Saturday, April 9, 2011

Salty Wenches - Scarlett

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
I worked on Scarlett at the same time as Giselle. It was just easier for me to switch back and forth - it helped me not to get bored while still staying focused on the same project.

Between the two, I had a much harder time finding reference pictures of Scarlett. I just happened to get extremely lucky one day when someone passed along some photos of the girls doing a segment on "Extra!" I was able to figure out what was going on with Scarlett's petticoat, which had been the one piece holding me back.

I had some nasty red poly taffeta lying around that I'd rescued a few years back, so I made the base of skirt out of that. I bought a few yards of silk charmeuse/chiffon striped fabric, and dyed it to match the red poly. Then I made a darker batch of dye and dipped the fabric, slowly ombre-ing the living daylights out of it. I sewed the two layers together and took a deep breath before cutting and tearing away parts of the ombre'd silk to expose the poly underlayer. I think the petticoat is the piece I'm most pleased with.

Didn't even buy a pattern. I just pleated a big rectangle for the skirt and draped the top right on the dressform. It's all hidden by a corset anyway. The fabric itself was custom printed and pattern-wise, it is an exact match to the screenworn costume. However, I do need to go back and tweak the colors and then print the pattern on a lighter-weight cotton rather than the linen you see here. The lace on the sleeves was a remnant of cotton fabric I dyed and cut up.


I bought an ochre linen, made myself a sculpey stamp to match the pattern on her corset, and spent many nights stamping the little flower pattern onto the fabric. The ruffle on top is the fabric cut with pinking shears on the bias, then topped with a velvet ribbon. I bought a cotton fringe trim and dyed that to match, then hand knotted and beaded it. I also made the trim you see along the side of the corset by deconstructing some lace and weaving in the red velvet ribbon.

After spending all that time constructing the dress and corset, I mixed up some watered-down acrylic paint, took the whole thing out back, and sprayed the hell out of it. Sad but true. However, now it has a real gritty, lived-in, dirty wench feel to it, so it was worth it!

They're completely period-inaccurate, but I figured I could fudge it a wee bit, since the skirt is so long.


Horror of horrors - this is a "Peg Bundy" wig! I'm pretty horrible at any kind of hair styling, so I commissioned a good friend of mine who knows a thing or two about wigs to help me out. She's my hero.

One pair of silver and pearl drop earrings, as close to screen-accurate as I could find.

Dragon*Con 2009
Dragon*Con 2010

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Salty Wenches - Giselle

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

I started Giselle back in September of 2008, right after seeing a bunch of my friends' photos from Dragon*Con. They all looked like they had such an amazing time in Atlanta, and I really wanted to become a part of that. A friend of mine - Katy - and I were both huge fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and in particular, the two floozies who smack Jack Sparrow around, Scarlett and Giselle. I knew I wanted to take more than one or two costumes to Dragon*Con, and once Katy agreed to go along with me, I knew which two costumes were going to be at the top of my to-do list. 

I had all of Giselle's fashion fabrics in my stash. 8 yards of pale yellow silk that I overdyed to make the color a bit brighter. 6ish yards of a brocade-like linen blend.

That meant the only things I had to worry about were the strength and lining fabrics in the bodice, the notions, and the trims.

For the bodice, I bought some lace, thin knotted trim, and gray fringe for the neckline, 2 wide laces for the sleeves, and a ton of individual white appliques for the front of the bodice. 

The fringe I sprayed with paint to dull it, then pulled out single strings at random and knotted sections to match the fringe on Giselle's dress.

I started by making the petticoat, and I used up every last bit of yardage I had. I gathered up a big tube of fabric and sewed it right into a waistband, leaving openings at the sides for some false pockets. The ruffle is about 11" wide with two satin ribbons along the bottom.

Giselle actually wears a very simple petticoat with a beautiful chintz paisley apron over top. I decided to forgo the apron and just use the fabrics I had in my stash, since the swirls on the linen provided a great deal of interest.

After the petticoat, it was time to start on the silk robe anglais.

I began with the simple task of knife pleating the skirt and pinned that to the dressform so that I could see how it would look when combined with the bodice.

I used a store-bought pattern for the basic shape of the bodice, made a muslin, and then started reshaping the neck- and waistlines.

