Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Temple of Hathor, Maiden Voyage

Delighted to report we officially launched the Temple of Hathor this past weekend at Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2017.

We had a lovely – and extremely helpful – group of friends to picnic with, and encountered others we knew by surprise at the event. It was hotter and more humid than usual – we tried to think of it as additional trappings of an Egyptian picnic, but it was pretty brutal for us CA weather snowflakes all the same. Kudos to all the folks who managed to look extremely elegant, unwrinkled and pristine despite the heat, which at one point drove my preschool-age son to strip down to his Captain America underpants.

At least we got his pants back on by this point. Poor kid!

Luckily dear husband got him re-dressed in time for the announcement of the Grand Prize Picnic winner – I'd be lying through my teeth if I didn't admit I was absolutely thrilled. And it seemed like great justification for all the "making chaos" I've created around the house over the past several weeks.

A thing like this only works when you have great pals and/or supportive S.O.s who are willing to help realize a vision. Feeling super grateful for both, which was the real reward from this project! For more photos of the Temple, visit the Flickr album. More process pics are in previous posts, and I'm thinking about doing a how-to guide on creating the ceiling and facia for others who are looking for practical ways to disguise a modern pop-up. The judges indicated that aspect of our set-up was the main factor in our recognition, so I gather it's a topic of interest. More to come!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Finished: 1930s Button Dress with Egyptian Print

The clock is ticking down to Gatsby Summer Afternoon (day after tomorrow). I'm relieved to have finished the button dress from Decades of Style, made from four yards of this OOP reproduction 1930s Egyptian print fabric I found for $20 on Ebay a couple months ago. I had the pattern already but hadn't done all the regrading for my figure. Fortunately a friend had done just that and we are apparently toile sisters, so I was able to go right to cutting the fashion fabric. Hallelujah.

Bonus papyrus plants waiting to be repotted in the corner!

These little buttons were a score; vintage, $10 on Etsy, and I knew they belonged on this dress when I saw the pyramids on the original packaging.

I'm perfectly sure those are pyramids.

Thanks to the community over on the 1920s-30s Costumers Support Group on Facebook I've learned more about the provenance of this fabric. It's an out-of-print 1930s reproduction in a 100% cotton quilting weight, titled "Aunt Grace Friends Around the World," (c. 2003-4) by designer Judie Rothermel for Marcus Brothers. This seems a bit lighter than a regular quilt weight so has a better drape.

I initially thought this was more of a 1960s look based on the way the pharaohs are designed, but apparently not! I collect vintage Egyptian print fabric but often don't have a lot of information about what I find – I assume anything wider than 39" is post-'50s unless it's a specialty piece more like a sheet (eg, this 7' x 6.25' piece, which came from France and was advertised as 1930s. The size and style of the motifs make me think that is most likely true). Also, I've observed that the narrow width, earlier prints tend to alternate directions of the figures. In other words, the little people are right side up on one line, and upside-down on another line. Am assuming that's so you have more flexibility if using for dressmaking or curtains. Here's an example from the dress I made for last year's Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

I've been collecting the vintage Egyptian prints for a couple years, but finding this wonderful 1922 picture of Agatha Christie in 1922 was thrilling because it's an example of Egyptian Revival dressmaking that is not evening wear You'll see lots of beautiful beaded and embroidered frocks as well as coats decorated in Egyptian motifs on Pinterest, but I haven't seem many casual prints like this from the '20s and '30s. This photo demonstrates to me that this fashion trend extended beyond nightclubs and drawing rooms. Note the larger scale of the scarabs, papyrus flowers and chariots.

Get a load of the little chariots and papyrus flowers and scarabs.
I DIE. Surely there's a way to recreate this with Spoonflower?
back view

This faux 1930s garden party hat is still in process. I didn't order a hood in time to block something, but had this unblocked straw around and love the pattern. If I just "crush" and stitch down the crown it has the right look...but it also looks like a squished-down crown. Maybe if I cover up the side with trim it will pass? Might need to wire and cover the edge, but it's looking pretty good on when I tilt it.

