My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part XV: Final Photos!

I can’t believe that I’m finally done with this project! I’ve been wanting to make this gown for so long that it’s just amazing to see the finished product and know all the work that went into it– I think the last time I was this thrilled with a costume gown was my very first foray into costuming, when I made a noblewoman’s outfit for the Renaissance Faire as a high school sophomore. (That dress had tons of hand-beading as well, so maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment after doing hours of detailing work?)

Anyway, here are some photos taken the talented DROO Photographer, at the convention I attended (sadly, the sparkles really don’t come through in photos the way they do in real life):

DRO_9887 revised.jpg

DRO_9891

DRO_9885 revised

And all of the links to the progress posts:

Part I: Inspiration

Part II: Underdress

Part III: Selecting Overgown Embellishments

Part IV: Overgown Construction

Part V: Appliques and Trim

Part VI: Neckline and Sleeve Beaded Trim

Part VII: Tiara

Part VIII: Stitched Sequins

Part IX: Rhinestone Choker

Part X: Sequin and Rhinestone Swags

Part XI: More Appliques

Part XII: Sequins Redux

Part XIII: Paillettes and Rhinestones

Part IX: HAIR!

 

The Grey Lady, Part I: Sketches

Just as I finish one costume, an opportunity appears for another one…

So there’s a big Harry Potter event coming up over Memorial Day weekend (yay, Misti-Con!), and I’ve made plans to attend! Of course, I need a fabulous costume to wear and some basic Hogwarts robes just won’t cut it, not least because I’m way too old to be playing a high school student, no matter what sitcom casting directors would like you to believe. I racked my brain for an in-canon idea, and came up with the idea of being Helena Ravenclaw, a.k.a., The Grey Lady (House Ravenclaw’s ghost).

The book is short on descriptions, noting only that she wears gray and has long hair and a long cloak. The movies show her in two different outfits– the first is kind of Renaissance German in style (forgive me, fashion historians, this is my closest approximation of the era), with massively puffed sleeves and a full skirt, while the second (in a much longer scene) is rather medieval. I decided to split the difference– I don’t have the time or the resources to sew a Renaissance gown and all its underpinnings, but I’m making something a bit more complicated than a basic medieval-style outfit.

GL movie gownGL movie gown 2

As is my wont, I first tried to find an appropriate dress somewhere else to modify with extra fabric and trims. There were a few possibilities, but most were pretty expensive and none were just what I wanted. I finally decided that I would have to make one myself, which required a bit more creativity. Here are a few of my ideas, which incorporate the various elements that caught my eye:

GL sketches

I definitely want to princess-seam the dress to keep the lines sweeping, and I like the idea of having extra gores in some flowy fabric to add to the ghostliness of the look and provide more movement to the skirt. I’ve also become attached to the “Merida” style sleeve puffs, since they kind of suggest the puffed-sleeve look from the first movie scene, but keep the slimmer lines of the second. No historical accuracy here, that’s for sure.

To start, I found a Simplicity 9891 sewing pattern in the $1 bin at my local fabric store, and snapped it up to use as a base for my dress. It’s got the basic shape, and if the online reviews are any indication it can be easily modified.

Up next: fabrics!

Flashback: The Great Hat Undertaking

table con web

Going to Anime Boston this year reminded me that I haven’t told you all about my hat project. THE hat project. The big one. The mother of all projects. The project that spanned years, involved international commerce, and still has remnants floating around my house. And it all started with a single hat. Or, the lack of one.

A few years back, as the steampunk trend was just on the upswing, I decided to make myself a steampunk costume for Anime Boston. It would have a tweed skirt, a brocade bustier, some interesting leather doodads and brass thingies, and of course a miniature top hat. The problem was, I couldn’t find a hat that I liked– the pre-decorated ones were insanely expensive and the craft-store felt ones were really cheap looking, being more like flocked plastic than real felt and too small for what I had in mind. I did try to place an order for the largest available cheap felt hat from an online supply store, but they were out of stock. That, I think, was the turning point in the whole endeavor, because I had to think outside of the box. (why I didn’t just make a hat out of cardboard and cover it in fabric, I have no idea…)

As you know, if you do an in-depth search for an item on eBay the regular results eventually give way to hits for overseas wholesalers who will sell you bulk quantities of said item. While I personally had no need for huge numbers of tiny hats, it occurred to me that if I was having a problem locating a reasonably priced, decent-quality mini top hat, other people might be having the same problem. Pretty soon I had an email conversation going with a hat company in China that could ship me 150 black felt mini top hats for what worked out to be just under $4.00 a hat, including shipping (which was the most expensive part).

Sparing you the logistics, eventually I ended up with two giant cardboard boxes of hats and about 3 months in which to prepare them for sale at an Artist’s Alley table at Anime Boston.

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Vanessa/Ursula at Anime Boston!

Anime Boston was quite the experience! There was a surprisingly large contingent of Disney costumes, including several Ursulas, but the one comment I heard time and time again was “I’ve never seen anyone do Wedding Vanessa before!” Which, of course, was the point. My friend (dressed as Ariel) and I had tons of opportunities to pose for photos, and especially liked being able to pose with other Ursulas. Hopefully the people taking the pictures had as much fun as we did!

Ursula victory

Ursula Ariel

Ursula mirror movieUrsula Vanessa mirror

This last one is my favorite, simply because the fabulous Tom Catt and I got to recreate such a classic moment from the movie!

Now I guess I just need to figure out what to do with the dress– there’s no room for it in my closet, and I think I’ve about exhausted the possibilities in the tentacle skirt. I think I may just save the wedding dress part for my daughter to play dress-up with, and toss the tentacles. Unless anyone wants a tentacle skirt?

Things to remember for future conventions:

1. Being able to get into and out of a costume by oneself is a very important consideration when constructing one. I’ve been so used to having my husband around to zip me up and arrange my tentacles (there’s another phrase I never thought I’d say) that it was kind of difficult to zip myself up while trying to hold the dress in place. In the end I was just grateful that there was another girl in the bathroom who could zip the dress up for me.

2. If you’re going to wear false eyelashes, remember to bring the tube of adhesive with you in case of detachment. I ended up looking a little lopsided (at least from up close) about halfway through the day.

3. If you’re making a bag to carry, sew some side pockets or compartments into it– makes it a lot easier to quickly grab your camera or cash or whatever it is you’d rather not spend five minutes digging around in your bag for. And yes, the important stuff always migrates to the bottom…

4. Shoes with arch support! Especially if your costume keeps you from sitting down easily. Speaking of which…

5. Make sure you can sit down in your costume. Really, make sure you try it. I did okay on benches, but came perilously close to falling when I tried to sit in a chair and the weight of my skirt pushed the chair just far enough back that my butt almost missed it on the way down.

6. If you get someone to take pictures for you, make sure you check them before you decide you’ve got enough. I really could’ve used some better-angled shots of the whole outfit, or a picture in front of a window where I didn’t have to Photoshop out the giant orange crane growing out of my head… (can you see where I removed it in the top shot?)

In any case, I had a great time! Now for a short hiatus on sewing projects so I can put my craft room (i.e., the computer room that is currently full of thread snippets and stray pins) back in order before my next one!