Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The dissertation is due to the committee in 6 days. Hmmm... you know what that means? Time to think about something else.

I received my one-time use gown yesterday. It's great to have a back up, but it's also good to help me match colors. Yes I know the cheap gown i not the same color as the nicer one, but if I can match the cheap one, I won't stand out too much.

I also received swatches of 4-ply silk and charmeuse from an eBay site and darned if they weren't exactly the same as the fabric from G Street, but at less than 1/2 the price (and they sent me a 10% off coupon).

I don't have time to take pictures, but the best color matches so far have the 3-ply silk crepe (for color), the 4-ply silk crepe (slightly darker color, better drape, better highlights), and the light weight linen (slightly off color, wrong drape but I think I could fix the drape by washing and drying it in the machine). The wool crepe it too dark, but I know that the cheap gowns are lighter than the nice ones, so I could still go that route if I wanted to.

Back to my spreadsheets.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fabric swatches

I wrote an entire chapter of my dissertation in the last 24 hours, so I'm allowing myself a little time for fun.

Here are the fabric swatches purchased from the incredible G Street Fabrics. As you can see from the price tags, their fabric is high quality, but not cheap. I have ordered swatches from other online sources and I will post those as soon as I receive them.

On a side note, I'm still learning about the digital camera that I got for Christmas. I mucked up the settings and only got good color representation in a few photos. The ones I present here have been pretty heavily Photoshopped. You'll just have to take my word for it that all the outer fabric is very much in the navy range. I'm posting these pictures to show the different weights and drapes that I am currently considering.

Clearly, the poly robes are trying to reproduce the weight and drape of good wool crepe. The problem with that is that since these robes get worn almost exclusively outdoors in late spring, wool crepe may not be a good idea. I reserve the right to decide that it's too beautiful and that I will suffer for a few hours a year for the sake of a good costume. I think anyone who makes costumes for themselves to wear at special events can get behind this idea.

wool crepe $29.95/yd

silk crepe (I'm not sure which this is)

4-ply silk crepe $69.95/yd

3-ply silk crepe $49.95/yd

silk charmeuse $29.95/yd (I would use the crepe side as the face)

silk crepe de chine $24.95/yd

Novelty Textured Linen (light weight) $29.95

Light Weight Linen (just over hanky weight) $23.95/yd

Trim and lining fabric. I purchased the black silk/rayon velvet for the trim (I still need to get the gold braid). I have 7 yards of this true blue silk habotai that I can use for the lining. It also just occurred to me that only the sleeves really need lining fabric, so I bet that I have a few other things in my stash which would work too.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

everybody loves cartridge pleats!

No really, it's true, they do.

The fussiest bit about the whole gown in the cartridge pleating on the sleeve caps and back yoke. I have never tried them before, but I think they're just going to be tedious, not really hard.

The trick is going to be keeping all my running stitches straight and even. I've purchased so stitch guide tape. It wasn't super expensive, so I'll let you know how it goes. Sometimes you really can find the perfect notion, but I've spent plenty of money of stuff that looks like it's going to fix my problem, but really doesn't do the job.

People who do serious Renaissance costuming are all about these pleats and there are several great tutorials out there about them. Here are two that I've found.

Drea Leed's Elizabethan Costuming Page is a wealth of information. She as a great tutorial about cartridge pleating.

Also, Sempstress has an excellent description of her experiments with padded pleats here. If you costume or draft your own patterns, this is definitely a site worth checking out.

Now here are the last of the pictures and they're all about the pleats.

This is the front of the sleeve cap. Notice how the pleats taper. I imagine that this is done by stopping the running stitches farthest away from the seam a few stitches in from where the stitches closest to the seam will stop. Wow! What a sentence. I do some sketches before I sew so hopefully that will be more clear some day soon.

This one is of the back yoke. Notice how the seam comes together at an angle. This could be tricky. If I don't think I can manage it, I may try this approach from the Snape tutorial. Yvette has, I think, joined the sleeve pleats to the back pleats themselves.

