Research

Anatomy of a Pair Of Flares

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FIRST OF ALL, here we are on August 31st and I haven’t written anything at all for CoBloWriMo.  I do have my valid excuses: my internet went out, then my parents went on vacation so I had to run the farm myself and had very little TIME, then classes at the university started and the internet went out again.  Oh well.  I told myself I wouldn’t beat myself up if I wasn’t able to post as much as I would have liked, and I’m still going to try to use the prompts for post inspiration.

I do have a post for you today though!  While I was in Europe a little vintage store called Crimson and Clover opened back in Arkansas.  Last weekend they had a sale and I went to check it out and I was delighted.  Not only do they have a whole lot of beautiful dresses they also have a great selection of vintage menswear.  I tried on a few dresses but I’m not feeling particularly femme right now, so I ended up with a beautiful pair of 70’s flares, (pictured above with a Finnish shirt from Vintage Code) some 60’s trousers, and a couple of beautiful neckties.

As some people who know me may know, I’ve been trying for uhh, a couple of years to draft a pattern for the perfect pair of flares, but all my toiles have been unsatisfactory.  Now that I have such a beautiful extant example in my possession I thought I might poke around to see what I could learn from them, and share some pictures here.

IMG_9812The built-in belt seems to be the solution to my worst fit problem, keeping the high waist up without actually digging into my body.  It’s only in the front, attaching at (not in) the side seams with x-shaped stitching.  I adore the wide belt loops, they look funky and I imagine would be a lot less fiddly to sew than standard narrow loops.

IMG_9818detail of top-stitching and eyelets, along with a bar tack reinforcing the corner of the front pockets.  The pockets have a weird welt-type thing going on, I’ll have to take some time to figure out exactly how it works.

IMG_9821The fly is stitched down with pick-stitching that is barely visible on the right side of the garment.

IMG_9822 I love the closure.  Besides the belt and zipper, there’s also an interior button-and-tab arrangement set slightly lower than the actual waistband, working like a waist stay and helping keep the pants up.  The waistband is faced with a small strip of the cotton muslin (also used for the pockets) and then a wider strip of something that reminds me of petersham but is much thinner and softer, with two bands of decorative (or if they have a function I don’t know what it is) stitching.  IMG_9834In one place the stitching holding the waistband facing down was coming loose and I was able to peek in at the interfacing inside the waistband.  It’s sew-in, not fusible, and looks like a strip of very lightweight buckram.  No wonder the waistband stays so smooth and beautiful when being worn.

IMG_9825IMG_9826more cotton muslin used to face the fly and as a sort of reinforcement/facing? in the front of the crotch seam.  The fly has another bar tack at the bottom of the zipper.

IMG_9833Nice spacious back pockets! The back seam has been taken in at some point, as seen by the extra wide seam allowances with a crease (and some stray bits of thread!) where the previous seam-line was, and some rather messy work stitching the waistband facing back down at center back.  Part of why I love wearing vintage clothes is the little pieces of evidence like this that they were worn and loved by somebody before me.I’m kind of thinking that these flares were made handmade by a tailor or professional seamstress rather than manufactured, due to the sew-in interfacing, the details, the hand-sewn hem, etc.  so I find it interesting that this alteration had to be done (by a different sewer, as evidenced by the different colored thread and difference in work quality) in the first place.  Maybe I’m actually the third owner.

IMG_9838(here’s a closer look at the alteration) Speaking of crotch seams and seam allowances, the seam allowances on these flares are pressed open in the crotch seam and lie absolutely beautifully.  Almost all of the raw edges in the garments are finished with a narrow overlock stitch.

IMG_9841The legs are relatively straight with little actual flare but the effect when being worn is perfect.  This means that the hem can simply be a wide fold-up hem without any sort of puckering.  It’s hand-stitched.  I’ll probably be taking the stitching out though as I need to hem the pants about an inch shorter.

So yeah, I think I found a lot of construction details that will help alleviate the problems that I’ve been running into with my self-made flares, as well as add some 70’s authenticity.

