Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘period costumes’

 

IMG_0744

Katie Baritell Photo: Provided

Gatsby Summer Afternoon is fast approaching! Brought to us by the Art Deco Society of California, this popular period event is always on the second Sunday of September, which this year is the 9th.

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting first timers Katie Baritell and her partner Gregg. It was a  birthday surprise for Katie from Gregg, who had heard about the event from his students. The couple are dancers and teach at The Beat in Berkeley. In addition to holding down a day job at Restoration Hardware, Katie is an avid tap dancer and admirer of the classic film Singing in the Rain. Over the past year, she has been further influenced by the ADSC and the various lectures and events they offer at the Bellevue Club.

New to sewing, she decided to make a dress for Gatsby Summer Afternoon with help from her mother. In between taps and stitches, Katie took time for a Q&A with OverDressedforLife.

What inspired you to make your own dress for this year’s Gatsby Summer Afternoon?

I saw so many impressive dresses and outfits last year and felt inspired to create an ensemble that was unique to me. That paired with learning how to sew this last year led me to think – why not make my own? I’ve been working more with costuming and learning to sew with my mom. She has been teaching, helping, and guiding me immensely. I could not do this without her … sewing is hard!

I agree! That’s lesson #1.

Are you using a pattern? Which one?

Yes. Browsing fabric books, I found a Butterick pattern. It’s a 1920s costume with a lace overlay. I decided to shorten the hem and use a lighter palette than that on the pattern’s image. It is now much better suited for daytime and dancing. I need to Charleston after all!

What are you enjoying about making your own dress? What’s not so fun?

I enjoy seeing it come together and working with my mom. It is satisfying to make something from scratch. I am learning skills – one I have had to improve on is patience! Working with chiffon as an over-skirt has been very difficult and trying. My mom noted to check in with her next time so we know what we’re getting ourselves into.

How will you style the rest of your ensemble?

I would like to make a headpiece with the fabric to match. I am also open to the idea of finding the perfect hat scouring vintage shops. I will wear brown shoes purchased years ago from Argentina. They are in the style of the 20s and great for dancing. Accessories to include Gregg’s great grandmother’s watch and my grandmother’s pearls.

I like that you’re using family pieces. That adds charm and authenticity.

What do you like the most about attending Gatsby Summer Afternoon?

Everything! Haha. I was amazed at the level of detail and enthusiasm around making the environment truly feel like a step back in time. Everything, down to the fork and knife, provided a delicious taste of the 20s. The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra and dancing could not have been more fun. I think that (fittingly) was my favorite part of the day.  Hope to see you on dance floor!

IMG_20180801_130000Thank you, Katie. We’ll make sure to catch you and Gregg out on the dance floor. Don’t forget to enter the Charleston dance contest AND the costume contest. 

Gatsby Summer Afternoon, Sunday September 9, 2018. Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate, 2960 Peralta Oaks Ct., Oakland, CA. Click here for more information.

See you there, old sport!

Read Full Post »

b7Muru9GenGwNB_Z

Zack Pinsent. Photo: BBC

Why dress up in jeans and a t-shirt if you can go along to Tesco dressed as Napoleon or something?

Zack Pinsent, British tailor who specializes in Regency period clothing.

Zack dresses full time in period clothing. He’s a part of a new BBC television show, My Friend Jane, which is all about modern day fans of Jane Austen.

Speaking of period clothing, later this week I am on my way to Costume College. For the very first time I’ll be joining the ranks of other period clothing enthusiasts for three days of fashion history lectures and workshops such as:

  • Making the Phantom Bustle
  • 18th Century Coat Construction
  • How to Set an Authentic 16th Century Ruff

… just to mention a few.

I am most interested in fashion history so I’ll be headed to the lecture classes. I’m looking forward to learning about 18th century fabrics, changes in women’s fashions 1774-1784, Hanbok – modern historical Korean dress, and much much more!

Costume College is an annual “costuming arts conference” brought to us by Costumer’s Guild West, Inc.

You can be sure I’ll be writing about this and posting on Instagram.

Follow along #overdressed4life.

Read Full Post »

SE14-beach-couple-romance-seasideOnce upon a time, quite recently, a couple from Washington State planned a wedding anniversary treat to visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. Excited and ready to enjoy their day, the pair showed up all decked out in what they say is everyday wear for them: head-to- toe Victorian. They were abruptly told Butchart Gardens has a “no costumes” policy and unless they wanted to change into some old clothes sitting around in the back, they had to leave. According to the couple’s lengthy blog post about the incident, there was a lot of discussion, both sides rigid in their positions:

– We don’t allow costumes here.

– These aren’t costumes … this is what we wear every day.

Well, you can’t wear them here, whatever you want to call them.

The reason for the policy, explained by a manager, is that it’s confusing to other attendees who might think the costumed people are staff employees.

In the end the couple had to leave but they were (after a lot of arguing, again according to the blog post) given their money back.

This story brings up very interesting issues: What is costume? Where and when are costumes appropriate? The American College Dictionary defines costume as: dress or garb belonging to another period, place, etc. 

