Sunday, November 14, 2010

Opera update

The only downside of Rigoletto was that it left me almost no time for costuming. Not to mention my Monday chorus group, Tuesday workshop/rehearsals, production of Die Fledermaus that I just got into (yay!) that rehearses 3-4 nights a week, and ~13 hours a week of tedious day-jobbing.

Not much time for costuming, once you factor in the fact that I really do need more sleep than I've been getting. I've already cut ballet and one concert from my schedule (the concert conflicted with opening night of Fledermaus; ballet conflicted with sleep). I'm not used to having to learn so much new material at once. The Monday chorus is pretty easy, but any music is pretty easy to learn when there's no blocking to go with it and you're surrounded by people singing the same part that you are. The real trick was Fledermaus (I'd been listening to it in Deutsch, and we're doing it in English - d'oh!), and the Tuesday opera workshop. I'm singing an aria that I thankfully have performed before, Susanna in the "Canzonetta sull'aria" scene and duet from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Sophie in "Bonjour grande soeur... Ah! Le rire est beni... Des larmes qu'on ne pleure pas..." (and whatever else is included in that scene) from Massenet's Werther, and the Second Spirit in the "Bald prangt... Du also bist" trio and quartet from Mozart's Die Zauberflote. If two of those pieces weren't Mozart, I swear I'd be done for!

How does this fit into my costume blog, you may ask? That's the thing. My main interest is opera (though if anything happened to my voice, costuming would be my next career choice), so lately I've been thinking I need an outlet for opera rants more than costume chats. 
As of now, my blog is officially dual-purpose! (Cue fanfares) 
I hope the costumers find my opera posts interesting, and vice versa. The way I do things, I keep opera and sewing pretty closely related. One of the things I love about opera is being able to wear the wonderful costumes and take regular trips back in time to the 18th century. I'd also like to find more people interested in opera to casually chat with - I'm hoping this blog might aid my search for a kindred mind or two. 

There may be a few design changes around here to accommodate the shift in focus. Nothing major - it's not a major shift, since the blog was already leaning heavily in an operatic direction.

I'm hoping the official change to an opera and costume blog will also inspire me to post more regularly. I miss writing when I've been away for it from a while.

Yours musically,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The show last Sunday went fabulously!

My two minutes of solo fame couldn't have gone better, according to my teacher, and I trust her in all things vocal. I'm also quite pleased with my performance, including my time being seduced and spurned in Act 1, which was just as fun and silly as it had been in rehearsals, nevermind the 1000+ people in the audience.

I don't have pictures from the performance itself, but my costumes were too epic to miss keeping records of. So, a few days before the show, I convinced my mom to act as photographer and co-artistic director with me on a shoot in our backyard. She did really well!

Costume and mask from Act 1. I'm glad I supplied my own mask, I love having souvenirs from my performances! That necklace is glinting a very eerie green... No idea why it's doing that. The necklace wasn't really a costume piece, just a suggestion of mom's.

Did I mention that I got to be Gilda's "stunt double" for the abduction in Act 1, Scene 2? Gilda made her exit, we switched places in the wings, and Ceprano swooped in a few minutes later to carry me off. That dress was absolutely gorgeous, I need to recreate some version of it! It's a pity that the audience couldn't see much of it, but that was the whole point of having a "stunt double". It worked; many people I spoke to had no idea I was me!

The page! Now, that's what I call a frock coat. The fabric for the coat, breeches and vest was rather low-quality and of decidedly non-period materials (I could tell just by touching it), but it looked great from a distance - and up close, for that matter! See that bit of shirt around my neck and wrist? I found a very multi-century men's shirt at a TDF costume sale some weeks ago, took it in slightly, and now it's perfect for all and sundry costumial things, possibly even for dressing as a girl. And yes, another souvenir.
Oh, the epic shoes are mine as well.

Photos of S.C. in costume by Dianne D.; Costume pieces, unless otherwise specified, from the NJAVO's vast costume warehouse in PA. (I need to visit there some time!)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pseudo-Renfaire and Fort Tryon

The pseudo-Renfaire went very well! I wish I could have blogged more about my ensemble while it was under construction, but it all came together exceedingly well, with one or two alterations. I didn't get many photos from the pseudofaire, but here's one example.

