Friday, July 25, 2014

Retro Catwoman: Part 1: The Shorts

Sometimes it's good to take a break from a project and work on something else. Currently I'm taking a quick break from the Rat Queen costume, and I'm making a quick Catwoman inspired costume. The idea is to create a 50s pinup look, similar (but not identical) to the one I saw in Heroes of Cosplay (side note: I love Harley Quinn's skirt. It's the cutest)
I wanted to make hot pants and a bustier, but to make the styling of the costume rougher, more like a biker girl than a classy Catwoman.

I happened to have the perfect material for this project:
 Presenting what is probably the world's most ugly dress. I found this in New Look during the spring sales. It was a size 18 (UK) pleather tent, and I don't think it would suit anyone, but I figured that there was enough material there to make a dress or a corset, and that buying the dress would be cheaper than buying fabric.

I used a lingerie pattern from Burda style to make the hot pants. The pattern looks a bit like granny pants, but it lends itself surprisingly well to hot pants. It would probably be good for a Wonder Woman costume too.

The pleather is very stretchy so it was perfect for this pattern. I cut out all the pieces, which only used up the front of the dress. Next I sewed the front pieces together. I used a narrow zigzag stitch on almost all the seams, and leather needles just to be on the safe side. I added a side zip (the pattern calls for an invisible zip, but I used what I had). Next I sewed the other side seam, then the crotch seam.

Once I checked that it fitted (it fitted beautifully; Burda patterns have very accurate sizes), I finished the leg holes, then added some elastic to the waistband, and top-stitched it with a narrow zig zag stitch.


These look great on, but off they look a bit crumpled. You'll just have to trust me when I saw the fit is gorgeous; I really recommend this pattern (go look at Burda's website - you'll find it easily).

Next step: the bustier, the cat ears, and the goggles.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Madame Vastra: Part 2: The Shirt

I'm making progress on Madame Vastra. The shirt is now finished. I used white poly-linen for the body of the shirt, and a mixture of other fabrics for all the embellishments on Vastra's shirt. 
Madame Vastra's shirt seems to be a blouse with bishop sleeves, no gathers at the should/arm scye, and a lot of embellishments, such as the embroidered collar and applique/colourful material on the sleeve.
 The first step was to cut out the shirt. I was very lazy and didn't use a pattern. The body of the shirt is a rectangle, and the sleeves are a mix of triangles and rectangles. I actually made the sleeves bigger by adding triangles.  Next I sewed on the red patches on the shoulders. These are just rectangles of interfaced satin that were left over from a project. I turned the raw edges under and sewed them down.

 The next step was to sew on the decoration on the sleeves. It's difficult to see the exact pattern on Vastra's sleeve, but it looks something like this. I used a piece of pillowcase for the base, then sewed down bias tape to make stripes. I coloured the cloth with fabric markers to get the right colour, then added white spots with white acrylic. When everything was dry, I sewed it down.
 Here's what the shirt looked like spread out. I tried a new method, with was to sew the sleeve to the shoulder first, then to sew everything together.
 Time to gather the sleeves. This was tricky because the fabric kept unravelling. I just sewed a band of cloth around the end of the sleeve, turned it over, and sewed it down by hand.
 Still not finished but it already looks so pretty.
Next step: finishing the collar. This was just a piece of bias tape sewn around the collar. It was a bit difficult because I had to sew multiple pieces of bias tape together. 
And last, the embroidery round the collar. Luckily it was a really simple pattern, and I just backstitched it with some thick red thread.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Madame Vastra: Part 1: Skirt and Waistcoat

One of my planned cosplays for Expo in October is Madame Vastra from Doctor Who. This costume will be very tricky to make, the makeup trickier still, but I liked her a lot (The Crimson Horror is the best episode of season 7, hands down. The rest of the season is so very "meh"), and want to see if I can pull off the Silurian makeup.

Skirt
 The first step was the skirt, which was a very simple half circle skirt. I just followed an internet tutorial for this, then made some adjustments. I added pockets on the sides, and the back of the waistband is partly elasticated to make it more comfortable. I also sewed horsehair braid to the hem: I have a lot of braid left over from making the Black Aristocrat dress, and I think it improved the look of the skirt, giving it more structure and volume.

 Madame Vastra's skirt is a weird colour: it's not exactly brown, nor is it grey or blue. I dyed tan brown cotton grey, and got a weird brown/grey mix colour.