Does this count as a "crushed crown" style?
Temporary trim. 

Last but not least, the Egyptian Hotel hanger that is used for all new Egyptian revival projects. Because, the mania.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Finishing Touches for a Dining 'Temple'

Nine days to go until it's time to roll out the Temple of Hathor at this year's Gatsby Summer Afternoon. The roof facia is painted (some touch-ups needed, but they can go to the end of the project line). Am sewing ties to the back wall now, along with filling a vintage photo album with Egyptian expedition photos from that era. I'm including some bonus shots of the old De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Originally built as the Fine Arts Building for the California Midwinter Exposition of 1894, the building was damaged and has since been replaced by a very modern structure.

"The Fine Arts Building was designed in a pseudo–Egyptian Revival style and decoratively adorned with images of Hathor, the cow goddess. Following the exposition, the building was designated as a museum for the people of San Francisco." - History of the De Young.
Tourists staying at one of the grand hotels in Giza.

Dress is cut out and awaiting assembly. No progress on a hat, I'm more concerned about a temple topper than my own chapeau. I have most of the goods to make a Crown of Hathor, and a mock up isn't bad, but I need to make it in a sturdier material that will hold up to wind and last until the temple's next outing.  A friend is already interested in using it for an Amelia Peabody L.A.R.P. (yes, PLEASE.)

I guess this means I have to drill down holes for the wires
to go into to hold up the horns. Yes, that's a coat hanger.

Need to use 2x2" wood screwed together instead of Styrofoam for strength.
This thing will screw down to the pole at the left, which fits into the top of the sunshade.

Here are a few more pics of the shots I found for the album.

Victorian tourists getting their Egypto-picnics on.
That's Agatha Christie top right and bottom right. 

The album itself has a story - I found it on the clearance rack at Salvation Army. It was cleaned out apart from an old clipping and a few photos that I'm guessing were duplicates. From the name printed in the front and the aforementioned, it looks like this belonged to a WWII airman who was from Nevada City, where my husband and I got married. He grew up there, and that's where our families still live. What are the odds?!?!?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Picnic like an Egyptian...Tourist circa 1930

The one project I resolved to complete this year is an Egyptian Revival picnic set up for Gatsby Summer Afternoon

Held each year on the historic Dunsmuir House grounds, this event is an annual extravaganza of Art Deco style (see 2016 photo gallery). Some attendees picnic with their classic cars, others rent shaded tables by the dance floor. Collectors set up lovely tables and blankets with their heirloom china, vintage linens, traveling bar cases and all sorts of other beautifully made things (including 1920-30s recipes). It's excessively elegant and a delightful escape into the past. Some creative souls have made wonderful themed picnics, like the team behind The Jade Pagoda (see below) and  "Casa D'Or." These large-scale installations require a lot of prep, schlepping, set-up and pack-down, but allow picnic-goers to step into their own time-capsule and share it with others.

"The Jade Pagoda" from 2015's GSA was spectacular.  
Credit: SFGate/Tim Hussin
I have some experience doing this sort of thing, after creating a mobile version of medieval writer Christine de Pizan's 15th c. study. But time and energy is in shorter supply these days now that adored junior is on the scene. Soooo... my efforts to get the infrastructure for an Egyptomania theme didn't coalesce in time for last year's picnic. I made a hand-blocked hat and dress from vintage Egyptian fabric and picked up a number of things that we were able to use, but didn't get the pop-up sunshade disguised. That process involves the making of draperies and other items that ideally transform the kind of sunshade you see at farmers markets and kids' soccer games into something resembling a Deco Dining Pavilion.

Having an extra year to plan means I've refined the picnic concept – I'm thinking "Temple of Hathor," thanks to this figurine I picked up at a funky gift and metaphysical store in Nevada City. Apparently this beauty was actually used for "adoration" by group of people up there who still find spiritual inspiration from the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Good juju, right?

