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exhibitions, travel

Death Becomes Her: Mourning Costume Exhibit at the Met

Last fall I took a trip to New York, where I was lucky to see the just-closed Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, called “Death Becomes Her.”

The exhibit was relatively small, but not TOO small, and it was full of a lot of stunning items. Here’s a few thoughts!

There were tons of stunning details, which is even MORE intriguing to me when it’s in all black, because they’re so subtle. Check out these spangled rosettes on a hem!

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research, travel


I just got back from a week in beautiful, cold, dark Stockholm!  I was there doing research at the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum), looking at an 18th c. robe a la turque and some other garments related to my Big 18th-Century-Turkish-Influence project.  It was something of a whirlwind trip, given the flying time from San Francisco to Stockholm (THREE — count ‘em — flights to get home, meaning about 24 hours of travel time), but it was lots of fun!

Stockholm is very pretty.  Lots of it is very Victorian looking, but mixed in (especially in the older parts) are beautiful, warm colored buildings:

Gamla Stan

This was even prettier on the second day we were there, when it snowed!


I was there with my husband, and we did a ton — museums, architecture, shopping for design-y items (Michael’s an illustrator, so he was all “Swedish design! Yay!”).

Kendra & Michael

I got to meet Elisa of Isis’ Wardrobe and Madame Isis’ Toilette.  She took me to Livrustkammaren, where they have the HUGE and fabulous royal dress collection.  I got to see TWO (count ‘em!) Swedish 18th century court dresses, and Elisa was able to tell me lots of interesting things about the various pieces and the royals who wore them:

Coronation dress of Queen Lovisa Ulrika, 1751 | Livrustkammaren:

Wedding dress of Queen Sofia Magdalena, 1766 | Livrustkammaren:

The Nordiska Museet is STUNNING:

Nordiska Museet

And they had a number of really fascinating exhibits, my favorite being the jewelry and costume exhibits (of course!):

Modemakt/Power of Fashion

Modemakt/Power of Fashion

Modemakt/Power of Fashion

Modemakt/Power of Fashion


16th c. pendant

And best of all, I got to study a number of interesting 18th century costume pieces! The curators and conservators were really nice and great to work with, and they had some really interesting items in their collection.

You can see all of my pictures, including many more of the costume and jewelry exhibits, in this Flickr set.

18th century, travel

BTW – France Photos

Okay, so I lied. One REALLY last post about France!  You might have already found my photos from our trip to 18th century France, but I thought I should go ahead and post a direct link to the full set.  I also wanted to highlight some faaaabulous posed photos that we did on our last day.  I was inspired by Fanny’s fabulous “Nonchalance Chez la Duchesse” photo shot to do something similar with our group, and here’s what we came up with:

Conversation piece

Dieuxieme conversation piece

I particularly love Leia’s innocent pickpocket facial expression in the last one!

shopping, travel

One Last Post About France: Shopping!

A costumer cannot go to France (and Italy) and not go shopping!  So what came home with me?

One rainy/misty day at the Chateau, a group of us attempted to go see the ruins of the Chateau de Montségur.  Sadly it was too rainy to make the trek up the dirt path to the see the chateau, but we did have a fabulous lunch in a medieval-y (in a good, non-cheesy way) restaurant and find a great medieval-y shop attached to its own blacksmithing forge.  I have been wanting to find some nice silverware for use at Renaissance Faires, but I wanted something that wasn’t the same as everyone else’s (tried that, quickly lost my Hampton Court Palace spoon in the sea of lookalikes).  Although they’re more medieval, I found a nice spoon/fork set with ladies heads on the handle and snatched them up.

In Venice, I headed straight to Antonia Sauter’s shop on the recommendation of Trystan & Thomas’s Carnevale DVD.  There I found a GORGEOUS mask that will perfectly match my green Venetian Renaissance dress, made of silk velvet, spangles, and feathers.

Being a book slut, I also grabbed the catalogue for the Mme Elisabeth exhibition, and a book on the Fragonard Costume Museum, while seeing each exhibit.

