Friday, February 25, 2011

19th century waistcoats

I feel as though I am bouncing around through the centuries this week.

I had been working on the Edwardian tailcoat and then I spent half the week somewhere Medieval and the rest of the week deep in the 19th century.

I had a couple of fittings for the 1837 period show which were just toiles but they went very well and gave me an idea of the designers eye and the way he likes to work towards realization of his sketches.
We were able to corset one of the men we brought in for the fitting, and I had given the corset pattern making and building task to Lela who is training with me right now.
I should get her to write a guest post on her process....
Fitting the actor in a toile then made even more sense as we were able to reduce his waist size by 2" and that of course mean more shaping in the garments.
I still need to make patterns for at least five other men, but we were able to get started in the real fabric for one of the waistcoats. It is just in the beginning stages, but really, look at the beautiful matching of the welt pockets that Susy has done. I peeked at them while she was on coffee break this afternoon, and couldn't resist a photo.
This waistcoat will get a sewn on shawl collar with a contrast facing and hopefully next week I'll get an idea whether the waistcoat back will be linen or silesia or something else, because I will need it by Tuesday for Susy to continue the process.

We have one other gentleman who we hope will agree to be corseted and I made a pattern and cut a toile for him today too. I thought youwould enjoy seeing the pieces here. The design calls for a DB waistcoat with a CF seam, and a wide open neckline with a full lapel and collar. I'll get that together and see what it looks like on the stand on Monday. I was deep into making his coat pattern when I realized it was already the end of the day. I hope I'll remember where I left off on Monday morning.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Edwardian tailcoat

I've been very, very busy these past few weeks and along with my regular gig, I have a small side project that involves making a set of Edwardian tails.
I finally got a chance to nail down the details and the measurements and fabric just arrived this week, so off I went to make a pattern.

First, I have a good number of visual references for this look but since I left them at work I will have to show you an image from a fairly popular book depicting menswear of the period.

This gives a good illustration of the ideal silhouette and gives me a lot of information about the detailing required for the period.
The trousers are flat fronted, cut with a high rise and are quite narrow at the hem.
I look at the waistline of both the figure and the garment to determine where the waist shaping is in the garment, where the front hem of both the waistcoat and coat sit in relation to the body's proportions. You always have to take into consideration that these are fashion illustrations, and then, as now, they can be disproportionate in order to show off an ideal look.
I will be making a DB white pique waistcoat with a deeply cut out front and a laid on collar.

These coats have a long low rolling lapel that can be cut on or grown on. The lapels are either fully faced with lapel satin or have an inset facing of satin (not shown in this illustration).
The tails also generally retain the "strap" at the waist. If you look closely, you can see a narrow horizontal waist section that is part of the tails. A remnant in my view of the time (1820's) when the tailcoats first developed a horizontal waist dart that later developed into a seam, before the seam was discarded in favor of the separate "tail" that does not have a horizontal component.
I also have a draft for a tailcoat that I think is quite similar to what I am after, so that also gives me an idea of how the shape in the pattern is created. This gives a good idea of interpretation of proportions for the period, so with all this in hand along with the design sketch, I have come up with a pattern.

It was difficult to get a photograph of the pattern on my cutting table, so I brought it home but between the distraction of the floor, the lighting, and the cat trying to sit on it, I could barely get an adequate shot, so this will have to do.

I am going with the cut on lapel and the strapped tail in my pattern. The sleeves will also have a seamed on cuff detail or else a trim applied to delineate a "cuff".

My pattern isn't quite the same shape as the one in the book because my client isn't the shape that the book uses as a standard to ilustrate the draft. Also, when I draft, I like to have seam allowances bigger than the 1/4" standard of the time (I prefer a full 3/8" or 1cm) and I like my armholes to have no seam allowance so that also changes the visual aspect between the draft and the pattern.
I have to cut this right into fabric for someone whose measurements I did not take, which makes me a bit nervous, but I tried a quick half muslin on the stand to make sure I was happy with it so tomorrow I will lay out the fabric and start cutting.
I'm hoping to have it all together for a fitting by mid March so I'll be posting its progress.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

in limbo

This is the time in the work process that is like being in limbo. It is not the "jump in the line, shimmy under the pole with a drink in your hand" kind of limbo.

It is the other kind, being held in suspension with a huge jigsaw puzzle of work to do and some of the pieces have fallen off the table and one is under the sofa. That is the one piece that is usually the key to joining large sections of your puzzle together.

My particular puzzle pieces are the overall workload, the budget, the designer availability, the actor availability (pre-contract) and keeping all the sewers on my team busy with meaningful work. We can only move forward so far with pattern-making and toiles before we have to have all of the pieces in our hands for it to come together.
In other words, the piece under the sofa is a fitting. I need to do some fittings!
Fittings at this point in time depend on an actor willing to come in before their contract starts at a time when the designer happens to be here and then we can get going.
Next week, luckily one show starts rehearsal and the designer will be here for two days and happily two actors in another show are willing to come in while the designer is here from New York. That should get us out of limbo.

In other news:
Happy birthday! One of our colleagues turned 70! and since she was not in the building, we had a little sing through the telephone moment that I recorded for her.
Speaking of birthdays, there are quite a few colleagues who turn a significant number this year, myself included. I think we are going to form a club with a clever name and pick a day to celebrate our collective birthdays. Someone suggested calling it the 'ought club. Works for me.

Sad news too this past week. Our circle of theatrical tailoring colleagues is quite small and we had shocking news of the sudden death of a very talented tailor who many of us have worked with for many many years.

Our world just got smaller.