Monday, April 27, 2015

Ask Me Anything: First Round

I'm very busy getting ready to attend the Lincoln Funeral in Springfield this weekend - leaving town on Thursday means I'm working on a new bonnet right now! I'll have plenty of pictures to share when I get back, but to take a break from the stitching (because I've been going gangbusters for the last few weeks, guys), I'm answering a few questions from the Ask Me Anything I posted last week! You guys ask good questions, so I'm just picking them out as I am able to answer.

"Do you plan to branch out into bustle era any time?" - Elizabeth M.

You know, probably not. I have nothing against the bustle era at all. It's just not my jam. I think most people have a certain period that they're in love with, and mine stretches from about 1770 to 1864 (recent events having taught me that yup, the love stops right at 1864). That's sort of where my interests in history fall as well.

But then I see something like this, and all bets are off.

"Where do you do your research on the small elements that make your impression so awesome?" - Cheyney M.

Cheyney specifically mentioned the trim on the sleeves of this dress. Don't let small children see this picture, my chronic case of BRF might scar them for life.

I am really not crabby in reality! I swear!

It's less about research and more about developing The Eye. When I say "The Eye", I mean the instinctive knowledge of what just looks right, and what looks off. I think there's something innate to this; when you have a visual aptitude, you can just naturally look at something and know that it's "on" or "off". When I was a teenager, I had a covered hoop from a sutler, and I knew that something about it didn't give me the silhouette that I wanted, and when I figured out what it was (too big, too long, not enough of a dome shape), I redid the waist and adjusted the boning to make it smaller. However, I also think it can be learned by anyone willing to take the time to start training their eye and thinking visually.

 Whenever I get to researching something, I start by looking at as many examples as possible to develop my eye - print fabric, baskets, transferware china, you name it. I'll utilize a lot of different resources, but my favorite is just to dive into the digitized collections of museums - Kent State, the MFA, the V&A, the Met, Old Sturbridge Village, and so on. I'll also look at illustrations, images and fashion plates. I could write a whole treatise on what I look at, but I'll consider color, shape, size, how it compares to other examples, and what the majority of examples I find show. In the picture above, I got the inspiration for the trim from a dress at the Smithsonian (which I now can't find pictures of, naturally) and my main consideration was in getting the scale right. How big is the trim? How is it positioned? What is the scale of it going to look like on the sleeve I've created. (Insider tip: getting those chevrons angled just right on shaped coat sleeves took a long, long time, and many time trying the sleeves on before I got it exactly the way I wanted it).

If you're trying to recreate a specific look, Elizabeth Stewart Clark suggests a great idea: take a picture of yourself/the item/the dress you have created, and then take the image of the original you're trying to replicate, and put them side by side. And then ask yourself, "What do I need to do to make that look identical? Why doesn't this look like that? What's missing or different?"

So, to conclude what was probably a longer answer than necessary: look at as many things as you can possibly get your hands on, and think critically about what it takes in all aspects to make it look right.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ask Me Anything!

I have been conspicuously absent after the Symposium, and I apologize for that. I even promised pictures and AARs. Bad Betsy - but there are good reasons for it, which I am currently working on.

In the meantime, I'd like to do an Ask Me Anything! I've already posted on my Facebook asking for questions, so I'm putting it out here for those who aren't friends with me on Facebook.

Ask me anything - about reenacting, about myself, about anything! Don't be shy! And if you are shy, use the form at the right to send me an email. I can't promise to answer all of them, but I will sure try my hardest!

Friday, February 27, 2015

New Adventures

Hi everyone! I'm just checking in while I sit here at the airport, waiting for my flight to board. I'm off on a mid-winter vacation to Washington, DC to visit my brother and his girlfriend. I'll be visiting lots of museums and hope to take a Civil War walking tour, so stay tuned for pictures and such.

After spending four days in The District (see, I can blend in!) I will be heading up to Harrisburg for the Civilian Symposium! You may know it by its former name, The Ladies and Gentleman of the Mid-19th Century Conference. This is a dream come true for me, and I'm super grateful to my reenacting group for helping to make it happen by providing me with some scholarship funds. I will be enjoying the lectures, drooling in the vendor room, and yes, I have a dress for the fancy-dress party. If you're going, I hope I'll see you there - make sure you say hi! And if you won't be there, I'll be sure to share lots of pictures.
Sneak fancy-dress preview...

I've been very busy getting ready for this! This winter has been a lesson in diligence as I replaced all the things I lost. I owe so much to some really generous friends who came through for me and provided me with some things, including a cage crinoline kit and some undergarments! Still and all, I had to wait for my new corset (courtesy of Originals By Kay) to get here, and had to build the new cage crinoline.
I had a little bit of help...

With a little luck and a prayer, I got it done in time for my group's ball last weekend! It felt so victorious to get dressed up and put on the Empress Gown again. I even got a decent full-length shot of it - I know, it's only been two years...

Now that that's done, I still have a couple other things to get done, like another petticoat or two and some more chemises and drawers, and plenty more to procure, but I'm just glad I can get dressed up for the Symposium.

My flight will be boarding in just a few minutes - and yes, this time I am carrying on all my Civil War we go!