Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Starting EMP

I am both excited and nervous to start EMP!
After giving it quite a lot of thought, I have decided to focus on developing my pattern cutting and sewing skills in women's wear for EMP. Having only formally made one female costume during my time on the course (18th century stays, jacket and skirt for Candide, in second year) I feel that I am lacking in experience in cutting to a contoured form, and working with a body incorporating more curves. I've therefore decided to make a woman's suit and bias-cut evening dress from the 1930s.

Over the last few days I have been researching looks from the period to try to decide what suit and dress to make. Most specifically I've been looking at Hollywood movie stills and stars' publicity shots from the late 1920s to the 1940s (the "Golden Age") and have discovered the link between American Hollywood looks (screen costume as well as clothes) and the Paris couturiers' salons which has been interesting: investigating couture sewing techniques could therefore be relevant.

A lot of the women's suits I have found have been quite masculine looking; that is, they are in style and silhouette extremely reminiscent of a man's suit, with stepped collars, single- or double-breasted with buttons, and a slim and simple skirt. I am looking for something a little more unusual, with some kind of exciting and challenging detail or feature to incorporate. I was therefore really happy to discover this image of Joan Crawford which was taken in 1935.

According to the website it is from (www.joancrawfordbest.com/), the photograph is a publicity shot for the 1935 film No More Ladies, which sadly is not available for purchase in the UK.

I've decided to make the suit, in black wool. (I will not make the dog.) The skirt looks simple - a pencil skirt with an inverted pleat at the centre front - and so as usual the complexity comes in the jacket. I will research couture sewing techniques to make this. I also plan to try to look at suits from the period.

The second part of my EMP will be making a bias-cut evening dress, also from the 1930s. I have found an absolute abundance of images of bias-cut dresses and have been looking for one which isn't too fussy or frilly (personally I am just not keen on the butterfly sleeves) but which retails an element of interest and/or challenge. I have found the following plate from Collectible fashions of the turbulent 1930s (Laubner, 2000) which is from a Parisian couture house. I will be making it without the train. As well as the difficulty I anticipate working with bias drape, it has the added structural complexity of the extra side panels in the skirt. But it will be a welcome challenge.

In making two different women's garments from the period of the 1930s I am hoping to deepen my knowledge of 20th Century dress in understanding the different social contexts they were worn in, who they were worn by, and who was meant to view the garments being worn. I will also be greatly expanding upon my repertoire of sewing skills in dealing with techniques which I have only briefly covered in the past, such as bias cutting and cutting for the contoured body. I am planning on using traditional couture sewing techniques combined with my knowledge of bespoke tailoring techniques to complete the garments, to achieve a period and couture look for a modern body. As such, the undergarments I will use will be from modern sources, although they will achieve the same effect as strictly period undergarments. (I will expand on this in a separate blog post.)

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