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Category Archives: Costumes

Christmas Parade Costumes

Over the summer, I was part of a small team of costumers that helped build some walk-around character costumes for a Christmas parade at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

It had been years since I had helped make true mascot type costumes, so it was a fun break from the norm and a good reminder of why I don’t want to do this kind of sewing all the time. Foam, fur, curved needles, and seriously wacky pattern pieces – give me real clothing any day!

Lime-Green-Stretch-Crushed-Velvet

Radioactive looking shiny lime green stretch crushed velvet. Lime green is my favorite color but this fabric causes some retinal burn-in when you look at it too long!

We constructed 2 moose heads that perched high (as in 12 feet high!) atop giant Santa hats, 2 big candy canes, and 2 elves that looked like Christmas tree ornaments. All were based on the designer’s sketches and completed with hundreds of LEDs.

There was lots of stretch crushed velvet and glittery stretch velvet for me to create striped yardage from.

Piles-of-Stripes

Stitching-Stripes

All those stripes are why I met Spray n Bond and we became good friends.

Spray-n-Bond

A little more about that in this post.

I stitched faces.

Constructing-the-Face

Looks a bit like Lady Cassandra. “Thin and dainty!… Moisturize me moisturize me!

I made eyeballs.

Making-Eyes

And I shoved large amounts of foam fabric through a small domestic sewing machine. I was really wishing I had a long arm machine to use for this!

Stitching-on-Yards-of-Foam-Fabric

I had to do some of the sewing standing up so I could see what I was doing over all that bulk!

Moose-Head-Construction

Moose head construction.

Ears-in-a-Row

Moose ears all in a row.

The moose ears made nice bunny ears too. I kind of want some!

Ears

I love this selfie with the ears so much it has been my Twitter avatar since I took it. (I’d use it for my Gravatar too if so many blogs didn’t do circle style avatars – it just doesn’t work as a circle.)

It’s a little weird to have your work stare back at you while you hand-stitch its ear on.

Looking-at-You

“I’m looking at you!”

I have tons more photos, but it’s more interesting to watch video because you can see all of the lights and get a better sense of the size. I was actually one of the test models for the elf costumes in order to help work out some of the awkwardness of wearing them – glad to see that no one was tripping and falling during the parade!

Happily, there were plenty of YouTube videos posted of the parade for me to choose from. (Ironically, the official Silver Dollar City one was not the best and was filmed on a night when not all the lights were working.) So I’ve chosen two of the best videos.

(See timestamps below each if you want to fast forward through them.)

This first one is nice for closeups:

  • 1:14–1:32 Moose heads on giant Santa Hats
  • 2:22–2:38 Big Candy Canes
  • 3:00–3:33 Elves that look like huge Christmas ornaments

And this video is a view of the parade from a little farther back, giving you a better look at the whole 12-foot moose on Santa hats costumes:

  • 0:48–0:59 Moose
  • 2:33–2:52 Candy Canes
  • 3:19–3:42 Elves

This year has been full of Christmas projects for me! And I still have one more to post about next time!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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White Christmas Dresses for The Fantasy of Lights

There was a little blood (on the white fur, of course! but easy to fix), a lot of sweat (heavy upholstery fabric is hard to wrangle!), but thankfully, no tears for this build!

I ended up having to sort through 415 photos for this post! Needless to say, I have reduced that number down a little bit. (Click photos to enlarge.)

1-White-Christmas-Santa-Dresses

Back at the end of September, I was hired to build dresses for two identical mannequins for a revamped outdoor Christmas display in Wichita Falls. The request was for something that resembled the red satin dresses with white fur trim seen at the end of the 1954 movie White Christmas.

2-DVD-and-Printed-Screenshots

Luckily, it’s a movie I love and own so I was able to re-watch the end a bunch of times and grab some good screenshots to work from.

One of the mannequins was brought to my house.

I called her Keira. She was about the same dress size as I am – but 6 feet tall! A GIANT Barbie.

Keira-the-Mannequin

Her old outfit was sad and her wig was scraggly. So I threw away her clothes and let her borrow some of mine after a bit of a spa day.

3-Spa-Day

I ordered a swatch of the Sunbrella brand red outdoor upholstery velvet. It ended up being the perfect color and had a decent drape, so I ordered 16 yards (but it seems to be sold out at the moment – not sure if they will restock it, but I hope they do!).

I bought some rip-stop nylon for lining and some white acrylic fur with an olefin backing at my local Hancock Fabrics. I also purchased outdoor upholstery thread, acrylic rhinestones (JoAnn Fabrics), and fabric glitter glue (Hobby Lobby).

