Saturday, October 29, 2016

紫燕 - Tang Dynasty Costume Photoshoot

Costume, hair and makeup: Me
Photography: Hana Studio / 寥寥

Making the Big-Sleeved Robe (大袖衫)

I didn't capture the process of making this robe very thoroughly as I was rushing to make it in time for a photoshoot!


This time, I wasn't too particular with the measurements and cut out a basic pattern before trying it on and adjusting for length. Here is the template I based my pattern on. (I can't find the original source of this image now, but it was shared by a Hanfu costumier on Tieba.)

Just a couple of things to note:

1. The shape of the robe's body must be rectangular, and not triangular.

2. The length of the sleeves should be about 2/3 of the robe's total length.

3. The seam between the robe's body and sleeve is not set at the shoulder - instead, it connects the body to a "sleeve-extension"; really just a rectangular piece. When worn, the sleeve should not end at the wrists, but also should not cover the whole hand; the finger-tips should at least be visible when you are standing with your hands at your sides in a naturally relaxed position. I didn't have enough cloth and had to move the seam placements a little bit. This is definitely something I would want to correct when doing another robe in the future! 

4. There are no horizontal shoulder seams joining the front and back panels of the robe together. The robe's body is cut from one piece of cloth (front to back), joined at the centreback. 

Sewing the Robe

While the picture below has a modernised (and incorrect) pattern, the sequence for sewing is correct and can still be used as a good reference.

1. Start by sewing the rectangular "sleeve-extensions" to the two sides of the robe's body. The seam placements in the picture above are wrong; refer to the first two pictures for the right pattern.

2. Next, sew down the centre-back seam to join up the two parts of the robe. If you are using a material that doesn't fray as much, like cotton or chiffon, an overlocked seam would be an adequate finish.

3. Fold the robe down at the shoulder seams (right sides facing each other) so that all the pieces are aligned. You should see the finished shape of the garment already.

4. With the right-sides facing together, sew the bottom of the sleeves together, up and across the seam at the armpit, and then down the sides of the robe's body. Stop somewhere slightly below the waist area, so that you can create the side slits later. Do the same for the other half of the robe.

5. Create a thin band for the collar (determine the thickness you like), and sew on interfacing if necessary, so that the fabric will stand better. Attach the band to the neckline of the robe and press for a neat finish. After attaching the collar, you can sew on decorative trim to make the robe more ornate. Do make sure the patterns are symmetrically aligned on both sides of the collar.

6. Finally, sew on trim on the sleeves or even at the bottom of the robe if you feel like it. You can also add a ribbon to tie the bottom of the robe, but this is only going to look good if you are using chiffon or a soft, translucent material, like in the style of the painting below.

My robe:

I used Chinese brocade for the robe's body, and oriental trim for the collar and sleeves. If you look closely, you might notice that colour of the sleeves is a little darker than the body. That's because I originally underestimated the amount of fabric needed to make the robe, and when I went back to the store to buy more fabric, the bolt was dyed a slightly darker colour. You would need about 4.5-5m of fabric to have a comfortable length to work with (in case of mistakes), although I think if you are careful 4m might be enough. It depends on your height as well, and how long you want the robe to be. 

I also got some satin bias tape to do a Hong Kong seam finish, but as you can see I really need to work on this as well and get it straight! The brocade is particularly hard to work with as it is slippery and frays super easily. If I were to do another robe in future, I would definitely not use brocade again - while the weave is gorgeous and super intricate, the fabric is too heavy and it also tends to curve inwards at the bottom of the robe, due to the weight, making the robe's silhouette a little sloppy. (Or perhaps, I just need to improve on my sewing.)

Now for more pictures of the finished outfit:

The Hezi - modernised with side hooks and boning for better shape and support. (This costume was not intended to be historically accurate.)

I love the two-toned colour of the taffeta! Apart from the fact that it creases quite easily, this is is lovely fabric to use, and I would want to use it again for costuming, perhaps even for the Qing dynasty princess costume. It is light and breezy, but still looks weighty and stately enough, with a wonderfully rich colour. 

And for the finishing touches, I purchased pieces from a traditional Miao jewelry worksmith in China, as well as customised pieces from costume jewelry hobbyists 寻簪记 and 墨色衍香.

Photoshoot pictures will be coming soon in another post!

For the whole process, read about the making of the Hezi and skirt here:

Monday, May 2, 2016

[Advert} Accessories Inspired by the Ancient Orient

I've sidetracked a little and started dabbling in jewelry making as a more viable alternative to sewing full costumes after work. This has grown on me and I've been running a little online shop as of late. Here are my pieces - please drop by if you are possibly keen on picking up some ancient accessories of your own :)

I've also started a jade necklace customisation service, check out the photo album for more details! Here's a sample I designed - the jade pendant was a gift from a friend, and this necklace was crafted from an assortment of semi-precious stones: Amazonite beads, blue agate, lapis lazuli, moonstone and freshwater pearls. It's one of my favourite jewelry pieces now and I'd love to make a similar one for you!

I'm keen on collaborating with any who might be interested in a costumed photoshoot / tea gathering etc. if you're also located in Singapore - leave me a note and let's see if we can works something out!

I promise to update soon with photos and more information about the Tang costume process. Thanks for sticking around!