TC7 Paris Runway 1- Foundation garments Tuesday, Sep 13 2016 

In preparation for Teslacon 7, the grand journey to Paris circa 1884-ish, I’m designing several looks inspired by the period for the Teslacon Fashion Show. I decided to make three sets of corsets and bustles, and two or three new petticoats to serve as foundation garments for some of the looks.

The corsets and bustles were made from a champagne/golden taffeta embroidered with fluer de lis… so appropriate!

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I made two double layer corsets with interior boning channels and closed fronts, and one triple layer corset with boning channels sewn into the layers, lined in ivory silk and with a front busk. A matching bustle accompanies each corset. I’ll keep the front closing corset and one bustle, and if one of my models from the Teslacon fashion show wants to buy their foundation set I’ll offer a good-buddy price.

I made my own bias tape for the edging, 1 1/2″ strips cut at a 45 degree angle.

Thought it would be lovely to make matching petticoats, but when I searched for this fabric online I couldn’t find it for less that $20/yd… and I just know I didn’t spend that when I got it… either at the Discount Textile Outlet in Chicago or at a JoAnn Fabrics with a coupon, I don’t recall.

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In the meantime, the foundation garments for the Highborn Collection are done, and I’m on to the first gown!

 

Jaime Lannister Costume- Game of Thrones Friday, Apr 29 2016 

got blog (3)The making of the Jaime Lannister costume- Captain of the Kingsguard Edition.

Game of Thrones is an interesting show, from a costuming standpoint. It’s a mishmosh of styles, feeling generally medieval-y to Renaissance-y, with worldwide influences, from Asia to Africa.

The show’s first costumer, Michele Carragher, is a master of decorative embroidery, and this was evident in the thick, sumptuous adornments on many costumes.
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There are design elements in the clothing and aspects of armor pulled from that of samurai warrior dress, like the plated-look hip gores in many Lannister costume designs.

 

 

 

got blog (9)One can see an obvious direct influence of the traditional Indian nehru  jacket in Joffrey and Petyr Baelish’s exceedingly fitted costumes.

 

 

 

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Brienne of Tarth’s expensive plate and chain-mail armor speaks to a classic medieval knight style, though check the studded leather skirt for more Samurai influence (appropriate, as the armor was gifted by a Lannister).

 

 

 

 

got blog (1)Shae, Missandei, and at times Daenerys Targaryen’s flowing robes strongly bring to mind images of ancient Greek and Roman goddesses.

 

 

 

 

got blog (1)Margaery Tyrell’s and (again) Daenery’s more fitted gowns have architectural features that feel distinctly more modern, like decorative cutouts and minimalist asymmetry.

 

 

 

 

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Though pulling inspiration from all corners and time-frames, there is intentional consistency, particularly within family groups or by character region (aforementioned styles of Lannisters, the studded details of the Ironborn, the plentiful fur trims of the northern families).

 

 

 

In a series known for its plethora of characters, this can gives visual cues to familial ties or allegiances.

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SO.

What this means when cosplaying the show’s characters is that there is some flexibility in construction, even if you’re the type to usually go with historically accurate details or techniques. The goal is to achieve the look, and it’s easier to take a little creative license in achieving that when there is not a strict time period’s style being replicated.

 

 

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When developing the costumes for Jaime and Cersei Lannister I had to decide first the look that I wanted to replicate, and then the most iconic and identifiable details of those costumes.  For Cersei there is a wide range of looks to choose from, but I wasn’t interested in one of her structured, wide 1950’s style necklines, and I also didn’t want to try to create her decorative, sculpted body armor. An early and frequently seen Cersei was in a red gown heavily embroidered at the neckline and sleeves, and the Lannister lion embroidered on hip gores of gold fabric. With a wide metal and maille belt, the look is regal and still comfortable.

Choosing Jaime’s costume was easier- he has one primary leather coat that he wears, with or without his armor. I chose the most iconic look- Jaime in the coat with his Captain of the Kingsguard armor.

 

However. I don’t have access to limitless funds, so the prospect of finding enough of this beautiful, oiled, battered leather for a long coat was rather cost prohibitive.  Instead, I found a great silk blend woven drapery fabric in a $6 bag at a thrift store and had enough for the coat and Cersei’s hip gores as well. That made me a happy camper! The color and weight were right, and there was a rich luster to the fabric that kept it believable.

blog thrones (1)I used a commercial pattern for this jacket because I had 9 days to complete both Jaime and Cersei. I’ve used this pattern before, and found the fit was on the better than acceptable side. The double breasted style and length were also appropriate for my goals.

Changes I made: The collar was made higher, and extended the length of the front breast flap. I flared the skirt of the coat a bit more, joined the side pieces and cut out the hip gore. When measuring the piece to be inserted in that space, I gave it a couple extra inches all around, attached iron-on interfacing for a little extra structure, and stitched in some horizontal tucks to look like the banded strips of leather in the original costume. I also extended the sleeve of the right arm by about 4 inches, to allow for a false hand.

After that I focused on the armor.

