Thursday, June 9, 2011


I've not died...but I have moved to HERE!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The New No. 3: The January Plum Dress - The Concept

...and now we move on to the next project!

The other day I was home for the evening to see my sister's play. While we were waiting for it to start, my mom was talking to me about various things and eventually mentioned that she was going to send my sister and me out on Black Friday to go look for dresses for our cousin's wedding, which is in January.
My immediate response was, "Why would I buy a dress when I can make my own?"
My mom's reply was, "No."
I explained that I was actually on the verge of completing my latest work and she shortly said, "Well, wear that one, then."
Unfortunately, I don't think this last dress was one that would be appropriate for a wedding. It's a little costume-ish to go over well anywhere that's not a slightly eccentric cocktail party...and it's way to garish for an event where the wearer is not supposed to be the center of attention (i.e. someone else's wedding).
Anyway, my mom did a whole lot of that exaggerated eye-rolling she tends to do when she disapproves of something while I tried to explain what my latest dress looks like and why it isn't really wedding attire. Finally, in a last bid at discouraging me from making my own dress for the wedding, she came up with, "You don't even have a pattern!" Which is a) irrelevant and b) not true.

So, long story short, I had to come up with a new dress that was not too ostentatious (so, no scarlet brocade) but still fun and fancy and in my style. Because otherwise I really might well just take advantage of Black Friday.

Originally I was going to move on to this:

...and I've started acquiring materials for it. However, this dress is fluttery (it's based around chiffon), light and white. I have sort of a qualm with wearing a fluffy, white, fluttery dress to someone's wedding. So this one will have to be put on hold for the time being. (Also until I can afford all the materials for it.)

So I came up with something that I feel might be more appropriate:

The cut is simple and slim. There's not too much poof there, and yet I still have a nice little flair at the bottom there. The main dress is going to be in iridescent plum dupioni silk:

Yeah, a little flashy...but deep. It's not going to stand out like red or gold-orange. It's dark enough to be somewhat...discreet is probably the wrong word. We'll go with "not eyeball assaulting."

Here's the contrast. It's more eye grabbing and will definitely pop against the dupioni. It's taffeta in black and white stripe, a staple for any quasi-goth dress enthusiast/fan of Colleen Atwood:

After looking at the rendering and picturing everything in my head, I realized that this was what was in the back of my mind. Christina Ricci's dress in the finale of Sleepy Hollow:

It's the final pop of black and white stripe...something that happens in every Tim Burton movie. You spend all of Sleepy Hollow waiting for it to happen and then it finally does in the last two minutes. Brilliant movie (especially in terms of design...I believe it won the Oscar for Production Design because Rick Heinrichs is a BEAST). Brilliant costumes. Brilliant Colleen Atwood...whom I worship.

And here's a little something special to set off the edging at the top and hem of the plum:

Well, I sure as hell am excited. This should be fun and hopefully not too challenging...because it's not like I'm throwing another cosmetic stitching curve ball in there for myself. Of course, I say that and everything will go wrong. Oh well...

Monday, November 22, 2010

No. 2: Ruby Rag Doll - Completion!

Funny story...I was winding a new bobbin for this project and then suddenly, out of nowhere, I ran out of thread. Yes, I ran out of black thread...even though I was under the impression that the spool was unused.
Normally I wouldn't care too much and kind of keep going in a different thread, figuring that no one would ever know the difference anyway. But that wont work on a project where there are copious amounts of cosmetic stitching that require black thread.
So a little bit of a speed bump there...but I pilfered a new spool of thread from my parents' house when I was there this weekend and was quickly back in business. And subsequently, I finished the dress yesterday on my first day off in thirteen days.'s the concept:

And here's how it turned out:

Pretty good for completely disregarding all laws of cutting and bias. And I think that all the cosmetic stitching will actually help stabilize the brocade so it doesn't combust in a spray of sparkling fibers. The zipper didn't go in as neatly as I would have liked, and the cosmetic stitching could be better. That's something to work on: precision. I'd like to take her out and do a real shoot with her to heighten the glory a bit and gussy the portfolio, but until I get that figured out we're going to have to make do with me awkwardly posing with a camera in the mirror.

