Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Reflections on pattern drafting

I have now completed the pattern drafting and have cut out. My thoughts on pattern drafting are simply that it has taken a lot longer than I had anticipated (which was quite a long time!). I think that a lot of this is simply down to experience: I still feel new to pattern drafting, as I was only introduced to it when I joined the course. The flat pattern drafting is helping me think about body shapes, and how cloth works over a body. E.g. lines (for instance on the bottom of a waistcoat) may look straight but in actuality are always curved, in order to go round the body. Once worn it gives the illusion of being straight. I hope to continue developing my understanding of the body in relation to clothing in the future as it will really benefit me as a maker - and a designer of course.

Ultimately, I think that I can only get better at pattern drafting with practice. A good example of this is of course Graham glancing at the pattern and immediately seeing anomalies and places for change! What I have struggled with was the tailoring systems used as on the whole they are written by someone making the assumption that you have been working in a tailoring workroom for 10+ years until making it up to being a cutter. Whereas this is my first suit!! However once I started following the instructions I managed to get into it. It was important to keep reminding myself that the systems are imperfect and are to be used as a guide. It was difficult to step away from what I created using the system and just look at the pattern itself. I think that this was due to a lack of confidence: pattern cutting kind of scares me at times so it felt natural to rely on the instructions. So this tells me to have more confidence in my own abilities (which can't be that awful) and take charge of the task myself.

Also what has been confusing was simply that 2 of the instructions were in metric centimetres, and the jacket instructions in imperial - inches! I am more than happy to work in inches  - but all my equipment (tailor's square and pattern master, etc) are in cm! If I decide to take up tailoring seriously in the future and will be using the old fashioned tailoring systems it could be worthwhile investing in a set of imperial would certainly make things much quicker!

Anyway.  The last and final difficulty I will mention has been the measurements I was provided with. Simply put they seem anomalous, as well as being incomplete!! It was unfortunate that we were not able to take the measurements ourselves, or even see the actors we are making the suits for, in order to see their body shapes. So according to Graham's advice I have altered some of the measurements and have cut the patterns with lots of seam allowance. I have no idea how they will turn out at the fitting as any one of the measurments could have been incorrect, throwing everything askew. Fingers crossed!!!

So his proves importance of accurate measurements - which actually I was aware of before, and in the past the costumes I have made have fitted well. So maybe in the future I could do my best to measure the client myself. This might require diplomacy.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Tutorial with Graham

Natalie and I had a tutorial with Graham today. We established the following general points about the project:

  • We will use theatrical tailoring techniques i.e. using standard theatrical seam allowances. This is different from the waistcoat that we made previously, in the Defining Practice unit, which followed the principles of traditional bespoke tailoring. This is because the suits will be going into a store & need to be able to be altered.

    I am glad that we are approaching the project from a theatrical tailoring point of view, as I plan to work in theatre after graduating. It is therefore good to know what to expect beneath the surface of a costume (i.e. seam allowances, oppurtunity for alterations) so that I know how to approach it if needs me. I plan to take thorough notes throughout, and also ask Graham about the equivalent approach for traditional bespoke tailoring. This way, I will know even more working methods, which may be relevant wherever I end up in the workplace. It is always good to know more than one way of doing things.
  • Jacket is very complex, trousers less so but no means an easy ride! We should try to dedicate as much time to this as possible. As we have completed one already, the waistcoat to be made in our own time.

    I am feeling very apprehensive about the time frame. I really don't know where to begin with the tailoring on the suit and will need to be taught the techniques and shown where and how to apply them. I am happy to get on with things in my own time after this (providing I understand the task in hand!) but it is just the amount of time that is available that concerns me. I have written a rough workplan for the Learning Agreement, and broken down the tailoring into sections:

    -pattern drafting, adapting patterns, cutting, mark stitching, pockets, canvassing, preparing for fitting.
    - applying alterations, getting to final stage, finishing.
    -Completing finishing. Button holes. Buttons. Checking for stray threads etc.

    Despite this I feel really nervous. I'm very interested in the essay I am planning for the POP unit, and want to spend some time on that as well. Additionally I have a part time job and other commitments. I don't know how I'm going to manage my time effectively. I suppose I will just have to keep working hard and be realistic about the time, and try to keep on top of things....
  •  Fitting - will have to be arranged for the week after the Easter Holiday. We might have to do the fitting with Ase as Graham unlikely to come with. Waistcoat not fitted; complete jacket, sleeve and trousers.

    Hopefully I will have enough time after this fitting to get everything finished. Graham has suggested spending the Easter break on the waistcoat but I am working full time for the duration of this and not sure how I will be able to squeeze the waistcoat into my sparse spare time! I suppose it will just have to be done!

Definite design choices

This suit, but with a smaller collar:

Collar & lining like these suits:

Waistcoat like the single-breasted one here (left):

SDP: Learning agreement

I have taken on the Victorian tailoring project for Arts Educational Schools’ professional wardrobe department. I will complete a three-piece suit of a jacket, waistcoat and trousers that will be fitted to one of their acting students. I will complete the suit using theatrical tailoring methods, as the costume will be going into a store and therefore will be altered in the future. This is therefore a period style suit made to fit a modern body type. There will be one fitting.

I became interested in tailoring after completing the Tailored Waistcoat workshop in November. I wanted to learn more about the practice, which previously had been practically unknown to me.

This project involves making a suit which stylistically seems fairly simple, yet encompasses a myriad of techniques which I currently do not have within my skill set. I am therefore seeing this project as a platform to learn specialist tailoring techniques, which I can then apply in the future to create more complex and innovative garments. An in-depth understanding of construction has definitely improved my approach to costume design and interpretation. Thus the opportunity to learn about tailoring will be very helpful to me, as it is an area in which I am weak.