Waistcoat
 The next step was the waistcoat. I had a Burda pattern which I altered beyond recognition: it started out as a double breasted waistcoat with a stand collar! Once I got the desired look, I traced the pieces on to my paisley fabric, then basted the green mock-up pieces to the paisley pieces. This was to make the paisley material less flimsy. 
 Next I started sewing the pieces together, starting with the back, sides and front, then basting on the collar and finally the facing.
 I also sewed bias tape around the arm holes to prevent fraying. Once the front and facing had been understitched, I added buttons and button holes. the buttons are gorgeous, but you can't see them very well here. I bought a pack of metal buttons on ebay, and they all have this lovely pewter look to them.
 Above is the finished waistcoat. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, especially since i was worried about the collar. The collar was a bit tricky to sew on because I had to sew through many layers of cloth on the sewing machine, but it actually sits very nicely. The waistcoat looks really smart; I'm tempted to wear it to work.
Slightly blurry photo of the skirt and waistcoat together. Looks pretty good to me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rat Queen Progress

Finally, exams and assignments are more or less over, and I can work on some costume projects. Currently I am trying to use up my stash, so I decided to begin my Emilie Autumn 'Rat Queen' inspired costume. I know Emilie Autumn gets very mixed press, what with accusations of her glorifying mental illness (don't think I know enough about this subject to comment) or having over priced tickets/merchandise (shipping to Malta is always expensive, so I've never actually bought anything from her, though the Asylum book looks interesting), but I love the costumes she creates, as well as her music (especially the Enchant era, but a lot of the FLAG songs are good too)
The Rat Queen is probably as detailed as a Sakizou inspired costume, though much more ragged. I've always wanted to try my hand at something Sakizou-like, so this is an ideal project. I found fantastic cloth for the corset: pillowcases on sale for 1 Euro each. I also got a lot of scraps of cloth to turn into the bustle, and those cloth strips she had round her calves, and to make the rat tail. 

Jewellery
The first thing that I made for this costume was the choker. The 'cameo' in the centre started as a pair of earrings, glued together to create this piece. I then glued some gems on top, added a key charm, and sewed it to a strip of cloth. Everything is glued on with E6000 or fabric glue.
Also made some matching earrings.

Ears
The ears began as craft foam pieces, with a dart in the middle to make them more three dimensional. 
See how much nicer they look than flat semi circles would look?
I applied several coats of PVA glue to stop the craft foam from being damaged.
Once the paint dried, I painted the ears grey.
I added embellishments using beads and gems. This photo doesn't show the extra beads that I added for more texture. The ears are now encrusted with silver beads.

Tail
The tail was made by sewing lots of scraps together to make a big rectangle. The tail pattern is a long thin isosceles triangle, folded in half and stuffed. Stuffing the tail was difficult, because you can't really poke the stuffing to the end of the tail. I ended up hand-sewing the tail shut for 10cm, then adding stuffing, then sewing, then adding more stuffing, until the whole thing was stuffed. I didn't have Dacron or similar, so used scraps of satin and some wig fibres that I had (I massacred a blonde wig, and there were lumpy unusable wefts everywhere). Using watered down grey acrylic paint, I painted the tail light grey, then used a thicker paint mix to paint on the darker stripes. Lastly I added a ribbon to tie around my waist.
Bloomers
 The bloomers are made from a single pillowcase, using this tutorial by Yiji on Deviantart. I didn't even make a pattern; I just traced around a pair of wide loose trousers to get the shape right. The stripes are pieces of lace, and I added some bows for decoration.

 Everything is elasticated for comfort. Personally, I think these are really cute.

Corset
I can't work on this properly until I buy a busk. I don't know what length to buy, because one website suggested getting a busk 1 inch shorter than the length of the centre front. I asked Lucy Corsetry on tumblr, so I'll wait for a reply and see. I think I will use plastic bones to cut down on costs; I don't intend to use this for waist training, so I think plastic bones (zip ties) will do. The pattern is based on Katafalk's under bust corset drafting tutorial  

Wig
This will be something of an experiment. I want to try dying a wig red for this costume. I have 2 wigs that might work; one is thin and a bit nasty, and the other is thicker. I will probably use the latter for the final wig, and the former for practise.




Sunday, May 4, 2014

Walkthrough: Daenerys Targaryen

Medieval Mdina happened this weekend, and I (typically) decided to go at the very last minute on Friday evening. And then I decided to also go in costume. But what costume? I've sold Merida, the only really Medieval costume I had, so what could I make in 24 hours?
And then I remembered:
I have had most of the materials to make Daenerys' costume since January. The only thing I didn't have was a pair of good boots, but Uggs would just have to do. didn't have the leggings either - oh well. So I spent Saturday sewing like crazy to create this costume:
Not bad for a day's work/ The wig was already styled, which saved me some time. I used a video tutorial from Threadbanger:

I highly recommend this video if you want to sew Daenerys' Dothraki clothing. I did make a few changes: I tended to sew instead of using hot glue, and I added bra cups to the inside of the top, to give it padding and structure. I put an old bra on the dress form, and put the crop top over it, then pinned the bra and top together. Once I got them positioned correctly, I sewed the bra to the top by hand, though I think hot glue would have been faster.
My dress form: not the prettiest, but very useful. The top is just a square of material, folded in half to make a triangle. It knots closed at the back, and there a plaited trim/neck tie and a gathered sweetheart neckline. I did a little bit of distressing, which just involved making little cuts with my scissors and pulling at the loose threads. 
I didn't take many progress pictures because I was working flat out. The skirt, loin cloth and over skirt (or whatever the lighter coloured piece round the waist is) are made exactly the way they are in the video. The material looks great, even if the colour isn't quite perfect. 

