For the first time since the start of the costuming track, I made it to the track room in M103-105 (M) for their 2PM panel, “Fabrics: Proper Choices and Embellishments.” After some initial technical difficulties, the panel got underway with Freddie Clements showing some examples of garments that were at the base the same–and took the same amount of time to make–but were wholly different thanks to taking a little extra time to research what kinds of fabrics and trim to use. “Gold or shiny trim isn’t always better,” Clements warned.
Chris Muller then took over with a discussion on how to handle needing fabric in a city without a fashion/garment district. In this instance, mail ordering fabric is your best bet, and Muller suggested starting by requesting or ordering swatches or a swatch book, sometimes called a sample book. This way, you get to see what the different colors actually look like under natural light, but most importantly, you get to feel the different fabrics for weight and texture. Muller shared the various mail order fabric companies he’s found to be the best priced and his contacts there.
The discussion then turned to working with lycra and spandex and how to go about researching what kind of fabrics were used in a given period of time. Sasha Chernova’s advice about spandex is to use a zig-zag stitch on a sewing machine. As for research, Sasha recommends going to museums and looking at paintings from the time period you’re recreating.
Mary Abreu continued the panel with her take on adding embellishments through embroidery and screen-printing. Abreu took the audience through a home-made screen-printing how-to using a needle working frame and cheap sheer curtains or a valence. The technique included tracing a design onto the valence with a pencil before painting the parts of the design you do not want to show up onto your garment with cheap acrylic paint and thinned down fabric paint. For embroidery, Abreu insists that any seamster or seamstress should use an interfacing textile to strengthen the fabric.
Pamela Cole ended the panel with a discussion on researching historical recreations. Cole, who has 40 years of experience as a professional costumer, brought out several pattern books and paper doll books. The paper doll books, Cole noted, tended to have reproductions of garments seen in source materials, down to the trim. Also included was a reproduction of a 1909 mail order catalog. Cole said that mail order catalogs included everything from undergarments to outerwear, and when possible reproductions of the actual photographs are included.
If you have any interest in costuming, take a trip down to the costuming track room. If you don’t have time for a panel, there is a mini-museum of some beautiful, elaborate costumes on display during the convention.