Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Presidents Day Redux

Happy Presidents Day, one day late! And, according to one of the roughly 2500 documentaries I watched yesterday about the Presidents, this tardiness might have been accepted in the Clinton administration, but definitely not in the junior Bush's. Just a little tidbit I thought I'd pass on.

Because we are so close to DC, we have had the chance to work with the White House Historical Association, among other organizations, to create historical costumes relating to politics and DC for various events and anniversaries. Today, Marilyn shares some of her experiences with the White House Historical Association:

"The first project I did with the White House Historical Association is called First Kids and the focus is on the children who have lived in the White House while their Dads were President. Each vignette is based on true stories. The idea is that these kids and their stories are presented and then the students get to dress in the costumes and act it out.
This program goes into the elementary schools in the area and brings the costumes I made with them. The design parameters were that they had to be historically accurate, washable, wrinkle-resistant, durable, multi-sized and easy-on/easy-off over the students clothes. I was provided with pictures to work from along with the script.

"I created costumes for Theodore Roosevelt (pants, frock coat, vest, shirt, cravat) and 2 of his sons…a nightgown for one and a sailor suit for the other. I also created a white cowboy suit for Roy Rogers…the one we all used to see on TV. That was for the re-enactment of David Eisenhower’s 10th birthday party at the White House hosted by his grandfather, President Dwight Eisenhower. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were guests who performed for the party.

"The second project I did with them is called the Path to Freedom and again is based on actual events. This one is geared to middle and high school and the students go to Decatur House in DC and there’s a house tour followed by a presentation about Abe Lincoln and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation during the New Year’s Day reception hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. It was also Katie Sewell’s Coming Out party (her father was Secretary of State, he’s the one who bought Alaska from Russia so it was called Sewell’s Folly and the family is from Westfield NY just up the road from where I used to live) (Westfield is also the home of Welch’s Grape Juice, it started there before the company bought Ocean Spray about 25 years ago and moved the headquarters to Boston)

"The design parameters were the same but this time I made 35 costumes, dressing Abe and Mary Lincoln, Katie Sewell, Admiral Foote, General Ulysses Grant, a couple of Supreme Court judges, the British and French Ambassadors, Elizabeth Keckly and many more.

"After the presentation and tour, the students act out the entire reception complete with the signing. It’s all captured on film and the class receives a CD of their performance.
I worked from tons of historical photos provided by the White House Historical Assoc….they are fabulous to work with….I sub-contracted with 7 stitchers for the project and figured out a million details that allowed the costumes to look accurate and yet be washable, multi-sized, etc. I don’t want to brag, but I really came up with some clever things that I’ve never seen before or since."

We're currently in the middle of a rehaul of our website and photo archives, but hopefully very soon we will be able to share some images of these costumes.

If you got the chance to put on the show of your choice with the White House Historical Association, what would be about? Who would you play?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Flashback Friday : The Bride Guide

Hello all! This week's Flashback Friday is an excerpt from an article Marilyn wrote in 2009 for The Prince George's County Women's Journal. This was one of three stories about different brides who have walked through our doors and the unique challenges and ideas they brought with them.

"One of the most challenging wedding gowns I worked on was actually custom designed by Judith Brooks of Anjoorian Silks for a DC bride. Judith suggested that the bride get in touch with my to fit the muslin and actually construct the gown.  After fitting the muslin, Judith arranged for the bodice of the gown to be hand-beaded in India based on her interpretation of a crochet pattern selected by the bride.

Here is Molly trying on the fabric before it was a dress.

"Several weeks later I received the beaded georgette, silk charmeuse and pattern. In order to sew the lining, close the darts, and create the scalloped hem, the entire bodice had to be sewn by hand so the beads weren't disturbed and went 'to the edge.' Fortunately, the skirt for the ensemble was not beaded and could be sewn using my machine!  The final results were well worth the effort of all the hand stitching and the bride had just the look she wanted in a truly unique ensemble."

Our bride sees herself in the finished ensemble

Friday, February 3, 2012

Flashback Friday: Vintage and Sentimentality

This week we’ve been working on a beautiful vintage coat that a woman brought in to be remade.  She loves the vintage style and fit, but the years have not been kind to the fabric or lining.  If we were to try to let the seams out per our client’s request, it would fall apart.  Instead, Marilyn will remake the coat, using a tracing off technique, to give our client the vintage look and feel she wants.

With that in mind, on this Flashback Friday we’re reminded of another vintage coat, this one fur.  This client had been very close to her grandmother, who had passed away. The coat was a hand-me-down from the grandmother but because of the wear and age, it could no longer be worn.  She couldn’t bear to part with it, but she felt leaving the coat buried in her closet wasn’t a proper way to memorialize her beloved grandmother.

We all know this feeling: wanting to hold on to an object from a person who is no longer with us, but being unable to incorporate the object in our regular lives.  This may be because we have different aesthetic tastes from our lost loved one, the article of clothing doesn’t fit, we’re afraid the object may break or fall apart, or we simply don’t like to dust that much.  Sometimes the best way to revere this object and remember your loved one may be to change the object in a way that will allow you to keep it with you in your everyday life rather than on a shelf or in a box.

Marilyn and this client were able to find such a compromise with this coat.  It was a gorgeous Persian lamb fur coat that had been custom-made in the 1920s with her grandmother’s initials embroidered in the lining.  Persian lamb, for those who don’t know, is a very textured type of fur that is almost geometric in shape, often looking like a topography map or a traditional picture of the brain.

For our current client, we are using her old coat as a pattern for her new coat. But in this instance, the sentimentality was connected to the fur, not the style. Marilyn found an area of the fur large and strong enough to create a clutch purse, and used the coat lining for the lining of the clutch.  When the clutch flap was opened, our client’s grandmother’s initials could be seen centered in the middle of the flap lining. The client loved it!  It was small and practical, as well as beautiful, and retained the sentimentality of her grandmother’s coat.

Have you ever taken a sentimental object and changed it to fit your life?  What was it, and how did you change it? Or if not, do you have an object for which you would do this?  Tell us in the comments!