I ordered hoop skirt petticoats from Petticoat Junction and the client ordered ice skates for shoes. I bought some red “parade gloves” at a Halloween store (perfect timing of a project!).

My really good friend Marlene, who is a professional film & television makeup artist, was tasked with finding and styling some appropriate wigs that could stand up to the elements.

4-Sitting-Fail

I thought Keira might like to sit down for once in her life. Not sure it worked out so well for her.

Wensley did not like Keira and hated it when I touched her or moved her around. I think she bothered him because she wouldn’t look at him, hehe. (My dress forms don’t have faces so he just ignores them.)

There was growling and barking for many days after she arrived. Just when he had gotten a little used to Keira visiting, the big roll of velvet fabric arrived and he greeted that with the same suspicious “intruder alert!” and I caught it on video:

A package was delivered while Wensley was outside. BIG fabric roll #intruderalert! #jrt #jackrussell #dog

A post shared by Brooke Wilkerson (@sewbrooke) on

My husband and our brother-in-law helped me rig a stand for her, and then I was able to start working on a mockup.

5-Mannequin-Stand

My starting point for both bodices was Vogue 2979 that looks like a reproduction of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress (pictured in this old post). But the sleeve caps as drafted were too short and caused all kinds of fit issues until I popped the seam open at the shoulder. (I tried the bodice on myself and had similar problems with the fit, so beware if you are trying to use this pattern straight from the envelope.) I also lowered the underarm curve a slightly like I usually need to do for myself.

6-Sleeve-Cap-Too-Short

Therefore, I drafted my own sleeve from scratch and made it a two-piece sleeve while I was at it. This allowed me to include better elbow ease for Keira’s perpetually bent arms. It also made it so much easier to dress her.

7-New-Sleeve-Draft

8-Old-and-New-Sleeve-Comparison

Original sleeve (left) and new self-drafted 2-piece sleeve (right).

My friend used glossy red model paint to repaint Keira’s outdated ‘80s lips (check out that unbelievably sharp line!) and Keira got her lovely new hair. So much better!

9-New-Lips-and-Hair

The skirts were just basic full circles (but huge! because she’s so tall!) and I draped & drew the cape pattern on Keira. I was really surprised that the upholstery velvet cooperated and did what I wanted it to do for the most part.

I didn’t have enough fur (I bought all there was at the store) to double fold it like I wanted to on the capelet and skirts, so I lined it with some white polyester utility fabric and did a lot of picking to pull the fur out of the seams.

10-Pinned-Darts

Assembly-line dart sewing in my usual way of marking & stitching darts.

11-Circle-Skirt-Cut

12-Quality-Control-Dog

Quality Control Dog inspects my work.

13-This-One-Is-Empty

14-Helping

15-Evened-Hem

16-Samples-and-Machine-Blind-Hem

After making stitch samples, I determined that hand-stitching looked no better than a machine stitched blind-hem. Machine sewing FTW! Much more convenient than sewing miles of circle by hand!

17-Husband-in-Wig

My husband found Keira’s old hairdo.

18-Picking-Fur-From-Seam

19-Attaching-Fur-Trim-To-Skirt

Attaching the fur trim to the skirt. And then starting again for skirt number 2.

20-Trilby-Hat

So I’m hemming the 2nd skirt while listening to Glee Madonna album and I come out to find this. It’s 1983 all over again! I took Keira’s wig off to remove her skirt & my husband put his hat on her head.

21-Springy-Santa-Hat

Husband stikes again but with a silly hat.

22-Draping-the-Capelette

23-Bored

24-Scattered-Notions

25-Bars-Attached-to-Bodice-for-Skirt-Hooks

The skirts ended up being so heavy I had to add bars to the bodices and corresponding hooks on the skirts to hold them in place.

26-Gluing-Rhinestones

27-Rosemary-Mannequin-Comparison

28-Dress-Back-Comparison

29-Fur-Ring-Headpiece

30-Muff

31-White-Christmas-Dresses-Front-and-Back

If you have questions or would like to know about specific details, ask me in the comments. =)

Overall, I probably spent about 3 weeks total on this project but the work was spread out over about 6 weeks. It was a huge build to complete on my own and I was so glad when it was finished! So was Wensley.

32-Emtpy-Mannequin-Stand

“Good, that weird lady who wouldn’t look at me is gone!”

