Book-Themed Francaise

Did you know Kendra wrote a book? My BFF Kendra wrote an awesome book about how to style 18th-century hair & wigs, chock full of historical research & documentation. It was ready for sale at Costume College 2014, so I wanted to help promote it. I decided to wear the wig I modeled for her in the book at the CoCo Gala with my black silk francaise (coincidentally, it was draped by her).

And then it got weird … in the book, my wig had a ship in it. So how about having a miniature version of her book in it? And then miniature books as jewelry? And pages of the book as roses decorating my dress? And print the book’s table of contents as a stomacher? Yeah, I went there. Kendra, our friend Karen, & I were all wearing 18th-century gowns with wigs made by her for the Gala, so we all went with this theme. Read the rest of this entry »


Femme Fourth Doctor Who

One of my first fandoms was Doctor Who, and Tom Baker is my One True Doctor. So when Loren suggested doing femme versions of the Doctors for Costume College 2014, oh yeah, I had to make it happen. Even better, I realized I could do it with stuff I already had or things I could buy off eBay and later wear to work!

I went for a season one / two look when I realized a burgundy corduroy blazer from my work wardrobe was a reasonable match for the Doctor’s, and I built the look around that with a black and white tweed skirt and a grey plaid vest from eBay, a white T-shirt from Old Navy (instead of a button-down shirt, better for the summer temps), and burgundy boots and black tights, also from my work attire. I used the same brown curly wig as from the Eddie AbFab cosplay, topped with an battered brown fedora I’ve had since college.

The scarf was a perfect find from the Etsy shop Geeks With Scissors — I really did not want to wear 10 lbs. of wool all day, especially since this ended up being the day I taught two classes. This scarf was lightweight, made from strips of poly silk, beautifully replicating the style of Baker’s iconic scarf but in a girly fashion. The last touches were a bag of Jelly Babies I got on, a toy Sonic Screwdriver I already had, and a TARDIS key necklace that I’d made back when I was 12 and had kept ever since.

Our group had Loren as the 5th Doctor, Alyxx as the War Doctor, Aimee as the 11th Doctor, Sarah as the TARDIS, & Karen as Jack Harkness (who, in a sad but appropriate turn of events, missed meeting up with us for pictures). Read the rest of this entry »


It’s baaaaaak!

just like an insane poltergeist, FROCK FLICKS IS BACK! and you can't stop us

FROCK FLICK! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, after an unexpectedly long hiatus, the one and only, original podcast snarking historical movie costumes is back! Now we have a blog, a Facebook page, Pinterest boards, and Twitter. Follow us everywhere, we enjoy that kind of stalkerazzi action.

Over on Facebook, we’re particularly active in discussing what movies to podcast next, plus ripping a new one into a certain costume designer’s theories on 18th-century hygiene. Which Sarah took on point by point in our blog.

There will be more, oh yes, lots more. Watch out!


Drag Queen Bling for Club Ice

When Costume College 2014 announced that the theme for the Friday Night Social was “Club Ice” & made allusions to bling, sparkle, diamonds, rhinestones, & the like, well, I took this as a personal challenge to wear something eye-blindingly sparkly. I went through a lot of options of what to make or buy & finally settled on this fairly cheap sequined column dress from a Chinese vendor on eBay. The strapless bra I had to buy to wear with it cost more! Then I wore my traditional drag queen wig & a every last rhinestone I own, plus more that I bought (& got two new necklaces that I cut & wired / glued together to make a bigger bib necklace). Also, drag makeup, though I still can’t get it as good as the queens I admire.

Still, it was a fun outfit, and I may have had my photo taken more wearing this than at any point since my wedding. Historical costumes, pshaw, I was apparently meant to wear cheap flash!


Edwina Monsoon from “Absolutely Fabulous”

My BFF Sarah & I have talked about doing this cosplay for ages, & I’m SO FREAKIN’ HAPPY we finally did it at Costume College 2014!!! This is perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had in costume. She was Patsy, I was Eddie. We stumbled around, pretending to be drunk, acting bitchy (shush, we were acting!), with snarky British accents, unlit cigs hanging from our lips, making weird snide comments about everything & everyone. The people who got the joke loved it, & the people who didn’t probably thought we were insane, which made it even more funny.

I had watched a bunch of AbFab episodes in preparation & realized that Eddie’s humor is very physical. She’s all loose & floppy, to contrast with Patsy’s rigid, sneering stance. Eddie swings quickly between whining about herself & cajoling other people, with a dash of wanna-be hippie BS. We both stayed in character, plus our friend Karen played Bubble brilliantly, perfectly loopy. It made for a trifecta of performance art.

And then we did the busted, end-of-the-party scene in the hotel bathtub. SO MUCH FUN. Read the rest of this entry »


10 Tips for Sewing and Blogging With Injuries (and How to Avoid Injuries in the First Place)

Note: I’m not a doctor, and I don’t even play one on the internet. This article does not constitute actual medical advice — it’s just what I’ve done, what works for me, and what I think is a good idea. Consult with professionals so you don’t hurt yourself or make what hurts worse!

