Steampunk Clown: Ruff of Glory (and a familiar looking fabric and epiphany….)

It was a good thing I didn’t really have much beading experience when I was preparing to make the beaded trim for the Steampunk Clown costume, or I never would have made 255 inches of beaded trim.  I beaded in the living room, I beaded at friends’ houses, I beaded while on lay-over in the Seattle Airport, I beaded on vacation in San Francisco and I beaded at the doctor’s office.  I would estimate that it took me about 51 hours total to complete.  INSANITY.

But the end result was very pretty:


And heavy.  VERY heavy.  This was instantly made very obvious when I sewed the trim onto the copper mesh.  The copper mesh itself weighs about as much as a feather.  The disparity between the two has caused me some consternation.

Before I sewed the trim to the mesh I put a heavy wire through the bottom beads to give the beads more support, and to be able to shape the “S” curves of the end of the ruff more easily.  This is what it looked like when first sewn in place:

My friend Jessica said it looked a bit like I had draped beads across a turkey.

The copper spacing beads in the lace trim looked great with the copper mesh and I was very pleased.  However, I had neglected to pay attention to the fact that I had never really made a ruff before, so now I had yards of beaded copper mesh, a piece of ribbon the width of my neck and no idea how to put it all together.  I wound up dividing the amount of inches in one half of the mesh by the width in inches of half the ribbon length, and then by the actual width of the ribbon itself.  I wound up with roughly 6 “S” curves per inch, and proceeded to measure out widths and then sew the little curls into place.  I did one full side working from the outside in and then finished up the other side.  Somewhere the math (or my measuring) went haywire and I wound up with fewer curves in the very middle, but the thing was so full and heavy that I doubt it will make a difference.

We tried to take a photo of it draped around my neck, but it just looked like I had a very odd copper colored portrait collar on, due to the weight of the beads.  So I spread it out on the floor and took a photo:

Also useful for scrubbing pots.

It actually looks very impressive set out like that and I am pretty pleased with it.  I have realized that I am going to have to wire it to a very heavy-duty supportasse to make it hold it’s shape.  Based on suggestions on the Elizabethan Costume board on FB, I am going to head back to the hardware store tomorrow to check out copper tubing and such.

Now that the ruff is mostly done I am back to beading the sleeves.  Which seems to take MUCH longer than the beaded trim….

Also, I found something interesting when I was in CA on vacation.  I went to various fabric stores that I had visited on my last trip and wound up in Discount Fabrics in Berkeley on my last evening in town.  I wandered around their upholstery fabrics and thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I found Eleonora di Toledo fabric here?”

And then I saw it:


The pattern is really close.  The colors are obviously different, but it is close.  The pink medallion centerpiece and the blue flowers/leaves around the outside edges are the same outside shape, but differ on inside design.   BUT SERIOUSLY!!!

Turns out the fabric was on closeout and was $11/yard.  It is a medium weight upholstery fabric, but it does drape alright.  Not like silk, but for the kind of pleats that are in the Eleonora skirt, it would do.

So after much gnashing of the teeth and discussion on FB and checking to see if it came in any other colorways (it didn’t), I bought the remaining 7.5 yards.  (Which put me over on weight when it came time to fly home by 3.5 lbs….)

I wasn’t really sure about the colors and particularly about what I was going to do with it.  When I saw that the blue matched a blue taffeta I had, I started to think about making an Eleonora dress out of it.  And then I thought, “Maybe I should make THE Eleonora dress out it.”

As I have learned from previous experience (i.e. Project Tudor, etc.), exact duplication of costumes is a long tedious process that can drive you crazy.  It takes serious dedication to do them, particularly when they are historical in nature, and especially when hardly anyone else has done them before.

In replicating Dexter’s Jedi costume and G’s USO Girl costume I was able to use the extensive resources and documentation of others who had been there before me.  For Eleonora it was slow going.  After I met Kim I was inspired again to continue on and I got a lot more accomplished on the project.  But the Steampunk Clown costume has me excited about costuming in a way that Eleonora never has, and I think that is telling me something.

I don’t think I am meant to make the Eleonora gown exactly as it is in the portrait.  I think making it from this fabric in this colorway is right for me.  Call me Eleonora’s colorful sibling/cousin/Crazy Aunt Irma.  I am going to put a guard of the blue taffeta on the bottom and line the sleeves with it, and finish this puppy up.  One nice thing about this fabric – I won’t have to worry about wearing it out at festival… (and no, despite several inquiries about it, I don’t think I am going to embellish this fabric with beads, embroidery, etc.)

I am not going to finish the hose.  My knitting is just not up to par yet.  It is going to take me years to get the hose done, and I have to face the facts that it just isn’t going to happen.  (Kim – I have some crimson silk yarn for you….)  I am going to make the shoes though, because I really do want to make them.  I am going to do the corset underneath, the camicia, etc.  I can reuse those for other costuming as well.  But I am not going to make them all exactly accurate to the portrait or her burial garments.

I am going to use the correct buttons (go Kim on getting a mold made!) and am going to replicate the jewelry somewhat, but not going to go nuts if it isn’t perfect.  And I might change the stone colors to coordinate better with the fabric.  The snood and partlett are already done, and will work well enough with it.

It almost makes me wonder if maybe my purpose in doing this was to meet a whole crowd of Eleonora fans and especially Kim, and encourage them to pursue their visions of Eleonora, rather than to exactly replicate something by myself.  Because I learned throughout this process that it really isn’t as fun to create by myself – it is more fun to have others participating along with you.  And really, when you get down to it, each person’s vision is different.  And mine just might be a bit more colorful than the average person’s.

So I am going to embrace this brightly colored Eleonora di Toledo fabric and call it my own.

However, this doesn’t mean YOU can’t make Eleonora’s dress exactly as it looks.  Sabine from Spoonflower offers the design beautifully rendered and printed in various fabrics here.  Kim is working on making buttons available to the masses.  Lynn McMasters has a kick-ass snood pattern that mimics the portrait very well.  Margo Anderson will be coming out with a pattern for the dress in the future and then you won’t have to reinvent the wheel (or draft up from Janet Arnold) to get a pattern that fits.  And I also will have more info about some weavers that are trying to recreate the Eleonora fabric as closely as possible for as economical as possible, which means that ANYONE can order a woven version of the fabric (versus Sabine’s printed version, which is equally lovely).

And last but not least, there is a community for Eleonora lovers on FB now, located here.  Come and tell us about your di Medici family outfits you have made/want to make/drool over.  We would love to hear from you.

I appreciate all the support I have gotten on this project since I started.  I hope my final realization of my vision of it will be equal to the encouragement and faith you all have put in me.

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