Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cockney Pearly Experiment #1

Here are photos of my first Cockney Pearly hat experiment. It's one-of-a-kind, because I only had one of these beautiful mother of pearl brooches. On sale now at Dark Garden in San Francisco.

And, as a bonus, here are some videos of real live Cockney Pearlies.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Venice Costume Update

Taking this week off of work on hats (mostly) to sew costumes for my upcoming trip to Venice for Carnavale, my husband John and I are going to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We met at a Halloween party, and married on Halloween in full costume, so it seems appropriate to go to the granddaddy of all dress-up for the occasion. Last May, we decided we were going to go to Carnavale in 2011, and started out with so many plans- a new totally complicated historical costume for every day! For two weeks! Plans which, over the last few months, have been whittled down to a smaller number of hopefully more attainable goals. If we could get one really good outfit completed for each of us, I would be thrilled, but hopefully we'll have two or three. We're making this outfit for my husband.

The only differences in the finished outfit will be the hat (he probably wants a bicorn instead), and that the jacket will be a cut-away rather than double-breasted. I've been struggling with the jacket for months and hope to finish it this week. I took a tailoring class this fall to brush up on the subject, and this was my class project, which unfortunately wasn't done by the end of term. It's coming together nicely but slow, slow, slow. John is working on the black waistcoat and breeches.

To take some of the pressure off, I've hired my friends at Dark Garden to make parts of my outfits, so I have more time to finish this red jacket and make lots of skirts. They are making the following two bodices, with integrated corsets, using the basic corset / bodice shape from their fantastic Dollymop line.

This is everybody's dream jacket from the Kyoto Costume Institute. It gets copied a lot, but I still love it. We're doing it with a smaller collar, and the grain lines will be a little bit different because of the way the corset is pieced together, but it will be otherwise pretty much the same.

I'm also making a matching skirt. I haven't decided yet whether to have the skirt meet in the center front, or have a cut-away front with a white underskirt showing. I bought a truckload of this fabric from Renaissance Fabrics a while back, so I might have enough for both. I might also wear it with a contrasting skirt, like black or ivory wool. We're bringing a lot of separates to mix and match.

Dark Garden is also making me a plaid corset with matching caged sleeves, modeled on the bodice in this portrait of Flora MacDonald.

It will be made in Wallace tartan.

18th century clothes looks insanely great in plaid. The skirt, the underlay in the sleeves, and the bows down the front will all be in a mustardy yellow silk taffeta that matches the yellow stripe in the plaid. I think I need a huge crazy wig with lots of flowers in it to go with it...

I think I also need this jacket (who doesn't?), in black, but I'm not sure where the time will come from, so it's on my 'maybe' list. We leave to go to Venice on February 23.

But, I do need a black outfit for this classic Carnavale 'domino' look, so I might have to squeeze that jacket into the schedule somehow. John's project for the week is to make us some black cloaks.

We have a few other ideas, including some upgrades to our circus outfits, and one of the parties we're attending has a Baroque Manga theme- a Japanese anime take on the 18th century. For that one, I'm thinking red tabbed corset and frilly white shirt, with a red sparkly panniers (borrowed from my friend Autumn) worn over bloomers. And a huge wig, of course. For a 'spring flowers' party we also might attend, I was thinking about shaking it up by going as screwed up drag queen flower children, like this.

This idea was also inspired by the silly dance club scene in one of my all-time favorite movies, Danger Diabolik.

Sorry I don't have great 'in process' photos of all our projects, but that would cut into sewing time, which we don't have enough of to begin with. Speaking of which, it's time to go back to work now. That jacket isn't going to sew itself (unfortunately). Lots of photos after the trip, though.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Una Bell Epoch Mini Top Hat

In a recent blog post about top hats, I included one of my favorite pictures of a female dandy, Una, Lady Troubridge (painted by Romaine Brooks).

I go back to this image again and again, it's an inspiration to me. I included it in the post about top hats, even though she's not wearing a hat, because I love her Lady Tux style and I like to imagine what kind of hat she would put on her head as she walks out the door after her portrait session, dressing up her head like a paper doll. Or maybe what she would wear later that night, going out with friends...

Here's one idea: the 'Una', the latest addition to my 'Belle Epoch' mini top hat range. This one is in midnight blue with black trim. Ribbon pleats circle the crown of the hat, ending in a large bow at the back of the hat.

It's topped with long, springy, curled black pheasant feathers.

The peek-a-boo veiling is a rare, antique silk net woven into a delicate hexagonal pattern, edged with a gorgeous lace border.

The veiling could be worn down over the eyes, or folded up onto the brim.

Today, I'm making up two more of these, one in all-black and another in red with black trim. I might also try one out in brown tones, but the veiling would be different, as I only found this veiling in black and in blue.

