QUESTION: How much room should there be left for "reduction" in a 16th Century bodice or corset?
16th Century bodices and corsets (called Pair of Bodies) are not supposed to reduce your waist or torso size! They are not "engineered" or designed for that. They are supposed to fit snug but not tightly laced. By design a pair of bodies (corset) should only smooth out the torso to create a barrel shape. The corset or pair of bodies is used to give support so that the seams of your gown are not strained by bending and other movement. There should NOT be a wide gap at the back as in Victorian corsets. The lacing edges - either in back or in front - should be made to meet, or nearly meet. Bodices are not supposed to be made 3 to 4 sizes too small requiring you to squeeze yourself in them. They are not supposed to be laced so tight that you cannot breathe, or that you bruise or crack ribs. This is not only inaccurate but uncomfortable. The boning channels in an authentically designed 16th Century "corset" will be directed horizontal only (up and down). They were not diagonal at this time period. Diagonally placed boning channels did not come into fashion until the late 1600s and in the 1700s when the subtle "V" shaped waist began to appear. The 16th Century corset is not engineered to create this subtle "V" shape.
You really don't need more than 2 inches or just enough so that your breasts are supported and don't "slip" down. A "shelf" or a roll can be sewn into the front to help give you lift without having to squeeze into a bodice that is too small.
QUESTION: Why can't I wear a Victorian style corset with early era gowns like 16th, 17th, and 18th Century? A corset is a corset, right?
No! Each corset for each individual era is "engineered" to create a different silhouette. The 16th, 17th and 18th Century silhouette was flat. During those time periods a corset did not "cup" or support the breasts, they flattened and pushed them upward. A Victorian corset - for example those from the Civil War period - did not cover the entire breast. They hit about mid-breast and created a "shelf" for the breasts but did not flatten them out. Your 16th Century Elizabethan or Tudor style gown will not fit properly in a Victorian Corset. Neither will a 17th Century Cavalier or 18th Century Rococo gown work with a 19th Century or Victorian era corset. Each respective era gown needs a corset for that specific style.
QUESTION: What's the difference in a "Lingerie" style corset and a "proper" historical Victorian corset? Why can't I just buy one at Victoria Secret or on Ebay to wear with my costume?
The difference is the fabrics, construction, and boning. They are too flimsy. Most of these lingerie corsets are not engineered to offer the necessary support or reduction. They are simply made to look sexy, but they are not functional as a historical under garment. They are fashioned from light weight plastic boning and often polyester satin fabrics that cannot hold up to the pressure or strain of holding your figure "in." While some Victorian corsets can be made of silk, the best fabrics are coutil. Coutil is durable and will not cause you to overheat like synthetics can. A lingerie style corset will never hold up to the rigors of reenacting or offer the necessary support. The grommets in these lingerie type corsets will tear out if any strain is placed on them. They are simply not designed to be functional, but rather are made more for window dressing.
QUESTION Why don't you have samples up of your Victorian, Steampunk, and 18th Century designs?
My Renaissance clothing is some of the highest quality available on the world-wide-web! That's not a boast. My calendar is FULL - a year in advance - consistently; therefore, I have had very little time to work on my samples! I have several Victorian costumes cut out, sitting in my "to do" list! I hope with the addition of an intern that I can begin producing my designs and hopefully broaden my client base - and start creating more themed wedding gowns!
QUESTION: Why are your pieces so expensive! - Especially your embroidered chemises and partlets?
Unless you can sew, it's hard to understand the amount of time, skill, and expense required to create Haute Couture. Would you let a medical receptionist operate on you? Yes, they work in the medical field, but they haven't invested the years of education it takes to be a surgeon. That analogy works for "seamstresses" and a "professional costumer."
Put simply, what I do is highly specialized, and there really aren't many out there whose work can compare. I know that sounds arrogant, but it's not arrogance - it's the product of my personal research and feedback from my clients. There are a plethora of shops on Etsy and Ebay who are selling "costumes" - but very few - if any - offer the same quality that I do. What sets my work apart is how sturdily constructed they are, and my attention to detail. I design clothing - they offer "costumes." There is a HUGE difference. I offer authentic historically patterned clothing, custom drafted for each individual client, and highly detailed and embellished. Some of my chemises are highly embellished with embroidery. While the machine may do a large amount of the work, I have to monitor, line up, switch colors, and it is extremely time consuming to replicate 50 to 60 of the same patterns in one garment.
QUESTION: Do I purchase my own fabrics?
Yes, but not without my assistance. I take your ideas, throw in a few of my own, make a sketch and then advise you on what fabrics work best, but more importantly what fabrics work best for your budget.
QUESTION: I ordered my fabrics and they aren't the color I thought it was?
I cannot stress how important it is to order SWATCHES before you purchase your fabrics. It is worth the wait, because the colors you see on your computer screen do not represent the true color of the fabric you will receive.
Some vendors don't offer exchanges on uncut-fabrics. Silk Baron will exchange your uncut fabrics for a restocking fee of $2.00 per yard.
