wilhelmina frame

Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award!

Color me shocked and delighted to be nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award by Jeanette of The Perfect Touch. I don’t have a ton of blog followers, although I think I get a few more readers via my reposts to Facebook. It means a lot to me that Jeanette tapped me for this honor. I am not the most prolific blogger but I try really hard to make well written, interesting and entertaining posts. It seems that I’ve succeeded! Thank you Jeanette!

And now, the fine print!

The Official Award Rules are:
1.  Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
2.  Put the Award logo on your blog.
3.  Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4.  Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
5.  Nominate ten blogs.

Numbers 1 & 2, CHECK!

On to Number 3, Jeanette’s Questions:
1.  What is your favorite fabric?
For sewing, probably broadcloth cotton. For wearing, anything soft.

2.  What era would you most like to visit?
The Victorian era around the turn of the century, when everything was happening with technology and the world started to change at a high rate of speed. Or maybe the late 1960s into the 70s. It seemed to be a completely insane time to party and the music would be fab.

3.  Does anyone else in your family share your hobby/hobbies?
My mom and grandma were sewers, knitters and crocheters. My nana was crafty too. Between all of them I got a firm start in sewing and crafting. They gave me my start and eventually, I ran with it.

4.  What part of the world have you not seen and would love to visit?
I’ve always been interested in travel and I have been extremely lucky to have already visited many of my “dream” destinations. There’s still lots of places I haven’t been though. Prague, Moscow, Budapest, Iceland, Hawaii, Seattle and Egypt are some places I haven’t gotten to yet.

5.  Dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

6.  Have you ever ridden a horse?
Yes, but honestly, they scare me.

7.  Do you have your blog printed?

8.  Are you a morning person?
Absolutely not.

9.  Have you invented something?
No. Well maybe some embarrassing dance…

10.  Do you use Pinterest?  If so, how many pins do you have?
Yes. 7k is what it’s telling me.

My nominees are both established and newer bloggers. Time to give them all the love! And Make them answer all the questions!

My Bloggesses:

1.  Gina @ Beauty From Ashes
2.  Fanny @ Temps d’elegance
3.  Anne @ Dogwood Girl
4.  Breanna @ The Lady Nerd
5.  Cat @ The Gluttonous Geek
6.  Diana @ Beyond Victoriana
7.  Megan @ Shoes Before Stitches
8.  Lauren @ American Duchess
9.  Lara @ To Dream Out Loud
10.  Kat @ Madame Modiste

My Questions:

  1. What is your favorite part about blogging?
  2. What is least favorite part about blogging?
  3. Why do you blog?
  4. What was the last project (sewing, craft or otherwise) you completed?
  5. Cats or Dogs?
  6. Do you have a blogging soundtrack?
  7. Do you have a blogging “hero”?
  8. Who is your favorite writer?
  9. Who is your favorite artist?
  10. Who would you push off a cliff?

Thanks again for the nomination, Jeanette!!!

Things I Forgot To Mention From 2014, Part 2: Totoro

You might have noticed from my last post that I have been, in some ways, spending the start of 2015 in the past.  I figured why not continue that theme with the 2nd installment of “Things I Forgot to Mention from 2014”.

You might remember that I never finished running down my costumes from DragonCon. My epic Sunday cosplay was The Blue Totoro Bustle Gown. I did this cosplay with my great friend, designer and costuming cohort Ms. Megan Maude. We were at my house one night far too close to DragonCon brainstorming our cosplays. We were sort of at a loss. I mentioned Totoro and her eyes lit up. Yes. We were going to do this!

“You said you you liked hand sewing…” Image by Leo Photography 2014.

We decided to make bustle dresses that were recognizable both as Totoro inspired and also as straight up Victorian fashion. We both wanted to make gowns that were period fashion appropriate versus some odd semi-historic fantasia. This gown seemed very doable to me as I have made several bustle gowns and I had all the foundations ready to go. It was much more work for Megan who was new to this period of sewing and also had to make her bustle and undergarments.

It was decided, due to our considerable height difference, that Megan would be the main gray Totoro and I would be the small blue Totoro. We discussed designs and even got into a couple of heated discussions about what was and wasn’t appropriate. In the end, we went with this:

Totoro Bustle Design Sketch. Drawing by Megan Maude.

