Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Chance Encounters: Scrap Metal Statues

I was wandering in Birmingham's Christmas Craft Fair earlier in the month and encountered these amazing metal statues of the iconic Alien and Predator (from their respective franchises). I've since managed to lose the business card from the stall, but going through the camera memory card, I still wanted to share the photos.

This is where I discovered there's quite a quite a few metalcrafters working in the scrap metal sculpture business (this blogpost got delayed as I was lost in the pages of Metal Art and Yumimodal). I think the stall I saw might have been affiliated with Robosteel (who were featured in Wired no so long ago and are based in the UK), but the name doesn't ring familiar, so I'm really rather baffled. So if you recall wandering in the streets of Birmingham, do share. And yes, aren't they awesome?

A few more photos under the cut.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Surfeit of Steampunk Buttons

It's more or less Boxing Day, so it seems appropriate to open with a belated "Merry Winter-related holiday".

I picked up the big box of steampunk buttons the other day, so I'm currently staring at thirty gross of them in gunmetal grey (they're all in a giant ferrero rocher cardboard box, which led to an amusing incident with my cousin). A lot has come about because of these cog-and-screw buttons and it does feel somewhat appropriate that our first big order of buttons is of them. Needless to say, we'll be seeing them on an awful lot of garments in the near future. We'll probably be starting with a number of waistcoat prototypes and we'll see from there, but if you fancy anything with these buttons on it, don't hesitate to drop us a line.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Commission: Dashing Asymmetrical Coat

Apologies to all about the month-long absence. I spent most of it running about the country and failing at Nanowrimo. We've also been plagued by various post-related problems, including late parcels, lost parcels and returned parcels. It's all really rather discouraging.

I had vaguely intended to post this coat on Jane Austen Day but we didn't manage to get the photos (or the coat, for that matter) done in time.

The coat is based on an asymmetrical naval coat that fascinated me at Macau Maritime Museum (photos of the original naval coat under the cut). It's part of a commission for a military uniform; there's a waistcoat, breeches and boot-toppers not pictured. It's made from a dark blue wool, lined in bright red. It features bright gold buttons and some rather subtle black ribbon around the buttonholes.

It's most interesting feature is its odd asymmetry of the folded tail on one side and the exposed lining on the other. The two visible pockets are ornamental, but it does have another two in the lining to compensate.

Meant for a man taller and broader than myself, the coat doesn't exactly fit, but I thought passes for a thigh-slapping sort of look, not unakin to Elizabeth Swann in her bright red British uniform in Curse of the Black Pearl.

Photos of the Maritime Museum exhibit and a few more of the coat under the cut.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Preview: Deep Red Elven Gown

This deep red elven gown with beaded trim, inspired by the many beautiful gowns of the Evenstar (and more specifically the Cranberry Velvet Gown) though this doesn't feature the interesting seaming techniques of the original and instead of a scoop neck, it has an unusually wide bateau neck (born out of the fact that the gold beaded trim is straight and thus stubborn about turning corners). The sleeves aren't as huge as would be ideal, but we ran out of fabric and it seemed as reasonable a compromise as any. The whole dress feels oddly delicate and I have some fears about the durability of the beaded trim. On the other hand, the overall effect is more than slightly opulent.

The red of the velvet is deep and luscious, closer to a rosewood or a carmine than the photos would immediately suggest. The shifting colours of the silk velvet and the bad lighting made for less than ideal photos. (Which makes this a preview of sorts. The lighting was temperamental the day we did the photos and I wasn't pleased with the results. With time and reflection, they seem good enough to appear in the blog but I do intend to do them again when given the opportunity.)

I've also been scouring Lord of the Rings for costuming cues of late and it hasn't exactly been the most rewarding experience. Tolkien is vague at best when it comes to descriptions of clothing. The primary aspects I could really pin down about elven clothing seems to be that its grey, shining and iridescent.

At the sight of Arwen, Evenstar of her people, Frodo confides in Gandalf:
"At last I understand why we have waited! This is the ending. Now not day only shall be beloved, but night too shall be beautiful and blessed and all its fear pass away!'"
Unfortunately, there is little about her appearance one can glean from the preceding passage other than that she was glimmering in the evening, with stars on her brow.

Diamante are all too easily abused in ornamentation and iridescence isn't something that works particularly well beyond princess dresses of little small children and stage costume, and even then I find the concept questionable. This all feeds back to the development of modern tastes and the idea of "tacky" - something that didn't really exist before the widespread use of cheap, bright colours and cheap sparkly things (like diamante). But more on that with the next spate of elven sketches.

