Monday, 12 December 2011

Specialist Practice - Workbook Blog - Contents

N.B. see also my hard-copy Research File for annotated research images, a fabric sampling sheet and pocket sample. A copy of the Learning Agreement and Initial Work Plan is also included in the file.

This Contents list presents a chronological sequence of my progress in working on Specialist Practice, for ease of reading. Click on the title to go to the relevant post, or simply scroll down this page to read the blog in reverse-chronological order.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Cabrera, R. and Flaherty Meyers, P. (1983). Classic tailoring techniques: a construction guide for men’s wear. Fairchild Books.

Mitchell Co, J. (1990). Men’s fashion illustrations from the turn of the century. Toronto: Dover Publications inc.

Rolley, K and Aish, C. (1992). Fashion in photographs: 1900-1920. London: B T Batsford Ltd.

Whife, A. (1945). The modern tailor, outfitter and clothier. Volume I. Caxton.

Yarwood, D. (1952). English costume from the second century BC to 1950. London: B T Batsford Ltd.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Final Evaluation

Overall, I am very pleased with the outcome of this unit. In my experience of the course, each unit has challenged myself even further, and this has been no exception. I have worked very hard throughout the project and am happy with what I have achieved.

I have worked closely with the designer and costume supervisor in my work, and feel that the finished costume represents the character of the Narrator very well. Having analysed the character’s situation as well as the context of the performance, it was clear that I should produce a traditionally tailored suit. I consulted with the designer at all points where specific design decisions had to be made (such as style areas), and made sure to take the usage of the suit into consideration, such as making lots of working pockets which would contain props. On the whole I have made sure that the Designer made most of the design choices, from the fabric down to the smallest details. Nonetheless, there have been times when I have had to be insistent on certain choices due to my research and experience with traditional tailoring, such as the type of cloth and buttons. At times I feel that I should have been clearer about tailoring conventions, for there were difficulties when the wrong type of buttons were purchased. Luckily in this instance there was enough time to find more suitable alternatives, and in the future I know to be clearer when necessary, for the luxury of time and budget may not always be available when working on live projects with tight deadlines.

As I had completed a very similar suit for SDP last year, this project proved a way to consolidate and improve upon my tailoring and pattern-cutting skills. I have therefore worked as independently as possible throughout the project, making independent judgements according to my own reasoning and experience, and asking advice from tutors only when I needed confirmation of the appropriateness of my decisions. I was happy to work in this way, for it undoubtedly prepares me for work in the future as a costume maker.

I encountered many difficulties whilst making the suit, which were mainly due to my pattern drafting and cutting – such as the error with the elongated trouser crutch, and when I did not accurately match the checks on the jacket side back panels. Nonetheless, overall I am glad that I made these errors particularly in pattern drafting, for they have allowed me to truly understand the tailoring blocks, and notably how the 2D shapes relate to a 3D form. Ultimately, as I have now made grave errors in a supportive and taught environment, I should be better equipped to handle errors in the future – and ideally, not make them at all! I am very happy with the fit of the suit. Throughout the project, the actor was very honest about when and where areas of the suit were uncomfortable for him, and ultimately declared that he felt it fit him very well. His clarity and honesty has made me really take notice of which portions of a suit need to be flexible, and I have noted how this relates to the drafts. This will definitely be of great use in the future when I come to fit a costume either without extra help (i.e. with the tutors supervising), or to an actor who is not as readily vocal when in discomfort.

Matching the checks on this suit was one of the things that I truly struggled with. Prior to this project I had not worked with checked fabric, and it was a challenge which at times felt beyond me. Despite practising pattern matching across areas such as the pockets, and taking great care when sewing up the suit in general, it is certainly still imperfect. There are areas of the suit where I feel that I could have really improved upon the pattern matching, such as the jacket pockets and the area of the jacket by the back vents. However, I do not feel discouraged by this imperfection for I truly feel that I will improve upon this difficulty with experience. In the future, I will continue to practice matching specific patterns across difficult areas (such as pockets) on samples before applying them to the finished garment.

Additionally, this project has truly taught me the importance of precise and methodical working: I feel that I should have allowed much more time for pressing the suit, both as I was making it as well as at the final press. This is such an important element as it finalises the suit’s overall look. I feel that this may be a failing in the suit, particularly the jacket, for some elements did not look as crisp as they could have during the performance. However, overall, I am really happy with the suit. I have learnt so much, and feel that I have truly developed and improved in my tailoring work. There is still so much room for improvement, and this project has certainly taught me that. Nonetheless, I look forward to continuing to develop as a tailor in my future working life.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Watching the Show

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching A Soldier's Tale on its opening night. Despite having familiarised myself with the music and storyline when researching this project, as well as of course being intimate with the design, I had managed to keep an open mind. I feel that the costumes - in terms of the overall making, as well as design - were really successful which truly gladdens me, and I feel reflects all of our close working with the Designer, as well as each other, throughout the project. I was very happy with how the Narrator looked - although I did wish that the jacket had been pressed or at least steamed before the performance, as the back was really very crumpled from when the Actor had sat down on it (and generally moved around in it - he was much more dynamic that I had anticipated!) numerous times during rehearsals. The back flap rode up a little, and one pocket flap was a little too springy still, and stuck up a little from the rest of the jacket. Apparently no one else noticed though. Although I had pressed the suit several times before handing it over to the show team, I feel that I should have allowed even more time for pressing. This would have contributed further to the loose breaking down of the suit, for if the character had owned it for many years, it would have been pressed many times in the past.

