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Local designer cranks fashion to past, present and future levels

By Molly Snyder 
Senior Writer 

Published 3-15-14

How much effort people put into what they wear varies a lot from individual to individual. For some, clothing is simply a necessity and does not warrant a great deal of contemplation. Others feel strongly about their garb and see it as wearable art and / or important in personal presentation. And some simply find fashion fun to follow and explore.

Laura Meyer is a local artist and designer who is passionate about apparel, particularly clothing from the Renaissance and Victorian eras. Meyer operates a small business called Twilight Attire which specializes in corset and costume design. This summer, Meyer will also begin to offer costume consulting.

"If I had to put what I do into one statement, it would be 'designing and creating historically inspired clothing and corsetry for people who like to make an impression,'" she says.

And most of all, for Meyer, dressing up is just plain fun.

"Halloween, Ren Faire, theme parties, formal events, social dancing, Teslacon – just give me and excuse," says Meyer.

Meyer says she appreciates the attention she receives when she's dressed in costume because it celebrates and acknowledges her efforts. It's also a way to share art with others.

"I believe that art is pointless if it is not experienced, so my enjoyment stems from seeing other people enjoy my work, and it makes me feel like all the time and effort was worthwhile," says Meyer.

The ritual of dressing is minimized in modern, fast-paced culture, but it continues to fascinate Meyer. She says taking time to dress and to carefully select body adornments not only reveals a lot about one's personality but also affects thoughts and actions, even a person's posture and choice of words.

"For example, a higher class lady in the Elizabethan period would wear, generally in order: hose, a full length chemise, a corset, a bumroll, a farthingale – also called a hoopskirt, an underskirt, an overskirt, possibly a partlet, a bodice with removable sleeves, possibly a separate ruff collar, a biggins or snood, a hat, shoes, gloves, jewelry, a pouch or basket, a fan and a pomander. Bloomers are added for modern hygiene/convenience," says Meyer. "When you go through this process of dressing, you can't help but hold yourself differently."

This is, in part, why Meyer is a member of the Milwaukee Steampunk Society, a group of individuals who enjoy attending public events together while dressed in steampunk fashion. (Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that combines the Victorian era with fantasy, machinery and the future.)

"The extra bit of formality and deliberation of dress is part of what attracts people to Steampunk. It's transforming," says Meyer. "In this subculture where creativity is highly valued, what you wear IS what you have chosen to communicate to others about your own talents or sense of aesthetics."

Meyer started sewing dresses, corsets and what she describes as "over-the top evening wear" for herself to wear to nightclubs.

"One dress I recall in particular was full length, made from a shimmering black swimsuit fabric and inspired by a slinky backless costume worn by Madonna in 'Dick Tracy,' except my version also was low cut with a high slit up one leg," says Meyer.

Meyer has designed and constructed many corsets. She likes the precise work which requires a lot of shaping and measuring to make one that fits perfectly.

"I learn from every corset, outfit or costume that I make, and every piece is better than the last one in some way," she says. "My most recent corset, spurred by an idea for a blog post, is customized from an 1860 pattern and is now my choice for underneath my Victorian looks."

Meyer, who graduated from Alverno College in 2008, started Twilight Attire in 1998. Over the years, she has created costumes for a variety of local theater productions.

Although she really enjoys costuming for theatrical productions, she does not always have the time – and local theater groups do not always have the budgets – for costume designers. With these things in mind, she developed a special costume consulting service.

"This generally includes discussion of characters, historical or situational research, sketches and advice on how to create the suggested designs on a budget with specified resources," says Meyer. "I'm hoping that this will help theater groups who may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of designing a show on their own but don't have the funds to hire a full time costume designer."

Recently, Meyer was asked by designer Timothy Westbrook to be a guest designer for his "Paleontology of a Woman" fashion show. Three of Meyer's Victorian-inspired gowns were worn by models in the show and a fourth was on display.

Meyer also maintains a blog called "Repleating History" and won the "historical master" division in the Teslacon 3 Costume Contest which resulted in a write-up in Cloud Orchid Magazine.

"Beyond that, I like to explore the 'anthropology' of the fashions – who would have worn it, why and where they would wear it, and what difference a small detail on an outfit could make in social standing or meaning versus intent," says Meyer. "I enjoy pushing myself and challenging my current skill and knowledge level."

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Fashion-forward from the Past

By Katherine Murrell

Published Spring/Summer 2013

Various intersections between art and fashion are occurring as of late in the realms of museums and popular culture. Two major exhibitions, Punk: Chaos to Couture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity at the Art Institute of Chicago, highlight the interstices of streetwise design and the status of high art. Inventive clothing has also been enjoying a greater degree of notoriety. Milwaukee’s style profile has risen with the appearance of Miranda Levy and Timothy Westbrook, two locally based designers on the latest season of “Project Runway.”

