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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sewing for the theatre. 1916 costumes

So yesterday I took my three daughters and my mom to the LA fabric district to buy fabric for the costumes for The Elephant's Graveyard.. 
We had lunch at  Philippes', a Los Angeles landmark famous for it's french dip beef sandwiches, old counters and sawdust floors. 

If you are ever in downtown LA you have to go to Philippes' . LA doesn't have a lot of historic restaurants that go back to the 1930's and the baked apples and pickles are so yummy at Philippe's

We also went to little Tokyo after and had fun shopping for groceries at the Japanese grocery store. When we got home my son and daughter made some incredible sushi! It was just as good as the restaurant. Seriously!
 I was lucky enough on our trip downtown to find almost all of my fabric at the FIDM scholarship store for only a dollar a yard. This was great news to me as I have only been given a three hundred dollar budget to pay for the material for the play. Our theatre doesn't have much in the costume shop from this period so I am going to have to sew a lot of them.
Since last night I have been sewing up a storm and have been making good progress on my first three costumes
1.The ballet / circus showgirl
2. The town marshall
3.The town's dreary and judgemental old woman. Every town has to have at least one of those.
Here are my inspirational photos and the progress I have made on the costumes.

The Ballet Girl

I'm done draping the top and need to sew together a muslin for the fitting tonight still. Looking at the back now, I think I will change the back lines, I found a beautiful periwinkle blue silk charmeuse for this design and I am trimming it with gold fringe and a feathered headpiece.

The town woman :

So far I drafted the skirt, sewed it and inserted the zipper. The skirts from that period are simple a line skirts which are very simple to draft. I drafted and sewed this in less than an hour. Pat on back.
The Policeman

I hope you aren't too shocked by this photo of police brutality inflicted on a striker in the 1910's worker riots in Chicago. But these coat photos are great! My character in the play won't really look like this as he is a town marshall in the south. I will keep his coat single breasted and not have all the brass buttons. He will perhaps wear a cowboy hat .
The director doesn't want the cop look even though I would have loved to make it.
Here is what I'm making instead.

This pattern is a little too late 1800's so I will maybe raise the lapel and shorten the coat.
The welt pocket needs to be inserted still. Welt pockets terrify me.

The coat is all put together except the collar and facings. First, I have to see how it fits the actor before I add those in case the fit needs alteration.

Unlined but inner lined coat interior.
Coat construction notes:
When making theatre costumes I don't recommend lining coats. It is a real problem to remove the lining if someone in the future needs to alter the coat for a future production. But without a lining a coat can look flimsy and too unstructured. The coat I am making is supposed to be from the early 1900's and if you have ever looked at acoat this old you will see how stiff and structured coats were.
To create that structured look without lining a coat I recommend underling the coat with a thick flannel or twill. I cut out two identical pieces for each pattern piece. One in the outside fabric and one of innerlining cotton twill. Then I serge them both together. Serging them together finishes the seam edges and make them one pattern piece.
Then I sew the garment together but ignore the dorections for a lining.
With the underlining the jacket has a more stiff appearance but will also have the inner seams exposed so it can be easy to alter in the future.

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  1. Whoa! Love the new blog look!! The buttons for "craft projects," "vintage stitching," "clothing refashions," etc. are ADORABLE - I love them. Cute!! Costumes are coming along nicely too. Can't wait to see them all finished!

  2. You are an incredible seamstress! Thanks for the tip about Philippe's. We're going to be in LA in July.

  3. Also love the new blog look! Can't wait to see how the ballet girl costume turns out, the inspirations are really sweet.

  4. You have great sewing skills, I will watch for an update on those costumes. If I were in you neighborhood, I would like to come help, live and learn from you. Best to you and your project.

    1. Wow Mary I wish you did livearound here! I could use some help with this project ;)

  5. You have some amazing skills!!! when I grow up,want to be able to sew like that....(keep in mind I have an 18 yr old and 23 yr old!)

  6. Those costume inspirations look fantastic, what a great play to be working on! Lots of different styles and looks. I love the tip about keeping seams exposed fr future alterations, I wouldn't have thought of that! Also love the new blog look!


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