Additionally, I was really worried throughout the performance that the trousers would split at the crutch seam! I was literally on the edge of my seat at this. Edwardian trousers were really very narrow in the leg, and as tight as the wool cloth would allow. I had double-stitched the crutch seam to allow for the fact that it would be put under strain, and luckily it did hold. However watching the Actor leap around in the trousers (as well as sit on the boxes with his legs open, as men are wont to do) was truly nerve-wracking - probably irrationally so. The Actor has since re-assured me that the trousers fit him very well through the performance, and did not even come close to ripping or splitting, which is very re-assuring! Nonetheless, in the future I may reinforce the crutch seam further by triple-stitching

 I thought that the suit bore the audience's scrutiny well, in terms of the context of the performance venue. I feel that all of my efforts in pattern matching had been worth it: although I personally can see where it could have been improved (it was definitely imperfect, particularly across the revealed jets of the flap pockets), on stage, the checks really looked like they matched up brilliantly. It was amazing how much of the pattern on the cloth disappeared when viewed from the seating stand - all that could be seen were the bold, prominent lines across the fabric. The smaller, houndstooth-shaped check was just not visible at all. Throughout my work, I had been so preoccupied with matching the checks that I had simply forgotten to consider the factor of distance! However I would never want to work in any other way (i.e. be less than meticulous with the pattern matching) as it indicates the quality of the suit just as much as anything else. Additionally, since the suit is going into the Costume Store after the show, it may be used in a film, in which case the pattern might be clearly visible, depending on the type of shot. Nonetheless, this realisation has led me to remember to truly factor in distance in the performance venue, in my work in the future. This could be particularly important if I am making something with graphic motifs, for instance.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Orchestra fitting

I agreed to be part of the team that went to Poole to fit the Orchestra into their WWI army costumes. As I am a maker, Grace assigned me to fit one of the players and organised assistants for everyone. I also stayed on afterwards to apply alterations as there is so much to be done still before the opening.

Dexter oversees a fitting

Team work was of course important in this situation. Dexter was the only tutor present and was overseeing 8 fittings happening at once, so it was important to use my judgement as much as possible, yet checking with him before any firm decisions were made.

Rather hectic fitting space

Fitting the orchestra was different from fitting actors in my experience, both the student actors at uni and when I have assisted with fittings with musical theatre professionals in my summer work on Rigoletto at Opera Holland park, and at the West End's Phantom of the Opera. Movement was of paramount importance, and many orchestra members made it very clear that they would not wear the army jackets as this would inhibit their playing. Additionally, concern was for the costume being too tight around certain areas, which would distract them from their playing (such as the putties). This is not difficult to remedy - the putties, for instance, can simply be tied more loosely - however the various concerns expressed by the players can perhaps be accounted for due to the fact that when they perform professionally, they would wear formal dress that they had chosen themselves, rather than being costumed. In any case, I did my best to assume a manner of professionalism, important when I was fitting sensitive areas (such as the trouser centre back seam) to somebody I had only just met.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Photographing the Suit

I decided to have the suit photographed with the Narrator in full costume. I felt that it was important to have a really good photo of the suit for my portfolio, for I know that I will want to show potential interviewers this project: this suit, although still with a myriad of faults, is so much better than the one I made for SDP and has been a piece of really complex work that I want to display. I was unable to confirm whether photos would be taken of the show, and was also unsure how much access I would have of it after the performance when it went into the Costume Store. Additionally, I wanted a really clear photo of the suit. The Actor was more than happy to do this for me, and the Supervisor was also happy for me to use the other components of the costume. I therefore made sure that I did this with the least inconvenience to the other members of the show team.

Jana, the photographer, is still working on photos but here are just a few more now. We made sure to photograph certain details as well as the overall suit.

The Final Press

After the costume parade Dexter showed me how to do a final press on the suit. He stressed that care should be taken; to work slowly and methodically; to press carefully from the inside of the suit; and finally, that each area should be left to cool down totally before moving it from the ironing board to press the next section. I was really glad to learn how to give the suit a final press, since we had not been taught this in SDP due to time restraints. Additionally Dexter taught me how to set the lapel and collar, as well as giving me hints on how to further smooth down seams and pocket flaps. Ultimately this is the final stage that contributes to a flat, crisp finish. It takes a lot of time, and I should definitely have planned for giving myself more time to do the press. After pressing it for the first time, I had the suit photographed in the photography studio; however after this I should have pressed it again and left it to set overnight. As a result of this, when the Actor wore the suit at rehearsals over the next day, the suit was again very crumpled with areas such as the lapel being 'bouncy' (i.e. not as flat and crisp-edged as I had left it the previous night!) once more. I had to take lots of time to press it again.

Upon reflection, I should definitely have spent a longer time pressing the suit in the first place, so that the jacket in particular would have 'set' more firmly. I will certainly do this in the future, for it will give my work a much more professional finish. I will also press the jacket more effectively as I go along (which I now know how to do, thanks to Dexter's tips) so that I build up the pressing slowly. This will be more efficient in the long run, as I will then not have to dedicate quite so much time to it at the end - the final press will just give it a final set; this is important as when working on live productions I may often be short of time, and should definitely not have to cut back on the press. Overall, I should spend more time pressing as I go along, when working. I will be sure to get into more of a habit of constant pressing in the future. As Graham taught us  - the iron is your friend!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Costume parade

The costume parade was held in the morning. It was really fun to see the costumes all together and get a feel for how the production will look. I had managed to finish my suit before the week-end so was not too worried about the parade as after the last fitting I was confident in the fit and the look of the elements of the Narrator's costume that I was responsible for. However, I had not yet learnt how to give the suit a final press, which meant that areas such as the lapel and collar were not sitting correctly. In hindsight, I should have tried to arrange a session with Kat or Dexter on pressing the suit beforehand, for this would have aided the show team (Designer, Director, Supervisor, Rebecca, Mandy and Dexter) in getting a better idea of the finished feel of the costume.

