Thursday, September 1, 2016

Optics and Adventures: An Island Climb with my Petzval Lens

Last weekend I stepped back into the 1920s for a getaway at the Oceanic Hotel on Star Island. Built in the 1910s (and not much updated since), the Oceanic really feels like stepping back in time, and the island is a beautiful place to take an electronics break for the weekend. I was excited to do some photography while we were there, and on Sunday we went for a walk to explore the rocky outcroppings on the island. I brought along my Petzval, a reimagined 1840s portrait lens. The optics are very different than my modern lenses, leading to a small single point of focus and swirly, blurred edges. In bright colors, like this weekend, it gives the photos a sort of dreamlike effect that I really love. Plus, the focusing knob (a small dial on the bottom of the lens shaft) is the same style of mechanism as the original--without auto image stabilization and focusing support, it's a very different, more deliberate shooting process. Another good way to feel like I'm stepping back in time.

I'll do another post about the event itself, but for now here are the fruits of our adventure as seen through an old-fashion optical marvel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

1920s Bathing Suit and Swim Boot Details

I'm excited to be heading off to the 1920s in a few weeks, so I've been doing a lot of 20s sewing to get ready! The first project on my list was re-doing my 1920s bathing suit and adding swim boots.

The suit was initially a quick and dirty project the day before an event, and is made from a pair of stretchy athletic pants and a knit dress (both black). It was perfectly serviceable, and I'm glad I had it (it would have been sad to miss the swimming!), but I had really wanted it to be improved before I wore it again. I originally wore it with black ballet flats as makeshift swim shoes, as little bathing slippers were popular during the early 20th century and the rocky terrain especially called for them. 

bathing suit and slippers last summer
actresses on the beach, 1926--Myrna Loy, center, is wearing bathing slippers
The shoes were falling apart when I used them, and they didn't survive the excursion, so I decided after that that I really wanted to make new bathing slippers for this year. I mentioned this to my friend Quinn, and she was kind enough to pass my desire along to Gina of Beauty From Ashes, and Gina shared the pattern she drafted for bathing boots from an original pair. Thank you, Gina! This was incredibly generous and I am so grateful! 

Quinn has posted about her bathing boots already, and she was good and took lots of in-progress shots. I was not! So I recommend popping over to check out her interesting research and images. I do have some inspiration images to share though!

Ohio, 1920s
Atlantic City, NJ, c.1920
souvenir postcard of movie actress Phyllis Haver on the beach
I'd already fallen in love with several yellow and black bathing suits, so I knew I wanted to go for yellow trim with my existing black suit. I purchased yellow and black cotton canvas online for my swim boots, and used the extra yellow canvas to trim the neck of my bathing suit dress and add stripes to the skirt and shorts. 

bathing suit (with matching cape!), 1920s (MFA)
knit suit, 1920s (via)
I decided to go with diagonal stripes because I thought they looked particularly sporty, and I'm quite pleased with the finished suit!

at the beach!
 Starting with modern clothing was a sneaky cheat to make this an easy, cheap project. Plus, it's very sturdy and machine washable, which is handy when dealing with sand and saltwater.

admiring art at the Nantasket Beach DCR building, which was originally built in the 1910s
Gina's boots patter went together easily, although our use of thicker cork for the soles meant that there was a lot of hand sewing. It worked out in the end, though, as the boots are very sturdy and help up well through beach adventures. I'm excited to wear them again! 
boot selfie?
Girls in boots and barefoot in the waves
 There are only two minor problems with this bathing ensemble: the stripe on the bottom of the shorts is a different color yellow, and my boots are too big. The alternate yellow is left over from the earlier iteration of the suit, but I didn't want to replace it with canvas because I was worried the less stretchy canvas wouldn't be able to handle my thighs. I've done too many squats to be contained! ha. The boot size issue is a little more confusing, but I think it's from a combination of tracing the pattern onto each piece (and thus getting a little larger each time between cutting and tracing) and my paranoia about ending up with too-small boots. I overshot! Oh, well. They look a little silly and duck-footy on land, but they're great paddles in the water.

 Overall, I'm incredibly pleased with this, and so excited to wear it again! I love the beach in any period, so it's a treat to be able to swim and wear silly clothes at the same time.