  1. The scale mail
  2. The breastplate/Pauldrons
  3. The belts
  4. The cape

jaimecersei4The scale mail: I had some thin leather that I had planned to use for a book making project, oh say, a few years ago. I took that leather and spray painted the unfinished side dark gold. Then on the finished side I marked lines to cut out a whole bunch of 1″ x 2″ diamonds and used my rotary mat and blade to do the rest. Then I took a piece of the jacket fabric, cut out a shape that I wanted the scales to be in, and finished the edges. Using the longest stitch, I sewed across the top section of each diamond, placing them so the centers overlapped slightly as I went. The next line was about an inch up. The end result, while it could have been more orderly (and you can certainly measure everything precisely, if you’re not on a strict deadline) it looks like golden scalemail for zero cost, since I happened to have the leather and spray paint. Even if you have to buy both items, the cost and time factor is so minimal, for me it’s a no-brainer.

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Looks pretty good, eh?

Looks pretty good, eh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Breastplate/Pauldrons: You’re going to laugh, and that’s okay- I kinda giggled myself. The breastplate was a two piece “roam gladiator” purchase (about $17) online from a Halloween costume store, with a dark bronze, black and gold dry-brush repaint. You could, of course, go with a more accurate breastplate design- there are examples and tutorials out there, I’m sure. But this took about an hour. We replaced the flimsy ribbon ties with leather straps that we fastened (reinforced on the other side of the cheap plastic breastplate also) with brass double cap rivets. We had some small buckles laying around, so we added them to leather straps on one side and it already looked much better.

 

 

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So we had the breastplate and the scale mail for the arms, but we needed the shoulder armor- pauldrons. I went to the dollar store. I got two child knight helmets. That is what they are. Really. Fastened to the shoulders of the breastplate by more rivets and leather straps. I didn’t even repaint them, it was such a close match. 😀 The scalemail pieces were riveted to the underside.  (Though I plan on making more scale mail for the thigh armor, in the interim it is two knight’s shields from the same store. Did a little dry-brushing on those.)

The Belts: Jaime wears a few belts crisscrossed and tied, and they have fancy bits of metal on them. If you have a sword and hang a frog from one of them, great. But generally, just visit a few resale stores, get some leather belts and make em work for you. You may find some metal belts that will work wonderfully, you never know.

 

 

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Niiiiice curtains…

The Cape: The Captain of the Kingsguard has a long flowing, superhero-esque cape. Seems counter-intuitive to effective fighting, but what do I know? Perhaps it’s more of a statement that, as the Captain, he should never even have to fight and so will send his cape-less underlings to deal with you, bwaahahaa. At any rate, this was one good-looking curtain panel, almost a microsuede texture. I pleated the two top corners and tacked the pleats as I wanted them, then used heavy button thread to attach them to the top of the breastplate shoulders. Since it was a curtain, the edges were already finished and the extent of my sewing was tacking down the pleats and tying a lion’s head button over the handstitched area on each one. Easy peasy.

Add some boots and gloves (false hand coming later, ran out of time), and you’re good to go!

Final Result? A respectable Jaime, though not completely accurate to the series. (Note that in the pictures, his scarf had worked above the collar, and should have been under it.)cerseijaime (4) cerseijaime (12)cerseijaime (10)

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The actual costume

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cersei Lannister Cosplay… Jaime up next! Wednesday, Apr 6 2016 

“Costume”.

When I think of the word, I’ve usually associated it with quality… or the lack thereof.

This is an inaccurate association than *can* be true, but certainly is not true all- or even most- of the time; many costumes I see, at Concinnity, Teslacon, C2E2, etc., are well thought out and executed across covering a wide range of sewing, crafting and tailoring skill levels.

So I’ve reassessed my view of costumes, and cosplay, over the last few years. Now when I talk about costumes I’m making, it’s usually an outfit replicating a specific character, without always worrying about fiber content, historical accuracy in technique or (sometimes) finishing techniques.

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Cersei and Jaime have a date night

If I’m making a Victorian-era gown, I refer to it as such because I will be building it like a high quality piece of clothing & not a quickie “on & off” theatrical piece (not to dismiss all theatrical pieces either- often there is much research that goes into theater costuming, and just look at what the team at First Stage Children’s Theater turns out for their shows!).

All this to say, it had been a long time since I had made a “costume” when I began the Cersei and Jaime Lannister costumes for Halloween 2015.  I thought that, as far as a couple’s costume goes, it was just the right amount of wrong.  And I’ll start by proudly stating that 90% of the fabric and “armor” was from thrift stores (curtains!) and dollar stores.

 

 

 

blog thrones (2)I rarely use commercial patterns, but I picked up one I thought would be good to start with, during $1 sales at JoAnn Fabrics. It was a McCall’s brand, 6940. Honestly, I had some dark gold “silkessence” fabric from curtains I made ages ago and I had found these red dupioni-look curtains with gold embroidered swirls that absolutely made the whole look.

