Sunday, November 25, 2012

White House Historical Association War of 1812 Recap

 The past few months here in the studio have been chock full of the Forgotten War. As we've mentioned previously, we were updating costumes for two currently running programs with the White House Historical Association: First Kids, about kids who have lived in the White House over the course of our country's history, and Paths to Freedom, about the Civil War (check out the video on their website to see a sampling of the costumes we made for them!)

panorama of the studio
Welcome to the chaos!
The third program was to be completely new, about the War of 1812.  We made costumes for an entire cast of characters: President James and First Lady Dolley Madison, Dolley's house servant Sukey, the 15 year old slave Paul Jennings who helped save the famous painting of George Washington, and the French Ambassador Louis Serurier, among many many others that we will detail in an upcoming post.

The List
In the beginning... there was fabric

For this post we will simply detail the PROCESS.  And process it was.  From design and conception to patterning to full-scale factory-style assembly line, we were in full tilt for the entirety of the project.  The complexity of the costumes, particularly of the men's uniform jackets, was daunting.  Men's coats in 1812, especially those of the military and upper class, had all the trimmings: cuffs, tails, standing collars, layers of interfacing, and buttons galore.   

1812 jacket and collar1812 cuff

We were all hands on deck so Caroline (who you may remember from this post about LADEC) and Barb, two lovely ladies we have worked with in the past, came back to join the fun and frenzy.  We were also joined by our new regular addition, Sara (who you may remember from our recent Halloween post.)  And as always, Marilyn, Meghan and I were there in the thick of it.

Caroline and the impressive pile o' trims
Barb, about to start buttoning

Sara and Meghan sewing and serging

Me carefully labeling and cutting jackets so as not to lose them in the flurry of blue peachskin faille
Sara, Marilyn, Meghan, and Caroline were positioned perfectly long enough
for me to snap one picture, and then it was back to the 1812 flurry!

All the costumes were made from a hue of peachskin faille, an extremely sturdy polyester blend that has the look of a more expensive fabric, hangs well, doesn't fade with wash or wear, and is virtually un-wrinkleable.  In other words, perfect for costumes that literally thousands of kids will be pulling on and off over their clothes over the course of the next several years.  With our 1812 order we also had some minor repairs to do on some of the Civil War and First Kids jackets from several years ago, and even we were impressed at how well the costumes had stood the test of time: the fabric on a brand new jacket and a six year old jacket needing button repairs were virtually identical.  

All machines on deck!
An overflowing bucket o' ladies-to-be
When we first began this project, we knew we were going to need a little extra something to unite us in focus and drive, and to help any extra-long days feel not so extra-long.  Enter: Harry Potter.  We listened to the entire seven book series while we cut, serged, stitched, and pressed.  117 hours and 4 minutes of Jim Dale interpreting J.K. Rowling. It was by far our best decision, and to be quite honest we feel a little lost without them now (is it too soon to start all over??)

Oh Harry Potter. We laughed with you, we cried with you.
Mainly cried though, because holy moly what a sad series.

And then, suddenly, we were done.  We stood back for only a moment to admire our handiwork before moving into the next project, but that moment felt GOOD.

All the laydees
The finished rack! The costumes wrapped all the way around.
Meghan gets pictures of her cravat handiwork. Note Marilyn in the loft holding them all up.
And then it was time for the costumes to go to their new home in DC, but not before one last photo op!  Note the two newest members of the nonmoving branch of our studio family, Trevor and Susie Q.  They fit in very nicely with Molly and our other two dress forms, don't you think?

Photo credit: White House Historical Association @WhiteHouseHstry
Last, but most certainly not least, thank you so much to John, Courtney, Katie, and the ladies and gents of the White House Historical Association for the opportunity to work with you again.  This project was exciting and colorful and stretched us creatively and mentally in so many wonderful ways we never expected.  We learned some history, drafted some patterns, and invented whole new ways of interpreting historical research to fit the unique needs of this program.  We got to do what we love and we are so happy with the result, and even happier that you love it too.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Ghosts of Costumes Past

Hello again! So sorry for the radio silence; we've been neck deep in 1812 for the past few weeks, but we're back now, and better than ever!  We also have so many updates to fill you in on, but an important holiday must first be recognized.