To commission a similar gown from the Costume Mercenary would cost in the region of £150 in stretch velvet and £180 in silk velvet.

A few more photos of the elven gown (including a blurry details shot of the beaded trim) under the cut.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Commission: Black Linen Cassock

This cassock is made of black linen. It's unlined and is fastened with a row of gunmetal grey buttons down the front that give the cassock a mild steampunk edge. It has three deep pleats at the back, plain cuffs, piping and a standing collar.

It was commissioned by Femina Necans, who is modelling the garment herself in the photos. The Designer and I were unable to convince her that she wanted the cassock to be edge in purple or red (like the high ranking catholic cassocks). There was some debate as to where we should move the front pleats so as the garment interfaced with breasts, but overall it can't be said to be the most exciting of commissions. Also seen in the photos is the silver-lined Necromancer Cloak, with gunmetal grey rose buttons (like those on the Red Rose Coat, but larger).

With the cathedral in the background, we did joke that we were taking photos for some form of female priests campaign or the Miss November of a priestly fund-raising calendar.

We toyed with giving the whole set a more vampire-hunter feel with more props and taking some by the weather-worn tombstones in front of the cathedral, but in the end, none of those came out particularly well. Still with the cassock worn open and armed with the gun (from Evenlode Studio) and the Tallows dagger, I fancied this brought to mind Solomon Kane (except more Catholic).

There isn't more more to say of the cassock, save if you would want one like it, it would cost in the region of £50-55.

More photos of the black linen cassock under the cut.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Commission: Hooded Elven Coat

The hooded elven coat is commissioned to be a version of our elven coat made from the soft black suedette, much like the green. It's lined in black faux silk, with exception of the hood which is green and the sleeves which are self-lined.

The green and gold ivy-patterned jacquard trim is the same as that used on the Forest Cloak. It is worn here with a olive green silk-linen elven tunic and trousers.

There isn't much to say of the design, given how many variants we've done of it, though it does please me to see a return to the original elven coat. There are shades of the drow in the colours, though with edges of purple or red would perhaps work better than green for a specifically dark elf costume.

Green and gold versions of the elven coat are available from Character Kit for £75. Different colours and sizes can be commissioned for a similar price. The dagger seen in the photos is Character Kit's fey dagger (£15).

More photos of the black elven coat under the cut.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Preview: The Cloth and Dagger

We were down by Durham's cathedral and castle with Femina Necans, who very nicely agreed to appear in her commissioned cassock and various other bits and pieces.

Perhaps the primary frustration with using beautifully imposing buildings like the cathedral and the castle in such photoshoots is that many of their interesting features aren't near human height. We're only just beginning to learn the various tricks of manoeuvring the model into an interesting pose and have an interesting bit of masonry conveniently in the background. I must thank Femina Necans here for her ongoing patience with shuffling in front of the buildings concerned. 
The beautiful horse-hilted dagger seen in the photographs is a Tallows. And the replica cap-firing firearm is from Evenlode Studio.

As usual, I should be posting the photos up in the next week or so as I sift through them. The lengthening nights and early dusks are making the business of taking good photos of people in clothes rather more difficult. The dreary cloud-shrouded day was largely It was two thirty in the afternoon when we took these and the golden rays of the setting sun were already happily bleaching the colour from the shots.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Prototype: Arwen Mourning Coat

This is almost identical to the other Chase Dress, but for the fact it's in a black faux suede instead of teal, with matching black silk chiffon lacing. It fastens down the front with hook and eyes, under the chiffon lacing.

This of course doesn't really resemble Arwen's actual mourning gown from the Peter Jackson trilogy and rather comes from us saying "Think of Aragorn being dead!" during the photoshoot (which replaced last time's "Think of the Weight of the Ages!"). Wandering away from Tolkien, I suspect this may look rather fetching a drow character, with perhaps a dash of classic purple or red in the accompanying clothing and I can't say this wasn't made with appealing to that sort of aesthetic in mind.

To commission a similar coat from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £90-100. The prototype of the chase dress itself (UK women's size 16-18) is available on Character Kit for £90. 

In Other News: You should go wander over and have a look at Gracewing's Clockwork Firebird Designs, now with added updates. Photos of the amazing Catbus, Red XIII, the awesome spider-butt and more. (And of course, there's a spot of pride that she's wearing the steampunk velvet tailcoat with the beautiful Crown of Gears Leather Corset.)

