Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Monday, May 1, 2017

OK, I’m going to give this another “go”

I have been very, very busy the past year.   I camp hosted in far northwestern Montana for the summer, am in the midst of making costumes for the third time for the University of Great Falls Theatre.

Last spring the play was “Secret Garden”  which was my first.  Friend Joye asked me to help sew “some little things like aprons and neckwear” and then walked in with a stack of fabric and said, “we need 4 military jackets”   She didn’t ask if I could do it, she just gave me the fabric and said what was needed.   I just accepted it.   If she had asked me if I could do the jackets, I probably would have declined.  I’m so glad I took it on.   Working with the play was the most fun I’d had in years.   Besides the jackets, I made a nightgown, an apron, and several neck cloths.  Not very much to do.

In the Fall, the play was “Jekyl and Hyde”   Several fancy (simply made) dresses with bustles, and vests and such - still not a whole lot to do. But, so, so much fun.  We found most of the costumes in the “attic” where all the previous year’s costumes are stored, in no particular order. This time, I stayed in town for the duration, and worked daily at the Green Room - where the sewing is done at the UGF Theatre.

Now, it’s spring and the play is “1776”   Oh, my goodness.  I’m so glad we didn’t start with this, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.   30 men’s colonial outfits.  Consisting of breeches, coat, vest and shirt.   We cut it down by sewing sleeves to the vests.  We found most of the breeches in the “attic”   But they have never done a play in the Colonial era so the rest, with very few exceptions are all made from scratch.  

We are nearly 4 weeks into it - with just two weeks to go to get most of the rest of the costumes completed, plus a ball gown.   We have recruited a couple of sewists who have worked with UGF previously, and I’ve farmed out a total of 6 garments.   I’ve recruited my cousin, Shelley to start sewing, too.  She has been sewing on buttons and doing some hand sewing for us - that will help tremendously.  

We have, as of today, 12 costumes completely finished, 11 nearly so and the rest we’ve merely selected the fabric - but even that is a big help.   Most of those left will require major adjustments - like tailoring men’s patterns to fit women, since we have about half the Continental Congress being acted by women.  There are only two female parts in the play - Martha Jefferson and Abrigail Adams.   Abrigail’s dress is finished, the other - is just partially cut out.

The ball gown -   This is going to be so special.  Two actresses are playing the part, so the dress has to fit one who wears size 0 and the other size 8 - 14 (according to the measurements on the pattern.  The skirt is huge.   The entire dress takes 42 yards, oops, make that 54 yards, I mis-calculated the tulle.  At least it is the cheapest fabric.   The floor length skirt is made up of 8 layers:   1 of satin, 1 of mesh, 4 of tulle, (these all white)  1 of the most luscious pink frilly stuff, and topped off by iridescent organza.   The top is fitted

with lacy sleeves.

I’m headed for the thrift store this morning, to pick up a sheet to use to make up the mock-up of the top.   (much cheaper than buying muslin for the purpose)  ((must keep an eye on the budget don’tcha know?))

In addition to all the costumes, all the men and a few of the gals need period wigs.  Not to mention, buckles for their shoes, and a few hats, and handkerchiefs - some very lacy, and Jabots and cravats - Joye is in charge of neckwear.

I’m down to the point that all I do is on the sewing machine - any handwork will be done by volunteers and Shelley.   Other than that I have to make pattern adjustments and cut out fabric.   Enough to keep me quite busy?

Those outfits we’ve finished are wonderful, and everyone is quite pleased with their costumes.

I’m not including any photos here, It will take me a  while how to re-learn how to do it.


It is now May 1 and it is all over.    The beautiful white ball gown turned out to be the dress from hell.   Trying to fit it on the two different actors was a nightmare -  each had fears of it falling down,  One because she is so curvaceous, and the other because she is very slim.   Finally, with just two performances to go, I got it all figured out, and both felt comfortable in the dress.

It has been 8 weeks of 12 - 15 hours at the green room.   Exhaustion didn’t hit me until the last week, and then it hit hard.  We went through periods of giggles, and Joye was frequently banging her head on her sewing machine, or beating it up.

The performances went very well and was very well attended.  The first play I’ve watched multiple times - it was that good!!!

Matt, who played Richard Henry Lee of Virginia - is my favorite.   The character is so boisterous and energized, and so is Matt.  He had a small part, but he remained with you.  What got my attention was when he was quietly sitting in his place, and all of a sudden, it was as if his face turned on like a light bulb - and washed out everyone else.  I guess that’s what is called “stealing the scene”  

We had many compliments on the costumes.   We had four of the actors ask if they could purchase their costumes after the play.  That really made me feel good.   I heard several comments that this was the first time they had ever had costumes custom made for them.  And it’s true.  We had stacks of fabric - where to begin.  Finally, I picked up a piece and said to Joye, “who does this remind you of?”   She made a choice, and we were off to the races.

I broke the news to the Director that I wouldn’t be back for the fall show, inf act, probably not til spring, if then!!!!!

I’m hitting the road, people.  More Adventures to write about.   I’ll spend the summer camp hosting and planning out the fall and winter travels.

Catch you later

“She believed she could do it, so she did!”

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