Tag Archives: Costume

Fashion of Port Cities: Textile and Cultural Exchange at the Asian Civilizations Museum

While there are many who fear the other, I choose not to, and I am happy to be celebrating diversity, historic and current. I am of the opinion that cultural exchange leads to innovation and development, and if you feel otherwise, please go away. I am sure that if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you probably knew that about me all ready, but just putting it out there into the universe. If, however, you like me are fascinated with cultural exchange and moments of intersection and the way they give birth to new things, specifically in the textile and clothing space, I think you will enjoy hearing about and seeing some of the objects from a current exhibit on Port Cities at the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore!

On my recent trip to Singapore, I had to break my normal Singapore rule. You see, there is nothing really to do in Singapore in my opinion. Now, of course, some people think there is a lot to do in Singapore, so I should really change that statement to there is nothing much for ME to do in Singapore, but semantics. Singapore is great, but I find it rather boring, and What’s-his-face and I realized that we need to ration our Singapore activities, because we visit the country frequently and given that I don’t think there is much to do, if we do it all at once, what will we do NEXT time? If we don’t limit ourselves to one museum a trip, we will be out of museums in no time! But we were with others, and we needed activities, so we had to break our rule and on this trip I saw the botanical gardens, the bird park, the National Museum and the Asian Civilizations Museum. Oy. I’m sorry, future Leah. I screw you a bit.

But at least the Asian Civilizations Museum has temporary exhibits, like this one exploring the many mixed communities of port cities in Southeast Asia. And given that this area is a textile-rich region, you just KNOW that mixture of people created a mixture of clothing styles and fabric options. Now we see people in all forms of dress in cities across the world, but historically ports would have been the only real places where costumes clashed consistently, and that is fascinating, in its fruitful ground for change and influence. Coming across this exhibit was a wonderful surprise because of the amount of textile within it, and I’m excited to share all that with you guys. The descriptions of Singapore itself through history, and cultures that arose in Batavia (now Jakarta, once the capital of the Dutch East Indies), Hong Kong, Malacca, and other ports, in clothing, was fantastic and fascinating. So even though we broke our rule, I gotta say, totally worth it…

So without further ado, to the photos!

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On the left the traditional garments of Peranakans, the mixed community of Chinese-Malay traders and fisherman. In the center, Chinese traditional dress, and on the right, South-Indian lungi.

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A kimono from the Japanese community in Singapore.

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Indian/Malay worker garb on the left, next to European/American female dress in a light gauze for the tropical heat (although God knows those undergarments would cancel THAT out…)

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On the right, Malay/Indonesian/Peranakan female dress with Portuguese lace and Chinese prints/embroidery. On the left, Gujurati cloth for an Indo-western sari.

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European male suit next to a Parsi merchant’s garb.

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Indian sari in the foreground, in the style adopted after the 1890’s with a blouse and petticoat underneath.

I love imagining a city of such vibrant and diverse clothing cultures, and therefore people cultures! I guess on some level Singapore is still like this, like London, New York, and other large and small cities of diverse groups. Spending time in Mumbai, where the clothing culture often feels homogenous in the extreme, I think I appreciate this mix on an even deeper level than I had before.

The exhibit also had some lovely examples of fabrics and their re-use in new clothing shapes. Like Indian chintz, so very popular in European clothing:

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Which then became something like this:

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I totally saw a woman looking at a similar fabric to create a kurta/trouser set in a fabric store in Bandra the other day. True story.

Of course, it wasn’t just Europeans who loved Indian chintz. Check out these Southeast jackets:

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I’m sure people were like, sick kimono, bro. Right? That sounds like a normal 19th century thing to say.

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A mix of Chinese imagery with Indonesian prints for this decorative hanging.

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The many faces of labor and commerce in 19th Century Singapore.

If I think about it, a lot of my own clothing is a mix of Indian fabric with Western shapes, so many in some tiny way I am also a part of a cultural global fabric and costume exchange. Diversity in how people look and how they dress and what they do and act is, to me, the cornerstone of progress and human development. If you never see anyone around you who looks, acts, speaks, eats, or thinks differently than you do, you probably will think that the world is singular. But to my mind it is beautiful in its variety, and I love seeing that in an exhibit like this one. Doesn’t it make you want to go out and pick of a global assortment of fabrics for inspiration and creation? Make a batik ballgown, stitch up some Thai silk cigarette trousers, or try a gingham tunic or a pinstripe kimono! Let’s be a part of a global fashion movement that celebrates diversity as the very fabric of humanity. Onwards, friends! To the sewing machines!

