Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Lego Fashion

Lego blocks isolated on the white background

Free photo 6223582 © Tomas Valenta, Bm Association - Dreamstime.com
This post is the opposite of your normal April Fool's Day post, which usually attempts to make a hoax sound as though it's a real event.  This post is about something that sounds as though it should be a hoax, but isn't--namely, making dresses out of plastic Lego blocks.

At Comic Con back in 2016, Star Wars voice artist Ashley Eckstein wore a gown made from Legos. Pictures of Ashley wearing the Lego gown may be seen here, while workshop photos of Ashley's gown may be seen here.  The small 2 x 2 Lego blocks seem to have been preferred for the creation Ashley is wearing. 

If you think a Lego dress would be impossibly heavy to wear, think again. This CNet article describes the construction of a plain black Lego gown, made with 12,000 Lego pieces, that weighed only 7 pounds. Ordinary day wear in the late Victorian era often was much heavier.  

Finally, Instructables.com has a tutorial on how to make your own Lego dress. The tutorial only makes a dress with a Lego-covered panel--not a dress that is completely covered with Legos. It may still be worth looking into if you like the idea of Lego Fashion. 

Happy April Fool's Day!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Two Late 15th Century European Clothing Handbooks

At the request of Daniel Serra of ChronoCopia Publishing, I am reviewing the following books.  They are very similar to each other and even contain some of the same content, so it makes sense to review them together:
Malmborg, A. & Schütz, Willhelm, A Handbook for Men's Clothing of the 15th Century: Historical Clothing from the Inside Out. (ChronoCopia Publishing AB 2018).
Malmborg, A. & Schütz, Willhelm, A Handbook for Women's Clothing of the 15th Century: Historical Clothing from the Inside Out. (ChronoCopia Publishing AB 2018).
These books are beautifully produced.  They are printed on thick, glossy paper and are lavishly illustrated with clear diagrams and large, full color photographs showing clothed figures excerpted from period works of art.  But these books are very short (48 pages each).  At $19.90 USD for each on Amazon.com, they are a bit more expensive than the titles in Osprey Publishing's Men-At-Arms series, which are the same length and are of similarly high quality with regard to paper, photographs, and layout.

These books are too brief to be a comprehensive guide to everything there is to know about late 15th century costume.  For example, they are too small to give much information about clothing patterns, or surviving items of period clothing, or to discuss differences in costume from one European country to another.

Are Malmborg and Schütz's  handbooks worth one's money and time?  I think the answer to that question is "yes," but only for people who are just starting to learn about late 15th century costume.

What kinds of information do these books provide?  That can be discerned by scanning through the books chapters and headings.  The book's contents are divided into three chapters:  "The Period;" "A Wardrobe;" and "Accessories."

"The Period" is subdivided into five sections: "Historical context;" "The dress idiom;" "Dyes;" "Fabrics;" and "Sewing Techniques."  "Historical context" briefly describes the political situation in Europe as it existed during the period.  "The dress idiom" describes the physical outline of period costume--what I think of as its "silhouette"--and mentions some of the features of that costume, such as pleats, layers, and the importance of fabric choice in displaying social rank.  "Dyes" describes the substances used to achieve fashionable colors, and images give a sense of how those colors appeared.  "Fabrics" discusses the types of fiber used in most period fabrics and the most popular weaves used, while "Sewing Techniques" illustrates the stitches used for clothing construction.  This chapter appears with substantially the same content in both books.

The "Wardrobe" has a separate section for each item that comprises a typical outfit for a man or woman of the period (depending upon which of the two volumes you are reading), from head to toe and from the skin out.  For each item, the reader is told the fabrics from which each garment is made, the garment's basic shape, and general information about construction, tailoring techniques, and fit.  Though no sewing patterns are provided, good general advice about how to construct each garment is provided.

The "Accessories" section describes non-clothing items that are nonetheless part of a typical outfit, such as pins, jewelry, and belts.  Finally, there is a page listing the sources of the images used in the book, and a separate page listing useful books to consult for further study of 15th century clothing.

