Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mama's little sewing helper.

I'm thinking this must be what it's like to try to sew with kids in the house.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Costume College 2014: Studio Pictures

I'm going to start by saying that the photo studio set up for Costume College is perhaps the most brilliant I have ever seen.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, the convention arranges for a professional photographer to come in and set up their area.  Attendees can then purchase a pass in the form of a badge ribbon for $1.  That pass allows them to come to the studio as often as they like, getting professional shots documenting all of their costumes (excepting those worn on Thursday night, before the con properly gets underway).  Then you go to the photographer's website to view the proofs of yourself and everyone else who visited the studio, purchasing what you'd like a copy of.  The "low res" copies cost just $2 each.  Being one of those people who isn't too great at getting around to getting nice pictures taken of me at con, this set up was brilliant.  Meaning I now have great documentation of all of my costumes in excellent lighting, while I was dressed up with the hair and makeup and all the accessories.

So now, a PROPER summary of what I wore to Costume College:

Thursday night Tiki Pool Party
Hibiscus kimono and hand-painted haori jacket
(not from the studio, but I wanted a complete lineup)
Friday Night "Club Ice" Ice Cream Social
1920s Mr Freeze

Victoria and I had the same idea on Saturday morning; we both showed up wearing white neckerchiefs over hair that was half-done up for the Gala that night.  The fact that we also ended up in green tops and jeans was just too funny not to document.

Saturday morning: oh crap I have a class to get to and my hair is only half-done!

Saturday Night's Gala
18th century court ensemble

Sunday Morning Breakfast
18th century short gown w/ cotton petticoat and whitework embroidery apron

Sunday Afternoon Tea: Ladies' Day at the Ascot
18th c Chemise a la Reine

Ah.  And NOW I'm finally done posting about Costume College, at least until we start plotting for next year.

HSF 16 Terminology & HSF 17 Yellow - 1880s Tea Gown

Sooo... I had all of these grand epic plans to make a tea gown for the HSF Terminology post, but I ran into a bit of a demotivating wall when it came time to put the sleeves on and I couldn't commit to a trimming scheme.  Lucky for me, the fabric I ended up making the gown out of was a lovely, buttery yellow gold and the next HSF challenge in line was yellow, so not all was lost.

I've been in a decluttering mood here at the end of the summer, so I thought I'd try to focus on a couple of projects that would help me make a dent in the stash.  Do you remember that dye fail project from back in February?  The one where I realized that the yellow/gold rayon faille that I bought turned out to be a rayon/acetate blend and attempting to dye it red just left me with ten yards of fleshy pink nonsense? 

Yeah, that one.
So I had the bright idea that I'd make a tea gown out of it, because hey, what the hell.  I've made up enough Truly Victorian bodice patterns that I felt comfortable just making the necessary adjustments to the pattern on paper and skip the mock up.  Easy, one piece project, cheap fabric, no mock up... I was totally going to get this done in the two weeks that I had until the challenge was due.

I was wrong.  I took a break from cutting pattern pieces to dye up something like 12 yards of nylon velvet ribbon for trim.  The goal was to get a nice, deep burgundy color to complement the fleshy pink.  But the ribbon had been dyed and bleached once before in a failed attempt at making ivory by my sewing buddy over the summer and it didn't quite take up the dye the way I wanted it to.  In fact, the ribbon wasn't burgundy at all, but a nice, grapey purple.  Seriously, we're talking grape jelly here.  Well that was definitely going to clash with the pink.  So I tried to darken it into a more brown color, but that didn't work, either.  Eventually, I ended up with a rich, deep eggplant color that I totally loved... that also totally clashed with the pink.  So I scooped all of the pink fabric up and dumped it onto the floor, pulling out the five yards of undyed yellow gold that were left.  This was a bit shy of what the pattern stated that I'd need, but as the faille didn't really have a nap or directional pattern pattern to it, I figured I could get away with it, and so I started cutting all over again.

We'll start with a split pic, because the flash was doing absolutely nothing polite to the color of the faille.  The cutaway on the left was done without flash and, although a bit blurry, is much a truer representation of the actual color of the gown.