There were very minor alterations to be made to the suit. I had to re-sew the buttons onto the jacket as we only got them just before the parade started and had done them in a hurry. I also had to lengthen the trouser hems a little more at the front. The fact that I have had to lengthen them several times already suggests that I should have noted the length of the trousers more precisely at the fittings. Of course it also depended on the shoes that the Narrator was to be wearing, which were not decided till rather late. In the future I will make sure that the Actor is standing very straight when I set the length of the hems so that they do not come up too short.

I spent the rest of the day doing the suit alterations and pressing, which took a lot of time; however I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible so that the Actor could commence wearing the suit in rehearsals. I also helped the rest of the team by doing laundry and pressing shirts when I had spare time.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Team Work

Working in a team had been something that I was looking forward to within this project. Overall, as a team we have come together mainly at the beginning of the project, and then at the end. As I was confident in how I was to make the Narrator's suit, and more than happy in coming up with solutions to areas I was unsure of, I have enjoyed working with the rest of the makers in aiding them come up with solutions of their own. Obviously I have not been dictatorial since we are all working on our own projects; but I have enjoyed coming up with suggestions, such as with some elements of the Devil's costume (how to make it look like vines are growing up from the feet - in chatting with Emily H. I suggested nude power mesh attached to the lower portion of the leg).

After the initial brainstorming we more or less went our separate ways, in constructing the costumes. However, overall, I have found working in this team incredibly supportive. I truly feel that, although we have been working on completely different things (aside from Emily M., whom I have always worked closely with as she is making the Narrator's waistcoat) we have come together very well. Upon reflection, I believe that this might not always be possible, particularly if it is on a very large production with really huge teams. Additionally, people's personalities may not always be so that everyone always gets along. In this way, we may have been lucky! However due to this project I truly see the importance of close team work, especially when it comes to show week! As such, I have agreed to go along to Poole to fit the orchestra's costumes, and have offered some extra time to the Supervisor in order to help with the additional alterations which I expect will be inevitable!

Friday, 2 December 2011

The button fiasco

There has unfortunately been a set-back with the buttons. The Designer and the Buyer went to Button Queen in London to purchase buttons for the suit on Tuesday. They had asked my opinion prior to this and I had advised plain bone or horn buttons which blend into the suit without much notice. This was according to my research in tailoring books, which advised on button choices. Rebecca had said much the same.

They bought buttons which were a bright chestnut in colour, and in leather. I wasn't sure about the choice but felt that as the Designer had bought them, then her decision would have to have final say. The colour felt far too bright, but I was told that I could take the colour down with boot polish, as they were leather.

However, I felt that I should show them to Rebecca to check before sewing them all on. Her reaction was strongly against them; she pointed out that they were the style of buttons used for Harris Tweed jackets, not the type of suit that I had made. I explained that I had had the same misgivings about them but thought that I should concede to what the Designer had chosen. However, Rebecca pointed out that as the suit was going to be in the AUCB Costume Store after the production, her say (that the buttons were unsuitable) would have to override whatever the Designer had chosen. I suppose that I should have been more insistent on the type of button that they had bought; in any case I will know to make it clearer if things have to be in a particular way. This seems very important in classic styles of tailoring, as there are so many rules which must be followed.

 Luckily Mandy is going to London anyway this week-end so she will buy new buttons for the suit that I can sew on. Even though it is so close to the deadline, this shouldn't be too much of a problem as I don't think that it will take me too long to sew on the buttons, and I can do so when the costume parade is taking place on Monday.

I have asked for extra buttons to be bought to sew into the lining, in case they fall off and need to be replaced in the future. This is important for the suit will be placed in the AUCB Costume Store after the production, and will be used in the future.
I will be sure to buy extra buttons for all costumes I make in the future, as it is simply something I have not considered previously.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Re-cutting the collar

The collar draft was completely wrong; this became obvious at the fitting for the fall did not lie close enough to the body. After the fitting I went away and compared my collar draft with that in my research, looking at the collar instruction in the Modern Tailor, Outfitter and Clothier (Whife, 1945). The way I had drafted the collar was not quite as the research:

 I resolved the issue by making the curve at the neckline greater, which would draw the whole thing closer into the body. I then re-cut the collar in calico, and put it on the stand in order to set the shape of the end of collar at the lapel.

This also had to be moved around, again in order to make it lie closer to the body. I did this on the stand, then applied the alteration to my paper pattern.

After doing this I consulted with the Designer to check that she was happy with the style lines, which she was.
The solution I came up with was to move the collar down on the lapel, so that the angle at the collar break line was greater. The calico collar still lies a little away from the body but I am confident that this will be resolved when I make the real collar, as it will be pad stitched and pressed.

Ideally I should have resolved the collar pattern on the stand prior to the fitting; however I did not complete the calico collar with enough time to do this. In any case, I now know what the collar draft should look like, and will not make this error again. This will save on time in the future.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Final fitting

This time the whole team were present for the fitting: The Director was there as well as Rebecca, and everyone else concerned.

John tried on the suit with the calico sleeves and calico collar on the jacket. A few changes had to be made to the trousers: taking in the waist at the back darts, and lengthening the trouser hems. The calico sleeve was too tight and we discussed letting it out by 1/4" at each seam.

The sleeve now sits better in the armhole, but is too tight around the upper arm in particular, due to the bulk of the shirtsleeves. The collar draft is incorrect; as you can see from this picture, it does not lie closely enough to the body.

