Diary of a Costume Designer – Cloud 9: Sewing Research

An important part of making clothing is the research on how to make the clothing. After the 1980s, costume designers started to costume in a post-modernist sort of way, that is taking period patterns and construction into consideration.


Actual 18th Century Dress
Adrian’s 1930s Marie Antoinette


2006 Marie Antoinette by Milena Canonero







Note the difference between the actual dress and Adrian’s design. In the 1930s sheer fabrics and soft shapes became in vogue. Notice her finger waved hair, the soft bows, and the shear fabric used in the softly draped silhouette. Notice that the bodice is made to have similar lines to the 18th century but there is minimal if any corseting like the period. If I could have added a fourth picture it would be a 17th century design by Erte, Adrian’s predecessor. In reality, Adrian actually cared for period shape, and fabrication. He uses the 1930s elements to relate to his audience. Now, look at Milena Canonero’s interpretation, obviously much more accurate, but there is a deviation in makeup and hair. The hair is softer than what they would have used, and so is the makeup, probably for the same reason, to relate to the audience.

Anyway, the things I learned about the 19th century were bodice construction primarily. How do you make a 1880s dress. Well, you flat-line the bodice, finish all the seams with bias binding put them together and finish with hooks and eyes. There are also two waists in these gowns, a natural waist, and a lower sort of basque waist that is two inches down. It’s created by the corset. It gives the illusion of a longer waist. When you look at the 1880s pictures, it almost looks unreal, but when you put the corsets on, you get how they do it.

In addition to patterns, I also try to find words about the clothing.

Here’s some fun clothing research.



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