Cut! – Casanova – Giacomo Casanova

The write up for the Casanova display

Background

Being generally a non-movie-goer, I am not surprised that I don’t think I’ve actually seen Casanova starting Heath Ledger.  Of course, I’m also not a big Heath Ledger fan, and the story of Casanova doesn’t really appeal to me, so it’s sort of an all-round yawn for me. But… Pretty costume!

(As an aside, has anyone ever watched a movie purely for the pretty costumes, and completely ignored the terrible acting/terrible story/etc?  I have to say that Marie Antoinette (with Kirsten Dunst) and The Duchess (with Keira Knightley) are two within recent memory that I’d much rather watch at 12″ with a remote pause button under my finger than sitting in a theatre with a bowl of popcorn…)

So, about the movie… the description on the poster (click for a larger view) describes the movie as a “partially-true story of a fabled romantic and womanizer, about lies told, virtue lost and love found” and says that the movie is set in Venice, mid-1700’s.  (Does anyone else get a litle bit antsy at the words “partially-true” being used with the word “fabled”?)

Casanova costume

Casanova: Clothes-collecting Rogue

The costume worn by Heath Ledger as Casanova is intended to illustrate him as a clothes-horse.  Here’s a full-length photo showing the red frock coat, waistcoat (vest), cream shirt with lace jabot and curs, and black breeches.

I wanted to show this costume directly after the Jack Sparrow costume from the other day – mainly to contrast the characters and extravagance, while comparing the lines of the fashion themselves.

Both costumes use the frock coat (that doesn’t button closed) with wide cuffs, but while Jack’s is of ‘rough’ looking cloth, and highly distressed, Casanova’s is gleaming and extravagant.  Jack’s is ’embellished’ with large oversize buttonholes, while Casanova’s is embellished with lace and embroidery.  (Casanova’s doesn’t have the exaggerated buttonholes either I’ll note…)  Casanova’s frock coat also seems a bit wider at the hem – though this might have a bit to do with the stiffness of the fabric – the pleats might have more support to spread – unfortunately I couldn’t see the back of Jack’s coat to be able to see the pleating.  The cut-away style of Casanova’s coat is more fitting with some of the examples I have seen of other frock coats from this time period, but that’s likely in keeping with the character.

Both costumes use the waistcoat, but again the differences are greater than the similarities.  Casanova’s vest cuts away, has pockets, and is elaborately trimmed, while Jack’s is simple and worn.   Both have a white shirt with ruffled cuffs, but again Casanova’s shows wealth, excess, vanity, while Jack’s is more in keeping with the equivalent of ‘street fashion’.

Sleeve cuff

The costume

The frock coat is made from a “patterned silk mixture woven with spangled gold lace” and is embellished with “gold metallic embroidery” according to the poster.  I think this close up gives a bit of clarity to that – the fabric is actually a brown silk (blend?) with yellow and red design – and it’s only from a distance that it appears dark red.  The base fabric really reminds me a lot of fabrics used to make men’s ties.  I have seen this kind of fabric for sale, though the yardage is often very narrow compared to other silks.

Over the silk is a ‘lace’ that is largely gold metallic netting (you can find this in the tulle section of the fabric store) with a heavier gold metallic cord creating the ‘lace’ effect.  The lace is trimmed along it’s edges in a somewhat random design it would appear (unlike a lot of laces, it doesn’t seem to be a floral) and the lace is embellished further with gold flower-shaped sequins (spangles).  A wide gold metallic braid trims the very edge of the cuff, and trims/finishes that edge of the lace.

Large gold-tone floral buttons are added to the trim (in keeping with the style of the era, where wide turn-back cuffs were “buttoned” back – and eventually the style just kept the buttons, although the cuff wasn’t buttoned at all.  Adding additional texture they’ve used golden embroidery thread to stitch a bit of a ‘vine’ pattern coming off the lace between the cut out areas.

I really like that how from a distance, this looks elaborate and sumptuous – but in reality it’s all very, very workable – even with a modest (erm… by costuming standards!) budget.

Also notable in this photo is how it illustrates the shape of the cuff in relation to the sleeve.  The sleeve is extremely narrow, and the cuff extremely wide in comparison.  The cuff appears to be somewhat bell-shaped from this angle – suggesting that the bottom edge (the fold) is actually wider than the part that folds back – BUT, I suggest that this has more do do with the way the cuff is secured in the back, and the way the fabric is hanging (which is better illustrated in a later photo.

Also in this photo – the lace-trimmed sleeve edge from the shirt worn underneath.

Jacket edge

Next up – the jacket edge.  This is shown around waist-height on the dressform (you can just barely see the edge of the shirt sleeve cuff at the bottom of the photo).  This shows the difference between the two fabrics used for the jacket and the waistcoat – but how they sort of blend together.  (Click for a larger version; you’ll be able to see that they are different fabrics better.)  The jacket edge is trimmed very much like the cuff of the jacket sleeve – with the wider gold metallic ribbon/gimp/braid on the very edge, trimmed in (non-functional) buttons, over cut-out gold metallic ‘lace’ embellished with gold floral sequins.  The embroidery seems to spread out more on the jacket front than on the cuff, but again is the same vine motif.

Jacket edge with vest edge

Here we have a photo of the jacket and the vest (waistcoat).  The vest is a complimentary silk, this time with a paisley and flower motif with “gold thread running throughout”.   The vest edges are trimmed with gold lace which appears to be similar in construction (gold metallic netting with gold metallic thread) but slightly different in design than that on the jacket edge.  My guess is that this could be the border edge (selvage) of the lace, where the lace on the jacket could be from the interior of the yardage.  There is also a metallic looped braid on the very edge – this is better illustrated in the photo below.