The sort of information that these handbooks provide is the information needed to develop an "eye" for when a costume looks "right."  Information that fosters such an "eye" is immensely helpful because it guides the learner in determining which other books to buy or read. Having an "eye" for the costume of a period is essential in learning how to design and construct costumes that make the wearer look as though he or she has just "stepped out" of a period artwork.  It also provides a useful framework for delving into patterns and pattern books and for understanding the clothing of figures shown in period art.  But the would-be 15th century costumer or reenactor will still need to study further in order to learn enough to be able to construct convincingly accurate 15th century clothing.

For that reason, these books would better be described as "primers" rather than "handbooks". The term "handbook" is typically used for a start-to-finish reference guide to all of the essentials of a subject, and as such may be usefully consulted by those with prior experience in the subject.  Malmborg and Schütz's books are not "handbooks" in this sense.  People with experience making or studying 15th century costume will already know most of the information presented in these books and likely will not be interested in consulting them.

On the other hand, a "primer" is a short introduction to a subject, such as the type of short text given to children to teach them how to read.  Malmborg and Schütz's books are more like primers in that they teach the uninitiated how to "read" clothing images in period art and what types of information they will need to seek in order to sew convincing period clothes.

So these handbooks are not for everyone.  However, costumers who are beginning to develop knowledge of 15th century clothing, or historical fiction writers who are looking for enough costuming information to convincingly describe their characters, may find them a pleasant way to learn to visualize how a 15th century man or woman should be dressed.  For people in those circumstances, it would be hard to find an easier and better point of entry into the study of 15th century costume, and I recommend the books for that purpose.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Pleasant Surprise

Here's a little surprise for my readers--and me as well!

Daniel Serra has asked me to review some books from Chronocopia Publishing.  These are the books in question.  The links go to the page for each book on the Chronocopia website, though the books may be obtained from various booksellers as well.
Daniel is one of the co-authors of another Chronocopia book: An Early Meal: A Viking Age Cookbook and Culinary Odyssey, which discusses the reasons what Viking food was probably like and why, and provides defensible period recipes for modern-day people like us to make.  I reviewed An Early Meal on my food blog, here. That review may be the reason why I've been asked to review the Chronocopia books mentioned above.

Chronocopia is being good enough to send me review copies.  After I have received and read them, I will be writing book reviews of all three for this blog.  Watch this space!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

One Afternoon Tutorials--Shoes

Since I have not attempted to gather shoe construction projects for my collection of "one afternoon tutorials," I figured that I would do that today.  

Now I have, in the past, posted links to tutorials for shoe ornaments (such as rosettes) or shoe modifications (such as shoe dyeing).  But those are different from making, from start to finish, a pair of wearable, at least plausibly period shoes in a single afternoon.

There's a reason for that.  Shoes have to be more than pretty; they also need to protect the feet and be reasonably comfortable to wear.  That means that most shoes are made from leather or similarly tough materials, not fabric alone.  The toughness of leather makes it physically challenging to sew, so making shoes from scratch usually takes much longer than a single afternoon.

That being said, there are historical shoe projects that can be single-afternoon tasks.  Two of the three tutorials here are for prehistoric shoes, and involve nothing more complex or strenuous than cutting and lacing pieces of leather to fit the feet.  
  • "Net-Top" Shoes.  This tutorial comes courtesy of Heather Rose Jones.  The historical examples of this style that Heather gives are associated with "barbarian" cultures of the late Roman Empire.  
  • "Iron Age" Shoes.  The designer of this tutorial refers to them as "Iron Age/Viking," but these designs are not Viking.  Like the "net tops" above they require cutting a single piece of leather in a manner that can simply be laced to the foot; the result resembles traditional Irish dance shoes more than anything else.  This particular design may not be historical, but lace-on shoes are documentable for early periods in Scandinavia and probably for Ireland and Scotland as well, and the result is not offensively anachronistic for other prehistoric cultures.
  • Regency era dance slippers. This tutorial describes how to sew Regency dance slippers by sewing machine; they have fabric uppers and light (synthetic) leather soles. [NOTE:  This tutorial is old (2010) and the internal links in it no longer work.]  These slippers are meant for wear indoors. [SECOND NOTE:  The recommended pattern mentioned in the tutorial, Butterick B5233, is still being sold but the current version does not include the shoe pattern featured in this tutorial.]
I have been looking for sandal tutorials but have not found anything that I think would, or even might, be a one-afternoon project.  If I find anything else of interest, I will share it.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Yet Another New Resource

