Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New season

Well, this is the beginning of the third season of work since starting this blog and I am excited about the upcoming shows and designers.
One show is being set in 1837 and with a designer new to me- so I am looking forward to this- his sketches are totally amazing- not just in depicting the clothes but also in the attention to period detail, the characterization and to the extent of being able to recognize the actor playing the part in each sketch- a superb draughtsman and artist.

I will meet with him next week and in conversation with the design assistant on the show, we talked a bit about corsets for men.
Men don't often have a lot of soft flesh to corset in the way women do, so compressing parts of their bodies isn't really as much of an option as augmenting their shape is.
Most research points to the men's corset as a posture enhancer and to some extent a vehicle for adding a little padding just where the fashions of the day dictate it- think of the full, pigeon chests charachterized in fashion plate of the early 19th century. I'm sure they also utilized a bit of wadding in sleeve support as did the women of the early Victorian period.
They also liked a nicely shaped calf and it seemed fairly common at times to wear pads on the legs to accentuate the shape especially when knee breeches were the prevailing fashion. I have made more than a few pairs of padded calves too!
I had made a corset for a very slim young man a few years ago in order to pad him up into the fashionable full chest of the era, and recently retrieved it from the warehouse to have a look at it.
I started with a pattern I have developed for a men's basic close fitting block. I think I kept this pattern and will have to look for it tomorrow....

I fit it very snugly to his body but not as tight as one would fit a woman's corset.

I wanted to keep the corset light for the actor's comfort, and it needed to be washable since it was worn over just a t-shirt. I used a single layer of coutil, and placed the spiral steel boning along the seams and used the turned back seam allowance to make the casings. The back closed with a zipper rather than lacing, and the side panels of super spandex allowed for wearing flexibility.
The chest padding was created from layers of 1/4" air conditioning foam, that I shaped and darted to give the effect the designer was after. I used the foam because it was light weight and I didn't have to worry about it changing shape after washing. The foam was covered with a pre-washed cotton knit that was serged along the edge and cross-stitched to the coutil. The corset neckline, armhole and hem edges were all finished with pre-made bias tape and I left the side back seams open for a couple of inches to allow a bit it to spread apart below the waist at the back.

Once we had a shape that the designeer was happy with, I could then remeasure the actor wearing his new shape and make the patterns for his waistcoat and coat.

I have to say that many people look on the corset as something that must be torturous to wear but in reality a well fitting corset is quite comfortable, as this actor found out and in the end was really very happy to wear it.

I'm not sure whether this new designer will be looking for a similar effect but we have a sample of something to show him when we meet next Monday.
In the meantime, I am researching medieval clothing for another show and waiting for the budget to be signed off on the third assignment so I can be assigned my full workload. Rumour has it that it may be a bit of everything so I am interested to see what that means!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

balance measurements

I've been out of town the past couple of weeks mentoring and teaching, with another week to go so I haven't had much time to post.
I have had time though, to think a lot about some things that crop up again and again in teaching:
a lack of clear and up-front discussion about how the drafts need to be changed for balance, figure irregularities and just plain old bigger sizes.
I thought I'd talk a bit about balance first.
Balance is the way a garment hangs on the body. An example of bad balance is if your coat tips up in the front, hitting your seat behind you and causing drag lines from the hip up on the diagonal toward the chest. It means that your front balance is short.

Now I know that if you read some of the old texts very thoroughly, you will find some information but rarely is it in plain, easy to understand language. The measurements required in some of those books also require the use of specialized measuring tape equipment that sadly has disappeared.
I know too, that many more modern texts are dealing with learning to draft primarily for the RTW market and that is a different situation from what I need to do and what I need to teach.

One of the basic balance measurements can be a measurement from nape to CF waist- it can tell you a great deal about the front length required on a pattern. It does not tell you a great deal about the person's back, but you would still be taking a nape to waist back measurement and between the two can make pattern adjustments.
This page from a German text, pictured above, gives instructions for taking two important "help measures" for balance. Similar measurements are also mentioned very briefly at the very end of "The Art of Fitting Gentlemen's Garments".
The difference is that in the German text, they don't just leave you hanging, wondering how to apply these helpful measurements, they do show the average, the long back/short front person, and the short back/long front person as well as the changes required in the patterns to achieve a well balanced garment.

This is essential knowledge in making individualized patterns- I cannot tell you how many people are drafting up the basic formula for varying sizes and shapes but not using some kind of measurement for balance. They are frustrated in their process because the garment doesn't fit right or sometimes at all, and they don't realize what needs to be changed at the pattern stage.

So, why is that? Balance applies to women's wear too, and most of the measurement sheets for women have a number of balance measurements taken but not for the men, so I encourage people to take the extra measures, apply them and it will make a huge difference in both the fitting stage, and in your end result.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

1914 sack coat

For those out there who enjoy period drafts, I'm posting a draft from The Sartorial Art Journal of August 1914 which ties in a bit to the Extreme Style postings.
I don't think this draft would give as extreme a shape as depicted in those pictures, but I haven't tried it out. If you do try it let me know.
I hope it is legible- I'd like to set up a proper photo taking method for these old journals- I don't want to try to flatten them into a photocopier or scanner because some are fragile.
There's another project for the New Year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Teaching Patternmaking

I've been thinking a lot about this recently because I am doing more and more of it.
There seems to be a definite lack of instruction available regarding menswear. So, why is that?

My guesses are:

Most community college courses focus on women's wear.

Tradition- menswear/tailoring was traditionally taught as a one on one situation: ie apprenticeships.

Loss of information.

Lack of interest.

In regards to the first, I guess since women tend to spend more money on a wider variety of clothing and ever changing styles, the colleges are figuring that's where the money is. It is a rare student who wants to do anything different and if they do, they have to have the strength of their convictions to forge ahead- often with minimal to no guidance because the staff isn't trained to teach menswear.

Tradition- has it hindered or helped? Apprenticeships were the norm in tailoring but over the past century and specifically the past 50 years, the independent tailor has been replaced by MTM (made to measure) and RTW (ready to wear). The tailor's children (boys) were often expected or encouraged to learn the trade, but the clothing world has changed, and job options have opened up for many people so fewer continued with the tradition.
This has led specically to a loss of information. From what I can see, most information both in the traditional construction and in patternmaking was passed on verbally and by physically showing the student and without anyone to teach, the information is not passed on.

Lack of interest.
Well here's a story: I was being interviewed for an inhouse article about myself and my job, and I asked to see the rough copy before it went to print. In regards to why I specialize in menswear, this is what I read:
"So why choose to do boring suits when you could have been making fabulous ball gowns".
Well, that about sums that up.

It is a pretty sad state of affairs really.

Where am I going with this?
I could rant about it all, and believe me I have, but instead I am trying to figure out how to focus my instructional methods- and so far I have a pile of notes and drafting paper strewn about, (no help from my cat), and wondering how best to affect change.