 

Merry Christmas to all, and my all your Christmases be white!

And My Resume Gets More Convoluted

I have so many things to share! This is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge post.

Some of you may already know from talking to me directly or seeing it on Twitter, I no longer work part-time at Fabrique Fabrics. It was fun for the year and a half it lasted and I’ll miss my coworkers, but since it was never really my “career” I’m not really upset about it. (I think everyone who knows the details is more upset about it than I am.) The short explanation is my boss decided to reduce my hours to “none” to save some money, so I’m moving on to other things instead of waiting around.

On to more exciting things (and LOTS of links)…

  • Something I worked on last summer will finally be on display at the Dallas Arboretum for the holidays! The 12 Days of Christmas exhibit is “an elaborate collection of life-size Victorian gazebos filled with the charming costumed characters made famous by the beloved Christmas carol.”** You can see it for yourself from November 16, 2014–January 4, 2015. Since the opening was delayed a year, I’m looking forward to remembering what I did. I can’t wait to see it installed and share some photos (and possibly video) once it opens!
  • I helped make some youth circus costumes back in May. Lots and lots of tiny appliqué (spandex on spandex) and ruffles… and thread! I really blew through the thread on this project:
Circus-Costume-Appliques

Circus costumes with detailed appliqué designs and what the trashcan next to my machine looked like halfway through.

And here’s a teaser video of this year’s show, in which you can see some of the costumes in motion:

  • If you will be in San Antonio this weekend (September 26-28), you can see some of the fun costumes I helped build this summer in the opera The Fantastic Mr. Fox put on by the new Opera San Antonio.
  • More of my summer sewing work will be in a Christmas parade at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri this year.

Hopefully, I will have more photos of both the opera and the parade to share later. (I’m crossing my fingers that someone will post a video of the parade on YouTube at some point!) Update: Post about the parade.

  • If you will be in Dallas, TX anytime now until October 5, go see the Oscar de la Renta exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. It’s fashion inspiration! I went and took a ton of photos a few weeks ago, so if you aren’t able to see it yourself, I promise a detailed blog post about it soon. Here’s a teaser:
Oscar-de-la-Renta_5-Decades-of-Style

Oscar de la Renta – Five Decades of Style exhibit

Recent freelancing has suddenly gone from “absolutely nothing” to “I’m booked into the beginning of next year!” Such is my career.

Keira-the-Mannequin

Meet Keira, one of the mannequins I’ll be making a custom dress for. She’s had a hard life and it’s time for new hair and better clothes.

  • Then it looks like I’ll be finishing out the year working at The Dallas Opera. They have a few new costumes to build. =)

And just because I’ve been looking for a place to share a couple of great costuming videos, I’m going to include them here.

I found the first video because of the second one. It is a really nice overview of what it’s like in any professional costume shop – whether it’s opera, theatre, dance, or film – when there are costumes to construct and fit. “Recreating a Tutu” at the New York City Ballet:

And if you have the time to watch (it’s over 26 minutes long), the following is a truly fascinating video on how a ballet pointe shoe is made (teaser-not-quite-spoiler: inside out!). If you don’t have time to watch it now, come back and watch it later when you do! I promise you will enjoy it.

They use some cool sewing machines and do an amazing amount of the work by hand. And to think that all shoes used to be made this well! “What’s in a Ballet Shoe”:

** What my husband/editor read at first glance: “An elaborate collection of life-size Vulcan gizmos filled with charred costumed characters made famous by the beloved Christmas carrots”  ??

Happy Halloween!

Remember the Wonder Woman cape I had fun modeling? It looks so much better on AnnaMay, its intended wearer!

Jen posted some wonderful photos of AnnaMay wearing her Wonder Woman costume on EPBOT recently, and said I could share them on my blog as well. You can also see the boots I made to go with the cape in the pictures. =)

Here are two of my favorites (read Jen’s post to see a few more pictures including a group shot of superheroes!):

AnnaMay in her Wonder Woman cape!

Good photo of the Wonder Woman “boots” I made to cover her sneakers. (They fit! Yay!)

I got the best email from AnnaMay’s mom earlier this week:

We went to camp this weekend in the mountains.  All of the families that go have at least one child with autism or sensory disorders like AnnaMay. We shared our cabin with another family who had 2 children. One of them was a 5 year old little girl.  We were getting ready for the Halloween carnival and I was helping AnnaMay with her costume.  We went to put the cape on and the girl came over with huge eyes and asked AnnaMay if she could fly.  AnnaMay told her no. The girl leaned in and very earnestly said, “I bet you could with that cape if we got you up high enough.” I thought you might enjoy knowing you made a cape so awesome it made a 5 year old believe AnnaMay could fly…

And here’s a great shot taken by AnnaMay’s mom of the whole costume:

I can’t tell you how much this makes me smile!