Since views of the back of Giselle's dress showed that it laced up the back, I decided to make the bodice as structured as it would be in a theatrical build, rather than a more period-accurate costume. That way, Katy and I wouldn't have to wear layers and layers of period undergarments during a hot Atlanta summer.

I built the bodice with a layer of coutil and a layer of muslin along with the silk fashion fabric. It's fully boned with flat steel boning, and like the film costume, laces up in the back. 

It took me no less than 6 sleeve builds before I was happy with the fit and range of motion. It could still be better, but it suits its purpose.

I made patches out of silk remnants to sew onto the armsceyes of the dress, and put those directly on the sleeves and bodice before stitching the sleeves to the bodice.

Before adding the fringe, I painstakingly cut up the appliques, matching the pattern as closely as I could to the screen-worn costume. Since the appliques are polyester and therefor wouldn't dye well, I decided to paint them with watered-down acrylic paint. After they'd dried, I spent hours hand-stitching them onto the front of the bodice.

Finally, I added the bows, fringe and the sleeve flounces, and attached the skirt.

And then, after everything was perfectly new and put together... I began the terrifying process of distressing the costume.

I'd spent the summer before assisting a designer on the show "Big River", and we'd spent A LOT of our time distressing everything, so I wasn't quite as scared as I would have been if I undertook this on my own with no prior experience. 

I used a combination of sandpapering and spraying with watered-down acrylic, then went back in and darned some areas so it would look like the characters had made an attempt at maintaining their best dresses. I focused primarily on high-stress areas like the armsceyes, shoulders and around the edges of the bodice to match how it looked in the film.

I bought a blonde wig and colored in the roots with a dark brown color, then passed her along to a hair stylist friend of mine, who was awesome enough to restyle a very blah basic wig into a gorgeous 18th-century replica of Giselle's hair.

The shoes aren't anything special: just a pair of "BC Footwear: Mic Check" in clay.

I found a pair of crystal and gold clip-on earrings in a cheapo costume jewelry store that were a very close match to what I could see of Giselle's jewelry in the film.

Scarlett and Giselle made two appearances at D*C: in 2009 and 2010. The first year, Katy wore Giselle, and the second, my friend Cassandra put on the yellow dress!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Green Fairy

One of the very first costume re-creations I undertook was Kylie Minogue's Absinthe Fairy costume from the wonderful film Moulin Rouge. I made this back in 2005 for Halloween in Savannah, before really getting a feel for the world of costume re-creation. I knew I wanted to make a costume from Moulin Rouge, but I'd made a random can can costume a few years before, and really wasn't ready to make another one. That, and I love Kylie. 

Kylie Minogue as the Green Fairy.
So I went out and bought a few yards of heavy cotton for the corset, about 30 yards of 1 1/2" wide green sequin trim, 3 yards of silk chiffon, and a couple different green silk dyes. (The actual costume was gold, and they turned both Kylie and the costume green in post.)

I started with a mockup of the corset:

Then I built the corset. My very first corset, by the way - and not nearly as scary as I'd built it up to be! And thus, the easy part was done.

After that, I spent dozens of hours hand sewing the sequin trim to the corset. If I had found the perfect sequin fabric, I might have been a happier person, but in all honesty, I'm really glad that I chose this method. The sequins look seamless, and there are no stitching lines to be found.

I mixed two different colors to dye the chiffon (I think a chartreuse and grass green?) and ended up getting REALLY lucky. I was thrilled with the color right out of the dye bath. I haven't gotten so lucky with any other dye experiments since.


I originally stitched strings of sequin fringe along the bottom of the corset, but these were later replaced by beaded trim after I moved to New York. 

I bought t-strap dance shoes with the thought that maybe they'd be more comfortable than regular high heels... Not necessarily true. But they were comfortable enough! I wanted them to be beige, and then, again, revisited and improved them a few years later. This time, I added some Swarovski heat-set crystals in multiple sizes. You know, for more sparkle!

All these revamps were done in 2009, because after much jealous onlooking from afar, I decided to actually GO to Dragon*Con in Atlanta. Cassandra gave me the heads-up about Moulin Rouge night, so I bit the bullet and packed the Green Fairy with four other costumes for one crazy weekend.

With Ashley's gorgeous can can girl.
With Suzanne's stunning Pink Diamonds.

This is one of the many costumes I have that I would absolutely LOVE to do a real photoshoot with. It's all a matter of finding the right photographer and location.