Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thoughts of a Millinery Collector : Atelier Angel and I Do Declare

Welcome to another installment in my millinery series! In this entry I really wanted to showcase more indie made items that go above and beyond in the handmade category. Both these women, are in my opinion, sensational and acclaimed in their sewing skills. But  as well as being accomplished in these fields they have been known to dabble in the millinery department and are quite astounding in that craft as well. So while I wanted to present some of their millinery works, I additionally want to touch on their main focus of their talent, sewing. I took great pleasure in being able to interview D.C. local, Atelier Angel, and Ney York native, I Do Delcare, so please enjoy! 

First headpiece is from I Do Declare, one of her handmade lace hats. I commissioned this piece after Rufflecon 2014 as I had instantly fallen in love with her pieces. I originally had no idea that she actually handmade the wide brim felt hats, but when I received my finished product in the mail I was so surprised. I had never imagined this was what she was doing and I was awestruck and immediately a devoted IDD fan.

The hat itself is a soft sturdy felt and looks pretty normal from the top. There is also a simple grosgrain ribbon attached and a bit of a curve on the top to tell the hat has been shaped. But when lifted, the hat has an almost halo-esque appearance due to the hand stitched lace on the underside.

You can see how the hat is hand cut for its length and the brim folded over and sewn in the top photo. There is also a hand sewn sweatband and haircomb to help keep it on your head in photos below. The hat is a great depth and perches well as a regular hat or tilted to showcase the halo look.

Her attention to detail and the craftsmanship in her hats are outstanding, but I feel that these are just a teaser to the amount of work she does with her clothes. 
This is easily one of my favorite hats that I own because I adore the wide brim and sleeper feel vibe it gives until you look up. I really hope to get another soon in a more muted halo one day. 
Hey Kelsey! Thanks for taking the time to do this Q and A. How long have you been into millinery and sewing?
I started sewing when I was around twelve. I had my mom teach me so that I could make my own Halloween costumes! I didn't like the ones that came in those plastic bags and was determined to do better.

What inspires you when you think about creating a piece, sewing, or otherwise?
I always draw from history. I'll be going through a book or visiting a museum and thing "ah that's a sleeve I have to try out" or "I've got to pleat something that way" nine times out of ten I'll build a piece around something like that. The rest just falls into place.

So do you sell at conventions, and are there other items or areas you are focusing on now?I do sell at some conventions. I always try to get into Otakon and Rufflecon, but I'm moving more toward doing custom pieces and working on having a piece or two produced in a factory. 

Tell us about your lolita sewing patterns, is there anything you have coming up that you'd like to share?

I've been working with a pattern maker in Cleveland to have my patterns made factory ready. My own patterns are ones I've made myself so I know their quirks, but you can't send that off to a factory! I'm waiting on the first factory made sample of process.my Enchanted Blade print to come back to me before starting the pre-order 

When drafting a piece together, whether it be millinery or dress making is there anything you watch or read to help with the creative process?
I always love to have some sort of background noise when I work on things. Old BBC documentaries are my staple but for the last collection I worked on I ended up listening to a bunch of old Bob Vila episodes! Quite a change from historians telling me about the Northern 
Photo by Yanise

Are there certain materials that you like working with more than others when working on projects?
I adore heavy fabrics, velvets and brocades are my favorite! I also love working with silk taffeta and dupioni. I always want my pieces to have a really special feeling and there is something about the weight of a wool or a high quality brocade gown that has that. I also really like doing small hand sewn details. Things that can't be replicated by a machine especially. And having a lining in a surprising fabric is something I like too. Like a bit of lace trim on the inside of the dress that only the wearer sees; d
etails like that make things feel special to me.

Photo by Xin Photography
Here is I Do Declare's facebook, and for latest updates be sure to also check their instagram and  etsy.

My second showcase is for the infamous halo bonnet by Atelier Angel. This bonnet was actually a piece she had made for herself and you can follow the process of its creation cataloged in her tumblr here, here, here, and here. As an avid follower of her sewing projects, her dabbling into bonnet making was really quite inspirational and wonderful to keep up as she progressed with its construction. It was a very rare opportunity to procure this one of a kind item and such a stellar piece of lolita millinery and to record date by far the crown jewel of my collection.

