Thursday, April 1, 2010

Interview with a Costumer: Nancy-Raven

Do you by any chance remember the contest I announced on January 1st? You were supposed to tell me what I should make with a gorgeous piece of silk I found for a bargain. No? I’m not surprised, I only got one answer. I expected more from you my readers, but since I posted it during a post-project archive update (I bet you are used to those by now!), I guess you just missed it, so I forgive you.

As I said, I only got one answer and it was from my best friend, the well known (on this blog anyways) Nancy-Raven. I didn’t end up making what she had suggested (mostly because she said a baby dress and there is no way I’m putting silk on a drooling baby, but also because I got into another project), but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get her prize, to be featured here on the very first “Interview with a Costumer” post.

I have to say, I’m glad she’s the one to be my guinea pig for this; always best to test on your friends before trying things like that with complete strangers!

Nancy-Raven wearing her "Fenice" gown, August 2004

Name and/or Alias: Nancy-Raven Hellfire
Where in the world are you? Québec, Canada

How long have you been into costuming?

It depends whether you count from the time I started to be interested in costumes or from when I began making my own, but I’d say roughly 8 to 10 years.

Gwenyver in her "Arwen's Dying Gown" and Nancy-Raven in her "Eowyn's Shield Maiden" costume, August 2004

How did you come about Costuming?

By my Best Friend [your host] who convinced me it was better to make them yourself, not only because you save money, but also because you get so many more possibilities when you can choose everything yourself (fabric, trim, style, etc.)

Note: At the time, Nancy-Raven wore Modern Medieval clothing from the local stores almost exclusively outside of work. A laced bodice was easily 70$ and I couldn’t believe she spent so much money on such a small item of clothing. As with other things, I bugged her often that she should make her own. And today she does, although she wears jeans and t-shirts as street clothes now.

What was the first costume you made?

The first costume I made was a light blue and pink georgette kimono for a Halloween Party. I didn’t sew it* but I choose the fabric and I helped cut it. That project was a turning point for me; it was after that that I seriously got into costuming.

*I did.

Nancy-Raven in her Blue and Pink Kimono Costume

What Costuming Events / Conventions do you usually attend in a year?

It can vary from one year to the next, because there are sometimes new events and there are others I simply don’t go to every year, but generally, there is the Fête de la Nouvelle-France, Otakuthon, the Fête Médiévale de Saint-Colomban, my Halloween Party and on rare occasions, some SCA events.

Where do you get your inspiration?

There is of course television and movies, but also Janet Arnold’s Books. I think in general what inspires me is not so much the costume itself, but the period to which it belongs, as well as the story that goes with it. And of course, there is music: I never sew without listening to some music.

Really? What music do you listen to?

It depends on my mood and the time of day; at night, the music I listen to has to make me feel energetic, not sleepy. There are many Medieval and Renaissance music albums in my music collection as well as a few Celtic ones. Currently I mostly listen to the soundtracks of the TV series True Blood (2008). True Blood: Music From The HBO Original Series, on which you can find the song of the opening credits, Bad Things as well as, True Blood Volume 2 which I recently purchased and I listen to in loop. I don’t have access to my computer or Tele in my sewing room and I need some sort of background noise. Sometimes, the music I listen to inspires and motivates me too.

Burnt Orange Medieval-Fantasy gown and pelisse inspired by The Mists of Avalon (2001), by Nancy-Raven

Where do you shop for Material? (including fabric, accessories, rings for mail, thermo-plastic, etc.)

For fabrics, I go to Fabricville or Club Tissus.
For celtic accessories, I love The
Crafty Celt.
For music and other general accessories, I recommend
The Tudor Shoppe.
And for books, none other than

What type of costumes do you specialize in? (ex.: Anime/Manga, Movie, Historical, Dance, Ethnic, Goth, etc.)

I’d say generally historical and fantasy, but neither type more than the other

What is your favourite Movie, costume wise? Have you made anything from that Movie?

I’d be lying if I said there was one in particular. I really love Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1997) with Sophie Marceau and The Duchess (2008), but I haven’t yet made a costume from either period, mostly because I would want it to be perfect and that would mean making all the underwear, corset, skirt support and petticoats as well.

Nancy-Raven as a 1920's Flapper, Halloween 2008

What is your Favourite Era, Costume Wise?

There isn’t one in particular; it would be too difficult to choose. Still, I do have a certain preference for the Middle Ages, as well as Tudor style, Elizabethan and Victorian periods. Currently, I am especially focused on the 1920’s and the French designer Madeleine Vionnet.

Which one of your creations are you most proud of?

I’d say none :I am eternally unsatisfied and I always see something that needs to be fixed or remade on anything I make. Therefore, there isn’t a creation I can actually say I am prouder of than the rest.

What are you currently working on?

Many different projects; I have a hard time working on only one at a time. I just follow my moods. My main focus for the coming weeks will be simple evening gowns, skirts with matching tops, all meant for going out and some to wear on my next trip.

(The lucky girl is hoping to visit New Orleans in the fall for The Grand Masquerade: A Gala World of Darkness Convention – I’m a little jealous... But I know she’ll bring me back a souvenir.)

Nancy-Raven as an Anglo-Norman at the Fête Médiévale de Saint-Colomban 2009

What is your dream costume?

A Victorian Ball Gown.

What is your dream costuming event?

A Victorian ball such as the one presented in Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1997) or The Young Victoria (2009).

Re-creations or Original designs?

A little of both.

Historical or Fantasy?

More historical.

Hand Sewing or Sewing Machine?

Sewing Machine

Fabric or solid materials ?

Fabric, definitely.

Nancy-Raven and Gwenyver as Scots, Fête Médiévale de Saint-Colomban 2007

Anything else you would like to share?

I think all you need to be a good costumer is a time and practice. I can only hope that with both I will one day reach a point where I am satisfied with myself. Costuming is a way to get into a character’s skin; it is a moment of pure magick and dream. To be a costumer is to create those dreams and that magick.

I also intend, with my dear friend Gwenyver, to set up a costumers group encompassing all styles of costumes, a little like a costumer’s guild, and organize themed events for members. It’s another way to get an excuse to make costumes, while at the same time sharing your passion with like minded individuals.*

*We're working on it!

Thank you Nancy-Raven for being my first subject for this interview. Comments? Questions? Who's next?

1 comment:

  1. I do suggest you something else after the baby dress , you don't remember?I saw a boléro in a Tashen book I have and tell you it will be perfect .Next time I see you , I will show you the picture in question.I'm honour to be the first interview.