Tuesday, August 30, 2016

McCalls 6819 Finished: Evil Regal

  The Evil Regal is back, and her new outfit is awesome.

      So here is the nearly finished product on the dress form, getting the approval from Ms. Abby Cat. This is the almost completed product I referenced in my last blog. I did everything last minute. With hours left to go, I got the grommets done, hemmed the bottom, did some final fittings, finishing touches, and voila.

     So I love this dress. It is so much fun. Below is a picture of my outfit at Michigan Renaissance Festival opening weekend. Also, note my awesome Son of Sandlar boots, I have been coveting a pair for years. My favorite thing about this coat is how with very little wind or effort it billows out when I walk providing the perfect dramatic effect. The only thing this outfit needs is a fabulous hat to pair, and a different shirt. (I also intend on getting some great leather gloves to match the hat and boots.)

     There are some changes I will make next time around, and there will most definitely be a next time around.

     First, I made an error when I was constructing the bodice, and I made it a little shorter on me than I would prefer, so when I put on my belt you can't see the tabs in the front. It basically sits right above my waistline, and it should be just below.
     Secondly, because I knew I was going to wear a corset I opted to not do a full bust adjustment, and bust apex reposition, because of that I also opted to not do the hook and eye closure in the front, or lace ties in the back. Next time around I will, and although I still don't know if I am convinced on hook and eyes, (mostly concerned about their durability while LARPing) I will say I think it would have looked a lot better. I hate the space in lacing at the top and then they are completely closed at the bottom.

     I did see one other lady wearing the same pattern, but hers was made with stiffer fabric and a cotton lining so it held its shape really well. Hers looked nice and crisp, she did the hook and eye in the front and ties in the back. When I saw her outfit I wanted to remake mine immediately because it looked so amazing. She had hers made for her by a professional and it really showed. She wore hers with a skirt under it and added other feminine touches. I love how versatile this piece can be.

     I am considering making a second version of this for larp, and later in the fair season when it cools off and the rains get really bad. I did notice with the length on this one if I am walking up anything I step on it, so running and swinging a sword may prove difficult.

     I made some awesome new friends at fair too, (shout out to Chris and Chris) who loved the outfit
and were down to help with the next one. That one I will most likely do the full sleeves, heavier fabric, but a shorter asymmetrical skirt similar to this picture. So the M6819 pattern, but just change the skirt style. Chris and Chris also suggest the use of trim and stones which are a must do. When I begin that one, I plan on doing a more step by step tutorial.

    Please leave your thoughts, tips, tricks and experiences below.

Evil Regal, aka Jessi

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Renaissance Festival project progress: M6819 pt. 2

     So we are about day three into the McCall's 6819 project and it's almost done. The construction was pretty easy considering. My biggest praise is the lack of hand stitching involved. I hate hand sewing, and other than slip stitching the inside of the bodice lining once you attach the skirt there really isn't anything else that requires it.  The picture here is the version I am doing. No sleeves or all around skirt pleats.

     Originally I was going to include boning on the side and back seams for structure, but I have since nixed that idea since the bodice and skirt meet right at the waist line and my waist is short, even my apple shape doesn't warp the structure or how it hangs. Another change I mentioned doing was adding ties in the front to replace the hood and eye closure it called for, and I am still thinking of taking this route, or, I may do some buckles. Haven't decided that yet.

     The pattern calls for decorative lacing in the back, but I haven't done that yet, and I am debating if I want too. It's solely decorative, and if I make the wide waist belt that also comes with the pattern, it seems silly because the laces would be covered up. (However, I am thinking of wearing a corset under, so we will see.)

     This picture is everything that is included in the pattern packet. I am thinking for a second project of making the bodice with the all around skirt pleats, minus the skirt for a second project. There are so many ways to change the options up and have fun.

