Ophelia is finally a dress. Tada!
More on how she got there later!
I finally found time on Monday to get the dress pieced together, as well as the collar in place (sleeves are coming up today!). I decided the dress would be more period appropriate without lining and worn with a chemise underneath instead. This is a good choice because with all the beadwork and pearls that will eventually be installed on the dress, it won’t make for an easy cleaning. I’ll probably still put in some underarm shields to save myself some struggle later, too!
That still requires some work for the collar, a facing, something. Since the collar of this dress shows the same gold accent on the cuffs and above the hem, I went that direction and did a sort of inside-out neckline facing. This is something I learned in the SCA as it’s an easy way to add the common neckline detail seen in a lot of medieval clothing. It’s prepared just the same way as a typical neckline facing, only with the facing coming to the outside instead of being hidden inside the garment.
To make this reverse facing especially successful, finish your inside shoulder seams using a French seam or other treatment (I simply folded under the raw edges of the seam and ironed them in place). Then you won’t have to be concerned with any raw edges of seams showing at your neckline.
Here’s where the inside-out/backwards part comes in. Instead of right side to right side, sew the pieces together right side of facing to wrong side of garment. This makes it so you can display the facing (the right side of the facing, without any seams or interfacing!) on the outside of the garment! It still enables a really tidy edge, but you get a nice contrast.
I went in after everything was ironed out (don’t forget to trim and grade those inside edges so the collar edge sits very nice; I just used my serger) and stitched the bottom edge down, as can be seen in the photo. Since you have this raw edge, zig zag stitching or covering the edge with trim is advisable, though if you feel like going to the trouble of hemming and stitching it down, that’s a nice look, too! I think I’ll be using a pretty strand of top-drilled pearls to accent the REST of the beading that will go into this dress. I liked the more earthy look of the offset pattern in the beads.
So there we are! I’ve also finally received all the beads I’m going to use on this costume, so it’s just a matter of getting the trim on sleeves and hem, and getting the beading done! The wig is also in my possession, and I think I’ll toss in a few flowers in as well! Just a few more steps and Ophelia should be finished!
How are your projects going?
It’s October! Fall starts, squash and pumpkins are in season, cooler days, maybe even some snow! And finally, Halloween!
I often get comments from my non-costuming friends that Halloween must be an easy holiday for me… just head into the costume closet, pull something out, tada, set for Halloween! Oddly enough, nothing could be farther from the truth! Because so many of my costumes are tied to sources not in the mainstream, they’re typically not recognizable to the general public (ah, the downfall of cosplay!). Not to mention that even if I’m doing something recognizable, I admit to a bit of fussiness and perfectionism in the creation of it. i mean, I’ve been creating costumes and competing for over ten years now… I guess I just can’t help myself a little!
Last year I wore one of my favorites, Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, to my elementary school. It was a success, but not as Sophie… Everyone thought I was Laura from Little House on the Prairie! Oops! I can definitely see where the resemblance might be:
Can’t really argue with that! And being that those were some of my favorite books from my childhood, too, I decided I was perfectly willing to accept that conclusion. Funny how things work out!
This year Nick and I are planning on Princess Leia and Han Solo; pretty recognizable characters! I still find myself fussing over details (let me tell you, the ordeal of finding a very soft-handed fabric for Leia’s dress… well, I can’t really complain since it was on the search for this fabric that I ran into Mondo and Michael C.!), but I’m also willing to let things go! For example, Nick’s costume is mostly altered secondhand clothing; more information about the process will come out as I continue working on them.
What’s your plan for Halloween?
One of the unfortunate and hilarious side effects of the costuming I do is the grand and beautiful messes I make. Some of the best have been dyeing messes. These inevitably end up looking like murder scenes in the bathroom, as you can see. This was my initial attempt at a gradient dyeing of Vanille’s skirt. Nick complained for days and actually began avoiding that bathroom. I just laughed and drove the sewing machine faster.
Gradient dyeing is an experimental art form, from what I can tell. I have never been able to discern any methodology to what generally becomes a mess of green hands and stained grout lines. With this final failure (I used spray fabric paint on wet fabric, thinking it would soften the gradient, and only succeeded in streaking the crap out of the dye), I turned to my greatest teacher, the Internet, for more information.
With the gradient dyeing trend from last year in full swing, a whole new slew of information made itself available as people turned to DiY alterations and projects. The dye experts over at Dharma Trading got enough questions that they finally decided to outline the whole thing, called Ombré. It did seem pretty similar to the techniques I tried when gradient dyeing my Yuna side skirt, for example: dipping and adjusting and dipping and adjusting.