It’s a sad fact that sewing and computer use can be rough on the body. OK, these aren’t exactly contact football or extreme mountaineering in the level of potential injury, but you can wind up with pretty painful long-term damage all along your hands, arms, shoulders, and back from the repetitive activities involved in sewing and blogging. I’m combining the two because, well, I obviously do both, and I know a lot of you do too. The injuries sustained by each are so close as to be easily combined, and that makes a lot of the tricks for combating them somewhat similar too.

I’ve had off and on repetitive strain injury in my right wrist and forearm for the past 15-20 years — basically the length of my online career, plus my most active costuming life. Coincidence? I think not. Recently, after cancer surgery and treatments, I’ve been diagnosed with mild lymphedema in my right arm, and this, plus my new job’s desk setup have wildly aggravated my wrist as well (my left shoulder is also injured due to overcompensation from my right arm being weak; good times!). So I’ve been doing a lot of things to mitigate my own injuries, and then I noticed Samantha of The Couture Courtesan writing about new RSI injuries. Thus, this post.

Per my caveat above, I’m not a medical professional, and my advice is purely based on my own experience and research. Don’t take this as gospel. But DO address the issue early so you don’t get seriously injured and can pursue your hobby without (further) injury for years to come! Read the rest of this entry »


Get Them in the Door: Promoting Your SCA Event

By Baroness Violet Ruthvene in the SCA

This is an accompaniment to a lecture class I taught at the West Kingdom Arts & Sciences Tourney in June 2014. The goal is to help those running SCA events increase attendance by using modern public relations techniques.


Ways to Promote Your SCA Event:

Use all of these! But understand the pros & cons of each so you can manage your resources most effectively.

  • Kingdom, Principality, & Branch Websites — Official, easy to find online & by general public, unlimited word count, can post as early as you want, can update frequently.
  • Page Newsletter — Official & required, limited reach, limited word count, only 2 months exposure.
  • Yahoo! Groups/Email Lists — Limited & dwindling reach (on SCA-West, traffic dropped by 80% in past 4 years; average 90 messages/month in 2014), unlimited word count, can post as early as you want, can update frequently.
  • Facebook — Expanding reach (on West Kingdom SCA page, average 450 interactions/month in 2014), unlimited word count + photos, can post as early as you want, can update frequently.
  • Flyers at Events — Limited but targeted reach, easy to do.
  • Court Announcements — Limited but targeted reach, hard to guarantee getting on schedule.
  • Word of Mouth — Potentially huge reach. All of the other things you do can help build this up.

Read the rest of this entry »


State of the Accessory Challenge, CoCo, Me, & Everything

Toulouse in the sewing room

Toulouse in the sewing room

Odd that I was able to post more during cancer than after treatment ended … although, since then, I’ve started a new job, my cat died, and I’m now dealing with some post-treatment health problems that will keep me from sewing & costuming for a while. So yeah, never ending.

Basically, my right arm (where some of the surgery occurred) now has lymphadema & nerve compression that makes typing on the computer, not to mention sewing, very painful. I have physical therapy through July, so no new costumes for Costume College, although I will be teaching.

Furthermore, since my cat was ill for the past three months, he kind of made a mess in the sewing room (it was his favorite room because it was so sunny), & I have to clean it up before I could use it. So, um, not the best memories there. Still, I’ll try to update a bit now…

For March’s theme of gloves & mitts, Larsdatter’s Medieval & Renaissance Gloves & Mittens page & 18th-Century Women’s Mitts page are  outstanding resources of extant items in museums & period imagery. Obviously for just those eras, but wow, just so much historical info, these sites are really amazing starting points.

For April’s theme of parasols, I highly recommend the book “Sticks in Petticoats: Parasol Manufacture for the Modern Costumer” by Rachel E. Pollock. It’s written by a friend of mine who is a professional costumer & teacher, who runs the blog La Bricoleuse. As I say in the review on the book’s webpage, this slim volume guides you through several tested methods for covering a frame, & it includes a basic history with detailed parts & construction of standard parasols/umbrellas. This is a practical manual with clear, sharp instructions. If you want to cover, recover, or repair a parasol, you need this book, & it’s only $14.99.

For May’s theme of necks & waists, think of the fichus, ties, belts, collars, & cuffs that go with your outfit. My Pinterest board for the Accessory Challenge has lots of examples & some how-tos for inspiration.

For June’s theme of makeup, this is where looking at period imagery is crucially important. What was the beauty ideal in that era? Can you see the pink cheeks of rouge or the dark eyes of kohl? Are patches all the rage? High arched eyebrows or thick dark brows? Take what you see in historical portraits & experiment with modern makeup to recreate the look. It’s really the finishing touch & can be a lot of fun.

Finally, in July, there’s the shoes & stockings theme. These days, we have so many more options for buying reproduction shoes, you only need to make them if you want to. You can also retrofit modern shoes for a more period look. Nobody needs to wear totally modern shoes with a historical outfit anymore!

