The Fat Reenactress

The Fat Reenactress

Monday, July 7, 2014

Post #6                              Monday, July 7th, 2014


At the end of April, Terry and I were lucky enough to attend a steampunk event before the shite really hit the fan with his lung and cancer issues. We were both really glad we were able to attend this event this year. The event was the Cincinnati Steampunk Symposium....and it was held the last weekend of April this year. Like a doofus, I didn't realize until 2 days before the event that it was a themed event....not just Steampunk, but more like "Star Wars meets Steampunk". Oh well....we're still new to this hobby and we're learning quickly that most steampunk events have a theme to them.  It doesn't mean that we can't go if we don't dress the theme, it just gives it another twist of fun. We'll know better next year, since their theme next year is "Around the World in 80 Days". We are REALLY looking forward to that one!

Like all steampunk functions we've been to (all 4 of them....ergh.) we found it hard to see everything. We're learning to pick and choose what speakers and events we want to see. For Friday night, we were lucky enough to happen upon the lecture pertaining to women's unmentionables....and the change that occurred in the last 200 years. It was very well laid out, starting with stays and hoops, and actually went thru the regency and romantic eras up thru early 20th c. (I was kind of flabbergasted to find out....I owned pretty much most of the undergarments used up until the early 20th c. !)
A good under structure helps get the period silhouette.
what I found while walking around that weekend was a number of larger ladies....and all of them looked STUNNING.
this was her rendition of a female steampunk Hans Solo.

I loved her skirt and accessories! she really did play up her....assets. :) 
By Saturday evening, I found that there was going to be a discussion on how to dress the larger lady in steampunk/victoriana. I attended in hopes of getting some ideas. I was pleasantly surprised and pleased that they addressed the different style of corsets to play up or play down your good and bad areas. They discussed the use of trim to draw the eye to where you wanted it (ex. if you had a larger bottom, you put more trim up top on the bodice to attract the eye) This discussion was backed up with some very good images of original garments that did JUST that! Lets just say the Victorians LOVED their trims!  All in all, a very good discussion, and I was VERY happy to see it! They ended the discussion with how to help the larger man find some items they could use in thrift stores for clothes. What I'm learning is that Steampunk people are VERY crafty and ingenious!!! My mom would call it foxy shopping!

When I asked this lady to take her picture, I found out that this was not only her first Steampunk event, but her FIRST OUTFIT!  KUDOS!!!

This young lady definitely knows what colors look stunning on her!
Terry and I decided to change for the dance on Saturday evening. We put on our more formal wear. I call this my "Mad Duchess" look. I was given a compliment by a gentleman friend of ours that we were talking with. He just kept staring at me...and finally he said "I'm not being rude, but looking at you, I can only imagine my grandmother looking like you. I never got to meet the woman, I just imagine that she wore her clothes like you". I took it as a great compliment.

the sash on the gown really made all the difference.
I used the Sense and Sensability 1910 teagown pattern for this. I was doubtful as I was making it up, but found it to be wonderfully easy, and actually kinda flattering on me.

I lastly want to share a picture of two ladies who wore similar gowns, but they made them their own in stunning ways. I felt that they both looked amazing....and I would KILL to look like either of them!!!
Thanks to Rachel Turner for this photo. She's the one on the right. they BOTH looked amazing!
I hope you all enjoy my tiny glimpse into the steampunk world, with hopes to keep adding to this. I didn't think I would like this era....but it's kinda rocking it for me right now.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Post #5                                               Friday, July 4th, 2014

Accessorizing a quick garment

So, last week I went to a Burnley and Trowbridge gown making workshop (subject for another post) and spent a week with 3 other ladies in Williamsburg, Va. not only attending the workshop, but also spending a whirlwind trip visiting in the Colonial area.

Now, these 3 ladies are considerably younger than myself, and MUCH skinnier. There's nothing like traveling with skinny women who can put away the carbs. I did warn them that one day, Mother Nature WILL catch up with them, and start to slow their metabolisms....and I'll have a seat on the fluffy couch waiting for them. (alas....I don't think they'll be joining me for quite awhile though).