You can see some of the variations we discussed on the right side — how many pleats, what do to at the cuff. The only non-historial concession we made was to add the Totoro ears to our bonnets. We had a design and were ready to sew our respective dresses.

We used all patterns from Truly Victorian. The 1884 French Vest Bodice with a modified square neckline for the bodice. The 1885 Four-Gore Underskirt with no modifications for the skirt and hats from the 1880s French Bonnet Frame.

My fabric was white and periwinkle Kaufmann Essex Linen Blend (55% Linen / 45% Cotton). I bought a small piece of bright green linen to make ginkgo leaves for my bonnet. The leaves, beyond being a super cute Totoro reference served to cover some of my hat’s wonkiness and my needle puncture blood stains. I bag lined my bodice per the Truly Victorian pattern using some vintage cotton curtains that had been gifted to me. I thought the texture, color and pattern of the curtains matched the mood of the gown perfectly. I had the lining cut out and then realized that there was actually a tear in one of my pieces. So I added a funny little patch since there was no more curtain to cut another piece.  I also happened to find some perfect leaf buttons so I added those as accents to the collar, cuffs and above the back bodice pleats.

Vintage curtain lining complete with patch and leaf button details.

Megan opted to finish with facings, thinking that it would end up being a cooler garment to wear in the DragonCon swelter. This is actually the more historically accurate way to finish but ended up being a bit of a frustrating choice for the hand sewing adverse Ms. Maude.

I made a little reticule out of some natural cotton and a drawstring made of braided hemp twine. The blue Totoro always seems to be running around with a sack and this was extra convenient for my cell phone, cash and hand fan.

We were both thrilled with how our gowns turned out and had a fabulous time on promenade Sunday night. I have to say this was probably the most squee-able cosplay I have ever done. The squees were audible as we heard people exclaim “OMG Totoro!” and the like. We also had our share of people wanting photo ops. I think I pretty much giggled and smiled the entire time we wore the gowns!

Classic Totoro by RBC Image.

I even have a Totoro fan in my hand. RBC Image

Urban Totoros by RBC Image.

Bum Rush to Dragon Con

I’m deep in the sewing bum rush to Dragon Con. I have a little over a week to get my new cosplays complete. While I am feeling optimistic, I still have a lot of work to do. Baring a complete meltdown of my sewing machine, fingers or brain here is a teaser of what you should see from me:

My planned nighttime cosplays for Dragon Con 2014.

None of these cosplays are literal — especially the wizard for Saturday night. And none of them are done either! Although one is pretty close. My daytime outfits will be my Lion Tamer on Saturday and something TBD for Tea Duelling on Sunday. I’ll be taming lions (and con goers) at The Clockwork Carnival (Alt. History Track) at 2pm on Saturday. I step into my role as Tiffin Master of The American Tea Duelling Society at the Dragon Con Tea Duelling Tournament (Alt. History Track) at 1pm on Sunday. I will also be on the Costuming Track panel Plus Sized Cosplay on Monday at 11:30am. Other than that I’ll be running about, causing havoc and breaking hearts. Or something like that. 

Back to the sewhole!

Stars and Stripes Style

I hope everyone (well everyone American) had a great time celebrating Independence Day and the long holiday weekend. I’ve always liked the 4th. My family always went to a big 4th of July parade or some years I was even in the parade. Fireworks are pretty too but I have kind of a love / hate relationship with them because they are way too loud for me. I guess I’m kind of like my dog in this. He’s not so fond of them either.

It’s taken me a bit to get excited about the fashion possibilities of Old Glory and the red, white and blue. I’ve been a big fan of the Union Jack for pretty much ever but it took me longer to appreciate the stars and stripes.

For several years I’ve attended The Asylum, the UK’s (and maybe Europe’s) largest Steampunk weekender. It’s very popular there, and to some degree Steampunk events in general, to wear fashions that reference and incorporate the Union Jack. The Union Jack is way less “sacred” than the American Flag so it is deconstructed often. As one of the few Americans who makes the trip to The Asylum, I thought it would be entertaining one year to make an “America” dress in defiance of all the Union Jack dresses. I was extra emboldened with patriotic hutzpah after I saw Alyson Brewer’s Welsh flag dress at Steampunk at the Seaside.

I pulled a lot of different stars, stripes and liberty themed images. The majority of them were patriotic art and illustrations versus fashion drawings. In the end, I was inspired by an actual Victorian dress.