At Costume College, I’m teaching three classes, all on accessories to fit with this year’s CoCo theme:

Historical Purses: How to Carry Your Crap: This is an overview of women’s bags and purses from the medieval era to the present. You’ll learn which shapes and sizes were popular and see what modern bags are good fits with historical outfits. In addition to the many period images show, some reproduction bags will be available for examination, and tips for making your own versions will be discussed. After this lecture, you’ll never want to lug around your everyday purse while in costume.

Five Faux-Historical Accessories You Could Replace Right Now: There are certain accessories that seem to pop up again and again among historical reenactors. These items may even cross over historical eras — they’re that ubiquitous. But they’re not always very true to the period. They’re simply cheap and easy to find. In this class, we’ll look at five seemingly historical accessories that are very common, but aren’t very accurate. We’ll compare with period imagery and see suggestions for replacements that aren’t expensive or are easy to make. By swapping out a few accessories, you can up your game in no time!

Essential Elizabethan Accessories: Whether portraying Queen Elizabeth’s court or her lowliest subjects, Renaissance faire participants can bring their costumes alive with historically accurate accessories. In this class, we’ll look through period imagery to identify the most iconic and typical hats, bags, jewelry, shoes, fans, and other small props for women and men, nobility, middle classes and peasantry. Tips for how to make these accessories and where to buy them will be included. You may be surprised that some common renfaire items don’t have much basis in historical fact, while other fabulous pieces were frequently seen in period but aren’t used much today.

These are all unlimited classes, so anyone at CoCo can attend. Hope to see you there!


Fund Research on the Real Chemise a la Reine, Plus Cool Costume Reads

If you like 18th-century costuming at all, you’ve probably seen one of those froofy white dresses, the soft, lightly-corseted style popularized by Marie-Antoinette herself. But information on the actual gowns remains scarce, and reenactors are left wondering exactly how those pretty things were really made — much the less when & why they started being worn.

Well, these topics are exactly what my good friend Sarah Lorraine of Mode Historique has been studying for her Masters degree in Art History.  Now she has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study perhaps the only extant chemise gown around when it’s taken off the mannequin at the Manchester Art Gallery in the U.K. But Sarah is in California & getting to the museum during the brief window this chemise gown is available for examination will be expensive. So she’s setup an IndieGoGo campaign — you can donate anything from $10 to $500 & receive her eternal thanks or a copy of her thesis or even a full custom-made chemise gown based on her research. Every little bit helps, so please donate!

The Devil Wears A White Dress - Sarah's chemise a la reine research project IndieGoGo campaign


If you like costume research, you might also enjoy these links, just some more fascinating things I’ve found around the blogosphere recently…

  • Costume Collections of the World – A Collaborative Google Map Project from Errant Pear — This blogger has setup an editable Google Map to list all the costume museums on the planet. How great is that? Feel free to add your faves.
  • Advice for Gal-Troops from Historically Speaking — Great tips for women looking to cross-dress historically. While aimed at military reenactors, much of the advice applies to civilians too.
  • The Allure of the Castrato from Notches: (Re)Marks on the History of Sexuality — Not exactly ‘costume’ but a bit of quirky history that could make for lively conversation at your next 18th-century reenactment.

Black Fleur-de-Lis Gown & Red Sideless Surcote

Black fleur-de-lis gown by Artemisia Dance Designs on eBay

Black fleur-de-lis gown by Artemisia Dance Designs on eBay

Taking my dip into “early period” to new heights … This started as a cheesy dress bought on eBay just to kick around camp, probably on Sundays, maybe in summer (since it’s a fairly lightweight cotton). I bought a size based on my hip measurement, knowing I’d have to fit the bodice down, plus hack several miles off the hem & wrists, as per usual with generic sizing. Being a (historically inaccurate) princess-seamed garment, it was super-easy to alter to fit, even by myself just facing the mirror.

Then I got an idea. Wouldn’t this be nice with another layer? I’ve always loved the look of a sideless surcote, aka “the gates of hell.” What goes with black & gold? What do I have in The Stash? Frantic pawing through fabric bins ensued. I had 5 yards of 45″ wide red silk dupioni (not very slubby either). Wow, what a great color combo! Could I eek out a wide, drapey garment out of narrow fabric? After all, piecing is period.

I relied heavily on Jehanne de Wodeford / Saionji no Hana’s sideless surcote pattern page (since this isn’t my period & because I was doing this 2 weeks before the event, I wasn’t going to delve into original research; also, did I mention this is going over a silly store-bought dress?) & I looked at Sabrina de la Bere’s sideless surcotes PDF. Using those, plus a mix of historical images in 20,000 Years of Fashion by Francois Boucher & fantasy images, I mocked up a version of the bodice in muslin. Then I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to lay out the pattern & gussets on the fabric & figuring what needed to be seamed or pieced. Turned out that one side gusset needed piecing & that was all, whew.

And then, because lilies must be gilded (& because I had the material in The Stash), I added strips of black faux fur around the neck & sides. With just barely enough time for shipping, I also found a gold girdle on Etsy. For a circlet, I stripped trim off the brass circlet I use with my Bitchy Roman Loungewear. I made a black linen circular veil too.

First worn at SCA March Crown 2014.

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