Laura Meyer is an area designer who has worked with Westbrook and will have three of her Victorian-inspired gowns shown in the fashion show “Paleontology of a Woman” at the Milwaukee Public Museum this autumn. Meyer is an alumna of Alverno College and teaches theatrical costuming at Shorewood High School, in addition to handling costuming duties for many of their recent productions. She runs her custom clothing business called Twilight Attire and writes the blog, “Repleating History,” which gives behind-the-scenes commentary on the design and crafting of historically influenced clothing.

Her personal interest in garments of eras past was first sparked in her early 20s by volunteer work, which had her making corsets to be worn at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Though her early productions focused on Elizabethan-style designs, covering everything from the styles of clothing worn by peasantry to landed gentry, she eventually absorbed the Victorian era into her areas of focus. This dovetailed with the rise of the Steampunk subculture, which juxtaposes the aesthetics of nineteenth century style and accessories with a taste for science fiction gadgetry and futuristic touches.
As a cousin to the punk movement of the late 1970s and ‘80s, at least insofar as clothing and a DIY-ethic are concerned, there is no codified style and historical accuracy may vary wildly.

As a focus of creative constructions, Meyer’s gowns fit right in. A sense of detail in lines and elegant decoration are two of the elements that draw Meyer’s eyes to the Elizabethan and Victorian periods. For design inspiration, art and authentic patterns are primary sources.

She says: “Some people will look at a painting and try to reproduce that look precisely. It depends some times on what fabric I have in my sewing room. Sometimes I’ll be completely obsessed with a particular look. There are books for Renaissance patterns, for Victorian patterns, and specifically Victorian dressmaking techniques.”
“I like to find a couple of inspiration patterns and design off of them. I have a basic late-1800s skirt pattern and everything is about the decoration and ornamentation. [The] bodice pattern is actually from the 1870s so I’m modernizing it so it’s more 1890s - you don’t want to be ‘outdated’.”

While history guides Meyer’s hand in her designs, her construction methods rely on modern technology. Though seemingly innocuous, this can be a point of consternation in some purist circles:
“The most surprising thing is when you run into people who are of the opinion that you should make it in a completely ‘period’ manner. You should handstitch the quilting, you should couch the grommets- although that does affect the look. My thought is that we’re not actually in the Victorian era so I’m going to use my electric sewing machine, I’m going to use modern covered button kits, I’m going to use a pleater board if I have it. It’s surprising to get that level of reenactment passion when it’s not a reenactment scenario.”

From an art historical perspective the designs of the latter-half of the nineteenth century offer a rich pageant of transformative styles, from wide hoop skirts with yards of flounced ruffles to the narrow fashions and prominent bustles featured with particular fame in Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”. Meyer notes the standing and seated women would have worn collapsible bustles. These are constructed from a network of boning which bows out when standing, and pools around the figure when seated. The woman in the right foreground sports an especially chic outfit, which is perhaps understated to modern eyes despite its contemporary ostentation.

The specificity of clothing, which reflects a tendency for novelty in popular culture of the nineteenth century, represents the commodification of style and beauty, albeit at a slower pace than today’s rapid fashions. Meyer notes, “You can recognize a decade [in nineteenth century fashion], whereas now we cycle so quickly that we could be wearing bellbottoms again next year, and then they’ll be out the year after that.”

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Cloud Orchid Magazine Cover & Interview

For the full text, purchase the digital or print copy at Cloud Orchid Magazine

Published 2/1/2013

For the full text, purchase the digital or print copy at Cloud Orchid Magazine

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Alverno Alpha- Excellence in Visual Communication Scholarship Awarded to Alverno Senior

Nov/Dec 2008 Issue
By Rosemary Green
Alpha Staff Writer

The average full-time Alverno student spends a minimum of $8,868 per semester on her education.  Therefore, senior Laura* Meyer welcomes the scholarship money she is receiving for demonstrating outstanding ability in photography.  She is the 2008 recipient of the Excellence in Visual Communication Scholarship.  Alverno Departments recommend students for receipt of the annual scholarship and it is provided by Dr. Thomas Feroah.
Dr. Thomas Feroah is a successful pediatric medical researcher and member of the Underwood Society, a group of fine art photographers.  In 2005, he established the Excellence in Visual Communication Scholarship.  The scholarship is awarded to an Alverno student who demonstrates outstanding abilities in photography. 
Alverno senior Laura Meyer is the 2008 recipient of the $250 scholarship.  Laura talks about the scholarship, her use of art/photography, and her advice to other Alverno students.