More photos of the coat under the cut.

Steampunk Pirates Concept Art

Airship pirates, steampunk or otherwise, owe a lot of the aesthetics to the Golden Age of Piracy (which is largely Georgian, with particular emphasis on bucket-sleeves frock coats). And I do love the Carribean-esque air pirates (in all their many shades of historical accuracy), but as The Designer and I began talking steampunk pirates of late (in part due to a remark from one of the denizens on the BrassGoggles Forums a while back), we started thinking about "our" take on it (looking back, we did do a set of photos themed around a Steampunk Pirate earlier in the year).

We return to the fact that high altitudes are really quite cold and whilst we can justify the wearing of loose coats and more abbreviated clothing with technology that compensates it seems worth more than a moment to explore the idea (the classic being spacious heated cabins, boiler room temperatures or you can just handwave it altogether; Disney's Treasure Planet pretty much went this route with its aesthetics and happily did it handwave why its frock-coat-wearing characters were sailing through space on galleon-esque vessels. Very pretty, by the way, if completely silly).

So, the Designer and I looked at what early pilots wore. Fleece-lined bomber jackets are certainly very iconic. Some seemed to be simply wearing electric blankets plugged into the engines (and strapped to themselves). It's really very cold up in high altitudes. We looked at photos (much like this fighter pilot), read articles (particularly found Flight Clothing for High Altitudes useful) and had a look at the Anime Last Exile at the recommendation of a friend.

And here are the results.

The basic premise revolves around the materials and textures of a aviator jacket and the shape of the Georgian frock coats. We wanted the collar to be very reminiscent of a bomber jacket, but with more buttons and buckles instead of zips (old trick, we know). We were also vaguely trying to cut back on the number of pockets and pouches (not trying to seem too much like a one trick pony when it comes to designs) but they snuck in anyway.

The shorter sleeves with the long leather gloves were supposed to bring a touch of practicality (allowing for interesting detail but keeping them out of the way). The Designer felt that the harness with the d-rings could possibly be used in conjunction with rigging or seatbelts of some kind. We tried to incorporate classic pirate accessories (like the tricorn, the sabre and a cravat), but also insignia badges, flying scarves and aviator caps.

The results straddle classic steampunk and dieselpunk, but I'm reasonably happy with the pictures though it some of it still looks a little disjointed. What do you think?

Oh, and fleece is annoying to draw.

(For what it's worth, the Proprietor is using some of this concept art to illustrate Haslanti League in his Exalted game.)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Prototype: Black Velvet Coat with Embroidered Lining

This coat is made of beautifully soft black stretch velvet and lined with a faux silk that is embroidered with lilac rosebuds and wandering vines. The trim is a black and gold jacquard.

In design, this effectively the previous black velvet coat, but with lilac flowers instead of pale pink ones embroidered on the lining, a decision dictated largely by the availability of fabric.

I confess to be dabbling with something of the gothic here. This and the black chase dress were together titled "Mourning" when it comes to folders. They were taken just days before Halloween, hence the use of the oversized toy heart as a prop with the silver goblet. Kathed was, as always, fantastic to work with (and she endured most graciously all the Mercenary's the tired jokes about elves, the weight of the ages, bored ladies, fan language, etc).

To commission a similar coat from the Mercenary would cost £90-100, though significantly cheaper with a plainer lining.  The design of the coat almost entirely hinges on the embroidered fabric and its availability, so exact replicas are not always possible. The tentative beginnings of the range are available from Character Kit for £85.

The Mercenary also did a single-clasp riding coat/gown in green and purple cotton brocade.

More photos of the Black Velvet Coat Dress under the cut.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Commission: Reversible Clockpunk Frock Coat

This commission was based around a character concept I won't delve too deeply into, but the short of it is a discreet messenger with a mild steampunk/clockpunk vibe. The Designer and I kicked around a lot of ideas, most of them circling hidden pockets and pouches of rolled papers. The upshot appears to be us taking elements of the steampunk coat and fusing it with a frock coat.

The most interesting feature of the Clockpunk* Frock Coatis that it's reversible (though it does make any shaping rather difficult, thus resulting in a loose, flared coat). It has a "fancy" side (purple faux silk damask) and a "practical" side (Tyrian purple faux suede) with all the various pockets. The various pockets (including ones under the cuff) and the cuffs themselves are in a dark brown faux suede. The documents glimpsed in the pockets are, as some readers may recognise, the New World Chronicle (of the larp, Maelstrom).

