måndag 11 mars 2013

Azelma - research through movie watching

I spent a while collecting screenshots of various background characters to use as inspiration for my Azelma outfit.

As always, click for larger

Initially I only remembered Fantine's pink dress as being pretty from my first time watching the movie. Now that I went back to it, I realise why. Smocking! A very pretty embroidery technique that I've never had cause to learn before. At a glance, it seems to be really tricky and time consuming to make, but the results are so very pretty. I also looked at the light blue dress she wears later on, before changing to the red outfit. It's super simple, no decorations whatsoever. It's interesting in that the skirt is completely flat in the front but gathered/pleated in the back. It's not a style I'm particularily fond of though, so I'll probably not be copying it. It looks like the dress laces in the back, I imagine you pull it on over your head to put it on, since it probably only opens down to the beginning of the skirt.

Many of the characters in the background seem to be wearing a blouse/bodice and a skirt, rather than a dress. But I've made up my mind on making a dress. On top of shift, stays and a couple of petticoats, this is what I'll be going for. At the moment, I'm thinking green dress, white/beige apron and maybe a pale teracotta shawl. We'll see what fabrics I'll manage to find.

What I haven't decided yet, is what to wear on my head. I won't have a wig, I want to use my own hair. But there needs to be some kind of headgear too! I like the look of the two middle ones, even though I'm not entirely sure how the top middle one is constructed, since it shows so briefly. The one to the right is really funny, but might end up looking a bit too silly. The one to the left.. Well, I have no idea how it's constructed, but a lot of the women in the movie wear it. I'll probably just ignore it and go for one of the middle models.

Two extra shots with interesting details to them. The woman in the top right of the left shot seems to have a drawstring on her dress, only time I've seen it on a dress and not a shift though, so I'll probably ignore it. Striped fabric seems a common pattern, I'm thinking green striped will be pretty for the dress. The shawl in the shot to the right is really nice, with it's scalloped edge. I might make one like that, add some more detail to the dress without making it look too fancy.

tisdag 5 mars 2013

Constructing a corset

Princess Celestia isn't the only cosplay I'm currently planning. I've also been invited by Cherazor to join a Les Miserables cosplay group. While the others will be reproducing characters out of the movie (I believe that so far we have Gavroche, Mlle Thénardier and Javert), I decided to go down a different route. I'm realising more and more that I prefer costumes where I get a lot of freedom to do my own design, so I decided to pick up the book and find a character that isn't explicitly named and portrayed in the movie.

In the end my choice landed on Azelma Thénardier, Eponine's little sister who isn't part of the musical at all. This gives me the freedom to do whatever I want with it, while still having a proper name for the character, rather than just claiming to be some random poor revolutionary from the streets of Paris.

While the revolution does take place at 1832, I've focused my research on the 1820s. The Thénardiers aren't exactly prosperous, especially not towards the later parts of the movie/musical/book, so it seems highly unlikely that Azelma would be dressed in the latest fashion. Also, dresses from the 1820's are absolutely adorable, the gradual change from regency towards romantic fashion produces some truly pretty things. The waists are moving downwards again and the sleeves aren't yet as stupidly poofy as they become in the thirties.

But before I can even think about making the dress, I need proper underwear! At the very minimum I'll need a shift (underdress), stays (corset, that is) and a couple of petticoats. The shift and petticoats shouldn't be too hard to make, the corset will be a bit more of a challenge. While I'm fairly familiar with the theories of making one, I've never actually done it.

I'm reluctant to spend more money than neccessary on the costume, so I started googling for online patterns and instructions.

First realisation: To most people "corset" equals "victorian corset" and no other model or style has existed, ever. This... Makes research of a more obscure model somewhat frustrating.

Second realisation: I'm inbetween two periods of fashion. Googling for regency won't give me the right models, googling for romantic won't be quite right either. Yes, I can google by specific years, but it isn't nearly as handy as having a neat label to put on the style I'm looking for.

