Wednesday, December 28, 2011

1920's Hats

Men's hats were practically required for life in 1920's Kansas City. Even President Truman got his start after WWI by opening a haberdashery in Kansas City. Fortunately for us, the major players in Kansas City got plenty of pictures taken in their hats so we can figure out the three major kinds of hats in play in Kansas City's elite and who was wearing what.

The Fedora

This is the hat that everyone thinks about when they see gangsters. However, in 1920's Kansas City it was the hat of the middle class worker. Men downtown tended to wear Fedoras as part of their daily dress:

(also note the lower class workers in their preferred flat caps [nowadays called newsboy caps])

Fedoras have a large flat brim and a domed, bowler-like crown that is often folded, pinched, and shaped. The common crown is folded in half front-to-back and then has two circular pinches on the front half. The front brim can also be tilted downward and the back tilted up in the traditional "Noir Private Investigator" or "Indiana Jones" configuration. However, in the 20's hats were bought as blanks (they didn't come standard with the crease already set until the 50's), and men either shaped the hat themselves or had their haberdasher shape it according to their preference, so you can find pictures of fedoras with no fold or no pinches:

(note the two men just left of center, their fedoras have a very shallow fold and no pinches)

I'm not certain, though, that variations were popular in Kansas City. In the above photo the man holding the newspaper on the left is comedian Ben Birney on a visit to Kansas City. The man on the right holding the newspaper is Mayor Bryce Smith, wearing a Fedora more like we see in other Kansas City photographs. However, the biggest Fedora wearer we are concerned with is Tom Pendergrast and his gang of friends:

Tom loved his Fedoras. The fashion also spread to his close friends, as can be seen in the second picture. These make it pretty clear that if you're looking to accurately portray a member of the Pendergrast's business network you want to get an accurate Fedora. Here are some great modern ones:

And some not so good ones:

Although this hat is marketed as a Fedora, the brim is too small and the turn up in the back is too sharp.

This kind of hat could be problematic. I couldn't find any Fedora pictures from the 20's that had the folded crown shaped with an upward curve like this. For example take this picture of the top of Truman's hat:

The crown is obviously folded, not shaped. I think the heavily shaped crown is a more modern variation, but I can't prove it right now, so use caution.

The Homburg

Very similar to a Fedora, a Homburg has a brim that curls up all around instead of lying flat. It's crown can also have the shape variations that a Fedora has, so the curling brim is really the big marker. If the Fedora is the hat of the businessman, then the Homburg is the hat of the politician. President Truman loved his Homburgs. He started wearing them during his local political career in Kansas City in the 20's, and continued through his Presidency in the 50's:

Also, in the crown example picture above his hat is a Homburg, not a Fedora. Note how the crowns are shaped the same.

So, if you want to portray a political crony in Kansas City the Homburg would be the hat of choice. It's actually pretty easy to find Homburgs in modern hat shops. Usually, though, they're listed as Fedoras, so shop around. Here are some modern examples:

The PorkPie

I've found a few examples of PorkPie hats as well. The Porkpie is a boater-like hat with a Fedora-like or Homburg-like brim and a short, 3-4" crown with a flat top. When worn, the shortness of the crown means that the flat top can take on a slightly domed shape as the top of the head pushes it upwards. I'm not sure where to place it in Kansas City's societies, though.

Truman wearing a PorkPie.

The man on the far left standing next to Tom Pendergrast is holding a PorkPie.

A young man in this Kansas City crime scene photo is wearing a PorkPie. It is hard to tell, though, if he is an investigator or a criminal, or just an innocent worker in the business.

There are also some more famous people from the 10's, 20's, and 30's who wore PorkPies:

Buster Keaton's PorkPie is famous and a hallmark of his silent film characters. Some PorkPie wearers could be looking to emulate film stars such as Keaton.

Lester Young loved his PorkPie so much he wrote a song about it in the 50's. Like Young, many Jazz musicians embraced the PorkPie, and it also became a signifier for Jazz music and culture.

There is one other person famous for wearing a PorkPie, even though it is after the time period at hand. Robert Oppenheimer, an American scientist known as the father of the Atomic Bomb, was also a dedicated PorkPie wearer:

The good news, though, is that there are a variety of hats for men to wear at KC in 2016 bid parties. I hope to see lots of hats at cons in the coming years!

More 1920's Inspirations and Resources

Yet again more 20's stuff I'm collecting for the Kansas City WorldCon bid. There's some great stuff out right now:

The Great Gatsby Movie by Baz Luhrmann (costumes by Catherine Martin, she of the Moulin Rouge Oscar) has released the first set pics. Looks luxe and wonderful! Due out about this time next year.