My interest in using the spray fabric paint as opposed to Ombré dyeing was because it’s a circle skirt and not a rectangle of fabric like detailed in their instructions. How on earth would I get a circle to hang straight across? I can see now that I actually used some of the points they discussed in the Ombré directions. I will probably give this another shot using a dip dye and a hanger (or two, to avoid the fabric touching each other and streaking) with extra clips; with proper adjustment, I should be able to get the skirt to carefully hang straight… maybe not perfectly, but dyeing is always a little unpredictable! And messy. Did I mention messy?
I will stop making up stupid names for days of the week. Thanks.
Today is shaping up to be great! I finally have a weekend day absolutely free of any prior obligations and the time is open for me to do anything I want to do! Over the past month or two I’ve been able to cross a lot of big projects off my to do lists, all the home improvements Nick and I wanted to do have gotten done (on deck for this week is a post about our shelves repurposed as… well, shelves!), and a lot of family obligations for an upcoming wedding have been completed. It feels great to cross those things off my list and feel prepared for the start of fall. I try to do a little bit on projects whenever I have a spare moment, but having a full day is a good way to get really focused for me.
So today I plan on indulging in a day of sewing work, plowing through Ophelia and Vanille’s outfits as far as I can… and well, maybe playing a little Sims 3. ‘Cause you know. So I’ll get started here in a few minutes… Once Disaster DIY is over…
What do you like to do with a day all your own?
This was not a terribly technical portion, mostly it was just a really tedious job. The details of Ophelia’s dress include a lion rampant along the skirt hem in a pretty gold. What’s a lion rampant you say? It’s basically one of those lion designs where it’s up on its hind feet and roaring or something. It’s a heraldic symbol often seen on family shields and things.
So! I went on a hunt for a design I liked. There were a lot of nice lions rampant out there, and I wanted to get close to what the design on the skirt looks like, but I also wanted something interesting and to my preference. That’s when I found this cool lion rampant with a forked tail! That was totally the guy.
Next, I needed to size it up. At 5’2”, I am fun sized and I know it. In Ophelia’s portrait, the lion starts just at the top of the gold trim on the skirt and doesn’t quite come to her knee. So while I initially thought I would need a large design, it turns out the best size for me is really just about a regular sheet of paper sized. That made printing pretty convenient!
The next portion was one of the tedious parts. There are of course of a lot of little scrolly bits and fur on knees and things, and I carefully cut out the design all the way around. Then there was YET MORE TEDIOUS TRACING. After I affixed a section of the gold charmuse to some WonderUnder (WU is a paper-backed fusible webbing that comes in several weights. You can use it to basically make appliqués, bonding fabric to fabric, or even fabric to other porous materials), I started tracing the design onto the paper backing from the original print. Tracing the design onto the paper backing means I don’t have to mark the fabric and risk getting a mark in a place I don’t want. Yikes!
Once again, there was MORE TEDIOUS cutting, but I came out with a really good result!
Which awaits application to the skirt of the dress, when it’s time. Using the WonderUnder makes it really easy: all I have to do is iron it on! Ta da!
I’ve gotten several questions about the process of making the wings that I wore along with my Neo-Queen Serenity costume, so I wanted to come out with a tutorial on how to get the look. It was one of my favorites, and the wings were a super simple part of the project! They’re fun not just for this costume, but any costume that has large, floating style wings. I used the same structure for my wings that went along with Flutterina, too.
12 gauge steel wire
Garment wings will go with
Start out with designing the size and shape of wing that you want. Serenity has a sort of softly rounded traditional open wing shape, but butterfly, fairy wings, or teardrop shapes will work, too. This won’t work as well for shapes with a lot of small offshoots; all of the support is coming from the top, so a solid shape is best.