Tailoring requires a lot of concentration, and stress is placed very much on accuracy, as there is so little margin for error. I am hoping that after completing the suit, my level of skill in making garments will have greatly improved. I will then be able to transfer this ability to my future work in Level 6. As I have progressed through the course, it has become more and more evident that the ability to work precisely and accurately is very important in costume making work, and especially in keeping this in mind throughout a whole project. This is something that I have struggled with in the past, sometimes losing concentration and being unable to rectify mistakes afterwards. Due to the nature of the working methods, tailoring seems like a good opportunity to work on developing this.

I am concerned about the amount of time available, and am a little apprehensive about being able to complete a full suit given the time frame. I will therefore work on the waistcoat as independently as possible, given that I have already completed one similar. I aim to use tutorials as fully as possible, in order to learn the things I currently have no knowledge of.

To draft the suit blocks, I will research the style lines of the era (1890s) and investigate tailor’s systems. In order to complete the suit, I must first do a lot of research into the tailoring techniques, in order to be able to comprehend how to go about constructing a tailored garment. I will accumulate all of this information in to a research file, and will document my progress working on the project in an evaluative manner on a reflective blog online.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Work experience 14-18th March

Running Wardrobe department at the Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave

I'm now back in Bournemouth following a week's work experience in the wardrobe department at the Queen's Theatre, working on the long-running musical Les Miserables. I worked in Wardrobe during the days, doing laundry and repairing costumes, as well as creating any (small) new pieces of costume needed. In the evenings I followed a dresser, doing a different plot each night. I have worked in a West End Wardrobe before, freelancing as a wardrobe assistant prior to starting my degree. However, though it was technically the same work, coming back to the job after three years, I realised that I had a fresh new take on the role. My perspective had altered, I suspect as much due to growing up as well as my latest training. I found following the dressers really interesting - the first night my head was all over the place, just trying to understand how everything works! By the 4th night I understood much more, and even knew the order of most of the scenes. After this, I left! How typical. But the insight to how such a large show runs practically was really valuable.

I'm so glad that I went along, as I had a really great week and truly enjoyed myself the whole time. Most pertinently I think I learnt the value of having a good team to work in, as everyone I met was so friendly and helpful. I now feel much happier about my employment prospects post-graduation!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Initial Research

Ase gave us images of the designs she wanted us to reproduce. These were engravings reproduced from advertisements of the period. Being advertisements  - often for tailors and outfitters - the engravings are extremely stylised. The men they show are very broad in the chest, with extremely narrow trouser legs. I assume that the narrowness in the leg is meant to exagerrate the broadness in the chest - created with canvases inside the suit - and emphasise masculinity, as it was perceived in the 1890s.

I wasn't totally satisfied with the proportions displayed by these engravings and set off to find more realistic representations via photographs. It was very difficult to find photos clearly displaying the trousers since in the 19th Century, with the beginnings of photography and all that, the occasion for a portrait was a formal one. This means that
a) lounge suits are a bit too informal to be worn in such circumstances and
b) furthermore, the jackets were totally done up and legs were not really on full display!

However I moved away from books on Victorian photography, and luckily managed to find an image in Victorian dress in photographs (Ginsburg, 1988) of a man sitting in a chair wearing his lounge jacket unbuttoned! This clearly showed the high cut of the waistcoat at the waistline, and moreover displayed the trousers! Indeed they were not as narrow as the engravings described (which surely are more like today's skinny jeans - denim infused with lyrca) which makes total sense really because
a) lack of elasticated waistbands and
b) more pertinently, the cloth used was heavy, certainly heavier than today's more common suiting fabrics. It was also a relatively loose weave (relaxed) and therefore if the trousers were really tight it would cause tension in the cloth, pulling on the seams and warping and damaging the cloth.

All in all a good lesson learnt in finding multiple sources. I'm making a lounge suit, which is really pretty generic, so it's good to look at a pool of images to try and understand the cut.Of course there are many variations, but ultimately I should choose reliable sources and use my own judgement.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Meeting with Ase Djarf

Wardrobe Supervisor, Arts Education Schools

I went to meet Ase at the wardrobe department at Arts Ed. She is providing the fabric & lining; the suits are being made to fit three students, and are for the department to have in their costume store (rather than being made for any particular production.)
  •  The suits are being commissioned for the professional wardrobe department at Arts Education Schools, London.
  • Suit designs taken from the book Men's Clothing & Fabrics in the 1890s by Roseann Ettinger- late Victorian-era lounge suits
  • 3-piece suits, one to have a double-breasted waistcoat.
  • The lapels on some of the images are too large, so not what she's after.
  • The trousers must be easy to alter. (Very important!)
Images given by Ase, from this book:

This image shows the style of the suits that she wants. She likes the lining detail on the inside, and the shape and size of the collar & lapels. The braid/piping detail around the edges of the pocket and collar, lapels etc could be included on at least one suit. 

Waistcoats. One to be double breasted, two to be single-breasted. They both have four welt pockets.

I'm planning on following this design, made from a cream wool with a stripe. Single-breasted waistcoat.

Natalie plans on following this design with the double-breasted waistcoat in brown herringbone wool (see below).

3rd suit in green checked wool. Smaller lapel on the collar but otherwise same style.

 Fabric: Tweedy green checked wool

 Fabric: brown herringbone weave wool, for the suit with double-breasted waistcoat.