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.


  1. The tag gun is a clever idea. I guess this means you don't want to hand-tack a gazillion pieces onto the dress? I'm looking forward to seeing the finished dress. It sounds very exciting.

  2. At least she didn't ask to be Pyramid Head... <:)


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