Dressing Ophelia – Complete!

She’s done!  In fact, she’s been done for a week, but I wanted to get a few nice photos.  I had a lot of fun at Mile Hi Con, too, and took home 1st place in the adult category!  Nick and I took these photos yesterday – so Happy Halloween, too!



I did all the beading in about 12 hours total, using about a dozen types of stones and glass: pearls, rose & crystal quartz, aventurine, amazonite, jade, jasper, garnet, labradorite, and others.  I even got to use a friend’s great embroidery machine to add some much needed detail. I still have a little beading to do; my tiny pearls for the sleeves just got in this week.  But overall I’m really thrilled with the outcome and I can’t wait to wear it again!

Dressing Ophelia – Part 2

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. IMG_2370

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!

Dressing Ophelia – Part 1

opheliaI’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!IMG_2362IMG_2364

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 areIMG_2366 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!