Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Swedish Chef

My brothers’ costume for my 21st Birthday party was the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. We thought about making a whole padded suit for him to wear, but decided that it would be too cumbersome. Anyway, the costume was very easy to pull together. First I found many pictures online to help me decide on what fabric patterns that I needed to choose. Also another excuse to watch more Muppets. “Research”.
Moving on, I first made the shirt which is just a button through shirt, however I had to grade the pattern up a bit as my brother is not quite so small. I cut it as big as I could, allowing for the fabric width. I then made the chef hat. I was surprised at how easily this came together. I thought that it would be a lot harder to make, but I was wrong. For this hat and the apron I just used a white polycotton (cheap). I then made the long pants which are just an elastic waist. For this I used my trusty boxer shorts pattern and made them long. That way I knew that they would definitely fit my brother. And on the evening, I painted in his eyebrows using black eyeshaddow powder and painted on his moustache with black eyeliner. I was going to apply a crepe beard as moustache, but my brother would not sit still long enough and got a little upset when I told him how hard it is to get the spirit gum off his skin and the fact that he may eat a little of the hair over the evening. Picky people. Though, I must say that I was really happy at how it turned out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Grim Reaper

Another costume for my 21st Birthday party was the Grim Reaper from Monty Python The Meaning of Life. I made this for my dad to wear. We are all great aficionados of Monty Python – it kinda runs in the family. And I will probably make more Monty Python themed costumes for my male relatives. Anyway, this was for my dad.

I used a basic cape pattern and pretty much made it straight as the pattern said. It turned out really well, and I love how it falls and moves. I “researched” the film and worked that they probably used something not unlike black panne velvet, as the robe has a slight velour sheen to it. So this is what I used. It was a bit of a pain in a few instances as the fabric stretches and the pattern is not designed for a stretch fabric. But I persisted, and it looks great. The only change I would make it to change the frog at the neck as it just kept slipping out. Some stud clips would probably work better for the next wear. Which is Halloween this year. Scythe and all.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cancan ensemble

I thought that I would do a bit of a backlog of costumes that I have made in the past. I am starting with the costume from my 21st Birthday party. I made a cancan outfit. (And learnt quite a few things in the process).

The first thing I had to decide was what costume I wanted to make for my party. And since it was my birthday, I wanted something elaborate and fancy. Hence the cancan dancer costume. I used a mccalls pattern. The fabric I managed to pick up a delustered satin on sale at Spotlight for $5 / metre.
It was quite a huge undertaking for one of my very first costumes, but it was what I wanted to make. So, I made the bodice first, adding boning into it. In hindsight, I probably should have left the boning out of the bodice and instead worn a corset underneath, as it was uncomfortable and did not really do much for the line of the garment. The next time I wear the dress, I will make note to wear a proper corset underneath, remove the boning from the bodice and just have it as a piece over the top. Though I must say that at that stage, I was not making full boned corsets for cinching like I am now. Another problem that I had with the bodice was that the straps drove me up the wall all night, as they kept falling off my shoulders. A bit of body tape will solve the problem for next time, but it something that I should think about in the future with my costumes – test run wearing.

The skirt turned out beautifully. It was really simple to pull together and didn’t require much in the way of work – just a bit of gathering into the waistband. The petticoat underneath was a whole other story. It took a long time to gather all the fabric onto the base skirt. But I was so happy with how it turned out and the way that it looked on. Next time that I make a cancan petticoat, I will however try using a different fabric for the ruffles. I used polycotton, as it was cheap and you need quite a bit for the skirt. But I think that a lace or tulle would work and look pretty cool too. However, I must say that you really do need a good waistband on the skirt as it weighs a tonne. I did change the pattern here, in that I used a button and hole to do up the petticoat, so that it was strong enough to hold up, and adjustable for future use.

I also did not anticipate how hot you can get in that dress. Not only did I have the dress layers, I also had stockings with round toe t-bar shoes and bloomers on underneath. However, it did look good. The bloomers was more for my comfort under the skirt, but for next time I intend to make a pair of ruffled panties to wear. I have also changed the shoes – probably boots next time as the high heels were uncomfortable for a long period and a little too big for me. It would also probably be a lot cooler if I changed the stockings to very large fishnet as it would be cooler than the dense thick tights.

But I look at it as an experience time. You only learn more from your mistakes. Though storing the dress is interesting. The petticoat takes up a heap of space and I have since bought a space bad to try to flatten it. I must get out the costume and did some more fixing on it for another occasion. I think that I will also add some more embellishment to the bodice. Maybe a contrasting colour fringing would look good. If I make some more changes, I will certainly get up new photos.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Victorian Ensemble

Well, I have decided to finally create my very first Victorian outfit. Including full historical undergarments to match. I have a couple of historical costume patterns for Victorian, but I am not completely happy with the look. I want something a bit more elaborate with layers. So at the moment I am thinking that I will have to mesh a few patterns together to get the correct overall image. My inspiration currently comes from a bunch of fashion plates I found online of bustle dresses which is the era of Victorian dresses I want to focus on.

But now, my cousin tells me that she wants to go to a Victorian outing and wear a full outfit – in 3 weeks. Hmmm, we shall see. I have a corset that I could make do with (I want to make a new one now that I know what I am doing). But I could probably get most of the skirt part done. And make do with some other sort of bodice or jacket. I guess that the skirt is kind of the most important part of the outfit. (Considering that that is where the main shape of the era comes from).