To avoid delays and disappointment, I highly recommend ordering multiple color swatches and choose your shades that way. It takes a bit more time to actually get started, and often times in all the excitement and enthusiasm it's tempting to place an order on fabrics you find on line. But it's worth it to order your fabrics once, rather than have to send them back. Ordering swatches will allow you to do that!
QUESTION: How many colors should there be in ONE ensemble?
No more than THREE!! - And they should harmonize according to their relationship on the color wheel.
In fashion design there is a basic premise all of the TOP designers use. It is called, "Three Color Dressing." The principle to this method is to use no more than three colors in any outfit you put together. That includes your accessories, like your shoes!
The same principles apply to designing historical clothing. Think that is over pedantic (perfectionistic)? - Absolutely not! Nothing can cheapen an outfit faster than adding too many colors for your trims, forepart, sleeves, pipping, etc. When you look at someone, your eyes naturally travel from head to toe. The idea is to create harmonious transitions from one color to the next. By choosing colors on the color wheel that harmonize, your ensemble will look rich and elegant even if your fabrics are not terribly expensive. If your color pallet is well thought-out, and you use color methodically, your gown or ensemble will appear to be more elegant and costly. When you start pairing colors together that are NOT harmonious, or not in relationship to one another, it won't matter if you have purchased the most expensive fabrics on the planet your ensemble will look gawdy, over-done, and cheap. Unless your goal is to look like a court jester, stick to no more than THREE colors, using the Triad concept I outlined above.
Now, there is ONE exception to this rule, and that is for embroidery! Many polychromatic (multiple colored) embroidery patterns have more than three colors. If you want to add pops of color THIS is where your ensemble can shine. But please don't use four or five colors of fabric and spread them out in the design. It's NOT period; and I will bet you dollars to donuts such an outfit will not past muster with the faire board or producers. Again, unless you're hiring me to make you a "Fools" ensemble or a "Court Jester," I won't design a gown with more than three colors, but rather will decline the commission.
QUESTION: How long does it take to finish an ensemble?
Generally, I give myself three months per outfit - but some take longer. While it is possible for me to work on two costumes at a time, I generally don't like to skip back and forth too much between projects; though I do work on embroidery for more than one ensemble at a time. As an artist, I really like to focus my energy on one project at a time; but also, I fill orders for accessories (hats, french hoods, partlets, etc) at the same time and have to constantly juggle my time.
Another factor in my "turn-around times" is that I like to be guided by artistic inspiration. I always begin your order with a general "design concept," but I'll be perfectly honest, sometimes a concept I sketch on paper doesn't always come through in the actual gown/ensemble. If you talk to any of my loyal clients, who have ordered several designs from me, they will tell you it's not uncommon for me to contact them and say, "Hey! I had an idea!" Therefore, I like to give myself a bit of wiggle room.
I work VERY hard to stick to a deadline, but sometimes "life" happens; a machine breaks down....or I break down! While I do have some budding seamstresses I've been mentoring that I can call on in a pinch to help with bead-work and some of the simpler aspects, I am a perfectionist; therefore, I like to stay hands on with all my designs. So unless or until I can clone myself, I need a minimum of Three months! - - SIX months for Wedding Gowns. But keep in mind my schedule stays booked out often a year out, so it will take preparation on your end. Please don't wait three months before your event; contact me a year in advance!
QUESTION: How soon should I order/send you my fabrics?
Preferably TWO months in advance of your time slot on my calendar; otherwise, you risk losing your spot, and having to be rescheduled for the next available opening; however, you also risk losing your entire deposit. Please read my Store Policies.
I am booked out back-to-back a year in advance. It is a rare occasion that I am not. I absolutely need the ENTIRE time allotment set aside. For example, if I have you on my schedule to begin in May, I will need to have your fabrics shipped to me two months in advance of May 1st - - or two months in advance of your allotted time.
Please do not wait until a month or two before your time slot arrives to begin ordering fabrics. Often there are unforeseen delays - back ordered fabrics, shipping the wrong color which requires time to exchange them and reorder, or delays in shipping due to Holidays. Planning ahead will allow for such delays. If you wait, and your fabrics are not delivered to me by the 1st of the month of your scheduled time slot, you run the risk of having to reschedule for my next open slot - which can mean several months or even a year (depending on my schedule) before I can start on your order.
Please make sure you prepare ahead of time. Once your time slot arrives, and you have not yet ordered fabrics, my schedule does not permit me to "squeeze" your ensemble in with another client's order. Please be considerate of those who have also been waiting, and plan ahead for unavoidable delays that might arise!
QUESTION: Why do you require a 40% Deposit to hold a spot on your calendar?
