Nova Prime Irani Rael-Guardians of the Galaxy Part 2


I've got a little bit of progress to share on the vest pattern for the Nova Prime costume. In my last post I showed a picture of the pattern in Optitex. Well, as these things usually go, I've had to go back and tweak a few things here and there so the new pattern is slightly different.

Using Optitex to draft this pattern has been very interesting and certainly a learning experience! If I were to draft this pattern by normal flat pattern techniques I'd fold a whole bunch of 1" pleats on a piece of paper, trace my pattern on top of the pleats, cut it out, then open up the piece of paper. You don't really have the option to do that in Optitex. What I did at first was to make a series of grade points along the contour line where I wanted the pleats to be and then drafted in each pleat one at a time. This looked good on the screen and the piece looked correct when I closed the pleats up. However when it came to print out my pattern and I got to fold it all together something strange happened. I had a couple of pleats folding in the wrong direction (I should have checked counter clock wise instead of clockwise) and then one of them was actually folded over on top of another pleat. It was very odd! 

I ended up going back and starting the piece over again and drafted parallel pleats all at once, eliminated the lower pleated panel, and let the computer determine where the pleats would go. This turned out to be much simpler and probably something I should have done the first time around. Oh well, that's part of learning!

So this morning I sewed up the muslin of the vest in the base size (a size 16) and all the pattern pieces worked out perfectly. I made a slight change to my initial decision to do pleats for the front of the vest and decided to make them all sewn tucks instead. This does not change my pattern piece at all but it means that each pleat has to be sewn down. This drastically changed how the pleats laid across the bust and looks 100x better than my first muslin. 

Some general pointers I have if you decide to make this pattern in the future. First use the same color thread as your fabric and you won't see the stitching under the pleats. When marking the pleats I transferred all the markings of the pleats along the dashed lines of the pattern using tracing paper and a spikey wheel. When folding the pleats the foldline will be in the middle of the dashed lines. Pin the dashed lines together and stitch.

Also, steam is your friend here if you are ironing these pleats. The first mock up I made for the vest was out of some gross thrift store wool and I needed a ton of steam and a clapper (the wooden thing) to flatten the folds of the pleats. 

The final pattern for the vest will have a neckline facing, lining, back separating zipper, and bound armholes. 

Nova Prime Irani Rael-Guardians of the Galaxy: Part 1

Hi Everyone! 
Melanie and I are at it again! Continuing her love of all things Glenn Close, my sister has decided she wants to make a Nova Prime Irani Rael costume from the Guardian's of the Galaxy movie. Being the sweet sister I am, I volunteered to make her pattern and her wig. I'm currently taking a class on pattern grading and computer pattern development using the Optitex software so I not only get to help my sister but I get some great guidance while developing this pattern.

This post today will just be focusing on the pattern for the vest. 

Now if you don't remember this character from the movie she is the leader of the police force wearing a great blue suit and crazy Saturn ring hair.

Now looking at the costume I broke it down into several parts. First is the undershirt with the white collar that peeks out from above the vest and below her sleeves. I'm not going to draft this part. I'm going to leave it up to my sister whether or not she wants to make faux cuffs/collar or make a shirt. I know she can handle it. That leaves a vest which the jacket hooks on to, a skirt, and the outer jacket layer. I ended up sketching the skirt but I'm not going to develop a pattern for it since Mel has a skirt pattern that matches it almost exactly. 

The exhibit photos were taken by Freya over on Flickr. Check out her gallery for more photos of the FIDM movie costume exhibit on display now. 

 Now looking at the vest it has a built up neckline, center yoke, and diagonal pleats running through the bust. You can't see much of the vest besides that. I made a few executive decisions and threw in a princess seam below the bust for better shaping, and did princess seams down the back. I also chose to bind the armholes to keep everything smooth. What you can easily see in the photo above is the panel of hooks where the jacket connects to the vest. Here's a even clearer picture of it.

I developed the pattern in Optitex from a size 16 sloper that I digitized using the digitizer in the lab. My sister is not a size 16, but as part of my project I had Mel develop and fit her own sloper. She will be sending it to me and I will be grading the pattern to fit her. A bonus of developing the pattern in Optitex is that I can easily change the pattern for additional sizes when I develop a grade system.