   So this is the inspiration for the project. Regina is my spirit animal... of fashion. When I saw this picture I immediately thought of my pattern and knew this is what I wanted to make/use as a base. Michigan Renaissance Festival starts August, and goes until October, so I knew I needed something that would offer versatility for the dramatic weather we see in that time frame. We get heat with high humidity, we get lots of rain, and then it gets cold very quickly. I opted no sleeves since my chemise has the long sleeves, and I'll later layer a cloak. I am not part of the cast so I can have more fantasy in my outfit, so I wanted it to be less formal, but still feminine, and along the lines of pirates and roguish. I love this pattern for that.

     The pattern calls for lining, and the jacquard I got from the upholstery section was durable, but not stiff, so it lacked structure. I decided I would take the muslin shell of the bodice I tested and attach that to the lining to have it as an underlining. To be honest, I will never do that again. This was my first time with a lining, and it was frustrating at times to work with not two, but three layers. In fact, I hated the slippery lining I used. unless its a dress or something more delicate, I am using a muslin or cotton linings from now on. I know I will for my next bodice I am already planning.

Here you can see the muslin and lining inside out on my dress form as I was checking the seams and preparing to pin to the main fabric.

     I LOVE THIS COLLAR. On my next project, I may exaggerate it even more. The little sleeve caps are so much fun too. Here is the collar, sleeve caps and bodice sewn up with the lining. It looks great. The collar and sleeves were so easy, you just pin to the edge of the fabric on the right side between the lining and outer shell, and sew it all up in once swoop. Once you do that and turn it right side out, everything just falls into place. The edge stitching was already done to the collar before it was attached to the bodice, I did double line of edge stitching on the collar, one line on the sleeves, and once it was all sewn together I did one line down the front and blended it into the collar.

     My moms' cat Abby kept hiding under the dress form as I was working on the skirt, which I assume was just one giant tent to her. She is a beautiful minx kitty though, so I decided it was a great time to get some shots of her. I posted a few more on my Instagram. Here she is trying to be sneaky.

     I got the skirt lining sewn and the unit attached but I still need to hem the skirt and lining. I deviated from the pattern instructions a little at this point. The pattern calls for the right sides of the skirt to be together and you sew up the sides, up the slit in the back and along the bottom, leaving the top open, but I needed to trim up fabric and lose some inches so I left the bottom open too.

     At this point, all I need to do is add the little decorative pleats, one on either side in the front closure, slip stitch the inside lining closed, which I'll do last in case I need to do anything inside the bodice, trim and hem up the skirt, add whatever front closure method I decide, and decide on the back ties or not. I also have some Kuchi jewelry from my belly dance days I thought about adding to the outfit for more of a pirate look. Not much more to go, and I should have it done in one, maybe two more days time. Fair is 5 days away.

I think this would easily be a long weekend project. I did work at my own slower pace, and on a few occasions I got over confident and ahead of myself which lead to me seam ripping and starting parts over. Over and over. Here is how it's panned out so far:

Day one: cut out pattern, made muslin shell of bodice to decide on fit and alterations (really more so a couple hours at night. I spent the day at JoAnns picking out fabric and notions.)

Day two: cut out lining, and main fabric, cut out sleeve caps, and collar, sew the bodice together, didn't do more because I was waiting for the boning to come in the mail. So I edge stitched around sleeves, collars, and caps

Day three: decided to nix the boning even though it came in the mail, cut out skirt and lining, and sewn them up. (at this point I think my sewing machine was over it because it started to jam on me all the time. I had to put the darning plate cover on to reduce the issues I was having. I have a singer curvy and I was told my the sales person it doesn't do well to layers and layers or heavier fabric.)

Day four: this will be the day I do my finishing touches, touch up anything else thing that needs it after I put on and move around, hem the skirt, and take lots of pictures for my conclusion blog. I'll make sure to get pictures of the details.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Renaissance Festival and New Sewing Project: m6819 pt. 1

     Michigan Renaissance Festival is a week away and I am going to be working there this year as a banner carrier for the 'Sons of Sandlar' booth. I am very excited to be back. It has been about 3 years since I worked in my prior role, which was a CD selling belly dancer for Djiliah Pharlengo, and now I am coming back as something a little different. Sneak peak below. But first some words about lost loved ones, and my history with the fair.