All 3 of these ladies already had planned to do "big" hair and gowns (although one girl did do a sweet little silk jacket that would have fit my thigh....) so I had planned to do something not feel like I was competing with them (because my inner dialogue would TOTALLY have been comparing me with them the entire time)

I had just previously sold all my "pretty" outfits (except the silks) because they were snug enough on me to make me feel uncomfortable wearing them....and lets face it, I have a fabric stash that could choke a I sold them in order to motivate myself into making  new garments. That pretty much came back to bite me on the ass.  I had the fabric....just not the motivation.

I ended up using a reproduction Colonial Williamsburg cotton print I bought on sale a month or two ago.I went with a cotton because....well, CW in June/July. You feel like you're 10 feet from the sun. No silk for me, thank you.  The pattern I ended up using was the Janice Ryan's Caraco pattern, for 2 reasons.  1) I had made it up before and knew it went together pretty quick and  2) it came in my size, and I had already worked out the bugs and tweaked it to my size the  previous time I had made it.

So, as of 2 days before I had to leave to head east, I had nothing made. Score one for me! Even not working, I can't seem to get things done before hand!!! The night before I had to leave, my hubby, Terry, helped me cut out the jacket. I used a REALLY heavy linen for the lining, to give the garment shape....but instead of lining the entire jacket, I just lined the body. By midnight, I was tired, so I went to bed. Wednesday morning, I woke early, packed my stuff, and actually sat at the sewing machine and did the main seams by machine. I even had a chance to set the sleeves. All the while, my loving husband used my scalloping shears to cut strips of trim for me.

Over the next 3-4 days, we were TERRIBLY busy doing these gowns at the workshop totally by hand. So much so....that the caraco sat to the side. By Sunday, if I didn't get this thing wearable, I would not have anything to wear for our 18th c. dinner that evening.  With about 2-3 hours of handwork, I did do the hem of the skirting, and basted the sleeve ends. I folded the unfinished front ends back and just pinned it closed. I am hoping to finish this garment by the end of summer (yeah....right) but it was wearable for the evening and next long as I accessorized it nicely.
Full ensemble.
I paired the jacket with a light weight blue wool skirt (the only one I could find that I actually hemmed to the butt pad I was using) and my red 18th c. shoes from Smiling Fox Forge.  To make it my own, I topped the ensemble off with a very fine ruffled apron that Nicole Rudolph had made and I bought off her, a white spotted neckcloth I got from Turkey Roost Traders, and a wired pleated cap made by Hallie Larkin. I finished everything off with a breastknot I made with pink silk ribbon and deep red cherries (my favorite breastknot to date) not only does it help close the jacket at the top, but it adds a pop of color.

evening wear. No black bonnet, can see my pink bow.
yes, I have a huge head.
Close up of cap, bonnet and neck cloth.
Lastly, the jewelry I chose to wear was a newly purchased pearl and gold bead necklace from Lauren Roosien and her company FleurdeLys Originals, and pink earrings with gold bows and a hand painted bracelet both from Amey's Adornments. Awesome stuff all!!!  My black chip hat was decorated by April Thomas of Fashions Revisited (THIS chick don't do hat decorating :(   )  and my cap had a very sheer gold/pink pouffy  ribbon to finish it all.

So, I took an unfinished garment, and camouflaged it with awesome accessories. I felt I held my own with the 3 other ladies. We each had our own distinct look.

when I do finish the jacket, it will have trim around the neckline, and around the the sleeves in lieu of cuffs. I'll post pics of that when finished. (to MAKE me finish it!!!)


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Post   #4                                                     Wednesday, May 28th

My Best Accessory Ever....

I know it's been awhile since my last post. Now that things have calmed down somewhat...I will be able to post more, and share more photos of accessories and events and such. I'd like to use this post to explain what's been going on, and what my best accessory I have is.  If you hate sappiness, and sentimentality, I'll let you know may want to skip this post.

My husband, Terry, and I have been married for 14 years this coming November. Before that, we dated for 5 years (yeah....we wanted to be sure.) so it came to my attention that I'd been dealing with the same goofy man for almost 19 years. HOLY CRAP!!!! How can that be possible???? I'm only in my mid 20's!!!!! ( my brain butt says different...)

