Sunday, November 27, 2011

interpreting measurements

Sorry for the long delay in posting, these past few weeks have been very intense and busy but now I am back home from my teaching gig, just in time to feel the Christmas rush coming at me!

I was spending this training time going over the drafting of body coats (tail-coats, frock and morning coats) and one of the first things we needed to do was measure our fit volunteer.
Thank-you, by the way, to all our fit volunteers- it can be a bit unnerving to stand there while we poke and prod and talk about you objectively.

Most of the time, we are given measurements that are taken by someone else, and could be quite out of date, so our job is often made more difficult by the lack of information.

Even if you yourself take the measurements, it is difficult sometimes interpreting them when making an individualized pattern or even modifying a block pattern. We are always pressed for time and it is difficult to spend time analysing the figure you are measuring in the 10 minutes we are allotted for measuring. That is where photos come in handy.

But we must press on, as we may be preparing costumes weeks in advance of actually having the person on site, so you must be a bit of a number detective to make your patterns.

Once the measurements have been taken, the issue of how to interpret the individual measurements is one that many people struggle with.

In this instance, the nape to waist measurement as taken was 18 1/4". OK, you think, so what? Well, when you are drafting you generally keep in mind some proportionate formulas such as the nape to waist measure is generally 1/4 of the man's height. In this case that worked out to 17 1/4". A full inch less than the taken measurement. The question was which number was correct?
The answer is that both are, but lets go backwards a bit.

I recommended drafting to the proportionate waist length to start. Then think about why the other number is longer. In this case, the contour of his back makes it longer. Why- well, like many men he is at the gym working out and the building up of the back muscles is a very common occurrence. The trapezius muscles are large and they bulk up easily.

So, to apply the extra measured length on the draft by marking the waistline at 18 1/4" from the nape, and drafting everything else in relation to that length of waist would be a problem. The length needed in the draft is above the scye line not below it. You have to put the fabric where the body needs it.

To demonstrate we just cut a proportionate coat and put it on him. What happened? The centre back waist stood away from the body. There were drag lines running from the blade toward the side waist and the front of the coat was pushing against the front waist area.
To boldly show how much and where the extra length in the back was needed, I had my student cut the coat straight across the upper back. Gently then, don't cut his shirt!
Lo, and behold, the coat dropped an inch at the centre back seam and a full 1/2" at the armhole.
We then pinned in a strip of fabric, so it was held together. The drag lines disappeared. The back waist dropped into his body, and the pressure on the fronts was released.

The other thing that happened is that slightly more width was needed across the back- I'm not sure the original measurement was accurate to begin with, but since the body is three dimensional, an increase in one dimension- length, corresponds to an increase in the opposing direction too- width.

It is always fun to do this. Of course you wouldn't just cut open a real coat and waste fabric, but for teaching it is the most direct method to illustrate the point!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


designed by Richard Hudson
Cut and basted up in fabric for first and only fitting
The finished product- unfortunately these didn't make it onstage- cut by the choreographer before they were shipped! Oy!

I was thinking about how interesting and informative it is to do multiples of the same garment.

I don't often run into situations where I am making multiples, at least not usually more than two in the case of an understudy. I also usually deal with figures that are all over the place in terms of sizing, so if I have to make a second costume for an understudy it is usually because they won't fit into the original one.
The ballet gave me the opportunity to draft the same thing in different sizes but for bodies that are very similar. It was a good test of my draft for that particular style of doublet, good practice being consistent too.

In terms of the sewing, it was also interesting to do 6 of the same thing. We naturally gravitated towards each taking on all of one task, which made the work progress much more quickly.
I had help with the cutting- Lela pitched in to cut all the pieced skirts and cuffs- I figured out the sizing of the triangles and wedges for each size of skirt, and made patterns on cardstock with seam allowance included so they could be pieced without having to mark anything. There were about 180 pieces to be cut for the skirts and another 150 or so for the cuffs, so we made a good team once we had it figured out.
Denise figured out a way to secure the tassels from falling apart- and that is such an important thing to do for the dancers safety! then she hand sewed all 288 of them to the sleeves, in the grid pattern that I worked out and Susy marked.
Silvia made most of the body alterations, all the collars and applied them as well as all the underplackets. Susy made all the pieced sleeve cuffs and applied them to the sleeves.
After all the patternmaking was finished, I sewed all the belts for Lela to apply, and the sleeve detail bands for Susy to apply and sewed hooks and snaps onto the fronts.
It went surprisingly quickly and thankfully Susy and Denise sewed all the sleeves in (that is one of my least favourite jobs, I confess). We were just like a well oiled machine, we worked really hard to get these done for the deadline, as they had added two more to the four that we were originally making.

Anyway, we were very pleased with them, we enjoyed making them and the ballet my use them somewhere, sometime in the future.

I am off on a teaching gig for the next two weeks, so posting may be sparse, but teaching always brings up new and interesting topics to think about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ballet videos

Off to the big city yesterday to attend the dress rehearsal for the ballet.

We had a great dinner with colleagues at Jules Bistro which accomodated a growing reservation list of the wardobe department with good grace. Not everyone came but there were still 25 of us at dinner, apologies to the other restaurant patrons because we were loud!

It was great to see a ballet again!
I am always amazed at the range of movement and physicality that these dancers have and the way they make those movements seem so natural and easy on stage.
The thrust stage that I am used to seeing performance on is so intimate and close compared to the proscenium stage that this ballet is presented on. I had forgotten what the scale of these pieces are like.
I am including a link here to a set of promotional videos about the process of this ballet, from set building to sword fighting to the ballet's costume shop.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

back from the brink

That was an intense few weeks. Our deadline was November 7th for 10 doublets. The ballet company was away on tour until October 12, so I cut right into fabric to get ready for fittings.

I did one set of fittings on October 14th and another set on the 18th. 15 minute fittings was what was scheduled!! They worked out fairly well, Took photos and notes and luckily the designer was happy with what I had cut.
on the 25th of October, there was a complete change of casting! I had to remark what I could and hope the almost finished costumes would be able to be refit and altered by the ballet staff for the new dancers.

Then 2 costumes were added so there would be something to fit the bigger guys in the other group.

On Nov 1st we were told they were cut and those wouldn't be needed. On Nov 3 there was speculation that they were back in.
We finished at 6 pm on the 5th.
We were vibrating from working so hard. (Well it also could have been the wine we had in the afternoon).

Oh I forgot, the boiler in the building broke down, then the back-up boiler broke as well, so we had no heat. Luckily it wasn't too cold overnight, but we were sewing with our coats on and space heaters at our feet as it was only about 13 degrees in the studio.

Anyway, I have no idea if all of the costumes now are in or out. Only the choreographer knows for sure.
After the opening, I'll show you a few pictures of what we were up to.

Right now I am still recovering. I ventured back into the studio to draft my next job today. I didn't get too far, but it was a start.