One of the joys of live theater is that there is always the possibility that something might go catastrophically wrong. I costumed Dirty Rotten Scoundrels a few months ago. Monday of tech week, the day after the production photos were taken, one of the two leading ladies went into the hospital. She was, obviously, replaced. Her replacement could not fit the same costume – the size was off, and she played the character differently. That sort of left me scrambling for a new concept (I settled on something around early Loretta Lynn meets GCB) and a some western wear that didn’t fall into my budget. Bring on the franken-jacket!
Category: Individual Garments
A lot of sewers are afraid of bifurcated nether-garments. They look more complicated than skirts. I remember wearing bike shorts under costumes for years because I was afraid to attempt a bloomer. And that is an odd conundrum, because I had been making corsets for years. That’s just the power of the pant. But sister, don’t fear the bloomer… There’s a Really Easy Way(tm).
Nothing makes a pant look as fantastically olde-timey as a fall front. Unfortunately, a real fall front is a pain in the patouty to sew (trust me), and it’s not something that can be added in after the fact in any sort of historically accurate manner. Fortunately, if you’re not 100% concerned about authenticity, it’s easy enough to add a mock fall to existing pants….
Somewhere in the Victorian era, people started coming up with ideas for making corsets more comfortable to wear. Gigglishiously ironical though that may sound, some great innovations came out of it. One of my favs is the single layer corset – no lining, no interlining, just a base layer of fabric and some boning. If you do outdoor events in the summer, it’s a trick worth adapting. (“It’s period! It’s just not quite your period, dear rennie…” says the voice of evil. Heh. ;) )
Have I mentioned that my show has, by and large, come from Goodwill? Yes, indeed. One of the characters in 1776 is “a courier”. (No, really, that’s all they call him in the script.) He’s an army courier who brings messages in to the continental congress. I need him to look like he’s a) military and b) really, really dirty. This means that I get to build the coat, and then I get to have a bit of fun with it…
Oddly enough, I needed 19 pair of Colonial britches to go with my 25 Colonial vests. (Because I had much better luck renting britches than vests, not because I let anyone go pantless.) This is very similar to the trick I used for the Oliver! knickers, but they need a slimmer fit and different length. It goes like this:
I needed 25 Colonial-looking vests for 1776. Because I wasn’t sure that I’d get round to making a coat for everyone, I wanted vests that weren’t faked out in the back, and I needed them to have structure and to be long enough to cover the obviously modern fly fronts on the britches I was making them. Now, you can’t just trot off to the Goodwill and buy a real live Colonial vest. But you can pull off something passable, if you believe that that there are, in fact, user-serviceable parts inside of a jacket….
This one won’t win you any points for historical accuracy or art. It’s more for those times when you need to put something decidedly ruff-like around a neck, and you need to do it in a big bad hurry. Say you’ve got a kid who needs a halloween costume, or, I dunno, a designer who needs 10 clown ruffs to put on a pack of galloping ballerinas doing a piece inspired by Pierrot and Columbine…. Ahem. Yes. Well. If you’ve hit the “Done is Beautiful” point, this is the ruff for you. If you’re looking to make a ruff The Right Way(tm), you maybe oughta take a pass…. ;)
We all know how to make a corset, right? Take a bodice pattern that’s too small, sew a lot of boning channels in it, a little jiggery-pokery to get the boning in, seal the edges, and presto change-o, corset. And that’s great, but it’s not the only way to make a corset. Well, ok, if you want to get all technical, then that is the only way to make a corset, but it’s not the only way to make a pair of stiffened bodies capable of supporting the body and forming it onto a conical shape. Here’s another method that relies on stiff sheets of interlining, rather than multiple thin bones.
Sometimes, you need to sew a chemise and you don’t really want to spend a lot of time on it. Either you’re out of time, or the thought of sewing just one more chemise in your life inspires a sense of soul-crushing despair. Anyway, I’ve worked out a couple tricks over the years to get the stupid things sewn as quickly as possible, with a bare minimum of hand work, so that they still come out looking decent.
Warning: I’m about to go through a lot of things that are simply not best practices. (That’s why it’s called cheating.)