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Couture Costuming

Archive for September 2011


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The Out of This World exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center kicks off on Oct. 1 with an inter-galactic invasion led by Florida’s 501st Legion and the Real Tampa Ghostbusters. Costumed characters will begin their march to the History Center along downtown Tampa’s Riverwalk in Cotanchobee-Ft. Brooke Park at 1 p.m Saturday Oct 1. The procession begins at the Marriott Waterside, traveling east to the History Center.

The actual exhibit will feature more than 30 costumes and related objects from science fiction films and television programs such as, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Terminator, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Batman.


Written by rhymeswithstitch

September 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm

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Magic, and a whole lot of repurposed items – Meg’s Saga

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The Old Table cloth.

This black, faux-leather table cloth was originally purchased at Walmart by my Mother, for her candle business. It was intended as a display cloth for shows and parties, but ended up not looking all that hot after a few wax spills. It was then retired to the scrap heap, where several years later, it was torn up and used again for an emergency Halloween costume. It proved itself to be its own personal sauna, even on a 50 degree night. Following that night it proved to be about as washable as a rabid cat, so the remnants, were shoved even farther to the bottom of the heap.

Fast forward three or four years to the great era of unemployment. Zero budget for costuming. BEST convention in the whole world already paid for. A ton of weight lost, rendering the usual costuming wardrobe saggy, baggy and creeping up on useless. What’s a girl to do? Dig furiously through her house in search of inspiration. As it turns out, I had two fabrics which I had a whole lot of: Black faux-leather and a strange, unplaceable color of taffeta. First thought: “Balls.” second thought: “TO THE INTERNET!” where I found (http://crissycatt.deviantart.com/art/victorian-bodice-147378731). “OHMIGOD I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT IT!” “Oh wait, it’s not for sale. I don’t have any money and it’s a sample size isn’t it?”  Ladies and Gents, the day I’m a size four, is a cold day in hell. My skeleton probably isn’t a size four.  I can probably get away with wearing a size four as a finger puppet.


“Oh hello Giselle! Is that Gucci?”

“Nooooo Claudia, it’s a new designer out of Paris! Gucci is so last season.”

Yeah, enough of that.

Any way, we all know my confidence is like a giant Frankenstein wall switch. It’s either on and creating new life, or it’s completely off and there’s a fair chance that I’m dead on a slab somewhere. So I thought: “I could do that with this ugly, wax covered old table cloth scrap!”

Enter The Wood Burner,

After many hours of blood, swearing and manic bouts of crying and mournful, longing, concept sketches, I did not turn into Edgar Allen Poe, but the bodice looked something like a black plastic trash bag. It felt a lot like shopping at Lane Bryant all over again, except I didn’t have to pay eighty dollars or deal with Mall traffic. I wanted those damned cut-outs, if it killed me and everybody I knew. If I was going to ruin this and be stuck following all my friends around with a sewing kit and a hot glue gun in sweats, shame and safety pin necklaces, I was going to go out with a bang. Or at least a fizzle of melted plastic and some third degree burns. I needed a wood burner, or a soldering iron. Asking around, an extremely tool savvy friend said he had a wood burner in his shop that I could borrow. Well, as it turns out, he didn’t actually have one. The thing is, I attract people who are a lot like me, so he pretty much had to go out and get one to satisfy the wood burning tool bug. Wood burning tool? Bagged. The table cloth turned out to be a thin layer of rubber over cotton duck cloth, meaning that when it came in contact with a 700 degree wood burner, it couldn’t have done better. Now, it made Jamie’s living room smell like burning chemical death and I still fully believe that her brother was literally smoked out of his bedroom by this process, but it worked like a charm. I burned away the negative space in the textile, rather than making my own design, forming a lacework of ‘tooled leather’. It took the better part of the morning, but the internet had gone out and my crazy ADD concentration bit kicked in until Jamie got off work. Like the good sport she is, there were no complaints about the house smelling like a burning tire factory soaked in chemical waste. It was beautiful, but the edges needed to be cleaned up and Jamie wasn’t even mad at me yet!