 

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Filed under Clothing, Costume, history, Life

Behind the scenes from my web series! (and The I Need A New Tunic Pattern Shirt)

Hey, party people! You readers have always struck me as an amazing, funny, wonderful crowd of very tolerant people (as evidenced by your enjoyment of/bearing with my blog….) and I want to share with you something I made recently. Basically, about a year and a half ago I wrote a web series. Just a short few sketches, basically, something to pass the time while I probably should have been writing something else. I passed these little scripts over to my friend Victoria, who thought they could be more than just little scripts, and despite my feelings that she was just being nice, she persisted with her belief to the point that we got a filmmaker involved whose name was (and still is) Joe. And Joe also enjoyed these scripts, and I was like, okay, that’s neat, shut up guys, don’t be weird. But they WERE weird and they wanted to make them and I was like, well, if you insist…. and so we did! And apparently people actually LIKE them because we ran a kickstarter campaign that was totally fully funded and in fact over-funded, and we’ve gotten rave reviews (aka friends being like, this isn’t terrible!) You can check out the series here, or watch the episodes right now!

And just so you know, I didn’t just write this thing, I did all the costumes! Which was a ton of fun, actually.

Some of them were simple alterations, like for Ella and Char:

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Don’t they look so very Disney goes to prom? You can, by the way, have a Disney themed prom dress. And a Disney themed wedding. I know this as for some reason I’m now on an email list for Disney weddings. The internets is creepy.

Some of the costumes were more of a styling job, like for Aurora and Phillip.

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Our Phillip, who is featured on the new show Younger, brought his costume, and our Aurora got our most hipster interpretation possible. Like you do.

And some, like Aladdin and Jasmine got full re-make treatment. Aladdin got tailoring and alteration for his pants and lavender shirt, but I completely re-made a Zara bubble-top to make our Jasmine’s flowy hi-lo crop top, and I hacked apart this crazy Florida-retiree elastic waist trousers into some cuffed Jasmine harem pants.

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It was insanely fun, actually, to come up with these ideas for modern interpretations of Disney costumes for the show!

Because of our successful kickstarter, e’ve got more episodes coming up with more home-made costumes, so stay tuned! And if you enjoy these, people, pass them on!

Now to my own clothing efforts. Enough of this sewing for others nonsense.

I have a new disease that I’m going to coin a term for called pattern fatigue. Basically this occurs when you have used a pattern too often and you are sick of it, but unable to find anything else you keep making it until the sight of it makes you sad. Now, I’m not a doctor, but I do feel that I could diagnose this in others, as I have in myself. Basically, I’m just over this one tunic pattern that I have and I really need a new one but I don’t have another that I love (well, actually, I DO now, post to follow! But when I made this top I didn’t so let’s operate under that mentality, shall we? ) so I made another tunic with the same damn pattern I always use and while the fabric is great, I’m just, like, SO over it.

NT 1Eh. It’s fine. It’s a tunic. It’s Butterick 5548. It pulls at the neck when I raise my arm. I’ve made it a couple of times before.

NT 2That look on my face says it all. Doesn’t it? It’s easy to make but I need something new, with a better fit in the bust and more shape. As I mentioned, I totally have a new and better thing now but AT THE TIME I didn’t!

NT 4It’s a lovely material, though, despite these terrible indoor-on-a-dark-day photos. Mr. Struggle got it for me in India.

Meh. Whatever. Total pattern fatigue, guys. Never mind that, though, CHECK OUT MY WEBSERIES!!!!

 

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Filed under Butterick Patterns, Clothing, Fabric, Life, Web Series!

The No Place Like Home Outfit

And now we come to my costume. My costume which is of course the iconic and rather boring Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

At the age of ten I was IN The Wizard of Oz, but I was the Cowardly Lion. I was AMAZING. This is a fact. Ask my mom. It’s for real. But this year I decided to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Why? I couldn’t tell you. I have no really reason why I decided on this costume. I just knew I could make that costume and I felt like it would be easy and…no other reason. I’m a weird fixator. So that was all decided.

