Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tintype Photography, Or A Photographic Trip to the Past

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A group of friends and I went to Gettysburg for Remembrance Day, where we spent most of our time at the fabulous Victorian Photography Studio. We also visited in 2015, but the new owner encourages social media and digital photography, which made the experience even more interesting as it was possible to take detailed comparison pictures in the same environment.

The above pictures were taken at nighttime, between dinner and the second half of the ball (yes, a few of us missed half the ball to have a few more tintypes made!). In period, photographers were dependent on daylight, but thankfully the studio has an excellent daylight mimicking light setup. All of the color pictures were taken with our cell phones and haven't been touched up, just cropped to help the comparisons a bit.

The ball gown I'm wearing is one of my older dresses. I made the skirt in 2007 and the bodice in 2010. I think the color shift in the wet plate was the most interesting of my dresses. The green in my skirt has quite a bit of yellow in it--it's shot with one of the threads a goldish color--and it darkened noticeably.

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I love that we had such a variety of fabrics and patterns in our group shots. Some of our dresses shifted in expected ways--however, Leia's dress has a striking contrast of rust and chartreuse in real life, but faded into one color. Taylor's blue dress lightened considerably and the contrast with the black trim is even more pronounced than in reality. Adrienne's dress has lost definition in the check and appears more like a stripe.

My dress, Robin's wrapper, Alice's dress, and Amanda's dresses look more like what you'd expect in black and white photography with the contrast in colors remaining consistent with reality.


In our second group shot, I think the most striking change is the lightening of blues--and Leia's plaid looking like a stripe.

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For this dress, I copied a period photograph and tried to get the details as close as possible to the original. Though it's impossible to know, I'm glad that the colors I chose had similar contrast to the original. The ribbon on my dress is strips of white and black shot taffeta with fringed edges, which reads as grey. The center is a bit darker than the original, though the darkness of the soft edges is similar. The eyelets in my collar stand out a little more in the tintype. Please note, I took my rings off in between the pictures--they didn't disappear!

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This pose is inspired by an original photograph. Though portraits are the most common, many photographs also showed people doing activities--or at least pretending to!

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Even though I brought my paletot, I didn't expect to take a tintype with it. Saturday though, it was pouring rain, so wearing it with my silk dress was a necessity. I couldn't resist finding out what the soutache trim would look like, and I wasn't disappointed. Though the purple and black contrast well, it's even more defined in the tintype.

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Many photographs featured knitting, and since I not just love period knitting, but have a knitted bag in progress, I decided that I needed to recreate such a scene. This photograph was my main inspiration, though I decided to pose with more knitting instead of a book. I've included two miser's purses, princess royal scarf, Robin's pineapple, and Adrienne's pence jug.

The white brooch on my chest isn't actually white--it's a miniature of President Obama that I made for a reenactment just before the 2008 election. It has a glass covering, which reflected the light so you couldn't see the picture--his official senate picture. I do wish it had shown up!

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Looking through the camera was fascinating! In addition to the photograph being flipped, the image is upside down.

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The camera is positioned a good distance away. All of our pictures with our phones were taken much closer, yet had similar or wider angles. The exposure time was 15 seconds, half of the 30 seconds of our previous session in 2015. Though this wasn't a very long time to sit, having the head clamp was very useful. Breathing and blinking are fine during the process.

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Setting up the yarn winding shot--getting in good distance of the camera, and head support hidden behind me.

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Setting up the table of knitting--trying to make everything look as natural and distinct as possible. I left off the talma wrap and mariposa hood that I also brought on the trip. And once again, having the head clamp positioned. It's really quite comfortable--your neck just rests on it.

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Two of the tintypes in cases--I think they really add to the authentic look!

If you ever have the chance to have a tintype made, do it! It's really an amazing experience and helps to imagine what people in the past experienced. The picture emerging is fascinating to us--just think what it would've been like 150 years ago! And I couldn't recommend the Victorian Photography Studio more. They were professional, friendly, took beautiful photographs, and even had delicious cinnamon rolls. What more could you ask for!

And speaking of the photographs emerging, below are videos of the developing process. They start as negatives, and then all is revealed!

VID_20171117_122020 from Katherine on Vimeo.

VID_20171117_130032 from Katherine on Vimeo.

VID_20171118_112635 from Katherine on Vimeo.

VID_20171118_114955 from Katherine on Vimeo.

VID_20171118_120121 from Katherine on Vimeo.

VID_20171118_215427 from Katherine on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Regency Beaded Evening Dress, c1805


After making a beaded Regency day dress last year, I knew I wanted another one. I had wanted one like this or this for quite some time. When we had our study day at the Museum of Fashion in Bath, we were able to see this dress in person and close up, so I knew that I'd be making a version of it sooner rather than later.

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My dress is made of silky Swiss voile from Farmhouse Fabrics, beaded with number 8 Delica opaque luster seed beads from Fire Mountain Gems, and the bodice is lined with lightweight linen from Burnley and Trowbridge. My earrings are moonstone earrings from Dames a la Mode.

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I wanted to make a fixed turban for the dress, but my attempts didn't work out. I think the fabric I was using was the wrong weight--it would look good wrapped on my head, then when I took it off, deflate. So instead, I used a triangular fichu, tied that on my head, and wrapped a long hemmed piece of voile around that and pinned it into place.


I used about 26,000 beads on the dress. They're sewn on with a back stitch reaching from bead to bead. The beads at the back waist on the bodice are reinforced. I sewed them again after the dress was done so they'd have a little protection from the waist tie.

