Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Murdoch Mysteries Costume Love

I don't usually delve that much into TV costumes anymore, with the exception of Outlander, but I feel like I need to give a little costume love to the clothes worn in Murdoch Mysteries. This Canadian TV series has been running forever (just started Season 11), and focuses on Detective William Murdoch and his sleuthing in turn-of-the-century Toronto. I love this series - the characters are charming, the storylines, while not groundbreaking, are enjoyable, and best of all, it has great costuming! Others have quietly poo-pooed on the costumes as being dull, and no, they aren't blockbuster budget types of clothes, but what they are is a great representation of the daily wardrobe of the everyday person. There are few duchesses or industrialists in the show, so the costuming is really about showing everyday people working everyday lives. There are added bonuses of the occasional sports or swimming costume!

Dr. Grace, about to smack down her croquet competition.
And not only do they do it well, but the clothes are really accurate for the period they portray. They even capture the subtle fashion changes that happen over the span of the show's time period. The first season is set in 1895, one of my favourite fashion years. Each season of the show is a year of time in-universe, and the costume department managed to capture the small details that changed, from the width of the skirts and the shapes of sleeves, to the size of hats. The costume designers for the show made sure to include little details that reflected the personalities of the characters, too. For Inspector Brackenreid, they focused on his waistcoats, making them double-breasted and slightly too small to convey his boisterous, larger-than-life character. For Dr. Ogden, they gave her small, simple hats to reflect her practicality. Dr. Grace wears a lot of practical suits and hats to reflect her modernity and interest in the politics of the time. Even the guest stars have personality in their wardrobe.

Look at that b/w printed dress! ~dies~ And yes, the undies on the model are weird, but they're supposed to be weird and new in this scene.
The show's costumers even revealed that they borrow extant pieces and take patterns from them, which they then use to create the shows costumes. That made me squeal a little with happiness. They also wanted to reuse older costumes, since the characters themselves are not fashion trendy and would have re-worn older outfits if they still fit and were in good shape.

Let's take a look at some of the looks from the show!

Dr. Grace, looking very practical and modern in her menswear-inspired outfit.

Dr. Ogden, season 7, set in 1901.

Detective Murdoch and Dr. Ogden's wedding, season 8. Some really nice pigeon-front looks for Dr. Grace and Dr. Ogden. Murdoch and Brackenreid's morning suits are great.

Season 9. Julia isn't a trend-follower, but her silhouette reflects the narrower looks that became fashionable post-1900. Murdoch always looks well put-together in his suits, which are the right shape and cut for turn-of-the-century menswear.
Dr.Ogden's show-stopping striped dress from Season 8. What you can't see in this photo is that the white parts are all lace! You can see it better in the photo below.

So, if you like historical murder mystery shows, or well-done turn of the century fashion, check out Murdoch Mysteries. It runs on Ovation channel as The Artful Detective in the States. It's also available to watch online on CBC tv.

Friday, June 23, 2017


Alright, y'all, it's official. I'm obsessed with Outlander. I love the show and its costumes, and this insanely long break between seasons is killing me. And because I have a bunch of 18thC events coming up, I went looking for inspiration pics, and Outlander always comes up in 18thC costume searches.

That got me inspired, and I started poking around to see if I could find any leaked pics from the upcoming Season 3. And I did! And there are costumes!

In this one, Claire is wearing a soft blue-grey wool pelisse with a matching grey something underneath. Jamie has on a pretty typical black coat and hat, very handsome daywear for every day sort of stuff. I like his drapey mantle thingy, too. They appear to be on some docks, which makes sense since the production was filming in South Africa, which is also where a big chunk of Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. They are likely using some of the same sets.

More pelisse and drapey thing action. The pelisse has some plain looking pewter buttons and a fold down collar that looks really 1950s/60s to me, which is keeping with the whole "Claire adding her own touch to her clothes" thing that was started in Season 2.  I know they had fold-down collars like this in the 18thC, too, so it's not a total anachronism, but the shape just looks more vintage than 18thC to me.

Under the pelisse, it looks like we have this dove grey redingote!

I kept the pic large so we can get a look at all the details. It looks to be either satin or fine wool, with a silver waistcoat. The coat seems has some fabric covered buttons, while the buttons on the waistcoat look to be either pewter or fabric covered. The coat has a standing collar, and it looks like she's wearing a white cravat with the ensemble. Overall, I love this. It also looks like she's wearing what may be a quilted petticoat underneath the dress. 