We thought we would celebrate by reminiscing on some of our first and favorite costumes from our pasts, in order of years...

 In 1988 I wasn't finding and pulling my own Halloween costumes yet, but this pictures shows I clearly got my quirky sense of costume humor from my parents.  My dad, who had a sprained arm at the time, went as a one-armed jack, and my mom, who was extremely pregnant with my brother at the time, went as a bowling ball.

In 1998 Meghan's mom made her and her and brother into the cutest little candies on the block. And then ten years later, the exact costumes were worn my Meghan's mother herself and a friend. Impressive!

In 2007 Sara costume designed her first show, Ragtime, in which she was also an actor. She never seemed to have the time to make costumes for *herself,* but here are her first costumes she made for others!

Sara with her towheaded show family
In 2012, Marilyn made costumes for her granddaughter's Batman themed birthday party, in which her granddaughter was Batgirl and her baby brother was The Boy Wonder.

Na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na Batgirl!

Marilyn and The Boy Wonder

What were your favorite costumes?  Do you make, rent or buy your Halloween costume from year to year?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Flashback Friday: World War II Navy Nurse Re-Enactor

This Flashback Friday comes from an article Marilyn wrote for The Bride Guide in the Prince George's County Women's Journal in 2009:

Reference: Couture Allure Vintage Fashion Blog

The next project to deliver this summer was a World War II Navy Nurse uniform for a re-enactor. Working from period photos, my assistant developed a pattern that was an exact replica complete with the very extended lapel and notching.

My client ordered fabric from the very company that made those uniforms (yes, they're still in business! and still making uniforms from what I understand).  Lots of detail work went into re-creating this uniform and the results were spectacular! At the final fitting my client arrived in jeans and t-shirt.  She went into the dressing room to change into her new uniform and stepped out transformed. It was like a momentary time warp. Needless to say, we were both very happy with the uniform!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

NPR Also Says to Check That Tag

Here in the studio, we love us some NPR.   With the exception of the past week or two, when we've been listening to the complete Harry Potter audiobook series to get us through all the patterning we're doing (just started Book 5!) , we listen to hours upon hours of Diane Rehm, Kojo Nnamdi, Ira Flatow, and all those kooky economists at Marketplace.

So I was pretty excited when I stumbled across this gem from Caitlin Kenney at Planet Money.  Here she investigates why her wedding dress cost the amount it did, and she ultimately decides that she was, in her words, "ripped off."  What I think is most important to take away from this, however, is not as she says to shop around and look for cheaper options.  It is to better understand what to look for to find a quality garment for this incredibly special occasion, or to know what you're buying and why.

In Ms. Kenney's case, she ended up buying a dress that had been mass produced with inexpensive fabrics, and while she was never lied to, she also did not know to ask any of the right questions that could have helped her understand what she was getting into.  Some of these questions we have started to outline in our How to Spot Quality series (see Part I and Part II).  Both industry experts she interviewed assumed her dress had a lower price tag.  But as Ms. Kenney says of her dress shopping experience, "In that kind of atmosphere it never occurs to you to say 'What's this made of? This isn't polyester, is it?"  New wedding dresses are expensive, for the most part for good reason, but they are also an investment.  And like when buying a car, you deserve to know what is going into the product in which you are investing.

Now this is not to say that there is anything wrong with polyester.  Polyester can be fairly convincingly rendered to look and move similarly to more expensive fabrics, for a much lower price.  However, it is imperative to know that that is what you are buying, and not fall into any assumptions about where your dress came from and what it is worth.   In the coming weeks, we will be posting some more from our How to Spot Quality series, so look forward to some more insights and advice from our end, but we would love to hear your stories and learning experiences in the comments as well!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Flashback Friday: Saving an Unsalvagable Dress

Today's Flashback Friday comes from another article Marilyn wrote for the Prince George's County Women's Journal:

I worked with a bride who very much wanted to wear her mother's 1950 wedding gown on her wedding day.  Since her mother had passed away, it was a way to bring her mother's presence into the wedding.  The gown had been stored for years and so it was sent to a local dry cleaners who damaged the gown in the process of cleaning and pressing.  The bride's sister worked through a list of local dressmakers but none were interested in working on the gown when the damage was explained.  Finally, she got my name on her list and I agreed to assess the damage and suggest what could be done.