So, it turns out that I am going to piece together a couple of patterns. Now that I have drawn up a design of how I want my outfit to appear, I am moving on to create it. I ended up deciding to stay away from a Victorian dress. Instead going for a two layered skirt with the top layer pulled up at the back. Then adding a corset and bolero jacket.

For the corset (I am really getting handy at making these now). I am using black lace over a blush toned delustred satin, with black satin boning casings. Under this I am wearing a thigh length chemise made from blush coloured lawn. For the over skirt and bolero, I am using a black pinstripe cotton.

In the meantime, I am wearing the skirt in on a Victorian Steam Train Ride. So, I have made it already. I was actually surprised at the pattern. Originally when I bought it I thought that it was a single skirt. However, I now know that it is basically two skirts. The long one with a train underneath (placket at waistline) and the over skirt which is only about knee length and gathered up at the back with a ribbon. So it really does not have a bustle. But in the middle of the Victorian era, the bustle just about disappeared, going into a natural form shape. The two skirts are then sewn to each other at the waist, to make one single garment. I did change the fact that the overskirt is supposed to be cut on the bias. But as I am using the pinstripe, it would have looked really odd to have it bias cut.

Anyway, for this occasion as I have not prepared the corset yet or the bolero (I still need to get some piping and a busk) I am piecing it together with my purple jacquard corset and I have made a black satin peasant blouse / chemise underneath. And I am adding my shawl over the top to stay warm. I even managed to find a lovely black lace parasol on ebay to complete the look.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Medieval Gown - Orange / Red Ensemble

Well, it’s not much of a dress anymore. I did make a dress, out of orange cotton polyester fabric. However, I am not completely happy with how it turned out. For a start it was supposed to have a certain style of sleeve, but I did not have enough fabric when I was cutting it out even though I bought the correct amount as per the instructions on the back of the packet. Anyway, I made it with a straight sleeve, but it really needs some more work done to it.

But moving on, I decided to keep that dress for improvements (maybe for next year as I have tonnes of time to work on it now) and move to a new outfit instead. Not a dress this time. I am using the shirt from my puss in boots costume as it is from a robin hood style pattern (appropriate to the time period). And I made a boned vest to go over it. I deviated from the original pattern, I believe it was a gypsy style, by sewing it with 3 layers; exterior, shapewell interfacing and lining fabric. I put it together like you would with a corset, by sewing the panels together with wrong sides together. I then trimmed the seam down and stitched bias binding tape as a casing for boning over the top of the seam. I used black as a nice contrast to the red of the fabric and to match my puss shirt which is black with red ties for the forearm. I did have to make a few adjustments like cutting away the seam allowance on the straps as I would jut be using bias binding to finish the edges. The next step was to create the back of the bodice as I wanted it to lace up instead of using a zip. I cut this down to remove the seam allowance and folded it over to create a self-facing piece which I covered the stitching of with another piece of boning casing. I then bound around the armhole and neckline with the bias binding. I stitched the shoulder seams in place and added the binding to cover the seam. I then added a lovely 26 black hole eyelets down the back.

I then added some little black buttons sewn where the shoulder strap meets the bodice to cover my dodgy sewing mix up. I should have used the binding on the angle to make it neater, but did not at the time. I also intend to use the buttons in the future as a place to have a cape attached to the bodice without being strangled by ties. I will just sew little button holes to fit on the cape itself and the will hook over the buttons.

I finished the bodice off by stuffing boning into the casings I made. I used heavy duty boning (the strongest plastic stuff I can get) over the bust line and down the back, and the regular boning (from Spotlight – also plastic) in side seams and the back panel seams. This will help to create a nice line when wearing the outfit, so that the bodice will not crease and bend in the wrong places. I then bound the bottom edge of the vest with the black bias binding, and black ribbon cording to lace up the back. This I did the same as you would with a corset: ie. Two laces meeting in the middle. It makes it much easier to lace up as you can even out the lacing tightness easier.

To complete the outfit, I will be wearing black pants and my boots. They’re not really historically accurate boots, but I want to be comfortable and that is the best thing that I have. I was thinking about adding my musketeer sword, but that will just annoy me all day.
So happy with how this finally turned out. I probably could have put a bit more effort into making the vest, but I thought that I was running out time and tried to hurry it along (big mistake). But now I can go back and fix it for the next time. Basically ¾ pants, puss in boots shirt, vest and stockings. My footwear became sneakers (for comfort) instead of boots, but I was comfortable. (If only I had someone who could lace it for me properly.)

As I mentioned before, I wanted to be comfortable for the day, so I just pulled my hair back with a piece of ribbon to keep it out of my face and food for the whole day. Note to self – next year prepare a hat or parasol of some kind. I got a little bit sunburnt sitting out and watching the tournaments and the jousts.

We saw many amazing costumes, so I am already staring to think of outfits for next year. But aside from that it was amazing. There is always something for you to do. Aside from the market stalls (I did spend quite a bit on honey mead – 18% alcohol and jewellery) there is always something to watch. From dancing lessons to medieval games, fencing, music, jousts and tournaments. The stalls were also amazing. Huge range of weaponry (for the men) and me, as well as jewellery, food and leatherwork. Plus heaps more stuff to see. And everything is set up to look exactly like the period. The stallholders and re-enactors even camp there and have whole tents set up. I cannot wait until next year.