Isabella has a companion!

Remember Isabella my dressform?

I’ve just bought her a companion.  Meet Lady Murasaki:

Lady Murasaki

Murasaki is a vintage Japanese dressform.  She’s a size 8 (so one size down from Isabella).  She’s also slightly longer – so suitable for draping garments that are fitted over the hips.  Doesn’t she have beautiful lines?

She is foam (great for pinning and draping on) with a synthetic taffeta cover which has a bit of foxing from age.  Right now I like the evidence of what she has been through; if it gets too bad I’ll re-cover her.

Wearing her age

I found her at the Asia Gallery.  I’d actually noticed her months ago, but I didn’t have the money for her at the time, and the price was a bit more than I wanted to pay.  I also wondered if I really would get much use out of such a small dressform.  However, my last three clients have been size 8 or smaller, and I find it easier to draft on a small form and size up than to draft patterns and size them down.  The real clincher was the price though: I went by the Asia Gallery on Friday and she was marked down.  Dressform for $80 = major happy dance!

Isabella and Murasaki

I knew almost immediately what I wanted to name her.  Isabella is named after the Italian Renaissance arts patron Isabella d’Este, and most of my other sewing equipment also have names related to Renaissance art, but that didn’t suit Murasaki.  Instead I named her after the 11th century Japanese poet and writer Murasaki Shikubu, author of The Tale of Genjii.

The slightly different shapes are fascinating.

My interest in Murasaki goes back even further than my interest in Renaissance art patrons.  I read a book about her as a early teen, and continued to read up on her and The Tale of Genji.  I drove my Japanese language teacher in high school batty by knowing (and using) all sorts of obscure Japanese nouns (starting with her name, murasaki, which means ‘wisteria’ and also the purple colour of wisteia) but being hopeless at grammar.

I don’t immediately have an excuse to use her, but I’m very excited about doing so: she has the perfect seams for draping – so much better than Isabella’s.

Meat, fur, feathers & me

This post was sparked in part by a reader question, and in part by tomorrow’s terminology post (which means, in a way, you are getting a response from the future.).  It also interlocks with Steph’s post on taste, and judging (or not judging) other people by their clothes.

First, the reader question:

A reader asks “How do you feel about fur?  Would you use it if doing so was historically accurate?  Could you consider a reproduction with faux fur historically accurate?”

As a bit of background to this, I have a very specific and defined attitude towards animals and meat.  I will eat local unfarmed fish as long as it’s not a species that has been identified as being at-risk (bluefin tuna, orange roughies etc.).  I eat wild game in areas where the wild game is an introduced species (so deer & goat in NZ & Hawaii).  I don’t eat commercial meat, even the ethically farmed stuff.  I just don’t like the idea of something existing merely to die.  I don’t eat pork.  The thought is just disgusting to me.  Pigs are too much like humans.  At the same time, I try not to be a pain about my diet.  If I go to someones and get served meat I pick around it as discreetly as possible.  I’ll even cook meat for people.

How do I feel about fur?  

I’m OK with vintage fur, both wearing and using it, but I think that the fur industry needs to end.  It’s outmoded and unethical.  There is no reason to use fur anymore: unlike leather for shoes, we have found fur alternatives that work just as well as ‘real’ fur.  Wearing new fur is one of the few places in fashion where I will judge you.  I think it goes beyond tasteless to being cruel and unethical.

Although I am sanguine about wearing vintage fur (vintage meaning 30+ years old), the vintage fur pieces (two stoles, a jacket, a hat and a number of scraps or damaged collars) that I own were all Nana’s (she had almost 2 closets full of fur).  I don’t think I could buy a vintage fur piece, even at an charity shop.

I do wear leather.  I don’t think we are killing animals for the leather, and I feel that non-leather options work as well.  I don’t wear leather clothes other than shoes and belts, and I can’t see myself buying leather furniture.

The one limit to my willingness to wear vintage fur is astrakhan.  The knowledge of how it is sourced, even if it was before I was born, creeps me out too much.  I won’t judge you for wearing vintage astrakhan, but I can’t put it on me.  I gave Nana’s astrakhan hat and collared coat to an op-shop.

And now you are all wondering what ashrakan is.  You’ll find out tomorrow!

Would I use fur on a historical outfit where doing so was historically accurate/correct?

I’d use the scraps or damaged collars from Nana, but otherwise no.  My commitment to history doesn’t go as far as to ignore my ethics, or cause harm to my body.  That’s where I draw the line.

Could you consider a reproduction with faux fur historically accurate/correct?

I could.  Others may not.  For me, using faux fur is no different than reproduction (plastic) whalebone, or using the closest modern weave when the historical one isn’t available.  It’s not the same, but it serves the same purpose, and a seamstress of the time would probably have recognised what it was meant for, which is my rough standard.


These are all just my choices, and my opinions though.

2011: the year in review

Another year over, another just begun.

It’s interesting looking back at 2011.  It was quite a year.  It was a year of trips: the South Island, Australia, Tauranga, the Hawke’s Bay, Taupo.  It was a year of commissions: Carolyn’s wedding dress, Polly’s wedding dress, Judith’s Panniers, Kerry’s Steampunk Bustle, Shell’s wedding dress, the 1932 White Zombie gown for PorcelainToy.  It was a year of research and information: Queen Victoria’s wedding dress, Jeanne Samary, textile terms, Ninon d’Ecolet.  It was a year of finished projects: the 1660s Ninon dress, the 18th century gentleman’s ensemble, the 1770s silver stays, the 1890s black corded corset, the 1900 ribbon corset.  Most of all it was a year of people: Shell, my sister the Naiad, Steph in Australia, each and every one of you wonderful readers, and darling, much-missed Jo-Anne.

Here are some images of the year.  Each of them should link to a post if you see something really exciting and want to know more. :-)







Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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