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Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2021

Costume Showcase 2021: Livestreaming 2nd Oct 6:30 NZDT!!!

It’s back!  For the second year in a row, Toi Whakaari’s Costume Showcase will be livestreamed!

Join us virtually on the 2 October, 6:30 PM NZDT

(that’s 7:30pm Friday the 1st in Hawai’i, 10:30pm Friday the 1st in California, 1:30am Sat the 2nd on the East Coast, 6:30am Sat the 2nd in London, and 1:30pm Sat the 2nd in Singapore).

What is Costume Showcase?

Costume Showcase is the culmination of the years work for the Costume Construction students I teach at Toi Whakaari The New Zealand Drama School.

At the start of the year the 2nd year students chose a costume design to bring to life.  It could be something from a piece of art, a costume design done for a film or show, a fashion plate, or something from a video game or anime, etc.  They just can’t be something they designed themselves (it’s a Diploma in Costume Construction, not Costume Design), and it has to be a design, not a made costume or garment.

Over the course of the year they research and test different ways to ‘realise’ their design.  They apply this research, and the techniques they have learned over the course of their studies, to their ‘Major Work’.

Come Costume Showcase, their creation steps off the page, onstage, and into life, with the help of a student model, and a mainly student cast and crew.

In addition to the Second Year’s individual Major Works, the First Year Costumers show their progress in two group performance pieces: one focused on a historical dress, and one that they have had to pattern and make from a design I create.

Huge amounts of the show are student run.  Student costumers, student models, a student stage management team.  The lighting design and movement director are both recent graduates.  What you see is really the students vision: we just provide support.

We focus on the learning being more important than perfection, but what they put together is still pretty darn fantastic.

What’s this year’s Costume Showcase going to be like?

Amazing!  (obviously).

There’s a Queen Guinevere reimagined as a Maori heroine, an exquisitely precise cosplay, a pierrette and a harlequin that are equally adorable in totally different ways, 1950s-does-1570s with attitude to spare, and tree elf that literally looks like it grew from a seed, and a drag queen of seriously epic proportions.

Also, SO many rhinestones!

The First Year’s 1830s dresses are everything you could hope for in the way of bonnets and big sleeves.

Plus, we’re extremely excited to be working with the New Zealand School of Dance and the Set and Props department at Toi Whakaari for the Patternmaking number.  Their dance number really brings our armour inspired dresses to life, as do the amazing helmets by Set and Props.

It’s a great insight into the work we do at Toi Whakaari, and what makes our school so amazing and unique.  You can see the collaboration between departments, and the specifically New Zealand flavour of the show.

How has Covid & Level 2 in NZ affected the show?

Covid has had such an impact on this years graduating costumiers.  New Zealand had its first major lockdown just a little over a month after their course started.  They were still settling in, and had to adapt to studying online, in isolation.  Costume Construction is not an ideal subject for online teaching!

Then, just when we were getting to the part of the year when the student’s really focus on their major works…we had another lockdown.

So significant portions of this year’s major works had to be done at home, on small domestic machines, with no specialised equipment, in tiny dorm rooms.

To say I am proud of what the students have achieved under the circumstances is an understatement.

Covid is also affecting the show itself.  Toi Whakaari is following best practice Covid procedures for Costume Showcase.  This means that our audience is limited to people who work and study in the building.  Even the costumer’s families can’t attend.

So we really hope that you’ll attend virtually, from wherever you are in the world!

But I want to see the details!

The best part of Costume Showcase is usually at the end, when the Costumers and their works spill out into the plaza, and the audience gets to see everything up close.

We can’t do that this year because of Covid, but we’ve got you covered!

We’ll be showing all the details on the @toi_costume instagram, AND one of our first year costumers is going to be taking over the @toi_whakaari instagram stories to give you a look backstage on Sat eve.

How long is the show?

Half an hour!  Perfection is short and sweet!

Just 3ish minutes per Major Work, and two group dance numbers featuring works by the 1st year Costumers.

Hope you can join us for a watch!

To finish up, here’s some photos I took backstage at last year’s Costume Showcase (which is why we aren’t masked in them!)

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Toi Whakaari Costume Showcase 2020

Rate the Dress: Sportswear, 1870s style

The last Rate the Dress was rather frilly and, well…pink.  To balance it, this week’s Rate the Dress is significantly more restrained, both in colour and silhouette.  However, it still has lots of interesting details for you to consider.

A warning in advance.  I have absolutely zero brainpower this week.  It’s all been diverted to the final push of preparation for Costume Showcase – the biggest event of the year for the Toi Whakaari Costume Construction course.  I’ve solved last minute fitting and construction problems until all I do is come home and gibber in the bath until bedtime.

So please excuse any wild misidentifications of techniques.  My brain has been doing marathons and is liable to trip over invisible stairs!

Last week: a pinked, pink, embroidered 1840s dress

Positive comments for last week’s dress, but not brilliant.  Quite a few of you felt that the two halves of the dress didn’t quite match: the bodice was lovely, but needed an equally ruffly berthe to match the skirt.

The Total: 8.3 out of 10

Sweet and nice and perfectly acceptable.

This week: a braid trimmed 1870s sports dress.

This 1870s sports dress reflects the growing interest in athletic endeavours for women in the second half of the 19th century.

Image showing an ecru full length dress with buttons down the front and elaborate black embroidery

One-piece sports dress, c.1873 – 1880, linen, Chertsey Museum

Sports like tennis, golf, and croquet all became increasingly popular in the later Victorian era.  They required simpler, more practical garments: the beginnings of modern sportswear.