There are several different models of corsets/stays available from this time period.
Shamelessly stolen borrowed from here

The shorter ones are closer to a modern bra than what you'd consider a corset, seem to be much more comfy and waaay easier to make. However, I get the impression that they are popular earlier than I'd like to, even as poor as Azelma is, I doubt she'd be wearing a thirty year old corset. They are also, and most importantly, only suited for small, slim and petite girls who already have a body fitting in with the ideal and fashion at the time. Not so much suited for me then. I'll need the full version that goes all the way down over the hips.

In the end, I stumbled on this. It's really handy, well written instructions, lots of pictures of both the original vintage one as well as construction of the new one. There's only one drawback, there are no instructions on how to draft your own pattern. I'll definately need to make my own, I'm nowhere near as small and skinny as she is, I'll need to adapt the pattern to my bodyshape.

Here are my results, based on her photos and pattern pictures:
Click for larger!
The side piece, green in my sketch, is the trickiest one. It's not immediately obvious how it works from only looking at the pattern pieces. Once I looked closer at the photos of the corset I realised that it's more a case of the green and blue pieces making up the front while the orange makes up the back, seeing how the seam between green and orange pretty much ends up being a side seam.

This is all well and good, but what I really need is to know what measurements to take, and how they will affect the pattern. These are my guesses for that:

The corset must go all the way down over the top of the hips. Not so far that it gets in the way of walking, obviously, but if it stops too far up it creates a decidedly unflattering bulge. An inversed muffintop, so to speak. It'll also be avoided by making sure it flares enough at the bottom to not be as tight around the hips as it will be around the waist and bust.

Overall, I'm not aiming to have a super tight corset. These aren't victorian corsets, after all, and we're not aiming to look like wasps. In fact, this corset is more after shaping you towards a smooth body shape rather than trying to make you look tiny. The orange and yellow measurements should be fairly straightforward. I should be able to get the yellow positioned right on the side piece simply by putting it at a straight angle against the green and at the correct distance from orange. I'll also need to remember to calculate for the space the lacing takes up in the back, on all the pictures I've seen the corset has been laced fairly widely, you're not aiming towards having the two back pieces meet.

The pink one will be trickier. Firstly, because of the armscye and how on earth I'll be measuring that to get a good size (I'm leaning towards wildly guessing and hoping it'll turn out all right..). Secondly, I'm not sure how to measure it right. It'll need to be smaller than my actual bust measurement, since that's the one place where the corset will constrain and shape the most. But how much? I have no real way of knowing. The gussets in front make sure the corset bulges at least a bit at the bust, we're not looking to be completely flat. But it should still be somewhat straight. On the other hand, I don't want it to be straight enough that I end up with a stupidly enthusiastic pushup effect. 

I'm thinking that what I'll have to do is simply make the measurements as best as I can, make a mockup of scrap fabric, adjust it when I can try it on, turn that into pattern pieces, rinse and repeat until it looks good. This will be fun!

torsdag 28 februari 2013

New Cosplay: Princess Celestia

I'm a brony.
And proud of it.
I really love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. And on top of that, I'm going to a brony convention this summer: Crystalcon. Clearly, I need a pony themed cosplay.

To be honest, I've been considering doing one for a while now. It's tricky though, the amount of characters in the show are somewhat limited and whichever I choose I can be sure that there will be numerous others around as well. Time to think outside the box in order to stand out!

Firstly, I've decided to go for Princess Celestia. I do love the character, she's awesome. She also seems to be one of the less often portrayed ones in cosplays, at least in the cons I've been to so far.

She's also really pretty. That's important too.

So what do I know about her? She's pretty much a goddess in the realm of the ponies, for at the very least a thousand years she's been the ruler of Equestria, controlling the rising and setting of the sun and the moon, fighting off numerous powerful badguys and defeating them on her own. Sure, nowadays Luna takes care of half of the moving of celestial bodies across the sky, and she seems to be content to let Twilight Sparkle and her friends take care of any threats towards the peace. But before that, she must've done it all by herself, for centuries and centuries.