Anyway, here are my sketches for the costume. Notice my sketch of the vest does not have the princess line on the lower side front portion. I decided to add that in while drafting the pattern. Also my hook and eye guide has 5 hooks despite the fact that the jacket only has four. My sketches were done before the exhibit photos were taken. The exhibit photos have also given me the chance to see that the skirt is a 6 panel gore skirt and not a darted one like I have sketched. That's what happens when there are only screenshots to work from!

For the vest I incorporated a 2" wide back neck facing and cut a front facing from the combined front yoke pieces. I left the front facing with a center front seam in order to make it easier to line up the seams. I drafted a seperate pattern piece for the lining of the pleated part of the vest. I transferred all the access of the bust shaping in that area to a tuck at the shoulder seam to allow the lining fabric some space to move. 

The pleated portion of the front panel is broken up into an upper section and lower section in order to contour over the bust. 

Here is what the finished pattern pieces look like in Optitex

 I will eventually be making this in different sizes and offering them as a download if people are interested. I will be making a muslin mock up of this pattern in the next coming weeks. Next is the jacket!!

Cruella deVil, the finished costume

A couple of blog posts ago I talked about how my sister was interested in making a recreation of the tiger print outfit worn by Glenn Close in the 101 Dalmatians live action movie for Halloween. Well here is an update with some progress and finished pictures of her outfit!

When my family came to visit in September, Melanie and I spent an afternoon in the sewing lab working on the draft of her cape. The final pattern pieces ended up slightly different than the original sketch. We changed the underarm portion of the cape to tie around her shoulders in the back to support the weight of the cape. Melanie also decided she wanted to have a traditional cape shape with slits for her arms instead of the folded over sleeve we talked about in the original post. I developed the patterns by draping excess fabric on her shoulders and drawing in the lines I wanted. I then had her make paper versions of the muslin pattern pieces. 

Now Melanie has some sewing experience, having worked at the University of Rhode Island's costume shop while she was in college. The only hand I had in the creation of her costume was the development of her pattern. Once she had the pattern she took it back to Rhode Island with her and sewed the costume on her own. She did an amazing job and I am so proud of her!

She used a commercial corset pattern (McCalls 5797) and altered the bottom for the correct shape. The corset is made out of velboa, lined in black denim, edged in faux leather, and boned with plastic zip ties. It zips up in the back. She found fake plastic bird talons, painted them and attached them to the front of the corset. The corset has a "faux" black panel on the front to make it look like it opens. 

She made the cape out of two types of velboa, and lined the edges with the faux pleather. The collar has boning sewn into it to maintain its shape. 

She also made the skirt out of the pleather and the amazing bracelet out of various metal findings! I love all the detail work she put into it!

Here are some pictures! (That's my mom in the Elsa shirt!) 

Not pictured: Melanie as Cruella with my two nieces (3 years and 2 years old) dressed up as dalmatians for Halloween!!

Anna Coronation Dress- Part 3

Hi everyone!
This installment of my Anna Coronation costume progress will be detailing how I drafted the skirt and the designs for the embroidery. There is a bit of math involved so I will try to be clear and concise!

Anna’s skirt is made up of a series of box pleats. A box pleat is formed by making folds in the fabric like this:

Anna's skirt is made of three different colors of fabric, a forest green for the embroidered panels, a lighter lime green edging, and a dark green inside pleat. 

You will need four pattern pieces for the skirt:

1. The embroidered panel

2. Light green side panel

3. Inside underlay for the pleat

4. Back of the pleat

Now in order to draft the skirt we will need a few measurements to start. The first you will need is your measurement around the place on your body where you want your skirt to start. If you are planning to wear any kind of shapewear or corset underneath your costume you should get this measurement while you are wearing the shapewear. I am going to have my skirt start slightly below my natural waistline. The finished measurement I want plus a little bit of ease (I added about an inch) is 31.5. 

You will also want the finished length of your skirt. If you are going to wear a petticoat and flats (which Anna wears in the movie) then measure the distance from your desired waistlineto the floor, over the petticoat. Record this. My skirt will be 40 inches long. We will add seam allowances and hem depth later.

