Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Part 5: The #Hamildress in NYC!

So, try as we might... it was nearly impossible to snap photos of the #Hamildress in Times Square because there are TOO. MANY. PEOPLE. Oh my goodness, there are so many people. So snapping a pic that included the entirety of the dress resulted in only a FEW successful attempts. 

If you want to see photoshoot-quality pics of the #Hamildress, I recommend checking out the previous post: Part 4: The #Hamildress in Fresno
I stepped into the ROAD to take this unpopulated photo. Exasperated to say the least.

The pic below was the norm. We are lucky to get THIS selfie. Honestly:

"There's too many damn *people* for anyone to understand."

Here's the dress after a few taxis, and walking up and down Times Square!

Sanctuary... please give us sanctuary!
I contemplated going to Ham4Ham but I wasn't willing to brave the crowds when I could be, you know, enjoying myself in a logical manner. So my compromise was to grab a drink at the Playwright Pub and then to walk through the Ham4Ham lotto afterwards. Apparently I missed Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. I'm okay with that. I also chose not to stagedoor after Hamilton since I heard it would leave a sour taste in my mouth to see how such amazing performers are treated after bearing their soul to you for the last for 3 hours. I am happy with my decision. I did stagedoor after Fun Home the next night and the small crowd and respectful audience members and amazingly kind cast made for a wonderful experience. I wish the world of Hamilton could be the same way!

It was difficult to walk through the insanity of the lotto and I'm glad I'm tall because, you know, claustrophobia can kick in for me under the right circumstances.  Here's a shot of me taking shelter after the harrowing journey! You can see the chaos behind me:

And then we the theatre doors opened!
Here's one from INSIDE the Richard Rodgers before the show!

The closest thing I've seen to an Original Broadway cast is Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth in the San Francisco World Premiere of Wicked. I hadn't heard any "Wicked" songs by then and didn't know much about how the original cast informed the choices of the musical in the preceding workshops. Hamilton was an entirely different world for me as I knew deeply the way each member of the cast had shaped the role to their abilities. And then I got to SEE THEM perform it LIVE!

Here's me freaking out before the show began:

I brought binoculars and was thrilled to see the nuanced expressions of these original cast members.

And here's one of me TRYING to take a photo in front of the famous wall. 

Look, she's so happy! I mean, the ENTIRE CAST WAS THERE: Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom, Lin-Manuel, Pippa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Chris Jackson, Anthony Ramos, and Oke Onadowan. Oh my God! Since I missed the filming of the OBC (by one performance) I never expected the entire crew to be there. NEVER! I could not be more pleased!

And here's a side-by side of the dress and the gradient it copied. It was tricky to copy a digital image in dye but I think it came out wonderfully!

"Not too bad, if I say so myself!"

I also had a fake tattoo made. One Texan freaked out when she through it was real. NOPE.

Other Hamilthings:

Okay, you HAVE to believe me: We were cruising the Wall Street financial district and came across a really beautiful church. I used Manuel's camera to zoom in to the spires to see a more detailed look. We then did all the touristy things in the area and ended up on the other side of the church where the name was visible. "Trinity Church" it said. THE Trinity Church??? It turns out, it WAS! Here's us visiting Alex, Eliza and Angelica. 

No joke, it wasn't on my map because I wasn't going to "go out of my way to see it." Turns out you can't miss the place! WOW! Made the final song in Hamilton even more powerful the next day when we saw it performed. 
"She is buried in Trinity Church near you..."

We did some other nerdy stuff too!

Washington, Lafayette and the Ham4Ham spectacle (without entering that crazy lotto!)

And finally, here's the reason I got to dream a dream: Manuel. I love him dearly!

*Sniff* This COULD be the last #Hamildress post ever. I'm sad to see it go. 
Here's hoping I fit into the #Hamildress when the 10 year filming of the OBC is released!

If you wanted to go back in time, here's my previous posts about the making of the #Hamildress:
Part 4: The #Hamildress in Fresno (Finished photoshoot!)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Part 4: The #Hamildress in Fresno

Warning! Gratuitous #Hamildress photoshoot ahead! 

Turn back now if you feel your eyes starting to roll or don't say I didn't warn you.

If you missed the journey of hand-dying this dress to match the textured gradient of the Hamilton Musical poster art, here you go:

I cannot WAIT to wear this to the Richard Rodgers Theatre!

     As of today, I am 3 days away from our plane flight to New York. On top of that I am a mere 5 days away from seeing Hamilton: An American Musical and crying my eyes out the entire time! As a disclaimer, listening to the Hamilton Cast Album has only made me tear up ONCE and only once. Surprisingly, it wasn't even at the point you would think! One day while driving to work I started to sing Eliza's words in "That Would be Enough" and I felt the tears stating to well up: For some reason I suddenly really identified with Eliza's strength and pain of separation from (and potential loss of)  Alexander. She's "not sorry" for writing to Washington to tell him she's pregnant; She's not sorry for being a "poor man's wife"; and she's not sorry for so desperately needing him there (and alive) for their son. 

