September 21, 2009

Kaufman-Davis Studio, Inc. dba Period Corsets®

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Before we were Period Corsets by Kaufman-Davis Studio, we were plain ol’ Kaufman-Davis Studio, an independent costume house located here in Seattle, Washington. Our customers were both local and national, and we made custom costumes of all shapes and sizes. While we constructed both men’s and women’s costumes (and even costumes for monkeys if that’s what was needed), one of our specialties was tailoring, a skill that both Becky and Susan, co-owners of the business, learned while working in other costume shops.

Some of our favorite projects involved tailoring multiples of things, where we could really fine-tune a technique in a set of costumes. Santa Fe Opera’s “Ermione” required an “army” of civil-war era uniforms for the chorus. At designer Isabella Bywater’s request, we tailored them from a rich dark blue English cotton moleskin, finished off with rows of shiny buttons.

Another favorite project was a set of uniforms in non-matching colors for New York City Opera. Designer John Conklin chose the identical silhouette for all the characters in the opera “Macbeth”, a single-breasted tunic with stand collar, but each character was unique, in woolens ranging from pale gray to a deep aubergine. We loved the coats so much that a photo of one became part of our “logo”, incorporated into our letterhead, business cards, and postcards.

We have a long-time interest in sharing what we know—we often hire staff for a good match with our shop, then train for the skills needed to do the work successfully. Becky has taught pattern-making in an apparel design program, and currently teaches pattern alterations, art quilting, and use of Bernina machines classes. Susan has co-taught two tailoring master classes, held at Utah Shakespearean Festival, and presented on draping and costume construction, all through USITT.

We know that while our main mission at Period Corsets® is to establish period silhouettes, we want to help you construct high-quality costumes for all your performers. If everyone looks good, the show benefits—and we want to help you make this happen.

All this to say: don’t be surprised to see the topics of tailoring and costume construction in upcoming blogs!

September 4, 2009

Late 19th Century Petticoat, September's Petticoat of the Month

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How the Period Corsets®  Late 19th Century Petticoat came about:

When we started Period Corsets® , we were focused, as the name implies, on corsets and nothing but corsets. After continued requests for coordinating garments, we decided to expand our line to include petticoats, skirt supports, chemises and bloomers. We designed each additional item with the others in mind: each size and silhouette to fit perfectly together. Our goal is to be able to offer the complete period silhouette for all our corset time periods.

The Late 19th Century Petticoat was the first addition to our growing line of historic corsets. It was originally designed to go with the c. 1890 Theodora Corset; worn over our 19th c. Bustle the hem of the petticoat falls evenly to the floor and when worn alone the hem has a gentle sweep in the back. This petticoat compliments the c. 1880 Alice corset and the c. 1905 Mae Corset as well. Wear it with our 19th c. Bustle pad and the Mae corset and you’ve captured the signature S-curve of the Gibson Girl silhouette of the Edwardian era . It is an extremely versatile petticoat to keep in your costume stock because it is so successful with all these era’s silhouettes.

How we achieved this classic Late 19th c shape with our patterning:

This petticoat is relatively flat in the front, with slight fullness in the back. It is cut in three panels, with the tradition of “bias-to-straight” on the side front seams. For those of you unfamiliar with this expression, petticoat and skirt shapes of this time period use a pattern technique as follows: the center front gore is cut with the straight grain at center front, the next gore is cut with the straight grain parallel to the front side of the gore, the bias seam on the back side, and so on. Using the grain in this fashion pushes the fullness towards the back of the skirt. In fuller skirts of this time period, the final gore might switch grains so center back would be on straight-grain, and the two further side-back seams would be bias-to-bias.

Our petticoat includes side front darts for some shaping over the hip. Also, true to our “let’s make this useful in a costume stock” techniques, we developed a waist band that incorporates the flexibility of a drawstring (across the back of the waistband) with the security of a flat waistband (across the front to side back). That way, our size ranges of small, medium, large, etc., still work, but the shape is held in place on the waistband.

The petticoat has a ruffle at the hem, which finishes in a slight sweep on the floor—about four inches. And in keeping with our usual “easy-to-alter” philosophy, the petticoat is constructed with two one-inch tucks that can be let out for taller women, or made deeper for shorter lengths.

How we customize the Late 19th century petticoat to our designers needs:
For The Metropolitaon Opera's "Lucia Du Lammermoor" Petticoats pictured above in shades of grey
Our stock Late 19th century Petticoat is made in a medium weight polished poly/cotton blend. We keep it in stock in white, off-white and black. But, there are a myriad of colors available in the same quality. Some of our clients have taken advantage of this color selection opportunity.
When the Metropolitan Opera was building the costumes for "Lucia Du Lammermoor", they wanted our petticoats in something more than our plain black polished cotton...something to compliment the tone of the opera. Maybe suggesting the dark and dreary palette of the rainy Scottish Moors, they picked out a range of very subtle tones of grey.

For The Public Theatre:

The Late 19th Century Petticoat also lends itself well to almost any fashion fabric. Our designer clients send us fabric of their choice. In contrast to Lucia’s dark feel The New York Shakespeare, Public Theatre sent us a beautifully lightweight embroidered stripe eyelet cotton. It turned out wonderfully delicate and airy for summer Shakespeare in the park.
For A Theatre For New Audience:
Whatever the designer wants! Early on one of our designer clients Elizabeth Caitlin Ward paired the petticoat with great success to our c. 1860 Julia corset. We made both of the items to match in her choice of hot pink shantung silk. She had us leave the ruffle off of the bottom of the petticoat, yet keep the tucks. She achieved a vibrant new look.

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