The Cuticle Scissors,

I took the whole thing to visit our resident Evil Scientist, Mark in hopes that he’d have a few ideas about cleaning up the ragged, charred, edges. He looked, marveled, and uttered the best word ever: “Wow”. He did some fiddling with his soldering iron, gave me a piece of wood to work on and suggested going back in with the wood burner. Which I did, a little bit, but ended up taking Jamie’s insane, detail oriented, idea, except, I don’t own surgical scissors. I do, however, happen to have the next best thing: cuticle scissors. Cuticle scissors are tiny, super sharp, curved, scissors some women use to clip the flesh around their fingernails to make them look cleaner and prettier. Lucky me, I was genetically blessed with perfect, long, oval shaped fingernails with non-existent cuticles. I do happen to have dark, unruly, eyebrows. Another use for miniature sharp scissors? Eyebrow trimming and shaping. Know what’s also great? A curved scissor to cut out tiny, details out of a material made to be generally the consistency of hide, the same stuff you clip off your fingers. Worked like a charm. A four and a half hour of steady concentration charm. Now, I was ready to get some help fitting this monstrosity.

Zip ties:  Not Just for Getting A Date Anymore!

Believe it or not, the other RWS girls are actually super helpful, nice and take classes on fitting things. In one afternoon, the table cloth, looked more like an actual garment and less like something I picked off the Lane Bryant sale rack, wore shamefully to a New Year’s party where everybody else looked sparkly and fabulous and endured the DJ asking if he could take a shower behind my outfit later. Progress! Still the whole thing rumpled up. “Norm has some heavy duty zip ties you could use as boning,” suggested Jamie. “I have those too.” I said crossly. Yep, of all the people who NEED to own the hostage-taking kind of zip ties. It’s a shame I bought them to fix my bed. There could have been a great story there. I snipped off the head and the tail of each zip tie, two to a channel, three in the back busk area, resulting in the use ten zip ties to give the garment structure. Needless to say, my bed is still broken, but my costume looks great!  Priorities. You can sleep when you’re dead. I finished off the bodice with a gift of ribbon and a purse full of change of fabric from Rainbow’s End.


I got a fabulous book from the library Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress, 1800-1909  to help me with my brain storming for the skirt of this monstrosity. As it turns out, the whole thing is filled with draft-it-yourself patterns, helpful hints, history and notes from the costumers! It even lists in the bibliography, another fantastic book (http://www.amazon.com/Corsets-Crinolines-Norah-Waugh/dp/0878305262) which is the be-all-end-all corset book. Good book? No, the best book. With the help of my new friend, I settled on a few patterns I liked, and went to work. The skirt, turned out beautifully, but it was missing something. Turn the page and guess what was there? A bustle. “No, no, no, NO IAM NOT wearing another, big, uncomfortable puffy thing!”  Wanna make a bet? Jamie laid claim to my crinoline, which was my first thought for it. If I was going to wear something puffy, cumbersome and hot, it might as well be something I already owned. The thing was, it looked a little ‘off’ with my ‘color choices’ (yeah right, color sentences.) and she reaaaaaaaly wanted it. More so, it actually looked good with her costume. I can’t say ‘no’ to that. Seriously, she looks beautiful. Back to square one. The book talked about all kinds of bustles, from bum rolls to cages, but the best one I found looked like a giant, over-stuffed, peacock tail. It looked like something one might see on the back of a 1980’s cocktail dress. “But I don’t have any tulle left but two rolls of pink and it has to be stiff and uncomfortable!”  That’s when I remembered the lamp shade.

Back when I had money, one of my favorite hobbies was finding neat old lamps and fixing them up. Art Deco, 60’s Space Race, 70’s Hippy Dippy Trippy. All of my friends loved them, and they disappeared as soon as I finished them, only to make room for more. One lamp that I found had a double shade. One shade, was long and narrow and it housed the main bulb, while a larger, barrel sized, shade made out of wicker, housed five, smaller, decorative bulbs. The smaller shade had been badly damaged by dry mold, so I had to remove the paper and replace it with a stiff nylon netting. Something which could stand up to the necessary hundred and some odd degrees inside the shade. I ended up finishing the lamp off with a decorative, neon bulb which sat above the shade however and scrapped the net shade. Years later, I gleefully ripped it off the metal, unfolded the four layers and set to work on making a bustle to end all bustles.