So the job I’ve been working for the past few of months for a holiday display has been postponed for a year. (Bummer – I have eleventy-million pictures I want to share!) This week, I’m helping finish some costumes at the University of Dallas for a friend who wasn’t able to complete the job due to health issues. And in a couple more weeks I’ll be helping in the Southern Methodist University costume shop for 2 weeks. So I’m keeping surprisingly busy this season!

The detailed posts on how I made the Wonder Woman cape & boots will be coming as soon as I have time to sit down and go through my photos.

And Happy Reformation Day!

Sorry, Edna* – I Say Let’s All Wear Capes!

I finished building a Wonder Woman cape!

Stars go on the outside. They only turned Lynda Carter’s cape backwards to get the beauty shot.

As much as I wanted to keep it, I didn’t make it for myself (which is why it’s so short on me). I made it for a special little girl named AnnaMay.

I first heard about AnnaMay on Jen’s EPBOT blog and was inspired to help make her geeky dreams come true – she wanted to be Wonder Woman for Halloween. (Thanks, Jen, for being the instigator and letting me be a part of the fun!)

I was given the task of building the cape and the boots (both of which will have their own posts about how I made them later) while someone else made the top & skirt, and Jen made bought the accessories (original plan was her making them).

Before I mailed it off to its intended owner, I had fun wearing the cape for some blog photos taken by my mom (Thanks, Mom!). I think we should all wear capes – just because!

Spinning is required when one sports a cape.

I was trying to get a good shot of the back as I spun for the camera, but there was such a shutter delay, my mom and I had trouble timing it. We kept getting the same angle over and over!

So I kept spinning. And spinning. And I got really dizzy. Which gave me the giggles. Which made the whole thing just spiral into silliness.

I’m having way too much fun in these photos! We finally got the back but it was action-shot blurry. I’m calling it art.

I don’t think I’ve been that dizzy since grade school when I would turn in circles until I collapsed to watch the ceiling keep turning above me.

There are two ways to tie a cape.

One way is the standard bow in front:

My typical squinting in the sun smile.

The other is a way to avoid the bow riding up to choke the wearer by wrapping the ties over the shoulders & under the arms (like a backpack) and tying it behind the wearer’s back but under the cape:

No choking possible. =)

It makes me happy that AnnaMay will never outgrow her cape, which is part of the reason I spent so much time on the details.

Appliqué stars with sequins.

She will be wearing it tonight at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. I can’t wait to see (and share) pictures!

(UPDATE: See pictures of AnnaMay in this post!)

Enjoy your cape, AnnaMay! I hope you proudly wear it to shreds! I certainly had fun test-driving it! =)

And yes, I also ran around my parents’ backyard in it. Capes have a way of making you do things like that.

* “No capes!” (on YouTube)

Wristlet Pattern Winner

Thank you, everyone, for all the wonderful comments on my last post! I’m glad you liked the wristlet bags I made (it seems the shoes print was the most popular).

I had tons of fun making them and using some of the novelty fabrics I’ve had in my stash for a while! I have plans to make many more. =)

I promise anyone can make great little bags like mine using Erin’s amazing instructions!

I’m currently in the middle of building a special Halloween costume during my time off from work-sewing, so please excuse the fact that I skipped the actual hat drawing for this giveaway. Afterall, there were 75 comments! That’s a lot of writing and folding to put names in the hat!

So I used a random number generator and it gave me the number 46.

I counted twice and my husband counted once. (I skipped my couple of reply comments in the count.)

The lucky winner…

with comment number 46 is…

Oh, here’s a photo of that costume I currently have under the needle of my machine:

I’m stitching the stars on a Wonder Woman cape!

Oh, sorry!

You wanted to know the winner!

Commenter number 46 is…

Chuleenan of C Sews!

Congratulations, Chuleenan! I will make sure that Erin has your email to send you your PDF pattern!

And for those of you who didn’t win, I strongly encourage you to buy a copy of the Dog Under My Desk Essential Wristlet pattern! You will not be wasting your money! I promise. =)

Thanks again to Erin for having such a fun blog hop (there are still more pattern giveaways happening elsewhere!) and for letting me give a copy of your wonderful pattern away!