Initially I figured that I'd make a pretty white dress and add pastel and gold details to it, seeing how she's all pretty and a princess and all. But then again, considering her story and what she's capable of, she seems much more badass than a princess in a frilly white dress.

The term "Warrior Queen Celestia" popped into my mind.

She needs armour. And weapons. My sketches took a completely new direction. In the end, this is what I settled for:

A white, gold studded gambeson, white leather pauldrons, greaves and bracers. Golden gorget with a gem, mirroring the gold thing she wears around her neck as a pony. It always looked a bit too thick to be a necklace anyway. I don't want her with a sword and shield, but rather a pole weapon of some sort. A spear, halberd, naginata... I haven't decided on that quite yet, but probably one with a golden blade rather than steel, to match the rest of her looks.

Since deciding on this, I've made even more research on how to craft the things I need, as well as making some more in-depth sketches for a few of the parts.

The parts I will need to make for the costume so far are:

  • Shirt and trousers to go underneath: Most likely white cotton and rather plain as they won't be very visible
  • White gambeson: White cotton again, "gold" studs and possibly "gold" buckles for closing it.
  • White leather belt: Hoping to find at thrift store
  • Shoes: Will use my larp boots, unless I find nice white shoes that aren't too expensive.
  • Greaves&Bracers: Will make out of craft foam.
  • Pauldrons: Main parts out of craft foam, hoping to find thin white leather belts at thrift store to make the straps out of, putting "gold" buckles on them if at all possible.
  • Gorget: Craft foam again. Looking into ways of making the purple gem needed, will possibly have to cast one myself out of resin.
  • Hanging belt thingy: white fabric, possibly something shiny and satiny. Embroidered cutie mark in yellow and gold thread.
  • Belt bags: Since I'll otherwise not have any pockets. White with gold buckles, probably fabric rather than leather (even though leather would be neat)
  • Crown: Looking into wire wrapping techniques. Would be neat to make it that way rather than the solid and strange looking one she wears as a pony.
  • Weapon: I really, really want a larp one like this one but it's probably way beyond my budget. Will need to research other options.
  • Wig: Shouldn't need too much work, simply finding one I like of suitable colours.
All in all, there are a lot of parts to the outfit, but I'm really excited about it and really looking forward to working on it!

Tardis finished!

Wow, I should've made this post ages ago. Anyway, the Tardis costume is mostly finished now.

That's me together with the lovely Cherry from Cherazor's Closet as the 10th Doctor. Do check out her page, she creates some truly awesome stuff. :)

After that shot was taken I finally managed to get a hold of a led lamp to put inside the hat. (Thank you, Ikea and your cheap table decoration lamps!)
Apologies for the atrocious picture quality, it's the only shot I have so far that shows the light well.

The outfit is definately done now, but as always there are still other things that can be done to improve it.

My plans so far are:

  • A nice fluffy petticoat to give the skirt some more volume. (I'm seriously considering buying a readymade one, and then add some of the gold tulle I got, it's too soft for me to make an entire petticoat ouf of, unless I buy lots and lots more of it)
  • Ribbons in the back so that I can tie it and give it some further definition and shape at the waist. That, or taking it in so that the entire thing becomes a little tighter.
  • Blue embroidery on the collar of the shirt. It's hard to see, but the collar of the shirt has a lovely white-on-white embroidered pattern. I figure that it'll look even nicer if it's filled in with blue!

torsdag 11 oktober 2012

Tardis details: Necklace, windows and a failed hat

 First, I'll get that fail part out of the way. :)

My original idea was to construct a wire frame for the lamp/hat, then cover it with fabric and trim and hopefully in the end put a light inside it. I've learned two things while attempting this: My thin wire is way too thin, the thick one is way too thick. Constructing a cylinder that isn't all wonky out of these two is near impossible.

Time to rethink! Spotting an old soap jar from Lush gave me an idea. I'll use that as a base and glue the fabric and trim onto it.