The damaged dress

Note the stains; they were everywhere!

After a burn test to determine fiber content and a close examination of the damage I felt that the gown could be returned to its glory.  We developed a multi-step plan that included cutting out the original lining and horsehair, replacing the original lining and horsehair, replacing the original trim along the neckline, some minor alterations and sending it to my preferred dry cleaner [Editor's Note: It's TRS Dry Cleaners, and we recommend these life-savers to anyone who comes through our doors!] for stain removal and pressing.  I was also asked to remake the headpiece and veil with as much of the original parts as possible, replace missing covered buttons, and, using some of the new neckline trim, add accents to the wristlets, purse and shoes the bride was adding to the ensemble.

When it was all done, the gown looked fabulous, the bride was happy, looked beautiful, and I was able to take quiet pride in contributing to her dream of wearing her mother's wedding gown.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Moms in the Studio

A few Saturdays ago, Meghan's and my moms came up to the studio for an afternoon of tea and wedding talk.  I made cucumber sandwiches, Meghan made lemon cookies, and Marilyn created a teascape worthy of the queen.  This was the first time either of our moms would be touring the studio and meeting Marilyn, so we were really excited to show off our work... and our dresses!

Both Meghan and I are going to update our mothers' dresses for our own weddings, but we will not be doing any major updates until after our current studio projects are finished.  We wanted our moms to see us in their dresses, cleaned and in their full glory before we changed them in any way.  We had a blast trying on our mothers' gowns and talking in depth about what we were going to do with them to update the dresses for our own weddings. And of course we took pictures.

***ATTENTION: SPOILER ALERT! If you are the fiance of either Meghan or myself, you should not go any farther in this post. I'm looking at you, Nick and Steve!!***

Now, then.

My parents got married on August 2, 1975, and Meghan's parents wed exactly 11 years later (to the day!)   Both gowns are long sleeved, and with ruffles and long, wide trains.  However, the differences in style and cut between 1975 and 1986 are immediately clear.  Meghan's dress has intricate beading and lace with a chiffon overlay to give it a "dreamy" effect; very Princess Di!  The lace on my mom's dress is of the large 70s style flowers seen so often in flashback reels, and the belled sleeves and empire waist popular of the time.  Both dresses have a flowy vintage feel that is very different from the structured bodices that are so popular right now.  We will be documenting our progress as we merge old and new to create something perfectly suited to our personal styles, without losing the deeply personal effect of wearing our mothers' dresses.

With the dresses on, we talked about our initial ideas for each update, which you can see a bit of on our Pinterest pages for Meghan and me.  We will discuss more details as we go, and share our updates here.

And without further ado, The Gowns!

Meghan; note the high collar, sweetheart neckline, and basque waist. 

The train

Meghan and her mom

Me: note the wide neck, belled sleeves, and empire waist.  

The train

Me and my mom (don't be fooled, I'm wearing obscenely high heels)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sponsoring Looks for Life

This year we are official sponsors of LOOKS Salon and Spa's annual Looks for Life fundraiser for the local non-profit Grassroots for Suicide Prevention.  The fundraiser was started by the salon's owner, Marilyn Petersen, after her son Patrick committed suicide in 2002, and has raised over $100,000 for Grassroots over ten years.  Grassroots provides an emergency and transitional shelter, a 24-hour phone and walk-in crisis center and an educational resource for all.  Suicide is a painful and personal topic for many of us, and what Marilyn Petersen has achieved in the face of such a tragedy is praiseworthy.

