Friday, 16 September 2011

Prototype: Embroidered Tailcoat

Due to the swiftness with which we sold the tailcoat, we never did manage to do photos of this coat beyond running into the garden, hurling the tailcoat on the Proprietor and pointing the camera at him.

The coat is made from a medium weight black wool. Elaborate black embroidery is on the front, cuffs and high collar of the coat. Aside from the tails, the back is plain and dark metal buttons go down the front. The silver faux silk lining has two hidden pockets at the breast.

Looking over the preview of the embroidery, and it really has been significantly more than a week. Many things seem to have gotten in the way. We will reuse the templates of the embroidery, though part of me feels reluctant to do an exactly the same combination of colour and coat shape. Perhaps we can do the silver embroidery on black wool, or perhaps a dark emerald green.

To commission a coat with similar quantities of embroidery from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £120-50.

More photos of the black embroidered tailcoat under the cut.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Little Frustrations of Costume Research: Museum Websites

Dress Ensemble, 1790
Museum of London
I would be the first to admit that costumes here aren't by any means the most historically accurate. There are various reasons, including accommodating modern tailoring techniques or simply that the originals were designed for heated ballrooms and not open fields. But the Mercenary does do a substantial amount of research into actual historical clothing.

Which leads me into the rant: the numerous frustrations of museum websites.

(Démodé, incidentally, has a extensive list of museums with extant costumes, though be warned as it is not without broken links. The 18th Century Notebook is also excellent, with extracts from the descriptions. I'm contemplating doing an annotated link page, but I suspect it may descend into incoherent irritation.)

I suppose museum websites aren't designed to provide me with an extensive photographic record of each of its items. And perhaps, the logic is that if one could find the item online, one would no longer desire to go to the museum in the first place.

That said, well over half the items I'm examining online are in store and not on display. And truth be told, backs of costumes aren't always visible in exhibits themselves, due to the disadvantages of space and sometimes, an overly creative curator.

Ball Gown, 1785
Victoria and Albert Museum
Phoenix Art Museum, for example, has a beautifully snazzy flash-based website, but it's slow to load, doesn't provide shots of the back and doesn't allow you to save the photos. Kyoto Costume Institute is pretty good (and now supports permanent links to its items) but short of rummaging through the page source, there's no good way of saving the photo (and really, it's easier to scroll up and down to view a large photo that fills your screen than to operate its odd little "magnify" feature).

The Victoria and Albert Museum has an extensive collection of old costumes and some items are wonderfully catalogued with front and back shots (such as this gown and petticoat). However, some, such as this eighteenth century gown have only one closeup shot of the pleats at the back of the bodice. Equally sack back gown is only represented by its sleeve detail. (That intriguing looking ball gown to the right? Only its back is photographed, though admittedly extensively.) I suspect it's because these photos were taken for Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail and were used to illustrate particular features rather than to document the garment as a whole. Bowes Museum has a lovely collection, but it's still frustrating to only be able to see the front of this two piece bustle dress, when the description intriguingly tells me that it has a skirt with "main fullness at back for bustle." Same can be said about Gemeente Museum Den Haag.

Colonial Williamsburg's eMuseum, on the other hand, has a deeply frustrating search function and I'm still not sure if "category" is synonymous with "highlights from select exhibits" (it doesn't seem like it should be, but otherwise, the only way to gain access to their textiles section is just by guessing what they've catalogued everything as. Not impossible, but tedious.) Also, they don't like photographing things from more than one angle, but I think we've gotten used to that by now.

Ending the rant on a happier note, Chrome's built in Google Translate, incidentally, has been a godsend. It's not that it doesn't give me occasionally baffling phrases (such as "Future Clothing" from the National Museum of Denmark), but it does provide the rudiments for a rummage around the databases.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Nerd East Photo-post

Nerd East seems an aeon ago, but I've finally found the photos from in the recesses of a memory card. This year for reasons saw me quite a lot more stressed than I'd really have liked to be (despite having had quite a bit of help - who, incidentally are all splendid people). I didn't manage to attend any of the talks, games and workshops, except for the one ran by the Durham University Improvised Comedy Society.

All in all, we sold some stuff and met cool people. All without the great inconvenience of travelling for several hours either end. What more can a mercenary really ask for?

Except, I suppose, a photo of the stall for the blog. And daleks. There were daleks gliding about the floor. It was fantastic and is somewhat inexplicable I can't find any photos of them.

More photos and accompanying ramble under the cut.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Cotton Pierrot Jacket

This pierrot (a close-fitting, low-necked jacket-bodice with short tails)  is made from a black and silver stripped cotton and a grey cotton. It is trimmed in white ribbon. It is modelled after the one of yellow and green taffeta in The Kyoto Costume Institute and this other pierrot at the Metropolitan. These, in theory, in turn inspired this very splendid outfit in The Duchess. There is a rather excellent timeline of women's jackets on, which more or less culminates in the pierrot, which were very popular from the mid-1780s through the 1790s.

These jackets were often worn with skirt of lightweight, white "linon", a woven cloth with a high linen-like quality made of thin and delicate cotton. The white skirt in this case is of a cotton-linen mix, but quite coarse in texture.

The choice of the contrasting colours rather makes the pierrot echo the shapes and colours of a men's jacket and waistcoat. 

I'm not really wearing it with the correct underpinnings (or really sufficient petticoats) and ideally, I'd have preferred to wear it with a belt and I was definitely missing the delicate muslin neck scarf to give the outfit greater modesty.