The collar was incorrect and I will have to look at the draft again; however this can be done on the stand. The collar is sitting too far out from the body so I will need to change some lines to bring it in closer. I will re-cut the collar in calico on the stand until the pattern works.

The collar needs to be taken in by changing the curves on the pattern; this can be done on the stand

I will also slip stitch down the back vents by about an inch, as they are too long:

We talked about accessories such as buttons and a handkerchief. Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring the buttons that had initially been bought for the suit, which was careless of me. In the future I must be sure to remember to bring all elements of the costume to the fitting. I may write a checklist beforehand to remedy this.

The trousers looked good this time now that they had been shortened at the crutch, although I have to take them in a little more at the back darts. They also need to be lengthened at the bottom hems.

Trousers will be taken in more at the back

More period-correct shoes are necessary.

The length of the trousers is now good around the hips, but too short at the bottom hems.

 Overall I am pleased with how the fitting went. Although it is annoying that I have to alter the trouser waistband when I had already finished it off, it shouldn't actually take too long, and is a lesson in being completely sure of an accurate fit in a garment before finishing it off.

Once again, the Actor was really enthusiastic about the suit, as was the Director. This is extremely encouraging, for it motivates me in getting the suit completed as well as doing a really good job. I think it also shows that my interpretation of the costume according to the character (of the Narrator) was done well, for the Actor is so happy about his costume, and appears to get into character immediately upon putting it on!
The Actor is also readily verbal about the fit of the suit, immediately pointing out places where he feels uncomfortable. This is very helpful to me as it draws attention to parts of the suit which have to be altered. It also helps me understand the main areas in the suit which can cause discomfort, and where flexibility and movement must be considered. In the future I will know where to look for strain, as all actors may not always be as communicative as this one. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Time management

Thus far, I have not kept to the initial work plan at all. Even though I now have an idea of what needs to be done in a suit and very rough timings for elements, I had not anticipated quite how long things would take now that I am matching all of the checks up. Things have therefore taken much longer than planned overall. Additionally, I really struggled with the pockets so this has proved quite a set-back. As the pockets were so frustrating, I varied my work by taking the trousers to completion. I feel that, once the initial problems with the trouser draft were overcome, the trousers have progressed very nicely. I struggled with various elements of the trousers on the 1890s suit I made for SDP, so feel that in this my standard of working has improved.

Even though I have not kept to the timing on my initial work plan, I don't feel worried for I do believe that I will get the suit finished by the deadline. I will re-visit the work plan in order to think about what I have still to get done, and when I can do this. Overall, though, I have been working very hard throughout the project so I don't feel as though I am behind.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Jacket - applying the pockets

The pockets are proving extremely challenging, and frustrating. I had learnt how to do jetted and welt pockets in SDP but decided to make up a sample of a flap pocket so that I could practice working with the checked cloth. Despite this I am finding matching the checks really difficult and have had to re-do stages many times over. I am determined to do a good job as I want the suit to look really sharp and excellent - as would befit the character of the Narrator. Additionally, the suit bears the extra, external context of going into the AUCB Costume Store, thus will have to match the standard of the other suits there, many of which are not made by students but are professionally done.

It has taken me a very long time to finish the pockets, and the checks mostly match. I have shown them to other people just to get a second opinion and the general consensus seems to be that the checks match up - when not subjected to critical scrutiny! At this stage, having re-done them so many times, I really feel that I must move on and progress with the rest of the jacket as if I keep on fussing with the pockets then I will fall behind schedule. Although I feel that the pockets could have been better, ultimately I can only get better with more practice; as I make more suits in the future, so will my pockets improve.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Second trouser fitting

I organised a second trouser fitting which the Actor was more than happy to come to. This was very kind of him. From my work experience in west end theatre wardrobe departments, I have been made aware of some actors' occasional unwillingness to come to fittings. This was not a large official fitting unlike the first one, for it was more to check the fit of the trousers. So though I did mention it to the Designer so that she could pop in, I was able to just quickly organise it on my own.

Due to the alterations in the length of the crutch, the trousers now fit really well; the length of the crutch was good. I had marked but not tacked in the darts which proved to be useful as we pinned them in the exact place. They were slightly to one side and thus not really doing the right thing. It is important to place them in the small of the back, for this is where the body dips in, thus the trousers must follow. In the future, I will think about the proportion of the draft when considering the position of the darts; the Actor is young and has a slim and athletic body. Therefore his blocks are slimmer and slightly narrower than the blocks which would be drafted for an older man. This changes the positions of certain elements (pockets, darts etc).

We also moved the crease lines to be more central on the legs. There had been an inconsistency in marking the crease lines as when I put the pieces together and pinned on the pattern ready to mark tack the pieces, one piece of cloth had shifted slightly somewhere in the middle. So one leg's crease line was askew. I was able to easily rectify this as the checked fabric provided good guidelines. However it is something to be aware of in the future.

The Designer was really happy with the overall look and fit of the trousers, which was excellent and quite encouraging.

Overall I am really pleased with this fitting, and that the alterations were successful. I am relieved to now be able to progress further with the trousers, for I had been growing worried about falling too far behind my proposed work plan.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Altering the trousers

My first thought in applying the alterations to the trousers was to mimic what we did at the fitting, keeping the work the same at the top of the waistband and bringing up the legs. However, although this method had seemed passable at the fitting, in practice it was not really viable as at this point in the trouser block, there was not enough cloth to form the fork which fits round the inside leg. So the trousers would not fit or hang properly.