I believe that dress is the same outfit as this one:

We get a few more details from these pics. Its definitely worn over panniers (yay!), and with those fitted, cuffed sleeves, looks to be the same dress worn under the pelisse. There are some big pocket flaps with nice buttons. Overall, this is a very stylish, yet practical, looking dress. Jamie's black outfit is pretty much a snooze fest, but it's very on the spot for a practical, everyday sort of outfit for a gent.

I also found this picture, supposedly from the wrap of filming.

It looks like that might be the skirt from the redingote and the shirt worn under the waistcoat. They're also definitely on a ship set, so it's likely this is in South Africa. The straw hat is a mystery since it wasn't in any of the previous shots, so maybe they've been at sea for a while and this is further down the storyline?  There's no way to tell!

Anyway, I hope this has been a bit of a help to my fellow fans currently going through Droughtlander with me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Modest Gold Pannier

I have made a lot of 18th century skirt supports. A lot. I've made and taken apart at least four sets of small to moderately sized panniers, and yelled many unspeakable things at pocket hoops. (For some reason, I've never had any luck making a set of pocket hoops that aren't completely terrible. They're evil.)

I've been trying to perfect a set of modest panniers for a while now. I've made several versions, but there's always something I don't like about them - they either aren't wide enough or they're too wide, the boning doesn't lay right or it twists in the channel, or some other problem. Earlier this year, I made a new set of panniers for a dressing demo, and while they had a few problems, I did love the proportions on me. I felt like I had finally managed to find the right set of measurements that flattered my size and height without being too wide for informal outfits or too small for my personal tastes.

But, as you can see below, they had issues. Because I made them in a rush, I had accidentally sewn the diagonal boning channels to the wrong part of the panel (on the center and back instead of on the sides) which made it do weird and terrible things. I also hadn't made the top yoke deep enough at the center front and back, which made it sag below my waist line. It was not a good look.

Yeah. With all that wackiness going on, those panniers weren't going to last long, so I decided to try and remake the same pattern in better materials, and with better construction. I had a ton of this pale gold taffeta in my fabric stash, so I decided to use it so I could make something really flashy and neat without having to worry about running out of fabric.

I used a couple of different resources to help pattern out the new set of panniers. As with the wonky set, I used the diagrams from the marquise.de to draft out the body of the panniers, paying much closer attention to the original measurements on the drawing. The top yoke is based off the one on the website, and the Simplicity grand panniers pattern, as well as measuring the parts of the previous yoke that fell short and compensating for them accordingly. The old pannier yoke didn't quite come up to meet my waist, and would hang very low when I had the pannier on, so that definitely needed to be worked out.

I drafted everything directly onto the taffeta fabric. Once I had my pieces cut out, I sewed one of the long seams, and stitched the yoke to the top of the body, finishing all the seams by flat felling them.

I kept one seam open to make it easy to add the boning channels. On advice, I used twill tape instead of bias tape for the channels. Big mistake! The twill tape stretched, warped, puckered, and was generally completely unruly. I had to pin it to within an inch of its life to make sure it didn't squirm all over the place. But, eventually, I had my three boning channels sewn in place.

I hemmed the bottom, and added some bias tape to the top edge to form a drawstring channel for the waist. I had to wait to finish the boning channels because I didn't buy enough twill tape on my first visit to the store, but once that was installed, I was ready to finish up.

The diagonal tapes need to sit behind the uppermost horizontal boning channel so they have some reinforcement and don't damage the skirt fabric or stick out weirdly.

I sewed up the other seam in the body of the panniers, leaving a gap at the boning channels. I had to add my second diagonal channel after closing this seam since the channel runs directly over the side seam. If I end up making another set, I think I'll put the seams at the center front and center back, rather than at the side, so I can install both diagonal channels while the body of the panniers is flat and open, rather than having to wrestle with the completely sewn pannier. It wasn't a difficult thing to do it the way I did it this time, it just could have gone a lot faster if I had done it the other way.

Once all of the boning channels were stitched, I salvaged the boning from the wonky hoop and inserted it into the new panniers.

The final step was to add the interior tapes that would pull the pannier into shape. I pinned them into place first and played with their placement until I had everything just like I wanted. Then I stitched them all into place.

And voila! A finished pannier! I may take up the yoke a bit if I find that the silhouette is too low on the sides. I have a few new petticoats to make, so once I see how they effect the silhouette, then I'll decide if I need to raise the sides.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Blue & Gold 18th Century Shoes

I am so excited to finally have this project under my belt! It was a pretty spur of the moment decision to finally tackle it, too. I bought a pair of ugly, ugly shoes on eBay and intended to put them on a shelf and wait until the summer to work on them, when events tend to slow down and I don't have to sew for certain occasions. But I couldn't wait! I was so eager to try my hand at this that I just dove in and started.