The cuffs fold both ways and the effort of reversing them does make quick costume changes difficult. The buttons go all around the sleeve, making for a nice effect, but they do occasionally catch.

There was briefly the intention of having different buttons on the two sides of the coat, but that was complication involving that and in the end, it never really came about.

The concept art to the left of the coat, of course, showing the two sides of it being worn. Originally, before the coat was shortened to mid-thigh, we toyed with the idea of adding utterly giant pockets to the practical side.

The camera ran out of battery during the shoot and we had to do some pick-up shots in my back garden the next week (bonus shot of the sniffly Mercenary bundled in an overcoat with bucket cuffs).

The beautiful pistols are again from Makai Larp and the dagger from Character Kit. The shirt and waistcoat are both from the Mercenary. The white is a steampunk shirt (though it is rather too big on the model)l. A black twin of the green waistcoat can be seen on the Victoriental Traveller. She is also wearing the ever-useful Beer Googles and has around her neck one of the lovely globe watches.

To commission a similar coat from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £120-130.

More photos of the Reversible Clockpunk Frock Coat (including early design sketches) under the cut.


* The term clockpunk is used here largely because the coat and its character concept are vaguely intended for live roleplay setting which centres around clockwork and magic rather than steam engines, placing it - for those pedantically inclined - more in the realms of clockpunk than steam.

But really, who is the Mercenary kidding? I'm also hoping to crawl up the google search results as well.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Prototype: Cavalry Armour

I've already remarked upon the Elizabeth I: The Golden Age overtones in the preview post, the coincidence of having a red-head and plate armour in a photoshoot. Perhaps not unlike our Unintentional Agatha Heterodyne Cosplay.

The armour is made from stainless steel and is modelled after medieval cavalry armour. It was a prototype piece as Julie Knox was working out how to work make plate armour.

I'm afraid Julie has utterly foresworn ever working with steel, but if you fancy commissioning some custom leather or latex armour (like or unlike the Oriet), do drop us an email.

Also seen in the photos is the beautifully detailed Mysdanael Short Sword, available from Character Kit for £80.

More photos of the cavalry armour under the cut.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The Midnight Blue Winged Doublet Again

This winged doublet is made from a midnight blue cotton velvet and is lined and edged in red linen. It closes in front with eight round metal buttons with a fairly subtle Celtic cross design.

Not much has changed since the last time this winged doublet appeared on the blog and, I daresay, I haven't gained any greater insight into it since, except that it works far better on the Proprietor (which is unsurprisng, really, since it actually fits him) and looks moderately dashing with breeches (despite the abounding anachronisms).

It's worn in this case over a basic frilly shirt, linen breeches from the Mercenary and some fencing socks.

To commission a similar doublet from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £75-85. This doublet prototype in particular is now available from Charackter Kit for £70.

More photos of the midnight blue doublet under the cut.

Owlbears, Fashion Shows and Many Shiny Things: An Illustrated Ramble on Foreign Fields

Last weekend, the Proprietor and myself were at Foreign Fields Larp Kit Fair. There was some really very excellent kit on display, including these giant skulls the size of a beach ball.

We had the spectacular monster claws with us and on the spur of the moment decided that they needed to be entered into the Fantasy Fashion Show upon the hands of the Proprietor. We had brought no specific costume to speak of, but we had "ingenuity" on our sides. Some fumbling through my stock later, the Proprietor was dressed in a feathered mantle, a camouflage green laced gamebson and a pair of basic drawstring trousers. We decided that this all together makes him a fearsome owlbear (darling of the various monster manual wtfs). I was in the surprisingly popular (but still unsold) twilight elven robes, which were not a little large on me but very flowing.

More photos (of varying quality) and rambling about Foreign Fields under the cut.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Halloween and the Horrors of the Heart

Kathed and I wandered over to Saint Giles Church (the back of which is proving a rather popular location for us due to its proximity to where I live) and did a brief set of photos. The shortening days and increasingly fleeting good light conditions are making this harder and the cold is certainly not helping.

But yes, there are some that heavily involve a heart (inhumanly large, mechanically beating, from Tesco some years ago) as a prop. We're rather pleased with them.

