by Ryn Cording
I shouldn’t be allowed near the internet when I have a big project or event in the near future. In fact,
I shouldn’t be allowed to have dream cycles either. Under these conditions (not to mention watching
movies, reading or viewing artwork) I am struck by the lightning bolts of inspiration from the costuming
gods. I will find an image or a shape that strikes me in such a way that I must, MUST create this
inspirational piece. In this case, I will for once, give credit to a social media site. Thanks to Pinterest,
it is very easy to find inspiration and research subgenres. I was in need of a steampunk outfit and was
provided with exhibits A and exhibit B:
Both of these corsets have a lot to offer. Exhibit A is almost too much; with so much detail and the
prolific use of leather, it feels heavy, like thick chocolate syrup. The other is simpler in its design and
execution. The lace trim and the chain detailing does not have the same “bulk” as Exhibit A. One can see
why I immediately fell in love with both.
But then dropped the blockade of reality; I only needed one corset and was limited both in budget
and time. After days of agonizing over which corset I would attempt to create, I finally had my bolt of
inspiration — one corset with my favorite elements from both images.
I am very familiar with the corset shape and pattern, having designed and built several in varying styles
and eras. I did not have to make a ton of adjustments to the original pattern. Familiarity with the shape
of the piece or an existing pattern definitely helps with transferring from inspiration to reality. In some
cases, I sketch out rough designs of the finished product. In others, I leave it all in my brain and hope it
works. For this piece, the latter worked.
My first attempt was with black chap-weight leather I had on hand. I had thought to use only materials
that were already in my stores. Suffice to say, my sewing machine, Sven, after several exchanges of foul
words, decided to go on strike. Conceding to my long-suffering companion and with a growing sense of
failure, I took a trip to JoAnn’s in which I found this:
It was PERFECT. After nearly 40 minutes in line to have my 1 yard cut, I arrived at home with renewed
motivation. With PSY belting in the background, I re-cut my pieces, salvaging what I could from the
original attempt and in about 2 hours, had the rough corset. After fighting with it for another hour or
so (I shrank and my standard corset pattern is now too big) and adding boning channels, I had this baby
ready for detail work. Exhibit A appears to have the lacing on the side front on the panel immediately
adjacent to the front busk panel. Because of this, I used a five panel corset designating the side front
panel as my peek panel. The panel originally had four layers: the top shell, the inner gauze backed with
white cotton to purify the color and the base, black, cotton coutil. I made a cut down the center of this
piece with the corset on a dress form. I trimmed the center edges, rolled them under and pinned loop
tape under the edge. I stitched the tape down through all layers, added lace and black braided trim to
cover the seams and add more interest. Finally, I laced ribbon through the eyelets.
For the top edge, I used more of the Exhibit B approach: lace along the upper edge with three loops
sewn onto the front, side and rear panels. This would allow me to attach the chain later on. I secured
the top edges with bias tape.
For the bottom edge, I again, found myself drawn to Exhibit A, with fur trim. I found a brown feather
trim that I used in addition to gunmetal taffeta that I formed into pleats for the bottom edge.
Once the bottom edge was finished, I added the copper chain found at Michael’s and my bottles of
glitter. Here is the first mock up and the finished piece:
I have dubbed the style the “Tesla” corset. Now the only thing I have left to do is get the lighty-uppy bit
right… but that’s another blog post.
Here is another version of the “Tesla” corset just completed this week:
by, Erin Schneider
You might have noticed us advertising lately for a little event we call “A Steampunk Christmas Carol, Fezziwig’s Party.” The whole point of hosting a costumed event is to give our fellow costumers a venue to showcase their hard work. And as costumers, we know better than to attend said costumed event in our civies (mundanes, norms, whatever you call your work-a-day clothes).
However, the pressure of MUST HAVE SHINIEST COSTUME IN THE ROOM OR EPIC FAIL can prevent us from the other important part of costuming – having a fabulous time with our fellow costuming peeps. So when I hear, “I can’t go to Fezziwigs, because I don’t have a costume, and I don’t have the time or money to make one,” I get sad.
And then? I get creative. Who says you have to sew proper Victorian garb from scratch? Who says you even have to sew? You can create a festive Fezziwig ensemble from items you find at your local thrift store. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
I call that Steampunk Lolita Schoolgirl, aka, Stuff I Bought At Saver’s The Week Before ConVergence So I’d Have A Comfy Costume To Wear Opening Night. I revamped the same costume for our Steampunk Sale of the Centuries sale last Saturday, and people seemed to like it. I think it’s the stompy boots. Everyone loves a good pair of stompy boots.