The long-legged nature of these croquis do make short bodice-jackets look very strange. Pillywiggen remarked that the figure looks like she's balanced on top of a giant grey rock. Which wasn't exactly my intention, though in retrospect perhaps is inevitable as M. E. Riley did note that "very full skirt acted as a counter balance to the molded top."

These photos were taken at the Hever Castle Gardens, the fountain pictured being the Millennium Fountain. It was getting rather late in the day (the primary purpose of the visit not being photography, after all, and the exercise largely incidental) and the light does get rather unflattering.

To commission a similar pierrot from the Costume Mercenary would cost in the region of £50-60. 

More photos of the cotton pierrot under the cut.

Kissing the Old Scissors Goodbye: New Businesscards

After being the Costume Mercenary for about a year and a half, I've finally had some business cards professionally printed (courtesy of Vistaprint and their introductory offer). The design is still the same as those of my ratty little homemade cards that I had individually cut out by hand (and printed on the old laserjet), those the background is no longer cream.

They are almost perfect. Due to having fanned them out so artistically, it's not entirely clear, but bottom border doesn't line up with the edge. It's probably no more than a millimetre, if that, but the effect is very noticeable when you have them in hand.

I had originally intended to ditch the old design, which only survives in jpg format. After a day of shuffling words and pictures (scoured from the internet for old book ornaments that are out of copyright), I came up with the design to the right. However, for reasons of nostalgia for the old card design, I went with that in the end and in retrospect, I should have foreseen the problems that lower border would cause, especially given how close to the edge it would skim.

But either way, we've committed to a thousand of them now. Perhaps the next batch will see a redesign and will be better.

Back to pretty clothes next post. I promise.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Strange Inspirations from the Hair x Nail Artpiece Parade

I was rooting through old photos and came across this set taken at the Hair x Nail Artpiece Parade. It almost seems to echo the extravagant and utterly outrageous hairstyles of the 1770s (including, of course, the very famous Coiffure à l'Indépendance ou le Triomphe de la liberté, that commemorated the victory of the frigate La Belle Poule during the battle of Ouessant).

The Artpiece Parade seemed to be a random extravaganza of strange (and dubiously wonderful) hairpieces and fake nails. The latter part my past self seemed to have been rather apathetic about and I have only one photo (under the cut, scroll to the bottom)

But yes, it is strange and somewhat interesting.

In other news (and very tangentially related news), extremely talented Reesha (of Reeshiebeads) has been working on an Amazing Peacock Hat for me, so watch this space. I am very much looking forward to having a giant bird on my head.

More photos of this insanity under the cut.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Preview: A Wander Down South

The Mercenary has been wandering around down south and had the pleasure of visiting Warwick Castle and Hever Castle. Due to a convoluted series of logistical problems, it was far more efficient to wear my Maelstrom costumes during these visit. Indeed, it was a useful excuse to myself for costumed frolicking.

Due to having a camera with us, we also did a number of photos in the beautiful gardens of Hever. These probably aren't the most exciting of dresses.

(Also, I'm quite fond of the above photo because of the way the print of the dress is echoed in the birch of the tree.)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Costume Mercenary Returns (and Her Adventures at the Gathering)

Sorry for the lengthy several-month hiatus on the blog. Events have been chaotic (but when are then not?) and things on the design and production front have slowed to make way for the various events.

Since I last wrote, we've done costumes for half the cast of Opera Novella's Rigoletto; supplied Maelstrom with several hundred new coins; been to Nerd East, Nemacon and the Gathering; ordered a thousand business cards. Half a dozen projects have come to fruition and just as many (if not more) have been stalled. Half the year's Profound Decisions events have come and gone, including my first (and second) Odyssey event.

This is also my only photo of the Gathering. I'd managed to bring my camera but not the all important memory card. The phone managed this single snapshot of the stall before it croaked. Suffice to say, the Proprietor and myself were both there, in his leaky tent, peddling our goods. Thank you for buying things, as well as dropping by and saying Hi.

The weather was distinctly suboptimal for the most part and I am still very grateful to those purple-clad angels who descended to rescue us from our moisture apocalypse. All I recall is a flurry of activity, numbing cold and far too much rain in my eyes and the wind began to tear apart the tent. As the Proprietor shouted instructions at me, these amazing people showed up and helped us peg down the tent, braving the torrential downpour. I've no idea who you are, but thank you!

The Proprietor has been at the LT for years, but it was my first time and it was very interesting. Given how the market stalls were an out-of-character area, I can't say much for the plot or even the roleplay of the event, but here is a list of a few moments that I really enjoyed:

  • Seeing a father drag a pink-clad little girl into our stall. He presented her with a number of elegant "elven" weapons, but she kept shaking her head, finally saying quite resolutely, "But Daddy, I want an axe!"
  • Due to the aforementioned moisture apocalypse, I had to knit the Proprietor a pair of emergency socks from whatever wool and needles I had on me. I can't say I'm not rather proud of being able to make up a sock pattern on the fly.
  • Running into a fight, going down and being separated from the Proprietor's character. In character, I was utterly lost and had no idea what I was doing. The plan had been to create a character so that I could sit at the back of the Prince Bishop's campfire and sing songs for the evening. Being waylaid by demons was not part of plan.
  • Seeing small children bicker about the rules and telling each other to pull their blows. It was all needlessly adorable.
  • The sheer number of people who played with the giant monster claws. Because the urge to rend is hilarious.
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