Wednesday’s Child: Straight Jacket

This year, I’m the official costumer for a haunted house. I’ve been given a number of interesting costuming problems to solve. Having found some fairly elegant solutions, I’d like to post them here.

If you buy a Halloween costume at a store, the chances are pretty good that you’re spending a pretty penny (or what I consider a pretty penny, anyway… upwards of $25…) for low-quality materials and low-quality construction, and a costume that is only superficially correct anyway. For many people this is probably sufficient. But I do a lot of costuming for a kid who’s going to want to wear that thing over and over for dress-up too, and I am a stickler for detail, and for those reasons I far prefer making my own costumes. Costuming for a haunted house is a whole other order of magnitude more hardcore. These are costumes that WILL be put through a rigorous beating. Construction is a main point; even more important than aesthetics, really, because the dim light and often quick glimpses don’t require quite as much attention to detail. Not that I stint on detail if I can help it.

So, for my first major project, I was asked to provide a straight jacket. Commercially available straight jackets, even specifically-costume ones, can range between fifty and hundreds of dollars. I was sure I could make a straight jacket from scratch if need be, but I far prefer modifying existing garments when possible, and I knew I could do that here if I could just find the right garments. Tutorials exist telling you how to make a costume straight jacket out of two matching button-down shirts and a number of belts… I knew that would never last, but it confirmed my ideas on how to approach a modification. Then, I found the thing. The perfect thing. A white canvas V-neck martial arts uniform, complete with top, pants and belt, for $6 used. These things are built to withstand significant stress; the canvas is high quality and the construction is excellent. This was my future straight jacket ensemble. My luck held out; it was sized for a 6 foot tall, 200 lb person, which meant that after modifying, it would fit the vast majority of our actors, so that the costume wouldn’t limit the casting. Bonus points!

So, this straight jacket ensemble includes the following materials:

One white canvas V-neck martial arts uniform
Approximately 1/3 yard of additional white canvas
Lots of twill tape
Various D-rings, buckles or clips to taste

I cut up the front of the garment to the middle of the V-neck, then cut the collar off. The front becomes the back and the back becomes the front. I cut two small wedges of canvas and sewed them into the V left by the neckline, to bring the opening in back straight and up to the neck. Then I cut the belt into three pieces. Two of those pieces were used to finish the back openings. I opened up the first row of stitching on each piece, and cut about 1/4″ of the webbing off because I didn’t think my sewing machine would like it much. Then I stitched it closed again around the raw edges of my back opening. That left just enough belt for the collar. This time, I removed all the lines of stitching (which was actually fairly easy once I realized that it could be unraveled by a quick pull on one end of the wrong-side stitching instead of picking each stitch individually…) and took out the webbing entirely. Then I sewed it on similar to a mandarin collar. (I DID trim down the neckline on the used-to-be-back to make it comfortable but still a crew-neck.) I also had to use some bias tape to finish the ends of the belt trim, too. I’ve measured and pinned down the straps and rings for the back closure in this picture:

Straight Jacket

There isn’t that much left to do, except actually turn it into a straight jacket by lengthening the sleeves and adding the strapping and tie-downs for them, and then aging/staining, etc. I’ll finish up next week!

When I saw the Pantone Spring 2014 fashion color report, I thought it looked a little familiar. So I pulled out a couple of old Simplicity pattern books I have in my stash, and there, on the front of the Simplicity Summer 1959 book:

Simplicity Summer 1959

This look is Simplicity pattern 3014 in a “Far Eastern print” in rayon/silk blend by Fabrex. Of course, the print most reminds me of Islamic & Mediterranean tile-work, which even in the 50′s would not have been considered “Far East”. The mixture of obi, frog closure, kimono sleeve and Turkish-style mosaic print is interesting, though. And if that isn’t Dazzling Blue, Hemlock, Placid Blue and Violet Tulip, then it is pretty darn close.

Later in the book we find:

Simplicity Summer 1959 Dress

This look is Simplicity 2961 (which also included a short version) and I think it’s pretty safe to say that’s nearly Celosia Orange there. It illustrates the black and white print and full skirt adorned with a pop of color in the form of a bright “obi”. Included in this issue are also brief instructions and diagrams for constructing these wide sashes to add to your accessory closet. I’ll be exploring these in a later post.