The bonnet came with a triple ribbon bow with pearls as well spare parts if any of the other pats should get lost or go missing. Such a doll! The amount of pinning, blood, sweat and hand sewing doesn't really show in the close ups but it had to be an unimaginable amount. The detail work is incredible and you can even see the where its hand sewn across the bottom of the brim.

The bonnet is actually three different shades of gold and with the way its constructed; it gives it a lot of textured depth when worn, especially with the accompaniment of intricate trim covered with varied sized of pearls. The back of the bonnet is equally as refined and you can actually see the texture created.

So while I'm happy to own this wonderful piece, it is a bit of a challenge to wear sometimes! The reason is, I believe the original owners head was a little bit smaller than mine so when worn properly, the bonnet actually kind of bows a bit awkwardly. I have to wear it really forward, but I guess if no one else notices it doesn't really matter, haha. I'm very very happy that I own this piece and sort of wish she would make more bonnet/hat items; but given the amount of time this one took, I totally see why she plans on not doing it anytime soon or any sort of mass production of such. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a huge lolita inspiration as a friend and to own a piece of her work makes it all that much more a special sentimental piece for me.

How long have you been into millinery and sewing?
I've been sewing since 2000. Mostly cobbled together cosplay costumes with high school friends. But I didn't get serious about apparel sewing until I became interested in lolita fashion in 2003. Japanese brands didn't ship overseas and going through a shopping service was quite daunting and expensive at that time. I've always liked working with my hands, so I decided to teach myself how to sew for real. Admittedly it was a lot of trial and error at first, but overall a very rewarding skill. Some people still remember my Antique Beast rococo OP replica I made from 2005 when I meet people even now. I tried my hand at millinery for the first time 2 years ago when hard brimmed bonnets came in fashion. With a wired under-structure, the piece becomes even more sculptural in nature and that opens up a whole different door of possibilities. I just hate all the hand sewing that’s involved. 

What inspires you when you think about creating a piece, sewing or otherwise?
I  tend to get fixated on a specific element or technique that I want to figure out. For example, for my red and gold Elizabethan dress, I wanted to try my hand at drafting slashed sleeves as well as constructing a fully internally boned bodice. It’s not historically accurate at all since I picked and chose which elements I thought were fun to make. I think of sewing as problem solving and I’m actually more drawn to the pattern drafting aspect than the finishing touches. Once I’ve figured out the puzzle, I tend to lose interest. So most of my larger pieces are one-of-a-kind because I never have the same level of motivation in remaking something.  That said, there are times that I just fall in love with a fabric, and I have to design the garment around it, like my gold and black Dolce Gabbana inspired dress. 

So you don't sell at conventions anymore, but are there other items or areas you are focusing on now?
I couldn’t keep up with the grueling convention schedule and the travel that it entailed, so I’ve been selling through the Lolita Collective, which I highly recommend in their professionalism and service. I’ve been also trying to transition my shop to mainly providing computer drafted lolita sewing patterns with western sizing and in english. It’s been my dream for many years and I’ve finally launched last year. The first two patterns are available on etsy for immediate pdf download – one is for a wired headbow and the other a smaller otome sized headbow. I’ve been very encouraged by the positive feedback I’ve received so far.

You mentioned starting to do computer drafted lolita sewing patterns, is there anything you have coming up that you'd like to share?
 I’m currently working on a detachable nun collar pattern as well as a bolero pattern. The bolero pattern will be for more intermediate level sewers and it will be graded in 5 sizes to start. The goal is to eventually release at least two new patterns a year with increasing complexity.

When drafting a piece together, whether it be millinery or dress making is there anything you watch or read to help with the creative process?
If the piece is historically inspired, I do research on the construction of the garment from museum pieces and paintings from that time period. Luckily a lot of the collections are now online for viewing, but I’m severely jealous of people who can just pop in on a weekend to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Any period relevant movies also help to get me in the mood. Right now, I’m obsessed with the huge sleeves and nightgowns in Crimson Peak and the huge Edwardian hats in Mr. Selfridge.

Are there certain materials that you like working with more than others when working on projects?I tend to use a lot of pearls, silks, and dot tulle. My friend calls dot tulle, Angel’s tears, because I love the look but working with it makes me cry.