I used graph paper to create a grid and then drew the dots on the dress with a mechanical pencil.


The beads are quite large, based on the original. Mine are actually a little smaller than the original dress's beads, if my memory is correct. The dress weighs nearly 2 and a half pounds. I needed to use a few more pins than usual because of the weight of the dress, and before I wear it again, I'm going to add more loops for the waist ties. The original dress didn't have ties or loops. It may have just been pinned originally, or it may have been altered.

The beads were comfortable to wear. I was a little worried about how the underarms would feel rubbing against the bodice, but I didn't even notice them. Sitting down was slightly odd--it felt like I was sitting on ball bearings and that I might slide off the chair, even though there really was no danger of that.


I was very curious about how the dress was going to drape. I thought that the train might just flop to the ground. I was very pleased that it draped nicely. I'm wearing it over my normal just above the ankle length strapped petticoat.


I used a ten inch hoop on the bodice, and a larger one for the skirt. Thankfully, the beads didn't get in the way of hooping the dress. I sewed most of the beads on the skirt using a curved needle (not shown here--of course my best hooped picture has a straight needle!), which meant I didn't need to guide the needle under the hoop and could have a handful of beads in my left hand.

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After working on the dress off an on for about six months (more off than on--I wish I had paid more attention to time!) I washed it carefully in the sink and laid it flat to dry. To iron it, I put it beads down on top of a fluffy towel.


And I adore the way the light hits the dress in this picture. This picture, and the close ups above are by my friend, Llyra Lee, who's becoming a better photographer every day!

A beaded Regency evening dress, inspired by one in the Fashion Museum in Bath from Katherine on Vimeo.

And the dress in motion! Please excuse the Votes for Women temporary tattoo sticking out of the back. It's leftover from my dress from the previous day.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Rather Loud Plaid Wool 1860s Dress


One of my favorite things about the mid nineteenth century is the delightfully loud color combinations. Lime green and orange plaid? Of course!

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Construction is mostly detailed in this post. The dress is made of a lightweight wool MacLay modern tartan. Loud, non tartan, plaids are difficult to find! Most I was coming across were subdued and would make nice modern business suits. Not quite what I wanted. The lime green plaid silk tafetta is from Pure Silks. It's lined with brown polished cotton from Needle and Thread. I'm wearing it over my 1863 corset, a petticoat, and the Laughing Moon elliptical hoop.


The skirt is transitional in shape, leading to what would eventually become the bustle. It's slightly gored, and then knife pleated with a large box pleat in front and the other pleats leading to an inverted box pleat at the center back. The bottom of the skirt is only a few inches bigger than the top. You can see this in the shape of the plaid stripe at the bottom of the skirt seam.


The wool for the sleeves is cut on the bias while the lining remains on the straight of grain. I initially cut the sleeves on the straight as well, thinking that I wanted a vertical line on them. Thankfully I had enough fabric to recut the sleeves, as the originals made the bodice look like a 1990s flannel shirt. Not the look I went for in the 90s, and definitely not the look I was going for here!


The bodice trim is based on this CDV. The sleeves are inspired by this extant dress and this CDV. Both show sleeves open down the back connected with straps. Though neither shows pleated trim, they both have trim so I feel it's a logical leap. The undersleeves are tubes of cotton with a cuff that are basted into the sleeves and then pulled through the straps into puffs. I'm holding my miser's purse from an 1863 Godey's pattern.

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During Remembrance Day, I had a tintype made in the dress at the Victorian Photography Studio in Gettysburg. I love the color shift in the dress--it's an excellent reminder that their world wasn't black and white!


I wore the dress again to Dickens Faire in San Francisco.

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At Dickens Faire, I had a silhouette made my Silhouettes by Jordan. Not much a view of the dress, but still, wonderful to have another opportunity for a period image!

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Blue Wool 1860s Dress


One of the first books I bought after starting costuming was From Queen to Empress from the Met Museum about fashions during Queen Victoria's reign. I fell in love with this blue moire dress. Many years later when planning my Gettysburg wardrobe, I realized the blue wool from my cotehardie would be perfect for a version of it. I had a few yards leftover and thankfully William Booth Draper had just enough left in stock.

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Construction is mostly detailed in this post.(My plaid dress is the model for most of the post, but construction is the same.) The dress is lined with polished cotton from Needle and Thread. I'm wearing it over their 95" hoop. My corset is the 1863 Mina Sebille corset which I've had for ages. I like this style so much that I made another version of it in a slightly more practical white.


The skirt is looped up using sets of rings at about knee length and about the top of the facing. If you follow the link the the dress I copied, one of the pictures shows this arrangement. My apologies for not having pictures of it done on my dress. The rings are then tied together to loop up the skirt. I'm wearing it over the black silk skirt of another 1860s dress.


The dress is trimmed with black lace backed with white silk ribbon from MJ Trim. Each section of trim is finished with black glass teardrop beads I bought in the Los Angeles Garment District ages ago. It closes with hooks and thread eyes and is decorated with buttons covered in silk.


Wearing this to Gettysburg in November gave a wonderful opportunity for outerwear--and knitting. Although, it was unseasonably warm! I'm wearing it with the 1859 talma wrap, 1860s mariposa hood, and a Princess Royal scarf. Unfortunately I didn't notice that the collar was flipped up in these pictures until I got home!

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And two more views of the talma. It really was quite a bit of knitting!