     This year is going to be bittersweet. I have been completely absent for a few years, and even the last few years I worked was more part time. I haven't been fully present since 2010. A lot has changed since then. The biggest change for me is Djiliah is no longer performing there, and I am very lost without them as they were my start and my muse. Also, a few other musical acts will not be there. Owain Phyfe passed away a few years ago. Kevin Tyler, another beloved performer we had shared stages with several times has left us. Jessica Masserant aka Tiger Lily, the Captain of the Crimson Reign (Brethren of the Great Lakes) left us in 2014, and this year I also lost a long time fair friend Charles Sanderson. So much has changed with and without me, and I am scared to go back. I am terrified of the change, as well as excited to return to my roots.

     Michigan Renaissance Festival has a very special place for me. I grew up loving to play pretend. I had dress up clothes as a child, plus a wild imagination. MRF introduced me to a whole other world of people who had similar interest. People who could see the magic and indulged in fantasy. It's safe to say MRF was also my first LARP. I always wanted to be the idea of a gypsy dancer. I wanted to be Esmeralda, twirling to music, or the gypsy girl on the beach playing enchanting music in Queen of the Damned (before Lestat kill her). So one year during drama class our teacher told us about castings for the fair. I attend very unprepared and was given a role in the Enchanted forest with the fairies.
     I loved putting on my costume and loved running around fair. I started in 2003/2004 when I was about 15 as a gypsy in the children area. It was volunteere babysitting essentially and I hated it, however, I was quickly "fired" about three weekends in because I didn't stay there. Can't cage the gypsy heart I guess. One of the times I slipped away is when I met Ernesto aka Spanish Bard, the man of Djilia Pharlengo playing his amazing music in the walkways. I just ran up and started dancing, and then followed him around from show to show. I came back the next year as his CD girl. Over the years I evolved from the little gypsy girl to a belly dancer (thanks to my biggest influential act which sadly is no longer there, Nommobugunte, an African tribal dance troupe, I sure miss that drum circle).
     Nothing beats the morning dew as you stroll in with the sunrise half dressed to make the morning meeting. Even though its August/September it's chilly so you wrap yourself in your favorite cloak or snuggle up to your favorite person. There is a coffee shop in a building by  the fountain which is always popular, or if you are early enough, you can make breakfast in the castle if you have a few bucks. Cast and the shop keeps are arriving and getting everything set up. The most iconic moment of a fair morning is when women are running around asking someone to lace them up (usually a long time fair friend, or a someone they fancy). There is a specific feeling in the air, like when you wake up before your alarm, early with the sun, and as you lay in bed, for whatever reason this morning feels... perfect.

     Other acts I remember from my early days were the Pirates and Musketeers, E muzeki, some members later became Circe Paleo, Mark Valeras took his amazing talents to Wine and Alchemy for a while and then went his own way and hasn't returned to Michigan since, already mentioned Nommobugunte and their awesome end-of-day drum circle, of course Djilia Pharlengo, and I know there are so many more.

     With that being said, the inevitable fact of life is change happens, good or bad, whether we want it to or not, and whether we are prepared or not. I am excited to feel those feelings again when I step back onto the fairgrounds. I only worry about who I will no longer see, and what else has changed. I worry those people took the atmosphere I love with them and I worry that everything is truly different.

     However, with this change comes the opportunity to do something I always wanted to do, and that is explore other costuming and creating a new character. Hard to belly dance in a pirate coat or a bodice, so this year around I am doing a rough, pirate take on a Once Upon a Time costume, via Snow White. McCalls Costume pattern M6819. I am doing the most basic version on the right.

Some changes are going to be made. First, I am including an underlining for additional structure in the bodice, that I will attach some steel boning to via the side seams, up the front closure, and some for support in the back. Also, the pattern calls for hook and eye closures in the front which I am switching out for lacing instead. That means that I will be adjusting the width so that there will be slight gap present to allow for lacing.