Zombie Eggs 1It seems that no matter how careful I am while hard-boiling, a few eggs always get cracked. Perhaps they had weak shells, or the boil got a little too rolling, but whatever the reason, every Easter I get a few eggs that are a little the worse for wear before they even get to the dye. My daughter and I have evolved a tradition for taking care of these woebegone things. After all the pretty eggs have been dunked and dipped and set to dry, we start getting a little crazy with the dye. Red and green dye are dripped directly into the cracks and allowed to run around the eggs and dry, and then the eggs are dunked into whatever colors we want for however long we feel like it, which usually results in some pretty evil-looking colors. (Although, Kit sometimes likes to do a “fresh dead” egg; one that doesn’t immediately look all that gruesome.)

Zombie Egg 2And when you remove the shell, you reveal another little surprise! The food coloring seeps through the cracks and stains the egg white. If you’re a kid, or a kid at heart, eating something that looks so gross is a lot of fun! I recommend a dash of salt and polish sausage with horseradish as complements.


Tuesday’s Child: Easter Meals 1937

I love old recipes. Things like molasses don’t get nearly enough credit these days. On that note, I came across an issue of Home Arts magazine from April of 1937 recently, and it was chock full of recipes for Easter. Below, you’ll find a selection of meal menus and recipes.

Four Easter Menus

Easter Breakfast Luncheon or Supper
  • Stewed Rhubarb
  • Broiled grapefruit*
  • Poached eggs hollandaise
    (found in another Tuesday’s Child)
  • Toast
  • Cafe’ au lait or with cream
  • Ham loaf with horseradish sauce*
  • Prune muffins
    (found in last week’s Tuesday’s Child)
  • Watercress and dandelion green salad
  • Fruited gelatin
  • Sponge cake
  • Tea or chocolate
Two Dinners
  • Broiled chicken
  • or Savory chicken casserole*
  • Potato balls with butter and parsley
  • Asparagus
  • Bread sticks
  • Chopped mixed salad
  • Parfait praline ice cream
    (found in last week’s Tuesday’s Child)
  • Almond orange cookies
  • Coffee
  • Leg of roast lamb
  • or Stuffed shoulder of lamb*
  • Mint jelly
  • Radishes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Brown gravy
  • New buttered beets
  • Hot rolls
  • Asparagus salad
  • Almond ice cream
    (found in last week’s Tuesday’s Child)
  • Cup-cakes
  • Coffee

*Find these recipes below!

Broiled Grapefruit

“You may think this is taking trouble to spoil a grapefruit with its delicious cool tang, and I thought so too at first but am gradually being converted. There are several ways to do this. Always first you snip out the core with the useful kitchen scissors, run the thin curved knife around the edge and take out the dividing membranes (some merely separate the slices but the membranes are rather bitter and I like mine out). For Baked Grapefruit Hawaiian, dribble molasses between the sections and put a teaspoonful in the center, sprinkle with cinnamon and place under the broiler for five minutes. Another way is to sprinkle with white sugar, dot with butter and broil. For a luncheon or dessert service, a marshmallow may be put in the center one minute before removing from broiler. And at any time a sprinkling of sugar and two tablespoons of sherry wine or flavor is delicious. The pink grapefruit so treated makes a most satisfying dessert and is more refreshing to my mind than when offered to an empty stomach at the beginning of a meal. When so served they should be chilled.

Another sweetener for the grapefruit, cold or hot, is honey. Many like a little salt added before the sugar. As always, in salad dressings and cookery, salt and sugar complement each other and if balanced are used to bring out the flavor of food, not obscure it. They should never be obtrusive. A sprig of mint is a fine addition, and some use a cube of red jelly in the center when it is served for dessert. And by the way, sections of grapefruit sprinkled with salt, rolled in sugar and dotted with butter and broiled make an excellent fowl and meat accompaniment, just as we have always used broiled orange or pineapple with duck and ham.”

Ham Loaf for a Dozen

1 1/4 lbs ground ham
1/2 lbs fresh pork
1 1/4 lbs veal
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup cracker crumbs or dry cereal
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Basting Sauce

3/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 Tbls dry mustard
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup vinegar
1/4 tsp paprika

Mold into a loaf, surround with half a cup of water and bake covered in a moderate oven (375 degrees) for about an hour and forty-five minutes, basting every fifteen minutes with the sauce and drippings. Uncover for last fifteen minutes to brown.