This will have several advantages. Firstly, it will be sturdy and keep its shape even if I accidentally sit on it or something. The wire one would have needed handling with extreme care not to bend out of shape. Secondly, with large flat surfaces it will be much easier to attach the trim to it neatly. Thirdly, if I handle this well, I'll be able to attach the lid to the headband in a way that allows you to unscrew the jar itself. This will prove very useful once I get to the point of attaching a light inside it, allowing me to turn it on and off as well as change batteries without having to deconstruct the entire thing. All in all, I think this is a big improvement.

I've also done some work on the dress itself.

Those two aren't finnish flags, but the future windows of the tardis. Due to their proportions, I opted for 2x2 windows instead of the correct 3x2. I'm fairly confident it will look good anyway. Next up is attaching them, but I'm not quite sure what the least complicated way to pin them on will be, seeing how the top front part of the dress isn't a flat piece and making them line up nicely is really important since it'll be extremely obvious if they're crooked. Since I don't own a mannequin, I think I'll have to try to pin them on while wearing it. I hope I don't get too many bloodstains on it as I stab myself repeatedly! XD

Lastly, there's the necklace!

The embroidery isn't anywhere near as neat as the embroidery on the sign is, but it's done in sewing thread and working on the small ribbon was rather fiddly. If it bothers me enough, I might take it out and redo it at some point in the future. Right now, I'm happy with it. The key is too small to be a proper tardis key, it's the spare for a padlock I found lying around. The shape is good enough though, and it's a good size for the necklace, so I'm happy. :)

tisdag 2 oktober 2012

Apron step one - complete!

I can't help but feel slightly guilty about using my grandmother's beautifully monogrammed bedsheets for sewing... But then again it is, as you can see in the top middle, worn out and ripped. Using old fabric that's already worn thin must be perfect for a garment that will be artificially aged to achieve just that look. :)

After comparing a few different pictures of aprons in the style I want, I put together a simple pattern sketch of one that should look nice but not require too much effort in putting together.

I'll admit that I didn't originally plan on crossing the ribbons in the back like that. I ended up cutting them too long, and rather than shortening them, I went for that solution instead. I think it also helps the apron stay on better than if they were straight down the back.

While sewing, I also took the time to try out tea dying a few scraps of fabric. I made two pieces. The first one was dipped in the tea for a while and immediately rinsed in cold water, while the other one was put down to dry still drenched in tea.

This is what they looked like once I put them down to dry. The one to the right is of course the one with the tea left in. Originally I thought it would end up far too brown, but when I later on rinsed the tea out and left it to dry overnight, it ended up a lovely brownish colour, while the one rinsed immediately was far too pale for my taste.

As I write, the apron is soaking in tea and I will soon take it out to dry. Photos of the entire thing will come once it's dry.

Next up: Experimenting with creating blood stains!

torsdag 20 september 2012

Yet another new project!

What's that? I'm supposed to finish what I start before picking up something new? Naaah! :D

This new one is for a larp outfit and will be one of the more ambitions things I've done in a while, as far as exploring a new era of fashion, new techniques and new types of accessories goes.

The new era
I was given a suggestion of aiming towards roughly the 1930's. I'll admit that most of my research has landed a decade or two earlier than that, but I imagine that the work uniform of a maid wasn't something that changed along with fashion very easily and it might look more or less the same in the 30's as it did in the 20's.

In short, it should consist of a black dress (possibly with some details of white lace, such as the collar) and on top of that a white apron and a small white headgear, either a cap or one of those lacy headbands.

For the black dress, I'm going to cheat and go for a long black skirt and a dark grey shirt. The main reason for this is simply that I already own them and my budget is somewhat limited, so I won't be making an entirely new dress when I won't have to.