From Sept. 9-23rd you will be able to see materials relating to the studio set up at Looks, and on Sunday, Sept. 23 from 10am to 2pm Looks Salon will host its fundraiser.  The staff will offer traditional salon and spa services at discounted prices: $40 haircut and styles (one-price-fits-all women's, men's, and children's cuts), $25 blow-drys, $15 manicures, $12 eyebrow waxes, and $25 half-hour massages.  There will also be refreshments, a DJ, and a silent auction.  ALL proceeds from this event will be donated!!

If you can't attend on the 23rd or just want to help out even more, on Thursday, Sept. 20 from 7pm to 12am, Sonoma's Bar and Grill will host an event for this fundraiser, with a nominal cover charge donation, a DJ, bar specials, and 50/50 raffle tickets available.

We will be at both events; we hope you are able to join us in supporting this great cause!


LOOKS Salon and Spa
6822 Oak Hall Lane
Columbia, MD 21045

Sonoma's Bar and Grille
7284 Cradlerock Way
Columbia, MD 21045

Friday, August 31, 2012

Flashback Friday: Afro-Centric Wedding Ensemble

For this Flashback Friday, we're harkening back to a post Marilyn wrote for the Price George's County Women's Journal Bride Guide:

Early August 2009 was centered around creating a unique, Afro-centric wedding ensemble that incorporated traditions from several cultures and countries.   This bride and her mom brought me beautiful white embroidered cut-work fabric to work with.  Early on we agreed to line it in a platinum silver to reflect the metallic embroidery.  After studying a number of photos of traditional and updated Nigerian dresses, I was able to work out a design that pleased everyone.  The white fabric had a distinctive shaped border on both edges and I was able to cut that off in long strips and use it as the hem on both the bodice and the skirt.  To highlight the shaping, I made the silver lining of the skirt just a tad longer, sweeping both layers back into a train.  When the bride walked in for her final fitting, it was waiting for on my dress form and looked breathtaking!  So another happy bride walked down the aisle and that makes me very happy.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Spot Quality Part 2: Shopping Online, Taking Measurements

For part II of our ongoing series, we're going to talk a little bit about buying online.   At this point, most of the dresses we see in our studio have been bought online.  Some of the issues we come across can only be seen in real life, and the actual look of some dresses can come as quite a surprise once they have been taken off a model with all the extensive lighting and pinning done by the professional photographer that goes with it.  We had such a case in a bride who came in asking for a custom dress based on a very specifically styled picture, only to discover much later (after we finished the dress and she loved it, of course ;)) that the original picture we based the design off of didn't actually look like the dress at all!  What we and the bride took to be a perfectly tapered mermaid train was actually a sheath dress pinned and posed in such a way that it took on a totally different silhouette.

It is important to take into account the fact that retail photos are styled by a professional photographer who specializes in still subjects.  The photographer's job is to find the very best angle at which to show off the best qualities of the dress.   Your dress, however, will be in three dimensions and will move as you move, with your body, your posture, and your stance.   So make sure you love the back and the sides just as much as you love the front (or whichever angle the model is posing in that particular picture!)  The most important thing about your dress, as opposed to any dress, is that you are the one who is wearing it!  Your dress's job is to flatter your body in the best way possible, not the other way around.

There is no such thing as universal sizing, however; each designer has his or her own "secret sauce" recipe for the way garments are sized, and those may even change from season to season.   You may be an 8 in one brand, and a 14 in another.  One of the best ways to avoid disappointment when the UPS person arrives is to know how to properly take your own measurements.  You may not be able to totally predict how a dress will flow and fall on your body before you try it on, but you can get close if you have the right tools.  Below is a detailed description of what, and most importantly where, different websites mean when they give those helpful "sizing tools."  These instructions are also necessary if you are measuring yourself for a custom garment, or simply calculating something like your bra size (which we will get into in another post.)


Please wear a bathing suit or leotard when taking these measurements.  You might want to get a friend to help you take your measurements; some are hard to reach! You will need a tape measure for this; they can be found at any store that sells fabric, home goods, or sewing supplies (this includes chains like Wal Mart and Target, and your local grocery store.)