This loaf is most unusual when basted as directed and the horseradish sauce with either raw or cooked apples is a perfect accompaniment for any cold meat or fowl.

Horseradish Sauce for Ham Loaf

3/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp dry mustard
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup vinegar
1/4 tsp paprika

Mix and serve on top of each piece of ham loaf

Savory Chicken Casserole

1 four pound fowl
2 quarts water
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
6 small white onions, diced
3 Tbsp butter
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup crumbs

Cut fowl in eight pieces. Place in kettle with the water, salt, pepper and sliced onion. Cover and simmer till tender. Fry the white onions in butter till lightly browned. Place the cooked chicken in a greased casserole or baking dish, cover with the fried onions. Add the beaten eggs to the chicken broth reduced to two and one-half cups and pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with crumbs and bake for thirty-five to forty minutes in a 375 degree oven (moderate). This will make about six servings.

“A new and savory way to slow-cook a fowl to tenderness is good news for any season.”

Veal Scaloppini

2 lbs veal steak or cutlet
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 cups veal broth or beef or chicken consomme’
3 Tbsp flour (browned)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp lemon juice or
8 Tbsp sherry
1 Tbsp Worcestershire

Have veal cut thin in three-inch squares. Pound well. Brown slowly in olive oil. Add broth thickened with the browned flour (canned chicken broth or bouillon cubes, or a knuckle of veal may be used to make stock). Season to taste with pepper and salt and add Worcestershire. Simmer meat in broth, covered, until very tender. Sprinkle with lemon juice or add sherry and serve very hot. Serves about eight. (If sherry is used one Tbsp more flour may be needed.)

Stuffing for Breast of Veal or Lamb

1 cup whole-wheat cereal
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 to 1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup celery, minced
1 Tbsp minced onion
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup hot water

Combine raw cereal and bread crumbs. Add seasonings and mix in pan with melted butter until hot. Add hot water and mix well. Especially good for breast of veal and also fine to spread flank steak, roll up, tie and bake; to be served cold, cut through like a jelly roll.


Tuesday’s Child: Easter Baking 1937

Baking and desserts have changed some through the years, as people became more concerned with calories. Recipes from bygone days are often more rich and delicious, but should probably be enjoyed in moderation.

Molasses Parfait Praline

8 egg yolks
1 cup New Orleans molasses (Note: This is a light and sweet variety of molasses)
2 cups boiling milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Mix egg yolks and molasses and slowly stir in the boiling milk. Cook over hot water in a double-boiler, stirring with a wooden or enamel spoon slowly, and do not let boil. When the mixture begins to thicken, remove from the fire and let cool, continuing to stir. When cool, add the cream and chopped roasted nuts. Freeze. (Pack in equal parts ice and salt and let stand for four hours without stirring.) Serves six to eight.

“This rich parfait mixture using the “Easter eggs” generously is just right for a festive meal.”

Refrigerator Almond Ice Cream

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup finely shredded almonds
1 cup whipping cream

Blend condensed milk, water and extract and chill. Add the nuts and fold in the cream, whipped only to a custard-like texture, not stiff. Pour into freezing pan and place in freezing unit. When half-forzen, scrape mixture from bottom and sides of pan and beat quickly till smooth. Replace in freezing unit until frozen for serving. Six portions.

Delicious served in meringue shells or garnished with canned apricot halves, halved sweetened fresh strawberries, or cooked and chilled canned peaches, or any fresh fruit, especially peaches in season. You may also use this same base and flavor with coffee or one teaspoon orange and half teaspoon lemon extract if the almond flavor does not appeal.

Special Prune Muffins

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
4 Tbls melted butter
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 egg
4 level tsp baking powder
9 cooked prunes
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar, stir in the melted butter and lightly beaten egg. Sift flower before measuring, then add baking powder and salt and sift again. Add to first mixture alternately with milk. Do not beat any more than necessary to mix well. Cook the prunes without sugar, cut very fine and stir in last. Bake in greased tins in a moderately hot oven (400 degrees) for twenty to twenty-five minutes.

