Friday, April 19, 2013

I was in a introduction to theatre class at BYU, and was assigned to design costumes for a ten minute play we had to perform for our final. FUN! (: Here are my sketches, color renderings, and adaptations using clothes from the D.I., my wardrobe and some trim from JoAnn's Fabric and Craft Store. I didn't have to go all this out but it was so much fun I couldn't help it! I don't have pictures of the finished products yet but I'll get those as soon as I can.

Gray pencil skirt with pleats (adapted from a dress pattern - I just made the skirt and added a waistband) and a red silk scarf I made with a fabric remnant. No, I did not make the jacket, sadly...

Off-white Jacket

A cute off-white jacket I made for my sister (I shortened the sleeve, added the collar by making my own pattern, and extra room on the overlap so I could fit four buttons:)

ORCA Project part 1: Proposal and Corset

This February I was awarded the ORCA grant at BYU (the Office of Research and Creative Activities grant). Here is my proposal explaining the whole thing and the first part of my project - the corset.

Reproduction of an Original Edith Head Design

Rebekah Jackson,, BYU ID: jrebeka
Mary Farahnakian, College of Fine Arts and Communication

Project Purpose
I will recreate an original costume designed by the renowned Edith Head and present it at the Costume Society of America national symposium.

Project Importance
Edith Head designed costumes for Hollywood productions over a career of 58 years (Sauro 191). Though she started in costume design with little training or experience, she quickly rose to the top of her field (“Edith Head” 192).  She continued to garner great acclaim for her work, and went on to win an unprecedented eight Academy Awards and an additional 35 nominations. She was known for ability to work with difficult actors and figures, and even became a great influence on teenage fashion for her work in A Place in the Sun (Sauro 191,192). These great achievements and the influence she had on her field brought her to my attention, and has inspired me to investigate the field of costume design. I have long admired her work from repeated exposure to her designs and have long desired to reproduce her work in an attempt to understand the workings behind her designs. Reconstruction of her work through this project provides such an opportunity, but more importantly will resurface acknowledgment of her work at a national level. It will provide an opportunity for others to re-examine her work and bring to new light her contributions to costume design.

Project Profile Body
In this project I intend to reproduce an original Edith Head design from the 1965 production The Great Race. I chose this particular costume because it is an example of Head’s capabilities, its origin from the well-known classic directed by Edward Blake, and because of the similarities in height and figure between myself and the actress, Natalie Wood.

When I finish my research on Edith Head and her career for a complete understanding of her work, I will study the original costume to establish a basis for the reproduction. After sketching an authentic view of the garment, I will find a pattern similar to the design in order to estimate the necessary supplies needed to recreate the gown, and provide a starting point for my own design. When the design is complete, I will purchase materials similar to the ones used on the original garment and use these materials to reconstruct the gown with my own sewing machine and appliances. I will also attempt to replicate the coordinating accessories for a complete ensemble. All alterations necessary to fit it to my own person will be completed as well, during which time I will refer to the strategies provided in Edith Head’s The Dress Doctor for a proper fit. Upon completion, the garment should fit me exactly and maintain the integrity of the original design.

Anticipated Academic Outcome
With the design completed, I will travel to the 2014 national symposium of the Costume Society of America. There the dress will be placed in an exhibit where I will formally present the garment and my research. Following the symposium I will also have a complete paper that goes into the depth of my research on Edith Head and the recreation of her work and submit it for academic publishing.

From this project I also hope to improve my working knowledge of costume design, clothing construction, and perfect my understanding of Edith Head’s contributions to the field. From using Head’s strategies for working with different figures, I will also learn how to create effective designs that enhance different body types.

I have years of experience in sewing and design. Throughout high school I was hired out as an independent sewing contractor, sewing hundreds of items including everything from doll clothes to replicas of an oriental blouse. In 2010, I entered the Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Star Events competition and won gold at the state level for clothing construction. In 2012 I placed in the top five of my category in the national Simplicity & Joann Fabric 2011 Halloween Costume Contest.

 Mary Farahnakian, is particularly well suited to mentor me as she currently teaches classes on historical costume design. She is a Professor of Design and Technology in the Theatre and Media Arts department. She is a member of the national board of directors of the Costume Society of America and a member of the International Textile and Apparel Association. She received her PhD at Brigham Young University and has designed with Mary McFadden in New York and Jean Barthet and Eric Dubrulle in Paris.

Project Timetable

In January I will finish research necessary for construction of the dress and make preliminary sketches of the design. In February, I will begin searching for and purchasing supplies. By April I will have the notions needed for construction of the garment, have completed my research, and signed up for the Costume Society of America’s 2014 symposium. In May I will proceed to constructing the garment and complete it by August 31st, 2013. The deadline for the entering the symposium is in October.

Scholarly Sources

"Edith Head." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 18. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 191-193. Gale
Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.

Head, Edith, and Jane Kesner. Ardmore. The Dress Doctor. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959. Print.

Head, Edith, and Paddy Calistro. Edith Head's Hollywood. New York: Dutton, 1983. Print.

Sauro, Clare. "Head, Edith." Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Ed. Valerie Steele. Vol. 2. Detroit:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. 191-192. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Oct. 2012.


So that's very interesting and everything, but here comes the fun stuff. After being awarded the grant (I was rather shocked when I got it, I didn't expect to,) I immediately started on the undergarments. I know I don't mention undergarments in the proposal but I need them to make the costume look right. The first undergarment, or the corset, was very interesting to make. I drafted the pattern myself (I've never done that before) while basing it off of corsets Natalie Wood used in The Great Race (1965) and a real corset from 1908.

Sorry, these pictures are all a bit scandalous but they're the best I have of the corset!
So next step: Do mock-up and order supplies. Lets just say I realized what I had got myself into when I started sewing those curvy seams together - a lot of stay-stitching and clipping to get those "mountains" and "valleys" together. Luckily I didn't have to do much altering, though, as all I had to do was take out a pattern piece which shrunk the whole thing about four inches. (I guess the mannequin I used for draping the pattern was a little too big.)  (:

So, for the supplies I bought steel boning, 24 grommets, bone casing, and coutil (a very expensive but strong fabric for making corsets). I was disappointed, however, when I could only get white or a few other colors of coutil. I wanted it to be pink, similar to the movie (even though you don't see what corset she wears under the costume I wanted it similar to the one she wears in a later scene.) So... I dyed it! That was really exciting and terrifying. I never could have done it without my mentor, Professor Farahnakian, who helped me every step of the way.

 After that came the best experience of all - sewing together unlike seams first with basting, to make sure it would fit, then again to readjust curves so they fit more properly, then once more with a permanent stitch. But on none of this could I clip or staystitch my seams like I did with the mock-up, forcing me to stretch inward curves to fit the outward curves, while easing in the outward curves with a looser stitch. I had to readjust the curves a lot as the easing sometimes caused too much fullness or bubbling in one area. ~sigh~ But I finally got the seams together, and then I had to sew them twice more after trimming and folding the seam allowances to make flat felled seam (and on curved seams that is no easy task). But I did it! Yeah!

You can kind of see the seams in this picture as I trim them and fold them. I pressed the allowances all in one direction except for the side back seam which had a gusset (you can see the gusset in the picture) where I pressed the seam open and then turned in the raw edges. After that I added the waist stay, boning channels, bones, busk, bias tape and grommets with a lot of measuring, marking, pinning and slow sewing.