 

Working from a number of source photos, I decided on how to change the pattern:

 

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CERSEI-

Dress- I didn’t haveto adjust much on Cersei’s pattern- I raised the hip gore, as it starts directly beneath the belt. I also shortened the sleeves- a necessity due to a shortage of embroidered fabric. This is one negative side effect of thrifting your supplies… you must work with what you have, and have to face the fact that there is no more available if you screw up. (No pressure though) Other than that, I raised the armscye a bit, for mobility.

jaimecersei8I ended up finding more curtains with a gold embroidered dark red sheer overlay. The embroidery was a close enough match in color and style to the sleeves that I didn’t have to scrimp much on sleeve length, and still had embroidery circling from the center back to wrap front. Lucky find, honestly. The obvious detail I left out was the edging of the hip gore fabric on the center front, neckline at cuffs. I could add it at some point,  but with our time constraints (9 working days for both costumes) I deemed it unnecessary.

jaimecersei7More fabric I found, as I didn’t have enough of the above embroidery to wrap both the neckline and sleeve cuffs, had a similar embroidery pattern on a sheer overlay (applied to the same base fabric). I am a lucky thrifter…

 

 

 

 

 

 

cersei (1)The coup de grâce was the (Lannister) lion embroidered on the hips. This was a process… I found an image of a lion that was similar. Then I lengthened, narrowed and enlarged the image, estimating an appropriate size. It ended up being about 20″x 8″. I divided the image in half to fit onto two A4 pieces of cardstock. After printing I taped them together. Then I outlined the image (mirrored, one facing left, the other facing right) onto two pieces of the red fabric that I had attached interfacing to (good stiff iron-on). I pinned the interfaced fabric lions to the hip gore pieces.

 

 

jaimecersei6The longest step was using a wide tight (nearly) buttonhole stitch to outline the lions. Then I carefully cut them out and pinned them onto the hip gores. The last step was stitching them onto the fabric. I found that a med to long zigzag worked well, going over the edging in the same thread color.

***You could use double sided iron on interfacing… You would iron one side to the lion fabric and cut it out, then lay it onto the hip gore and iron on the other side of the interfacing… this would reduce some movement and eliminate some extensive pinning. I just thought of this. /le sigh

 

 

 

 

 

jaimecersei9Belt-My husband was the mastermind behind this- starting with four pieces of machined aluminum, he added holes for rings and decorative elements. He shaped them for fitting a curved surface (my waist) and I assisted with a dry brush technique for antiquing the surface color. The costume will eventually have a metal mesh or chainmail back to the belt, but for now I used a piece of heavy leather, laced with ribbon to the metal rings at the sides. It was adequate for our purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cerseijaime (11)Misc- I found a wig online that served nicely, for less than $30. Cersei has long, waved, dark golden blonde hair, but affordable wig options tend to be white (Khaleesi), light blonde, or brown… I chose light blonde. Her makeup was a very important part of capturing the Cersei look… in particular, her eyebrows. I did my research, watched some less-than-helpful tutorials on YouTube, and practiced. I feel like I nailed them. You may also want to practice her sneer… if just for fun.

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Necklace- Using Sculpey, I also made a medallion pendant by pressing a large lion’s head button into sculpey. Once it dried, I used that as a mold and pressed fresh sculpey into it to create the medallion. I used cling film in between the dried and fresh to make it easy to remove. Once the impression is made, you clean up the edges and make a hole for a necklace chain, and you’re done! Bake it and paint it- I used metallic spray paint.

 

 

 

 

 

jaimecersei12For accessories, I thrifted a glass decanter and gilded wine glass… so very Cersei! She wears red leather ankle boots over tights- I have some burgundy stamped leather boots that worked well… no-one will really see your shoes, as the dress is floor length.

The Jaime Lannister Cosplay post will be finished and up within the month- watch for it!

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Work that sneer for all it’s worth!

Seven of Nine Costume Tuesday, Jun 2 2015 

Firstly, I am appropriately chastened by the span of time that has passed since my last post. #chastened.

I have 2 new Victorian dresses and 1 new costume to show you…. Forgiven??

This post is focused on the Seven of Nine (Portrayed by Jeri Ryan, and possibly the best character arc, ever.) costume I built for Halloween last year. Unfortunately, there were precisely zero decent pictures of it from the evening. When I wore it again, at Concinnity, I took advantage of a photographer on location (well, resistance WAS futile) and had some better pictures taken.  In conjunction with some in progress images, we have enough fuel for a blog!

Now, this fabric was purchased probably 15 years ago and has been in my sewing room ever since, as I thought wistfully, “One day, I will lose weight and make a 7 of 9 costume”. A year ago I finally DID something about my weight (see my post) and last October I pulled the fabric out from storage…  In conjunction with a few hi-res pictures online, I was off & running!

The parts comprising this costume include the bodysuit with incorporated shoes (heels, for the oh-so-practical borg), a corset underneath with “borg bone” exoskeleton, a padded bra (may not be necessary for everyone, but even Jeri had … help), and of course the “borg” prosthetics on her face and hand. Above the left eye is an “occipital ocular implant”, a small nano-something is in front of the left ear, and a glove-like series of silver “nanoprobes” stretching over her left hand and fingers. Picture time:

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The original metallic suit was, according to actress Jeri Ryan, the most uncomfortable by far. My guess is, that was due to the unforgiving nature of the fabric. Later spandex knit costumes were much more comfortable while still being skintight.

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This is the costume I re-created, working with colors and fabrics available. I ended up using a spandex velour in two shades of blue, though you can see that the original fabrics were gray and blue ribbed knits with metallic woven in.

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These are a couple decent images of the glove. Further details include the communicator insignia, the tri-corder she frequently carries, and the look (make-up and hairstyle).