You can thrift a fabulous outfit, whether you’re male or female. Here are a few key pieces to look for:
a. Vests – the dressy kind, NOT the poufy cold-weather kind. Every vest I own (and I own several) have been purchased from a thrift store. Look for men or women’s vests, and if you can’t find them, ask the staff. Menfolk should definitely try ARC Value Village – not all their dress vests sold during Halloween, trust me.
b. Dress shirts – men should look for a collar-less top, women should look for as many ruffles as they can stand. Be sure to ask the staff if they have any ruffled shirts leftover from Halloween. And men – if you have a collared shirt, you CAN remove the collar with a seam-ripper. Then, just stich the open seam shut, and you are set. (NOTE – I recommend black, white, cream, brown, pinstripes, and denim. Try to avoid overly modern patterns or neon colors.)
c. LONG skirts or FULL skirts… or both! Ladies, consider layering two skirts, and ruche up the outer skirt to show off the underskirt. This works best if your underskirt is lacey and petticoat-esque.
d. Dress pants – this works for men OR women. If you have knee-high, basic boots (not uber-Ren-Fest-y or spike-heeled), tuck the pants into the boots. Or, if you feel like sewing, make pants out of pants! I do this a LOT. Cut the pants to knee-length, cut a cuff out of the bottom of each discarded pant leg, pleat the bottom of the pants to the cuff, and blamo! Instant knickers, see?
(NOTE – once again, I recommend “olde time” looking pants. Stripes are FABULOUS for knickers.)
e. Oxford shoes. If you aren’t going the knee-high or granny boot route (both look very appropriate IMHO), try an oxford. RIGHT NOW AS I TYPE, Payless has a women’s heeled, oxford shoe for $24.99. They are cute, comfy, and I own a pair. You may see them at the party…
Once you have the basic outfit, go crazy with accessories. Top hats, bowlers, tiny top hats, pocket watches, modded-out Nerf guns, keys, gears, goggles, gloves, etc. For inspiration, check out the Live Journal Steampunk Fashion community – http://steamfashion.livejournal.com/.
Here are a couple hat resources, to help you out:
a. http://uniformalwearhouse.com/apages/tuxedoahats.html Uniformal Wearhouse
b. http://hatsupply.com/ Hats by Leko
c. Try Claire’s boutique, or other teeny bopper mall stores. They often have tiny top hats you can dress up to make more Steampunk. And Hobby Lobby carries naked tiny top hats in the doll-making section.
Okay! So I got rid of that excuse! Now go buy your ticket, and I’ll see you all December 8th in Stillwater.
by Erin Elizabeth
Once upon a time… well, about 6-7 years ago, my best friend Laura Ulak made my first costume. It was special for two reasons:
1. It was the first costume I helped design. Granted, it was just a belly-dancing vest and skirt, but it was different from everyone else’s vest and skirt, dammit.
2. It remains the only costume I’ve sold in its entirety. Oh sure, I’ve sold bits and pieces along the way, but never again a full costume.
And therein lies the problem. After that one sale, I never sold a costume again. OR GOT RID OF ONE, EITHER. Folks, my name is Erin Schneider, and I hoard costumes.
Don’t believe me? Check this out – I have not one, not two, but three noble/fancy Renaissance festival costumes.
And then I also possess not one, not two, but three mix and match formal/pirate/Cavalier-type Renaissance festival costumes.
Plus a variety of belly-dance costumes for warm weather. AND I DON’T EVEN WORK AT FEST.
I also own 3 different Green Bay Packer costumes.
And three wacked-out historical costumes (cheerleader Elizabethan, fishing 18th Century, and Courtesan Angel of course).
And several Garanimal-style, mix-and-match pieces for Steampunk costumes. Not to mention, a full-on Steampunk fancy-dress costume.
Oh, and that Victorian bathing suit costume.
And that other Cindy Lou Who cartoon reproduction…
and Judy from White Christmas… and, and, and… sigh.
My costumes now take up 6 large plastic tubs in my sewing room. Six. That’s not even counting the fabric stash to make MORE costumes. Or all my costume accessories. Or the wigs… dear god the WIGS. Not to mention my tiara fetish. sigh again.
So what’s costume-lovin’ gal supposed to do? Sell them? Give them away? Rent out a storage unit for the extras*?
*True story – a costuming buddy of mine from Vegas has kept every costume she’s ever made (numbering over 100). There were so many, she rented a storage unit. And then that storage unit flooded. In Vegas, yes.
I’ve decided to take a more thoughtful, less Storage Wars approach. First, I plan to make over some of my existing costumes. For example, that cheerleader Elizabethan? It’s getting turned into a Steampunk cheerleader ensemble for an upcoming Con. Picture a mash up of Bring It On and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Then, I plan to get rid of the bits and pieces I don’t adore, but would be perfect for other costumers. That’s why I love MNSoC’s annual garage sale. On April 2013, several items from the hoard are going bye-bye. And whatever doesn’t sell is going to Saver’s for their Halloween sale.