Atelier Angel's facebook can be found here. Her sewing Tumblr and portfolio, and Etsy are also great things to follow. Watch for updates about upcoming sewing tutorials like her upcoming nun collar and bolero digital patterns as well as other neat things!

I'd like to take this time to thank both of these lovely ladies for taking the time to let me ask them some questions and feature their personality and wares. I hope you enjoyed this spotlight and look forward to more from these wonderful folks!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Indie Tights Review : Baroque X Sakizo Antique Frames and Royal Jewelry

When I started wearing lolita, it started a love affair in finding and collecting fashionable tights. Please feel free to tag or share this with other people and please by all means comment questions about any of the brands I review. I am happy to help as best I can. 

My review is a 1 to 5 scale, 5 being the best, in regards to: 
How well the print holds up stretched
Print placement, Crispness, Alignment

I will also list :
Tights inseam to toe
Tall or Petite friendly

For reference in regards to size, I am 5'9"  / 175 cm and my inseam all the way to bottom of heel is 31.5" /  81 cm, hips 40" / 102 cm. The thickest part of my thigh is 23" / 60 cm and calf at  14.76 " / 37.5cm. In the visualization of the tights stretched I used a glass growler which is approx  15.5" / 39cm around.For my original review my reference for petite was 5'0" but  one of my smaller petite friends was so kind to relay some additional info regarding her experience with the lengths of some of the tights as well. She is 4'10" leg inseam 25 "/66cm and shoes size 3.5 / 21cm.

Baroque Frames and Royal Jewelry Collaboration with Sakizo

  • Construction: 4  They were dyed evenly with no smell or residue. The waistband itself is pretty accommodating and the print is pretty and eye pleasing much like the Sakizo pair I reviewed. 
  • Quality: 3.9 Being made of shantung polyester they have a smooth soft feel to them and felt like a good thick denier. The printing was all very well done for having such intricate details, exceptionally so since Sakizo loves to ridiculous detailing in her illustrations.. My main gripe is the wine coloring for this specific pair. I'm not sure if its the color printing or what. It is exactly like my Sakizo pair where the bordeaux is a brownish merlot color, albeit not as bad as the first pair, but still the coloring is a bit of a challenge to match. If you obtain these with a matching main piece from Baroque it should be no problem but matching it to other items may be a challenge. 
  • Elasticity4 They were not as short as the Sakizo pair that I had but still a bit on the short side for my height.They were not very tight around my calves but not so much that I had bunching as if they were too big. The tights were really accommodating around the waistline but pretty snug around my upper thigh. I believe if you are very careful and patient with slow stretching from the ankle up, you can ease the tights to a higher resting point. They did however shrink down to size with no distortion afterwards which was great.
  • How print holds up stretched: 4 The print lightens up quite a bit. But ist still pretty opaque and the print distinctive when I have them worn. They tend to fade considerably over my upper thigh but that can't be seen when wearing a dress or short pants. 
  • Print placement, Crispness, Alignment: 5 The print is really intricate with bold crowns to contrast the dark tone of the tights. Placement is perfect and alignment also on point. These are great in this area.
  • Inseam to toe: 29" / 73.66cm
  • Denier:  80
  • Cost: 35 USD
  • Tall or Petite Friendly: I do not think they would accommodate anyone my height very well if they might have bigger measurements than mine and don't want the print distorted or to potentially rip after a few wears.I would be cautious if you are a taller lolita considering these. For someone smaller than me they would accommodate pretty well, though, they might be a bit big for someone shorter maybe like 5'^" or so

    Here below are some detail shots of Baroque tights :

    Thank you for taking the time to read this review and stay tuned for more as I round out my tights collection.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thoughts of a Millinery Collector: Spotlight on VooDoooDolly

 A while back I was fortunate enough to procure a very special item and add it to my millinery collection. It was a handmade headdress by Mallory, owner of brand VoodoooDolly. I was allowed to commission something tailored after one of her one off test runs that I had fallen in love with. During the production time, I got to do a Q and A about her and her works and am happy to share my findings here with you. At the end I'll be sharing how my headdress came to be and the finished product. All professional and personal photographs have been so graciously donated by VoodooDolly and I again thank her for all of her time and effort!