There's the full outfit!
Capelet, corset, leggings, belt, and satchel just as planned, except that I omitted the sleeves from the corset to make sure I'd have everything done on time. The shirt's from Wal-Mart and looks surprisingly like unbleached cotton, and I used different boots to spare my best pair of heeled boots from the perils of running around on a hilly landscape after dark. The only things missing are a matching skirt and jewellery. For a skirt, I used my multi-purpose petticoat without an overskirt - so radical and daring for a lady!

Oh, and I made the bracers, just didn't wear them. Too hot.

A few weeks after the pseudofaire I attended the Medieval Festival in Fort Tryon Park, by the Cloisters in Manhattan. A few friends from the Renfaire and I gathered to watch the falconry demonstration, and I was picked to be a volunteer! It pays to show up in costume - I got to play perch to Spirit, the proud and graceful red-tailed hawk, between her flights across the field. The friends took pictures aplenty, but from where they were sitting, all they could get were side views.

Now that I'm done with my wenchly Medieval/Renaissance garb, it's on to my favorite century: The 18th!
I'm going to use the wonderful multi-purpose shoes that I bought a few months ago... (remember these?)

... And then sew a dressing gown, corset, and bodice or some kind of casaquin/caraco/figaro/robe and skirt. It'd also be nice to get a wig all fluffed and teased and together, I'm very curious as I've never done a wig before, and think one could look absolutely smashing if done right.

This post and the corsets it contains were brought to you by grommets and sledgehammers.
Hammering a few grommets is an excellent way for costumers to let off steam and create beautiful, professional-quality garments while doing it - because grommets make everything look awesome.

Monday, August 30, 2010

One thing at a time: Subito RenFaire!

Now the Fringe play is over and done with, I can shift my focus back to my main areas of interest: opera and costumes!

My voice is skipping happily along as it usually does, which is especially good since rehearsals for this fall's production of Rigoletto have begun!

I get to be tossed around by a few principals during the first act, and then dropped on the floor in a comical manner and forgotten about. I'm learning many interesting facts about royal courts in the 1600s, when our production is set. Men like the Duke of Mantua could decide to have an orgy to celebrate Tuesday, and the diritto feudale (ou le droit de seigneur) was in its prime, so with relative ease the Duke could treat said orgy as a feast for every sense, in every sense, as he'd already had a good deal of fun with most of the women in attendance. For the sheer novelty of it, now seems as good a time as any to seduce your jester's virginal daughter, no?

Anyway, I'm getting a bit carried away with the prose, here. The ball scene in Act I will be played as a masked ball, and I've decided to help develop my chorusey character by purchasing my own mask to match the costume I've been fitted for (alas, I've had no time to make my own). I've been thinking of adding lace or tulle around the top for a bit of extra flair (the character would like it so), but that might carry it over the top. I'll experiment with it.

The erstwhile corset of last July is still in production, but at the second to last step! I only have to add the bias tape and grommets, and it's ready to debut. Not a moment too soon, either. This Labor Day weekend, the yearly party I attend will be renaissance-themed. After singing an aria for the group two weeks ago that was received unimaginably well, I feel like I'm on a roll. I'd love for my costume to make a good impression. Also, I find deadlines to be a wonderful incentives to finish something quickly.

It's reversible!

I'm going to modify the design slightly, and combine two separate Simplicity patterns to make a fully-boned corset with detachable "sleeves." Everything will lace together with grommets, and interchangeable with other pieces made from the same or similar patterns, in case I want to do something more "harlequin" in the future.

I'm aiming to design an entire outfit that will be ready to wear to the faire in Tuxedo, NY before it closes, which I think will be on Sept. 20th. I planned to make the corset (with straps/sleeves), a matching skirt, and possibly a simple blouse if I can't find a cheap one. While wandering around the garment district today, however, I was forced to change my plans when I encountered a gorgeous, 1.5yd remnant of dark green wool crepe. There wasn't enough for a full cape, but it's perfect for a capelet, maybe even one with a hood (if I can figure those blasted things out).