And last, going forward? I vow to only make the costumes I want to make. That means no more making something so I coordinate with everyone else (i.e. no more costuming peer pressure!). Also, no more last minute “let’s throw this random thing together, even though I already own enough costumes to outfit the Guthrie.” My goal is to have a collection of costumes I love, and not a hoard of costumes threatening to take over my house.
So now let me ask you – do you hoard your costumes? And why? And WHERE?
by, Laura Ulak
My nephew Dexter is a Jedi. Born this year on May the 4th, he kind of became one by default. (May the fourth be with you….)
Consequently, when it came time for Halloween, his moms decided he had to be DRESSED as a Jedi. And of course this meant he had to be as screen accurate as possible while still maintaining comfort because, after all, he is a baby. And I am the insane one with control issues, not him.
NOTE: The photos here are not the greatest. Mainly because I either A)shot them with my phone or B)shot them of a baby. Or both. Because babies tend to wiggle.
SO. I set out to find a lightsaber first, because the whole outfit is really about the lightsaber. I wanted one small enough to fit his body size, and also something he could chew on. I found one at Build-a-Bear workshop, where they had a plush lightsaber in red, which produced excellent sound effects when you pressed the end of it. More importantly, it could be chewed on. Not exactly screen accurate, but it works.
Then I went to Maggie’s excellent site and realized something – my Jedi Youngling had no hair. I rectified that by knitting him a hair cap using soft brown yarn mixed with fun fur and finishing it off with a tiny little rattail braid. You can find my Ravelry info on the hat here.
Then I went looking for photos of Jedi Younglings from the movies. I had originally thought of doing Obi Wan Kenobi’s (how awesome is it that Obi Wan is in spell check?) costume from Episode 1, but quickly realized that white/taupe/beige pants and babies do not really mix. So I found a photo of a bunch of Younglings in class, and focused on a young man in a dark brown undershirt and pants, a beige colored overshirt and the ever present dark colored cloak and boots that looked like it would be suitable for translating into baby size.
I went to Joann Fabrics to look for fabrics. I know from reading Maggie’s site that the original outershirt was an Indian Homespun called Khadi, and that the inner shirt looked rather knit-like, and that the pants were regular looking pants tucked into a modified version of East German Army boots. The cloak is also typically made of wool.
This is roughly when I made the decision to have the costume look as good as possible while using whatever was least expensive and soft for Dexter. Consequently I was able to shop completely in the remnant section for his outfit, with the exception of the leather items. I found a yard of a knit fleece that was smooth on the inside and knit on the outside for his cloak. I got a yard of soft mottled beige linen for the outershirt and tabards. Next I got a yard of brown silky poly for his innershirt and pants.
For the belt I decided to try to match it to Obi Wan’s belt from Episode 1 and 2 while not going crazy with the accuracy. I bought a half-yard of faux brown leather from Joann Fabrics that I was also able to use for his booties.
For the knee-high booties, I used McCall’s pattern 6342 and copied the western boot pattern. I modified it so it was straight across in front, but kept the dip in the back to make it easier to put on and take off. They were so easy to make that I might make him a bunch more in other fabrics.
The undershirt and pants were modifications of Simplicity 4434. The mere idea of sewing actual pants with pockets and a button fly for a baby seemed to be the height of insanity, so I made his pants pull on PJ pants with an elastic waist. I also made them extra long so he can wear them for a bit longer. I made the shirt a wrap shirt and sewed a ribbed grosgrain ribbon along the neckline to give the illusion of the pleated look on the innershirt worn by the kid in the movie. The whole thing is very comfortable and he doesn’t seem to mind wearing them.
The outershirt was made of the linen. I used the same pattern as the one for the undershirt, but widened the sleeves and made them a bit longer (we rolled them for now), and I bound the edges with the same fabric along the neckline. I made the tabards to be the width of his shoulders, and they do come together in a V in the back as in the photos I have seen. However, they are not “quite” long enough in front, as I ran out of linen.
For the belt I used the last few scraps of linen I had to make the “obi” type piece underneath. I sewed the sides down on a strip of the faux leather, and stitched it to the linen piece in the very center of the belt. This is mostly hidden by the buckle. I took a thinner strip of the faux leather and sewed it to a belt buckle I found at Joann Fabrics that was as close as I could find to Obi Wan’s. I stitched the leather loops on either side of it, and then top stitched them down on top of the leather and linen. Then I took the rivets I had left over from Katherine Parr’s costume from Project Tudor (back in 2009) and riveted through the little belt, the bigger belt and the obi, trying to put the rivets in the correct places as the movie belt, while scaling it down for an 18.5 inch tummy. (Excellent part about babies – they are mostly cylindrical, so not a lot of measurement changes.)