Some people are the sort of person that they can plot out a project to the end, complete with what trim they want where, so that the ends of trim can be inserted into the appropriate sleeves as they go along.  I am not that visionary.  I personally have a lot of trouble imagining how I want to trim a garment until I can look at it mostly assembled.  But sewing the ribbon onto a garment that I couldn't lay flat would have been nearly impossible.  So I sketched and I pinned and I stared and I waffled and re-pinned and then set the whole project aside for a bit instead of finishing it off over Labor Day weekend as I'd planned.  My biggest stressor was the pointed bits on the front and back of the bodice.  I couldn't figure out how I wanted the points to meet.  As is, the center of the points is ever so slightly off center from the front of the gown, which is along the line of buttons.  It took looking at a lot of asymmetrical gowns in order to convince myself to be okay with (and perhaps a glass of wine or two in order to find the courage to start sewing), but once I got over that hump, the rest of the trimmings just fell together.

The finished gown is floor length in the front, with a sweeping train in the back.  I'll probably stick a bustle pad under the petticoat to help fill it out a bit in the back.  And a faille petticoat over the cotton one will help hold the train out and keep it from collapsing in the back.  (also, an actual butt instead of my broken, hip-less dress form will help, too,)

Hmm, I'm good with the front, but that's an awful lot of
blank space there in the back.  But bow, perhaps?

After the points on the front of the bodice, I kind of wanted to embrace this asymmetrical theme that I had started.  I made cuffs that were not a uniform depth, so that they wrapped around the cuff and looked as if they buttoned closed, encasing the narrower end.  The same style was used on the tops of the pockets.

Pleats seem to be one of those things that I just can't not do.  They consume so much time, but damn if they don't just define the late Victorian look for me.  I sped up the process a bit with these in a couple of ways.  They are only finished on the lower edge, and I used hem binding tape to avoid the bulk of double turning the edge.  Then I inserted one three inch space after every three one inch pleats.  You can't really tell, because I hung the pointed ribbon tabs in the center of each of these wider spaces and unless you're looking for it, you probably wouldn't notice.  The tabs were cut into points and then treated with fray check.  Lastly, I avoided finishing the top edge of the pleats by sewing them directly to the hem and sewing the strip of ribbon over it.  Since the velvet ribbon is dark and bulky, you can't see the added bulk that it hides.

Gasp!  Sneaky cheating.  Also, I was running low on matching thread at this point
and went with a "close enough".  Luckily, I only had to do this on the hem

I was able to use up a spectacular amount of the hem and bias tapes that I inherited from my grandmother.  Since no one would see them on the inside, I felt no shame in using up whatever odd colors I could come up with.

I had just enough fabric left over to cut a partial front panel for an underskirt that I'll doctor up with the leftover bits of ribbon so that I'll have another option if I want to wear the tea gown open over a matching skirt.  I'll utilize some of the pink fabric to finish the top four inches of the front panel, as well as the side and back panels of the skirt.  As it'll be hemmed to a couple inches shorter than the tea gown, I'm not too worried about the pink sticking out.  As it stands, the cotton petticoat I made back in May doesn't give quite enough boost to my bustle-less bum, so making an underskirt with a good bit of yardage gathered into the back of the waistband will certainly help, regardless of whether or not I unbutton enough of the tea gown for anyone to see  it.

Hmm... now what to do with the remaining scraps of ribbon?  Surely the dress needs a bow somewhere.  ;)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Project Summary: 1920s Batman Villains

Back in January of this year, I got to play my first ever 'group card'.  Amongst my clan of costuming buddies, we have this system where we all have these metaphorical cards.  Everybody gets one.  And one day, when you have this epic costume group idea that just HAS to happen, you get to play your group card and these friends will join you in making it happen.  It doesn't matter if it's not everybody's 'thing'.  It just has to be a good enough idea to warrant investing your time, money and creative energies into the project in order to make the one person's vision a reality.  I played my group card for the 1920s Batman Villains.

It was at a Dragon*Con a few years back that I started noticing people putting some interesting twists on their cosplays.  Costumers were taking recognizeable characters and re-doing them from an historical or other dimension.  The Super Girl bustle dress, Dark Knight suit of armor and Elizabethan Justice League were all inspiring reboots of popular characters and I wanted in on this.  I thought this was the perfect solution to celebrating some of my favorite characters and concepts when a straight up cosplay of the characters wouldn't do it for me.  I love super heros, but I don't really have the super hero body and would sooner shave my head than wear spandex in public.  Enter the historical re-interpretation.  I could take the recognizeable symbols and color schemes of my favorite characters and making them up in a way that I was comfortable with both making and wearing.

Now, I'll share a (not so) secret with you.  I am a teensy bit of a Batman fan.  And not just any Batman, mind you.  I broke my geeky teeth on Micheal Keaton and the series of movies that came out in 1989, 92, 95 and 97.