     Anyways, actually singing the words (and acting them.. you know me) helped me to see how difficult that situation would be. I tell you this only to let you know that I'm not usually a sappy person: I don't think I've ever actually cried whilst listening to a cast album, so "the orphanage" line didn't get me, the death of Philip didn't get me, and certainly not the overly-expected death of Hamilton. 

     HOWEVER... I cried like a baby for the Tony Awards. For the first time in my Tony-watching history, I had been following the stories of the people involved in the musical. Because of this I KNEW them and celebrated their accomplishments. I realized after my mascara streaked down my face that I need to find another type of eye makeup to see Hamilton in because I will be crying throughout the experience. I am (and will be) more than moved that I get to see firsthand this musical that is making (and changing) history. I will be overwhelmed by the joy of the "wonderful people out there in the dark" that have done everything in their power to get in that room at that exact moment. And I will be overcome with emotion that my Hispanic, Hmong and African American high school students will forever be able to see themselves as the history makers who shaped our country.

Without further ado, here are some pics from the #Hamildress' first day ever in the sun! Stay tuned for the next post however, where it gets to walk the streets of NYC!

Belle shout out: "It's my favorite part because... you'll see!" 

It's like she knows something you don't. Hmm..

Accessories time:

Oh, how I love poofy skirts!

Especially with a black CRINOLINE!

Beaded vintage clutch belonging to my Great-Grandmother (Ole-Mor)

Beautiful black bow shoes from my good friend Rebekah! 

Necklaces: Gold chains with a simple black bead partial strand and golden quill feathers.

And other pics, just because you're already here...

Hamilton = Bliss. Funny thing is, I live right here!

The flaw depicted below is that my pleated belt wants to resist covering the yards of gathered skirt fabric and so it keeps rising up to the path of least resistance.


My necklaces have a hint of black beading with gold feather quills to reinforce the brass buttons on my belt.

Amazing Mural District Art!

 And finally, a pic of my beautiful friend Rebekah who snapped all these pics for me:

See you in NEW YORK!

Follow me on Twitter (@chelseabees)
and/or check the #Hamildress hashtag
to see a play-by-play of all the fun!

UPDATE! Here's Part 5: The #Hamildress in NYC!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Part 3: Something's Coming, Something Good... The #Hamildress!

As you well know, I AM GOING TO NEW YORK TO SEE HAMILTON and I needed to channel my excitement into a healthy pastime... so I decided to make a dress based off the musical's poster art. I sent off fabric to Vermont, had it hand-dyed, cut out my vintage 50's pattern design and here we are... almost ready to travel!  

If you are late to the party, here's Part 1: The Hamilton Dress where I document the process of trying to mimic the cover art's gradient & Part 2: Sewing the #Hamildress where I show the process from toile to gown.

Here's what I've been up to in the past month:
As you can see, I've managed to fit the dress over the wide shoulders of my dress form (a miracle in itself). The dress should look better on me since it's been fitted to my body, not the cookie cutter dress form. 

There are three main dye gradients not entirely visible in the pic. There's the yellow starburst bodice, the medium gradient belt and then the darkest shade depicted in the skirt. The shirt even has its own gradient where the hem is darker than the gathered top edge. The back (which is shown in my previous blog entry) has a beautiful textured gradient from the yellow to the mid-range orange. It's really hard to capture all that in my photos and I'm hoping it reads when I'm walking through the streets of New York!

Don't like waiting for blog updates in order to see my progress pics?  on Twitter for #Hamildress updates while I am in NYC!

Finishing the raw edges:

I finished all the raw edges (as per the pattern recommendations) with yellow seam binding. This was new for me! I have 100 yards of it now so I imagine it will be making a reappearance in a future costume. 

Here you can see the process of attaching the binding to the hem. Next, I hand-sewed the top of the binding to the skirt as invisibly as possible.

Crinoline steamed and ironed!

The crinoline:

I steamed and ironed my new black crinoline to give it the needed poof. It's shorter than my yellow one but it gives the dress some youth and energy. How am I going to get this to New York without squishing it too much? I'm guessing I'll get strange looks if I just wear it over my jeans on the plane. Hmm.

The embroidery idea is OUT!

Sadly, I ditched my original idea of embroidering along the hem.  I had come up with the plan of combining the two song lyrics below in order to have the right amount of words to stretch across the four yards of hem.  

My chosen song lyrics were a hybrid/found poem of sorts: "I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable, I am an original. There's a million things I haven't done but just you wait, just you wait for it..."