For the food capsules (which are apparently pen caps with buttons glued to the bottom!) I bought some pens that had caps the same width as the leather belt so the scale would be right. I didn’t have time to glue anything to the bottom of them, but they look fine. I chose them for their size and color in matching to the belt an the movie belt. They had holes in the top, so I ran a length of gold wire through each, twisted it shut, and then slid them onto the narrow belt on top of the larger belt. There are then rivets set behind them that hold them in place. They are on there tightly enough that they cannot be removed, but can move back and forth.
A Covertec clip for the lightsaber would have been ridiculously huge on a baby, and there wasn’t a lot more available, so I made a simple leather loop and attached it to the belt so the lightsaber would just slide inside and be easy to be removed. I also chose to go with pouches made of the faux leather, as I knew he might grab at them or sit/lie on them, so they needed to be soft. They are basic pouches with velcro closures to make it easy to get to Cheerios or a pacifier. The back closes with more velcro to adjust as he grows.
Dexter seemed to be okay with the amount of clothing put on him thus far.
For the cloak I used a pattern I found on Maggie’s site here. I drew the pattern freehand using his measurements. I didn’t have quite enough fabric to make the sleeves as long as I would like, but it looks ok. I did not do a seam down the back as I really needed to conserve the fabric. I serged the inside seams and made small hems on the front edges and bottom of the cloak. I rolled the edges of the sleeves (because of the lack of additional fabric there) and also rolled the hem on the front of the hood. I did put the pleat at the back of the neck in the cloak, and made the hood using a rectangle sewn along one seam. I put together the cloak late at night and mistakenly put the seam along the top of his head instead of the back of his head. Ah well. The proportions of the cloak worked well for Dexter’s size. Not having to line something, and having a fabric that didn’t shed was also nice.
I was really happy with how the entire outfit turned out. Dexter’s moms love it, and it is comfy and will be nice to wear on a 45 degree Halloween evening. Also, Dexter seems to like it. I need to make one for my other small nephew, Kou, but I think my almost 17 year old nephew Evan probably doesn’t want one at this point, lol.
I think there will be a lot more Star Wars costuming in my (and Dexter’s) future.
by Laura Ulak
The number one question I get asked as a costumer (other than “Can you make me something?” and that answer is “Yes, and it will cost $1 million dollars.”) is “So you must really love Halloween, right?” And that answer would be – Yes. Sort of.
I know lots of people who have big Halloween parties and who whoop it up in costume on the day that many think of as costuming’s High Holy day. However, typically those folks are people who don’t often dress up the rest of the year. This is because it is considered “socially acceptable” to dress up on Halloween, no matter how old you are. People who are uncomfortable with wearing costumes in public at, say, the Renaissance Festival, out bowling, or for a picnic or con are very comfortable with dressing up (often in very skimpy costumes) on Halloween.
And more power to them! Everyone should have a day of fun, a day of pretending to be someone else, or just dressing up because they want to. However, for me, Halloween is pretty much a day of rest.
By the time October 31st rolls around I will have attended 2-3 conventions, 1 or more Renaissance Festivals and countless other costuming events from January 1st on through October. By October 31st? I am pretty much costumed out.
I instead focus my energies into making costumes for my children and seeing what other people are wearing. Our family hasn’t carved pumpkins in years. We don’t decorate for Halloween. Any candy that has been purchased is likely to be pretty well eaten before the big day.
Instead I use Halloween as a day to sit and think about the costumes I have worn all year, and to be as comfortable as possible. No corsets, no hoop steel, no uncomfortable wigs, make-up or shoes.
To those who love Halloween and celebrate it with gusto – I applaud you. In my PJ’s. From my comfy chair, by the fire. I’ll save an Almond Joy for you.
by, Chelsey Barnes
As it turns out, not “absolutely nothing”.
I’ll say it again, y’all.
We MNSoCers may go above and well beyond your average Halloween costume (and, in fact, do so multiple times over the course of the year), but that doesn’t mean costume stores or the costume sections of your local craft store don’t have their place. Here are some great things you can find, especially if you go right before or right after Halloween when they are at deep discounts.
While most of the costume store shoes veer into “overly sexy” territory (as do most of their women’s costumes), sometimes they are just the right place to find that off-the-wall shoe you’ve been dreaming of. Maybe you need a pirate boot…
Or maybe you want to be a fashion-conscious zombie…
TIGHTS AND GLOVES:
These can be great, even if you aren’t planning on using them for a costume, and most stores have a huge selection that span all genres.
MAKEUP, WIGS, AND ACCESSORIES:
Need a scar, messed up teeth, glasses or hot pink hair for a night? Costume stores have you covered.
DAY OF WRONG:
Day of Wrong is… wrong. And you can have a field day in a costume store for silly little props. Get your wings, Ms. Piggy nose, and toy guns along with anything else you might need in one-stop shopping.