There are gold-tone buttons on the vest front, which are the same (or extremely similar) design from the jacket buttons – but smaller in scale.  I don’t see any button holes though – which makes me wonder if there are any (there might be… see the pocket with decorative button photo below) or if perhaps these buttons are non-functional, and the waistcoat closes with snaps (poppers for the Brits out there) under the buttons in order to facilitate changes that won’t harm the lace and embroidery. You can also just barely see the lining of the jacket in this photo as well – it appears to be a golden/bronze silk.  Like the jacket edge photo above, this was taken at about waist height.

Pocket with trim

Here is a photo of the waistcoat pocket, with the jacket edge to the left, and the waistcoat edge to the right.  This shows a better idea of the waistcoat fabric, although the colours are somewhat washed out.   (The photo below is more accurate.)  This is a better view of the metallic looped braid that I referred to before – trimming the pocket edge.  It seems to be a lace-y (somewhat open) braid that is flat on one edge and looped on the other.  The pockets were trimmed in a similar way to the waistcoat front, and the same buttons are on the pocket… but wait…….

Pocket with decorative buttons

From this photo we can see that the buttons are purely decorative – and not even in a way that I would consider very logical… it would appear that the idea is for the buttons to attach to the waistcoat below the pocket, and then perhaps button loops from the pocket flap to hold down the pocket – but the flap has no loops. Thus, if I wanted to make this I would likely put the buttons on the flap itself, to suggest that the flap buttoned to the waistcoat – and if nothing else added some additional weight to the flap to keep it closed.  I really don’t understand why these buttons are sewn on the way they are…

With that aside… there’s also a shot here of the jacket lining (no facings, but edge stitching) which still appears to be a bronze-toned silk.

More importantly, there’s a shot of the possible waistcoat buttonhole!  Click the photo to see this better – but right above my copywrite mark, within the centre of the scallop there is a golden-tan buttonhole!  (I think!)  it doesn’t look like it’s been cut open (which would have made it much more visible!)  This is from an area below the waist – where the vest would not have been buttoned closed.

Also…. a suggestion that this was very expensive fabric (and thus the fabric had to be pieced) .. OR that there was a cutting mistake made while in construction!  There is clearly a seam where the pocket top edge is from the pocket to centre front. (There is a black line and the pattern does not match up.)  However, if you scroll up – there is NO seam in this location on the other side of the waistcoat! (There is no line, and the pattern flows without breaking.)

(Does seeing stuff like this give anyone else a little moment of costumer glee?  Hurrah!  I’m not the only one who makes mistakes when cutting out fabric!)

Back view hem

So for views of the back – I couldn’t get far enough back to get it all in one shot… so you’re getting three – and you can just mentally patch them together.

First up, we can see the jacket pockets.  I couldn’t see these before because they’re so far back on the jacket, and the arms/cuffs were in the way in previous views.  They appear to be trimmed just like the waistcoat pockets, including the possibly non-functional buttons (though they have maintained the jacket-size buttons on the jacket pockets).  In the last photo you can see that the pocket flap edge is shaped, and there are buttons at the sides and middle of the pocket flap.

We can see the three back pleats – one each from the side-back seams, and one from the centre-back seam.  We can also see that at the top of the side-back pleats there is a button (decorative) and in photos below we can get an idea of how much fullness is in each of the pleats.

Back view shoulders

In this photo we can see that the front jacket edge trim goes around the back neckline as well, that the lace motif is mirrored, and that the vine embroidery makes a lovely ‘wreath’ kind of effect.

It also appears that the jabot might be tied on (there appears to be an ivory knot at the back of the neck), and that the one side back seam seems to be a bit puckered.

This shot also gives a really good example of how the cuffs are done though – there appears to be a vent in the lower cuff, allowing the upper cuff to fold back and almost look like it’s done French-cuff style.  The edges are pointed, and trimmed, though it appears as though the ‘outside’ cuff might be more generously embellished than the ‘inside’ cuff.  From the left hand side, there MIGHT be a suggestion that the cuff is not self-lined, but rather lined with the same lining as the jacket.  The below photo also suggests that the pocket flaps are similarly lined.  (Which would make sense, especially if this fabric is expensive.)

Back view

This shot gives a better idea of the center back pleat – first off it’s heavily embellished with lace and embroidery again, loads of buttons down either side – and they look like they’re holding the pleat together – again ‘French-cuff’ style.  This suggests that the pleat is more likely a vent – and not actually a pleat at all.  Without being able to touch it and see if it’s a vent or a buttoned-down pleat (which would add additional fullness) it’s hard to tell.  The buttons don’t look functional though – you can see the shanks on the ones on the left, and the ones on the right are drooping – they wouldn’t do that if the shanks were really going through fabric.

The poster also discusses that a second, not quite as fancy version of this outfit, along with other outfits from the movie, were made to accommodate action scenes (like jumping out of windows are leaping across rooftops) where these original costumes might be ripped or soiled.

Recreation notes

Although, like the Johnny Depp Pirate costume, I don’t think I could ever see any reason to make a costume like this – I do appreciate the costuming lessons this can teach.

1) Fabrics don’t always read the same colour/pattern from a distance as up close

2) Fancy trim can be faked with cheaper materials and more time/creativity

3) Even the pros mess up when cutting.  Hahah

If you’re thinking of recreating this costume, please let me know in the comments below if my photos have helped you!

Links

Ok.. so some other photos/links.  For a photo of Heath in the costume (just head and shoulders) visit Babble.

Think Twice Style blog has a publicity-style shot from the  Cut! exhibit, and the blogger for Actually Strange has a full-length shot from the show as well.

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