The 1989 Cotton Slip

When I was a kid, my Mom used to make all of my clothes. Other little girls had beautiful, department store dresses of taffeta, velvet and beautiful, embroidered, lace. Jessica McClintock made everything for little girls then, from bathing suits, to Sunday dresses. The Girls department of Jacobson’s looked like a fairy ball room. My Mom took me there with a sketch book and scribbled down all the things she liked. We always left empty handed and damnit, I wanted to be a pretty princess too! T-Rex needed a beautiful fairy princess over lord. Nobody understood this but me. Instead, my Mom would sit at her sewing machine on our flimsy card table, and roar over bulky, quilting cotton, seams of Daisy Kingdom and the Jessica McClintock patterns. She even made my underwear. It wasn’t until years later, that I realized what a genius she was. She saved money for important things like books and art supplies that way and still kept me in beautiful dresses that could actually be washed and stand up to a kid whose nickname was ‘Tigger’ because she bounced everywhere and got into everything with creativity. She also, made most of her own clothes! Dozens of Mother-Daughter outfits, dresses and underthings from a different era edged in lace and ribbon. She burnt out the motor on her fist machine making baby clothes. Yeah, my Mom is a respectable seamstress; even if she is a four can cook. Our house is still full of all the cool things she made over the years before she lost her eyesight, even a few things she’s made because nothing stops her when she wants something badly enough. So digging around, for more tulle, I found a slip she’d intended to replace the elastic in. It’s one of the oldest things I can remember her wearing. The proof is in the pictures as well, as it was made in 1989. I’m sure she was never prouder to hear: “Hey Mom, can I have this for my costume?” Or not. That too. She’d given up on fixing it though, so the answer was: ‘Yes, they don’t make slips like that anymore, it’ll be much cooler”. Yup. That’s my Mom, patron Saint of Insanity. So the lamp shade, found a home on the ass of my childhood. Guess what? It looks great. Moreover, I’ll probably seam rip it right off the back of it and wear it as-is later. It is beautiful, and as she said, it is much cooler than the alternatives.

Ugly Renaissance Fair Shirt,

Melodie, (i.e. MelMom) once described sleeves as “ham covers”. I love this term. Mostly, because it’s true. My upper arms look like mutton sleeves in the rain. When I wave ‘good bye’, the entire zip code is wished a very good goodbye. The bodice was beautiful, the skirt was beautiful. Everything in it’s place, right down to the painting I did with a very thin brush in metallic paint to echo the textile in the bodice. The thing was, I didn’t want a repeat of last year, where my Zombie Prom dress was strapless and I looked like Shamu’s inbred, hard drinkin’ cousin. Ugh. Not again. I needed ham covers! I decided on black, stretch velvet. I’d find an ugly black stretch velvet shirt at the thrift store and cut it up like Edward Scissorhands to stitch into my bodice. Still, I didn’t exactly have a whole lot in the budget and I only got to visit one thrift store. Again balls. So I asked the MelMom if she had one she was looking to get rid of, as she’s in the process of trashing things out (As I should be doing as well). She did better; she gave me two awesome things to use as ham covers. I got it all home, however, and quickly drew up plans for the fantastical possibilities. Most of them looked like the entire cast of Rupaul’s Drag Race got into the wardrobe of Dark Shadows. It just didn’t look right. More closet digging, as I remembered my hippie-goth phase. Thus surfaced the ugliest shirt known to man. A filmy, black, hippie shirt made entirely out of polyester, with falling off navy blue embroidery. The seams were worn thin and I distinctly remembered not being able to get it on last year. As in, at all. I wore it to Renaissance fairs abound with a sparkly black corset and a raspberry and black colored taffeta skirt and a white rose shoved down by highly illegal cleavage. Yup, lots of long, creepy, hugs from forty year old men who had no idea I was fifteen. Lucky me, I’m down to the same size I was when I was fifteen. The shirt fits, so I decided to wear it. A few folds, some tugging and BAM, light as air, billowy sheer, Art Nouveau sleeves. Perfect!

 Add in a jacket used in two other costumes, some odds and ends from a commission or two and days of old. 25 cent thrift store shoes and there you have it folks.

                                                  The long road to being Cinderella.

                                             Magic, and a whole lot of repurposed items.

Melodie totally gakked this from Meg’s personal Facebook page because it really belonged here too.

I love Meg and Sewing!

Written by rhymeswithstitch

September 24, 2011 at 10:38 am

Posted in Cons, Sewing

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Another book I love

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Actually Meg has been using this book and reminded me of it the other day. Great resource, look for it at your library.

It is part of an extended series spanning Medieval to almost modern.

Period Costume for the Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800-1909  Jean Hunnisett (Author) & Janette Haslam (Illustrator)

Written by rhymeswithstitch

September 20, 2011 at 2:27 pm

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Meg and Jamie don’t just minion for me, they spread their minion-ness to other interests too.

Below is evidence.

Click on it to read



You can find out more about the talented Richard Lee Byers at his website or on Facebook.

