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!

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