Tie a piece of string, ribbon, or elastic around your waist and bend from side to side and then over to the front. Where the string ends up is your natural waistline.

  • Center Front: Measure from the point between the collar bones to the center of the waist string. 
  • Bust (Chest): Keeping the tape measure level around your body, measure your bust at the fullest part of the breast
  • High Bust: Move the tape measure so that it goes around your torso above the fullest part of your breasts usually where "cleavage" starts.  The tape will be up tight in your armpits. Keep it level going around your torso. 
  • Low Bust: Move the tape measure to below the breasts, keeping it level going around your torso.  This will be about where your bra ends.
  • Point to Point: Measure the distance from the apex (nipple) of one breast to another
  • Front Shoulder Slope: From the end of the shoulder bone to the center front at wrist.
  • Shoulder Length: Measure from the base of the neck below the hollow of the ear to the shoulder point.
  • Shoulder to Bust Point: Measure from the shoulder at the neck intersection to the apex of the bust.
  • Neck Circumference: Measure around the neck.
  • Bust Line Side to Side: Measure from the left side seam of your leotard across the front of your torso at the fullest part of your breasts to the right side seam.
  • Front Shoulder: Feel for the end of the bone in each shoulder. Place the tape measure at this point on your left shoulder and bring it across your front to the other shoulder. Remember to feel for the end of the bone. 
  • Neckline to Bust:  Feel for the knobby little vertebrae at the base of your neck. Place the end of your tape measure here and bring it around your neck down your chest to the apex of your breast. This can be either left or right.
  • Back Shoulder: Repeat instructions for Front Shoulder, but do it along the back of your shoulders.
  • Center Back Length: Measure from the knobby vertebrae at the back of the neck to the waistline.
  • Neck to Waist: Go back to the knobby vertebrae and place the end of the tape measure here. Let it drop down your back along your spine. Measure to the waistline string.
  • Back Shoulder Slope: Measure fromt the shoulder point across back to waist at the spine.
  • Back Side Seam to Side Seam:  Measure across your back from the left side seam to the right side seam at about the level of your bra; this should be the fullest part of your back.
  • Waist: Measure your waist along the line created by the string. Make sure that you keep the tape measure level going around your body. 
  • Low Waist: Measure around your torso about 2" below the string... this will be at the belly button level.
  • Front Side Seam to Side Seam: Measure from the left side seam of your bathing suit or leotard across the front of your torso to the right side seam of your suit following the line created by the waist marking string.
  • Back Side Seam to Side Seam Waist: Measure from left side seam of your leotard across your back to the right side seam along the line of your waist string.
  • Hip: Measure around your torso at the fullest part of your hips.
  • Crotch Depth: Sitting on an even, flat surface, measure from the side seam of waist to the flat surface along one side. If you are very curvy use a ruler instead of measuring tape, so the measurement is not inflated.
  • Hip Line Front Side to Side: Measure from the left side seam of your leotard across the front of your torso at the level of the fullest part of your hips to the right side seam. 
  • Hip Line Back Side to Side: Repeat the above instructions but this time do it across the back of your body.
  • Hip Length: Measure along side from the waist string down to the point where you took the Hip measurement.
  • Outer Leg: Measure from the waist string along the outer line of your leg to the knobby bone at your ankle. Please stand with both feet together and your weight evenly distributed on each foot.
  • Inseam: Stand so your feet are shoulder width apart; keep weight evenly distributed on both feet. Measure from the crotch to the knobby part of the ankle bone on inside of leg. 
  • Center Front Waist to Floor:  Measure from center front of waist string to floor. 
  • Center Back Waist to Floor: Measure from center back of waist string to floor.
  • Thigh: With feet close together and weight evenly distributed, measure around your leg at the fullest part of the thigh.
  • Knee: Stand as above, and measure around your leg at the knee.
  • Calf: Stand as above, and measure around the fullest part of the calf. 
  • Ankle: Stand as above, and measure around your ankle at the level of knobby bones.
  • Shoulder to Elbow: Place the end of the tape measure at the end of the shoulder bone. Hold your arm slightly bent, and measure to the elbow.
  • Elbow to Wrist (Total Arm Length): Keep your arm as above, keep the tape as above, without moving the tape measure from the above measurement, continue running the tape along your arm to the wrist. Measure to the little bump on the outside of your wrist. (If the shoulder to elbow measurement was 12", from the 12" mark you will measure to the wrist for a total of 23".)
  • Upper Arm: Measure around the fullest part of your upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow.
  • Lower Arm: Measure around the fullest part of your lower arm between the elbow and wrist.
  • Wrist: Measure around your wrist at the point where the little bump is.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to Spot Quality Part 1: Fiber Content