It is perhaps a little strange that among larpers (people who dress up so very regularly in silly clothes) the imperative to come up with different, unrelated and non-overlapping costume seems so strong. But it is around these parts.

I remember the Designer went as the Milkman a few years ago with a number of old milk bottles, a white lab coat and a lot of inappropriate innuendos. It may or may not be the same year I went as a Disney princess. Or was it Seraph from the Matrix film that doesn't exist?

But yeah, paracetamol-fuelled rambling aside, and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Prototype: Arwen Coat

The elven coat is made from our usual faux suede in a shade of teal blue and the lacing in a silk chiffon. It's lined in faux silk and fastens down the front with hooks and eyes. The lacing down the front and back is largely decorative rather than to make the garment hugely adjustable. The lacing begins rather higher up on the chest than is necessary or aesthetically pleasing, but we hadn't time to remove the extraneous loops before the shoot.

It's borrows much more heavily from Arwen Evenstar's Chase Dress than anything else, though it of course lacks much of the sumptuous detailing of the original.

In a fit of ambition, we did try to put the Pillywiggin's hair into some form of elven coiffure, using the most excellent and comprehensive Imaginary Styles as a guide.

It went rather better than the time I tried to braid my own hair for a different elven shoot (photos pending). I must conclude, though that I'm still really rather rough on my fishtail braids (the favoured braid of the Peter Jackson films it seems) and in the end, the Mercenary settled on the Legolas braid instead of any of the more elaborate hairstyles.

Some of the photos are taken with the Archaeologist wearing a corset underneath and some without. She's also wearing a shirt borrowed from Treasure Trap's infamous Armoury and a black stretch silk full circle skirt from the Mercenary.

To commission a similar coat from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £90-100. The teal prototype itself has been sold, but a black version should but available on Character Kit for £90 shortly.

More photos of the chase dress under the cut.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Preview: Cavalry Armour, Elizabeth I, Elves and a Reversible Steampunk coat

This is, of course, not a replica of the armour worn by Cate Blanchett in the film, Elizabeth: the Golden Age as Queen Elizabeth. Or in, fact, anything close to it. It's more a coincidence from that fact that the Proprietor is trying to sell off a plate armour prototype and we happened to have a conveniently red-haired model for the shoot. The armour is just worn over some of the other kit we were photographing that day and we'd be the first to admit that the black trousers, though nondescript, don't exactly add to the look, but I think overall, considering it was a theme we just stumbled into as the Designer noticed we had all the basic components, it went pretty well.

We're back at the ruined chapel and using the same rose window. I'm only a little guilty, as we still have some rather solid shots and we did manage to try a few new angles.

As mentioned above, the cavalry armour is available on Character Kit for £110.00. Also pictured is the beautifully detailed Mysdanael Short Sword and the ever popular Fey Dagger.

For photos of the Cavalier, the Cad and the Cut-throat of the nominally named  under the cut.

Leaves of Lothlorian and some Elven Sketches

Things are quieting down over here with the Costume Mercenary, or rather, we're moving towards a different sort of busy (a somewhat less frantic sort) since production has paused for a couple of months and Foreign Fields (probably a post about the adventure that was soon enough) is behind us. This is when the more languid, (allegedly) creative designing takes place, amid the intermittent photography and trading. I've even got Mandarin Squares: Mandarins and their Insignia on my reading list for the steampunk magistrate commission, so things won't be quite as languid as perhaps I could hope.

Sorting through the big box of button samples (the contents of which has made it into button splurge posts) I've found some nice gold (very matte and yellow gold, actually, the photo doesn't really do it justice) leaf buttons, ivy leaves to be specific. I think they were probably bought meant to go with something elven, especially given the fact that the basic elven trim we use on the Forest Cloak is green with gold ivy leaves.

The design on the red-headed elf (you can tell due to the pointy ears) on the right is a hooded variant of our elven coat, probably in a soft black suede lined with forest green. It's drawn with green knot-buttons and leaf shaped sleeves much like the elven coat. It's worn over a sap green elven tunic and trousers. It's painted for a commission of (funnily enough) a hooded variant of the elven coat.

The colours of the sketches often don't have anything to do with the eventual prototype, but I'm still vaguely trying to keep to the "mossy greens, tree-bark browns, autumn scarlets" of the palette used in Lord of the Rings. Ngila Dickson, the designer who "forged" the elven costumes "from Indian silk brocade", notes that they are meant to "invoke their environment [...] and they're very light on the earth, so we searched for very, very fine layers of fabrics for them."