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(am I the only one who finds it funny that I’m dressed all in vintage posing in front of my record player but the outline of my iphone is clearly visible in my pocket 😛 )

Soundtrack: Al Stewart- Past, Present, and Future

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CoBloWriMo 1: Introduce Yourself!

I’ve been neglecting my fledgling blog lately since I’ve been in Europe all summer, first on a two-week study tour of London and Paris with my university, and then a two-month stay in Finland while I interned at the Helsinki University Museum, where I was cataloging parts of their fashion and textile collection (I mainly worked with objects from the 1940’s-80’s.). I’m back home now, and hopefully can get back in the habit of writing regularly again before school starts at the end of the month.  To facilitate a schedule of regular posting, I’m going to be taking part in CoBloWiMo aka Costume Blog Writing Month.  I may get around to writing some bits and pieces about my adventure in Europe, but honestly right now my priority is just to focus on writing anything at all.

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The first prompt for CoBloWriMo is Introduce Yourself, so here’s some background info for those of you who don’t already know me:

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My name is Grace, I’m 20 years old and have been sewing since I was seven.  My passion and career aspiration is costumes, but due to various (mostly logistical) reasons I’m currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in fashion design and merchandising, with plans to go on and get a Master’s degree in costume design.  This semester I will be starting on my undergraduate thesis, which will involve designing costumes for Tolkien’s Legendarium while avoiding influence from  previous depictions.

I’m the Costume Manager/Master of the Basement for my local historical society (http://www.washcohistoricalsociety.org) which means that I’m in charge of keeping track of the costume collection we keep for use by our costumed volunteers and living history interpreters, overseeing laundry and repairs, purchasing commissioning or making new pieces when needed, selecting and altering costumes for new volunteers, instructing volunteers on details like historical hairstyles, and providing help and resources for anyone who wants to try making their own costumes.  I also teach dances from the Regency and mid-19th century to our volunteers and to the public. image.jpg

My siblings and I were all homeschooled through high school graduation, so my transition to college life was quite difficult and jarring.  I suffered a severe burnout in my freshman and sophomore years, leading to me being diagnosed with autism almost two years ago.  I realized that I had been unconsciously suppressing my autistic traits almost my entire life in an effort to appear neurotypical and “fit in,” which worked just fine during my carefree childhood but got to be EXHAUSTING in highschool and in college I just couldn’t keep it up any more.  Since my diagnosis I’ve been relearning how to be visibly and proudly autistic: letting myself stim in public, embracing my echolalia and “raptor hands,” recognizing when a meltdown or shutdown is imminent and giving myself permission to take a break instead of pushing past my limits trying to Keep Up With The Neurotypicals.  As for being an autistic costumer: I’m very detail-oriented, I tend to conceptualize certain ideas in my head as clothes instead of words, I touch ALL THE FABRICS, and I can sit for hours at a time researching.  On the other hand though, I have horrible executive function (https://musingsofanaspie.com/executive-function-series/) and most days very little actual sewing gets completed. It’s a struggle, but it’s the way I am and I’m learning to love myself.  My special interests (https://www.theodysseyonline.com/an-autistic-view-on-special-interests) are costume design (no surprise there!) Finland and the Finnish language, Tolkien, and the bands Nightwish, Genesis, and the Bee Gees.

Lately I’ve started collecting vintage clothes from the 1960’s-80’s, which I’m beginning to wear on a daily basis.  I also love music so I try to share a song or album that I’ve been enjoying in each blog post.  Here’s my record collection: image.jpg

Before I end this post, I’ve seen some CoBloWriMoers introducing their pets, so I thought I’d share some pictures of mine. I live on a small hobby farm so I have a lot!

My sweet and rambunctious baby girl Gala: (an old photo from Instagram because she wouldn’t stand still for a picture today)image.jpg

Apple the elderly gentlepig: image

Dior, Olórin, and Noam Chomsky: image

As well as Ferdinand the dog, Aztec the Sewing Room Turtle, 4 guineas, 8 ducks, and about 30 more chickens not pictured.

