Saturday, February 11, 2017

Costume Thoughts: Alice through the Looking Glass

I often choose a costume just because I like the way it looks; probably just as often as choosing to make costumes because I like the character. Sometimes a costume is just so interesting that I want to try my hand at recreating it. Such is the case for Alice's costume in "Alice: Through the Looking Glass". The first film, in my opinion, was a little disappointing. I have yet to see the sequel, but the plot sounds strange yet dull (not a good combination for an Alice-inspired story)
But Colleen Atwood came back to do the costumes, and I think they are gorgeous. My favourite is Alice's Mandarin inspired costume.

I have no ideal why I like it so much. I don't normally like these colours separately, and I never thought I would like them together, but it works so well. Colleen Atwood you genius!
In the film, Alice says her outfit is inspired by the Dowager Empress of China; makes sense, since in the last film we saw Alice setting off for China to expand her family company's trading routes. It features a purple blouse with a Mandarin collar, a decorative collar, wide-legged trousers reminiscent of hakama or hanbok, and boots.

The Blouse
Alice's blouse has lots of interesting details. It seems to have a Mandarin collar and slight puff sleeves: there's a seam on the sleeve, so I think there's a puff sleeve sewn to the lower sleeve, 
According to Colleen Atwood, the costume department embroidered the purple silk themselves with a design including rabbits and little hats. A purple brocade would work very well, unless you have the time and skill to embroider (or print) metres of silk. 
The blouse is covered with beautiful floral embroidery. There's also red piping along some of the seams, and red buttons on the upper sleeves. 
The way the blouse closes reminds me of a Cheongsam, closing on one side along the collar bone. The blouse might tie shut with ribbons, because in the picture below you can see a red ribbon hanging down on Alice's blouse.  
Alice seems to be wearing an orange shirt under the purple blouse: you can see it through the slits at the waist and sleeves of the purple blouse. In some shots the orange shirt seems to have pleated details on the sleeves and near the waist.

The Collar
 Initially Alice wears this beautiful ornate collar with this costume, though there are some scenes where she isn't wearing it. 
Colleen Atwood made the collar from leather and fabric, with gold pieces that apparently came from inexpensive Indonesian wedding crowns. 
You could probably make this collar from leather, vinyl, or craft foam (not many Indonesian wedding crowns in my part of the world, so I'll be using one or more of these materials)

The Trousers

According to Colleen Attwood, Alice only wears trousers in the film, though many are disguised as skirts. The trousers are supposed to be more practical. This pair remind me of Hakama.
  The trousers seem to be made of emerald green material, probably silk, with golden yellow stripes. They are pleated, and decorated with a wide purple and red trim at the hem.

The pleats are a little more obvious in these exhibition pictures. They look like box pleats to me. 

The boots
Alice wears some very comfortable looking boots. I think the colour scheme is a call back to her shoes in the first film:
I think the boots are inspired by traditional Chinese boots. They might be made of canvas, but I'm no expert of shoes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How to NOT paint a baseball bat

 Here's my mostly complete baseball bat for a punk version of Sailor Moon. It looks pretty good so far, but I made my fair share of mistakes, which I will now share with you so you won't make them,
 I bought a cheap baseball bat from a tourist shop. For some reason, it has an Arsenal logo on it. Has Arsenal branched out into baseball or rounders? Anyway, my first mistake was not sanding it. Sanding helps the paint to stick. The spray paint I used was really good, so it didn't matter too much. I think it was Montana brand paint, in a pale pink colour.I only needed a few coats to cover it. 
 My next mistake was using a different type of spray paint for the details. I bought a small bottle of spray paint, but it's a lot more watery, almost like acrylic paint. It was hard to paint over the other spray paint. The magenta paint was also very runny. 
 I made a stencil with tape, cutting out the letters with a scalpel. Unfortunately when I stuck the stencil on to the bat, the magenta paint bled under the tape. I had to respray some areas light pink, and chip off the magenta paint in others. Outlining the letters and rose with a permanent marker made it look a lot better. 

My last mistake was how I applied the varnish. For some reason, I couldn't get the spray varnish into thin coats, so there were thick layers of varnish. I also made the mistake of touch it when it was wet, and not removing the cord from the handle. The cord stuck to the handle and when I removed it, it pulled of some of the paint. Luckily I want this bat to look a bit rough, so it doesn't matter too much. 
Hopefully once I put white tape on the handle, it will pull the design together. So far it looks pretty good.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Costume Thoughts: Alice Madness Returns Royal Suite

Been a while, hasn't it? This is what happens when you go to vet school: you lose all your free time as you desperately try to learn all the branches of the maxillary artery, the effects of hyper-vitaminosis of Retinol, and just why we have oral exams for so many subjects.
So as you may have surmised, I haven't had much time for sewing. I've sewn a few parts of a Merida costume (her epilogue dress), and I'm planning some projects for the holidays. 

So until I can actually get some sewing done, time for Costume Thoughts! This time, I'm looking at Alice: Madness Returns' Royal Suit dress.