Just like you never forget your first Doctor, I will never forget my first Batman and the dirty gothic world that he was presented in.  And I LOVED his villains.  There was nothing understated about them; not like Bruce Wayne and his dark, slick bat suit and equally polished rich boy wardrobe.  Where Batman was all black and white, his villains were in COLOR.  They had over-the-top, bright colors with insane visual representations of their own inner mental workings and I was hooked.  

I don't remember exactly how it happened, but at some point I made the connection between the film noir look of the Gotham City of this Batman and the 1920s in general and it was all over for me.  I started to see the 20s style everywhere and my brain was consumed with the notion that this just had to be realized.  Cue the group card.  The basic instructions going into this were simple: take a the character and try to imagine how they would be represented in the 1920s.  We made ourselves a closed Facebook group to facilitate the brainstorming and away we went.  We picked elements of the villains' personalities and tried to relate them to a fashion of the time.  For example, Poison Ivy was all about using her sexuality as a weapon, so she gets a drapey, sexy party dress.  We didn't even try to match each other in style or materials, like we would with some of our other cosplay groups, but we all had that unifying theme of the 1920s fashions and that made it work for us.

Coming up with a presentation that both told a story and gave us all our moment of glory on stage wasn't too difficult in the end.  I picked a fun piece of jazz music from the era and the hive mind lead us to tell the story of Mr Freeze throwing a bit of a party to celebrate having caught Batman.  Characters were largely paired up based upon which movies they showed up together in.  Catwoman teased a socially hopeless Penguin.  The Joker was a loner, but he flirted a bit with Poison Ivy before she turned her attention back to their host.  And then the party gets crashed by Two Face and the Riddler.  Batman had escaped and all inclinations point to it being Two Face having facilitated that, simply to spite Freeze.  Short, sweet and to the point.  You can see a video of our presentation on this blog post.

The last challenge was coming up with documentation for our group.  Documentation in the context of a masquerade entry serves the purpose of summarizing what you did for the workmanship judge.  This judge gets only a few minutes to look over everyone's costumes and you want to leave them with something that makes you stand out after the fact.  The problem for us was that we did so MUCH!  We did our research. and there were dozens of different techniques.  Patterns were drafted, hats were made, fabric was dyed and things were beaded.  There was so much for our group to tell, but one of the most important parts of documentation is keeping it succinct and to the point.  To keep it simple and unified, I assembled all of the documentation.  It included a couple of reference photos of not only the original character, but the 1920s look that the costumer was embodying.  There were a few sentences about what parts of the villain's personality we were trying to showcase and then a few more detailing the techniques which were used in making them.

Here's what we came up with:

a 1920s reimagining of the villains of:
Batman (1989)
Batman Returns (1992)
Batman Forever (1995)
Batman & Robin (1997)

A Master Class entry for Arisia 2014

contact information: Jennifer [last name]  -  [EMAIL]  -  [CELL PHONE]

Your Cast of Villains:
Leo [last name] as The Joker
Bethany [last name] as Catwoman
Aurora [last name] as The Penguin
Megan [last name] as Two Face
Milo [last name]as The Riddler
Jennifer [last name] as Mr Freeze
Valorie [last name] as Poison Ivy

with special guest
Kristen [last name] as Harley Quinn

"Almost Got 'Im"
The title of, and inspiration for our entry comes from the forty-sixth episode of the Warner Bros. television program Batman: The Animated Series, which first aired on November 11, 1992.  This episode features five of Batman’s classic villains telling the stories of their "best" attempts at killing the Dark Knight.  Our presentation represents a hypothetical continuation of this story; the night that Mr Freeze “almost” got Batman.

The Joker

We pulled the Joker’s color scheme from the movie and applied it to an outfit built around a Norfolk jacket.  This iconic image of gentlemanly leisure was seeing a renewed popularity in the 1920s, especially amongst men living in the city - perhaps as a demonstration of their relaxed approach to fashion when compared to their properly suited predecessors.  I picture the Joker as being the kind of guy to thumb his nose at the expectations of a ‘proper’ gentleman.  The Joker’s costume is composed of a tailored wool blend Norfolk jacket that is fully lined with plaid cotton gauze, paired with matching trousers.  The cravat was patterned from scratch and constructed of hand dyed habotai silk, embellished with embroidery details.  The purchased shirt modified to attach playing card cufflinks and the appropriate silhouette is achieved by wearing a binder.