We met through a personal ad in the Smoke and Fire News, a newspaper dedicated to reenactors. (Cue up sappiness). We started off by writing to each other...then talked on the phone (this was the 90's folks....things were rustic back then...) Terry had put an ad in "looking for correspondence" in period correct style. He just wanted someone to write to. He had just gotten divorced after a 15 year marriage, and wanted to find women who actually LIKED this sort of hobby. Having had worked for Smoke and Fire before, I had been given a personal ad from the owner as a "christmas gift" a few years earlier (that's a WHOLE other story!!!) and although I had lost some AWESOME photos of myself from these earlier encounters (send a pic, they see you're fluffy, they never write they were Brad Pitt themselves...ugh) I figured "what the hell"....I'd give him a shot.
We started writing. He started asking for pictures. Ugh. I finally wrote and said "look, I'm fluffy...if you have a problem with that, let me know right now before either of us invest more time or effort (or emotions) into this, I don't want to lose another picture".

His response?

"I have found that very seldom does a person's outer beauty match their inner beauty. And with that, I want to be so bold as to say, that I am very much attracted to your inner beauty".

Yeah, he played me like a guitar.

How could I NOT meet him?

When I met him, I thought "meh, he's skinny, has a pencil thin mustache (what's up with THAT?) and smokes....guess I'll give him a shot".

Nineteen years later, he's my best accessory. If you don't believe me, check out all the photos I'm adding at the end of this post. I literally had to "upgrade" my keep up with him. Dude had me on my toes. I learned to sew more men's clothing  (still HATE it) but have learned alot about sewing and fitting techniques because of his "18th c.body".

We had an 18th century wedding in 2000. I would do that again in a heart beat. All he wanted for the wedding was 1) garlic mashed potatoes (done!) and 2) a harpsichord for the wedding (not an easy task)

So why the quietness of late from my blog?

Terry had become diabetic in 1976 while serving in the Air Force.   Thirty six years later, this came back to bite him on the ass.  When we first started dating, and in our early years of marriage, the diabetic specialist said his kidneys would "eventually fail". Eventually. Sounds like a long time from now.  15 years IS a long time....eventually came for us in 2012. That fall, Terry was diagnosed with renal failure. "Thirty six years of diabetes works hard on your kidneys." He would eventually need dialysis....but they said  it could be in a month, could be in 6 months. Yeah....we got rid of that doctor pretty quick.

In March of 2013, after routine testing, Terry was called by the doctor. "we need you in here to get a dialysis stent put in....but lets not ruin the rest of the day....come into the hospital tomorrow". So with that, we went in March of 2013 and Terry had a stent put in for hemo (blood) dialysis as well as a catheter tube so he could do peritoneal (solution in the abdomen) dialysis at home eventually. It would make him more mobile, and he would still be able to do some reenacting events....just using a hotel from now on. Terry now does home dialysis every night while he sleeps.

In May of that same year, tests on his left kidney were showing cysts of some sort. They decided it needed to come out, since hey, it really wasn't doing anything anyway. Turned out to be kidney cancer, but it was completely contained in the it was totally taken out, and we could still get geared up for a kidney transplant.

I wanted to donate my kidney to Terry, or to be put into the "pool" so someone else could trade out for mine if their donor matched Terry. This was where the doctor looked at me and said..."'''ummm....". I said "you calling me FAT???"  Basically....I am too heavy to donate (even though my bp and heart and everything is fine).  this is another blog post...dealing with being fat in the "real world".

After the success of his kidney removal, they found a small spot on Terry's lung that we had to wait 6 months to have checked again. If it hadn't grown, we were good to go onto a kidney donor list.

Earlier this year, Terry was having difficulties breathing. He thought it was a cold, asthma, whatever. When he finally had a CT scan of his lungs done (4 months after he could have/should have for the okay) they found that his lower right lung lobe had collapsed. We figured he aspirated something.

This was the second week of April. A quick trip to the pulmonary specialist showed a blockage with the biopsy. It was cancer in his bronchial tube, and it had blocked his lower lobe so that no air could go in, hence the collapsed lung.  Within the next two weeks, biopsies were done on his lung lobe, his lymph nodes nearest that lung (they were swollen) a full body CT scan occurred and another biopsy of another section of his upper right lobe (that was proven non cancerous, but merely scar tissue).  With all these tests and results, it was found that removal of his lower and middle right lung lobes was the way to go. That surgery occurred on May 12, 2014 (his left kidney was removed on May 10, 2013)....we jokingly say he's worried about his limbs for 2015 (or anything he has two of...)