And then I made it! This is not that great of a story…

Again, Emily snapped these of me quickly at that same Halloween party I had previously mentioned, so the color quality is…terrible. Sigh.

I took a Burda-Style pattern, the ever popular ever hated Dress with Gathered Skirt, and modified the bodice. I basically chopped off the arms, made up the bodice as a strapless one, and then added strips in for sleeves. I then took two large rectangles and gathered them for the skirt. Side zipper, machine hem, boom.

I also made the blouse, a JJ Blouse without ruffles. Boy, Burda Style really did me well for Halloween!

A little back view for you.

I got the red shoes from Payless, I know, I know, that’s terrible for the world, but they WERE cheap…

Because I wore what is essentially a cute and non-threatening or creepy or extremely revealing costume, and I wore it on the subway, people felt quite comfortable coming up and talking to me all night, both in Manhattan and in Brooklyn. It was rather disconcerting, but fine.

Oh, yes, here is my toto:

Given the insane hurricane that hit the East Coast this week, I’m stuck in my apartment (and in Brooklyn in general, the subways have been shut down since Sunday). So I hope you are all safe and secure if you were in the path of the storm, or even if you weren’t! Happy Halloween!

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Filed under Burda Style, Clothing, Costume, Sewing

The “I Barely Get the Reference” Dress

Let’s just start right here and say that I’ve never seen Game of Thrones. STOP YELLING AT ME! I know, I know, it’s great, blah blah blah. I just, I have a lot of T.V. in my life, do I really need more? Okay, maybe I do, I’m sure it’s a lot better than Hart of Dixie. Ha, I’m just kidding, nothing is better than Hart of Dixie. But I digress.

The POINT is, my roommate, Emily, wanted to go as a character from Game of Thrones this year for Halloween. Well, I had talked her into being Mary from Downton Abbey because A. She loves the show and B. I really wanted to make someone an Edwardian gown and that business is never going to look good on me but on tall EMILY it probably would be baller. But alas, we were invited to Emily’s sisters Halloween Party and said party had a fantasy theme. My costume could remain the same (more on that later) but we had to either Doctor-Who-up Mary (which didn’t sit right with any of us, Steven Moffat included) or find something else. And hence my wonderful roommate picked Daenerys Targaryen.

Of course, I knew I would never be able to perfectly duplicate the original dress. But I wanted to get close! It’s actually a lot lighter, the shade of blue, but this is the image Emily and I took fabric shopping with us, so this is the business we’ve chosen.

Together we scouted the New York Garment District for polyester chiffon. Now, normally I’m a natural fibers girl to the point of mania, but this was a Halloween costume on Emily’s dime, so it was man-made all the way. We also wanted to find something that was a reasonable price, because, again, Halloween costume. The upside of the New York Fabric scene is the variety. The downside, for me, is the price. How I miss my beloved Philadelphia!

Still, we managed to find a nice blue polyester Georgette for 6 a yard, which was the best I thought we could do, at Fabrics Counter at 554 8th Avenue, and the very nice cutters there agreed with me that Emily was going to look amazing. And look amazing she did:

Of course, these photos had to be crammed in during the party, so the light and surrounding aren’t as regal as one might have hoped, but what can you do?

Emily had to put a serious face on, as befits a queen.

But eventually I forced her to smile.

The color of the dress is less teal then it appears. The pattern I used is Burda Style’s Drape Dress, and of course it has the typical non-instructions Burda always so sweetly gives us. Whatever, I just made it up as I went. The inside of this dress is a huge struggle and you will never see it. The changes I made, oh, boy. Well, I basically made my own drapes, rather than following the pattern for the waist and bodice. But I quite like the effect.

You can just see the lining, a navy taffeta I had on hand, I should have under-stitched. Should have, could have, would have.

And I lengthened the pattern signficantly to hit Emily’s feet. And I added long shoulder pieces, because that’s what the original costume has. And I totally made up the back, just made it the hell up.

Of course, Emily’s wig is in the way, but you get the idea.

Look at that. Would you ever steal that woman’s dragons?

I literally know nothing about the show. That’s a thing, right? Dragons?

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Filed under Burda Style, Clothing, Costume, Sewing