Materials for a ooak tudor headdress

How long have you been into millinery? 
Millinery is actually a bit of a new world for me as far as my artistic endeavors go! I started playing around with buckram and wool felt after a hat making workshop at Dragon con three years ago. Since then, I’ve used my previous pattern making experience and sewing to play with hats! It was too much fun to not stick with.

What inspires you when you think about creating a piece?
When creating a piece, I have endless inspirations and thoughts constantly flowing through my mind. Even as the piece begins coming together my inspiration might suddenly change or something else will work so much better than what I had planned. I really let the inspiration come from anywhere! My favorites though are traditional costumes from around the world, and historical headpieces from the Tudor and Elizabethan time periods. I could look at Russian Kokoshnik headpieces forever and never run out of inspiration!

When drafting a piece together is there anything you watch or read to help with the creative process? 
I often times find myself putting on historical fiction dramas, or any of the Lord of the Rings movies or Harry Potter films. The historical fiction ones are for when I need some beautiful costume inspiration, and the others are pure background noise. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE lotr and Harry Potter, but I can recite the lines from memory and I think it helps to have a story, but not have to look at the picture on the screen. I had a marathon of The Tudors tv series while making my first headdresses and love any show or movie involving Queen Elizabeth I. Then there’s Salem and Oulander with its gorgeous dresses… I could go on forever!

Are there certain materials that you like working with more than others?
There are materials that I like for their versatility more than others, but I often times find myself experimenting with new things. Buckram, millinery wire, interfacing, and (lots of) beads are my go-to items, but that’s just for the basics. If a piece feels like it’s missing something, I’m not afraid to reach out of my comfort zone and try something new- that’s what keeps me going back to make more!

Handmade Crown

Tudor Headdress

So after getting the idea for a particular piece, about how long does it take from beginning to end? It really varies from piece to piece- but assuming I’ve already gathered all the needed materials, I’d say an average of two weeks. I work a full time job during the day, so as soon as I get home I get right to work. The weekends are my big chunk of time when the majority of the magic happens.

From the looks of some of the hand beaded tudor style headdresses the intricate beading alone looks pretty intense. What areas do you seem to get the most interest from?
The beading or the layering of patterned fabric, lace, and transparent fabrics. I love to make new ‘textiles’ through layering or by really packing beads next to one another. The patterns and play on scale I can create really peak my interest the most.

Some of the headdresses have gained a lot of popularity in the states, do you think you'll be evolving to other kinds of hats and perhaps bonnets in the future?
 I do! I’ve been experimenting a lot lately with more diverse buckram hat patterns and I’ve already got a few worked out J One that I’m excited about is a large brimmed Victorian-style hat with a low profile cap. The other’s are still being worked out to get the patterns juuuuuust right- but they’re almost there!

As far as bonnets are concerned, I don’t see myself making them. So many very talented people already make beautiful bonnets, so I don’t really feel like that’s a niche that needs more filling.  I’ll leave bonnets to the experienced bonnet pros! Also, my poor face looks so bad in bonnets that if I ever pattern tested them, I wouldn’t be able to tell if I’d done a good job or not!!

The Victorian Style Hat

Veiled Tudor headdress

My Headdress experience:

My headdress was very similar to this test run she did in the photo pictured below. It looked perfect for a certain dress I own, Sweet Devil, and it instantly clicked that this was something I needed to get my hands on. 

The Original Rough Draft Piece

My Commissioned Piece

Mallory was exceedingly helpful and provided tons of WIP photos and information. She even went as far as to give me wearing and cleaning instructions for my new piece when it arrived in the mail. The documents included these fantastic small touches like a sealed wax mark. And this was a little awkward to wear at first but with some successful pinning it was a dream and as light as most bonnets I tend to wear.

Below are some photos of the finished product of my headdress. In the first photo it looks like more of a rounded edge but it actually looks more like a heart in person. I got to wear this piece for the first time a San Japan in San Anotonio and it was a superb hit. Since then I've been patiently awaiting to obtain another to match more of my OTT pieces because they are a style all their own.