Soundtrack: since this post is about getting to know me, here’s my favorite album of all time, Imaginaerum by Nightwish (I’ll provide a link when I’m not blogging from my phone, but in the mean time you should be able to find it on spotify)

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Long Distance Voyager

Hello hello, bonjour, terve!  I realize everyone wants to know how the fashion show went and how the Big Fashion Show Thing turned out, and I promise I’ll get to that at some point.  I’ve been doing some super exciting stuff and I have a lot to catch up on, as you can see here:

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Look at that! It’s Trafalgar Square!  Where the Bee Gees played a concert on January 1st 1973 and Grace took pictures some time in May 2017!  That’s right guys, I’m in Europe.  As soon as the fashion show and final exams were over I left to tour London and Paris with a group from my university, which is why I haven’t been blogging the last few weeks.  Right now I’m in Finland, and I’ll be here for a while.  My plan is to do some catch up posts on the fashion show and the first part of my trip spaced out over the next few weeks, and also blog about my  adventures in Helsinki (which should include some outfit posts, since I mostly packed vintage clothes)

In the meantime, here’s some more pictures of me wearing Halston and having afternoon tea in London

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Soundtrack for chilling in my apartment in Helsinki: Peter Frampton – I’m In You

Projects

I Don’t Really Know How To Do Futurism

Today’s post is going to be a bit of a wall of words since up until this week every time I’ve tried to photograph this project it just looks like a big pile of black fabric scraps.

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I’m currently working on the garment you see in the above sketch (minus leggings and boots, those will be purchased, thankfully) for my advanced apparel production class which will be in my department’s fashion show at the end of the month.  The end of the month!  help.

 

About the design: the theme/concept for the fashion show is Futuristic Florals, which made me panic a bit, since my designs tend to be very heavily historically inspired.  I was lamenting to my sister when she recommended I interpret “futurism” as a sort of retro-futurism.  I ended up going for an 80’s sci-fi look inspired by the tailoring wok of Thierry Mugler and the costuming work of one of my favorite costume designers, Michael Kaplan (particularly his work in Blade Runner, although he also costumed Star Wars Episode XII, which keeps things relevant.)  The result is a sort of “space cadet” jacket made out of black wool satin, with some funky and unexpected seaming to amp up the futuristic feel.

I’ve also been interested in the concept of fashion as a vehicle for horror lately, since when done well our clothes shape the way we view or maybe even be viewed as part of our body, leading to opportunities to experiment with body horror and creating a sense of “wrongness” through clothing.  I’m going to create a reproduction human heart out of wool felt and silk gauze sort of bursting through the left side of the chest of the garment, bleeding and dripping “blood” made out of silk flowers; this is the floral component.  An unconventional interpretation, but I think it will be morbidly beautiful and thought-provoking and my professors are all delighted with it.

To further drive home the futuristic aspect of the project, our class has access to 3-d printers this semester, and we are collaborating with some electrical engineering students to add lights to our garment.  I’ve designed a 3-d printed epaulet for the right shoulder, and I’m working with the engineering students to add red LED lights behind the “heart” to softly pulse and mimic a sort of unnatural heartbeat.

 

 About the actual construction process:  this is a BIG PROJECT and I haven’t made it any easier on myself, since my high standards for my work won’t let me take any shortcuts, even if that means I have to make every flower individually out of hand-dyed silk (see previous post.)  Because the seaming is so convoluted I ended up making the pattern entirely by draping while my classmates were all doing flat-pattern drafting.  Cutting it all out was also incredibly nerve-wracking since I’m using some of the most expensive fabric I’ve ever worked with, so I kept having to go outside and have mini-panic attacks.