What would an Egyptian temple pavilion be doing at a Deco garden party? Egyptian-themed parties, dress and music were very fashionable after the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1923. It's plausible the hosts of my picnic are recently returned from their vacation on the Nile, ready to tell stories and show off display their souvenirs. With that conceit in mind I've collected some vintage guidebooks and printed a bunch of vintage and more recent pictures in sepia and b/w, with plans to paste them into a vintage scrapbook I found at our local Salvation Army (my go-to spot for finding vintage paraphernalia).

But that little finishing touch needs to wait until I get the infrastructure done.

So far I've repurposed a bunch of tent-grade canvas from storage to make a roof facia for the sunshade. Home Depot had appropriate shades of half-price paint on the "oops" rack, which conveniently matched the fabric I found for the curtains at Fabrix a couple years ago. I already had gold craft paint on hand, and the main issue is just working with such a long piece of fabric (40 feet) in our very small SF apartment. I'm painting about four feet at a time, usually on the alternate nights when husband-unit does bedtime routine for junior.

Project Notes: what's done, and what's left:

• Curtains: Measured, cut, hemmed; to conserve the fabric I made tabs of plain copper colored cotton and am planning to close the loops with safety pins for more flexibility of where they hang from struts/understructure of the pop-up sunshade. The curtains will cover the white steel poles. Still need to make and apply a few loops to guide the tie-backs, which I found on the clearance rack at JoAnns.

• Roof facia: I've put grommets into the key spots on the original roof to slip through ties to affix the facia strip to the steel struts/understructure. Canvas for the facia has been cut, assembled, hemmed; cord applied to the back for hanging; paint guides marked; color applied; gold detailing in process with lots of masking tape.

• Ceiling: Ties applied to corners and midsections of the edges; holes and grommets applied at four spots in the middle where ceiling needs to be supported by the strut hubs. White ribbon ties will hang from the struts hubs and pull through the grommets and washers I've painted gold. Decorative papyrus flower elements applied with stencil and gold paint, which serves dual purpose of strengthening area around the grommets.

Stencil from Etsy - used it for a dress earlier this year. Those wrinkles will come out btw!

Greenery/Decor: I was thinking potted palms, but then these King Tut papyrus plants turned up for $10 on Craigs List....hello!

Should've seen these before I literally sawed off all the dead roots and whatnot.

• Hathor's Crown: I'm currently stumped as to how to turn these into a topper for the sunshade – maybe use a block of floral foam as a base? But there's a pole at the top of the sunshade that I can screw it down to once I figure it out.

• Back wall: I have a great pice of 1930s fabric that will make a perfect decorative wall on the sunny side of the shade. It's been hemmed and ties have been attached. Loops for hanging have been added to the the two vintage quilted souvenir tapestries from Egypt that will go on either side of the back wall.

Scrapbook: in the queue

I've found a bunch of great vintage travel pics online. 

Menu: Making a better version of ye olde pyramid cake - relying on our fellow picnic partners for help with the rest, thank Hathor.

Pyramid cake, 1.0

• Finish Dress: Oh right – this is kind of important. It's cut out, using some fun vintage Egyptian fabric. Just need to assemble. Maybe should think about doing that now....

• Hat: Hope I have enough steam left to do this (ha, ha, get it, steam? Milliners joke.)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sewing for Death on the Nile

I hadn't planned on starting any ambitious new sewing projects this year....until I saw the theme of this year's Art Deco Preservation Ball: "Death on the Nile," a homage to Agatha Christie and Egyptian Revival style.

This was an amazing event - see photos here.

Ok, clearly I was not meant to get back to work on all the UFOs (Unfinished Objects).

Egyptomania is a fairly new interest, but my love for Agatha Christie dates back to high school. There aren't that many events with an Egyptian Revival theme, let alone one from such a stylish era, in our city. It was a can't-miss affair!

The event presented a great opportunity to use some of the vintage Egyptian fabric I'd sourced. As a bonus incentive, I had a partner-maker to sew with – dear friend, artist and costumer Lucreze, who was easily persuaded to make it a double date with our respective husband units. (They never need much convincing to put on vintage evening attire, bless them). She also was instrumental in conceptualizing my dress and wrap (and designed her own take on an Erté gown - it was splendid!)