It was a wonderful experience and I'd like to hope her pieces gain in popularity as the craftsmanship is extraordinary. VoodoooDolly will be vending this year at Rufflecon 2015 in Stramford, CT so please be sure to stop by her booth in the marketplace! If you can not make this event, it I would advise contacting her through her many forms of social media that can be found here: VooDooDolly.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned I have a few more reviews u my sleeve including Baroque's new tight release collaboration with Sakizo!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Traveling Lolita : New Orleans: Mechacon : BTSSB / AATP

This will be another volume in my convention travels in search of new lolita encounters, swag, and the ever elusive perfect tea party experience so thanks for tagging along for the ride. Since my brief excursion a few months ago for a wedding, I was happy to return to New Orleans again for Mechacon, a New Orleans anime convention which sported two jfashion brands this year, H. Naoto as well as Baby the Stars Shine Bright / Alice and the Pirates. 

I want to mention that, sadly, a lot of my photos didn't turn out so some very gracious individuals in the community were kind enough to lend their visuals to make this blog post 9000 times better; so thank you Thomas Lin, Renee Martin, and Amy Ngyuen. ( more of Amy's photos can be viewed by clicking her name which will redirect to her photography page. )

The event this year was held July 17th to the 19th. The badge prices were about as much as a regular conventions ranging from $35 to $55 and the tea party was $50. Since this convention was a bit closer than others that I fly out to, I took the Megabus to New Orleans from here in Austin. The trip in its entirety cost me $9. I'm serious. The longer you plot out your trip the cheaper it is. 

There is also free WiFi, tables, outlets, and reserved seating. I highly recommend using this service as a traveling option instead of driving if you can. Granted this was a longer trip than if I would have flown, but I really can't complain with those kind of prices.

Skipping ahead, the convention itself was laid out over three floors of the Hilton hotel with skyways and underground tunnels connecting the hotel to a kind of boardwalk mall. Everything was pretty well organized except for the registration lines and the large gaps that made it kind of easy for people to cut from one line to the other. A big thing that I particularly enjoyed about this convention was that the block of rooms I was lumped with were on higher level floors. They had their own set of elevators which there was never a line for. On almost every occasion when I wanted to use them there was one already waiting at the floor for me. It was magnificent.

The brand booths were located in the dealers room on the first floor of the convention. I was really surprised that H. Naoto was there since they were not promoted at all like Baby was and for some reason were also not on the roster for the dealers room. Their booth was packed to the gills and a lot of the items they had were sold out on the website so it was cool to be able to try on items that you would normally not have the opportunity to. On the artist alley floor, which was the floor above, there were various booths that catered to lolita as well as an information booth run by the local NOLA Lolita Community.

The Baby brand booth was really well stocked with at least 4 racks of dresses as well as one off sample piece bonnets that were used in the Anime North Fashion show earlier this year. This was Baby San Francisco's first year to attend an event here in Louisiana and the girls did not disappoint in buying them all out. There was also a small changing area as well as mirror so you could try on items, very much like how their set up at PMX was like. Nearly two racks of stock were sold on the first day!

As for in the artist alley the people of the Nola community did something that I have never seen before at a convention. They had a fan table where people interested in the fashion could ask questions and find out more information about lolita related events that were going on during the weekend. I found this to be a sensational idea and a great step in positive education for newcomers and a great way to get to know other lolitas in the area or new to this event.

Photo by Thomas Lin
The booth was all volunteer run and there were samples of different lolita styles as well as educational flyers, mooks, GLBs, and other reading material that interested parties could thumb through and ask the lolitas manning the table about. They also handed out cards which told you about the swap meet, lolita 101 and other good tidbits like the time and place of the fashion shows and tea party event.

On the subjct of other jfashion events, there were indeed lolita 101 panel as well as a swap meet. Suffice to say, these were the best parts of the convention for me since this was such a small con. I really like teaching new people about the ever changing fashion and being able to sit in as well as contribute really meant a lot to me cause I like to mentor.. and stuff.

This lone jacket was the only thing I purchased the entire convention besides food. I know, I suck right?