My test swatch looked cool but I doubted my abilities in this new domain of embroidery so it was OUT.

Failed embroidery attempt!

The belt & my hair: 

I ironed and starched the heck out of the brass-buttoned belt. And... I cut and dyed my hair red! I'm testing out all sorts of vintage styles to go with the dress!


His skill with the quill is undeniable!

Accessorize it: 

I also have been scouting out accessories! Here's a two necklace combo pictured below with a single strand of feathers (to represent the power of the quill of course) and a three strand necklace with black beading. The gold metal is a nod to the brass buttons on my belt and the black beading is meant to evoke the star logo (and tie in my shoes, crinoline, my Olemor's (Great-grandma's) beaded purse and possibly a black hair accessory).

Don't judge me.

I also may-or-may-not have gotten a temporary TATTOO made especially for the trip.

I CANNOT be more excited... well, yes I could. 

If Lin-Manuel would invite me along with MY husband Manuel backstage for autographs, well that would work for me to bump up the notch of excitement to insanity proportions. I wish you were listening, cast of Hamilton.

Stay tuned for the #Hamildress in NYC! 

UPDATE: If you are ready to see some completed pics of the dress out and about in the exciting town of Fresno, hop over to Part 4: The #Hamildress in Fresno (photoshoot pics!)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Part 2: Sewing the #Hamildress (in Progress!)

The Hamildress is in progress! 

I repeat, the Hamildress is in progress! 

Here is Part 2 of my journey to sew a dress for a trip to see the Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton in New York. This dress is meant to be a replica of the poster art for Hamilton so I had Vicki Welsh hand-dye my cotton lawn fabric to match the design. Basically this started after a crazy idea got in my head and I went with it! 

Here's Part 1 about the hand-dyed fabric of awesomeness if you're interested.

Sewing the toile/mockup:
Modifications to V8789
This is the first time I've been so nervous about something that I made two of these suckers! For the first attempt I extended the torso a bit, redrew the darts then after my fitting I realized I wanted a more fitted look. I marked the increased darts on the first toile, transferred the markings onto my pattern and and was eventually happy with the fit of the second toile (except for the large sleeve armscye that I don’t know anything about fixing).

No pics of my toile here, just Hulk presiding over the markings transfers.
Cutting the fabric:
Once my fabric arrived and I saw how sheer it was, I decided to flatline my bodice. Flatlining is a historical technique that gives more structure to the garment which I learned from my friend Jennifer Rosbrugh at HistoricalSewing.com. I cut out two of each bodice piece and then flatlined the twin pieces together so they operate as one. I decided to use the self fabric for the flatlining pieces because, at the time, my brain was telling me this the best option. I think my brain believed having another hand dyed piece behind the sheer bodice fabric would add some depth to it. I haven’t yet stepped out into the sun so I’m not quite sure the depth is visible. Near the end of my project when I was desperately low on fabric resources I thought better of the self-fabric idea; It might have been better to choose a flatlining fabric with more weight.

Sewing the dress:
In order to keep the skirt as one continuous strip I mixed and matched pattern V8789. I chose View A for the bodice but View B for the skirt because it kept the four-yard strip as one piece. This didn’t mess anything up at all in fitting the two pieces together, so it was definitely a good move!
Making the mistake smaller doesn't hide it.

Since I lengthened the bodice a smidge, the zipper just barely fit in the allotted spots! Yay, no changes needed! Did I mention I suck at putting in a zipper? It’s not a historical technique so I really don’t know what I’m doing. Sure enough, I made the tip of it look ugly and this cotton lawn fabric is unforgiving when ripping out seams and resewing them. I have left the mangled seam as-is for now with the thought that I will never raise my arm… ever.

After gathering and attaching the skirt I realized I wasn’t happy with my adjustment to lengthen the bodice... I probably could have left that pattern piece alone! With the weight of the skirt my bodice waistline seems to drop below my natural waist. This causes problems for the belt since it naturally wants to sit at your smallest point; I am worried that after moving in the dress all day that the belt will try to creep up to expose my waist seam. I hope not since I hate garments that you have to constantly mess with. We shall see.

Belt it out: 
The belt was a pain in the butt. I had to make a very important decision: since I didn’t have much fabric left to work with, I had to choose between following the pattern’s recommendation to cut the belt on the bias (and therefore have a light-dark gradient effect from one side of the belt to the next), or try and cut the belt on the grain in the medium color range in between my bodice and skirt color.  I was nervous because I only had one shot to get this right because once this remnant was cut, it was done. I realized that by cutting on the grain I would not have any “give” to the belt… which is a major problem. I thought I would try making it more structured and pleated rather than gathered so it wouldn’t angle unnaturally around my waist. See the final product on the left!