So that, folks, is what I've been up to and why the Fat Reenactress has NOT been up to much. Although, just before his surgery, we DID get to go to an AMAZING steampunk convention in Cincinnati, which I'll post about in the next few days, now that Terry's home and healthy enough to complain about hurting.  (thank's better than the alternative).

But in all honesty....Terry IS my best accessory. No matter how good I look, I know I always look better on his arm. He has ALWAYS told me "yes or no" with great honesty.  I truly believe he wouldn't let me go out of the house looking like a fool. He always says he loves me, and he always compliments me when something turns out extra nice. This all adds to the one thing that makes each of us beautiful....our self esteem.  Not saying Terry makes me or breaks me....but dang, I was smart to give that skinny dude a chance.   Enjoy the photos.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Post # 3  KISS    (keep it simple, stupid)     Monday April 21st, 2014

A little while back, someone had asked for some advice on what to wear for working class 18th century, especially for the larger size.

My answer for this is really simple:    you can't go wrong with a bedgown. It's a working class garment, it's loose fitting, and can we worn with either a weight gain or loss. There are a number of patterns out there, but the one I find the most flattering, on EVERYONE (read...skinny and heavy)  is the Mill Farm pattern for the European bedgown.  

This pattern can be lengthened or shortened to what you feel is a good working length.(if you make it longer, it's an AWESOME thing to wear for your nightly jaunts to the porta potty...make it long enough to cover your butt, and you're good to go!)  It is cut very generously...and if you are bigger than the largest size's really easy to increase the is literally just two seams down each side, from the sleeve cuff to the hem. The rest of the garment can either use a hem stitch or a rolled stitch around the bottom and the neck and front. In fact, if you wanted a garment to practice your handwork on....this is the perfect one.

It simply pins shut in front, and when you tie an apron on over it, you end up getting more of a fitted look. I like this garment because the neckline is very flattering and looks good on everyone.  You can find this pattern from most sutlers, but I do know that Burnley and Trowbridge do carry it.

As for fabrics, I would stick with either plain or striped linen or a linen/cotton blend. You want something lightweight, but not TOO light weight. I steer clear of using florals for this garment because it IS a working the florals for a pretty fitted jacket.
Everyone loves a striped linen bed gown!!!   :)

I'm not going to say too much about the french or english bodice that most people are having fits/discussing over. My personal opinion is that it's not a documented garment, regardless of the quilted ladies waistcoats in collections  (two totally different garments, in my opinion). Also....I don't find it a flattering garment at all...whether you're heavy or thin. WHY would you wear an unflattering garment??? I have the same feelings towards the pennsylvania german short gown, with the drawstring waist. I made my obligatory one and put it on. I literally looked like a sack of potatoes with a rope wrapped around it. Nope. Never wore it...never made another one.
I just finished my newest bed gown and can't wait to break it in. Loving the new colors.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Post #2   A long Regency Corset                                Sunday, April 20, 2014

Foundations. It's what we build upon. That is why foundation garments are important in order to get a "period correct" look. We build our look over our foundation's what lets the fabric flow right, hug the right spots, and maybe even smooth out the bumps we'd rather not have.

I've always been told that the foundation garment in the 18th century was referred to as stays, or a body of stays, or bodies while in the 19th century, they were referred to as a corset. For ease of understanding, I will stick to those terms through out this entire blog process. If I muck up...please point it out...and I'll correct it.

This posting will discuss Regency corsets and the fluffy woman, particularly the long corset.  There are quite a few examples of early 19th century corsets in the Kyoto Collection....found in the book Revolutions in Fashion.  There you can find the wrap corset (bra styling almost)  which I classify as a short corset of sorts.

