Tuesday, June 28, 2011

vintage beaded capelet/shawl

While I toil away, trying to deal with a mountain of work so high that the thought of scaling it makes my brain shut down, I thought I'd show you this vintage capelet/shawl that a colleague found in a rummage sale this winter.

I am always amazed at the things that people find at rummage sales or garage sales. I never seem to have that kind of experience, finding beautiful or valuable things in amongst the vast array of junk usually on display. That being said, shopping is not one of my pastimes, so I am unlikely to find anything. Its like playing the lottery -you have to buy a ticket to win but there again, I seem to neglect that essential aspect of the game.
The other question I ask myself is "Why would anyone get rid of something so nice?" It is in pristine condition, not sure how old it is -perhaps as early as the twenties or as late as the fifties. Maybe you know?

Vintage pieces, whether they are men's or ladies wear are very interesting to look at and sometimes dissect, but they are usually too fragile to actually be used in a show. When a designer insists on using a vintage piece, more often than not the piece gets ruined, or needs constant repair.

Anyway, it is something lovely to look at from a time when dressing up meant wearing something special.
I hope to reach some kind of plateau on my mountain of work soon, so I can get some pictures and form some kind of coherent thought to go with them.
Til later.......

Sunday, June 19, 2011

assorted pictures

We've been very busy at work, so busy it seems there's been very little time to focus on much else, so today here's a sampling of a few things we've managed to get finished in the past week or two.


The velvet jacket and waistcoat were cut by my apprentice, Lela, who did a fantastic cutting job for her first jacket project. As it turns out, it ended up being velvet, with bound edges- how cruel is that? Luck of the draw I guess, at least the actor was a pretty proportionate figure since the only other option was the plaid frock coat for a very difficult figure. The velvet suit is an interpretation of a suit Oscar Wilde wore complete with a silk velvet cape- again, difficult work. She also cut a pair of plus four golf breeches and white flannel tennis trousers for the same person.

The tennis jacket and plaid frock coat were made for a challenging figure, and the jacket is something I am very happy with. It is challenge to make patterns for disproportionate figures and I have kept my patterns through out the process in hopes that at some point later this year I'll be able to go back and analyse and try to document what I did, so I can apply what worked in future circumstances.
I also cut trousers to go with the tennis jacket as well as plus fours, three waistcoats and a doublet that you can see in an unfinished state here.
I've also been pushed to get things going on our next show at the same time, because when these costumes go onstage everybody on the team needs work in their hands. Life in a rep theatre!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

waistcoat pattern modifications

Most of the time I start out by making a pattern for a design without knowing what fabric will be used.
Usually it is not a big problem, but for some fabrics such as striped ones, you may want to change the dart position once you see the fabric.

It is best to not interrupt the stripes by having an angled dart for instance- so you may want to reposition the dart to be straighter or possibly place it in between a prominent stripe, to minimize the disruption of the stripes.

In the case of this waistcoat, the fabric turned out to be a taffeta, and it had a 5cm wide stripe pattern in black and mauve.
The best choice then was to eliminate the visible dart altogether.

I moved the vertical chest dart by closing it and transferring the dart to another position in the garment. Here it is in the neckline, (where I had already placed a bit of easing), with a small amount in the armhole.
You can see that I have made the dart shorter than the slash, so I have gained a bit in the chest, but that is negligible. There is also a slight gain in the waist because the vertical dart isn't completely edge to edge, but again, in this instance that small amount extra was not an issue.
The amount in the armhole can be eased in a bit or left as is since it is a small amount.

In the end this worked to show an uninterrupted waistcoat front, and all the shaping is hidden from view.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Happy 80th

One of my favourite designers, Desmond Heeley, celebrated his 80th birthday last Wednesday.

I first met him in 1986, he was designing The Merry Widow for the National Ballet of Canada, and I was a junior stitcher, busily stitching the skirts of the the Can-can dresses, which, incidentally, is why I focus on menswear!

The story goes like this: the designs were as only Desmond can draw them, frothy concoctions of ombred silk from yellow to red formed the dress' outer layer, and the underskirts were layers of gold net with rows and rows of ruffles of all sorts of fabrics- from duchess satin to lame- all gathered up and applied in row upon row of colour from yellow to red.
All those ruffles needed to have the edges finished first, and the fabrics needed different finishing techniques depending on what was suitable for each one. I spent a lot of time in the basement of the ballet fighting with an ancient serger with no threading instructions, and then a lot of time gathering these ruffles up. I would tie the gathering stitches off at one end of the hallway at the ballet and patiently gather, gather, gather, sliding the fabric along until I finished the amount set out for me to do. I can't remember how many dresses there were, but it was tedious work, not my favourite job to date and then after I was finished the cutter realized that she had overestimated the amount of ruffles that were actually needed. By double!!

We shared a good laugh over this story when we last worked together.

It was, though, an introduction to working with a theatrical artist in the truest sense of the word. I can't express how fortunate I feel to have worked with him over the past 25 years.
His experiences in the theatre range from working with Peter Brook and Sir Lawrence Olivier, designing the investiture of Charles as the Prince of Wales, theatre (The Old Vic, Stratford, The Guthrie...), ballets(National Ballet of Canada, Houston Ballet, ABT...),and operas (the Met, Vienna State Opera, LaScala...) around the world, to Broadway (Tony awards for sets and costumes).
Speaking of Broadway, he is also nominated this year for Best costume design for The Importance of being Earnest, the show he designed for us, that subseqently has made its way to New York.

You can watch a few interviews with him here.
A fascinating man, a wonderful storyteller and a great theatre artist.