Basically, I have found if someone is willing to place a deposit to hold a spot, they are usually committed to the project. Too many times I receive inquiries from those interested in hiring me to design an ensemble and I subsequently spend many hours consulting, sketching, searching for fabrics and embroidery patterns, or historical resources for them, working up a labor estimate, only for them to fade into the sunset. A 40% deposit is my guarantee that my time will be compensated, whether or not a client cancels their order later down the road. When I place someone on my calendar I will be turning other committed clients away. Should a client subsequently cancel, or procrastinate the purchase of their supplies and cause me any delays, this 40% deposit is a guarantee that I will not incur a loss. It also encourages prompt monthly lay away payments, and weeds out those who really aren't serious about placing an order.
QUESTION: Do you only make 16th Century court clothing? - or do you make Middle Class, Merchant, and peasants?
I absolutely will make lower class clothing. I started out with Elizabethan peasant or commoner clothing, and I still offer them! In fact, it's kind of refreshing to get back to basics, and I can turn out peasant garb in much less time! I offer the same high quality construction in lower class clothing as I do the upper.
QUESTION: Can you make your french hoodsand gowns, etc., with more traditional embellishments?
Yes! Although I love to be creative, and meld traditional with a bit of theatrical flare, I love the more traditional styles using trims, brocades, etc. My designs can be as strict or as loosely based as you desire. I design what my clients ask me to design, or what your budget can afford!
Each Designs From Time ensemble is created to meet my exacting standards, and I am a perfectionist! All my bodices - whether working class or noble - are CUSTOM DRAFTED to fit each individual client. That service alone is a value of $150 for time and materials. My bodices are not cookie-cut patterns, nor do I approach my designs with a "one size fits most" concept using a commercial pattern source that you HOPE will fit. Rather than trying to make your body fit into a commercial pattern, I take the time and added effort to custom drape and draft a pattern to fit YOUR unique figure. You may find reproduction clothing that is cheaper in cost, but a bargain isn't a bargain if what you're buying is substandard workmanship. My designs are clothing NOT costume. My bodices are among the sturdiest your money can buy. They aren't two pieces of fabric slapped together with grommets that will tear away from the fabric after being worn a few times. Metal grommets are not historically accurate, but for the purposes of longevity I use them. I have developed a unique, tried and true method of anchoring my grommets so that they will NOT tear away from your fabrics - In addition, each grommet is hand-couched using matching embroidery floss that is sealed to prevent fraying and will wear longer. All of my skirts are hemmed by HAND - they are not hemmed by the sewing machine! That, I feel, is a lazy cheat! There are many Couture (hand sewn) features in all of my work, such has hand sewing all grosgrain ribbons and trims. It may take more time, but I take great pride in each piece I make. The quality you see pictured is the quality that you receive. I have one of the best reputations for quality and customer service in the industry, and I stand by my work.
QUESTION: I noticed most of your work is for the 16th Century (Elizabethan). Do you design for other eras?
Yes! By popular demand much of my work has encompassed the Elizabethan and early Tudor time period, but I am more than capable of designing 18th Century, Victorian, and Steampunk and Cosplay. Elizabethan costume is actually MUCH more intricate than other eras.
Designs From Time
QUESTION: Do you use metal stays? I was told they are superior?
It depends on the era I am designing for, and it depends on the individual client's preference. For 19th Century (1800s Victorian) corsets I use a combination of light weight metal and flexible steel. Metal stays were not invented until the 19th century when whale bone became too expensive.
For the 18th Century (1700s) I will use reed or cording upon request, however, as I mention on my corset page, stays that are boned with cane or reed cannot be washed. I use a combination of synthetic baleen (whale bone) and industrial strength cable ties (just like Lauren from American Duchess). I will use featherweight metal, but only on half-boned stays due to the cost. Again, metal stays were not used in this time period, but many costumers have convinced the public that metal is superior - but that isn't really accurate.
For 16th Century working class kirtles or bodices I use Rigilein for my channels and add 1/4 inch metal stays. I use the same technique in my Elizabethan corsetry. I do not heavily "stay" my kirtles unless they are for the nobility to wear beneath a Tudor style gown which was worn in lieu of a corset. Working class kirtles were not stayed. They were fashioned from three layers of wool or linen or both. Technically, metal stays are no more accurate than cable ties or synthetic baleen.
QUESTION: I was told plastic boning warps and isn't desirable for a quality corset or stays?
Many 16th Century and 18th Century costumers use metal stays as a "selling" point to insinuate that a garment made with metal stays is superior to one made with synthetic boning, however, this not necessarily the case - at least not in such a broad sweeping statement. In the 15 years I have been designing historical costumes I have found that it really depends on the synthetic materials used. Many costumers use an over-abundance of metal boning in 16th Century kirtles and bodices, and it isn't necessary! The true argument boils down to personal choice. Synthetic boning materials have been given a bad rep, therefore, many reenactors have just simply swept all synthetic products off the shelf branding them as inferior. But, if your goal is historical accuracy, and you use metal stays in 16th or 18th Century corsetry and bodices, technically you've just defeated your purpose. I have found that using a combination of 125 to 225 psi cable ties with 75 psi cable ties do not warp like some plastics do, and they hold up just fine with women who are larger breasted.