This summer's Olympics began with quite a controversy over our athletes' uniforms, and it has opened up discussions all over the country regarding imported clothing.  We at the studio all agree that it's not the imported-ness that was so upsetting; it was the fact that our athletes just looked sloppy!  None of the garments seemed to fit properly, which gave our athletes a much "cheaper" look, one that more than once was described as looking like flight attendants.  Yes, there were 529 of them, but a little custom fit and care would have gone a long way for a televised event the entire world was tuning in to see!

We have noticed a recent uptick in imported bridal garments as well, in which the manufacturing quality is shockingly low.  There are several very important things to know when buying garments, especially for special events.  We have found that many people who come through our shop were unaware of these key topics because, of course, most of us don't deal with custom-made garments on a daily basis!  In an effort to help stem the tide of poorly made garments in this world, we will be authoring a series of posts over the next several weeks on how to spot (and avoid!) poorly made garments, and which questions to ask before you buy.  We hope that this little bit of advice from people who see it all the time will give average women the tools necessary to pick out the best possible garment for their budget.

We will be discussing fit and construction (the biggest, most noticeable difference between beautiful and sloppy garments) in this series, but first a quick lesson in fibers!

Always, always, always (did we mention always?) look at the fiber content before you buy.  By law there there has to be a label in every garment listing the country of manufacture or origin, fiber content, and care instructions.  If the garment doesn't have those labels it could be illegally imported!

If at all possible, avoid acetate fabrics for bridal or other special event garments or in situations in which you may be sweating (altho in the South, women "glow").  Acetate does not breathe, it doesn't wick moisture from your body and it can water stain.  In a wedding with an outdoor ceremony, the extra sweat it causes to trickle down your back may literally leave water rings.  It is not used much in blending with other fibers, depending on the other fiber, so the fabric is usually 100% acetate or none at all.  A garment made of acetate cannot be let out because the stitch marks, and by proxy any holes, are often permanent.  But if your dream garment happens to have a very low percentage of acetate, you will probably not see the issues we just described.

The manufacture of synthetic fabrics has improved a lot over the years; some synthetics are so good they can fool even an experienced eye.  This can be a really good thing if you want or need a high-end garment on a budget, but it is always important to know exactly what you are buying.  We recently had a client ask us to make some hair wrap ribbons for her from fabric she had purchased at a well-know chain fabric store.  She believed it to be the 100% silk she needed, but a burn test proved it to be 100% saran, a synthetic fiber.  When I showed her a swatch of real silk to compare to her fabric she could literally feel the difference.  (Real silk has a "crunch" to it)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with synthetic fibers, and buying a garment that is partially or 100% synthetic can be a good way to get the look of a much more expensive garment for an affordable price.  But there are a few things to be aware of when it comes to synthetics: synthetic fibers do not breathe, meaning they do not allow air to flow freely through the fabric, and they do not wick, which is when the fabric absorbs and helps moisture evaporate off your body so you are less likely to sweat profusely while wearing it.  Some examples of natural fibers are cotton, wool, and silk. Some examples of synthetics are polyester, rayon, and acetate.

As we mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with synthetic fabrics, but we have often seen women come in our shop thinking their dress or other garment has a fiber content that it simply does not have.   We believe information is power, and if women know exactly what to look for when buying, they are most likely to get exactly what they wanted in the end.   Remember! look for the Fiber Content label!