Once you have your wing shape, cut your fabric according to your pattern and finish the edges. I’ve finished the edges of mine using the rolled hem on my serger, but you can use a blanket stitch or another finishing method. Now, cut a section of wire twice as long as the top edges of your wing (or the span of both wings) PLUS about a 18-20 inches. Starting at the tip of one wing, create a general shape for the wire – it doesn’t have to be exact – of your wing. Before you move on to the second one, create an upside-down U shape; basically, two prongs pointing down:
Next, install some channels on the back of your garment. Important note: the garment pretty much needs to be fitted close and structured, like a boned bodice or corset. If you can wear a structured garment underneath somewhere, that will still work, more on that in a moment. There are two ways to go about this. The Easy Way is to simply install the channels the same distance apart as the prongs on your wing frame on the outside back of the garment. The Slightly Less Easy Way is to install the channels on the inside of the garment – effectively hiding them – and create buttonhole openings through the garment so you still have access to them. Referring back to having your structured garment underneath, this works the same way: add your channels to the structured garment, and put buttonholes on the outside garment to provide access to the channels. Make these channels about 4-5 inches long running vertically, and leave the tops open:
Finally, take the double sided tape and run it along the length of the wire, from the base of the U to the tip (don’t cover any of the part that goes into the channels). Then, just carefully apply the very upper edge of your wings to the wire frame, slightly wrapping the top hem around the wire and tape. Insert the base into the channels and ta-da, you’re done! Your wings are fully adjustable at this point, if you want them to stick out to the sides or straight to the back, just bend your wire accordingly. For safety, apply just a little dab of hot glue to the tips to keep the sharp wire from poking anything.
You can add additional touches to your wings if you like; for example, with the Flutterina wings, I used Wonder Under to add some colored spots to the butterfly style wings. Just don’t add anything too heavy! Enjoy!
I’m so excited about this project! Ophelia is my absolute favorite John Williams Waterhouse painting, and one of my just plain old favorite paintings. I’m a big fan of the Pre-Raphaelite painters in general; I love the source material of classic legends, fairytales, and myths, and the deliriously beautiful figures and ladies. I think this was fantasy art before fantasy art existed.
I’m going at this in a very specific manner. I wanted really to work in ‘period’ fabrics, but as Pre-Raphaelite costume design has little-to-no real historical basis, I’ve let that one slide a little. I was very interested in going with a dupioni silk (a rough woven, slubbed silk) in a pale gold and blue crossweave, but the color and style I wanted was very expensive. I was willing to pay for it, until I came across a wonderful synthetic dupioni at a wholesale clearance at Wesco Fabrics. It was only $3 a yard, had the crossweave colors I wanted, and was actually a little better that the dupioni I’d been considering – less shiny! – so I couldn’t pass that up!
The second fabric I went hunting for was the gold for the trim throughout the dress. This was difficult, too, as I wanted a color well suited to the blue-gold dress fabric, needed something lighter that would be appropriate for appliqué, but wasn’t a shiny plastic metallic. Here too I checked out a few more expensive silks, but finally came across this synthetic charmeuse in a warm, rich gold that went perfectly with the dress fabric. It has a bit of a metallic sheen without being SHINY.
So I’m great for materials at this point! I’ve ordered gemstone chips for the beadwork on the cuffs and hem; I still need seed pearls for the sleeves. I’ve also completed my alterations to the pattern… here’s how that went!
This medieval style of dress would typically be known as a cotehardie, a closely fitted garment with sleeves. There are LOTS of patterns for this style of dress, commercial patterns included. I started with one – the Butterick 4827 – that has a good look, the fitted bodice and sleeves and flared skirt I’m looking for. It also had the style of neckline I was looking for; while it’s possible to alter for that, it’s of course easiest to start closer to your final product.
However, one thing about the pattern I didn’t like… the super princess seams. These are clearly absent from the painting (alas, there is a lack of seam lines at all, but I digress), and as princess seams are considered a more modern application, I wanted to avoid it. For me, the simple answer was to draft them out! I did this by carefully folding and laying out the pattern pieces until the seam was matched up, much like one would while sewing them together. Then I traced over the combined pattern pieces using tracing paper to create an entirely new pattern piece. I did leave the princess seams in the back; while it’s only partially period, it’s also serving to keep that fitted appearance that I wanted while still being somewhat hidden in the back. The curve of the side seams were deepened to accommodate for the fitting that was drafted out by removing the princess seams.
As you saw from yesterday, I did some additional fitting using some scrap that later got turned into a cute apron! I wrapped the waist with a spare piece of fabric to check how the fit would appear with the belt on; it serves a great purpose of helping to cinch in the waistline for a better fit, as well! I’ll also be adding a wider flare to the skirt at the hips to get that extra, dramatic fullness!
Next time: Dun dun dun! Finding and creating the lion rampant appliqué. Whew! Lots of cutting.
I’m also thinking Tuesday posts will be costuming oriented… I do love a theme!