Mandy suggested just re-cutting the trousers, as the cloth was free (so it wouldn't affect the budget) and there was enough available. However I was loath to do this as it seemed like a waste, and additionally I felt that this would be a luxury, unavailable in a professional workroom. So in order to to rectify the problem of the excess length in the trousers I first located the area where there was too much cloth. The trousers fit well around the waist and below the seat, so really the problem was above the seat line.

In order to find out how much to take out of the patterns, I measured the front and back fork lines of the pattern draft in the tailoring system that I had used to construct my draft. I worked out that the ratio of the back fork to front fork was 5:4. This seemed a logical ratio, as more cloth is needed in the back fork to allow for the curve of the seat. I then worked out how much excess height there was in the old pattern by comparing the measurements used to the new measurements I had taken at the fitting. Finally I divided these up and applied them to the pattern above the seat line, making sure that the measurement was the same at the side seam (where the two pieces must meet). I then took a pleat in the pattern to take out this amount. This will move down the top part of the pattern. I smoothed out the jogs in the lines when I traced out the altered pattern. On the back pattern, there was a large gap between the lines at the fork. So I measured the amount of the gap and re-drew the fork line accordingly.

Even though making such a mistake was slightly disheartening, ultimately I truly feel that doing this exercise in altering the pattern has greatly aided my personal development as a maker and pattern cutter. Had I not done so, I might well make a similar mistake in the future when I am not surrounded by the tutors to advise and guide me in correcting the error. It has also been an apt demonstration of the importance of accurate measurements, for it has taught me to always take a tight girth measurement, and to beware of drop-crotch baggy jeans!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Jacket - Extra research on style areas

My first suit was kept quite simple as Graham wanted us to learn the basics of making a lounge suit. As he felt that we would be challenged enough by the construction, he omitted details that are normally present on men's suits such as back vents and sleeve vents on the jacket. However, for this suit Rose definitely wants both of these details.

As I have not made these before, I have been researching these features in the library, consulting various books on the different methods of construction which are possible. (See the hard-copy Research File which accompanies this blog.) I have also borrowed a suit from the Costume Store which was tailor made (most likely by a student) in order to examine it. It is made to the style of 1930s tailoring (evidenced by the type of striped cloth chosen; the large winged collar,  double-breasted centre front and shoulder padding on the jacket; and trouser creases and turn-ups on the trousers) but the processes are invariably the same.
Looking at, and indeed closely analysing, a physical suit has been most helpful: I have managed to come to a much better understanding of the construction by this close analysis. I took my own mental and written notes on the construction, but here are the photographs I took of the suit to remind myself:

Jacket - Back Vents

Vents sit discreetly within the Side Back seams:

 Vent Flap is fully lined, with facings which protrude into the jacket:

 The lining hem is sewn with a small lip - same as the rest of the jacket hem:

 Interior of the jacket - see how the lining sits:

Really neat finishing at the flaps - probably hand finished. A little edge of cloth is left at the side of the flaps - the lining doesn't come right to the edge:

Trousers - Waistband

The waistband has clearly been altered since the trousers were initially made, as they have been in the Costume Store. However originally the fishtail back would have formed a smooth line at the top of the waist line:

Discreet brace buttons on the interior (the elastic used for its last show has been  left in).  The waistband is lined in cotton silesia. Cloth is finished by zigzagging and theatrical seam allowances are used (just as Graham taught me):

I am enjoying this independent problem solving for it helps me to really understand how and why certain processes are done. This really helps me develop my knowledge of tailoring for the future.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Jacket - applying alterations & progress

The alterations on the jacket are ones which I consider fairly straight-forward, and to be expected. So altering them did not cause any problems.

There are many things to get on with in the jacket: pad stitching canvases, applying pockets, and preparing the front facings and linings. I have been trying to work methodically in order to be as efficient as possible, but is nice to be able to vary what I am working on as it means that I don't get bored with my work.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Breaking Down

During a tutorials, Rebecca has mentioned breaking down the suit. Breaking down has been mentioned previously (such as in our initial group meeting) however prior to this I had not really considered that I would need to do it for this suit.  Rose sees the Narrator as fairly well off, and of an upper-middle or upper class - though this may be indeterminate, he is certainly not poor or working class. The very fact that he wears a wool suit which has been tailor-made to his own person speaks volumes about the character's economic and class situation; he is quite unlike the Devil character in the Old Man form, for instance, whom Rose sees as wearing very broken down, dirty clothes. Because of the Narrator's own character and class therefore I do not see it necessary to greatly distress or dirty the suit. However, both Rose and I believe that the Narrator would not be wearing  a brand-new suit; he would have worn it a lot, over many years. I consider that this would foremost be down to the economic situation during the First World War, however perhaps it is also the Narrator's favourite suit. This is being achieved by my looking at suit styles from a little prior to WWI; however there should be a little more to this. Rather than looking broken down, I feel that the suit should look broken in. It should not look like a very shiny suit straight off the tailor's cutting table, but like it is has been worn in. I hope to achieve this by finishing the jacket prior to the show (as scheduled in my Work Plan) and allowing the Actor to wear the jacket in rehearsals.

Although the Narrator would theoretically be walking across the potentially muddy fields in the story, Rose is adamant that she does not want his shoes or trousers to be muddy. She does not want him to look scruffy or dishevelled in any way; but to look smart. I agree with Rose as I also feel that this would not befit his type of character, and I am therefore not considering breaking down the trousers in this way at all.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

First fitting


Left: with alteration        Right: before fitting.
Left: before fitting.         Right: with alteration

 As soon as I held these up to the Actor's body it was really obvious that there had been a miscalculation somewhere in the draft. The crutch was far, far too long for his body and fabric needed to be taken out from here. I eventually concluded that this was due to inaccurate measuring: when I took his measurements he was wearing quite loose and baggy jeans and I didn't pull the tape measure tight enough, or start high enough up the inside leg, when measuring his girth and rise. This had not been a problem when I made the 1890s trousers for SDP as I worked with measurement that I had been given, and didn't have to measure the wearer myself. The tight(-er) crutch measure is so important in tailored trousers, especially with this period as the trousers were narrow and quite fitted to the body. All in all an annoying mistake but again, one which I will not repeat in the future.