The design on the left is heavily oriental, influenced by all the elven costumes in Hellboy II: The Golden Army (mostly Nuala's). The colours are meant to be of twilight (somewhat like the silver and lilac robes), but I'm not overly convinced I'm managed to actually convey that with the watercolours. I'm not exactly good enough to convey a vast number of layers, but it would be nice to have more if and when it comes into being.

Perhaps due to the fact that elves are rather androgynous in nature in their elegance and beauty, most sets of elven robes would work on both male and female elves, though the exact cutting can differ somewhat and clothes cut for a feminine shape would work significantly less well on a male body.

In Other News: Finally gotten around to updating the Character Kit website with the tool rolls (£6) and globe watches (£20), last pictured together this post.

Am contemplating combing through Lord of the Rings for first hand quotes on elven clothing. (Of course, LotR elves are not the only elves and certainly not the definitive elves, but they can sometimes seem the Ur-elves of fantasy literature.)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A Stack of Gambesons and Foreign Fields

Just finished packing for this weekend's Foreign Fields at Elsecar Heritage Centre (and lacing on the sleeves of far too many gambesons). As the footnote in the Elves with Guns preview post states, we're going to Foreign Fields and after some bustling around the garage, we're more or less packed and ready.

I'm really rather excited (though it does mean it's unlikely that I'll be able to find time to do anything about the tray of lamb bones from the stew last night) and the late night impromptu purple sponge cake is perhaps doing the talking now since I'm sure the Proprietor would be quick to remind me (were he here) that the slow customer-less hours are really rather tedious (which make impossible Victorian chess puzzles seem like a good idea).

So that all said, if you're around Sheffield this weekend, drop by and say hello. Or something. We're happy for you to say something instead.

Empire Line Dresses, Pride and Prejudice and Some Sketches

The Regency is certainly not alone in it's love of high-waisted "empire-line" dresses (it crops up in the fifteenth century as well) and the Mercenary has spent long hours lamenting the ubiquitousness of its modern incarnation in fashion magazines with the Designer and the Heroine. So here are some of the results of the musings.

Starting with a potted history (incidentally, Seitou's Fashion Timeline is utterly beautiful), the long, clinging muslin skirts of the empire silhouette were thought to have developed from Marie Antoinette's infamous chemise dresses (via the more structured robe de gaulle).* The themes and pretensions towards the classical can be found throughout the period and it's always been tempting for fashion historians to draw comparisons between garments and events: 

"The aristocratic stiffness of the old regime in France is completely mirrored in the brocaded gowns of the eighteenth century. The republican licentious notions of the Directoire find their echo in the plain transparent dresses of the time."
James Laver, Taste and Fashion (1945), p. 198  

And it doesn't take much research to say it's a bit more complicated than that.

Returning to the empire silhouette, Joe Wright, the director of the "muddy hems" version of Pride and Prejudice is commonly quoted as saying that it made women "look like marshmallows"*. It was allegedly his main motivation for setting it as early as possible, to bring down the lofty waistlines.

Of course, there are those like this article which is built around the bold assertion that "the empire shape is one of the most flattering known to women." A claim that the very cruel, if apt, Following the Fashion cartoon quickly brings into question. 

High-waisted dresses aren't universally flattering, which is hardly a revolutionary statement. The ideal figure is tall, moderately busty and willowy, which is fairly elusive as figures go unless you're looking at period fashion plates.* The idea that all manner of "sins" can be hidden under the skirts is perhaps overly optimistic, especially as the bulk of the skirts can end up adding rather than obscuring.

That all said, I've had fun drawing some Regency era dresses on stupidly willowy fashion figures.


* The terms chemise a la reine and robe de gaulle seem to be used interchangeably. The famous portrait of Marie Antoinette can be found with either in its title. I'm inclined to agree with the Dreamstress here and use the term chemise for the giant unshaped dresses that are sashed in and use the gaulle for the more structured dresses with a waist seam (as well as sometimes panelling in the back, etc). It's a frustrating world trying to bring concrete definitions to fashions and shapes. 

* There's plenty of very fine virtual ink spilt on the subject of the costumes from this particular incarnation of Pride and Prejudice: Art of Clothes' has some very insightful and illustrated Notes; this Telegraph interview with the costume designer; Pride and Prejudice Costumes; the woefully abandoned Fashionably Bennet; this Times article on muddy hems. Not to mention Elizabeth Bennet's Jumper Dress and the Teal Almost Empire Line Dress on this blog.