Written by rhymeswithstitch

September 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm

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Painted Lady

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Pictured is Meg’s latest embellishment project – this corset was to be ‘made steampunk’  for the lovely Julie from Stonehill. Meg used fabric paint, ribbon and a tassel to create a new look from a plain black corset.  Modeled by Jamie

Written by rhymeswithstitch

September 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Crafting, Uncategorized

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DragonCon Costuming Track

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Any panels I attend at DragonCon are going to be from the Costuming track. And every year it gets better. More crowded, but I guess that is what they want. Me, I miss being able to camp out on a chair all day, totally selfishly soaking up all the brilliance coming off the front of the room. Le sigh.

Btw, I love the new layout of the room, but they need a new projector stand, that one blocked more than it showed.

I made it to Tayloring (sic) – Chris Mueller was on the ball and I really was interested in what was said about interfacing. I’ve made all those mistakes. I learned more about flat-lining – good stuff

I skipped the basics panel but was back for the molding and casting props panel. This was my first panel with “The Engineer Guy” – great addition to the track. Good speaker, very soft sales pitch with lots of info and he handled the audience like a pro.  Would recommend him and all his products.

Saturday I attended You can Actually do that? – Scott Merrill is brilliant, ‘nuf said.

Meet the Winners was really interesting, more fun than watching the judging last year.

Life Casting was “The Engineer Guy” and he once again did a great job. I would love to see more of what you can do with your life cast. 

I was disappointed by the cancelation of provocative patterns in Fetish Fashion, but standing in that line was pretty entertaining.

I wasn’t able to get into Dragon After Dark once again. I just can’t do those long lines.  Someday maybe.

Sunday’s Costumes of History was fun, but I think there were too many cooks for the kitchen. Of course, I could sit and listen to Freddy Clements talk for hours. He had this amazing ‘tin man’ costume based on the outfit men wore under armor. And it was sewn with ironing board covering material, so cool.

Pamela Cole was in her element talking about historical underwear, lol, seriously, the discussion on silhouette was one of my favorite of the con.

I hated the way we were broke up in groups to do the Electronics and Animation, but only because I could only attend one. sigh. The speaker/demo I picked was Dia Campbell. She was a hoot. She showed us easy lighting on fabric perfect for the electronic-phobe.

When I finally found the Fashion Show it was almost over. It is a great idea and I hope they keep it for next year. I was surprised that more dealers didn’t get involved.

The Curvy Corsets was pretty basic, nothing I haven’t heard in previous years.  But I did get to see some gorgous samples from the audience and talk to some talented folks.

I did make the Andrew Clement SPX demo, he had some major tech issues but he was a professional and kept plugging away.

Monday was supposed to be my long day at the con but the Botul-coli-monella shortened my day considerably.  I did make it to Fabric Dying to watch “the great Rit debate” hehehe.

This brings me to something I plan to pass along to Lee, the king of the track – Freddie, Scott, Chris, Pam and a few others do a really good job of balancing the info for the costuming track between those of us who are learning and on a budget, and folks who can drop big bucks to recreate characters.  

The really good panels share the whole spectrum of ideas. I loved seeing the foam board transformer as much as I loved the Daft Punk outfit that cost more than my car.  And I don’t want someone dissing on one end or the other.

This isn’t to say, I think someone who pulls a towel out of the cabinet and says they are the old spice guy should get the same kudos as someone who worked all year on an amazing blinking wizbang with stilts, just enjoy each for what they bring to the table.

I love sewing!

Written by rhymeswithstitch

September 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm

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DragonCon Overview

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A grand time was had by all, which is saying a lot since we all came down with Botul-coli-monella. At least it was toward the end of the weekend.

I got through three costumes and had a blast at the panels. I learned how to light up dresses, something I’ve wanted  to pick up since the first episode of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings appeared. (and what a frightening show that is.) I enjoyed a vibrant discussion on dying (who knew Rit dyes could be a point of contention) and ignored the misspelling of “Tayloring” to enjoy the panel on the subject of tailoring. 

Anyway, three costumes – One comfy one – A modern Cobbler’s elf, which I don’t have a full picture of, but I’m hoping for pics at Necro, so here are the ears.

One miserably hot one – Zombie Prom – new to D*C but originally from Necro. Christina’s is new.

And the new one – More fun than I expected. My skull had a flickering light and we got fewer blank looks than I would have thought from the crowds.

Next time I would actually write on the boxes, Cigars, Cigarettes, Brains? Or something like that.

Bonus, they were actually comfy.

I love sewing!

Written by rhymeswithstitch

September 9, 2011 at 3:48 pm

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