Friday, 27 September 2013

A Distressing Day!

Tuesday was the day of the great breaking down session.It is by no means an exact science but there are a few techniques that really work and a few points to bear in mind.
 Firstly, what kind of stains are you trying to recreate? Sweat, grease, mud, blood etc. How did these stains occur and where on the garment would they be? Is there any other distress on the garment and how did that happen? Torn sleeves, ripped trousers and so on. Once you have established this then you are more likely to produce a convincing effect rather than a garment that looks like it has been attacked by a crazy person (unless that is what you are going for of course!)

The various techniques we use usually begin with dyeing or bleaching to dull down the original colour of the garment. We needed to do this for Now Is the Hour to show the effects of sun bleaching and exposure to the uniforms. I mixed up a vat of beige fabric dye and added salt and coffee. I saved a spray bottle full of a more concentrated version to spray on later
Army shirts, vests and naval uniforms get the dye treatment
After drying off in the tumble dryer with a pair of trainers, we needed to create the physical distress on the clothes. This is where the cheese graters, sandpaper and brute force comes into play.

Judith gets busy with some serious tools

Amy attacks a shirt with a parmesan grater

 It's amazing how much joy can be had from breaking down something you have just made! Amy had made a beautiful job of the purple evening dress and an equally good job of destroying it! It does feel rather contrary as a maker and designer to begin with, but as you can see, the ladies really got into it!

The evening dress(es). Broken down and pristene

After the wear and tear has been added then you apply the final flourishes. Vaseline is very good for grease on dark fabrics. Fullers earth is also good on darker fabrics for general dirt and stains. A solution of potassium permanganate crystals sprayed onto shirts makes very convincing sweat stains and red food colouring mixed up with coffee granules makes very good blood stains. You can also buy 'clean dirt' products from theatrical suppliers. They come in many colours to replicate the many sorts of stains needed. My particular favourite is a product called 'Pure Filth' which you can see in the photo for 'The Materials are assembled'.

To set the stains, Martin trampled them into the garments and then we gave them a quick go in the tumble dryer. And that's it!! Quite a lot more to it than you would imagine but good fun to do.
Martin trampling a dress into the floor

You still have a chance to catch the show.

For those that didn't get to see it, I will post some photos next time

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Materials Are Assembled

All ready to go for the mammoth breaking down session on Monday. The 'distressing kit' consists of pumice stones, scourers and scrubbing brushes. Maybe even the odd cheese grater! Potassium permanganate crystals, fullers earth, petroleum jelly and a stick of 'Pure Filth'!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Two of everything!

It occurred to me the other day whilst doing my costume plot that I was going to need two identical 1940s evening dresses for the character of Katriona. One to wear at dinner just before the ship gets torpedoed and one that she wears in the life boat that will get broken down. Now, I know we have a lot of 1940s frocks at the Maddermarket but I'm pretty sure that we don't have two identical ones and if we did, I don't think I'd feel happy about setting about one of them with a cheese grater and chemicals. Nothing for it but to rustle up a couple of evening dresses then. 

How about this slinky little number from 1940?

Vogue vintage pattern

I decided on an aubergine liquid satin as it is a bias cut dress and this is the closest to an authentic period fabric I could find locally. I really wanted an emerald green but the shade in the shop looked too modern. It needs to be a colour that will stand out on stage as all of the other costumes are a uniform drab. It also needs to be fairly quick and easy to put together as I have two to make on top of everything else I have to do. The dress only has six pieces but it's bias cut and took me two hours just to cut out! Hopefully won't take too much longer to put together. Watch this space..........