Thursday, July 31, 2014

Queen Regina's Purple Dress - Part 2

(Don't forget to read Part 1 first!)

One feature in certain costumes that I really love is the peplum. That is the little overskirt that hangs off a jacket or bodice and accentuates the hips and hides the waistband of the skirt if it's a separate affair.

As I mentioned in the first post, the fabric contracted a little bit under the embroidery, so I had to fiddle around with lining up those pointy, curved peplum pieces to the lining fabric.

Meanwhile, my embroidery machine was whirring away. Every time it finished a flower, I had to rehoop and prep for the next flower. It was kind of like having a two year old need something from you every fifteen minutes. Good practice for future mothering-while-sewing, I guess!

I transferred over the dart marks from the muslin pattern to the bodice pieces using tailor's wax. I prefer wax to chalk as it melts off under the iron, but it's always important to test the fabric as it can leave marks on certain types (particularly light colors).

However, once I'd sewn the darts, I realized it made the bust MUCH too pointy.

So I put the piece back on the form and created a full seam over the bust.

The curve was so extreme and so fussy that I basted the most acute portion of it before running the machine over it.

The lining puckered a bit, but the top fabric went on smoothly and it created a much nicer bustline!

Look at that fancy dress coming together!

Look at all those flowers!

The design was a really nice one that I didn't mind seeing over and over again - thankfully!

I love how the fabric changes in the different lights.

Here I'm drafting the paper pattern for the stiff collar. You'll see that come together in the next post.

Then the embellishments arrived and I had to sort those out on the sleeves. It was really fun to work with such rich beading!


Read more in Part 3!

Queen Regina's Purple Dress - Part 3

Fact. This was my first time doing a big stand-up collar.

I knew the mechanics and drafted a decent pattern as you saw in part 3. But would it come together how I envisioned? Let's see...

Because the pieces were so small, I traced them onto the blue fabric and embroidered the flowers before cutting the pieces out.

I interfaced them and stitched them together... now time to add the trim!

Fact. It is nearly as difficult to find silver and black striped trim as it was to find blue/purple/black floral fabric. We finally located this at Hobby Lobby - it comes in spools of 15 feet. It's shinier than the original Queen Regina costume on "Once Upon a Time", but my customer was fine with that.

It was also wired, but thankfully the wires just slipped right out. I folded under the black edges and stitched one side down. For now, I left the top edge open.

Then I spaced out all of the embellishments! (We collected the embellishments from different vendors on etsy and ebay.)

Pinning the collar in place to see how it holds up...

Here's the whole thing coming together!

Now I had to add the purple pleating. To start with, I traced the collar shape onto some tissue paper.

I then cut the blue tissue into four sections and spaced them out equally onto white tissue. This is to allow extra fabric for pleating equally across the curve.

I used a plum purple chiffon to make the pleats.

Then came the pinning.... to start with I pinned the pleats across the top, right sides together.

To hide the seams and the white interfacing, I added a layer of black chiffon in between, and spray painted the white interfacing. Then I turned everything right side out...

And pinned and basted those fussy little pleats in place! I found spraying the chiffon with water helped make the fabric less slippery as I was working with it.

Time to starch! I used Stiffy and watered it down a bit. I tried to spray it on, but the spray bottle got gummed up after one coat so I switched to a paintbrush.

I put a ton of starch on in several coats and my client still had to add more. If I make another collar like this, I'll use stiffer interfacing and even more starch.

At this point I remembered - "Oh! That's right, I have to put boning in the bodice!" So I did that while the starch was drying.

Time to add lace to the top edge of the collar!

I loved getting to work with so many beads...

Time to sew the collar in! I stitched it to the outer shell first...

...then turned everything right side out and pinned in the lining.

By now, all of the lining and shell seams were connected - except for the center front. Here I inserted a very strong separating zipper. It was too long, so I shortened it, using a pliers and a metal eye to create a stopper on the top.

So close to done!!!!!!! Part 4 reveals the final product...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Costumes Can't Magically Grow

Delicious food causes trouble for Downton Costumers! While MTV wants to attract readers with made up controversy, it's not an invalid issue. Downton Abbey, like many period TV shows, borrows most of its wardrobe, often using actual period pieces. If an actor gains weight, there isn't time or fabric to remake the costume in a larger size, and there's only so much alterations can do, especially with all that beading! Not to mention, I expect there's a lot of rules about what can be done with the antique pieces.

Having done some films myself, I know how hard it is to keep the actors looking consistent, especially if you're filming chronological scenes months (or years!) apart. We ran into that several times over the course of making "The Shadow of the Bear", particularly with hairstyles/colors, although some costume pieces just plain wore out!

While Downton Abbey isn't small budget TV, it's still small budget compared to a film, where costume alterations can and do take place, with multiple versions often being made of each costume. So it's no wonder that the actors are being asked to cut down on the food... hey, I'll take some of those sandwiches off their hands! Do they have any gluten free ones? ;)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Queen Regina's Purple Dress - Part 1

You've read the fabric story, the measurement story, and seen the embroidery machine in action. Are you ready to find out how everything came together to create this costume?

Ready. Set. Go!

First step was padding out the dressform.  We used the actual bra that would form the peek-a-boo clevage effect and my client mailed me her hoopskirt which proved to be an excellent decision. From now on, any costumes requiring hoopskirts will be constructed over the actual hoopskirt. This one needed a shortened hem and elastic added to the waist anyhow.

For those wondering about how I set the dressform, I use a Dritz from JoAnn's which you can purchase for $100 if you wait for the right sales. I have two, a small/medium and medium/large which are all they really offer. Typically I set the form to the smallest measurements of my client - usually the underbust, and then pad out the rest to get the correct curves. This method works excellently except for cases when there is tight sleeve fitting or padding that collapses. I think I'm going to stock up on felt for future padding and also create muslins for the tricky sleeve fits and ship them out to my customers ahead of time for feedback before sewing the actual costume.

My living room was just barely big enough to cut out this dress. Really hoping we find a house that allows for a bigger work floor!

To keep costs (and weight!) down, I created the underskirt out of two different fabrics. I used a light, inexpensive lining fabric for the back of the skirt which remains unseen, and a more costly textured satin for the front piece that shows through the overskirt.

Draping the skirt on the form to see how it all lays.

Waistband inserted! Looking good?

Now that I had the added fabric in the waist, I could draft the top over it. Just used cheap muslin here to create a pattern by the draping method.

Once I had the bodice pattern pieces made, I could cut out the entire overdress. 6 yards was barely enough - if you're any taller and want to recreate this dress, I really recommend getting at least 7!

The lining was much easier to lay out, I think I used about a yard.

That was the easy part of the fabric cutting. Now I had to mark where I wanted each of the embroidered flowers to go! I tried to stagger them to make the finished garment look organic. Therefore the pieces are not mirror images of each other, to get more of a natural flow to the designs.

Then came 50 hours of the embroidery machine in the background.

The stabilizer was water soluable, so after completely embroidering a piece, I would clip all the threads, soak the fabric in water, hang it to dry, then iron it out. The embroidery did pull the fabric in slightly, which caused a few pieces to shrink minutely. It wasn't a huge factor, but in the future I'd cut any piece that needed to be embroidered with a larger seam allowance and cut it down after embroidering it if necessary.

Pinning the pieces in place to see how it all looks...

It was pretty exciting to see it coming together, but I knew I still had quite a ways to go! See just how far in part 2...