I am a ham in every period

Thursday, August 4, 2016

An Adventurous Aside

My term is over today!! Two more papers to turn in and I'm home free to catch up on blogging and sewing and planning for some truly epic upcoming events. Whoo!

In the meantime, I am feeling truly grateful to be surrounded by friends who are wonderfully nutty and creative and talented...check out this video of us being ridiculous (edited into something coherent) for the moment, and I'll be back to sharing research and sewing progress in the near future!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Day at the Beach (in Black and White)

We've had some absolutely beautiful, bright, scorchingly hot weather the past few weeks, so I was thrilled to head to historic Nantasket Beach for an outing with the Tweed Club!

at Nantasket
Of course, Saturday morning dawned clear and bright...and cool! Possibly the coolest day we've had in weeks, with the promise of thunder. Not an ideal beach day. But that meant that we had the place to ourselves, which turned out to be perfect for taking pictures and running amok in true 1920s fashion. Plus, our period bathing suits (and all the aforementioned running amok) kept us nice and warm despite the weather. Perfect!

Nantasket Beach was the perfect location for a 1920s outing, as it's been a popular seaside destination for Bostonians since the 19th century. The boardwalk was full of amusements in its heyday, from the Klondike Arctic exhibition (complete with live polar bears) to towering roller coasters, carnival games, and wandering circus performers. 
Nantasket beach (and parking!), c.1920s
Beginning in 1818, Bostonians eager to escape the city could take boats from Boston to Hull--everyone from U.S. presidents to workers on their day off would--by the 1890s, over two million passengers were making the trip each summer. Resorts, restaurants, and the amusement park entertained visitors when they weren't on the beach.

postcard of Paragon Park, early 20th century
One particular amusement (a wildly popular one in Boston!) of Paragon Park was the carousel. Opening in 1928, the Paragon Carousel (known as PTC #85 for its manufacturer, Philadelphia Toboggan Company) features 66 hand-carved realistic-style horses and two Roman chariots (also pulled by horses). While the rest of the park has been dismantled, the Paragon Carousel remains as a historic legacy with its own museum and restoration workshop (which is an amazing process, still done by hand). 

the Paragon Carousel
James Hardison works on carousel restorations, courtesy of the Paragon Carousel Museum
Best of all, you can still ride it!

riding the 1928 carousel in our bathing suits
Given the gray weather and our sporting togs, I was feeling inspired by photographs of beach adventures from the period, and I wanted to capture the same feeling:

girls at Revere Beach (also MA!), 1919 (Boston Public Library)
1920s (Art Institute of Chicago)

So when editing the photos, I decided to shift into black and white. I love the way these turned out! And don't worry--I have another post on my outfit (specifically my super cool new bathing boots) coming soon...and those images will return to lovely technicolor. But for now, enjoy the brief dip into the 20s!

I am a ham.

Our fabulous tweed club hosts did a great job organizing the outing, and it was a blast to attend! Thank you!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Feathers and Lace for the 1920s

I was lucky enough to hit a Unique Vintage sale a few years ago, and so it's been a long time since I made a 1920s evening dress. I associate the 20s with glitzy beaded and sequined ensembles, but lately a few particular dresses have been speaking to me that go against the image--they're chiffon and feathers instead. A very different kind of glamour, and I'm very excited to try it out!
Marion Morehouse in an airy Louise Boulanger dress, 1926
I found some pretty great ostrich feather trim on eBay for a decent price, and snatched up 11 yards in a pretty periwinkle blue. The feathers came today, so now I can bring them to the fabric store to find fabric in a matching color! In particular, I'm very inspired by this dress:

beaded chiffon dress with marabou skirt (via)
Last trip to the fabric store, I found some really lovely gold lace. My plan is to make an overdress of gold lace, an under dress of something periwinkle, and then layer feather trim over the skirt panel to create the feather effect. 

detail of the marabou feathers sewn to chiffon
I'm pulling additional inspiration from some other glamorous numbers, which are trimmed in ostrich feathers rather than marabou I think:
Louise Boulanger, 1928 (via)
Chanel, 1920s
posed shot of girls (possibly performers?) in feather-skirted dresses
Peggy Hoyt, 1927 (via)
serious feathers, Fashions for Women, 1920s
Hooray for new materials to make an otherwise entirely unflattering decade feel downright fabulous! Now I just have to find the right fabric...