* I am greatly indebted to the Regency Fashion Page and Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion for inspiration, both excellent sources of period plates.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Prototype: Fall Front Breeches

The fall front breeches (or britches, if you fancy the different spelling) are made of black linen and feature rivet buttons and buckle below the knee.

The exact cut of breeches varied through their five hundred or so years in men's fashion (sixteenth to nineteenth century). Their approximate trajectory appears to have been to have begun very full (but gathered at the knee) and slowly become more fitted as the centuries passed, first to the legs and then upwards. By around the early eighteenth century fashionable English breeches tended to be low cut to fit around the hips and style to be very full around the ass (in a baggy way that would not necessarily be termed flattering to the modern eye). These in particular, though were styled to be quite generic, though would be rather late in their history (late eighteenth to early nineteenth century) due to being relatively high-waisted and fitted.

The Proprietor confessed to feeling more silly than dashing in these breeches. He wears them with a pair of fencing socks (the logo of which we had to carefully angle out of view). He also wears in various combinations in the photos: the winged doublet, the reversible cloak and a generic frilly shirt. 

To commission a pair of breeches from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £15-20.

More photos of the fall-front breeches under the cut.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Prototype: Double-Breasted Waistcoat

A long fully-lined double-breasted waistcoat made of black faux suede with a standing collar metal buttons. It's a versatile little garment that can be worn in a number of ways (see under the cut for most of the options). 

The Designer was rather taken with the potential versatility a double-breasted waistcoat and after some thought, we decided to run up a prototype. It's much more of an everyday garment than, say, the georgian-esque riding gown or the more recent brocade waistcoat. The cloud-swirl buttons are really the only interesting detail.

The model complained about the lack of pockets, so perhaps next prototype will feature some. 

To commission a similar waistcoat from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £30-35.

More photos of the double-breasted waistcoat under the cut.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Prototype: A Simple Reversible Cloak

The basic cloak was originally meant to go with the feathered mantle as a sort of detachable cloak (and hence could be washed independently of it - we've not tried throwing the valshams into the washing machine, but it seems a dubious idea), but when that fell through as an idea we had the prototype of a rather nice reversible cloak on our hands.

It's simpler and shorter than the other reversible cloak we've done, which was black-brown with a wide trim. The wool is a cut above that which we normally use, long-haired and very soft.

The corset is the model's own and the full circle skirt is also from the Mercenary (£20, black faux silk, fully lined). Also present in the photos are some fall front breeches, which will be appearing in a post of their own shortly.

To commission a similar cloak from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £70-80. The prototype of the reversible cloak is available from Character Kit for £65.

More photos of the reversible cloak under the cut.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Preview: Elves with Guns and Foreign Fields

We return again to the ruined chapel of St Mary Magdalene and the beautiful arch of its east window. The day was a little grey, but as the Designer pointed out, we're unlikely to get a non-drizzling day this side of New Year, so having gathered most of what we need, we soldiered on.

In many ways, it's the elven coat again, but this time rather more feminine and closer to its inspiration (Arwen's Chase costume from Fellowship of the Ring). We wanted to make use of the Proprietor's stock of Fae Longswords in the photos, but with the muddlement of many bags, we managed to forget and the engraved London pocket pistol from Makai Larp lurking at the bottom of the backpack was the best we had for a weapon. Granted, Glorfindel (or Arwen, in the movies) wasn't exactly seeing off the Black Riders with a musket, but elves with guns is an unheard of trope growing trope, as fantasy medieval moves towards the renaissance and beyond (see books like Darkness Forged in Fire).

As the two hundred or so photos get sorted and cropped down (I'm not really good enough a photographer to trust myself to do composition in situ), we should be seeing more photos of the Arwen coat, the reversible cloak, (incredibly dashing) fall-front breeches and the winged doublet (this time on the Proprietor).

In Other News, the Proprietor (of Character Kit) and the Costume Mercenary will be at Elsecar Heritage Centre (near Sheffield) for the Foreign Fields Norther Lrp Kit Fair over 23-24th of October. We'll be bringing all the new pocketwatches and bits and pieces. I'm informed there will be a Zombie Show and a fantasy fashion show. Other traders who are awesome will also be present. I'm terribly excited and if you're in the region, do drop by and say hello.

