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.


Elizabeth said...

I love that dress!

I didn't know you liked late 18th c as well. I hope you're planning to come and picnic with us!

Betsy said...

Alas, not this year/summer. I'm up to my eyeballs planning a big event, plus several commissions, and need to focus my energy and time and sewing machine!