Incidentally, I procured this garment during the swap meet and bless the young soul who sold it to me. I got so excited I think I scared her to death. I was really bummed that the Baby booth didn't stock anything ouji related or cool headwear except for some ill fitting ( on me ) salopettes but thankfully with the swap meet I didn't go home empty handed. The H. Naoto booth had a ton of really great pieces, but after this lone purchase I was riding the winds and really felt like I didn't need to buy anything else.I took part of the community fashion show that the New Orleans community put on Saturday so I haven't any photos of the event. It was a very big labor of love for all of those who were involved. I got a couple of outfit photos while we were doing rehearsal, but I'm sure if you google Phantasmagoria Fashion Show " some links should pop up for you to view it yourself.

Impromptu photo behind the stage during the kill scene!

There was also a brand fashion show put on Baby the Stars Shine Bright as well Alice and the Pirates. I was a little confused as to why H. Naoto didn't also have a fashion segment but maybe they were just using this convention to test the waters with their company and thats why they were so under the radar. I hope next year they might come to the south again, I would have really liked to see them showcased since they're such a popular alternative Japanese brand as well and the two catering to a broader audience.

Sunday was the day of the tea party and it was held in a room overlooking the river as steamboats came by. The theme was Pirates and Princesses and each individual table was decorated in the theme of New Orleans, lolita fashion with elements of Baby and Alice. They didn't have actual physical tickets which would have been a nice piece of memorabilia as the case with prior events I've attended, but the decor did not disappoint. It was by far some of the prettiest table settings for a tea party I have seen so far.

Photo by Amy Ngyuen
Photo by Amy Ngyuen

When entering the room you got a cork for you number for the raffle and instructions on a game they played throughout the course of the tea party. I liked that this encouraged members to mingle with one another as well as get some face time with the guests in a laid back atmosphere. think this is the first time I've seen this executed so well. At the tables there was a flyer hand drawn by one of the community members as a keepsake which was really impressive and a nice touch by the tea party team. There was a raffle, bingo and at last winners of the "like" game. 
Photo by Renee Martin
Postcard Artwork by Reve Lullaby

I've also included a video filmed by one of the local NOLA lolitas Renee Martin; her youtube channel can be found here.

In the end it was a very pleasant endeavor but would suggest maybe some different options in the course of food. There was a enough for everyone to even get seconds, but the sandwiches were not the best and there was chocolate in on or around almost all the desserts and as someone who is allergic to chocolate.. it left something to be desired. If anything this has to do with the hotel catering. As with other tea parties, a lot lack that certain je ne sais quoi needed for perfect food to compliment the event. I think by far my favorite has been PMX's tea party who actually outsources with local lolita favorites for their events.

The hotel itself as well as the staff was really quite nice, and to be honest I was taken aback. I was prepared to be dealt with rather badly; given my negative experiences with multiple Hiltons in both Texas and California for other lolita events, but was instead greeted and treated really well and would even be willing to congratulate them as this was the first Hilton I don't hate.

I think overall, I would attend this event again. If not for the fact I live kind of close and it is quite a good alternative event to attend instead supporting Anime Matsuri, it has obtained the beginnings of popularity and success I think can evolve into something better and more worthwhile for congoers an jfashionistas alike. They have a hard working fairly organized staff and seem to show that their work is a labor of love and not just profit. And while some things ran a little long or late, for their first year showcasing brands I think they did pretty well and are worth seeing if they can do a bit better next year.

I didn't get to snag as many good outfit shots as I had liked, but thankfully I got good ones of my favorite. I really hope next year they have the tea party in the same area as the lighting there and the dealer room were the best the whole con ( who woulda thunk? )

I was very lucky to get to hang out with some fellow friends after the convention before my journey on the way home. And I've got to say, this city does it's very best each time to tug so hard on my heart strings and make me not want to leave. 

We ate at a place called SLICE, which hands down has the most intriguing flavor combinations of pizza.There was an Arugula, Gorgonzola, pear and honey pizza! Me naturally got the shrimp po'boy ( I loooove po'boys now that I've tried authentic ones.. oh my god ) and did a family style of trying all the food on the menu. It was sooo terrific and the best possible way to end and a fantastic weekend; with good friends and good food. 

Thanks for taking the time to read about my experiences this year and hold fast because next week I'll be covering San Japan in San Antonio, Texas with Enchantilic Enchantilly and Harajuku Hearts. Stay tuned!