Gucci's 2012 Spring Collection has a lot of 20's in it too. That cocktail dress is not only a 20's cut, but has art deco beading covering it. Yum!

This dress for Temperley London's 2012 pre-fall (read: summer) collection looks very twenties in cut as well, and also has the geometric sequin patterns.

Fashionizing has noticed the trend as well, and has a much more complete look at 2012 collections that have 1920's looks.

Finally, a good makeup tutorial:

How to Be a Girl, with Jane Marie: Flapper Style from Rookie on Vimeo.

I'm also keeping a 1920's fashion pinboard on Pinterest if you're looking for inspiration from the real thing.

Next up: 20's hats for guys.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Creative Chat Wednesday - So Behind!

Creative Chat

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About Creative Chat

This Week's Topic:

Since I'm obviously running behind due to lots of real-life stuff that's trying to drown me, I'm theming this week around time management:

What step of sewing do you procrastinate on most?

For me it's the fitting stage. I often start fitting and get to one of those points where I need three arm joints and five hands to finish fitting on my own, so I put it away and work on something else. It can be hard to come back :P

Because of my own tardiness I'm leaving this open until Friday at 0-dark-30 so people have more time to participate.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creative Chat Wednesday - Fabric Faves

Creative Chat

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About Creative Chat

This Week's Topic:

What is your favorite fabric to work with?

I think it's silk dupioni. For the past 3-4 years I've been making a lot of costumes out of it. I just love how it has a silk luster but just enough texture to be interesting and not flat or unreasonably shiny under stage lights.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Creative Chat Wednesday - Fear and Loathing

Creative Chat

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About Creative Chat

This Week's Topic:

What is your current sewing avoidance?

Zippers. I always avoid putting a zipper in something if I can. I think it's because I always sew too close to the teeth and make it look wonky, probably a bad idea to sew a zipper the same way you sew busks and boning :P I'm trying to get over my fear and loathing, but it's resulted in more than a few ripped out zippers and curse words!

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Creative Chat Wednesday

Creative Chat

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About Creative Chat

This Week's Topic:

What is one sewing tool you couldn't live without?

Lately it's been my lip gloss! I think it's because I have the horrid habit of sticking pins in my mouth, so when I finish pinning things I reach for my lip gloss automatically. I also love my hem guage. I'm constantly using it kinda like a micrometer to measure the size of buttons, seam allowances, pattern pieces, and other things to get everything even and correct.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Creative Chat Info Post

Creative Chat

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~What is Creative Chat?
Creative Chat is a weekly writing prompt. You copy the text and paste it to your blog, then write your answer! Your answer can be as long or as short as you wish.

~Why did you create Creative Chat?
As a costumer I have a lot of projects, but often I don't have weekly updates or progress posts. I work a lot in spurts, and I often keep projects secret until they're completed. It makes it kinda hard to maintain a weekly blog because I don't always know what to write when I don't have any progress to show or events to report on. Creative Chat is an attempt for Costumers and other Sewing Creative types to make weekly posts on their creative endeavors by providing a weekly topic they can write on that's about sewing but not about a current project.

~Why should I link my answer?
Half the fun of a meme like this is being able to read other people's answers! If you submit your link then other people can check out what you wrote.

~Why did my link get erased?
Likely because it didn't work, either the link was incorrect or it led to a journal that's locked to a specific group of people. If you put an answer in the linkee it must be accessible to everyone with no logins or capcha required to view.

~I see you're a costumer, is this only for costumers?
Nope! I'm going to try and make it as friendly as possible to anyone who sews as a craft or hobby.

~The linkee doesn't work on my blog! Why?
The linkee is javascript. It won't work on sites that don't like java (like LiveJournal). You can still enter these in the linkee by clicking the html link to the main prompt entry.

~I have an idea for a writing prompt! How do I submit it?
You can email me at dramaticthreads(at)gmail(dot)com.

Writing Prompt - 9 November 2011

Creative Chat

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About Creative Chat

This Week's Topic:
What is one sewing tool you couldn't live without?

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dictionary of Textiles

A question came up on h-costume about what a historical textile (dogskin) really was. Fun with google search led me to this awesome resource:

It's a scan of a 1912 dictionary of fabrics. Really interesting to peruse, and you can download a pdf to read offline. If you use it on Google you also have a search box so if you come across something in Victorian or Edwardian costume research this could be a big help!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunshine Dress

A few weeks ago I posted progress pics of my niece's dress:

And now, the dress is finished! She wore it to a pageant and sang This Little Light of Mine. Although I call it the "Sunshine Dress" she's decided it's her "Flame Dress".

