Monday, May 4, 2015

Alice Illustrated - Queen Alice, Through the Looking Glass

Queen Alice
"The Eighth Square at last!", she cried as she bounded across, and threw herself down to rest on a lawn as soft as the moss, with little flower-beds dotted about it here and there.  "Oh, how glad I am to get here!  And, what is this on my head?' she exclaimed in a tone of dismay, as she put her hands up to something very heavy, that fit tight all around her head.  And, with this final step across the fields of a chess board, Alice becomes the queen.

Tenniel's Through the Looking Glass
When we begin a search for Alice in images, we are generally seeing her illustrated from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  From time to time we'll see her dressed in Tenniel's blue dress with the apron trimmed in red, wearing the striped stockings.  But...and maybe this is just me...I've never seen her dressed in Tenniel's Queen Alice.  I have seen versions of Queen Alice in all white.  Wendy Lawton did one for her 9" book Alice, and Robin Woods did a white one with gold and red crown from one of her very early Alice trunk sets.  But, never the blue, red and gold Queen Alice from Tenniel's Alice Through the Looking Glass.

The Illustration
It has long been a costume I desired to try, and my original intent was to create it for my Wendy Lawton 16" convention Alice.  I still may.  In fact I must, but Alice Illustrated became my first little muse for this costume. 

In the same blue silk as I made her first dress, the traditional Through the Looking Glass costume, I would be working once again with the 1860's French Fashion style of paniers and ruffles (see Louise Godey).  I am always surprised when I begin working on a new pattern to discover that I made something similar before.  Each costume to me has a life of its own, but its wonderful to have had a little bit of practice beforehand.

A side view for Tenniel
Alice Illustrated's Queen Alice gown is a festive costume in the colors of a traditional playing card.  When contemplating the "gold" of this costume, I bought several gold lames to work with.  I don't know if you've ever worked with lame (especially stretch lyca lame), but its a nuisance.  Almost as bad a deep plush velvet.  I tried using a jeans needle to sew through it.  I even changed the stitch length, and it was a beast.  While I contemplated the woes of using this stuff, I realized that the color in the illustration was really yellow.  And, here we can talk about the brain and the artist's eye; what we know to be true, and what we actually see! 

This almost looks Civil War military to me!
I'd already made the pleated trim from a yellow cotton sateen (couldn't find this color in silk), and was making the little boots out of stretch lame.  I sat there and looked again, and once again, and said "What am I doing?!  These will not match."  So I ditched the lame and happily continued work with the yellow sateen. 

The boots
Since I'd made the trim first, and was waiting for the third lame to show up, I began work on the crown, the boots and the scepter.  The boots came first in yellow sateen since I'd already make a pair of stretch lame ones and had the perfect pattern made.  I realized while I was stitching these up that Franklin Mint had made the same type of cloth boots for their Guinevere.  I was much relieved to know I was on the right track. 

The crown is a soft sculpture with a buckram base.  The center is a rich, lush velvet in crimson, and the "fur" band is actually baby blanket material.  I have white faux fur, but it was too furry.  This soft blanket fabric was perfect for the look. 

The scepter is made from wood.  Once again I thank myself for the years I spent working in wood.  The fleur de lis was cut out on my scroll saw, but the staff is all wood dowels.  To make the bumps on the staff, I cut cookies from a larger dowel, then drilled a 1/8" hole in the center (donuts), and slipped them onto the staff, then glued them in place.  There are no wood beads that will accommodate this process unless you're maybe making a larger staff.  Much sanding and carving with a knife was done to create the smooth finishes of the scepter.  Its a wonderful accessory to this costume.
The chess piece crown
And finally I began work on the dress.  If you'll notice the white ruffle on Tenniel's sleeve, it is drawn with a sharp points.  I'd noticed in months back that Sylvia Mac Neil used pinking sheers on some of Chiffonette dress edges.  So I followed suit and made the trim of white silk on the bias with pinked edges.  The two sizes of pleated trim came from the same length.  It was by accident that this happened.  A lucky accident.  The trim was too wide, so I cut 1/4" off it, and this, I noticed, was the perfect size for the trim around the top of the hem ruffle and the sleeve edges. 

The Scepter
The paniers gave me the fits this time.  Why were they so logical, intuitive, on Louise Godey's and not here?  I think it was in part due to Tenniel's romantic illustration of the draping on the back one.  I tried four times and could not achieve his look.  If I'm correct, the original paniers may have been ruched by a drawstring.  If anyone knows, I'd like to be enlightened.  Regardless, on this small doll's costume, the gathers that should have achieved this look did not.  Still and all, with the trim attached, I'm pleased with the overall outcome.

The Back
The sleeves, themselves, are a bit different from your standard puff.  In order to achieve the look of the illustration, I pleated them, then ease-gathered them.  It was a bit like making a little origami box.  The detail may be hard to detect, but its there.

Alice does not wear stockings in the illustration, so none were made.  This was just as well since the cloth boots would have been difficult to snug over her feet with stockings. 

Finally, a pearl necklace was fashioned for her.  A 2" red scarlet silk ribbon was used for the tie about her waist.

Alice Illustrated's Queen Alice costume was an entirely satisfying challenge.  Like many of the costumes I try, these are things made of my own dreams coming true.  I'll have to admit that I much prefer making costumes, rather than serious day garments for my dolls.  They're whimsical, colorful and enchanting to display.

I don't know what I'll do next.  Once again I have many options and ideas on the table, but for just a little while, I think I'll enjoy my book and the warm spring weather the patio is offering.  At least for a day or two!

Enjoy this beautiful May.  Long live the Queen (Alice)!

Love,
Miss E. Mouse 

A colorized version by some artist.

The marvelous chess board landscape.

A BJD Steampunk Version.  I like it!

Long live the Queen!

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