I should have spent more time documenting process for making an outfit for the event – suffice to say our tiny SF apartment was covered in sewing paraphernalia for weeks. There are a few things I would tweak, but the final product was super fun to wear to a fabulous event.  

Frock: Black and gold silk charmeuse. The gold is a vintage remnant sourced from Etsy; the black was a $5/yd steal from a local discount fabric shop. The pattern is basically a simple black tube with four gold gores inserted (two front and two back) and shoulder straps.  I traced the beading outline from a stencil and was beading until the bitter end – I literally applied the gold triangle with the papyrus flower beading to the top of the dress in the car on the way the event. 

Cape/Wrap: This is a simple three-piece construction seamed at the shoulder and along the curved edge below the wrist openings. It's lined in this thin black silk taffeta (Fabrix, $4/yd). The fabric is vintage black silk brocade sourced from Etsy; probably 1960s or later. You can see the little gold Egyptian figures in the close up shot below. I had just enough left to piece the sash.
A parade of pharaohs!
Headpiece: This was the really fun part – I've been collecting pictures of the original, vintage version of this for some time on Pinterest and was able to collect enough brass bits and bobs to have Vince at Tigges Jewelers solder them together to make a fair replica. He gave me the faux pearls to dangle below the years - what a patient guy to work on this with me! Additional Materials: brass findings and bracelets for the bits over the years, along with clock brass strips to hold it all together. Amazingly enough, I saw two of the originals at the actual event! They were missing the pearls and were much darker, but in great shape.

Jewelry: With the headpiece and beading I didn't want to go overboard, so just went with some vintage costume earrings. Probably still a bit much but I couldn't resist. I found these on Ebay a while back; they are a match for a necklace I found year before last (!) Both are signed ART - if anyone knows more about that maker/mark, would love a tip. Their Egyptian pieces turn up on Ebay pretty frequently.

Vince from Tigges Jewelers -- so great with this project!

Shoes: These are the Pashas from Chelsea Crew – so perfect for this occasion but I'm selling them – too high for my comfort!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dressing for ‘Death on the Nile’

This post was prepared for the Art Deco Society of California's April 2017 newsletter. Learn more about the Art Deco Society and become a member here. Shop for the ADSC's 33rd Annual Art Deco Preservation Ball at some of the Bay Area's finest vintage shops, listed here.

Young Agatha, setting off on a world tour. Aboard HMS Kildonan Castle in January 1922. Credit: BBC

Experience the ancient aesthetic that captured Agatha Christie’s imagination at this year’s 33rd Annual Art Deco Preservation Ball.   This year's theme, "Death on the Nile," pays homage to that prolific mystery writer as well as the decorative style known as Egyptian Revival. Also known as Egyptomania or Tutmania, this trend initially swept the West after Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of Egypt. The obsession for all things Egyptian grew to new heights after the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. That landmark find made headlines around the world, fueling a growing trend toward exotic “orientalism” in fashion, architecture, the decorative arts and more.

The Egyptian Look
The Egyptian Look was incorporated in everything from detergent ads to exotic stage costumes. Couture designers from Souers to Poiret incorporated motifs from temple and tomb paintings, sculpture and other surviving examples of ancient Egyptian art. Some Deco-era frocks went full Pharaoh, embellished with scarabs, pyramids and sphinxes and snake-adorned headdresses. Gowns, coats, gloves, jewelry, shoes, headbands and more incorporated bold geometric or tribal patterns, gold trim or Egyptian lotus and papyrus flowers. Embroidered Egyptian designs or beads of lapis lazuli, carnelian, coral, turquoise or faience were popular as well.

A Time to Shine
Shimmering, metallic-woven fabrics evoking the golden treasure found in ancient tombs were popular. Look for gold lamé and assuit, a fabulous metal-embellished net originating in ancient times in the eponymous region of Egypt. Very popular as evening wear gowns, coats or shawls during the Deco era, you can still find it today. 

