Saturday, July 30, 2016

I do Science Fiction Costuming

Earlier this week, I wrote a bit about my thoughts on science fiction costuming. Today, I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is and show you some designs I have actually done. Granted, they are Star Wars, so it's slightly cheating because it is more historically inspired than futuristically imagined, but still. Science Fiction.

If you've been following my instagram or my personal blog, you've probably seen a few of these before, or seen me blog about my RPG group. Basically, a group of friends come to our house every week and my husband narrates our journey through space and we use dice and improv acting to have adventures. It rocks. We're a crew (rather like Firefly, but in Star Wars), a band of renegades carrying out missions and jobs on the edge of the empire. 

My character is a Chiss named Aliyah. Those of you familiar with Star Wars EU will recognized this intelligent and secretive blue skinned race by it's most popular son - Admiral Thrawn. Little is known about their mysterious homeworld, the ice planet Csilla, so I have had a lot of freedom to develop Aliyah's backstory and culture. I decided that her part of the planet, at least, would be inspired by Indian culture, customs, and costume. When I originally designed these dresses for her, I was thinking a) it was cool to show off the blue skin, and b) that, going by Indian custom, bare bellies would be okay, but cleavage not so much. I also theorized that she could be from a colder climate, so that the spaceship, set to human temperatures, would feel warm to her. It was only later that I realized that she was indeed from an ice planet, therefore this reasoning made perfect, ironic, sense!

(And yes, designing is always hit and miss. While I love the gold gown as it is, I would put a higher neckline on the red gown, and probably nix the white gown or really revamp it if I were costuming a hypothetical movie).

My initial motive in drawing these dresses was so that when we finally got done running around jungles and garbage planets, and went to a ball, I'd have something in mind to wear. Sure enough, my husband finally capitulated to my pleadings and we had a right fancy shindig to attend. I chose to send Aliyah in the gold gown, which I got to draw again when I decided to capture a rather iconic moment from that session. (Orange dreadlocks guy is my husband's in-game character.)

Typically, however, my character is not wearing pretty dresses (alas). We are, after all, a bunch of outlaws on the run, and generally she wears the white outfit above. The lightsaber is a recent aquisition.

(Hits and misses again - I love the white and red outfits, not so keen on the green.)

After awhile, I figured I'd better start drawing some other crew members, or my fellow gamers were going to get rather annoyed. First up, I drew some dresses for human crew member, Sasha. Sasha is human, from Alderaan... and she's been in cryogenics for the past 20 years. The dresses here are not what she wears nowadays, but what she would have been forced to wear on formal occasions in her youth. I deliberately evoked an '80's style here, so that it would appear dated to our 21st century eyes (just about the only decade that still looks very dated to us).

(Yeah, the middle dress doesn't really work for her - it'd be good for Aliyah but not Sasha)

But Sasha IS a real tomboy (mountineer, scout and bounty hunter!) so I had to draw her something a bit more adventurous too, which you can see here next to another outfit for Aliyah.

THEN things got more interesting for Sasha, when a secret marriage was revealed and we found out she was pregnant. HAHA. So, here is Sasha, dressed up for some adventures on Tatooine. Space maternity style!!!

(I'm pretty happy with all of these - and the player really likes two of the three, so yay!)

Next on the crew was Nella! Nella is our badass fighter chick - her backstory is very similar to Mulan, which is why you see a bit of a Mulan look to her middle dress. Most of the time she doesn't wear sparkly dresses, but she did grow up high class the way Aliyah did, so there were balls in her background. :)

(The one on the right is probably much more Aliyah than Nella)

Around this time, everyone in our crew hopped onto a Star Wars dollmaker app and put together how they visualized their characters. This definitely helped me in terms of understanding how each of the players saw their characters. A few were NOT AT ALL how I expected! But it was really fun to see what clothing choices each of them made for their personalities. I'll give brief bios here, if it interests you to analyze such things, but you can skip past if this post is already getting too long for you!