                                                               Photo from Kyoto Collection

You will also find the long corset...which is what I will be discussing more in depth. Here is an image, again from the Kyoto collection, of both a long corset, and a shorter set...transitional stays. I use the word stays for these since I believe they are late 18th century.
                                                      Photo from the Kyoto Collection

Many women opt for the short corset for use in the Regency period since 1) they're easier/quicker to produce, and 2) they give enough support while producing and enhancing the more natural form that was made popular during the Regency/Federalist era. These are great for many women who are younger and "perkier". Also, those women without a lot of  top shelf  "assets"  are able to produce that "top shelf" that many ladies (and gents) look for.  And even for the heavier woman....depending on her body shape, this shorter style may work, provided that your bosom is bigger than your belly. bosom has always been sadly lacking, while the belly has not. Thus, my love for the longer corset.  The short corset seems not meant for the lady of the "vegetable" variety (i.e. those of us shaped like an eggplant, tomato, potato or even pear). Something more is needed. Big guns need to be brought out....this is where the long corset comes into play.
fashion plate of the era.

My first long corset that I made, I used the Mantua Maker's pattern. This worked out well, except that it would  "creep up" on me. No matter how tight I laced them, the corset always seemed to end up almost touching my chin! It turned out,  because of my body shape, I didn't need to include the hip gussets that the pattern called for. They allowed my corset to move too much, not anchoring down onto my hips since my waist and hips are almost the same measurement (I DID say I was eggplant in shape, right?). The other problem that needed fixed was that I had completely sewed the busk into the corset, not allowing it to "float" in the pocket as it should. The busk is the flat piece of wood that slides down the front of the corset or stay. It serves two purposes. 1) it keeps the front of your corset flat and 2) it bears most of the the stress that is put on the corset or stay. By sewing the busk into the corset, it didn't allow it to "float" meaning, while sitting, if my belly pushed the busk up, I could then push the busk back down into its pocket, without the entire garment of the corset moving.   You can see the outline of the busk sleeve in this original corset.
original corded long corset.

In 2010, I ended up signing up for a Regency corset workshop with Burnley and Trowbridge, in the Williamsburg, Va. area. We did a corded corset instead of ones with bones. (I ended up adding a few bones in strategic places, to help with the cording in smoothing out the rough edges).

While the corset was very similar to the Mantua Maker's pattern I had previously used, the main difference was that it was corded, based on original examples, and without the hip gussets. Instead of using rigid cane or boning, most of the support comes from the soft cords that were pulled into stitched channels, similar to the boning channels in earlier stays.  A group of 12 ladies got together for the workshop and we were then put into groups of  3 to assist each other in the measuring. Of course, I was placed into a group with two very LOVELY girls...two very PRETTY girls....two very THIN girls. After taking one of the girl's waist measurements, I HAD to satisfy my curiosity. I measured my thigh. Yup. EXACT same measurement.  The real topper was when she told me "you're actually not the first person to do that". Sigh.

By the end of day one of the workshop, we all had the majority of the bodies and the bust cups done. I believe we even had the pockets made for the custom length cut busks that Angela provided for the class. (Just FYI, a heavy duty paint stick from the Home Depot, cut to your desired length, also works great).

It was here that my biggest dilemma occurred. In order for my busk to lay flat on my belly, the top of the busk sat about 2-3 inches away from my breastbone.   To lay flat against my breastbone, the bottom stood away from my belly!! In effect, it was teeter tottering off the largest part of my belly!!! I showed this to Janea Whitacre, the supervisor of the Milliner's shop at Colonial Williamsburg, and who was teaching the workshop. When she saw this, she said "OH!"...then I teetered it...this brought another "OH!" She said with a smile "We'll get this, just start on the cording".

Janea was true to her word. On Sunday morning, she approached me and said she thought about me all night (nice to know I'm running through SOMEONE'S head) She said what I needed was some bosom buddies! They are little pillows that get sewn into the corset, just below the bust cups, on the inside, to help pad what the Lord didn't. Not only did it even out my measurements, but it "perked up" my bosom, putting them up where they should be! The added bonus was that these little pillows actually will "hook" onto my bust when my corset starts to ride up, thus keeping the corset in place!

Interior shot of my corset. you can see the bosom buddy/pillows, the busk peaking up at the top of it's casing, and also a bunch of repairs made since I've been wearing these since 2010!

Besides the cording that was the main support used for the workshop, I also felt the need to add a few metal bones in the back and to help control my back  rolls. Most of the repairs done are from boning that have tried to escape...I believe my next pair may end up being all corded...and maybe with more cording than this set.