People who sport period clothing outfits full time, a growing trend, will argue that what they are wearing is their regular clothing and therefore not costumes. OK, from their perspective. But it seems to me that these well-dressed individuals don’t understand that to most everyone else (dressed head-to-toe in ath-leisure) they do indeed look like they’re in costume and that’s what can pose problems for museums and other attractions. The historical silhouettes of the Victorian period in particular – bustles and top hats for example – are so far from what we know and have known for nearly two centuries, of course they’re costumes. I can understand the potential for confusion and the need for policies.

I think part of the costume problem is the variety of costumes that are popping up. It’s not just period clothing but also animals, comic book characters, and masks which are a security issue.  Apparently, Butchart Gardens had a person show up in a ladybug costume. A teenage girl dressed as Tinkerbell caused all kinds of confusion at Disneyland. Venues don’t want the distractions and I don’t blame them. They have to draw a line and stick to it and … it’s not personal.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would prefer to see and be among people dressed Victorian, Edwardian, or any past era of lovely clothing. It’s a far prettier picture than shorts, jeans, tank tops, baseball caps and flip flops. But I do think that those of us who dress in period clothing, whether all the time or just occasionally, should keep in mind that actually, we live in the 21 century and it’s rude to walk around in our garb insisting that the rules/policies shouldn’t apply to us. The fact is that our clothing choices to most of the world are costumes and perhaps we should take responsibility for that by checking out various venue policies ahead of time to avoid confrontation and disappointment. (The Buchart Gardens have their policy clearly posted on their website.)

Also, perhaps staff at these venues should be trained on how to handle people who are sporting costumes. Sneering and such is unnecessary and a very bad reflection on the individual staff member as well as the place of business.

Respect on both sides will go a long way.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Helen Uffner (far right) and her helpers. Left to right: Chelsea Bjerk, Lauren Bostic, and Dan Travis. Photo: Richard Aiello.

Helen Uffner (far right) and her helpers. Left to right: Chelsea Bjerk, Lauren Bostic, and Dan Travis. Photo: Richard Aiello.

Helen Uffner is well-known around NYC and Hollywood for having the best old duds. She runs her own business renting period clothing and accessories for theater productions, films, television, magazine editorials, and book covers. 

I met Ms. Uffner over hats at the reception opening for the Milliner’s Guild exhibition. When I mentioned that I write about fashion and have a fondness for vintage, Ms. Uffner generously invited my partner and me to her warehouse.

Now that’s an offer I wasn’t going to refuse. Plans we had for the next day were forgotten as we hopped on the subway to Queens and knocked on the door of Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing, LLC.

It seemed a fun place to work. Vintage tunes played in the background as staff chatted with actors who were getting fitted for a local play. A woman visiting from Hollywood was sorting out costumes for an upcoming film. 

When not busy reorganizing or working with clients, the staff model some of the merchandise for Ms. Uffner’s Etsy site, Vintage Pickle. Apparently on some days they just can’t resist playing dress-up.

What started as a personal collection for Ms. Uffner is now a 6000-plus square foot warehouse of clothing for men, women, and children from the 1860s on.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Since she was a young teen, Ms. Uffner has been drawn to all things antique and vintage. Her first purchase was a 1920s beaded dress for $5, which she found at a flea market in Connecticut. “Then I went to a big antique faire,” she explains, “and I had to debate for about an hour and a half whether or not I could spend $20 on an Edwardian dress.” Good sense won out and she still has both of those dresses.

As a fine arts major in college, Ms. Uffner continued to collect but never with the thought of wearing her pieces. She preferred to study the fabric and construction of what she considers works of art. Everything she bought she hung or kept in boxes at home. Before long she became the go-to person for friends and friends-of-friends in need of a costume for this or that. One day the costume designer for Woody’s Allen’s film, Zelig came over and ended up buying just about everything Ms. Uffner had. (BTW, the film won an Academy Award in 1984 for Best Costumes.) It was then that she realized she could rent rather than sell, and a business was born.

In addition to basic clothing, Ms. Uffner has undergarments for men and women, hats, handbags, ties, shoes, anything needed for a complete period ensemble. Among her many clients are popular fashion designers who rent pieces to copy for their own lines.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Ms. Uffner stores everything on racks or shelving arranged by time period, then color and fabric. “We don’t quite do it by decade,” she explains, “but by how styles changed.” Interns are charged with sifting through the racks looking for misplaced pieces, which is a great way to learn about vintage details. Details that Ms. Uffner can rattle off the top of her head. Such as, button-fly trousers for men are Victorian to the early 1930s.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Photo: Richard Aiello.

Over the past 35 years, Ms. Uffner has provided clothing for the films Fatal Attraction, Out of Africa, The Color Purple, Mona Lisa Smiles, Julie & Julia, Mildred Pierce (HBO), and Far From Heaven just to name a few. Currently staff is working on 42 and Behind the Candelabra. Theater productions include The Producers, The Seagull, Trip to Bountiful, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Oh, and Catherine Martin, costume designer for the new Great Gatsby film spent six months visiting the warehouse and renting various pieces for inspiration.

Ms. Uffner is still actively buying, both for the business and her collection. She says her personal favorites are not necessarily the pretty dressy pieces, but the character clothes – the faded, patched, lived-in and worn. “Because they have a story.”

Ms. Uffner spent two hours showing us around and answering our questions. It was a rare NYC treat for this vintage-lovin’ tourist.

Read Full Post »