Prosthetics:

I purchased the facial prosthetics from ebay. They were made of silicone, and far too thick to be of any use. Don’t buy them in silicone. To make the best of the situation, I thought I could use the silicone implants as a mold base to make my own from latex.  And I learned something about myself- I have the patience to hand bead a forepart, but I have no desire to make something that is meant to be a replica, and which I could purchase at a reasonable price. I ended up finding the two pieces online in a SFX store. As it turned out I had to paint them myself, so they ended up having my own personal stamp anyway. I tried a few different types of paint, and much of it didn’t work (even theatrical metallic face paint with a “glue” additive. The most effective was actually metallic eye shadow.  Spirit gum works just fine to hold the prosthetics on for a day.

The glove was another story, because no-one makes it (to my knowledge).  I found this blog post very useful, but still went in another direction. I purchased a yellow rubber kitchen glove and drew the outline for the glove, according to the many pictures available online. I then painted on about 8 layers of liquid latex, following the lines I drew and allowing drying time between each layer, to create a three dimensional look. Then I used an exacto knife to cut out the gloves, leaving the fingertips on and cutting about an inch down, leaving a thimble-like pocket (because you need some way to keep them on your fingers). I also left a strip at the wrist and across the hand just below the fingers- both of these strips are authentic to the original and, I believe, increase stability. I then painted it with black multi-surface paint and dry-brushed it with metallic silver and gold. I did not glue the glove to my hand, and it was acceptable. After a few wearings I have found the paint is cracking & I may need to come up with a new design, but I think version 2.0 will go much faster now that I’ve done the first one.

The Corset:

I’ll admit, I somewhat cheated and did not make this from scratch… I took a cheap corset I had laying around (like one does), and cut it to be an under-bust style. I replaced the plastic boning with steel (told you it was cheap!), and replaced the grommets with a separating zipper. I could do this because the corset was too big, allowing me to find a good snug fit and then insert the zipper at a point before the grommets began. BUT- the important part is to have an under-bust corset that fits- it should be snug in the waist but not pooching you out at the top or bottom… this is not a waist-training corset! If you can avoid it, don’t use one with plastic boning- plastic warps when it is warmed (by your body) and then retains that warped shape when it cools.  Once I had the fit determined and the zipper in, I used large piping cord and whip-stitched it along the corset horizontally (marked in chalk) to create “borg bones”. Voila.

The Bra:

This wasn’t too- I bought a big full coverage bra from a discount store, making sure it had pockets for  push-up pads. Then (after adjusting band and straps) I started stuffing.  After sending a somewhat hilarious tank top picture to my husband, I took out one of the pads. I think it was a good call. Then I whip-stitched everything into place with sturdy thread.

*Interesting note- Jeri Ryan’s costume actually consisted of a “merry widow” style bodysuit, incorporating both the bra and corset-like piece in one. Probably helped create a smooth line from top to bottom.

The Bodysuit:

This is the really important piece- it’s 80% of the costume, really. Now, one plus to working with stretch fabric: there’s a lot of give, literally. It’s pretty easy to edit your leg or your waistline… the exceptions here are areas like the crotch. Be careful there, or you’ll end up with the dreaded camel-toe. Another touchy area is the zipper. I went with an invisible zipper, and I put in knit interfacing to help avoid weird pulls and bumps. I put it in after getting weird pulls and bumps and seam-ripping the whole thing, of course. Learn from my mistakes… use interfacing and pin religiously!

So, from the starting point, there’s the top and the bottom, joined at the hip- I lined up the bottom “borg bone” of the corset to match with the hip seam. The zipper from neck to tailbone is how you get in and out of this thing.

I took apart a really close fitting pair of yoga pants to get a baseline for the leg pattern. The seam on the leg is on the inside, so I wanted to keep it as authentic as possible. When you have a mostly monochromatic bodysuit, seams stand out. I left a little extra at the hip to play with, and plenty at the foot/ankle area because I still had the shoes to attach! *Make sure you give yourself at least as many inches as the top of your foot from ankle to toes!

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Hip line at left, LOTS of room for the shoe at right.

The shoes in the original costume have a stacked wooden heel. I was able to find a pair of heels that matched the silhouette pretty closely, covered in brown “suede” down to the heel. This served the second purpose of giving more surface area for the fabric glue to grab onto when I eventually glued the bodysuit fabric to the shoes. This required much pinning and cursing, as I was wearing the shoes and bodysuit leggings. After gluing, an exacto knife came in handy again to get a nice, clean edge. * Make the ankle as tight as you like, but… you DO have to get your foot in there.

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The top part of the bodysuit was particularly challenging because the front is made up of 5 pieces- two sections for each breast, plus the single piece beneath them, with a pointed bottom to mach the long, zippered back piece. I made a pattern and mocked it up with swimsuit fabric scraps I had lying around. I made the mock up short sleeved because the length is really secondary, and not necessary in this mock up.

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Front and back.

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“Inner boob” and “outer boob”. In my defense, I refrained from calling it “side boob”.

