The Grey Lady, Part XI: Accessories

While I’m waiting to finish up the dress, I’ll need to acquire some accessories.

I’d always planned to have a belt on this dress, but while the sewing pattern had an option for a fabric sash it just looked kind of boring. I wanted to find something made of metal or thin chains– kind of a veiled reference to the traditional “ghost = chained to the earth a la Jacob Marley” thing. A little searching online revealed that what I really wanted was a “concho belt,” traditionally worn in the Southwest and made up of silver medallions. The one I bought arrived looking pretty shiny, but I painted on some black acrylic paint, waited for it to dry a bit, then wiped most of it off with a paper towel– the paint stayed in the cracks (hard to see in the picture below) and gave it a nice antiqued feel.

GL belt

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The Grey Lady, Part II: Fabric

One of the toughest parts about creating a costume is fabric– for an existing character the problem can be finding exactly what you need to replicate a specific look, but for a costume where you’re creating something out of whole cloth (pardon the pun) it can be even harder to choose among the vast array of available fabrics to decide what you like best.

And then there’s budget. I’ve got a relatively limited one for this costume, and unfortunately for most historical-style garb you really need something with a nice weight to it (translation: something expensive) if you want it to look good. I thought about stretch velvet, but I don’t have a lot of experience sewing knits and it’s pretty expensive if you don’t want to use panne (I don’t, it makes everything look like a cheap Halloween costume). I looked at saris, figuring they’d have some nice patterns and embellishment to work with, but they don’t often come in gray and almost never with silver accents. Most fashion fabric brocades looked too shiny and/or too modern, plain taffeta was too boring, and it was tough to find home decor brocades in solid gray.

When I finally found a 4-yard lot of 54″ wide muted silver embroidered drapery fabric on eBay for $18 (including shipping!) I couldn’t pass it up. I know fabrics don’t always look as good in person as they do on screen, but this ended up being gorgeous, and luckily not too stiff to drape nicely. According to my pattern it’s a little short to get a whole dress out of, but I’m hopeful that with judicious fabric placement I can get the majority of my dress cut.

For the gores and sleeve puffs I’m using several yards of silvery gray fabric gifted to me by a friend and which is basically “mystery fabric.” I’m fairly sure it’s polyester, it has a subtle texture to it and it drapes well, but apart from that I have no idea. It coordinates perfectly with the embroidered fabric, though, and is heavy enough for a skirt gore but light enough for a sleeve puff. It’s miles better than any of the other options I was looking at online, so I’m thrilled to have it.

GL fabric

Since I’m dealing for the most part with drapery rather than apparel fabric, I’m going to line the whole dress in to mitigate the roughness of the wrong side. The pattern doesn’t call for a lining, but I’m sure I can figure something out. I’d intended to go with white, but ended up picking out a pale lavender lining fabric instead– it coordinates with the gray and I thought it would be pretty, even if no one else will see it.

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!