I am a bigger girl, and apple shaped so normally I would have needed to add room to the waist, a full bust adjustment, and drop the bust point slightly, but since this will be laced, and I intend to wear a corset under (which will assist with lifting and shaping) the only fitting adjustments I am doing is adding a quarter inch to the side seams (which I did by tapering my 5\8 seam allowance to 3\8), and for the bust, to reduce bulk and give a little room without pattern altering, I did my front princess seams at 3\8 off the bat, so that allowed approximately an additional inch in the bust and in the waist.

Head over to my Instagram to see new pattern purchases, as well as the material I chose. I am using a blue jacquard from the home decor section, that has a filigree print, and a gray lining to match the print but add overall contrast. my chemise is a gray tone as well. I will also be wearing black pants, boots, and as it gets colder, black gloves and a black hooded cape.

I am going to take pictures of my progress, and I'll post a blog once it's completed, or near completed. Stay tuned.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Suicide Squad commits Suicide Post Production

 Suicide Squad, or 'Deadshot, Harley and Friends' as it should have been called, was the greatest disappointment this year for cinema so far.

     Like many others, the hype was real and I was so excited to see the long-awaited Suicide Squad film. I watched cast interviews, behind the scenes footage, and every trailer gleefully in anticipation for the new movie, only to leave the theater confused and disappointed. I went home to read up on what exactly happened, and found myself very angry. Now I want to preface this blog by saying I really wanted to like the film and came to its defense before its release to those who had their doubts. Sadly that is not the case. My opinion is "I liked it...but meh."

 At the end of the blog I will leave my references, and final thoughts, if you want to skip spoilers and get to the point.

What what happened? Some minor spoilers. 

     The first thing I noticed was so many scenes from the trailers never made it to the film. An article that mentions all of them is below, so you can research yourself. Some story pieces were cut out and moved around giving the movie a choppy feel. In fact, it seems the original story, and what we were shown in the trailers, is not the end product. We had been marketed one thing and given another. There were six months of reshooting that happened, and we never got a straight or consistent answered whether it was for the action, (According to Jai Courtney via Twitter post) or for tone and humor, according to others. There were also rumors of the studio getting very nervous via the BvS flop and started to intervene. According to the articles below, the studio tested two trailers, and the campier, more humorous trailer tested better than the director, David Ayers original vision, which was darker and more origins based, so, that is the tone the studio execs wanted to reshoot and transition too. There are also rumors of multiple editors, even though only one is credited, whom actually left before the completed project, and a whole different company took over. So safe to say, too many visions, too many hands in the cookie jar. Again, articles with this information below.

     The most obvious change and injustice, in my opinion, is Harley and Jokers relationship. In a cast interview (below) when talking about shooting Harley and Jokers scenes, Margot Robbie mentions the abusive complicated relationship and makes reference to the Joker trying to kill her a few times. This would follow the comics accurately. We see a glimpse of this in the trailer when Harley appears to be tossed from a Helicopter by Mr. J, which shortly after is shot down by Amanda Waller in an attempt to stop their escape. However, in the film Joker was rewritten from the abusive, and psychotic Mr. J, to being obsessively in love with Harley, and his only role in the move is to reunite with her. So that scene was re-edited to look like he pushed her from the chopper to save her right before the chopper was shot down. It was then confusing when Joker went down with the chopper, why Harley didn't run to him and instead is seen later pouting outside in the rain, rips off the 'Puddin' choker Mr. J gave her and tosses it away.  I feel this more follows the idea of her upset because her Puddin just tried to kill her, not because she thinks he is dead.