The base material finally arrived for the next dress project, but that might have to be put on hold as I need to come up with something suitable to wear to a wedding. Meaning not too flashy. My mother has no faith in this endeavor (and rolled her eyes overly dramatically when she heard the the words "Sally" and "Nightmare Before Christmas" in the description of this latest work), and I'm out to prove her absolutely wrong.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Ominous Tropical Portent

Let me start off by saying I really like . It's accessible, it's cheap, it's easy, there's a huge selection (even if they do sell out quickly), and I've had good experiences with the fabrics. So this is in no way targeting

That said, I recently put in an order through I ordered swatches for curtains and a few things in anticipation of starting one of my next projects...and I'll post pictures of that design in good time once I've gotten closer to finalization. It's going to be fluttery and white.

Tonight the order came (hooray!) and I pulled everything out happily and started oohing and aahing and then I realized that something was missing...and something else was in its place.

I ordered 3 yards of white taffeta lining for the base of my upcoming piece...which, I'll reiterate, is going to be pretty white-based.

This is what it looked like online:

And this is what it looked like when it came out of the box:

Uh...ok, I know that colors may vary due to monitor settings...but I'm pretty sure that's not white taffeta lining. No, that is the beginnings of a muumuu.

Anyone who has sewn with me (specifically Liz) knows about my muumuu track record. The very first big project that didn't involve ironing that my bosses at the costume shop gave to me was assembling a muumuu last minute from this hand painted fabric that had been flown in from Africa. (Technically it was actually a caftan...but to this day we refer to it as "the muumuu.") I was absolutely delighted to have been given a project and determined to show them that I had been learning all along that semester and had costume chops. So I ran downstairs with the pattern, laid it out carefully, and snipped all around the pattern, which detailed the shoulders and neck hole of the muumuu.
I was so proud of myself for having done this that I hurried upstairs, practically leaped into the upper shop, and displayed the tiny piece of fabric that was left, which was basically a yoke.
I've never seen my boss that close to tears before. Turns out I was only supposed to cut around three sides. And the fabric had been FLOWN IN...from AFRICA! For a show that was happening in a week! And it was HAND PAINTED! By (maybe) AFRICAN VILLAGERS... with INTERNET ACCESS, apparently!

Luckily there was just enough to try again. So in the end I didn't entirely destroy the semester musical. (I'm told the caftans were on stage for about three minutes total for one visual gag.) Though I will say that finally assembling the thing, I stitched it on the wrong side and created a fabric-filled tube instead of a flat caftan...but luckily I found a seam ripper before anyone caught me and fixed the problem.

So here was a ghost of the muumuu debacle grinning up at me from my box in place of the angelic white taffeta I'd ordered. Maybe it's an omen...but luckily it's an omen that I can probably ship back to pretty easily in exchange for that taffeta lining I want.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Piecing Process: No. 2 - Ruby Rag Doll

My current temp job is categorized as “data entry” but the job description is really more along the lines of “stare at the wall for seven hours because we don’t have the forms in yet for you to enter.” It’s pretty mind-numbing. That’s why it’s really nice to get out of work, crack open the Cherry Coke, and start stitching.

So…progress? Yes. There has been progress on the project at hand. I’m somewhat loathe to post progress pictures because not everything has been worked out and the edges are still raw…but the point of this is the process, so I can’t not document the less glamorous stages.

The bodice needs a bit of help yet. That cinching problem needs to be fixed or masked. I’ll probably end up doing something in black ribbon…but that involves finding some black ribbon. I’m also probably going to be needing to add shoulder straps to this thing...or some other means of holding it up.

I'm using a more industrial zipper than the average cocktail dress might have. I think the hardware adds something to the look of the thing, and since I'm highlighting the seams, why not bring out the zipper?