“Something exceptional in muffins is hard to find and for either the Easter breakfast or supper they will give the meal a flair.”

Lime Chiffon Pie

1 Tbsp gelatin
1/4 cup water
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lime or lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
Baked pastry shell

Sprinkle gelatin on cold water. Beat egg yolks with half of the sugar. Add lime juice, salt and soaked gelatin and cook in top of double-boiler over hot water till slightly thickened. Chill. Fold in egg whites beaten until stiff and combined with the remaining half cup of sugar. Turn into baked pastry shell and chill till firm. Makes a nine-inch pie. Garnish with maraschino cherries around the rim, if desired.

I love old recipes. Things like molasses don’t get nearly enough credit these days. On that note, I came across an issue of Home Arts magazine from April of 1937 recently, and it was chock full of recipes for Easter. Below, you’ll find a selection of egg dishes, and in the weeks heading for Easter I’ll post additional recipes and meal ideas from this magazine.

“Easter breakfast eggs should be very special and the possibilities are endless. These two suggestions merely point the way. Eggs scrambled in a double-boiler, really creamed, with chopped chives are delicious; a poached egg on half toast, spread with potted chicken or ham is another touch. Hard cooked eggs, sliced and creamed are excellent. Just keep away from the eggs and bacon of winter, for variety and also for spring lightness.”

Poached Eggs Hollandaise

6 slices of half toast
6 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup white sauce
1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)

Fold the mayonnaise into the hot white sauce (two level Tbsp flour to one cup of milk, one Tbsp butter, a quarter teaspoon salt and an eighth tsp pepper). Place poached eggs on toast and pour sauce over whole. Serve at once.

Egg Fluff

Separate six eggs. Add a quarter tsp salt to whites and beat until stiff. Pile egg whites in a buttered, shallow baking dish. Drop the egg yolks onto the beaten whites, sprinkle with white pepper or paprika (and, if desired, with a little grated cheese) and bake in a slow oven (300 degrees) for eighteen minutes. Serve at once.


Monday’s Child: Dolman

Sweater: Vintage cotton dolman sleeve, Thrifted

March is here, and that means it’s starting to warm up here in sunny Nebraska. I love a light sweater for spring, and I also love the new/old dolman sleeve trend. It happens to be flattering on me, as well as being handy when you find a lovely vintage sweater and don’t want to look too terribly out of date. Once again, I really don’t know how to style this garment, but I feel like (my winter weight not withstanding) a pair of skinny jeans is the right direction. Perhaps that’s a little too 80′s, though. As always, let me know in the comments if you have any ideas for ways to style this garment.


Thursday’s Child: Heritage School

The history of Nebraska as a prairie state, of immigrants and settlers, is a valued part of our heritage around these parts. Willa Cather and Beth Streeter Aldrich wrote brilliantly of Nebraska’s pioneering history. (I personally recommend My Antonia by Cather and A White Bird Flying by Aldrich to anyone and everyone.) The social dynamics of European immigrants as settlers of Nebraska, the interaction of the communities of isolated nationalities, and how it can still be seen in the Nebraska of today are fascinating lessons in the history of American immigration, differing from those taught by 19th century Boston and New York. And we are proud of that history; of the perseverance and courage of our forebears.

And so, in my little part of the world, we try to teach our children the lessons of prairie life. In fourth grade, we send our children to Heritage School for a day, where they participate in a one-room class taught in the style of the late 19th century, in period clothing (or close approximations thereof) and with period expectations of manners. This after a long unit at school learning the differences they can expect, learning the songs they’ll sing, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (as it was said in the 1890′s), learning what kinds of lessons they can expect, and preparing for the spelling bee.

The foundation: A thrifted dress, possibly from a Halloween costume, but most probably from a past participant in Heritage School.

And where do I come in? The costume, of course. When I attended Heritage School, my mother made my costume, and I could do no less than to put my skills to work for my own daughter’s special day. I cheated a little; At Goodwill dollar days when the Halloween costumes were still on display I found a dress that would fit Kit, who is nearly the same size as I am. (The dress I wore to Heritage School in 4th grade Kit wore at Halloween when she was 6.) The dress is a somewhat unfortunate color of peach, and had a strange stand-up, fold-over collar and 3/4 length sleeves, with a weird yoke-look created with applied eyelet on the front of the dress. Obviously we had some things to change. I removed the eyelet on the front. I planned on removing the edging from the sleeves as well, but plans change. I managed to find a fabric that closely matched the dress and was therefore able to remove the weird collar and replace it with a rounded collar much more in keeping with the period. The matching fabric also allowed me to use contrasting fabric on other parts of the costume, which was nice.