(Top Left to Bottom right)

Ze'ev - High-born Alderaanean, faked his death, bounty hunter, captain of our ship. Extremely protective of the crew.
Aliyah - high born half Chiss half human, also faked her death, ship's medic and computer expert. Highly analytical and always likes to prove her intelligence. 
Nella - oh look, ANOTHER high born (human) who faked her death! Hired gun, LOVES guns. Would rather punch someone than negotiate.
Perth - a lovable young scamp from the desert of Tatooine, can charm anyone into doing anything and has the weirdest combination of luck and misfortune. Survives despite all odds. Oh, and he is a Bothan, but they weren't in the app so he's portrayed as a human here. Trust me, we make every possible joke about "Many Bothan's died..."
Sasha - Ze'ev's aunt who was frozen for 20 years. Best shot on the crew, married a guy who turned out to be working for the Empire. Quiet, mysterious, and overly protective of Ze'ev.
Kybur - a charming 'surfer-dude' human/cyborg mechanic. Very much along for the ride. Was raised by Wookies.
Hogan - former Imperial guard, human, rather obsessed with protecting Nella. The first on the crew to become a Jedi, and thus a bit of a mentor to the rest of us. (That is, Ze'ev, Aliyah and Nella, who all recently discovered Force powers).
Malia - (not pictured, newest crew member), Aliyah's younger sister, hotheaded pilot who prefers negotiations with lightsabers. Played by my actual younger sister, which is too fun.

After seeing the character designs by the players, I got a better sense of where to go. I whipped up something new for Sasha (she totally needed a long coat to rock) and another BA outfit for Nella. Plus something that I figure Aliyah wore back at University.

Hogan and Nella are played by a real-life engaged couple. I drew them this picture as an engagement present. Too fun!

Remember that fancy ball I mentioned earlier? In the midst of it, a dark Force user showed up! and she was another Chiss! I quickly sketched out a costume for her, which I later rendered in more detail in this photo. On the left is Hogan, in an outfit that his player designed, and on the right is Ze'ev, wearing a sort of servant's uniform (he was undercover). Very Downton-Abbey inspired here, haha.

I asked my husband what he wanted me to draw him, and he picked a scene we did with our characters, right after Aliyah had been practicing her Tai Chi. 

Most recently we are on Tatooine, and I drew a few outfits for Aliyah to reflect that. The white one isn't Tatooine really, I just like trying new styles of white on her, since it's her preferred color to wear.

And THEN, since my sister joined the game as Malia, I had to draw some stuff for her! Malia is a lighter blue than Aliyah, to show their half-human heritage, so she needed another color palatte.

(The one on the right is much more true to the character than the one on the left. It's funny how you get a better grasp of character... but then some things go so horribly wrong that you never show anyone, like the one I cropped off the edge of this page!)

We also recently rescued Aliyah and Malia's mother (an Ambassador from Naboo), so I had to draw all three of them, including the first outfit that I designed for Aliyah to wear out on the Ice Fields of Csilla. (Neomara is her birth name, Aliyah is the alias she took after faking her death.)

So. As you can see. I've been quite immersed in one form of Science Fiction Fashion for quite some time. Who knows, as I watch more Star Trek, I may become inspired to experiment in another form!

Oh! And if you are interested in starting your own Star Wars RPG group, I HIGHLY recommend the system developed by Fantasy Flight Games. The dice are a bit unique, but they work very well and it is great fun!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Peculiar Challenge of Costuming Science Fiction

My husband and I are watching Star Trek: The Next Generation for the first time and I find myself deeply intrigued by the costuming. Not because it is aesthetically pleasing, but rather because of the story it tells. As I watch the show, I find myself guessing at the costumer's thoughts. For, despite the extremely dated look of the show, I can tell that a great deal of thought and planning went into the clothing design.


Nathan was surprised when I told him how much I was thinking about TNG costuming. "But it's so awful!" he said.

"I know, but there's so much thought in it," I replied.

"Like the pajama costume?" he said, referring to the onesie type thing worn by "The Traveller" in an early season 1 episode.

"Actually, yes!" I told him. "It looks really simple, but up close I could see that there was actually a really intricate quilting design to the fabric. It looked weird and simple, but someone put a lot of forethought into how it was constructed."