At this point, I want to address a particular issue that comes up when we talk about wearing stays or corsets. Many people believe that the goal of these garments is to reduce measurements around the waist, when in reality,  the goal  is to give the body the shape needed for the look of the period. Think of it this's to SMOOTH the body rather than to SQUEEZE it.  I read an article back in the 1980's about stays and how much the body could be squished...stating that thinner women, with less fat to deal with, could really only squish one to two inches, safely, while fluffier women could squeeze up to four inches without hurting organs and such.  I see the main job of foundation garments is to shape, smooth, lift and round out where things need to be shaped, smoothed, lifted and rounded, not to squeeze us into uncomfortable situations.  Work for a period correct shape rather than "reducing" measurements...because ladies....if you're my size, no amount of squeezing and lacing is going to make me look like a size 8.  But a good foundation garment WILL make me look more the part of the period. I don't know about others, but I do find that when I wear the correct foundation garments, they actually add anywhere from 1 to 3 inches to my measurements. I find it's because my body is more "squishy" and that I can "cheat" with maybe a smaller size....but once you put your corset or stay on....that smoothed out fluffiness is "firmer"...and add to it steel or cane, extra fabric, and you have a different measurement entirely. Remember....those are only numbers. The end results of your efforts is in how you feel...and if you feel you accomplished getting the look of the period/era that you're working towards. 

You be the judge....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

First Blog entry and Introduction.                               Sunday, April 6th, 2014

For my first blog entry, I'd like to introduce myself and give you some of my background.
     My name is Julie Rockhold, and I've been reenacting for almost 34 years. I started when I was 13 years old, and I've been fat that entire time. I've dealt with fitting issues all my life (clothing wise and socially ) and have been driven to achieve that "period correct" look, in spite of my size.
     When I first thought of doing this blog and calling it the Fat Reenactress, I asked my friends for their thoughts and opinions. general consensus was, there are LOTS of us out there, who are overweight, but want to look "period correct". My friend, Angela, suggested I use the 18th c. term "prosperous" instead of fat. I thought about it, but realized 2 things
                  1) I'm fat. I own that. No matter what you call it, "fluffy", "prosperous", "Reubenesque", or "built                        for comfort", what it all comes down to is....overweight. the only term I DO have issues with
                       is Obese. Oh, and just when that word didn't seem unpleasant enough, let's add  "morbidly".                          Ah, yes.... LOVE seeing "morbidly obese" on my medical charts. (and the medical                            field, anyone over 25 pounds overweight is considered "morbidly obese").

                   2)  The Fat Reenactress just trips off the tongue.

     But back to my bio. I started reenacting the 18th century in an Explorers group ( a division of the technically...I can say I belonged to the Boyscouts.) representing Voyageurs, french canoemen, that were common in the Michigan area where I grew up. From there, I became interested n the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. I started my 1812 career by volunteering at fort Meigs, in Perrysburg, Ohio.  For the Revolutionary War, I joined the 10th Va. Regt. out of Michigan, then later joined the 84th Royal Highland Emmigrants (British)....gotta LOVE a man in a kilt!!!
     During my college years, I worked at 3 different National parks.
       1) Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial
       2) Valley Forge National Park (for 3 seasons)
       3) George Washington's Birthplace and National Monumment (for 2 seasons)
    Each one was a different time period....War of 1812, Revolutionary  War, and  1730's civilian life.

     Over the years, I've joined various reenacting groups, depending on where I was living at the time. In 1995, I met my husband, Terry.....he deserves a whole blog post of his own....and needless to say, he shares in my love of history and clothing.  We married in an 18th century wedding in 2000.  Since then, not only does he do Regency events with me, we have also branched out into Steampunk/ Victorian.

     This blog will not only deal with clothing, research and producing items for the larger woman, but it will also deal with just being heavy in the hobby and in today's society. I'll share my trial and errors with patterns, but I also hope to show how to add to your image (and hopefully self confidence) and your impression through the use of accessories. Remember....accessories ALWAYS fit!!!!!

     I hope you'll enjoy this blog, and I welcome ALL comments....good AND bad. But just be aware, I can be as sharp tongued as anyone, so nasty comments will be dealt with accordingly.