All decked out.

I created a plain muslin petticoat, which you can’t see. The bib apron is my own design, and I’ll be re-making a slightly modernized version with a tutorial in the near future. (It’s really very easy, and I just made it up as I went. In the re-make, there are a few points I’ll change for the sake of elegance of design.) For the bonnet I used this tutorial with a few changes (namely using a contrasting fabric for the underside of the brim and no interfacing) and was very happy with the results. Kit has requested that we keep them rather than donate them to the school when she’s through, but we will be lending them out in the future. Kit is by far one of the tallest children in 4th grade, and the items of her costume are very much adult-sized. I know from personal experience that it can be a challenge to provide costumes for a child of such above-average size, and it amuses me a little to know that a teacher could just as easily borrow this particular outfit. Notes on the costume itself: Yes, it is March, but it is snowing today, so long underwear was necessary, and owing to the non-period-correct short sleeves, her long-johns show. Also, I was so busy making the costume that I forgot I needed to go hunting for less-obvious shoes. Bad mommy. She does have a shawl of wool plaid for wearing inside the chilly schoolhouse, but fortunately, they’ll be wearing their own coats for recess.


Wednesday’s Child: Zombie Pinup

zpinupLast year for Valentine’s Day, I helped my husband prepare for a very special photo shoot. The Zombie Pinups website was hosting a Zombie Valentine contest, and we wanted to take part. Zombie Pinups is run by a friend from Zombie Army Productions out of Chicago, and last year’s contest was judged by Matt Valentine; a contestant from Syfy’s Face Off. The prize was a great lot of horror-related swag. So my husband gathered together a team of makeup artists from the area, I helped prepare the set and costumes and he found a model he liked for the part, and we put together an entry. And we won! You can see a gallery of the complete shoot at my husband’s website, but be careful, as some of the images are definitely more risque than others. The giant heart-shaped floor pillow seen at left was my major contribution to the effort, and you can find instructions in another post.


Thursday’s Child: Pirates

This weekend my daughter and I are attending a costume birthday party with a pirate theme. I’ve worked a number of pirate festivals in my day, in addition to having a reasonable ren faire garb closet, so putting together a couple of pirate costumes doesn’t present that big a challenge. However, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet to go Airship Pirate instead of High Seas pirate.

Now, the golden age of Caribbean privateers and piracy up the coast of the US was in the 17th and 18th centuries. Your typical Airship pirate is aiming for somewhere mid-19th, so the look is going to be somewhat different.

By the Victorian era, gone was the tricorne from the naval uniforms of Europe, and thence out of pirate ken. However, the tricorne’s descendant, the bicorne (you might recognize this hat style from a number of famous paintings of Napoleon.), was widely in use in naval officer dress around the world until the early 20th century, and would be a good option for a Victorian-era costume. For an airship, leather aviators caps and goggles, though somewhat cliche’, are also useful.

I like the idea of steampunk and pirate costumes (or both) for women incorporating items of men’s clothing as well. A peek at historical female pirates generally shows them in very masculine wear, although that might be artistic license. But it must be said that trousers seem a more practical garment for swashbuckling than a dress. For a steampunk outfit, I think a knickerbocker-style pant tucked into tall boots would be lovely. A more feminine approach would be a pair of bloomers, although at some point the knickerbockers and bloomers will be difficult to tell apart. A pair of baggy pants made of linen could be either. Give it a fancy edging and a casing for elastic and it’s a bloomer, tuck that fancy edging into a boot top and it’s a knickerbocker. Very handy.

My own plan involves a black velvet corset, linen bloomers in a color I haven’t chosen yet, probably cinched above the knee, stockings and booties, a man’s banded-collar shirt and a fur and leather mohawk aviator cap affair if I have time to make it. With some adjustments at a later date, this could also make a good con costume.

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