Blue Velvet Tabard, Part III: Blinging it Up

tabard-bling-done

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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Mismatched– er, “Shabby Chic” Tea Set

tea set

I have this bad habit of browsing through my local Goodwill for kitchen stuff. I say “bad” because it often results in my bringing home something I don’t really need and don’t have room for, but which I just kind of want to own. Examples include the set of pastry rings I’ve never used, the set of Eggies hard boiled egg cookers I used once before giving away, the set of pans to make flower-shaped bread, the pizzelle iron, and most recently the cake pop maker (though I’ve been using that more often that I’d expected). But at least those items had some theoretical use.

The problem is that to get to the kitchen appliance section I need to pass by the shelves of dishware, and I have a weakness for pretty things that let me pretend I’m in a Regency novel. As luck would have it, I was in the store a few weeks before some friends and I had planned to have a fancy afternoon tea party, and I thought it would be adorable to have a set of fancy teacups and saucers to use. Mismatched would actually be better because then it wouldn’t matter if I broke something or if I couldn’t find enough of a single pattern for everyone.

I scoured the shelves looking for pretty teacups every few days (and still keep an eye out for more), though from what I can tell they’re a hot item– they’re only 60 cents and the nice ones never stay available for long. I ended up with thirteen teacups, a set of eight lovely floral saucers (they all match, but they’re so cute I don’t mind), and a miniature teapot that just looked too cute to pass up.

Of course, what’s a tea set without a silver teapot, sugar bowl, and cream pitcher (even though nobody I know puts cream or sugar in their tea)? I found a vintage silver-plated set on eBay. While I think I’d always pictured silver teapots as being rounder (i.e., “short and stout”) this one is still pretty and it’ll make a nice addition to my set, and the little sugar bowl and cream pitcher are adorable. Can’t wait to try it all out together! In the meantime, I’ll be making use of the individual pieces here and there as props for my food photos on the blog.

The Grey Lady, Part XII: Hemming and Trim

Once all of the structural elements of the dress were done with all the seams finished, I finally hemmed it. The first step was putting it on the dress form and doing a preliminary pinning, but then I put it on myself and had my husband adjust the height of the hem so it actually worked for me (not making the same mistake I did with the bodice here). I trimmed the extra fabric and used the seam binding to bind the raw edge of the hem, then used that edge to machine-hem the dress with a blind stitch. The video below explains it fairly well.

You don’t really need a blind hem foot to do this– just keep a close watch on where your stitches are landing relative to the folded edge. Especially with a more textured fabric, it won’t matter if your stitches are a little bigger than expected.

GL hem

So I’ve got the main dress done, but I wanted to add a little something to embellish it at the neckline. I wasn’t about to do any hand-embroidery or beading in my limited timeframe, so I looked for some nice appliques instead. I looked at a lot of different types, including venise lace, soutache, and even sari trim, but eventually I decided on some silver embroidered appliques in a vaguely floral pattern. They’re not too shiny and not too ornate, so they embellish without overpowering.

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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 IV: The Lost Diadem of Ravenclaw

GL diadem stone

To take a brief break from sewing, the first accessory I purchased for this outfit was a no-brainer*: the Lost Diadem of Ravenclaw. I’d considered making my own without being shackled to the movie version, but let’s face it, the movie version is actually reasonably attractive and at $9.99 for an eBay knockoff there’s no way I’d be able to make something equally nice for as little money. So I ordered it, and figured that I could remove some of the larger dangly jewels if they turned out to look too hokey.

Unfortunately, when it arrived there were several issues– first and foremost, it was angled so sharply that it was impossible to wear– seriously, there was a clear inch of space between my head and the curve of the diadem, and there was no way to bend it to fit. Also, despite the side pieces being too short to wear as an actual headband, there were no loops or anything else to pin the diadem to the head– so even if it had been angled properly it would’ve fallen off easily. Clearly, something had to be done. Continue reading

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!