Venetian mask from Antonia Sauter, book from the Fragonard Costume Museum, catalogue from the Mme Elisabeth exhibit, medieval silverware from Montségur

Of course, I needed to buy some fabric!  Doing tons of research on 18th century these days, particularly Provencal styles, I wanted some 18th century-appropriate Provencal fabric.  Sadly I didn’t find anything OTT fabulous!  There are two manufacturers of French printed cottons still in existence:  Les Olivades and Souleiado.  I went to Les Olivades shop in Arles, where I got one yard of a pretty red cotton print — only a yard because it was really pricey!  I also trekked out to the Souleiado outlet (Les Olivades has one too, but you need a car to get there and I was car-less).  Sadly they didn’t have anything I was in love with, but having taken a bus and walked about 15 min. with suitcases, I was determined to buy something!  I found these mustard yellow (not my favorite color, although I think I can probably pull it off since I’m a warm color girl?) pieces (no idea what they’re for — quilting?) with FABULOUS 18th c. designs printed on them and I grabbed a bunch — I do wish the background color was more exciting!  And then on my way out, I noticed the sale bed linens and am glad I did, because I found this fitted sheet with a fabulous red sprig design on it.  I’m thinking of using the sheet for a petticoat and the red for a jacket, and making a Provencal ensemble.  Still no idea what’s going to happen with the mustard fabric pieces!

Fabrics from Souleiado, Olivades, Souleiado

1770s camisole, 18th century, projects, travel

Costumes at the Chateau pt. 4: the white ruffly camisole & petticoat

Last project to blog about from France!  For some reason this was the project I was most excited about making, and ended up loving the most while wearing — I think I just had a fixation on being WHITE and FROOFY and RUFFLY.  In all caps, natch.

I posted a bit about the early steps on the project here.  After that, it was all a matter of borrowing Trystan’s embroidery machine to sew the scalloped edges on the miles of windowpane ruffles.  I had a small crisis when I thought I’d run out of the windowpane before trimming the skirt, but managed to find a bit more of the fabric — I had to wing it on my machine for doing the scalloped edges, as I don’t have a fancy machine like Trystan, but it all worked out.  Minus the scallops, all of the rest is handsewn.

I added some striped lavender and white bows, from ribbon that’d been lurking in the stash for years, to the CF neckline and sleeves to bring some color to the ensemble.  And I wore it with the hat I originally made for Vaux le Vicomte, although I changed up the trimmings a bit to suit the lavender color scheme.

The one thing that’s bugging me is that, since I was worried about wearing stark white with my warm coloring, I used a slightly off-white lining for the jacket — and in these photos in the shade, it really changes the base color of the jacket.  I’m not positive it looks that off-white in regular lighting, but it’s annoying, as it’s made of the exact same fabric as the skirt!




Mrs. Meringue & Mrs. Marshmallow: Kendra & Sarah


18th century, 18th century wigs, travel

Speaking of Wigs…

I still have at least two more posts to write about France, so I really should get busy!  And speaking of wigs, I wanted to post about the wig I made for France.

Luckily, somehow, all of the projects to which I was drawn were right around 1780, so that made it easy — one wig to rule them all!  I did contemplate making a grey wig for a more historically accurate look, but realized that a big trip like this wasn’t the time to take a risk — if I was going to have only one wig, I wanted to know the color would work on me.

Here’s my inspiration board, which I had up while I was making the wig:

My first try needed rework, which seems to always happen (yes, that advice is going in the book!), as it was TWICE as high as the final version.  I almost went with it, then reminded myself that that wasn’t the era I was going for.  Here’s how the wig turned out:

I have a vintage 1960s hatbox that I use for my wigs when I travel.  The wig block never fits, so I stuff the head portion of the wig with plastic bags or newspaper or whatever is on hand, and if the wig isn’t as tall as the box, I do the same with any empty space.  This wig was wide enough that I had to take off the rolls to pack it, but part of my plan was that I could move the rolls around for different looks, so that was fine.  The other thing I planned was different ways to style the chignon (the back hair) and various hair accessories, to mix things up… didn’t want to get bored of wearing the same wig over and over!

Here’s the many ways I wore it:

First day with redingote, no hair accessories finished so nada, cadogan in back:



Evening look, with fake flowers pilfered from my room at the château (and returned), chignon looped up:



With purple ribbon and feather:


With ridiculous hat — I love the “floating hat” you get in this era!


With an organdy pouf, feather spray, and brooch for redingote rewears:

Kendra & Leia

The rolls were looking a little shabby by the end of the trip (note to self, fix those up before CoCo!) but otherwise the thing made it through the whole trip!