It's a shame that so much effort is unlikely to be appreciated until the 80's styles swing back into vogue (no, they have not really made a full comeback yet).

This got me thinking about how this is a typical problem for science fiction films - except Star Wars. Why? Well, the typical science fiction show tries to be as futuristic as possible. That means they take whatever is trendy now and try to imagine how that thing will look in x years - or (as in Back to the Future) they just try to make up extreme trends in a ironic poke at humanity's tendancy to go to the extreme. It sort of worked in BttF because of the general point that trilogy was trying to make, but it's not a good blueprint overall - it distracts more than it enhances.

Star Wars, on the other hand, makes full use of the 'long time ago' part of their description. Most of their futuristic technology is modeled on historical designs. The Empire is based on both Nazi Germany and communist Russia. Padme Amidala's wardrobe is inspired by cultures all over the world. There are a few things that date them, here and there (most notably the haircuts), but over all, reaching into the past rather than anticipating the future creates a more grounded feel.
But... let's be fair. Star Wars is not the future. It's "the past." So how do you costume something like Star Trek, which actually IS supposed to be the future?

I think the trick is to stick to classic looks, those styles that evoke many periods, rather than the present trend. The truth of fashion is that it cycles. Nowadays fashion cycles quicker than ever before. In fact, in the last three years, vintage has become so popular that I have to wonder if we are transcending 'universal' trend altogether. With the internet forging us into a monoculture, individual expression is (oddly enough!) more acceptable than ever, as everyone can find their own microculture.

I don't think the future will look like Star Wars in that we'll be wearing elaborate hairdos like Padme Amidala. But I do think that a variety reflecting many eras of human history is a plausible projection - and least likely to be dated! So if I were costuming a futuristic science fiction show, I would look at classic looks that come back over and over, and build off of that. I'd stay away from anything that has only been a trend in the most recent decade.

Which, let's be fair, they did achieve quite well with the Star Trek uniforms. Although each ST series has had it's own incarnation of the uniforms, overall the main style has remained similar, iconic... and plausible. The new movies may have updated the look of some technology, but they went back to the classic uniform colors - and it worked.

One final note - The Hunger Games is another recent franchise that deals with this problem in notable depth. I think, perhaps, that they may have done a good job of combining historical, present, and ridiculous irony (as required by the message of the story). But I'll only be able to tell for certain when I go back and watch the films in 30 years - and ask my kids what THEY think of it! If blogs still exist and I'm still writing... I'll be sure to do a follow-up post. ;)

(If you are interested in how I would do costume designs in the Star Wars world, you may enjoy this post!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Modern Twist on the 1950's Housedress

 Between Fibromyalgia and working from home, I spend most of my days doing stuff around the house and not seeing people. So wearing comfy yoga style clothes is pretty much my fashion of choice these days. I've come to especially love comfy sleeveless dresses. They can be layered in cold temps, or stand on their own when out in the hot sun.

I wanted to add a few more of these types of dresses to my wardrobe, so I decided to make one yesterday. Finding the fabric in my stash was actually the most difficult part. I have a TON of fabric, but finding something that was comfortable, pretty, not see-through, and large enough to make a dress was HARD. I finally settled on this print. It has a VERY 1950's vibe to it, and also Scandinavia undertones, which I decided to just embrace with the contrasting navy binding.

It was a pretty easy project. It consists of three pieces, no waistline, no darts. I cut it on an A-line, leaving it on the roomy side. I spent less than two hours total making it.

It isn't meant to be worn out and about, but it's fine for home stuff, and feels more 'cute' than knit shorts and a baggy tee!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July! (Dishtowels are BACK!)

Those of you following me on Facebook saw the reopening of my flour sack dishtowel store last week. I've since restocked and am now announcing the reopening here! To celebrate having enough health to do this AND the glorious 4th (for us in the USA), I'm offering my first ever holiday sale! Use the code 4JULY2016 and receive 10% off your purchase of two towels or more through midnight tomorrow! (Tuesday the 5th).

All these designs and MORE can be found at the Whimsical Kitchen Etsy Shop (unless they're sold out! But no worries, more designs are coming soon - maybe even tomorrow!)