I've wanted to try my hand at something like this for a long time. I've seen people do some amazing shoe transformations, taking some absolutely hideous old shoes from ebay and the like, and turning them into stunning 18th century confections of brocade and ruffles and awesomeness.

Well, I finally did it. I finally just buckled down, bought a pair of horrendous eBay shoes of my own, and turned them into something historical. Behold, the ugly.
So, so ugly. They're brown faux snake skin, with these stupid seams on the side fronts. The only good thing about them is the heel, as it's a fairly decent Louis-esque heel. I tried them on as soon as they came in, and while they were okay in length, my toes felt like they were in a vice because the shoes were so narrow. The stupid seams on the toe ended up coming in handy, because I could snip them open and insert some leather to widen the toe. This improved the fit immensely, though it didn't look very pretty.

At this point, I started to pattern the covers for the shoe, using a plain muslin. This turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated, and it took over an hour to drape a pattern for the toe alone. Eventually, I did get a pattern that I was happy with, but it certainly wasn't a piece of cake.

Once I had the pattern together, I ripped the rest of the shoes apart, taking off the heel tip and gently prying off the sole, and cut the covers out of the fashion fabric. I've had this fabric in my Stash for a long time. It's been a saque, an Italian Renaissance gown, and now it's going to be these shoes and a new set of stays. This fabric has had many lives!

I positioned the toe pattern so it would showcase the big rose design you see above. The point at the bottom is at the toe.

I have read several different blogs of people that had remade shoes the way I'm doing it, and there are a couple of options to make the additional pieces like the tongue and the latchets. I decided the most sturdy would be to use a thin leather, so I picked up a hide at my local leather shop that was fairly thin and had few blemishes.

I cut the tongue from the leather and glued it on to the top edge of the front. Then I found a thin part of the leather and added it to the back so the interior would be nice and neat looking.

I wung the heel by cutting a large piece on the bias, coating the heel with glue, and then coaxing the fabric around the heel so it was covered evenly and there were no bubbles. Then I trimmed away the excess.

Once the toe was covered and the glue holding the tongue on was set, I covered the toe with the fashion fabric. I was worried that the snake skin texture would show through, but the damask was thick enough that it wasn't a problem.

To fit the toe, I ran a simple line of gathering stitches, spread glue on the toe of the shoe, and gathered the fabric to fit. It required a little bit of coaxing to get it to lay flat against the toe without any puckers, but eventually I had the toe smoothed down and looking neat.

Next was the back of the shoe. I aligned the latchets so they laid the way I wanted them and smoothed them back to the center back of the shoe. There was some excess, which I trimmed away, and then I glued down the fabric in the back.

I cut out a piece of leather, slightly larger than my latchet (I knew the fabric would move and stretch a bit, so I wanted to make sure there was some wiggle room to glue down the latchet fabric), and glued it to the front where there would be the most strain. Then I trimmed the leather down so it would be the same size as the fabric.

Once I was satisfied with the position and size of the latchets, I glued them down the rest of thew way.

To bind the edges, I used a narrow cotton twill tape that I dyed to match the fabric. Since the cotton didn't have the sheen of the damask I couldn't get it to match exactly, but I didn't worry about it too much since I knew it would be covered in trim.

I decided that, in order to avoid the glue becoming messy, that I would spread the glue on the tape and then apply the tape to the edge rather than apply the glue to the shoe. This ended up working really well. I clamped down the tape with little clips which helped to get a nice firm seal.

I added the bias tape to the edge of the tongue and all the way around the edges of the latchets and the top of the shoe.

At this point, I reattached the sole. I should have waited until I had the remainder of the trim added, but I was impatient and wanted to see how it would look all finished up. I started at the back by the heel and worked forward, adding glue liberally. Then I wrapped the shoe in strong rubber bands so it would hold the sole down while the glue set.

I wanted to add some gold trim to the edges to make the shoe a bit more blingy (even though the fabric itself is already pretty blingy), and I did some searching but didn't find anything I really liked. I eventually did order some trim off of ebay, but I misread the width and it turned out to be waaay too wide to use. I ended up buying a gold metallic net trim at Joann's, which was, well, not the greatest looking stuff.

I ended up cutting off the scalloped edges and using just those for my trim, and discarding the rose motif in the center.

I glued this down on top of the twill tape.

Then I repeated everything with the other shoe! The second shoe went much faster than the first, since there was a learning curve the first time around. It definitely came out better, too, and I know now what to do and what to avoid for the next pair. I think I'll do a pink pair for my next ones!