Trousers Centre Back - crutch seam definitely too long!
Kat also pointed out that the trouser darts needed to be longer and taper down into the seat. This is definitely needed, in order to throw fullness into the right part. 

Of course it was quite worrying when the trousers looked so incorrect but I tried to remain calm and collected so as not to make the Actor feel uneasy at all. I have always considered bedside manner to be important when conducting fittings - especially when dealing with such sensitive areas as crutch seams!

Mandy and Kat advised keeping the fit of the trousers the same along the CB seam as although it appeared to look far too baggy, ease would be needed as the Actor moves; especially if he sits down. This was a really important consideration, and in future I will bear in mind movement instead of worrying if things look immediately too loose.

Right: before fitting
Left: alteration. Trousers narrowed and trouser hem set over shoe

The trousers were also narrowed, making them much more appropriate for the period. In this I admit that I could have been more "adventurous" at the pattern drafting stage and narrowed them more (as I basically stuck to the generic draft for trousers) so it is just another pointer to be more confident when drafting. Mandy and Kat stressed, though, not to narrow the trousers too much as it would look strange due to the size of the check. So proportion and balance according to the fabric as well as the individual figure, and styles of the period and design, must be considered!

The Actor had injured his feet before the fitting and found it difficult to stand up straight for lengths of time, but we did have to ask him to stand up properly as this affected the length of the trousers. Posture is definitely another thing to consider when working with actors in the future, in terms of how the clothes lie on the body, especially as regards restricting movement etc.


 Left: with alteration        Right: before fitting. 

Left: before fitting        Right: with alteration

There were fewer major alterations on the jacket, which was a little reassuring.

The Actor immediately found the armhole restrictive and specified that it was at the front; he could not move his arms forward. So without haste I snipped into the seam allowance here, releasing the fabric and lowering the armhole. I'm quite grateful that he was so immediately vocal about this problem; it was really, really helpful in terms of how to get a good fit. Although this problem was also clear to me just by looking, it's definitely important that the wearer feels that it fits well themselves. And so in the future, I will bear in mind that not everyone will be happy to be so upfront and resolve issues like this as soon as possible before something damging to them happens, i.e. the armhole cutting off blood circulation to the arm and the wearer fainting.

I was then quite glad that I had decided not to bring a sleeve to the fitting, as it would definitely not have worked in the enlarged armhole.

The length was taken up and the jacket was made more snug at the centre front (CF). I discussed where to take this alteration (i.e. which seam to take it in from) and Mandy explained that the CF was the best due to the way it fitted around the rest of the body. The jacket actually fitted really well across the back; it was just that there was a bit too much excess at the front. Taking it in elsewhere would have distorted the proportions and made it lie differently. This was really good to consider as previously at fittings, tutors have been quite prescriptive about just where to take an alteration. This way made me really consider why I was taking it in this place. This will be really helpful in the future, when no one is there to help me!

The CF coming in meant that the break line of the lapel will change, as will the curve. So I am glad that I stuck to my decision to only cut one of the canvases.


Working with Kat on trouser darts

Obviously I was a little dismayed by the amount of changes needed to the suit, especially on the trousers. However, I refuse to be completely disheartened by this. I have accepted it and can clearly see the errors that I made, and how they led to miscalculations and mistakes. It is becoming more and more obvious to me that tiny mistakes along the way lead to big errors if not resolved. Nonetheless, if I am honest, every time that I had to correct a seam or change a line at the fitting, on both the trousers and jacket, I learnt something more about how clothes work against the body. Ultimately the suit must be used for performance, and considering movement is so important. So in a way - assuming that the trousers will be salvageable - this has given me a real lesson in truly understanding the relation of the draft to the body. This will definitely help me when I am drafting future suits. Additionally my guiding principles include never making the same mistake twice, soI definitely intend all mistakes I make to inform and better future work. In the future, I will take all crutch measurements tightly, despite baggy jeans!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Preparing for the fitting

The first fitting has been arranged for Tuesday morning, which is on schedule according to my workplan. I have tacked the jacket together and top tacked the seam allowances down, as we were taught to by Graham. Matching the checks was challenging but ultimately rewarding. It soon became obvious that when I put the two pieces together to be mark tacked, some of the had moved around a little under the paper and so it was a case of matching the patterns on the fabric, rather than following the tacked markers religiously.

I decided not to cut any sleeves. At the previous fitting for the 1890s lounge jacket that I made for SDP, there were changes at the arm hole and this threw out the fit of the jacket sleeve. Additionally, the measurement of the armhole may change when I add in the layers of canvas and breast felt, so I decide to omit the sleeve for the first fitting and bring along calico sleeves at the second.

At the fitting for the 1890s suit, Graham had us baste in all three canvases. However I made the decision not to for this fitting. This was because I was unsure whether the line of the lapel might change, since it was to be the designer's decision. As the lines of the hair canvas and breast felt follow the lapel break line, I didn't want to run the risk of having to re-cut these two canvases in case of any change. So I have only basted in the shoulder canvas, which covers most of the centre front jacket piece.