It started with a concept: she was supposed to sing You Are My Sunshine and I wanted something to go with it. I found this inspiration on a pageant dress website:

I decided I wanted to do something like it, but in the colors of a sunset. I went pattern searching, and rather than bubble layers I found this, Butterick 4967:

I decided I'd do the layers in shades from yellow to a reddy-orange. So I mocked up the base layers (in the pic above) and once I was sure of fit and length (because it would be hard to hem with me halfway across the country and the ruffles all serged) I laid out all the ruffles on separate squares of silk charmeuse. I serged the ends of these, pre-washed them, and then dyed them with Dharma Trading's Fiber-Reactive dyes. I used these shades:

In order to get a smoother transition I dyed from light to dark, and I added the dye for the darker layers to the leftover dye from the lighter so they had a better match in tone. I was super excited with the results!

Then I cut each layer, sewed the ruffles together, and serged the hem with a rolled hem on my serger and decorative Sulky Viscose thread. I made a lining and sewed all the layers down. I had some problem at the center back zipper because the top three ruffles had to hang free in order for the zipper to open but I didn't want the nude lining showing through, so I ended up sewing a facing on top of each ruffle that lined the ruffle above it so that if the ruffle gapped you would see a color match. I also tacked the ruffles together at the bottom so that they would want to stay together. I sewed the bodice, edge-stitched the neck and armholes, and installed an invisible zipper. I left the lining loose at the waist just in case it needed to be shortened, so it could be done from the waist instead of messing with all the layers, but fortunately it didn't so all my mom did was tack down the waist and she was good! Here's the result!

I'm glad she looks so adorable! I debated for a long time whether or not to add a sash, and I'm glad I didn't. I think it looks a bit more informal this way. A sash would probably dress it up too much.

My niece is also coming with me to Costume Con next year (along with my mom, who I'm really excited about!). I've started planning her wardrobe, because of course she needs to dress up! Here are my ideas so far:

A green butterfly princess based on these:

An 18th century girl:

A Victorian girl:

and Alvis from Last Exile:

I'm not 100% on these ideas though. Anyone have any good costume ideas for 5 year old girls? Or for 5 year old boys, since I'll be taking her brother to Costume Con in 2013?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Historical Research Tools

Have you heard of Pinterest? I think it's a great tool for historical research. Pinterest is kinda like a bookmarking service for internet pictures. When I find a picture while researching something I click a button I added to my toolbar that says "Pin it". It pulls up all the pictures on the page and asks me which one is the important one to keep. Then in a pop-up I can label the picture with what it is, what time it is, where it is, whatever's important to remember. I can also file it on a pinboard to further categorize things. Right now on my Pinterest account I have the following historical boards:

Bustle Dresses

If you see a picture you like when you're browsing a board you can click on it and it will take you back to the original page so you can get more information. You can also take pictures you like that someone else has pinned and add them to boards of your own, an easy way to share research with other people. My research is extant garments from museums, but you could also pin portraits and artwork or other people's reproductions if you use them for inspiration. You can make a project board, too, and pin all the materials you use so that if someone is interested in where you got that trim they can use your pinboard to find the original site. People can friend accounts, so we can keep track of each others' research and make re-pinning and sharing amongst us easier, and you can comment on pins so that as people are following along they can say things like "this is an example of a day dress, not evening wear" or even "I think you'd look great in this color!" Finally, I'm loving it because it saves hard drive space. You don't have to save all those pictures to your hard drive or upload them to flickr, you just click to add it to your account, so it's easy and accessible to you and the community.

Pinterest works better when more people are networking in it, so I hope some of you consider joining. I know it gives out invites, but mine took less than a week so please don't let that stop you! And if you do join, please let me know so I can add you :D

Friday, September 30, 2011

October Movie Preview

Go See Today:

The Help

Costume Designer: Sharen Davis (Ray, The Pursuit of Happiness)
Plot Summary: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960's decides to write a book detailing the African American Maid's point of view on the White families they work for, and their hardships they go through on a day to day basis.

There's not much out there for period right now. September is usually a lull between Summer Blockbusters and Oscar Drama seasons. This movie has 60's dresses, though, and they look really good too.



Release Date: October 7
Costume Designer: unknown
Plot Summary: A historical drama based on the founding of the Republic of China when nationalist forces led by Sun Yat-sen overthrew the Qing Dynasty.