So, a list of my costume pieces:
- Capelet (green, woolly)
- Corset (sleeves optional)
- Skirt (to match corset)
- Leather bracers (with the aid of grommets)
- Leggings (I think I have a pair somewhere)
- Boots (fancy, leather, waterproof, already mine)
- Jewellery (to be crafted)
- Belt (made of tassels) (More on that later.)
- Small satchel (to coordinate with the belt, possibly out of the green wool)

I think that's the largest single costuming task I've ever set for myself, or bothered to plan ahead of time. Gasp! I think I stand a chance of finishing it all, which would be fantastic for so many reasons. I'd always thought of doing something baroque first, but a Renaissance/Medieval woman of a generally unsavory character (part pirate, part cutpurse) is a fine first step into semi-serious costuming.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

One thing at a time: NY Fringe Festival

I spent half of July and most of August rehearsing and acting in a play that was part of the New York Fringe Festival. I won't name it, but I will say that it was a mildly interesting play and an excruciating run. My favorite thing about the entire experience was becoming acquainted with the other actors and the stage manager, who turns out to be a costume geek like myself. (Hooray, another costumer on the Eastern coastline!) 
A final, important note on the Fringe play: If anyone has the opportunity to work with one Thomas Praino in the future, please feel free to contact me about my experiences during this production, in which he acted as playwright, director, and producer.

After the final show, the stage manager and I wandered around the most interestingly appareled areas of the city, and had heaps of fun picking out costumes that the men of the play would  have been wearing if we'd had our say - and a considerably larger budget. The show shifted from the middle-east, to some steampunk era, and then settled in baroque Europe with considerable punk, goth, and steampunk influences. If we'd had those costumes during the run of the show, they would have more than made up for the minor imperfections in each performance.

In the next post, it's back to costuming. I just had to get the weight of the Fringe play (like the Scottish play, you see, but less noteworthy). I'm also back to opera - Freaking YAY!

Monday, July 5, 2010


I just confirmed with my two closest friends that they would not be opposed to my sewing them into uncomfortable costumes and us all running around in a giant park doing random improv. This may well mean I immerse myself once more in the thick of costuming, or this may turn out to be another wild idea that doesn't come to fruition. Either way, life's looking particularly benissimo right now.

"It's only a flesh wound...

...I'm not dead yet!"
Still here, still costuming, though I've been feeling decidedly detached from life in general lately. Since I'm 99% sure that nobody from my current job knows the URL for this blog, or even knows that I make costumes in my spare time, I think I can say here that it feels like work has been gorging itself on heaps of my time lately, even though I know I don't work that many hours a week. This job is so far removed from my ultimate goals in life in just about every way, I don't think it's a huge secret that, although I do the best work that I possibly can while I'm there because I was raised (by karate) with the mindset that slacking off should be physically impossible, I'm only there because it pays for my vocal lessons and a bit of fabric and nice togs on the side. 

But back A good friend of mine just sent me (cross-country!) some lovely green fabric with gold stripes. I think it's acetate, but it looks like jacquard, which makes it the perfect candidate for:
My first corset! I need to purchase the fancy bit of machinery that puts in eyelets for you, but I think I know where to find it. Aside from the eyelets and lacing (also easy to obtain), I have everything I need. Main fabric, check; lining/reversible main fabric, check; leftover interfacing from frock coat, check. Oh, duh, I just remembered (silly, forgetful me) that corsets need boning as well. I'm going for the tried-and-true modern whalebone substitute: thick cable ties. I hope the interfacing I have is thick enough to hold its shape with the "bones" in, but if it's not, at least I won't be wasting any expensive fabrics. I do hope it stays together, though. I love the way the striped fabric looks even when I can only see the different cutout pattern pieces lying flat together on the cutting board.

And a quick room design update: 

As  I keep adding things to the room, more pictures of things will be added to the blog. I desperately want to paint soon, hopefully I'll be up for that once the AC is fixed. 
(Painting + 90-degree weather = not the good)