More Click Me Pictures

For all the talk of nice fabrics and trim and buttons, I am a self-defined mercenary of garments and long ponderings on how I'm going to shift all those clothes that are sitting in the garage are part of the purview. I'm not sure how fascinating this is to the reader, but we're currently planning some banner adverts (different from the old set) and they look a bit like this:

Coincidence or otherwise, orders do seem to coincide with the days I put in the time to advertsie.

I'm still a little uncomfortable with singing the praises of my own products. As I've said before, I'm reasonably confident in what I do, but like with all things under the sun, perfection isn't always possible and doesn't come cheaply, each step towards it costs seemingly exponentially more than the step before (adhering to the law of diminishing return). I see design as more as juggling a long series of compromises between concept and reality. I still remember being told off for the way I wrote product descriptions by my uncle who told me to swot up on the language of fashion magazines. 

But in the meantime, any opinions on the banner adverts?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Elizabeth Bennet's Brown Linen Jumper Dress

This is almost (but not quite) Elizabeth Bennet's Brown Jumper Dress from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film and quite possibly the closest we've come to attempting a replica.

The dress is well documented on the internet and there are more than a few pages dedicated to it. Pride and Prejudice Costume Study has a page on it. Costumersguide has in addition a photobucket archive of images and Period Movie Review also has a page of screencaptures.

Perhaps with all that going in, there appears to be little excuse to deviate, but as always, we did. The intention was a comfortable dress as opposed to a direct replica of the ensemble worn when Elizabeth first met Wickham. The jumper dress is made from a soft brown linen and the blouse, a white linen (as opposed to white muslin cotton). We went for a drawstring at the waist instead of a split skirt on a whim, which is a decision I'm almost regretting for reasons of accuracy. We have three coconut buttons (instead of four) and the tasselled gold/brown paisley shawl is hardly an exact match for the flowered one.

Despite all the differences I'm still rather pleased with the result and it is a very comfortable dress (so much so I ended up spending Moon Festival in it).

It's only after the shoot that I realised that we have no photos of the sleeves unrolled, but they do and they're not that exciting.

To commission a similar ensemble (in linen or cotton) from the Costume Mercenary would cost £50. Separately, the shirt would cost £20 and the dress £40.

More photos of the Brown Jumper Dress under the cut.

Detective Dee: Review of an Almost Steampunk Film

The Mercneary saw Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame recently and am happy to pronounce it quite possibly the most steampunk wuxia film I've seen.* It's certainly not the best wuxia film I've seen, but it is packed with some really rather intriguing ideas (many of which are underdeveloped and later abandoned in a really very disappointing second half) and nudges the envelope, at least.

Rambling continues under the cut.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Gothic Silver Roses: One Waistcoat and One Caraco

The Mercenary stumbled upon a bolt of brocade with silver roses on it almost a year ago. It seems that I am not the only one who has noticed it as by the time we were toying with the idea of some brocade waistcoats there was two and a half metres left at the market stall - a little bit too much for the one waistcoat we had in mind.

One lovely Regency-esque waistcoat later, we were all looking at the offcuts and wondering what should become of them. They weren't exactly enough for a full garment, of course, but they would work nicely as the contrast fabric of something.

And so the caraco (short jacket) of silver roses came to be (see below).

The waistcoat of silver roses (or "vest" if you happen to be American) is made from silk-wool brocade bearing the pattern of its name. Like many of the fashionable waistcoats of the Regency era, it's relatively high-waisted, possesses a standing collar and is squared off at the bottom, though it is only single breasted and without a wide lapel. It uses silver rose-shaped buttons, which whilst thematically consistent, do seem a little overwhelmed and lost in the pattern of the brocade.

The shirt has pleated frills at the cuffs and the front opening (something that was beginning to go out of fashion, but not unheard of during the Regency.)

The jacket of silver roses is made from the same brocade and a faux silk taffeta. It is lightly boned and fasted with loops of scarlet velvet ribbon over brocade-covered buttons. The jacket is laced down the back with same velvet ribbon with is also used to trim the jacket. It has been remarked that there is something deliciously spidery about the collar.

We're vaguely hoping to do a photoshoot of the two garments in the same shot, but we'll see how things go with all the other prototypes coming into being.

To commission a similar waistcoat would cost in the region of £30-5 and a similar jacket £75-85. The silver roses waistcoat is now available on Character Kit for £35. The clockwork globe watch seen in the photos is also on Character Kit for £20.

As always, more photos of the silver roses garments under the cut.

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