Now that those bits are done it’s coming together pretty quickly, though.  The wool satin is an absolute dream to work with; it isn’t finicky under the sewing machine at all and it presses beautifully.  The thing that’s stressing me out is that since this is a project for class I’m required to do all the machine stitching in the sewing lab on campus in a room with 20 other students, instead of at home in my nice quiet sewing room with my records, which translates to a lot of sensory bombardment.  I’m usually okay if I put my earbuds in and just let myself hyperfocus on my sewing, but yesterday somebody put their hand on my shoulder to get my attention and I very narrowly avoided melting down.  I managed to make it through my next class but then I had to call my mom to drive me home because I was all shaky and my brain wasn’t working.  In general I’m okay with being touched but I’m quite sensitive and touch-averse on my shoulders and back and I don’t even let people I know well touch me there, much less some random classmate and much less as a surprise when I have my earbuds in and didn’t even hear them coming.  Ugh.  The good news is I’m done with all the machine sewing, and I just have a Heck of a Lot of hand-stitching to do now so I can work at home now.

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Soundtrack for this project: I mean obviously this is a huge project but for the sketching and patterning I listened to this playlist on Spotify to get in the mood

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Some Thoughts on Autism Acceptance

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It’s April 2nd, which, depending on your point of view, is either Autism Awareness Day or Autism Acceptance Day.  Being autistic myself, I celebrate Autism Acceptance Day and #REDinstead rather than Autism Awareness Day and #lightitupblue.  A lot of people have written about the difference and why Autism Awareness Day is, as I said on Instagram, unhelpful at best and actively harmful at worst, but I just wanted to write a few of my thoughts here.

I love being autistic because I love being me.  I love the intensity and fierceness of my love for my special interests, I love the feeling of stimming, I love how easily I am moved to tears by beauty and emotion because of my hyperempathy, I love how my autistic sensory processing lets me experience music and rain and velvet and hot chocolate chip cookies.  I’m not over here trying to say that being autistic is always a walk in the park, because it’s not.  It’s hard.  It’s really really hard.  The sensory overload, the social difficulties, the executive dysfunction (hoo boy the executive dysfunction) can all be incredibly difficult at times, but here’s the thing: the autistic brain has a variety of tools and skills pre-installed, so to speak, to help us cope with these difficulties.  It’s perfectly natural for us to stim to regulate our sensory input, to use echolalia to communicate when we’re having trouble putting words together, and to find ways to escape when we’re in overwhelming environments.  The problem is that we’re taught that using these skills is bad thing, either explicitly through harmful therapies or implicitly by being exposed from birth to a society that mocks and degrades anyone who isn’t neurotypical-passing.  “Awareness,” in my experience points out visible autistic traits and basically says “look at these autistic behaviors!  horrible!  terrible!  we need to help these poor children to stop doing these terrible, terrible, things like not making eye contact;”  while acceptance is just that– advocating for the wide-spread cultural acceptability of a range of behaviors, and encouraging our more socially-adept allistic friends to meet us halfway in matters of socialization.  Acceptance says “look at these autistic behaviors!  They are normal and helpful and there is nothing wrong with them!”  True autism acceptance in our society would have so much impact on making autistic lives easier.

Another issue I have with “awareness:” it doesn’t even work.  I suppose it did work to some extent for a while since nowadays most people at least have heard the word “autism,” but the wide-spread understanding of autism is completely inaccurate.  A lot of us get told “you don’t look autistic!” like it’s some sort of compliment when we disclose our diagnosis.  I don’t know what neurotypicals think autism “looks like,” I guess maybe Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.  This inaccurate picture of autism leads to the under-diagnosis of poor people, people of color, and anyone who isn’t a cis man.  In reality, we are all races, come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, are all sexual and romantic orientations, and we can be all ages.  Autistic people can be any gender, and a lot of us are trans or nonbinary!  We needed to be accepted as who we actually are, instead of only being acknowledged if we fit the mold created by faulty “awareness.”

I want to end on a positive note, so here’s some shoutouts to some great people in my life who practice autism acceptance:

  • My friends, who, when I text them in the middle of a meltdown ask me “do you want to infodump?” and then let me tell them stuff about the Bee Gees until I’ve calmed down
  • My dad, who has a special way of hugging me.  I cross my arms over my chest and let him squeeze me, which is a form of pressure stimming and helps keep me from getting understimulated.  He knows that even if I don’t “hug back” I still love him very much
  • My professors who let me ask questions in class when I’ve gone nonverbal by handing them my phone with the question typed out
  • My big sister who is autistic, we show each other affection by listening to each other infodump about our special interests and getting really excited when our special interests intersect

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The shirt I’m wearing in these photos is from Vintage Code, one of my favorite vintage shops on Etsy.

