Friday, July 30, 2010

Mother Nature Appears at Otakon!

Diana had a fabulous time in Baltimore today at Otakon. She needn't have worried about not having her picture taken; a few minutes after I dropped her and a friend off at the entrance to the convention center (at the ghastly hour of 7:15 a.m.), she texted me that she had already been asked half a dozen times to pose for a photograph.

She joined me for lunch (I spent the day at the Inner Harbor, taking pictures), and afterward we had our own private photo session.

So here is the costume, fully embellished:

Each one of the leaves and flowers were attached to the chemise and sleeve ribbons with my trusty tag gun. The leaves flutter beautifully when she walks, which was precisely the effect she was looking for.
She is wearing a leather pouch and belt I made for her; the flap of the pouch is a piece of hair-on deer hide I bought at Global Leathers in New York a few years ago, and the rest of the bag and belt are from a full calf hide I bought at the same time.

Here is a closer view of the corset:

We were both concerned that the leather laces wouldn't be strong enough for the job of keeping the corset tight, but they worked out just fine. Still, she carried a spare lace in her little bag, just in case.

Diana made the headpiece all by herself, after a LOT of discussion over what it should look like. We entertained many options: a halo of very thin wire with flowers attached to it with hot glue; a garland of silk ivy gathered up to form a wreath. Finally she settled on a pre-made plain grapevine wreath, which she embellished with silk ivy sprays, flowers and other things to form a "wheel of the year" headpiece.

She is going back tomorrow for one more day, wearing the same costume. I'm glad she got a lot of compliments on it!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Costume Progress: 36 Hours to Go

Work on my daughter's Otakon costume was interrupted by a weekend of volunteer work at StarGazing Farm in Boyds, which was participating in the annual Montgomery County Farm Tour. I spent Saturday and Sunday sitting at the Welcome table (which was, thankfully, under a tent), making lavender wands to be sold at the farm's gift shop. I had planned on coming home Sunday afternoon and diving right back into the costume work. However, working on the Mother Nature costume was interrupted by... Mother Nature.
The DC area was hit by one of the most powerful storms we've ever seen. It actually started while I was still at the farm, and led to a mad scramble to get the animals safely inside and the tents taken down, while being pelted by drenching rain and enduring 50mph winds. Quite an adventure!!When I finally made it home (dodging fallen trees and debris all the way), our house was without power (along with more than a quarter million other customers).
We got our electricity back late Monday evening, so Tuesday I got right to work to make up for the lost days. This really has turned out to be one of the more involved projects I've done for Diana, mostly because the fit of the corset is so critical. But we were able to figure things out and I made some modifications, and now we have the base costume completed!!
The costume consists of three parts: an underskirt with a grass fringe, a sleeveless chemise underdress, and the corset top. We'll also be adding a wreath headpiece, which we're working on this evening.
Here's the pieces all put together:
The fabric is batik from our local quilting shop. I used suede lacing for the corset, and blue lambskin for the wrist pieces.
Back view:
Here you can clearly see the grass peeking out from under the chemise. The corset has lacing in the front and back; in the front it goes through eyelets, and in the back it goes through fabric loops. The front lacing has to be completely removed to get the corset off.
Detail shot of the corset, with its ribbon "sleeves" connecting the corset to the wrist pieces. These ribbons will have silk leaves and flowers attached to them.
A construction note: I used Pellon DecorBond to stiffen the outer fabric of the corset, and sewed the boning to the lining (which was also a quilting cotton). Diana says it really is quite comfortable to wear.
The chemise skirt has godets in the seams, so it flares out wonderfully when Diana twirls.
This evening we'll start embellishing the whole outfit with silk leaves and flowers. I also need to make her a small leather pouch to hold her wallet/camera/cell phone.
We will be leaving very early Friday morning for Baltimore, so I'm heading back to the sewing room!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Evolution of a Costume Design

Sometimes there can be big problems when two creative people are trying to collaborate on a design idea, and neither really has the words to describe what they see in their heads. This has been the case for my daughter and me for the past few days as we've tried to come up with a workable design for her Otakon costume.
Diana wants to have a "Mother Nature" costume, embellished with leaves and flowers; very organic-looking and not a cartoony-kind of thing. We had been emailing each other numerous links and pictures containing elements or hints of ideas, but nothing was really coming together. On Friday, we spent some time at G Street Fabrics, trying to find a fabric to inspire us and lead us to the perfect design. After about 45 minutes we were both cranky, so Diana suggested we look at the pattern books and see what we could find there.
After a few minutes, she spotted McCalls 4107, from their Historical Costume line. It was just the spark we needed to get us excited. After deciding that G Street wasn't going to have any suitable fabrics, we went up to Capital Quilts in Gaithersburg. There we found some gorgeous batiks that will serve beautifully as the basis for the costume.
And then, of course, there are the muslins and trials. The first idea we had (before the G Street trip) was of a strapless dress, very tightly fitted on top (almost like a corset), with a long skirt and... well, that's about as far as we got. I did a quick muslin with PatternMaster Celebrations.
Not bad, but it didn't really "sing" for her. (However, she has asked for a real dress from this pattern because it really is cute)
After our G Street trip we refocused the design to incorporate a chemise and a separate corset top. I tried drafting a corset top from Celebrations, which Diana promptly dubbed the "Madonna Look". Here she is modeling it over the chemise muslin.

So I relented and bought the McCalls pattern. This evening she tried on the chemise and vest together and, with some minor tweaks, approved it.
Here's the chemise by itself.
It's a simple sleeveless dress, no closure, scoop neck in front and back, armscye princess darts, and a flared skirt. I need to tweak it just a bit: the neckline needs to be wider, I need to add just a smidge more hip ease, and she wants godets in the skirt to give it more swirl. Picky, picky.
Here's the chemise with the vest over it.
There will be lacing in the front. The muslin also doesn't have any of the boning that will be in the final version.
Back view:
You can see that the lack of hip ease is causing the dress to ride up and wrinkle. The final version will be much better.
I'm looking forward to moving on to the next stage of the project: cutting into the batik fabric we got. However, putting the dress and vest together is just half the job: then we have to embellish the whole thing with silk leaves and flowers (attached with a tag gun). There are a lot of little details that will go into making this dress something gorgeous; the only concern now is getting it done on time! I have about ten days to get it all finished.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Mom, can you make me a costume?"

My daughter informed me this afternoon that she has decided to attend a huge anime convention in Baltimore the end of this month, and will need a costume. She knows this kind of challenge just makes me drool (darn her). So we are delving deep into design discussions, sketches, and finding inspiration on the web. Since this event is in less than four weeks, I'm going to have to get going on it very soon.
No pictures yet, of course, but I'll certainly post them as the project progresses.