     Jared Letos Joker received a lot of criticism, but I feel he did a great job. Joker is a hard role to do, with big shoes to fill. He brought back the unpredictable, colorful, theatrical, and psychotic elements of Joker. Mind you, that is what little we see of him, because rumor has it, due to all the reshoots and changing of the original story, most of his scenes were left on the cutting room floor. I feel we didn't get to see what he really brought to the Joker. The Joker was reduced to a love obsessed boy trying to reconnect with his girlfriend, which any true fan knows, is NOT the Joker at all. 
     One scene, in particular, was removed and fractions of it used later as flashbacks. That is the shot we see in the trailer; where the Joker is in a tuxedo with a burnt face, manically shooting a gun. This was supposed to be after-chopper-crash when a confrontation in the subway with the squad ensues after Harley tells Mr. J she isn't going with him, that she wants to stay with the gang to finish the mission. So Joker throws a grenade at them before he leaves. That aforementioned scene is used completely out of context later, and that confrontation itself never happened. 

     The movie also felt very unbalanced. In the beginning, they do a very quick intro to characters, not all of them, and later when Amanda Waller is going into their histories and dossiers, Deadshot gets the most time, followed by Harley, and everyone is quickly glossed over. In fact, Katana and Slipknot get no real back story or intro time, Killer Croc, who had five hours of makeup before shooting hardly gets any total film time, and neither does Captain Boomerang. El Diablo gets his intro but spends most of the time in the background, until later in the movie he shows what he can "really do" which felt more convenient than anything else. Another thing that was unusual is no one had a role. They were all there because they were crazy metahumans, however, they didn't have specific jobs. Typically in these types of films, if you have a squad of people together, they have specific tasks and roles. However, they all fought alongside each other, not using their specific abilities, which was also disappointing. 

     I also noticed some audio and soundtrack issues. The scene when Rick Flag is giving his speech to the inmates in the desert, the audio is much different from the rest of the film, a small thing, but I think more evidence of sloppy reshoots and editing, and most of the movie soundtrack is pop culture songs, until one particular scene before the suicide mission that has an actual score which felt out of place. The last thing that really stood out to me was a few scenes where the characters outfit and make up are slightly different. One example is the squad has been out in the rain, Harley's white face paint has faded, her eyes and lips are more smeared, as they should be, but later, post rain, her face paint is caked on and eyes and lips look freshly applied, Which again I think is the product of sloppy reshooting, and re-editing.

     Now reshoots and edits happen a lot, but I think part of the problem is Suicide Squad already had an ambitious release date before reshooting, and then the re-editing was very rushed, and again, by multiple companies and people. It not seamless, it feels choppy and sloppy. However, it's not just re-edited, they redid the whole story line. THEY CHANGED EVERYTHING

There is so much more but the linked articles talk about it in more detail. I want you yo do your own research and make your own opinions, this is my own personal ranting.  

So why am I so mad? 

     I am really disappointed because some of these characters are making their first debut in the film world. I can't tell you how long I have been waiting for a live-action Harley Quinn. The original story line was awesome too, and from what I read, the David Ayers vision was going to be great. It was going to follow the original story closely, and it was going to do real justice, but nervous studio execs came in and screwed that all up. We would have gotten a great film, but that was stolen from us. That is why I am so mad. 
     Yes, I am irritated about the inconsistencies in editing, yes, I am annoyed they changed the Joker and Harley relationship to be more commercially appropriate, instead of what is really is. Yes, I am disappointed that Jared Letos Joker was barely in the film and butchered to point where he never got a fair chance, but mostly I am upset that David Ayers was going to give us a great, origin based film (that was evident in the cast interviews and trailers), but it was stolen from us, hacked and re-edited to be something studio execs, who are clearly unfamiliar with the story, preferred. I think had it been left to David Ayers, it would have gotten stellar reviews and fan response would have been overwhelmingly positive. 

Mostly, I feel so bummed out.

Perhaps one day we can see the David Ayers version. Sadly none of the cast members or director will ever be allowed to say what really happened, and are required to maintain support for the finished product. David Ayers has said this is his film, but I think it obvious that is not true.

Let me know what you think, 

And remember, this is just my personal opinion, so don't take too seriously. 

Jessi Harm