Inspiration for my 1890s Americana Ball Gown

I am not exactly sure the provenance of the gown. The tumblr I pulled the image from says this:

The period between 1876 (the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence) and 1883 (the hundredth anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War) saw a huge number of American themed fancy dress balls.

This beautiful Stars & Stripes themed dress was made for such a ball between between 1880 and 1882.

I don’t know if I agree with the dating of the dress. 1880 to 1882 would have most likely made this a bustle gown. This could be the case but without another view it’s hard to tell.

Needless to say it became obvious that there was no way I could make an Americana gown for that year’s (2013) Asylum so I tabled it. As it turned out, I didn’t finish my other flag dress — a pinstriped natural form Union Jack inspired “suit” — in time for Asylum either.

Post Asylum, I was prepping for another Steampunk event, Teslacon. Teslacon’s 2013 theme was “Congress of Steam”. It was supposed to be a “United Nations of Steampunk”. International representation and flair was highly encouraged. I’d already finished my Union Jack dress so about a month out from Teslacon, I decided to go for it and make the Americana dress as my ball gown.

I used Truly Victorian’s 1892s Ballgown Bodice and 1898 Walking Skirt straight up with no changes. I had several stash yards of poly silk in basically the same color as my inspiration dress. I omitted all the lace of inspiration bodice and went for a cleaner look and large poof ball gown sleeves.

I was worried that I was going to have make the red and white stripes myself by piecing strips of satin. I got lucky and found one (and only one) website that had a red and white striped satin. I ordered a shit ton of navy blue embroidered iron on stars in two sizes from cheeptrims. Supplies all came together nicely which was good because I didn’t have any extra time to waste and I had to wait for them to arrive!

I had no problems until I started trying to figure out the stars. I laid them all out and decided on a design before I did anything permanent. Once I had that figured, I started to iron. It turned out that I couldn’t get my iron hot enough to get the stars to stick without scorching the fabric. Good think I figured that out quickly and while I was still testing! In the end I gave up and attached all the stars with fabric glue. It took a couple of days since I let the sections dry overnight.

The dress was basically done by Teslacon except for sewing of buttons. Who does that before the last minute? I brought all my stars and glue with me in case I had any malfunctions. I decided the dress needed more stars so I laid out and glued a new design all along the dress’s hem about 3 hours before the ball. I also managed to get a little too optimistic about the waistband and made that way too small. Luckily my roommate was able to truss me in with several strategic safety pins.

Here are some great images of the dress by Kellyn Willey of Pin Up Girl Cosmetics. She did my hair and makeup too.

1890s Americana Ball Gown by Wilhelmina Frame aka Gretchen Jacobsen. Photo by Kellyn Willey of Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

1890s Americana Ball Gown by Wilhelmina Frame aka Gretchen Jacobsen. Photo by Kellyn Willey of Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

1890s Americana Ball Gown by Wilhelmina Frame aka Gretchen Jacobsen. Photo by Kellyn Willey of Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

This year we went to a 4th of July anniversary party for friends who got married on July 4, 2004. As everyone was encouraged to come in their patriotic best, a lot of people thought I would show up in my gown. I wasn’t really feeling the corset and satin for this event so I made a more versatile Statue of Liberty dress from Butterick Retro B5748.

Statue of Liberty dress – Butterick Retro 5748

I got the fabric on sale at Hancock’s. It’s a super soft drapey cotton. The lining was a stash piece that I had acquired during my Americana gown research period.

Even the lining is patriotic!

I was going to do a mockup of the bodice but I just sort of winged it instead. The fit was not the best but completely fixable. Overall, I’m happy with how it turned out although I’d like future bodices to fit as the pattern was designed (narrower on the shoulder and with a slightly lower neckline). I definitely plan on making the proper drafting fixes needed for this to happen on my body and then I’ll happily make the pattern again!

I thought I would be cheeky and added a little Russian Lenin badge to my otherwise very Amurika! outfit. No one really noticed, but this commie pinko amurikan was entertained!

Commie Pinko Amurikan!

On the Mend!

I’m getting close to being one month out from my kidney stone surgery. I’m feeling pretty good but I was told that we should wait six weeks to make sure all my swelling and healing is done before we start tests to figure out what I need to do to prevent this kind of thing in the future. So, I’ve got a bit to go in this saga.