My soundtrack for writing this post:  Pink Floyd– Meddle

Projects

Wear Your Love Like Heaven

Color in sky, prussian blue
Scarlet fleece changes hue
Crimson ball sinks from view
Wear your love like heaven

Color sky, havana lake
Color sky, rose carmethene
Alizarin crimson
Wear your love like heaven

The title and opening lines of this post are taken from Wear Your Love Like Heaven by Donovan, a song full of references to dyes and pigments and a video full of bright, bright colors which has been running through my head the past three days as I’ve been dyeing silk organza (I’ll link the entire album at the end of this post; it’s a good’un)IMG_7577[1]

I ended up dyeing three pieces of organza, each one about half a yard.  I used jacquard acid dyes from Dharma Trading Co. and followed their instructions for stove-top dyeing pretty closely, besides the fact that I ended up using twice the recommended amount of dye because I wanted DEEP colors.  Maybe it actually made a difference, maybe there’s an upper limit to how much dye the fibers absorbed and adding the extra dye didn’t do anything, but it doesn’t matter because I’m very happy with the end result (also I bought way more dye than I actually needed, so that wasn’t really a concern)IMG_7579[1]

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(left to right: crimson, russet, and half-and-half)IMG_7586[1]

I wanted a range of shades because I’m going to turn these into silk flowers (which will in turn eventually be part of a Big Thing that I’m working on) and I want to be able to arrange them in a sort of gradient.  I’m really, really happy with how this turned out, especially considering this is my first time dyeing anything since tie-dyeing t-shirts as a kid.  The colors are vibrant, and even, and the organza is so very floaty and when you put several layers together you get some wonderful effects that are exactly what I want for my flowers.

Soundtrack for this project: Donovan– A Gift From A Flower To A Garden

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Welcome!

Hi!  My name is Grace, and this uh, isn’t my first time writing a First Post On A New Blog but I still have no idea what to say.  I’ve tried blogging several times before but all my attempts have petered out after a few months.  I’m going to try to keep this one going by putting less pressure on myself: I’m going to stop trying to show the world an idealized version of myself and instead just show the world me, which means being very open about my autism and not setting a pace of regular posting that I can’t keep up with in the long run.  I guess my aims here are to a) become part of the amazing blogging communities that I’ve been following for a while but never participating in (the vintage fashion community and the historical costuming community!) and b) use the blog as an incentive to always keep creating, since now I have a place to share what I create.

I have no idea if any of that made sense outside of my head, so here’s a couple of nice bulleted lists about what this blog is going to be about:

Things you can expect on this blog:

  • Updates on various sewing projects that I’m working on
  • When I have time and enough executive function these sewing projects might include historical costuming
  • Possibly posts in the style of a traditional fashion blog about my vintage outfits, we’ll see
  • Occasional rambles about how much I love the Bee Gees
  • A very candid look at my life as an autistic adult
  • Every now and then I might write a post to share some information I’ve found in my research on historical fashion

Things you probably shouldn’t expect on this blog:

  • Good photos.  I’ll just go ahead and say it now, I do not own a camera.  What I do have, though, is a very old iphone, and various apps that emulate vintage film and make my horrible photo quality look like it was intentional
  • Tutorials.  I know tutorials are a Big Thing in the blogging world and if anyone’s interested in a particular technique that I use in my sewing I’ll be happy to share as much information as I can but I don’t anticipate having enough time and executive function to write Real Genuine Proper Tutorials with process photos and numbered steps and all that shebang.
  • This is not a neurodiversity/disability rights activism type blog; although that is a topic that I am very passionate about I don’t really have the brain resources or the emotional energy to dedicate to writing such a blog.  Instead, may I direct you to some of my favorite neurodiversity blogs: Autisticality, Musings of an Aspie, and The Caffeinated Autistic

I’m planning on dyeing some silk for a project this afternoon, so hopefully there’ll be some actual content here soon!