Q: How did you hear that you had received the scholarship, and what was your reaction?
A: Actually, I was opening up the gallery one day when Valerie approached and congratulated me.  When I expressed confusion, she laughed and told me that when I found out what she knew, to remember that she was the first one to congratulate me!  So, of course, I checked my email and there it was!
I was really excited but I was working at the gallery for the next seven hours so I had to sit and wait to tell my boyfriend and family, but I sent a bunch of emails out!

Q: Do you have any advice for undergraduate students who would like to receive the scholarship?
A: Well, number one is to apply.  You’ll never know if you don’t try.  Also, with film photography you have to let the negatives do what they’re going to do, to a certain extent.  Sometimes you have to let go of what you thought would be a really great picture because the film is too dark, or too thin.  Just let it go and either take more shots or work with negatives that are better. 
Don’t give up without a fight, but don’t spend three hours and two dozen sheets of paper on that one shot."The Ninja"

Q: Have you always been interested in the arts?
A: Yes, the arts have always interested me, though when I was very young I wanted to be an archaeologist or paleontologist.  Throughout most of school, though, I always thought it would be a toss-up to decide whether I would major in Art or English.  When I finally got here, I decided to major in both!

Q: You graduate in December; how do you plan to use your photography/art in the future?
A: I have a small darkroom setup in process in my sewing room, so I plan to pursue both film and digital photography in my personal life. 
I hope to acquire a position utilizing my aesthetic and design skills or writing experience after graduation.  Where my experiences take me in my career, however, I haven’t been able to narrow down to only one option.

Q: What is your favorite art piece, or which piece has the most interesting story behind it?
A: I like a lot of my pieces (fortunately!), but I’m particularly happy with a picture of my sister, Rebecca, in her motorcycle helmet.  She had just gotten her bike and was running around with her new helmet on, showing all of us.  I like it because it is technically a beautiful photograph, and you can really see her personality come through in it.
Another favorite is a piece I started during my semester in England, called “Progress?”.  It is a corset I sewed out of paper, and all in all I spent about 8 months on it before I decided it was done.  It was juried into the 2008 Lakefront Festival of the Arts Collegiate Art Show and will be in my senior show, which runs from November 14th through December 20th.

Q: What don’t most people know about you?
A: Well, I’d say the biggest thing that people don’t know about me is that for the last decade I’ve had a clothing label/small side business, twilight Attire, making primarily corsets and also evening wear, period costumes and Halloween costumes.
I have also done bridal gowns for a couple of friends, and organized a benefit fashion show in the fall of 2006 (featuring myself and three other local independent designers) called “Fashionista: A Women’s Benefit Show of Alternative Fashion”, which raised over $1,200 for the Hope House of Milwaukee.

Senior Laura Meyer already has a lot of things on her resume- clothing designer, philanthropist and photographer- and now she can add scholarship winner!

*This retyping corrects the error of “Lara” to the accurate spelling of her name.

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MKE Magazine- Brew City Remix

How do you shake up Milwaukee's image? A fashion designer, chef, DJ and artist cook up inspiration

By Lilledeshan Bose with photos by C.Taylor
Posted: Aug. 9, 2007

It's stodgy.
It's conservative.
It's not very . . . cool.
Around here, we call it the Milwaukee Effect: locals putting down their city and culture ad nauseum.
And like some butterfly effect of perception, an overweight putdown in Bay View fuels the fat Milwaukeean punch line in Boston.
Steve Daily, curator of the research collection at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, attributes Milwaukee's unhip reputation to the city's strong Germanic history.
"Germans follow traditions," Daily said. "They're very orderly." Basically, the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" meant a lot to early Milwaukee natives, he added.
Even though Milwaukee is culturally more diverse now, many stereotypical ideas remain unchanged. Take beer, brats and cheese - popular in the 1800s, popular today.
So how do we make Milwaukee cool without jettisoning the traditions that have been so important to the city and its people?
Hit the remix button.
MKE asked four creators - a fashion designer, a chef, a DJ and a visual artist - to take something quintessentially Milwaukee - whether good, bad or ultra-cheesy - then innovate, innovate, innovate.
It could've been "Laverne and Shirley." It could've been custard, cheese puffs or the Summerfest grounds. One thing's for sure: The results were anything but run-of-the-mill.


Laura Meyer

Printed version had a corset cookie on the pan

Designer and Alverno College student Laura Meyer started sewing in middle school and made her own clothes in high school. Making a costume for a Renaissance fair propelled her to make outfits with an otherworldly feel.
Under her label Twilight Attire she's designed wedding gowns for friends, made clothes for fan conventions and last year organized a fashion show for the Hope House with her friends at Suture Couture and Envy-Rae Designs.
Inspired by vintage outfits, Meyer says she likes modernizing the notion of femininity. Her designs draw heavily from Victorian and Renaissance clothing (with burlesque thrown in as well). "I like drawing from the past to evoke a certain feeling. . . . I also like the idea of taking extra time to dress up your day and life and make yourself feel indulgent. Otherwise, people would always just be wearing jeans and T-shirts," she said.