Instead, I will put my efforts into making the apron and headgear nice, since they should attract the most attention anyway. I spent quite some time researching different models of aprons, and in the end I landed at this one as my favourit:

(Picture shamelessly stolen from http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/collections/liners/titanic/survivorsapron.aspx )

Granted, this one is from 1912, but I refer to my argument above about why that's probably okay. I like the way the top part of the apron covers enough of the chest, back and shoulders to almost give the impression of being a white dress and the lace details are beautiful but not over the top.

(Again, from http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/collections/liners/titanic/survivorsapron.aspx )

Another source of inspiration is the maid uniforms seen in the tv show Downton Abbey. The model is basically the same, only the trim differs.

I know that I have some old lace lying around that I bought for another project but never used. As far as I can tell, it's vintage and handmade, which is a neat bonus. It was also incredibly cheap, so I won't feel too bad about what I'm going to do to it next...

The new techniques
Not only will the costume look like a maid's uniform from the early 20th century. It will also have to look like the person wearing it has worn it since back then, while working and not taking particularily good care of it. There will have to be discolouration, old stains, wear and tear, hastily mended rips and plenty of blood stains (did I mention she's the semi-immortal servant of a slightly demented vampire count?).

I've never done anything like this before, but I think it will be a lot of fun! I've spent some time researching how to distress costumes in a good looking and not too impractical way (the ideal one of course being to simply use them until they are suitable worn out, but most of us won't have the time to do that.)

There are plenty of different ways to distress outfits, and most of the places I've found repeat them in one way or another. This page sums up most of them pretty well. I have a feeling it will be difficult to first spend time making a nice looking garment, only to proceed and start ripping and staining and ruining it, but the end result should be nice!

Blood stains turned out to be trickier. My first searches mostly gave me advice along the line of "I'm really cheap and in a hurry and want to make a halloween outfit". That is; blood stains that looked like fresh blood and probably not very realistic at that either. What I wanted was dried in blood, but preferrably permanent so that I won't have to worry about ruining it if it should get wet, or staining other clothes. I altered my search slightly, adding things about wanting it to be old blood and permanent. What do I get? Pages upon pages of stain removal advice. Argh!

At this point, I think my best bet will be to go for a mixture of red food dye and soy sauce, which I will then attempt to wash out. Hopefully this should leave reddish brown stains. (I will of course try this on some scrap fabric first) Then for the slightly fresher and not yet washed out, but still aged and dry, stains, I might just fall back on painting them on with acrylic paint. Not ideal, but it's my best idea so far. Got a better one? Do tell me!

New accessories
I'm buying a wig.

I've never bought a wig before. Actually, I've never even worn one. But it seems like fun. And a good way to alter your looks a lot. That in combination with wearing contacts, which I almost never do, should make me look a lot different in this costume.

Right now, I'm looking at Tradera (swedish ebay, kinda) for cheap wigs. I know that cheap wigs are probably bad wigs, but I don't really feel I can pay for an expensive good wig now that it's just my first time and little more than a fun experiment. If I like it, that can come later.

Since I know the selection won't be too big, I've kept my preferences rather wide. I want the hair to be dark, since I've always wanted dark hair irl, but never dared dye it. I think I'll avoid the completely black ones, I imagine they'll look more fake than a dark brown one. I want it long, mostly since I miss having long hair myself (I'm saving it, but at this rate it will be a few years before it's at the length I want), and I think I'll go for slightly wave rather than straight, again in the hope of looking slightly less awfully fake.

I've got my eyes on one wig that'll be sold tonight and seems promising as far as both looks and price goes. Once I have it and it's arrived, there will be a new post with pictures!

In the end, this is the concept sketch I arrived at:

I'm not 100% sure that's exactly how I'll place the trim, I'll most likely improvise that as I go and when I know just how much lace I have access to. I haven't decided what kind of headgear to make. The lacy headbands seem the most common, but in my mind that have too much of a gothic lolita/french maid halloween outfit wibe. For this reason, I'm leaning towards a mob cap style thing, possibly decorated with lace as well. This might also be helpful if the wig I end up with is ugly. It'll probably be best to wait until I have the wig to decide.