This one is available for sale now at ADS Hats on Valencia in San Francisco, and also online at Etsy and Smashing Darling.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Top Hat Style: the Wellington

I'm working now on finishing samples of several totally new mini top hat shapes. Here's the 'Wellington', it's slightly taller and larger than the 'Belle Epoch' top hat that has been my best seller up till now.

I've been getting lots of feedback from customers who say they like my mini top hats because they are not as wee as other milliner's minis, and fit the head better, so I'm going even a little larger. The 'Wellington' has a lot of surface area for decoration, and also should make a great straw hat for spring / summer.

The 'Wellington' is now available for sale on Etsy. Custom colors, trim, etc. also available upon request, just contact me.

I'm collaborating now with chanteuse Jill Tracy on a hat design for the Wellington that will appear in the merch section of her website.

Lady Tux

Since looking at all those images of top hats for a recent post, I can't stop thinking about lady tuxes. While I love making and wearing ultra-feminine and hyper-decorated hats, my personal taste in clothing tends to run in the Lady Tux direction- not normally feminine women's clothing, and not full man-drag, but somewhere in the middle. I like tend to go for formal, simple clothes with interesting lines but a minimum of pattern or surface decoration, and to save the flash for hats and other accessories. Here are some of my favorite images.

For a lady in menswear, you can't beat Marlene Dietrich.

Marlene outshines Cary Grant in an all-white tux.

Another white tux, on Katherine Hepburn.

Josephine Baker

Anna May Wong

All that Lady Tux action in the movies in the 1930s inspired some intrepid non-Hollywood ladies to try wearing pants for the first time. Here's an original 1933 sewing pattern for a Lady Tux. Copies available for sale at Eva Dress. It's on my 'someday' project list...

The Lady Tux had its Hollywood heyday in the 1930s, but its roots go all the way back to the beginnings of the 'menswear for women' trend that started in the Tudor period, which really gained traction in late 18th century. Before the late 1700s, only lady pirates wore men's clothing (in the Western world, anyway), except for the occasional masculine-ish equestrienne outfit worn only on horseback. But Marie Antoinette, for all that she is remembered for her frilly, flowery, feminine wedding-cake dresses, was also scandalously fond of wearing menswear. Not just women's clothing with 'masculine' details, but full-on breeches.

She even had a short-lived anti-corset phase during her teens (gasp!). In the 1780s, she and her fashionable friends adopted mens hairstyles, and designed dresses, coats and hats modeled on tweedy equestrian English-style menswear.

She spent astounding amounts of money on clothes, and made daring fashion choices throughout her life. Her sartorial indiscretions were the major reason she became more and more unpopular with the French people during her time as Queen, and were one of the precipitating factors of the French Revolution. For more on this fascinating subject, read 'Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution' by Caroline Weber.

Ironically, during and after the French Revolution, women throughout Europe adopted a menswear-inspired wardrobe that was very similar to the butch outfits for which Marie Antoinette had received so much crap just a few years earlier.

The following outfit is from the same timeframe. It's a pivotal image for me, and the earliest really Lady Tux-like outfit I've been able to find evidence of. Before discovering this photo, I was never that into the 18th century fashion-wise, but seeing this made me really interested in learning about the period. It's from a book of photos of costumes from the collection of the Victorian and Albert museum, published in 1908.

Throughout the 19th century, equestrienne wear had a definitely tux-like tone, and masculine details bled into daywear as well.

Ever since then, Lady Tuxes keep popping up in fashion, they're so classic that they're never really out of style.

Yves Saint Laurent started designing tuxedos for ladies, called 'Le Smoking', in the 1960s, and they became a staple of his career.

Dita Von Teese in formalwear, wearing a hat by Stephen Jones, 2008.

Daphne Guiness

Over the last few weeks, I've been working with my custom hat block maker on the design for full size top hat blocks. I should receive the first prototype block around the end of December, and then the rest of the set (so I can do a full range of sizes) a few weeks later. I can't wait, I'm positively squirming with excitement to add these to my range of hats.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Customer Photos

These fantastic photos were sent in by Beth Ann from Palo Alto, CA.

She wore a Belle Epoch mini top hat with a blue and white cockade for her wedding a few weeks ago. I love the way she personalized her wedding by pulling in her favorite styles from different time periods (Victorian, 1940s, etc.) and mixing them together. She looks gorgeous.

Her gorgeous bustled dress (and the corset underneath it) was made by San Francisco couturier Dark Garden.

Beth Ann has been buying House of Nines Design hats since soon after I started making them, and has quite a collection going now. She wears them for daywear, as well as incorporating them into evening wear and costumes, like this circus-themed costume.

I love to see people having a good time in House of Nines!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Limited Edition Hats

I recently scored a big order of great men's felts, but a lot of the nicest colors are discontinued- when they're gone, they're gone. For example,'Jake' in bronze is great, but I only have *4* bronze felts and there are no more to be had. Better snatch one up if you love it, they're available on Etsy.

Or as a custom order, while they last, I could use a bronze felt to make another style, like a derby or fedora, if you prefer.