When writing this post, I initially started writing about how a problem facing many historical costumers is carrying all of our bits and bobs when many dresses come without pockets, and how finding appropriately period purses can be difficult. And I was going to talk about how that’s what prompted me to want a chatelaine, which was basically a multi-tool for 19th century women… but then I had to admit to myself that my desire for a chatelaine really had nothing to do with needing to carry stuff with me, and everything to do with it just looking really cool.
So what is a chatelaine? Basically it’s a hook or pin that women would attach to their belt/waistband. It would have several chains hanging from it, and dangling from the chains would be an assortment of useful items– pencils, watches, perfume vials, buttonhooks, needle cases, notebooks, coin purses… basically anything a woman might want to have handy.
Of course, these items weren’t strictly utilitarian– many chatelaines were made of silver, gorgeously embellished, and just generally decorative. Here are some of my favorites, mostly from the 1880s-1890s:
So, with all of this beautiful inspiration, is it any wonder I wanted one for myself?
The problem, of course, is that antique chatelaines with any attachments at all tend to sell for no less than $200, and easily reaching $2,000 depending on condition and complexity. I wasn’t about to spend that much, so I had to improvise.
As I’ve mentioned before, I like to make baby blankets as gifts for friends and family with new babies. The quilted kind is fun, since I get to pick a bunch of cute coordinating fabrics, but I also love cut chenille blankets– they may be a bit more trouble to make (okay, a lot more trouble), but the results are just amazing.
Making cut chenille is easy, but time-consuming. You’ll need:
Main fabric (the cute one that’s going to show)
4 layers of flannel in coordinating colors*
Thread in a color that’s unnoticeable when stitched on top of your main fabric.
Thread in a color that’s unnoticeable when stitched on top of your backing fabric.
1/2 yard fabric to make binding
*I’ve previously used three layers only, but then you sometimes end up seeing the back side of your main cotton fabric between the rows of chenille. I’d prefer not to, so I’m using four layers this time and only cutting through three of them.
So now that things have settled down a bit, I wanted to do a post about Costume College this year! As you may recall, I had a great time last year, so I’ve been excited to go back! You’ve already seen the making-of posts for the costumes I wore, and my favorite shots of the beetlewing gown, but here’s a summary of the rest of the weekend!
Before even arriving at the conference hotel, we stopped by the Fashion District to shop– and when I say “stopped by,” I mean “shopped for five hours straight.” I ended up with 17 yards of fabric, plus assorted other items, that (with luck) will be showing up in future posts!
Once the dress was structurally complete I got started on the belt (which had to sit a certain way over the dress to look right). The original belt for the gown appears to have been made of metal links with a raised design on them– the belt wraps twice around the waist and ties in front with a length of twisted fabric.
Initially I thought I’d repurpose some belly-dancing belts with similar metal links to make my own belt, but they were pretty expensive and didn’t have the right overall look– too much filigree, not quite the right shape. I decided to make my own, because deciding to spend ridiculous amounts of time and effort to closely replicate a costume element that I’d intended to shortcut is apparently what I do.
Since I didn’t have the time, knowledge, or supplies to make my own stamped metal links (yet), I opted to use thick black cardstock– it’s called “museum board” and it’s pretty stiff while still being cuttable. I figured that once painted with metallic paint, the links would be close enough to pass for a stage costume.
To go with the “Bar” suit, I needed some bar-themed accessories that were in keeping with the overall look (so no shot-glass necklaces or coaster epaulettes).
I started with the handbag, which began life as an acrylic purse shaped like a perfume bottle.
It’s also shaped almost exactly like a bottle of Disaronno liqueur, so I decided to replace the “Paris” label with a faux Disaronno label to keep with the “bar” theme.
I took an image of the label and tweaked it to the proper dimensions (2.5″ wide x 2″ tall, in case you wanted to know), then printed it out onto ivory cardstock before filling in a few bits of color with a red pen.
My daughter decided this year for Halloween to be Kiki, from Kiki’s Delivery Service.
The black dress, red bow, and broom were simple to come by, as was the little stuffed cat (Gigi), but for some reason she focused in on the orange messenger bag as a crucial element of her costume, particularly as it would hold tons of candy for trick-or-treating.
Unfortunately, inexpensive orange messenger bags can be hard to come by, particularly if they need to be lightweight enough for a 6-year-old to carry around all night while full of candy. I had basically given up the search when I noticed an orange cotton sateen blazer on the rack at Goodwill that was crying out to be converted into a bag.
I recently started watching The Good Place. To be more specific, I had a free weekend and decided to try watching an episode on Netflix, and before I knew it I’d binge-watched the first two seasons and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the third. It’s just such a fun show! (I promise no spoilers for season 3 if you haven’t seen any episodes yet)
One of my favorite characters has got to be Janet– basically Siri or Alexa come to life. The actress, D’Arcy Carden, delivers her lines with a deadpan helpfulness that cracks me up every time, and her costumes are reminiscent of vintage flight attendant uniforms in a way that evokes the same feeling.
So with Halloween fast approaching (and a newfound awareness that it’s always nice to have an easy, casual daytime outfit for more involved costume convention weekends), I decided to put together a Janet costume.
I originally planned on finding a purple suit to start with, but it was harder than I’d anticipated to find one– mostly because all of the suits had pencil skirts instead of flared skirts. The closest I came was a wool suit with a pleated skirt, but the pleats bugged me and I’d still have to convert the jacket to a vest. I would have to start from scratch.