Very annoyingly, when I put the jacket pieces together I noticed that the checks don't match up along the back. The side back piece's checks are slightly askew next to the checks of the centre back piece. (Look at the left side back seam in the photo; the vertical lines of the checks don't join.) This is clearly due to an error in calculation when I was cutting out the pieces. I have decided to leave the jacket as it is for the fitting, in case there are any changes at the side back seam, and afterwards I will re-cut the side back pieces so that the checks match up.

This is really irritaiting but I am trying not to let it become too much of a set-back. In a way I am quite glad to have made this mistake for it will mean that I will be extra cautious when counting and measuing checks to match up in the future. I am often glad to make mistakes the first time round as I try to make a concerted effort afterwards to memorise the correct method of doing something. This way I can really progress with improving the standard of my work!

Additionally, I must note that in this case I am lucky in having the time and cloth available to do this. This definitely would not always be the case. Measure twice, cut once! as the old maxim goes. I would ultimately have saved time had I managed not to make the error.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Cutting out & Pattern matching

Meticulously matching checks

As soon as the fabric choice was confirmed to me I began cutting out, in order to make the most of the studio time I had available.

This is the first time that I have worked with checked fabric in a large capacity and I was determined to match checks as accurately as possible.

I decided to cut all of the pattern pieces individually (i.e. not with the fabric on the fold) so that I could really be sure of the checks matching up. I then turned the cut piece over to cut out the other side, before returning the pieces to the paper pattern in order to be mark tacked.

Following tips taken on previous tailoring projects I set prominant lines in the cloth on the chest and seat lines. This is so that the rest of the checks would be automatically thrown into place, and hopefully mean that they matched up. I also did my best to put one whole check acros the centre front and centre back of the jacket and trousers. However I decided not to worry too much about making whole checks across other seams as this might change anyway, due to alterations at the fitting. When I am more experienced in pattern drafting there will (hopefully!) be a higher level of accuarcy in my initial patterns and I will be able to match up patterns across a whole suit.

Cutting took quite a long time and additionally was quite challenging as the cloth, being a fairly loose weave, was apt to move about quite easily, throwing out the alignment I had created.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

work plan, fabric & time management

Drawing up the work plan for SP was an extremely helpful process. As I now know the steps to go through in making the tailored suit, I was able to easily divide up the weeks available. I used a month calendar format to make envisioning time simpler, and a colour-coded system to make clear deadlines and other important events obvious. It was soon very clear that the first fitting would have to take place as soon as possible after pattern drafting. This meant that I would need the cloth fairly soon.

Grace and Rose went fabric sampling in London on Thursday 6th October and returned with a variety of samples. This was obviously very soon after the briefing itself but I explained to them that as no toile is made in tailoring, I required the top fabric as soon as possible. They were gracious about accommodating this. I had recommended them to just buy the wool for the suit if they saw one that Rose liked, giving them examples of a suitable weight of cloth. However despite finding a cloth suitable in design and within budget, they wanted to check with me first before buying. This is understandable since due to the period the play is set in the cloth required is a heavier weight wool (10-12oz) and not a lightweight, more modern suiting. So it is understandable that if they did not feel familiar enough with tailoring fabrics to be comfortable enough to just buy it. Unfortunately though, since they did not buy it, by the time that Aimee (the buyer for the AUCB productions) returned to Shepherd's Bush on Monday, the cloth had been bought by someone else.

This has meant a delay in getting the cloth to me, and thus a delay in cutting. Grace and Rose looked through fabric sample books in the archive and though we found beautiful cloths from tailoring houses they weren't in budget, or delivery would take too long. So they are hoping to look in further fabric shops in the area for more wools. If not, by chance there is a suitable cloth in the Costume Haberdashery which Rose would be happy to use if she definitely can't find anything else.

Though this has meant that I've been delayed in cutting the fabric, I have been making full use of the "spare" time. Obviously the work plan I drew up has to be flexible; it is the nature of working on a live project that things change and some times may take longer than planned, simply due to unforseen circumstances. Hopefully I will get the cloth by tomorrow (13th October) and can work towards a fitting on the following Tuesday morning (18th October).

Meanwhile I have been going through my tailoring notes from SDP and doing everything I can before I get the cloths, such as preparing canvases.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Pattern drafting

The lounge suit I made for SDP last term was very similar in cut to this one; just a few changes in the style areas. Pattern drafting has traditionally been my weakness as I have often been very underconfident in this respect. To draft this suit I used standard tailor's systems which had been recommended by Graham. As I had done this once before I found the process much easier to understand. (The systems are often difficult to decipher as they are written with an assumption of knowlege and great experience; additionally it is troublesome constantly converting inches to centimetres. Purchasing an imperial tailor's square would be very helpful in the future as it would definitely speed up the process). Nonetheless pattern drafting still took a good amount of time.

I tried to work as independantly as possible, doing my best to make judgements according to common sense and notes I had previously taken. I followed the historical research and Rose's design quite closely, in order to work out the placement of pockets, shape of lapel, etc. There were also the back vents to consider, which meant an extra side back seam. Luckily there were good illustrations of jacket backs in Men's fashion illustrations from the turn of the century (Mitchell Co, 1990) which was after all a fashion catalogue.

I was quite worried about the suit being too short for the actor as he is so tall (6ft 4in) so I added extra length. I also used theatrical seam allowances instead of following the traditional tailoring practice of 1" Inlays and 1/4" Making Up Allowances. This was partly in order to allow for future alterations, but also because as there will be no toile, and this is only my second suit, I wanted to give myself breathing space for changes.