This is the dress that Alice wears as she makes her way through the Queen's castle in the game. I love this design. I love the combination of colours and all the little details. Unfortunatley all the details have made this a very complicated project for me. I've tried to make it once or twice, but I haven't succeeded yet. The first time, I accidentally used stretch satin, and had no idea how to do applique, so I gave up because it looked disastrous. 
There are details everywhere, from head to toe. Depending on whether you look at game screenshots or the artbook, Alice either has a little ruff or a black collar with gold trim. I like both designs, though I do like making little ruffs. She's wearing an Omega pendant; hard to see but I think it is attached to the collar of her dress.
Then there's the bodice. There are alternating panels of black/brown and red, with gold and white details. I've seen some cosplayers sew a black/brown bodice, then sew the red panels on top. They disguise the seams with trim, which often looks really good.
There are diamond and heart appliques, and gold and white trim. The gold trim is along most of the seams, with a little white trim here and there. Ric rac trim would be perfect, though I have seen cosplayers using a flat braid trim or bias tape. 
Her sleeves are puff sleeves. I think this style of sleeve is called 'slashed'. One way of making these is to make a red puff sleeve, then sew strips of black fabric over the gathered sleeve, then sew the whole thing to the bodice. A similar result can be achieve by making a red and black striped sleeve, then pleating it so that the red peaks out from between the black pleats. The sleeve cuff also has applique and trim details.
Her lower sleeves look like arm warmers and separate gloves. The arm warmers have a crenallated appearance. These gloves from cosplayforce look like they are made of a stretch satin. It's tricky to make these crenallations stand up nicely and not flop over, unless you use some kind of interfacing.
 I'm not sure how I would tackle these. One idea I've had is to make the arm warmers from non stretch fabric, then add elastic to help them fit. 
Next is Alice's apron. It has a pointed appearance. Once again there's decorative trim and some appliques: the two astrological symbols, and a black heart (or perhaps a spade?). The apron is attached to a black waistband, with gold trim. 
At the back of the sash is a large black bow, with gold heart appliques and gold trim. The bow has long tails, also decorated with gold trim. Alice has a skull on the centre of the bow: it might be a stylised bird skull. Some cosplayers used red LEDs for the skull's eyes, which looks fantastic. 
Alice's skirt might be two layers, though you could easily fake that. There seems to be a red overskirt (decorated with gold, black and white trim), with a dark underskirt. The underskirt is decorated with gold trim and a chequered applique in gold and black. You could get away with creating a single skirt panel for the underskirt, and sewing it to the red skirt: this would save on fabric, and would probably be less bulky and heavy. 
Alice is wearing striped black and white tights, with black buckled boots. For hot days, thigh high socks would be more comfortable than full tights. 


Materials: I would choose materials that you are comfortable working with. This dress would look gorgeous in matt satin, but equally nice in velvet. Even a well made cotton dress could look good. I'm planning on using either velvet or matt satin, with interfaced gold lycra for the appliques. The advantage of using lycra for the appliques is that you don't need to satin stitch the edges to prevent fraying. Iron-on vinyl would also look fantastic.
The lower sleeves would probably look better made from stretch material. 











Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gazelle walkthrough



I really enjoyed Zootopia. It was well-written, beautiful to look at, creative, poignant: I don't have enough adjectives to describe it. I thought it would be fun to make a costume from the film, and settled on Gazelle.
I liked Gazelle's design: simple and elegant. I also wanted to try making the horns, which I've never done before.
It was quite easy to break down the design into its basic elements: crop top, skirt, shoes, leg-warmers, horns, microphone, bangles, and hair.

Crop Top:

The first step was to cut out the pattern pieces. I used a simple princess seam bodice, cropped to the correct length. There's a layer of stretch satin as the base.
The outer fabric is this strange sparkly material from the costume section of the fabric shop. It has little foil dots on a stretchy material. It photographs well and is easier to sew than sequin material. Sewing Harley Quinn's shorts put me off using sequin material for a while: too much time spent removing sequins from the seam allowance.
 I used spray adhesive to attach the stretch satin and sparkle material together. The satin is a lot comfier on the skin than the sparkly material, and helps to add some structure.

 The straps are just strips of material with the edges folded under and sewn down. There's a layer of jersey on the underside to make them comfortable. 

Skirt:
I didn't take enough photos while I was making this, but I'll summarise. The skirt pattern was traced from a skirt I already had. I traced the pattern on to some jersey, cut that out, then used spray adhesive to glue it to the sparkly material. Once that was done, I drew lines where I wanted the fringe to sit, and sewed it on. To sew on the fringe, I used a zigzag stitch, and stretched the skirt material as I sewed.
Once all the fringe was sewn on, I made several tassels from crochet yarn, and sewed them on by hand.
Tassels attached!

Next was the waistband. I used silver lycra to make a simple waistband, which I sewed on to the skirt with an overlock machine. To complete the skirt, I sewed on lots of silver discs. I think Gazelle was the kind of discs that bellydancers have on their costumes, but I just used sequins (spray painted silver)

Legwarmers:
Very easy to make. Just rectangles of fabric (also jersey with sparkle fabric glued on with spray adhesive) pinned to fit my leg. There's elastic at the top and bottom to keep the legwarmers in place.

Horns:
To make Gazelle's beautiful horns, I used a tutorial by Klairedelys as a guide:
Instead of using modelling clay, I scrunched foil into a horn shape, and also used a card roll for the base of the horn.
 I wrapped the horns in masking tape, then began to apply paper mache.
To get the spirals, I used three different methods. The smallest ridges at the top were created using 3D paint.
The middle sized ridges are made by gluing yarn around the horn. 
 
The largest ridges are made by soaking toilet paper in white glue/water mixture, rolling it up, and applying it to the horn. 
After several layers, I had a very sturdy pair of horns.
I painted the horns with a mixture of acrylic paint and PVA glue.

Once the first coat was dry, I drybrushed brown acrylic paint on to the horns.
The last step was the hot glue the horns to a large hairband. They look pretty good, though they threaten to fall off if I tip my head too far forward. I'm gluing on some wig hair to the hairband to help camouflage it.