Here are two more pictures about how the sleeve seam works, a front view and a back view respectively.

Attaching and lining the sleeves is going to be a little tricky, so I took some time trying to get good close ups of these areas.

Here is a picture of the way the pleats are stiffened. (You were right, Missa!)

And here's the last one. The lining will be something I'll have to work out. I'll post a drawing of it when I get around to it.

Next time, fabric swatches!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

more photo research about the fiddly bits

OK, so here are even more photos that I took of an actual the gown I am trying to replicate.

This is a picture of the hem detail. They have simply turned up the hem, but haven't bothered to try to close up the hem. Given the level of detail in the rest of the garment,I have to assume that this was done for a reason. Must investigate what the reason is.

There are lots of small details to be considered because the robe has to help support and keep in place the hood. Here is a picture of the front of the hood and the front of the gown. There is a loop on the fron tof the hood which can be hooked around a hook in the front of the gown.

Here is a close-up on the top of the zipper:

There is a large hook and eye and a button with a large loop to accommodate the hood.

Also note that the velvet lining is part of the cover for the zipper. This picture is from the bottom of the zipper. It also looks as though the the velvet has been pick-stiched to the robe fabric, although it could have been the effect of the way I was holding it.

The last of the "fiddly bits" is the cord that extend from inside the neck. It comes down to a button and a loop. This is clearly so that the attachments on the hood can hook to it. The thing that confuses me is that I don't know what the cord down the back is doing. Is this just a bit of "fance" or is it because the velvet trim is only attached on one edge and the the cord helps hold down the trim in the back.

If anyone has one of these gowns and knows what this back cord is for and/or could be willing to take a picture of the inside back neck, I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

pictures and questions

OK, here are the pictures I took of the same gown. Despite some differences in the color, it's all the same gown. The gown color is navy with black velvet trim and gold piping. The hood will be provided for me, but I need to accommodate it when I sew the gown.

full view


the sleeve has not real cuff, but instead is sewn into the lining, kind of like a bubble skirt.

They have run a length of elastic, sewn only on the top edge, along the hem, which I think is a pretty ingenious idea. It stabilizes the hem without compromising the "bounce" of the crepe (even poly crepe has bounce).

There are many more pictures, but the siren song of the dissertation calls me back. More pictures to come.

pattern resources

So here's what I've got to work with so far:

the Butterick pattern

a web image of the actual robe:

and this awesome costume diary of the drafting and construction of a Snape costume. Snape is shown in robes very similar to academic regalia and the author's pictures of the drafting process will, I think be very helpful.

Lastly, I actually went to the bookstore during the time when regalia rental people were there. They let me take lots of pictures of the doctoral gowns. I will post those as soon as I get the pictures formatted properly.

The impossible quest

I am currently writing my dissertation. I will defend it in less than a month. Which means I will be attending my last graduation as a student. I have accepted a position as an Assistant Professor, which means that I will be attending many, many more graduations. I wanted to have the really nice regalia, since I will be wearing it more than once (and I like fancy costumes).

The made-to-order regalia cost in the neighborhood of $900 and are made out of a poly-crepe. I don't need to sit in the sun in a $900 trash bag, so...

I have decided to sew my own academic regalia. I thought this would a pretty straightforward problem. You know, find pattern, pick out fabric, adjust pattern, sew, look fabulous.

Not so.

There is only one commercial pattern available to make academic/clergy robes. It is from Butterick, which I have found to be a pretty good workhorse pattern company. But I have taken a closer look at the construction of regalia and there are significantly more fiddly bits than appear at first glance. The Butterick pattern does not try to include these, but I think it can be altered to include them.

My initial research indicates that very few others have tried to do this project, so I am starting my first blog as an attempt to a) distract myself from looming deadlines and b) leave a trail for others to follow. I have found the costume diaries of others to be of great help, so I hope that this diary might be helpful to others. Please, if you're reading, post comments and questions.