Monday, June 16, 2014

The De Berry Project- The Fabric and shoes

As I mentioned last time I am working on a version of the outfit to the left for an event coming up soon in July. I wanted something with a hat to shade my face, and not too hot since we are going to be outside in the middle of a Virginian summer.

The fabric gods were not kind, when I went to my local fabric stores. There was really nothing in the right weight, color, pattern, fiber, or amount; especially the amount since I need about 8 yards for the undergown and 10 yards for the overdress. Part of the problem is that there are no waist seams, so each piece has to be cut from a long continuous length of material. Also, those sleeves are about four yards by themselves. I resigned myself to ordering online, which I hate doing because it's so hard to be sure of the color etc without seeing it in person, and by the time the fabric arrives often there just isn't time to send it back and get something else.

I went first to an oldie, but a goodie; Thai silks. I knew they would have the right fiber and quantity, but as for pattern and color...well, I was prepared to dye if necessary. My heart was set on a bluish-green undergown with a peacock blue overgown with a gold design, so I ordered the Teal Green raw silk noil, since it's lightweight, durable, washable, and the price was right.

I was nervous about the exact hue because I did want it to be slightly bluish as well, and when it arrived, sure enough it was more of a pine green than a teal, but I liked everything else about it and I still hadn't found the overgown fabric. I serged the ends, pre-washed it, and rolled it onto a tube and set about draping the mock-up for the undergown.

Meanwhile, hours of fruitless searching through the usual suspects made me realize that my desire for a sumptuous peacock blue (maybe velvety) gold-patterned fabric in 10 yards for less than the price of a small pony was not going to yield results. I had been avoiding the shiny, poly brocades; I even considered embossing my own velvet, but doing that for 10 yards would likely have proven too time-consuming. I revisited my distaste for the brocades. I know, I know, shame on me.

I found a brocade on e-bay, in quantities galore, with the kind of floral-yet-symmetrical pattern that screams medieval to me; the best part was that the price was very good even with shipping, and it came in royal blue, aqua, and bright green.

I had been toying with the idea of how to do a quick wash/dye of brocade to dull the tell-tale shine of the synthetic fibers, and I wasn't finding anything else as the days ticked by, so in the end I bought it. I didn't get the blue, as you may have noticed, but I went with the green because not only would it look better with the undergown fabric, but green (vert) is one of my heraldic colors. I await its arrival with much anticipation.

I always try to get my ordering out of the way first, that way I can attend to other things while I wait for it to come in, and if there's a problem with the order I have more time to address it. This has saved me more than once professionally when the wrong order was shipped, or the supplier couldn't get it in good time from the manufacturer etc. After the fabric I turned my attention to the shoes.

I already have silk and cotton hose in various colors, and I have both ribbon garters and cheater garters of elastic, but one thing that really ruins a costume for me is the shoes. So often you'll see a wonderful re-creation and the person could have stepped straight from a painting...and then they're wearing regular flats or worse. The tendency is to think that people won't see the shoes under the gown, and it's not at all the most-noticeable aspect, but, like the right hat or hairstyle, it can make or break the effect.


I have a great pair of russet-colored shoes from American Duchess, but they're only appropriate for the later medieval/early renaissance period, and this is supposed to be right at the start of the 1400s. I knew I needed something flat, with a pointed toe (the more long and pointed the better), and scored or punched. A strap across the instep would be entirely appropriate, or something more covering. I settled on this little black mary-jane type shoe with a pointed toe and punched design. Bonus: it was on sale at Zappos.

Now the undergown has been mocked up, and I am ready to transfer it to a paper pattern to "true" and cut. My time is limited, and I have to mess with a little corded bodice interlining, so it may be a mad dash as I do that and test-dye swatches of brocade, but more on that later.

Next time:- The undergown, and coordinating fabrics for the hat and linings.

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