After I completed the jacket and trousers drafts I carefully compared them to the Actor's measurements, changing things which seemed too tight or loose. I then showed Kat. She didn't see any obvious changes to be made in the trouser draft. However she immediately changed the side seam line on the jacket to be less of a curve. She pointed out that this style of jacket should not be so fitted as the look was to be fairly square and masculine; the waist wasn't emphasised. This really made sense and as I compared this to the contemporary fashion illustrations (Mitchell Co, 1990) the barrel-chested figures immediately related to the draft I'd created on paper.

Kat's ability to immediately visualise the draft in terms of how they relate to a figure was really inspiring and is definitely something that I aim towards achieving myself, as I grow in confidence, experience and ability in pattern drafting.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Measuring actor

The Supervisor arranged for me to measure the Actor very quickly. I wanted to take his measurements as soon as possible so that I could begin drafting the patterns.

I used the Male Measurement Sheet provided by AUCB Costume as it is a comprehensive document and noted specificities regarding his body. I did my best to act professionally by keeping a friendly and polite bedside manner. It was very important to stay observant; for instance,  at 6ft4in the Actor is much taller than me and it was important to politely ask him to stand straight as this affected the measures that I took.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


N.B. The annotated photocopies I made whilst researching period style lines, tailoring methods, and techniques are included in the hard-copy research file that accompanies this blog. Please note that I have not included copies of the construction notes I made during SDP as these are far too numerous and I don't feel that they are necessarily relevant to the project. Instead, I am collating and word-processing these into a professional-looking format which I will later bind, in order to have a really good point of reference for any more lounge suits I make in the future, as well as be able to take to interviews. 

Looking at the design it was really clear that, aside from a few changes in the style lines, this suit is really similar to the 1890s lounge suit I made for SDP. It will definitely be a traditionally tailored suit due to the style of the production as well as the character of the Narrator: I will not have to adapt the traditional tailoring methods to accommodate for excess movement (as I might be required to do so for dance or physical theatre) beyond making sure that I make the suit strongly and neatly so that it will last for many performances beyond A Soldier's Tale once it is in the AUCB Costume Store.

I am therefore able to utilise much of the same research which informed my work in SDP, such as referring to similar reference books (the Victorian/Edwardian tailor's catalogues, but of the 1910s instead of the 1890s - see Mitchell Co, 1990); tailoring pattern-cutting and method books (such as Cabrera, 1983, and Whife, 1945); and indeed the notes I made during SDP when Graham taught us how to make the suit.

At times it has been difficult to find images of what were considered "intimate" areas - such as the trouser waist band (which was always covered up by the waist coat). However I have used logic as well as a few references I could find - notably a line drawing of a pair of trousers revealing a fish tail back but which had trouser-creases and turn-ups that suggested that it was a style of the 1930s. This would suggest that trousers of the 1910s would have the same fish-tail back as of the 1930s (and indeed as the 1890s style trousers, like I made for SDP) with brace buttons on the interior.

I have had to be quite careful with what sources I have used as not all of them are necessarily reliable. For instance, the tailoring catalogues (Mitchell Co, 1990) contain advertising images which would represent the ideal Edwardian figure. As a result, upon closer analysis, the figures in the catalogue are anatomically disproportionate. Their torsos are huge, incredibly long and broad-chested. Their heads and feet are far too small, and their legs are quite short and narrow. When I, for instance, analysed the placement and size of the collars on many of these suits, they were in fact much smaller than first appeared. I decided to look at photographs of the era (see Rolley, 1992) alongside the fashion illustrations, which revealed much clearer proportions within the suit as well as with the figures. I took all my research to the Designer in order to have her decide upon what exactly she would like on the suit, such as back vents and cuff buttons. She also decided, upon looking at my research, that she wanted an extra pocket on the jacket, which was present on a lot of the fashion illustrations (see Mitchell Co, 1990).

Although I am not making the waistcoat, I have shared my reference sources with Emily M. (the Maker who is making the waistcoat instead of me, since the suit jacket will consume so much time as to make it unfeasible to make all three parts of the Narrator's costume) so that we will be visually working from the same points of reference and the costume will come together naturally.

Considering the design

I spoke to Rose about her vision for the narrator's character; she saw him being an older character, in his 50s perhaps; a kindly figure, and in contrast to the naivety of the young soldier he is wise and empathetic. The play is set during the 1st World War (1914-1918) and the Director has re-set it in England. So the play consists of the soldier's journey home whilst on leave, with the action taking place as he walks through the country side.

The suit should be made to traditional bespoke tailoring techniques as I learnt with Graham - without a doubt. The feel of the design definitely suggests country tweeds and heavier woolen cloths. As the narrator is older I am going to research suits from around 1910 - slightly earlier to when the play was set, as we both felt that his character would be unlikely to have just bought a fashionable new suit at that point in the story.

In terms of the context of the costume, the play only has four actors. The Narrator wears the suit throughout the story, therefore it is integral that it informs his character. So the suit will have to fit him perfectly and look as though it is of a high quality, since it would probably have been tailored for him in the play's recent past. Additionally, the venue presents an intimate space so the suit will have to be able to bear the scrutiny of the audience. Tailoring's challenge is in making everything crisp and perfect, as unlike with other styles of costume there is nowhere to hide any imperfections. So it will have to be of a high standard and a professional quality.

The suit will have to have lots of pockets as the Director wants him to pull out a variety of props as the play progresses. These will have to be strong and relatively roomy.

As the play is set to music; it was originally a musical piece, composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1918. Having listened to an audio recording of the score, it has become clear to me that the Narrator will have a lot to say; the music is also very lively. It is likely that the Actor will move around a lot within his role as the Narrator. Therefore certain parts of the costume will have to be very strong in order to hold up to this. Taking action such as double-stitching the crutch seam on the trousers and making sure that the sleeves are set in strongly should accommodate the movement.