My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part IX: Rhinestone Choker

The main accessory for the outfit is a fabulous rhinestone choker– it’s huge, it’s gorgeous, and it probably inspired my long-standing partiality for festoon-style necklaces. I’ve been drooling at the thought of getting to wear something similar, but it’s been quite a process getting to the finish line on this one…

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I had a difficult time finding anything that was as elaborate as the choker in the movie– sadly, modern tastes don’t seem to trend towards festoon necklaces. Then I came across a gigantic necklace (billed as a shoulder chain) that had surprisingly familiar-looking elements…

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part VII: Tiara

 

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For one of the accessories for this outfit I had to find an appropriate small tiara. It was actually harder than it sounds– while there are tiaras galore on eBay, most are much larger than the delicate piece Eliza Doolittle wears in her gigantic updo. The few smaller ones weren’t much better– they were usually too rounded and none had the tiny dangles you can see in the original. I finally came to the conclusion that I’d need to cobble one together myself. Luckily, after much searching I found this comb, which had the radiating tines decorated with rhinestones, even if it was in the wrong color. I removed the heart from the front and snipped off the extra tines so there were only seven, just like the movie version. I had to bend them into the correct position to make them look like they were radiating from a wider base, as well.

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part VI: Neckline and Sleeve Beaded Trim

So as I was working on the dress, I thought I’d see how it looked with the rhinestone shoulder chain that had first inspired the project– by itself it looked reasonably good, but once I tried the choker on the dress form (more on that later) it was clear that the combination of the two was just too much. Too gaudy, too garish, not so much a replica of the original as an over-the-top version you might see on stage. Plus, it wasn’t quite long enough to drape properly over the shoulders, which (while fixable) just pushed it over the edge into “nope” territory.

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So despite being initially inspired by the rhinestone shoulder chain, I decided that it had to go. (Luckily for me, since it had arrived broken I got an almost complete refund from the seller, so I only ended up paying $6 for it– not a huge waste of money) But what to replace it with?

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Blue Velvet Tabard, Part III: Blinging it Up

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I can never let well enough alone, it seems, and so while I had a perfectly serviceable tabard I knew I’d need something to make it more visually interesting– more “royal,” in other words. As usual, a simple idea (adding silver trim to the hems) quickly ballooned out of control with the idea of getting several different kinds of silver iron-on trims and constructing a faux chain of office to go across the chest, and it wasn’t until I discovered that my chosen trim was unavailable in silver AND realized that it was probably not a good idea to count on ironing velvet (risk of crushing), that I came back down to a relatively sensible level of planning and decided to just make a real chain of office for my husband to wear over his tabard.

Yeah, you read that right. For some reason I thought that constructing a chain of office– which would eventually require several dozen metal bits and pieces, rhinestones, epoxies, and a few different kinds of pliers– would be the more sensible route.

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Flashback: The Great Hat Undertaking

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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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