Selina Kyle, is an animal rights philanthropist by day who funds her charity work through high-stakes diamond heists by night under the alter ego of Catwoman. Bethany chose to recreate a dress worn by Jacquelyn Logan in the 1928 movie "Leopard Lady" as it seemed appropriately tongue-in-cheek.  Catwoman’s dress is made from black paillettes.  Her vintage gloves were embellished with claw-like nails.  The hat is a velour-covered frame made of wire and felt, embellished with rhinestones.  The whip and shoes were purchased and embellished with rhinestones.  The appropriate silhouette is achieved through vintage girdle.

The Penguin

The Penguin is a little older and past his time. Aurora focused on creating garments from the late 1910's or early 1920's rather than ones on the cutting edge of fashion, and focused on authentic construction methods. She had to balance fit between wanting to make well-constructed garments fit perfectly and the fact that the character was probably wearing cast off garments that wouldn't fit him well at all. Colors were chosen to fit the black-and-white color palate established in the movie.

Body shaping was accomplished through the use of a binder, Spanx, compression shirt, compression boxers and a length of cloth used for stomach padding.  The dress shirt was made and tailoring techniques were used to make the pants, vest and jacket.  Leather working skills were use to make the suspenders.  The costume includes facial prosthetics and the construction of a unique wig.  The spats, cravat, monocle, boutonniere and flipper gloves were made for this costume.

Two Face

For Two Face, we went with a classic gangster style.  Megan made his suit and trousers utilizing zebra stripe cotton fabric, the majority of which was overdyed fuschia.  The tie was patterned and constructed from scratch.  One half of his purchased dress shirt was dyed using fiber reactive dyes.  His spats were modified for fit and decorated with acrylic paint.  One sock was painted.  His hat was modified to add color and contrasting hat bands.  Two face is carrying a coin with a scratched face and wears a single fingerless glove.

The Riddler

Milo took a casual approach to the interpreting the riddler.  His outfit is composed of a matching vest and plus fours made from fabric salvaged from a discarded theater suit and trousers.  His tie is hand painted and the bowler hat has question mark detailing added.  The shoes and socks are worn as purchased.

MAN'S SUMMER JACKET, White woven w/ blue tattersall pattern, double breasted
AMERICA, 1920s

Mr Freeze

Mr. Freeze’s dressing gown was adapted to the period as a fully lined smoking jacket, which Jennifer made from silk velvet and devore satin that had been dyed two tone through the use of both acid and fiber reactive dyes.  The satin was quilted for cuffs and lapels, and a snowflake pattern stamped into the velvet.  His ascot is a dyed devore satin upon which a burnout dot pattern was created using Fiber Etch.  The tie pin was created using a jewelry pin back and rhinestone.  The cigar was modified from a purchased prop by being stripped and re-rolled in silver tissue paper.  His opera pumps were painted and embellished with ribbon binding and bows.  The Freeze’s dress shirt and trousers were minimally modified purchases.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy wields her sexuality as a weapon.  We wanted to take advantage of Valorie’s tall, lean frame and chose to put her in a flapper style dancing dress with a handkerchief hem.  The dress was made of self dyed silk chiffon and the bodice lined with habotai in a matched color.  The dress is embellished with gold colored glass beads and paired with a matching chiffon scarf.  The gold beads were repeated in the embellishment of the gold dyed silk drawstring handbag.  Ivy’s gloves were dyed using silk painting techniques on purchased nylon gloves.  Her shoes were painted with gold leaf and, in her purse she carries her secret weapon, ‘poisoned’ lipstick and a gold painted compact mirror.

Vintage 1920s silk chiffon party dress for sale on Etsy.

Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn is a strange combination of childish and womanly. Kristen wanted to reflect this through the blocky shapes in the trim, the wildness of the tulle and through the sophisticated beading she did on the belt and headdress. The choice of sleeve and coloring are based on the original design. The diamonds scattered throughout (in the belt, the fishnets, the headdress) are a homage to this as well.

*  *  *

And there you have it!  In the end, I chose not to include any of our progress pictures.  It was important to keep our documentation short enough that the judges would have the chance too flip all the way through it.  The more there is, the more they'll skim, and so we did our best to keep it as succinct as possible.   So much appreciation goes out to the members of the group who so graciously allowed me to share their work here with you.  Much of the personal information for people has been redacted, but I left the spaces in there to show you where it goes.  The only thing left to see is what crazy group idea I get pulled into next.

photo courtesy snarkyman