Just a Touch of Tut
Accessories are an easy way to get in the spirit. In addition to shopping at local vintage shops that have curated perfect ensembles for the event, a search on “Egyptian Revival” or “Vintage Egyptian” via Etsy, Ebay and other online sellers will turn up an array of jewelry, handbags, wraps, ties and tie pins, cufflinks, cigarette cases and other accessories that will add ancient flair to your ensemble.

Grand Tour Couture
If hieroglyphs and serpents aren't your style, simply go with classic attire that might have been worn by visitors stopping in Egypt as part of The Grand Tour. Formal evening dress of that era was de rigour from the ballrooms of Cairo's finest hotels to the dining rooms of the Dahabiyas transporting travelers along the Nile.

See more examples of Egyptian Revival fashion, architecture and decorative arts from the 18th century to today on Pinterest at: @EgyptomaniacSF.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gateway to the Mania - the GBACG Egyptian Expedition of 2016

I'm starting this blog as an outlet after developing a peculiar condition called "Egyptomania."

Pyramids always held great allure – at 13 I was reading my cosmic mom's library with its spiritualist influences from ancient Egypt. Mummies? Of course. When my brother's kids declared their annual Halloween party theme was "Garden of the Gods," I came as Bastet.

Somehow I didn't realize any of this had a connection to something called Egyptian Revival, until the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild organized its 2016 "Egyptian Expedition" inviting members to dress up and visit the Rosicrucian museum in San Jose. This fascinating place boasts one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts west of the Mississippi. Its architecture and gardens are swoon-worthy and they have managed to recreate King Tutunkamun's tomb to scale.

The cosplay appeal of a faux archeological expedition meets Gilded Age grand tour was too much to resist. The event organizers asked a photographer to take old school silver plate portraits in the beautiful garden. Attendees were invited to wear anything from the age of Napoleon's initial Egyptian campaign to the 1950s (an era for some really fun Egyptian print fabric and skirts you can still find on Ebay and Etsy.) GBAGC members put on a fabulous display of pith helmet meets Cleopatra meets 1915 Grand Tourist attire. (See photo album from the event here.)

Lucreze joined me on the expedition - love her ensemble!

The timing was pretty interesting, as I'd just finished an audiobook about the family that owned the house used to film Downton Abby. Lord Carnarvon was an auto fiend until he had an accident, when he decided to turn his attention and finances to amateur archeology. Meaning he hired expat artist and Egyptologist Howard Carter to look for tombs, and paid teams of locals to do the actual digging.

Lord Carnarvon and his daughter, center.

After several seasons of disappointment Carter and Carnarvon made the incredible discovery of King Tutankamun's intact tomb in 1923. A new phase of Egyptomania was born: Tutmania! You can read all about this trend in an eponymous book by Prof. Bob Barker, who traces the origins of Egyptomania back to Napoleon's invasion in the late 18th century. It's worth reading Mirage or one of the other books that describe how that expedition played a major role in popularizing science and exploration at that time.

After figuring out that February 16, 1923, was an epochal moment in the Egyptian Revival - King Tut timeline, I resolved to make this my Gatsby picnic theme. My central costuming theme. It crosses so many eras!

As far as sewing for the GBACG Egyptian Expedition goes, I choose a 1915-ish outfit, which required making a new corset, skirt and shirt. I picked up this pith helmet at a going out of business sale a decade ago because I knew I'd need it someday. I didn't get the corset done until after the event but that came out pretty well too (and it is FINISHED). The skirt pattern is from Wearing History:  http://wearinghistory.clothing/1910s-suit-jacket-skirt-pattern-circa-1916/ and blouse Folkwear Ethnic 104 pattern http://www.folkwear.com/104.html (Note: I still need to make the jacket for this, so i supposed that's a UFO for 2017).

Much of the sewing (and dishes and commuting) was accompanied by the fantastic rendition of the Amelia Peabody novels by audio narrator Barbara Rosenblat. These books are incredibly fun to listen do (by that particular narrator), especially when in the throes of period costuming.

For the audiobooks, be SURE to get the
ones narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. Really. 

They're written by Elizabeth Peters, a pen name for archeologist Barbara Mertz. Fans of the Parasol Protectorate series will definitely see some similarities in the protagonists. Highly recommended!