While exploring a post on Instagram, I found myself looking at the updated Medieval Dress and Textiles Society webpage and found out, from this page, that there is an Association of Dress Historians. This association, under the patronage of Aileen Ribeiro, publishes a scholarly journal called the Journal of Dress History, which contains articles primarily focused on historical clothing topics relating to fashions of the last 250 years.

Each issue of the Journal (except for the first few) is at least 200 pages, and Professor Emeritus Ribeiro herself has been a contributor.  Best of all, part of the Association's mission is that the Journal of Dress History is "circulated solely for educational purposes, completely free of charge and not for sale or profit." The first issue was published in 2017, and the 10 issues that have been published to date may all be downloaded for free on the Association's website, here.

Here are some papers from the Journal that may be of interest.  They are illustrated, some lavishly:
Alexander, Kimberly S. and Alison Fairhurst.  Treasures Afoot:  Shoe Stories from the Georgian Era.  (Volume 3, Issue 2, Summer 2019, page 87).

Gurr, Alice.  The Trench Coat:  Fashioning British Gender Identities in War and Peace, 1851-1930.  (Volume 3, Issue 1, Winter 2019, page 5).

Fairhurst, Alison.  Women's Shoes of the Eighteenth Century: Style, Use and Evolution.(Volume 1, Issue 2, Autumn 2017, page 25).
Middleton, James.  Their Dress Is Very Different:  The Development of the Peruvian Polleta and the Genesis of the Andean Chola.  (Volume 2, Issue 1, Spring 2018).
Each issue also includes a substantial section of detailed reviews of new books on historical clothing; that feature alone is definitely worth the time of costumers and historians interested in the period or periods discussed.

I'm not sure when I'll get the opportunity to read these issues as there is a lot of material here, but I look forward to doing so, and I invite all of you to join me.

Monday, February 3, 2020

New Resources

For me, January was mostly a loss; I spent part of it recovering from a bone strain (that might otherwise have resulted in a fracture) and the rest being sick, and then recovering from it.

So I haven't done much in the way of costuming or even reading about historical costume for more then a month.  But I have collected some resources that may be of interest to some of my readers.

The video to the right is from the reenactor group Marobud; it shows a Viking man getting dressed in period attire.  Note that a lot of his clothing is based upon the Skoldehamn find, which is probably Sami, not Viking.

For later-period enthusiasts, the Archaeological Textiles Review has made Issue No. 60 available for free download, here. (Just click the link that reads "ATR 60").  This issue is dedicated to issues relating to knitting, and thus may be more interesting to costumers whose primary area of clothing or textile study is the late Middle Ages, or later.

Finally, there have been a number of interesting articles on Academia.edu that have come to my attention.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Making a Wimple

Having decided that I wanted to make a wimple, I became curious about what we know about wimple construction in the Middle Ages. 

A quick Internet search suggests that the answer is "not much." Although my favorite wimple technique is to sew a tube big enough to frame my face and just a bit longer than the distance between my chin and the middle of my breastbone, I suspect that the medieval approach was simply to pin a band of cloth, or even another veil, around one's face and chin, as suggested by the De Caversham Household site, here

Modern costuming approaches seem to engineer the construction based upon the desired final appearance of the veil-wimple combination.  For example, this version is a modified version of my tube-shaped wimple, made wider and with a curved edge at the bottom for a wider, more drapey appearance.  This one (the page in German, but it has illustrations and the text is easily translatable via Google Translate) uses a long piece of cloth that is pointed on one end, but can be wrapped and tied around the head in a manner suggesting a turban/veil/wimple combination.

I think that I will sew a simple tube again, since that will be simple and quick to do, will not require a pattern, and will work with other veils that I have.