I will say that I’m pretty satisfied with how this is working out so far. I’m using a couple of unconventional methods here, including laying out pattern pieces and cutting on my lap (instead of a flat surface), guesstimation, and completely ignoring every bias ever. I think I can get away with ignoring the bias because the material is so thick and doesn’t really flow. This project would not result in good things if it involved chiffon. However, because I’m using a heavy fabric that doesn’t really drape too much one way or the other and because the chunks of fabric are small enough that they don’t have the chance to flutter or flow or go wild, I think we’ll be ok. The skirt is flowing decently, and that’s the big indicator.

I haven’t entirely decided how to hem this thing yet. I was noticing a certain effect achieved by putting a solid strip of fabric along the bottom, but I’m not sure it’s the effect that I want for this particular project (though it’s been duly noted for the future). I want it “raggedy” yet stable. I’m more concerned about stability. I’m trying to keep my edges uneven, with a shorter skirt in the front and longer in the back. Under the skirt I’m inserting almost a petticoat of black tulle, so that ought to add a bit more oomph.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Opulent Opportunism: An Introduction to No. 2 - Ruby Rag Doll

Wonder of wonders, I’ve actually started working on a dress. A planned dress. Remember the Ruby Rag Doll that started off as No. 3 and then got bumped to No. 2? Yup, so that’s what’s up.

So far I’ve actually accomplished the bodice of the dress. I’m still working out a few kinks in it, but for the most part it’s actually looking pretty good. The really scary thing about this one is that I’m basing off a pattern that I’ve never actually used before (seeing as how I can’t find the pattern I prefer to use as a basis) so I’m not exactly sure how well it will turn out in the end. I’ve already run into a little bit of trouble in the bust since I tried to get around the cinching they have patterned in, but instead ended up with a slightly awkward lump where the cinching should be. I think I’ve got a way to fix it and mask it…but we’ll get to that.

Let’s start at the beginning: the inspiration.

You’ve all seen the rough sketch for this (under the above link), so I wont repeat that. I’ll elaborate on the inspiration a bit more and the concept.

There are two sources of inspiration, really. The first is one of my all-time favorite costume pieces: the scarlet dragon robe from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I love the material, I love the look, and I’m distressed that there’s really no great picture of it on Google images. The vibrancy isn’t really done justice in any of these screen caps, and unfortunately there’s no good overhead shot of it…because this thing extends to crazy lengths. I’ve actually heard it called the Romanian Wedding Dress by some fellow Dracula fanatics. And I’m so dedicated to doing this thing proper justice that I even went to YouTube to look for a clip of it in action…but tragically it looks as if any clip that might involve it might also entail listening to a terrible angst-ridden emo love song, so I’ll spare us all that misery…oh, someone’s dedicated their life to putting the entire movie in parts up on YouTube. Here's a tiny snippet.

If you love costumes and visual awesome, it’s well worth the two hours. And there’s the added bonus of Keanu Reeves as the world’s most unperturbed Jonathan Harker and a graphic vampire bride encounter that will be parodied until the end of time. Netflix it.

Anyway, the point is that the color and sheen play a huge role in this project. I’m also looking to achieve that strange degree of elegance. The robe doesn’t have what I’d call a conventional elegance, as it drags behind him as he sort of slithers about with his shadow, but there’s something weirdly fluid about it as it slides heavily, yet handsomely.

The second source of inspiration for this number is from one of my all-time favorite movies. This one I’ve loved since I was a small child and will continue to love for as long as I live: The Nightmare Before Christmas. The method of assembly for this dress is based on Sally and her whole…vibe.

I love the piecing in her dress (and the piecing of her) and am looking to emulate that. What stands out to me is how it seems as though she really pulled her dress together by using little scraps and making what she could out of what she had…which is also the challenge behind making a Frankenstein-type creature, or so I’m told. That’s the driving force behind this project, actually…using what I’ve got to get a result.

Also, while she’s a bit more delicate than Dracula, her hair sort of moves in the same way as Dracula’s robe train. Yes, her hair is made out of clay…but still, it’s the same principle of motion in a sense.

So, the concept here is I have a ton of this brocade which is cut into a bunch of pieces that are not necessarily conducive to making a regular dress from a regular pattern without massive amounts of piecing. So instead of going to lengths to hide the seams, I’m going to bring them out and really make them central to the dress. The idea is to combine the elegance and richness of Chinese brocade with utility and practicality. Hopefully the two will work well together and make something notable. And so far I’m liking my results…here's a preview:

Tomorrow we tackle the skirt...