The sleeves were a challenge also, because (I had no idea) there are several types of raglan sleeves. What I did was cut away from the paper pattern for the chest and upper back, and added the ( I hoped) right shape to the sleeve pattern block. I ended up stitching the angle with more of an angular bend, but it was just about on target…. again, the stretch fabric allowed flexibility in certain aspects.

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Sleeve with the addition of fabric for the raglan style.

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Cutting out the sleeves… dont mess up!!

The mock up looked pretty good, but resulted- again- in a confused husband when I sent him progress pics.

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I explained it was scrap fabric, not a new, funky “Seven of Nine”.  I finished cutting out the good fabric, sewed it together, made some adjustments and there it was! I did double stitch every seam, and zigzag stitch them to finish it… so even if a seam rips, I have a backup plan to preserve my modesty 😉

I bought a magnetic Voyager communicator insignia online (I think it was at Think Geek) and, surprisingly, my old Razr made a great tricorder!

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So very futuristic!

Now, without further ado, some images of the finished product at Concinnity (with my darling Red-Shirt) and one from the costume contest we won on Halloween 2014.

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seven of nine (1) One of my favorites!

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Next up, one of the two Victorian gowns, and sooner rather than later!

Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice Nomination Thursday, Apr 2 2015 

Teslacon 2012

UPDATE!!

I did it! Thanks to all you wonderful readers who voted for me, I won the “Best Dressed- Female” category! Winners were announced at the International Steampunk Symposium in April! I’m thrilled to have received this honor, and will work even harder on future efforts… which you’ll see *very* soon!! 😉

 

Exciting news- I have been nominated in the Steampunk Chronicle’s “reader’s Choice Awards”, in the category of Best Dressed Female!

If you’ve been following my blog, you know how much work and pride I put into my designs, so this is a great honor.  If you’re inclined to vote for me, the link is here, but even if you don’t it’s worth the jump to check out all the other fantastic categories and nominees-   Thanks so much!

(A note, you do have to register/log in,  in order to cast your vote.)

PS- Next outfit is almost done, Victorian ice-skating costume, watch for the post!

The Paroxysm of Fashion That is Teslacon Saturday, Nov 22 2014 

So, if you don’t know that I attend Teslacon in Madison each year, you must just come here for the pretty pictures. Which I’m fine with. 🙂

However, I do go, and it’s a great time- for panels, music, (of course) steampunk storyline and character immersion, shopping, and ultimately for the people-watching.

From Victorian-era reproductions to astounding Dieselpunk contraptions, from re-purposed Renaissance Faire get-ups to… *unique* Furry costumes, you will see it ALL.

An outfit I wore- a favorite of mine that I’ve worn to the last three Teslacons but with new additions this year- was mentioned favorable in a blog post by Geek Fashion Week that was (I acknowledge) much better at attributing photo subjects than I am about to be.

Now, I will humbly admit that in 2013 I unceremoniously leapt from the table where my husband and I were having dinner with two friends, rushed across the room, nearly tripping on my skirts, to stop a woman walking by in a ridiculously beautiful re-imagining of the black and white “wrought iron” Charles Worth dress…. only to realize I didn’t have a camera. Seriously.

I later also realized that, as this was dinner time before the ball, she was likely in her ballgown and I would -likely- see her later and did not in fact need to make a silly goose of myself.  But if I must be a goose, then it shall be for ridiculously beautfiul clothing.

For your edification:

The worth gown.

Click on the image below to see her blog post about this dress, and the other looks she sported over the weekend.

Nearly face-planted right in front of her. Srsly.

The re-imagining of the Worth gown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her blog post says “I was moderately happy with how it turned out, although it was well received.”

I wonder if she was thinking of the chick in the blue and yellow dress who nearly face-planted in front of her.

For your further edification:

Afore-mentioned potential Faceplant

Aaaanyway, back to the point- There is a lot to see! I premiered my new gown as detailed in my post “Victorian Orient-Inspired Dress“, I brought out a “casual” safari outfit repurposed from thrift-store finds- complete with a flashy gun and holster made by my husband and I, and I made a Victorian style “ermine” muff and mantle for the chilly part of the Journey to the Center of the Earth!  I also wore a bodice I made to go with an existing skirt, essentially creating an all new ballgown this year!

Now, my own sphere of interest as a “maker” runs heavily towards straight neo-Victorian, with the dashes of steampunk left to gadgets and accessories. But I always appreciate creativity and give credit where credit is due, at all skill levels.

So, without further ado, the rest of the post will be picture highlights from the weekend (click for a larger image)- some things you should know:

1.There were dinsoaurs! (and they drank tea… particularly the Tea-Rexes)

there were dinosaurs

2a.Lord & Lady Winslet, the Duke and Duchess vas Normandy, funded the mission to the center of the earth, presumably to find new stores of thorium, aided by an ancient navigational stone.

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2b. Lord Bobbins dropped the stone.

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3. We were surrounded by many unusual folk. Some had gadgets strapped to their backs.

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4. Some of the gadgets were on their shoulders, or heads.

stuff on shoulders

5. Some were covered in leather and brass.

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6. Some seemed to belong to another universe altogether…

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7. But either way, there were many explorers gathering artifacts.

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8. Even entertainers!