Tune in next week for our next installment of How to Spot Quality!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Flashback Friday: The Anti-Bridezilla

From a Bride Guide Marilyn wrote for The Prince George's County Women's Journal in 2009:

There are lots of stories about Bridezilla but I have one about a beautiful and generous bride.  She came to me with a photo to use as a starting point for her gown.  The final design was a bias-wrapped strapless bodice going into a dropped waist, a body hugging skirt flowing into a mermaid train and accented by a sash I custom dyed to match the aquamarine jewelry she would wear on her wedding day.

The gown was breathtaking on her and at her final fitting she said, "I hope you won't be upset with me when you hear what I plan to do with this dress after the wedding."  Since I have had brides who asked to have floor length gowns shortened to tea or cocktail lengths after the wedding and a couple of times have been asked to dye the gowns I kind of looked at the gown and tried to picture it shorter. What she said instead made me love her even more. She planned to donate the gown to Brides Against Breast Cancer, and organization that hosts sales and auctions of donated gowns to raise money to fund memory-making wishes for women (and men) who have little time left with their families.  The auction was scheduled for several weeks after she returned from her honeymoon so she was able to help at the auction as well as donate the gown.  She let me know afterwards that the gown was the most popular and brought in a wonderful donation for Brides Against Breast Cancer.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Flashback Friday: White House Historical Association Projects

As we mentioned before, we are about to start a huge project with the White House Historical Association.   There are actually three aspects to the project: adding to two programs we previously worked on with the Association, and creating a new one specific to the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

Over the past few years, Marilyn has been tasked with creating three different sets of costumes, two for interactive educational programs called First Kids and Paths to Freedom, respectively, and one for a special reenactment commemorating the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. 

In First Kids, Elementary to Middle School-aged children learn various stories about children who lived in the White House, such as the time Teddy Roosevelt's son brought a horse all the way from the stables to the second floor of the White House in order to cheer up his sick brother.  Then the kids get to try on clothes from the period and reenact the stories they just heard.  Paths to Freedom is also an educational program, in which students recreate scenes around signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Our costumes needed to be historically accurate, yet easy to slip on and off and adjustable for any size child.  Easy, right?  Right!

Adding to the previous programs will be fairly straighforward.  We will add sizes and update numbers to meet the current needs of the programs.  In this vein, preparing for the reenactment for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 will be very similar to how preparations for the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War played out two years ago, in that we will create about 30-60 costumes overall of historically accurate, heavily researched costumes for a special event, but of course 1812 was a very different period from 1860.  Society and fashion in those two years were just as wildly different as 2012 compared to 1964.  

1850 looked a lot like this: 

1812 looked more like this: 

Which period are you more drawn to? Do you have any interesting facts about the war that time forgot?

We will keep you updated as the costumes come out, and let you know about the events at which you will be able to see them!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vintage Gowns from the Shop

It is smack dab in the middle of bridal season here and everywhere, and this bridal (etc) shop has been buzzing with wedding talk even more than usual.  Meghan and I both got engaged around the same time this year, and will be getting married around the same time next year.  This week, Meghan returned from a visit to her parents' house with her mother's wedding dress, and we clearly had to take a break to check it out and play with it.

We oohed and aahed and made some plans for how she will want to update the Princess Diana look for her 2013 wedding.  Then I brought out my mother's dress, which I just got back from the cleaners and will also be updating to wear at my own wedding: vintage hippie chic from an actual 70s hippie dress.  Then Marilyn brought down her own wedding dress from 1977, a beaded sheath dress complete with adorable jacket extension, and we had a grand old time comparing the styles and decades, and getting really excited for all the things to come.  

1977, 1986, 1975

We can't wait to begin the process of updating these sentimental dresses for our own weddings, and to show our mothers (and you guys!) the results.  We would love to hear about your vintage wedding dress (or anything else) experiences as well; leave a comment or send a picture!