I’ve been doing a lot of sewing but all pretty easy stuff. I’m in the run up to costume college but I’m not putting a lot of stress on myself to get big new things done. I think that’s best since I lost a good chunk of May and most of June.

Enough about that! How’s about some awesome images!

Rococopunk Ahoy! Photo by RBC Image / Makeup by Courtney Walters

Unplug the Jukebox Photo by RBC Image / Makeup Courtney Walters

I did some planned additional embellishment to my Rococopunk garb and got some great photos from RBC Image. I hear there could be a few more coming. We’ll just have to see.

Also, I have a two page spread in Surreal Beauty Issue #70 Wild at Heart. Pretty exciting! You can buy a copy at the link and everything.

Oh you want to see the image? OK, here it is. It’s from my first shoot with Nicola Grimshaw-Mitchell of My Boudoir UK. MUAH by Sarah Elliot.

Wilhelmina Frame as featured on pages 8 and 9 of Surreal Beauty Magazine #70: Wild at Heart



Venusian Flora Bustle Gown


Venusian Flora Bustle Gown by Gretchen Jacobsen aka Wilhelmina Frame. Images by Max Egon.

I purchased the skirt fabric on clearance from fabric.com a few years ago. I was super excited about its “Seussian” pods and originally planned to make a tea gown. I was pretty new to buying fabric online and consequently, I didn’t look at the sample photo and accompanying ruler very closely. When the fabric arrived I was surprised and bummed to find that the motifs were much larger than I had realized. So into the stash it went for a while.

Fast forward to me wondering what to make for TeslaCon 2012. TeslaCon is an immersive Steampunk convention. Every year is a new chapter in an overarching storyline. The 2012 the chapter revolved around “A Trip to the Moon”. Con attendees were passengers on a luxury voyage to the moon ala Georges Melies. I thought of my fabulous pod fabric. I also thought of the Ray Bradbury story “All Summer in a Day” (read it here. It’s short) and I had my idea. The pods would become rare flora from the rain planet Venus; exquisite flowers that only bloom for a few hours every seven years when the sun shines.

I used Truly Victorian’s 1883 Tail Bodice with Keyhole Neckline and the 1885 Four Gore Underskirt, modified to have a draped front.  The hat is a vintage find. I replaced the ribbon and netting. The hat brim still had its original decoration of purple flowers. I added purple berries to compliment the pods.

As per usual, I went to TeslaCon still needing to do finishing work on the gown. I had opted to make covered buttons out of the contrast silk I used for the collar and also to line the bottom folds of the tail bodice. I made the covered buttons and sewed them on in my hotel room. The day came to wear the gown but it was all for naught. I put on the skirt and realized that the hem was too long. OK, I will just need to be careful when I walk. And the bodice, despite a perfect fit on the mockup (maybe too perfect?) was a little too small. I just need to tie my corset just a little…bit…tighter. I started buttoning. Covered buttons from kits have a dome shape. I had set my button hole foot to the correct diameter, but the holes ended up being too small because I did not allow for the curve of the dome shaped button. Still determined I began forcing the buttons through the holes. One button popped off its shank. I had an extra. Two buttons popped from the shank. I had yet another extra. Three buttons broke from the shank. And that was it. The bodice was unwearable. The outfit was a fail. So close but yet so far.

It sat until early this year when I decided to give the gown another go. I found perfect gold and pink buttons, in two sizes! Fixed all the button holes by hand. Redid the berries on the hat. Fixed (sort of — it’s still a little too long) the hem. I don’t have to tie my corset quite as tight as I did at TeslaCon 2012. The Venusian Flora Bustle Gown successfully made its belated debut at AnachroCon 2014.


Travelogue de Mode: Bath Fashion Museum

About this time last year, I visited the Bath Fashion Museum in Bath, England. It’s a great small museum with a rotating collection. The big draw when I was there was 50 Fabulous Frocks, a showcase of fifty dress to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the museum.

I wrote a little piece about it for Steampunk Chronicle.

I also made a little video of my photos.

By the way, Steampunk Chronicle is now in the voting stage for the 2014 Reader’s Choice Awards. If you are interested take a look and vote. You will need to register with the site to do so! I was nominated as Best Dressed Female in 2012 and 2013.