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9. And lovely dresses abounded!

lovely dresses

I must make a note here- the lovely dark-haired bundle of talent pictured with me in two of these photos, and featured in a third, is Heather Dawson, who operates “The Duchess Collection”, currently on Facebook and soon on a dedicated site. Simply beautiful work. Julie Feirtag, in the third photo from the left, also had a lovely dress!

10. I had some wardrobe debuts:

our outfits

The center outfit wasn’t new, but styling it as a “Steampunk 7 of 9” was. I also made a fur mantle and muff for it, shown above in #2.

11.Some notable figures attended…

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The Admiral

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Steampunk Pope

 

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Mark Twain

 

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Amelia Earhart… and her questionably effective co-pilot

 

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And the Tea Lady, sporting a new hat!

12. Did I mention all the FANCINESS at the ball??

the Ball

Well, I should have- it was a damn good time.

Event the dinosaurs wanted to see the pictures!

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But in the end, it was really all about the Epic Primordial Flowers we found in the Center of the Earth. (yes, the pink thing is a primordial flower)

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Thanks for watching! I’ll be back soon with another creation….. up next is a velvet and satin double breasted 1880’s jacket!

 

 

 

 

 

Victorian Orient-Inspired Dress, instead of Florentine Costume Intensive Tuesday, Oct 21 2014 

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The beginning of the second dress I made, now with the poorest choice ever for piping fabric!!

So, I had planned to do a series of posts about my experiences doing the Artistic Intensive in the Costume Shop at the Florentine Opera Company… I was terribly excited when they said I could participate! However, the absence of any structure and a distinct lack of communication led to, basically, a disappointing experience.

Upon arrival I was foisted upon a draper who said she’d never done anything like this before. After a day of stitching I asked about the program setup & was told that I was stitching in exchange for the experiences to come- stitch first!

As the costume shop portion of the intensive was finishing (circumstances kept me from participating during the week of production; my immediate relation of those circumstances resulted in the implication that I was unprofessional), I voiced my concerns that all I’d done was stitching & hadn’t learned anything new, I was informed that I should be learning by osmosis, that “being in the environment is a learning process”.

osmosis

The magic of osmosis!- Who needs syllabi, lesson plans or rubrics anyway?

Yes, and being at a sewing machine is usually a paid process. Now, I didn’t expect a step-by-step learning process, as this was created in the veins of a “professional development program”, but I did expect some semblance of structure, just something, from the term “program”.  Turns out that they had never done the “Intensive” in the costume shop before, the closest they’d come was a split between costumes and wigs/makeup.

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Yay internships!

I met some great people, and (in making 2 dresses) practiced some finishing techniques that usually aren’t a part of period fashion, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss. But it feels like a wasted opportunity because the program could be great, and it isn’t even a “program” in any sense of the word.

SO.

On to the new dress I’ve been promising you!!

Now, I happened to receive 13 yards of this beautiful, heavy, steel blue satin from my mom when she was visiting- she got it for a steal after seeing it and thinking of me!  I took it to my sewing room and starting pulling out possible accent fabrics, and rediscovered 3 yards of an imported silk brocade in a deep gold dragon pattern that I’d bought years ago, with the original intention of making a gold silk corset dress. Good taste won out on that one, and there the silk sat for a very long time. But next to the blue satin it looked rich and, to make it even better, I had some perfectly matched dark gold “silkessence” from drapes I made in another life.

It was the beginning, and time to come up with a design. Though the dragon pattern would influence the direction, going in I simply knew I wanted to do a day dress with a high neckline.

My inspiration was drawn from a few sources; film, historical examples, even an online mention of a technique I’ve never used before.

Some inspiration pics:

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The first two images are extant period pieces, the third is a reproduction of a costume from the film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, and the fourth is an image from the film “Moulin Rouge”.  You will be able to identify the elements I borrowed from these looks to create a clean design, pulling inspiration from both military styles and far east influences.  For the skirt, I came up with an original trim design, and used a period pattern from a book.

book pattern

However, as you can see from this pattern, the back is a mystery…. from the instructions it sounds as if the back is simply gathered. I like to create visual interest in the back of my looks, however, and a gather just doesn’t do it for me. After much research, I discovered a little post about burnous pleats on Truly Victorian’s site. And it was the perfect addition- elegant yet echoing the lines of the pleated fan shape which would adorn the back of my jacket. Hooray! So what if I’ve never seen/made one before!

So, here’s the skirt process:

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With burnous pleats pinned in place.

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The waistband- french seams.

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Very important- my dress form is set to my  corseted measurements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Complete- Note that the hem is done WITH the bustle that I intend to wear on the dress form! (I wasn’t being too picky with the hem because the trim going over it is about 4″ deep.)

Just look at the graceful drape of that pleat! You can also adjust the angle of that pleat so the triangles formed by it are larger or smaller. I really am just in love with that burnous.

Here is the tab trim, more on that later, maybe. 🙂

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Now that the skirt was done, I could move on to the jacket. I had my plan- I would start with a pattern I’ve used before, for the summer dress and for the blue and yellow dress, but alter it to make it high-necked, and create a hidden front closure beneath a decorative panel.  So I pulled out the pattern & began making adjustments.

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The left image is the original, and the right is the new one, before the mock up. I made some anticipatory adjustments based on my previous experience with this pattern.