I think the wig needs work though. It was very hard to hide my hair under the wig, and dark hairs kept peeking out. There has to be a way of hiding them! I had to plait sections of the fringe, which may be a reason why some of the hair at the front is visible. Thee was also visible hair near the ears. I was thinking of using this wig for Elsa, but I might have to reconsider, or at least alter the wig significantly.


 And then it was off to Medieval Mdina! And I scored in terms of photos, because the Herpetological Society had a tent there, and were showing off their great collection of snakes, lizards and one red-kneed tarantula. I actually got to hold a Bearded Dragon: Mother of Dragons for the win!
There was also this gorgeous yellow-morph Burmese Python; she weighed about 7 kilos, but was very pleasant to hold. Snakes feels gorgeous: mostly smooth and sleek, with slight bumpiness when the scales are, and surprisingly soft. The Herpetological Society were all very friendly and helpful, and let me hold a lot of animals (3 or 4 different snakes, the bearded dragon, and a red-kneed tarantula) and answered my million and one questions. If you're in Malta and come across one of their events, I recommend saying hello-you may just get to have a 7 kilo python round your neck. 
This was a very lucky photograph. There were two mounted re-enactors, and they let me take a photograph with this Lipizzaner (I think that's the breed. The spell-check doesn't think this is a real word, and is suggested 'Pizzeria'-weird). They also had a stunning Friesian that I very much wanted to take home and keep in the garden.






Friday, April 18, 2014

Charleston: Flapper dress walkthrough

I was thinking about the first flapper dress that I made; it's pretty, but doesn't scream Twenties when I look at it. I really wanted something that looked like a period costume, with a modern twist. I really wanted to avoid adding more fabric to my stash (it looks like a hamster nest of hoarded fabric at this point!). Luckily I had some black satin that was ideal for this project, and had just enough to make this dress.
Went a bit overboard with the detail, but it looks so pretty.

I started by drafting a simple pattern. Flapper dresses are supposed to be quite shapeless, so I ended up with a trapezoid piece for the pattern. But I didn't want to keep it simple. I wanted a hem with a lot of movement, so decided to make a pleated hem. I altered the pattern by adding a dropped waist, and made the bust a bit curved, like a tank top. I also added bust darts to give it more shape. 
When I cut out the bodice, it looked like this
 Shiny tank top! 
 Next step was creating the waistband and decoration on the bust. First I printed an art deco border pattern, and traced it on to a piece of interfacing. The interfacing for the waistband was just a rectangle, but the bustline pattern had to be altered a little because of the curves. 
 Here's a moe detailed picture. Once I was pleased with it, I ironed it on to the satin.
 Next I painted the waistband and neckline silver. This just involved mixing acrylic paint with fabric medium, and carefully painting the area. I used masking tape to make the edge nice and smooth.
I also had to figure out the pleated hem. I had a limited amount of fabric, so the pleats aren't very deep. To make the hem more interesting, I made it spiky: I was inspired by one of Cyd Charisse's dresses in 'Singin' in the Rain'. Ironing the pleats was not fun: poly satin and irons do not get along, and I actually burnt one piece of fabric. I used a pressing cloth and a piece of card to make the pleats look sharp, and ironed on a low heat. 

 The next step was beading. This was very time consuming. I spent two weeks sewing little black beads on over the silver waistband, skirt, and neckline, bead by bead. I learnt a few important things about beading:

  • Add only two or three beads to you stitch; more than that and the thread is pulled out of shape, and your design looks wonky
  • Knot the thread multiple times to make it secure
  • If you've painted the fabric, you need a very sharp thin needle; a thimble is also handy.
  • Keep cats away. They see the moving thread and they want to play with it, and they will destroy all your hard work.


 Ta da, finished neckline!
 Lastly I added a side zip and bias tape for the straps, and the dress was done.
And then the photoshoot came:



These photos were taken in Valletta near Fort St Elmo. It was incredibly chilly: there was a breeze blowing through the streets, and satin, nylon and feathers aren't the best protection from the elements. I cobbled together a cigarette holder from a chopstick and some paper, and burnt the tip to make it look more authentic (don't smoke, and probably shouldn't after all the asthma attacks I had last year thanks to an allergy to chicken feathers. It did stop, but I'd rather not risk getting it again).