Now, I’m off to sew more stars on that cape…

A Dandelion Skant

(Warning: Major geekery ahead.)

Personal log, Stardate: 67158.4

Captain Mari Miller of the USS Disparate Disciplines contacted me via subspace with a request to test another one of her new sewing patterns. (See my last test for her Avocado Hoodie in this post.)

I’m honored for my blog to be the last stop in her Blog Hop for the Dandelion Dress & Top.

The previous stops have been as follows:

When I first saw the technical drawings for this pattern, I immediately thought Starfleet uniform TNG skant. And the lines of the shirt reminded me of the seamlines of TOS uniforms.

I couldn’t help coloring in the outlines with a pencil.

I started with a mockup of the sweetheart neckline top to check the basic fit. I’m pretty close to being an exact size 0 according to the pattern’s measurement chart, so I cut everything at that size.

Meh. Not bad right out of the envelope, but the dart at the point of the side panel wasn’t quite right for me.

The main alteration I needed to make was dropping the underarm seam just a bit because it felt a little high to me. (I’m picky about my armseye fit, and I will avoid wearing something if I feel like it gives me an underarm wedgey.)

Redrawn underarm seam.

The unusual style lines make this pattern perfect for color blocking, and I wanted to make sure I showed them off.

I decided to make two versions – a solid color sweetheart top (B2) and a color-blocked sweetheart dress (B1).

The pattern recommends using a woven fabric (aka non-stretch) but I wanted to see how it would work with a thicker t-shirt fabric (I was hoping the darts would fit me a bit better in something with some stretch), so I cut up a men’s 4X tee.

I eliminated the pattern’s center back seam and cut the back on a fold since the fabric had stretch. I also added a few inches to the length of the top.

The end result was a TOS inspired shirt with a black rib-knit edged neck. Unfortunately, the darts were still too pointy and not quite right on me.

I’m going to make this version over again because I have an outfit planned, so better photos will come in a future post. For now, just these crummy mirror selfies.

Then I made the dress – TNG style, because Leila inspired me with her skant from a few months ago.

I made my dress out of a drapey polyester suiting fabric that came in both red and black. (Yes, I know, expendable crewman. I’ll just avoid any away missions while wearing it.)

I stitched the triangular side panels in as I do when sewing inset points and completely left out the darts.

After everything was assembled, I discovered that I needed to alter the back neck a little because it was gapping. (One of the disadvantages of fitting yourself – it’s hard to catch those back issues in the first mockup or two when you can’t really see your back!) So I reshaped the seam connecting to the back sleeve.

Back neck alteration and corrected pattern piece.

I fussed and tweaked for a long time with the front bust. Ultimately, I decided I needed the tiniest of darts, and put one in that was less than half the width printed on the pattern. (I could probably eliminate them altogether if I messed with the pattern some more.)

Dart as printed on pattern traced on the mockup and actual (smaller) width of dart I put in my dress.

Finished dart on dress.

I had fun taking photos in my new Dandelion skant. And now I actually have a Halloween costume this year because of my Star Trek inspired dress!

Do not mess with me. I have a phaser.

Wensley considers the tribble his prey. He goes into stalker-mode every time he sees it.
No, you cannot kill it!

Some amusing outtakes.
I’m so “at ease” I look like I’m sleeping on my feet in the photo on the right, hehe.

I kind of want to make this dress in a less geeky color-blocked version, but I haven’t found the right fabrics yet. (I’m thinking bright green & grey, or orange & grey.)

To show that it can be styled a little less Trek-like, I paired it with some pointed pumps and a necklace. Behold the power of photo editing software (even in my amateur hands):

Now I wish I could find some bright violet fabric for real!

In conclusion, I think the silhouette and style lines of this pattern are wonderfully interesting, and once the fit is perfected, it’s magic. Both the dress and the top are super comfortable.

I enjoyed sewing this because the pieces were so different from normal. The instructions were easy to follow and because of its unusual construction, I would be sewing along, and suddenly, I would be finished! It was sort of strange not being able to anticipate the end.

The only real difficulty lies in the fact that it can’t be altered in the standard simple ways if it doesn’t fit exactly right – there is no side-seam to take in, etc.

Everyone who wants a fun and different construction challenge should definitely give this pattern a try!

Buy your own copy – here’s the link!

And make it so sew!

Hmm… I guess tribbles really are born pregnant!

=/\=  Personal log, supplemental: My husband loves my new light-duty uniform and says I could pass for a secretary on a starbase.

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