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And still had to make adjustments- I took too much from some waist seams and not enough from the back/chest area. (I had lost 30 lbs since the last time I’d used this pattern) On the right, the adjustments were made to the pattern before cutting out all layers (with a rotary blade, it’s hard to get accuracy through multiple layers with scissors). And then, fun:

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I flatted every piece- the fashion fabric, lining and interlining, because I had decided to sew the jacket with exposed finished seams, for easy future alterations (which is good, because a few months later, I’ve lost about another ten pounds and need to take the waist in a tad). Flatting the pieces keeps them from moving around/stretching independently of each other as you sew them, ensuring all your edges line up.

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The first fitting went well, if a little full through the hips. It was imperative to create the front closure, though, before doing any further fitting.

 

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Skipping a little ahead here (I forget to take pictures when I’m making a lot of progress, which is why there are virtually no images of the long, complicated process of the trim going together). I put in a zipper, facing one side of the hidden front with blue. (If I did it again, I’d probably face both sides with blue just because it looks nicer, but practically speaking, no-one will ever see it.) I used the gold silkessence on the front panel, gathering a double thickness to be sure it wasn’t too thin.

 

 

 

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Sewed it in, shaped and pressed the bottom- those are simply two triangular shapes pleated inward. I attached the front panel at the far side with several hooks and thread chain eyes. I also made some bias tape for the hem and cuffs, and custom piping for the skirt hem and silk sleeve bracers.

front closure custom piping cuff bands

 

To make the bands, I took measurements across the width of the front panel at the correct heights, reinforced the silk with interfacing, drew the bands, cut, stitched, pressed, then placed them onto the bodice.

 

 

 

 

front closure 4 front closure 3 

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Like so.

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(At this point, yes, the front pleat points were uneven & driving me nuts, but I resolved not to fix them until later. Who knows, maybe it wasn’t that bad?)

I made the fan for the bodice back, interfacing both the fashion fabric and the lining. Just a simple rectangle. I’m keeping the folds pinned in place when not being worn, to keep them crisp.

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Finishing touches, added a hat, and there you go!

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I purchased a felt hat base in the right shape from Zulily (it was not advertised as a base, it was being pushed as a finished hat… with some black ribbon and a piece of netting hot glued onto the grey felt base), and made a pattern from it to cover it in satin. As a matter of preference, I don’t use glue in making my hats- I stitch it all. I added a length of millinery wire to the edge as well. After the covering was on, it was really just draping some gold fabric and curling the 10 ostrich feathers.I had an adorable old pin that I fixed up with enamel paint, and after everything else was done I added a couple chain stitch loops at the sides for securing the hat with bobby pins.

 

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And one of my former students modeled it at the Milwaukee Public theater’s 40th Anniversary “Metamorphosis Steampunk Circus” fashion show, along with myself and another student.

 

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DIY Display Dressform Friday, Sep 26 2014 

A DIY post! (And the next one is the creation of the newest outfit, I swear)

I had a problem; I was going to be displaying my gowns in an art gallery, but I had no dress forms. I make the gowns for myself, so they wouldn’t fit correctly on a standard (size 4-6) mannequin, and there were no guarantees that the gallery would have any mannequins at all.

I could have provided my adjustable dress forms but I actually, you know, NEED them. I spent a couple weeks looking on Craigslist to find cheap(er) mannequins with no luck- the one sale of “plus size” mannequins I found was very reasonable, but the waist was far too large. I may have been a 12, but I had a small waist proportionately, and corseted down some from there.

So, WHAT is a girl to do?….. Make her own!

A bonus to this method is that you can make mannequins in any size you can get your dress form to!

To get right into it (too late, I know), I stared by covering my dress forms with stretchy plastic bags and adhering the plastic in place by putting tape around the waist and crisscrossed over the shoulders to the waist.

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Flour and water, plus a little salt. (I’ll let you Google a recipe for paper maiche)

We’re talking hi-tech here. I used 2″ strips of brown packing paper, for the most part. I found it to be sturdier than newspaper- it holds up better in the wetting process, and requires fewer layers for a good strong base.

 

 

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As I pulled the strips out of the glue, I ran them between my first two fingers to get rid of the excess liquid. You’ll get the feel for it.

I started at the shoulders and worked my way down.

 

 

 

 

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End of the first layer. All the sites I’ve been to emphasize this, so I will as well: Make sure the layer is fully dry before starting the next, or you could get mold and rotting between layers!! Right, ew.  I used an oscillating fan to speed things up.

 

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End of layer two- I have a plan, but the first two layers are all about getting a sturdy base.

 

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Layer three starts going on- I’m using a slightly thinner white paper… pain in the but, SO glad I didn’t try newspaper for the first layers.

 

 

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Looking good, ladies! So, even though they’ll be covered, I want them to be pretty. 🙂

The plan is to take old or unused tissue pattern pieces and cover the white layer with them. (Thanks to Lyndsey, whose decoupaged hat box displays were an inspiration!)

 

 

 

 

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Now, for this part I used a cooked paper maiche recipe. Same thing, but you boil it and then cool it before applying. The added bonus of using the cooked “glue” is that it dries clear, and so is better suited to my purpose. The pattern pieces added a challenge… I certainly wasn’t going to dip these large swaths of tissue paper, so I got a foam paint brush, laid the tissue onto the dress form, and painted on the glue, thereby pasting the tissue in place just where I wanted it.