Why a corset?
"Part of the fight in feminism is getting over the tendency to judge other women. So I make corsets - which used to be considered restrictive - because you now have a choice to wear or not to wear it."

Her take on Milwaukee fashion
"I think Milwaukee is doing its part to catch up in the fashion world. There are a lot of indie stores that have really picked up just in the last year or two."

Her remix
A modern take on Norman Rockwell's image of Rosie the Riveter, via Harley-Davidson. "I feel very connected to Milwaukee's past because I've lived here all my life," Meyer said. "It was apt because Milwaukee has always been an industrial city, and Harley has always been one of the city's biggest employers."
Meyer specializes in corsets (which mostly cost less than $200), and her piece portrays a strong, buff woman in a corset, with the Harley-Davidson logo superimposed on the trim. "And she's carrying a helmet instead of a riveting gun."

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Shepherd Express- Off The Cuff: Fashioning Hope

By Kathleen Nichols
September 14, 2006

Fashionista”, an exhibition of alternative fashion, hits Club Anything on Sept. 16.  Proceeds from the cover charge will benefit Hope House, a shelter providing emergency resources for abused women and families in crisis.  Featured designers include “Fashionista” organizers Laura Meyer of Twilight Attire and Danielle Strampp of Suture Couture.

Why the fashion style you chose?
Meyer: Well, I’ve been sewing since I was a child, but I started making corsets and costumes after high school when I began volunteering at the Renaissance Faire.  Fashion that’s been labeled “alternative” just strikes me as more visually interesting.  If you look at what comes down the runways in any given season, very little looks “normal”, and could easily be categorized as “alternative” or “extreme” fashion.  The corset is particularly fascinating considering its unusual history and controversial standing with regards to women’s rights.

Strampp: I have always been very strange and creative.  As a kid I used to make clothing out of wrapping paper and wear it around in my own little pretend fashion shows.  I still like to incorporate unusual materials into my own designs, sort of like a walking piece of artwork.

What do the clothes you design say about women?
Meyer: My clothing design says, don’t be afraid to be fashionable, to be daring, to be different.  You can be who you are and express yourself through visual means.

Strampp: My clothing design is my form of self-expression: each piece is like artwork to me.  I think it’s a great thing when a woman can wear something that allows her to express herself.

What led you to hold a benefit show for the Hope House?
Meyer: We wanted to do a benefit for a women’s shelter because we think that promoting independence for women is very important, especially women who are victims of domestic or emotional abuse.  All of the money collected at the door as cover charge is going to the Hope House.

How did this fashion show come about?
Meyer: I started sketching out the idea for a show in my head around the new year, though my original “grand plan” incorporated a burlesque show instead of a band.  Danielle and I, both designers, got to talking and decided we needed to make it a reality.  There have been fashion shows at Club Anything in the past but the organization that sponsored them, The Milwaukee Gothic Council, is now defunct.  It’s been two years since the last one.  We’ve been in contact with Todd Novasic, the owner of Club Anything, at every stage.  He’s been very supportive.

What are the plans for the evening?
Meyer: We’ll set up the show with entertainment, including a performance by local band The Gothsicles, in between the sets of [fashion] models.  We’re very excited to have them play for this event, and they were good enough to volunteer their time.  Saint, the “master of ceremonies” for the evening, is a regular weekend DJ at Have a Nice Day Café.  Local artist Angela Roberts will display some of her original paintings.  We will be raffling off, at $10 a ticket, one of three Twilight Attire corsets, each with a retail value of about $120.  There will also be door prizes including designer bags and gothsicles CD’s.

Strampp: We will also be selling memorial charm bracelets created to honor Conrad Wells, a well-known patron of Club anything who was killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this summer.

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Twilight Attire©1998-2015


Twilight Attire is an independent design company in the Milwaukee area.  Twilight Attire creates corsetry, Victorian and Renaissance costumes, Neo-Victorian and Steampunk outfits, Alternative or Gothic club-wear.  TwilightAttire.com also highlights the artistic works of the company’s creator, Laura Meyer, including paintings, sculptures, photography and multi-media designs.  Information can also be found about past events Twilight Attire hosted or participated in, as well as a page full of articles about how to make corsets, where to find good corsets online and a bibliography of sources for more corset and corsetry information, including information on Dita Von Teese, the longstanding Vollers Corset Company, Mr. Pearl, tightlacing, couture corsetry and how the corset translates into modern fashion for designers and fashionistas.

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