Friday, September 3, 2010

No. 5 - An Homage to the Cape

I remember when standard Undead attire was the high-necked red and black opera cape; the sort that Bela Lugosi made infamous in 1931 for his screen portrayal of Dracula which has lived on, keeping the opera cape industry afloat during the Halloween rush long after wearing a cape in public to anywhere but a costume party was considered socially acceptable.

Originally the bat-like opera cape was chosen for costume-effects purposes. The high black neck made it easier for the actor playing the vampire to disappear down a trap door. It's fitting that the cape would be associated with Dracula, since Bram Stoker wrote the book intending it to be adapted into a play. He was Sir Henry Irving's manager at the time and hoped that Irving would play the part of the vampire. Irving allegedly read the book and dismissed it, claiming that it would soon be forgotten. Well, it certainly hasn't yet...nor has the cape, which resurfaces now and again, from the blatant black-and-red of the Hammer Films starring Christopher Lee: the more subtle rendition worn by Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows:

That's not to say that the vampire is confined to the good old black and red, or even the cape. In 1992, Eiko Ishioka famously clad Gary Oldman in a red dragon robe and a powder blue suit, among countless other stunning pieces featured in Bram Stoker's Dracula:

In 1994, Sandy Powell went in a different direction with Tom Cruise as Lestat and combined historical with rock-hard glamor, including a swallowtail coat with spangled pineapples and a simple yet lovely violet ensemble to pop the trademark eyes and hair. The silk, velvet and sequins combined with candlelight makes for a combination nothing short of beautiful:

But there has been a sort of revolution in recent years. Around 1997 Joss Whedon introduced his far-famed television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which featured among its characters a vampire named Angel. Unlike Dracula or Interview, this series took place in the modern day, thus necessitating that its characters, including any vampires expected to wander through teenage night club hot spots unnoticed, wear clothing from the 1990s...with perhaps a hint of justaucorps here and there to drive the point home. And so, at some point, the costume crew came up with this look for Angel, which is fairly standard throughout the series:

I'm sure that crew had no idea that they were laying down the standard for the modern-day teen vampire. Apparently that style would become the new black and red cape for the vampire who hangs around with high school students. We've moved to gelled-up hair and a rather plain ensemble. Gone are the glory days of the Scarlet Dragon Robe and the Spangled Pineapple Swallowtail. Behold, Edward Cullen:

To my (amateur) eye, these two outfits are...rather same-like, bland and not really comparable to those wistful days of yore. I was unaware that Angel and Edward were twins. I guess both of them shop at Banana Republic and H&M. Together. I get the impression from these photos that the designer for Twilight saw the renderings for Buffy, snatched them up, made a photocopy, and added a do-hickey to the collar of the coat. Other than that, the hairstyle, the outfit, even the face shape (before David Boreanaz beefed up) are very much the same. So I suppose this answers the enduring question, "Where did they rip this new teen sensation off from?" Was the designer too busy doing something else, thus leading him or her to forget that there was a design meeting in about twenty minutes and necessitating the use of the photocopy machine? Was there some sort of budget cut on the set, thus making it so that they had to raid the Buffy storage closet to create a wardrobe for this guy? Or is this simply the product of un-creativity and the need to avoid risk by sticking with the completely familiar? After all, the main fan-base of this movie was what...7 when Buffy ended? Why would they recognize any of this?

(For the record, I'm going with the uncreative, studio churn-out explanation.)

Even the future-set Daybreakers, a shout out to several landmark vampire flicks, managed to make their crowd interesting in a subtle way. There's a hint of gentility and sleekness present without going so far as to actually flip up any collars or show any fangs.

Sure, the black-and-red is a bit overdone and corny at this stage in the game. However, before it is smothered completely by the underwhelming look, and before the vampire genre loses its visual trump card thanks to this Twilight drivel, I propose a toast to the Bela cape in the form of a cocktail dress.

Why yes, that would be pen and nail paints in the new apartment, yet.