Totally overwhelmed by Joann's button choices.

I wanted the belt pleats to be uneven (rather than perfect) and I think it turned out beautifully! My friend Rebekah had the amazing idea to add brass buttons for a military detail.  Even though I was initially a little overwhelmed in button choices I am thrilled with the result!

There's a million stitches I haven't sewn:
I still have to hem the dress (the pattern recommends 3 inches!) so the dress is not yet complete… but just you wait!

And here's my latest additions:
Checking the (unsewn) hem length over my new black crinoline!
And holding up the textured dress back (sans belt) in comparison to the Hamilton Cover Art!

Ironing the black crinoline (instead of the yellow!)

Want to see more? Here's a link to:

Part 1: The #Hamildress (The Dye Process, etc.)

Part 3: Something's Coming, Something Good... The #Hamildress!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Part 1: Hamilton Dress (#Hamildress)

I'm so in LOVE with this musical!

One day my sweetheart of a husband sprung the biggest surprise on me: He said “Let’s go” see Hamilton in New York for our 10-year anniversary and... my heart... stopped. My mind was utterly blown at the magnitude of such an amazing opportunity and I immediately knew I needed to sew a dress to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime event in my life. I envisioned my dress mimicking the poster art from Hamilton so I planned to print out the poster’s background across a yard of fabric (and then mirror the image across 5 yards of fabric) using a website like Spoonflower.

Planning the fabric:
It was a long road for me to come to the realization that I should just DYE the fabric instead of SCREENPRINT it. Here’s the details of my long journey:

First, I “inspected” the html code on hamiltonbroadway.com to grab the 1400 x 842 background image but I knew I really needed something larger. I did some research to discover the marketing company in charge of promoting Hamilton (SpotCo) and I sent them and email asking if they could send me a hi-res image of the orangish-textured background. Then I sent them some more emails and realized they weren’t going to reply to me.

I then found some generous folks on Reddit who helped me resize the existing image from the official website. I went ahead and ordered 3 swatches of different fabrics from Spoonflower using that enlarged file, but when I finally received them I was not happy with the pixels resulting from the image being stretched across a YARD of fabric!
The dark bottom left corner of the Hamilton Poster Art

Then I thought I would try to find a similar (but larger resolution) image that gave the look and feel of the poster art, and stumbled across a stock photo website. I bought one image and was not happy with it and so I purchased another. Then I mirrored that second image and painstakingly edited every pixel to eliminate errors and ugly spots. This took FOREVER and in the end, after I uploaded my final YARD-SIZED image to Spoonflower… I chickened out. I had been doing some research about the lack of fidelity of their black dye and I was worried the whole print would really lack the rich beauty I was hoping for. I found a few other websites that were purported to have better blank ink fidelity but their prices were over $30 a yard and since I’d be buying 5 yards, I couldn’t justify the cost without feeling confident it would turn out the way I envisioned it.

So, I started to think about the more cost-effecting option of dyeing the fabric myself with Dharma Trading Co. dyes. I did some research about mixing colors and realized I probably wouldn’t be able to achieve the look I was going for without some assistance. At that point I decided I would fish around on Etsy for some skilled hand-dyers. Luckily I found Vicki Welsh who is a professional at this and assured me she could do this ombre effect! We discussed at length which seven dyes to use on the fabric. See the photo on the left for the five middle colors out of the seven. We later decided on adding one lighter shade at the top and one darker shade at the bottom to total the seven colors.

Hamilton Musical poster art fabric
Vicki's preview before mailing!
I bought Cotton Lawn fabric from Dharma Trading Co. and shipped it to Vicki and let the professional work her magic!  She sent me the preview on the right (of 1/4th of the fabric) before she mailed out my package! It looks so awesome!

Whoohoo! Now I’m waiting for my dyed fabric to arrive so I can get sewing!

Update: The Eagle has LANDED! And it's FANTASTIC!

Hamilton Musical poster art fabric

On the left is the pattern I am using for my #Hamildress. It's a Vintage 1957 reissue and I'll be making the V-neck (View A).

My Work Plan to sew this dress:
Thurs:              Iron fabric, Pin Bodice & Flatlining
Friday:             Cut Skirt, Bodice pieces
Saturday:         Flatline Bodice pieces, Cut Arm Facing
Sunday:           Watch Game of Thrones (and then mark pattern pieces with an air soluble pen)
Monday:          Go shopping for thread and notions
Tuesday:          Sew & Iron Bodice together
Wednesday:    Sew Skirt together & Gather top edge.
Thursday:        Add Zipper
Friday:             Sew skirt to bodice
All the other days up to today where I'm still working on it:         Sew belt, finish inner belt, hem, press, etc.

UPDATE: Gratuitous pic of the amazing variance in ombre gradient of my fabric!