Lady Macbeth Beetlewing Gown, Part XI: Belt

Once the dress was structurally complete I got started on the belt (which had to sit a certain way over the dress to look right). The original belt for the gown appears to have been made of metal links with a raised design on them– the belt wraps twice around the waist and ties in front with a length of twisted fabric.

Initially I thought I’d repurpose some belly-dancing belts with similar metal links to make my own belt, but they were pretty expensive and didn’t have the right overall look– too much filigree, not quite the right shape. I decided to make my own, because deciding to spend ridiculous amounts of time and effort to closely replicate a costume element that I’d intended to shortcut is apparently what I do.

Since I didn’t have the time, knowledge, or supplies to make my own stamped metal links (yet), I opted to use thick black cardstock– it’s called “museum board” and it’s pretty stiff while still being cuttable. I figured that once painted with metallic paint, the links would be close enough to pass for a stage costume.

I started by cutting out pieces of paper to represent the belt links and holding them up against my waist until I determined the appropriate size– each link is 2.75″ high; the rectangle-ish link is 1.6″ at the widest point, while the teardrop-ish link is 1.4″ wide.

(I will note that in retrospect I think I made my links just a bit too large– they looked fine when I was making the templates but the finished belt looks clunkier than the photos of the original. There’s no way I’m going to go to all the trouble of re-doing them at this point, but to anyone trying to replicate the belt, I’d recommend making the links 2.5″ high instead of 2.75″.)

I sketched the designs for the two different links and took photos of them so I could load them into Photoshop and create templates, which I printed out in sets of 12 and laid over the cardstock.

I traced the lines of my templates with ballpoint pen, pushing down hard to make an impression on the cardstock below. No ink got transferred, but the pressure left faint marks, which I went over with white pencil just to make them more visible later on. I made 12 rectangular links and 36 teardrop links. (I ended up using 11 rectangles and 30 teardrops, so I was pretty close in my estimate!)

I painted each link with two layers of Mod Podge to give the cardstock some shine. Then I used a fine-tip bottle of dimensional black craft paint to trace out the raised areas. I will note that the paint wasn’t quite as thick as I’d expected, so in some spots I had to do two layers to get enough height. I also didn’t have enough fine control over the paint to do some of the effects I’d intended, so that was kind of annoying. The finished design was a bit more simplistic than I’d hoped, but it was sufficient for my purposes.

After the dimensional paint dried I did one more layer of Mod Podge to seal everything, then cut out the links– I started by cutting the cardstock sheets into individual rectangles, then used scissors to cut out each link. That was fine for the rectangular ones, but the extra little curl on the inside of the teardrop links was impossible to get at with scissors– instead, after some experimentation I used a hole punch to cut out the innermost part of the curve, and then used an exacto knife to cut the rest. It was a real hassle, but it worked and I didn’t cut myself, so I’m counting it as a win! Even if I have a blister on my middle finger and a sore forearm from all the cutting/punching…

After cutting out the links I coated the backs with another layer of Mod Podge (getting the edges as well to really seal everything). Next up was paint. While the extant belt is a tarnished silvery color, the painting makes it look gold, which I preferred aesthetically. Besides, who knows what the original looked like 130 years ago? Metal tarnishes, right?

I painted the front of each link with two coats of DecoArt Dazzling Metallic paint in Rich Espresso as an underlayer (it’s really kind of a bronzy gold), then painted on a layer of DecoArt Dazzling Metallic in Venetian Gold and blotted it mostly off with a paper towel. I did a cursory coat of Venetian Gold on the backs, too. Finally, I dry-brushed some dark brown paint over the details of the links to really bring them out.

Once my links were finished I used an awl to punch holes in them, then used a dab of hot glue to stick them to a 1 1/4″ wide band of army green twill tape before stitching through the holes. I admit to taking some liberties here– the original tape appears to have been tan-colored and about 2″ wide, but when I tried it over the dress I just didn’t like the way it looked, so I opted to use a narrower tape in a color that blended better with the green dress. I took a small dart in the very center of the tape so it had a downward curve at center front like the original.

At each end of the belt I folded the tape back to make a loop and stitched it closed, so I’d have something to run the center ties through. It should’ve been metal rings, but I didn’t have any on hand and honestly, they didn’t seem important enough to make a special shopping trip for.

Finally, I made the twisted fabric ties, which are tied in a complicated knot in the center.

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Original belt

I took long scraps of my leftover green gauze (about 4″ wide) and stitched them together before twining them with the tan-colored twill tape I’d originally purchased as backing for the links. This may be another instance of my taking liberties with the original design, because the closeups of the original make it look as though the lighter-colored fabric in the belt is actually gold ribbon. However, I tried two different kinds of gold ribbon and both of them just looked too shiny and costume-y to me, so I went with the twill tape instead.

To get the twisted effect I originally just tried to wrap the twill tape around the green fabric (like the original), but it looked too tubular– like a candy cane, almost– so instead I twisted the two together to get a more 3-D look. I think I started out with about 2.5 yards each of fabric/twill tape (maybe a little more) and ended up with a bit under 2 yards of finished twisted cord, so keep in mind that your length will shrink a bit.

To make twisted cord that won’t untwist over time*, you take your two pieces of fabric/ribbon and stitch them together to make one long string. Then take one end and tie it to a doorknob or something stationary, and take the end and stretch it out taut (the stitching point will be in the middle). Twist the end you’re holding, and keep twisting and twisting until you start to get a little resistance and the fabric starts to kink in on itself. Another way of doing it (probably easier for long pieces) is to start off holding the fabric close to the stationary point and start twisting, then move your hands back along the fabric as you keep twisting, keeping the tension going the whole time so you have better control over the level of twist. Keep going until you reach the other end of the fabric. Then walk forward and guide the twist so it’s centered on the midpoint, and it’ll twist itself up into a length of two-toned twisted cord.

I actually like my finished belt ties better than the original ones in the photo!

*Here’s a tutorial I found to make a similar cord out of yarn– it doesn’t have the distinctive two-tone look, but you’ll get the idea with twisting.

4 thoughts on “Lady Macbeth Beetlewing Gown, Part XI: Belt

  1. Pingback: Lady Macbeth Beetlewing Gown, Part XIV: Final Photos! | It's All Frosting...

  2. Pingback: Lady Macbeth Beetlewing Gown, Part XV: Final Thoughts | It's All Frosting...

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