. And since I am highly distractible, I'll use that minor power to get some things done.
Hunting on the interwebs I found a page for the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. On their calendar is a celebration of Emperor Norton's 200th birthday. Champagne and dress-up, I'm in.

I have wanted to make a swiss waist from the 1870's/80's for a while, I've collected images and set up a Pinterest board. Maybe it's time I make one. I have scraps from a black satin underskirt and scraps are all you need.

This illustration is from 1890 and shows the pattern pieces. 
Not a corset, a "swiss waist" worn over a blouse or bodice.
Seen mostly with crinoline dresses this fashion lasted well into the 1890s and turned into those sweet shaped belts of the Edwardian era. No need to reinvent the wheel, I used Truly Victorian 416, 1875 evening bodice cut down.
Pinned together, it will button up the front.

It looks smoother IRL

Flirty tails
The underbodice will be the black stripe of the overskirt. Are you keeping score? 
 (Parenthetical aside- you know how I love them. None of my cutting tools have an edge, I might as well have gnawed on the fabric, I keep missing the scissor sharpener man. Why can't he go up and down the street like an ice cream truck, but more sinister?)
January and I started a thing, I call that progress.
Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Monday, December 4, 2017

Creative Constraints or That's All Ya Got?

Vintage fabric is a blessing and curse.
 Unearthed from who knows whose Great Aunties's world travels, time warped to you. Glossy, like thick cream and only 29" wide, it comes conveniently packaged in 5 yard lengths....And go!

Auntie was probably a Mad Man era vixen, Harilela's sold these brocades in their Hong
Kong Hotels.
This is more than enough for a cocktail frock or cheongsam, which I'm sure was the intent. Not so much for an 1880's ballgown, and you know that's how I like it. The dilemma is how much other visual information to add, by that I mean, taffeta-lace-embroideries? Do I drape the brocade with other fabric and lessen its appeal, or go a little more spare and let it speak for itself. 
Hey Muse.
The vintage trim and my favorite scalloped edge.

 I finally used the velvet and metallic trim I've had for years and was keeping for just the right thing. Some may think of it as a bit hoardy,  I like to think of it as eventual grave goods. You can't use all the things, but you can leave them for someone else to find.

I decided on side panels of embroidered silk with a golden taffeta lining

A liberal application of sew-on sparkles later, it came together, if a little slowly. When you have scraps left there is no do-over.
Post ball, after larks and hi-jinks, shockingly gloveless but surrounded by friends.
Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Ladies who Labored

I am as fond as anyone of the dress-up. I started in highschool and never looked back. I've ebbed and flowed as life took turns, taking turns with my time and attention.  I'm still here (sometimes) sewing away.
I love and admire the artistry of textiles of the past. Artistry on a par with  great paintings, yet just starting to be recognized (needles and thread are the tools of ladies, after all).  I have no illusions about the toll our fore-mothers paid for their adherence to fashion.
On Labor Day, I'm always reminded of the toll in lives. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 was the culmination of greed at the expense of a workforce without agency. A female workforce that was majority immigrant, was the perfect tinder for that fire.

I'm linking a post from a fews years ago, she wrote it better than I can.
Over one hundred years later it still has the power to move. Their sacrifice outraged the public and began to change opinions. It was a hard price.
 A workforce that is disenfranchised is always vulnerable to abuse.

Ever Your Thimble Servant,
Miss Brilliantine