Simpler, is, of course, relative.  Only very wealthy women could afford dresses designed for such specific activities.  A sports dress was thus a status item in the same way a tea gown was.  It showed that you had the money to spend on expensive garments that could be worn only as informal attire.

This unbleached linen of this sports dress is appropriately relaxed.  The elaborate soutache (or braid) trim, and tiny pleating, which would have been quite a chore for the maid who had to press it, both speak of affluence.

The single triangular pocket is sometimes called a ‘parasol pocket’, and is a point of contention in the historical costuming world.  Some historical costumers vehemently object to the name, and insist that the pockets are much too small for parasols.  I’m not 100% pro parasol, but I’m not entirely convinced that they aren’t.  I’ve worked with a couple of small folding parasols from the 1870s (the Katherine Mansfield House Museum has one), and they would be exactly the right size to fit into these pockets.  If I ever find one at a reasonable price I’m going to have to test the idea out…

Pocket conundrums aside, what do you think of this dress?  Would an 1870s lady have been perfectly tasteful and attractive in it whilst swinging a mallet or bowling towards the jack?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste.

As usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment.

Banner reading: "How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace"

Tutorial: how to insert raw-edged insertion lace

I love lace insertion.  There are so many ways to do it, depending on the type of lace you’re working with, and the effect you want to achieve.

When I made the Ettie Petticoat pattern I wanted to include instructions on doing them all.  But a 70 page pattern is not practical!  So I restrained myself to three techniques that are suitable for all types of fabric, most types of lace, and allow you to insert lace by hand or machine.

The one type of lace the pattern doesn’t cover is insertion lace with raw edges.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

Embroidered and cutwork lace with raw edges was widely used in the Edwardian era.  Here’s what it looks like in View C of the Ettie Petticoat:

The Scroop Patterns Ettie Petticoat View C

I knew there wasn’t space to include working with raw-edged lace in the Ettie Petticoat pattern, but I can give you a tutorial on how to work with it.

Here’s how to add your own raw-edged insertion lace!

The most common machine method for inserting raw-edged lace in the Edwardian era (at least according to most technique manuals and the extant garments I’ve studied) was with teeny, tiny french seams.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

Let’s learn how to do that!

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

You’ll need:

  • The Ettie Petticoat pattern, all cut out and the ruffles joined in circles, ready to add insertion lace.
  • Insertion lace with raw edges.
  • Sewing cat (optional).


How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

Part 1: Prep & Marking

Steam press all the lace you intend to use to pre-shrink it, so it doesn’t shrink and warp once you insert it.

Mark the insertion lines for the lace:

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

Part 2: Measuring

Yes.  Maths.  Sorry.

Inserting raw-edged lace involves slashing your fabric open, and inserting the lace into it.  This means that you need to make sure that you either take up the same amount of fabric in the french seams that join the insertion lace to the petticoat, OR cut away the extra width.

If you don’t check the measure and cut away extra width your ruffle (or whatever you’re inserting the lace into) will end up longer or wider than intended.  In the ruffle that’s an easy fix: just add an extra tuck.  Extra width in a bodice would be a problem though!

To calculate what you need to cut away, measure the width of your lace, and the width of the lace ‘seam allowances’.  Ideally your lace will have 1/4” seam allowances.  If they are narrower your french seams will be very small.  If they are wider you can make wider french seams – or cut them down.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

My lace is 1/2” wide, and my lace ‘seam allowances’ are 1/4” each, which makes it really easy.  All I have to do is cut open on my marked lines, and I’m ready to go.

Part 3: Cutting

Cut your pattern piece (in this case the ruffle) along your insertion lines.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

If your lace is WIDER than the amount you’re sewing into the french seams, you’ll need to cut that

For example, if your lace was 3/4” wide, you’d need to cut away a 1/4” strip along each insertion line, as your french seams only take up 1/4” of fabric.

If your lace is 1” wide you’d need to cut away 1/2” etc, etc.

Part 4: French Seams (aka, the inserting)

Important: Figure out the right side and wrong side of your lace!  This can be surprisingly tricky with some laces.  You may even want to mark the wrong side with removable marks at intervals.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

We’re going to be working with really small seam allowances, so if your machine has a foot plate with a tiny needle hole, use it.  It will help keep the machine from sucking your fabric in to the needle hole.

Seams 1: Wrong sides together

WRONG sides together, sew lace to pattern pieces with a scant 1/8” seam allowance.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

When you get back around to your starting point, cut the lace so it overlaps your starting point by 1 1/4”/3cm, and fold under the final 1/2”’/1cm.  Lap it over your start point, and sew it down.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace
Joining the first edge of lace to the pattern will be easy.  The second is a little tricker: the lace can stretch as you sew it, so you’ll need to mark quarter (and maybe even eighth) points, and match them as you sew.  Otherwise your pieces will be misaligned, and may not fit together.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

This is what your pieces should look like when you’ve joined all your panels with the first set of seams:

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

Now you’re ready to sew your second, final, seams, making pretty teeny-tiny french seams.

Seams 2: Right sides together

Before you sew your second seam you may need to trim off any stray bits of thread from your first seams, so they don’t stick out of the second seam.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

Press your sewn fabric and insertion lace RIGHT sides together, enclosing the raw seam allowances from Seams 1.  Roll the pressed fold outwards, to form a crisp edge.

Sew with a 1/8” seam allowance.

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

Here’s what it look’s like with one complete French seam, and one with only seam 1 sewn:

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

Fold, press and sew the other edge of your insertion lace:

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

And you’re done!

From the right side:

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

From the wrong side:

How to Insert Raw-Edged Lace

So pretty!

The Scroop Patterns Ettie Petticoat View C

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial!  I’d love to see photos if you use the method.