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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!

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)

Tutu for a Toddler

I am going to share a personal project about what I gave my 2½ year-old niece for Christmas – a tutu!  It was one of the cutest little things I think I have ever made!  In order to make it easy for her to put on by herself, I decided to gather the ruffles onto an elastic waistband.  And (because I simply can’t do anything the easy way, gosh darn it!) I made it the way tutus are made for professional ballerinas – which means it was a pain in the neck to do, but it stood straight out to the sides – with no drooping!  =)   

It was adorable on my baby dressform:

         

That’s 15 yards of tulle ruffle on an 18 inch waistband!

Here it is in front of a darker wall were the light pink underlayers show up a little better:

And here she is a few days after Christmas wearing her tutu:

I think she likes it.  =)

Update:  See Part 2 of the toddler tutu.

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