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Boiled. Not appetizing.

 

 

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There they are!

 

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Finishing tips: I cut straight up the back. These being adjustable forms, you have some room there to get scissors in. I then closed up the back with a big needle and button thread, and ran taupe duct tape down the center of the inside (with some horizontal pieces first for strength), and down the center of the outside. Paying attention to the outer edge, I closed off the neck hole with a brown paper bag and duct tape.

Since these will be placed on hip-height square pedestals of about 18″x18″, I stuffed them ( i used a big old pillow, you could also use newspaper) and closed the bottom with brown paper bag and duct tape.

Other ideas- you could insert an upholstery fabric tube (they’re sturdy!), stuff/tape around it and then use a christmas tree base (or whatever, time to get creative!) as a stand.

*Additional note* Be somewhat gentle with your dress forms, they *can* be disfigured if too much pressure is applied, and some have more plastic parts than metal- be aware of their limitations!

 

I, of course, neglected to take pictures after all the taping, and they are now in use, holding up my fashions. I will add completed images when they are back in my possession.

Intermission- Steampunk Circus of Metamorphosis Monday, Sep 8 2014 

I have a new post- featuring a NEW DRESS- coming up soon, but in the meantime, you can see one of my older creations in action in this news segment discussing the upcoming celebration of the Milwaukee Public Theater’s 40th Anniversary!

I hope you enjoy this little intermission…

Steampunk Circus Fox 6 segments

A teaser:

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PS- The new dress will be featured, along with a grand ballgown inspired by a Worth gown for the Russian Imperial Court, in the Metamorphosis Fashion Show the same evening!

An internship; A corset Thursday, Aug 7 2014 

I am a big fan of education. I love learning. Much to my surprise, I also love teaching. (and miss it very much, in fact, quick shout out to my SHS kids!)

So when I received an inquiry about an internship from a very eager and talented young lady, I was inclined to figure out a way to make it happen, despite my schedule being all sorts of all over the place this summer.

Emma, the young lady in question, was in need of a Renaissance Faire-style bodice (I use this term instead of “corset” for various reasons, but for the purpose of this post they are interchangeable).

I decided to propose a one-day internship during which I would walk Emma through the process of creating a Faire bodice, pointing out important factors about patterning, cutting, finishing, etc. along the way.

She was thrilled by the prospect, and the date was set.

With only one day, I thought it best to do some prep work…

I had a few appropriate fashion fabrics and some cotton canvas that I pre-washed (always!).

I pulled out an old bodice in the style we were going to use and, with her measurements, created a paper pattern sized for her.

Goths in the sun, oh no!

My bodice from the Early Years of BRF had tie-on shoulder straps and laced up the sides and back.

I ironed the fabrics and had them ready to lay out, and had a few color choices in bias tape ready.

Checkered fabric- fun!

When she arrived, we got right to it, and we made good progress. We cut out 2 layers of cotton canvas lining, between which the boning would be sandwiched. When this was done it was time to cut out the fashion fabric… this particular pattern was a multi-colored check which I suggested turning to a 45 degree angle, making the squares into diamonds and creating a fun harlequin-esque look. She loved this idea, and I explained that we could do so because we had a strong base with the two layers of canvas and changing the grain of the fashion fabric alone wouldn’t change the way the garment would lay (if we angled all three layers, it would stretch in ways we would not want because it would then be cut on the bias).

Another design choice was the center seam, which allowed us to created a very flattering chevron pattern in the front and back. (Side note, if you have more fabric available to play with, you can match up the stripes of color exactly and impress your friends! We did the best we could with .5 yards.)

After all pieces were cut, we planned out the boning channels and drew them onto the lining in chalk. A zigzag stitch was used around the edges to keep all pieces in place. The channels were stitched through all three layers.

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Next we added the boning, primarily 1/2″ plastic coated spring steel. We did use 1/4″ spring steel at the 2 sides, to provide extra strength where the grommets would be pulling on the fabric. (A lesson learned the hard way; I really like to lace myself up tight!)

Once all channels were sewn and boning inserted, we pinned and stitched bias tape around all the edges. This can be challenging, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. I would suggest sewing it on by hand if you’re unsure, or at least starting with the back pieces, so any dodgy areas will be less apparent.

Then all that was left was marking and applying the grommets. I highly recommend using quality 2 part grommets and a setter that requires a hammer… one piece grommets with the little squeeze setter just aren’t very sturdy. You can get everything you need (individually or in kits) at corsetmaking.com. They’re affordable, high quality, and are not reimbursing me to say so- I’ve been using their supplies for YEARS (we won’t get into how many years… plenty!)

I think Emma enjoyed the grommeting the most. (Fun with hammers!) Just remember to use ear & eye protection- it’s a loud process!

In the end, we were right on schedule and had a lovely, sturdy custom bodice with more boning and better quality materials than most, if not all, for sale on the Faire grounds.

Emma did have some sewing knowledge going in, which does help, but I believe if taken one step at a time, a project like this can be within anyone’s reach!

Our final product:

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And, Emma in full garb, wearing her new creation:

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