Vanessa/Ursula Costume, Part II: Circular Ruffles

There are two issues to tackle when it comes to the ruffles on the wedding dress: the color and the shape.

The problem with the color is that due to the changing sunset lighting in the relevant movie scene, the ruffles actually change color as time goes on. They start off looking almost like a rum pink/beige color, but then fade into a purplish-gray as the sun sets.

ursula movie pink Ursula movie purple

Given that the lighting starts off rather orange to begin with, it’s tough to tell what the original color was supposed to be. I guessed lavender of some kind, to go with Ursula’s original purple skin and tentacle undersides, but I can’t be sure. Unfortunately, dusty rose/lavender with gray undertones isn’t one of the “standard” colors you find fabric in, and it couldn’t be too shiny or too thin or it would clash with the matte brocade of the dress.

The second issue is construction. Clearly, it would be easiest to just gather long strips of fabric or ribbon, but it seems clear from the movie that these are circular ruffles, which drape nicely but take up a lot more fabric and are seriously annoying to hem due to the curved edge. I thought about using purchased trim, but perhaps unsurprisingly I couldn’t find any wide purplish-pinkish-gray ruffled trim anywhere (or even any white ruffled trim of the correct width that I could dye). So, handmade it is.

The thing about circular ruffles is that the ruffliness is determined by the ratio of the inner circle to the outer circle– in other words, if you cut your “donut” shape with a tiny hole in the middle you’ll get really, really dense ruffles, whereas if you cut your donut shape with a big hole in the middle your ruffles will be looser. Of course, it’s tough to tell how any given fabric will drape, so I cut out several versions in half-circles before deciding on which ratios to use.

ursula circles

Ursula ruffles compare

For the large ruffles on the skirt, I went with a 3:1 ratio (assuming that I’d need the ruffle to be 6″ wide before hemming and finishing). I thought I’d need something more dense for the smaller ruffles on the neckline and sleeves, so I did a 4:1 ratio for those.

After I cut everything out I started to join the cut ends of the circles to make longer ruffle pieces, and figured that I’d have to do something to treat the cut edges to prevent fraying. Not having a serger and reluctant to use french seams due to the added bulk, I tried running a very dense, very narrow zig-zag along the edge– almost like a satin stitch. It actually worked really well. So well, in fact, that I thought it might actually work to finish the curved edges as well instead of hemming, which I wasn’t looking forward to anyway. Experiments showed that it worked perfectly, and the tiny thread ends that did show on the edges were barely noticeable. Hooray, no hemming!

Ursula ruffle edge

Of course, then the problem was that I’d planned on needing a hem allowance for my ruffle width, cutting the ruffles accordingly– if I left them as-is they’d be too wide, and if I cut them narrower my ruffle ratios would be off. I ended up cutting them, which worked out all right anyway… so much for my careful experimenting with ratios.

Here are the ruffles, pinned to the dress.

Ursula pinned

They’re definitely fuller than the ruffles in the movie, but I like the effect. Besides, I tried using a looser ruffle for the skirt, and all it did was make the ruffle fall into fewer, larger folds, rather than more, shallower folds. Besides, animators aren’t constrained by things like physics, so I’m not going to worry about it.

I’m going to hold off on stitching them down (which I’ll do by hand, at least for the skirt parts) until I get the tentacle shapes finalized, just so I know how things will hang on the final costume.

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6 thoughts on “Vanessa/Ursula Costume, Part II: Circular Ruffles

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