I love me some Jackie Chan. He's so talented, and seeing him get to actually WORK and do some good acting is a real joy. Period costumes make it even more yummy :D

The Three Musketeers

Release Date: October 21
Costume Designer: Pierre-Yves Gayraud (The Bourne Identity, Perfume: the story of a Murderer)
Plot Summary: The hot-headed young D'Artagnan along with three former legendary but now down on their luck Musketeers must unite and defeat a beautiful double agent and her villainous employer from seizing the French throne and engulfing Europe in war.

They've steampunked 17th century France, and it will be glorious! Don't expect accuracy from anyone, but plenty of eye candy!

In Time

Release Date: October 28
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Alice in Wonderland)
Plot Summary: In the future people stop aging at 25 and must work to buy themselves more time, but when a young man finds himself with more time than he can imagine he must run from the corrupt police force to save his life.

Contemporary clothing, but with Colleen Atwood doing them you know they'll be smashing all the same. Hopefully it will be released, I hear there's some pretty heavy litigation against letting this movie be seen at all.

The Rum Diary

Release Date: October 28
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Alice in Wonderland)
Plot Summary: American journalist Paul Kemp takes on a freelance job in Puerto Rico for a local newspaper during the 1950s and struggles to find a balance between island culture and the ex-patriots who live there.

Johnny Depp, Puerto Rico, and 50's fashion, what's not to like? Kinda odd that two Colleen Atwood movies are coming out against eachother, though.


Release Date: October 28
Costume Designer: Lisy Christl (John Rabe)
Plot Summary: A political thriller advancing the theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford who penned Shakespeare's plays; set against the backdrop of the succession of Queen Elizabeth I, and the Essex Rebellion against her.

It's going to be hard to decide which movie to see Halloween week! This one is splashy Elizabethan finery by a newcomer, but it looks like this may get her more work!

Save Your Pennies:

The Artist

Release Date: November 23
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood)
Plot Summary: Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.

Next month is going to be a budget buster, but I had to go with the glam of silent film stars.

Coming in 6 Months:

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Release Date: March 2012
Costume Designer: Marlene Stewart (Coyote Ugly, Terminator 2)
Plot Summary: Catching up with Hansel and Gretel 15 years after their incident involving a gingerbread house, the siblings have evolved into bounty hunters who hunt witches.

Not exactly 6 months, but there's not much scheduled for April yet. This one has a very interesting premise, and I'm excited to see if it will get fantasy clothes to go with its fantastic plot!

Watch for in a Year:

Anna Karenina

Release Date: None Yet
Costume Designer: Unknown
Plot Summary: Trapped in a loveless marriage, Anna, looks for a better life, but finds only a more complicated one.

Keira Knightley and Jude Law in a Tolstoy classic? Count me in!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Video Update

I'm still working on tracking down pictures for the rest of my WorldCon/DragonCon costumes, so instead of those updates here's some fun clothing news:

40's Era Dress up for auction reveals a great history: it was made of a Nazi flag stolen for a Danish spy woman by her American soldier suitor. The story of the woman, and the dress, is amazing.

Snopes talks about the origins of sagging pants and what they mean culturally.

FIDM has a "20 years of acquisitions" exhibit up. If you can't go there's a catalog available on their website.

CanineHybrid on LiveJournal posted a video of the fursuiting panel from NanDesuKan. It's very interesting and informative!

And, speaking of panels, here's part 4 of my 5 part dyeing panel from DragonCon:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WorldCon and DragonCon Part 3

This next costume was worn at Renovation's Masquerade where I judge clerked and Sunday morning at DragonCon. It's also one of my current favorites :D

Dr. Barlow from Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan/Behemoth:

This costume was a lot of fun to figure out. Dr. Barlow is a scientist who creates genetic chimera animals, so I went with a lot of synthetic looking animal prints and funky colored fake furs. I also tried to have a steampunky color palate because the books are very steampunk in theme. The resulting mix is a very comfortable costume that I will probably be wearing quite a bit!

Next, here's part 3 of the Dyeing panel:

I'm going to start working on the tutorial videos I mention in part 5 very soon. I'm going to start with stove-top dying because I want to do that for one of my niece's pageant dresses. She's singing "You are my Sunshine" as her talent entry, so I'm making a dress with 6 tiers of ruffles that are dyed shades from yellow to dark orangey-red. Her mock-up fit perfectly, and she's very excited about her new dress!

From September 13, 2011
From September 13, 2011
From September 13, 2011

I also got her brothers' requests for Halloween costumes yesterday, and I'm super-excited about one of them, so more on that soon I hope!