Now determine how many pleats you want. I based my count on this image and decided on 12 panels total, three for each quadrant of my body. This will also allow me to install a zipper at center back inside of the center back pleat. 

Now we are going to start by drafting pieces 1 and 2 at the same time. When folded up, the 12 panels should equal the width of our waist. So to figure out how big each panel should be we can take out waist measurement and divide it by 12.

31.5 / 12 = 2.625 or 2 5/8 

Each panel (which includes piece 1 with two piece 2's next to it, should measure 2.625" total across the top. 

Now we need to know how wide the panel should be at the bottom. If you have your petticoat take a large piece of string or a measuring tape and measure around the width of your petticoat to estimate how wide the skirt should fall when worn. I made mine 120" so each of my panels would need to be 10" wide at the bottom.

Now take a large piece of paper that is at least 5 inches longer than your desired length and 5 inches wider than your desired width and fold it in half lengthwise. Take the top width of your panel and divide it by two. (2.625/2=1.3) and draw a perpendicular line at the top edge of your paper that equals this distance. Measure along the foldline your desired length of your skirt. From this spot draw a line that is half the desired width of the bottom of your panel (in my case 5 inches). Connect these lines. 

Now looking at the picture of Anna, the width of the light green panel is not the same at the top as it is on the bottom. However it should be noted that the width of the two side panels equals the width of the center panel. So for example if the bottom of my panels is a total of 10 inches, the center of the panel should be 5 inches (where the embroidery will go) and on each side there should be a 2.5" green stripe. At the top my green stripe is 5/8" wide and tapers to 2.5" wide at the bottom. Draw this on the inside of your panel that you drew.

Now cut out your panel without cutting out the green striped section. Keeping the piece folded, trace it onto another piece of paper. This newly traced piece will now become piece 3, the inside of the pleat. Open up your folded outer pleat and trace around it on another sheet of paper, this is now piece 4, the back of your pleat. Now you can cut the green striped section off (you should end up with two since your piece is folded in half, I just discarded one) I decided to just combine piece 3 and 4 so when I cut out piece 3 I will just fold piece 4 in half. You can make two separate pieces or just make one. 

I added some notches onto my pattern so I can keep track of which panel gets sewn to which when I go to put it together. It is very important to note that these pieces DO NOT have seam allowances or hem allowances included. You can retrace them and add seam allowances, cut some extra paper and tape them on, or mark the seam allowances directly onto your fabric. 

Now here comes to tough part- figuring out the placement of the motifs on the skirt panels!

I think one of the most important things to consider when making cosplay costumes is taking the proportion of the original design and scaling it to your body correctly. The way I like to do this is to measure a reference image and scale it up to fit my desired garment measurements. Looking at the photos of Anna from the movie the motifs on her skirt are not the same size at the top as they are at the bottom.

I wanted the proportion of my motifs to reflect the proportion of the motifs in the original reference. In order to figure this out I used this image for reference.

From here I measured the length of the skirt in the picture and figured out what percentage each motif was of the length. For example, in the picture I measured, her skirt measured three inches total, the length between each diamond shape starting from the top was 1', then 5/8" then 1/2", then 1/3" then 1/4" then 1/8" So when I did the math the first motif made up 33% of the total length, the second made up 20.8%, the third 16.67%, the fourth 11.11%, the fifth 8.33% and fifth 4.17%. I was then able to take these percentages and figure out the total length of each motif by multiplying these percentages by my 40" length. I marked them on my original pattern piece and wrote each distance on the pattern.

Now from this point your prefered method for making the motifs may differ. Since this costume is fairly popular, there are a number of people who have already posted files of what Anna's embroidery looks like up close. Dokitude is one of those people! She posted up vector files of the basic embroidery for Anna's dress.  They need to be sized appropriately in order to be ready to use. I do not have an embroidery machine, so I used her file as a basis for creating my own pattern in Adobe Illustrator that I could print out and trace onto my fabric. 

I used Adobe Illustrator to create a full size version of my skirt panel, and boxed out the length between each motif based on the scaled measurements. I then scaled and moved the motifs until I was satisfied with the layout. I was then able to print out the panel in full size, add seam allowances and trace it directly onto my fabric.

Using tracing paper I marked the placement of the motif on my fabric and marked each one with a ball point pen. 

I chose to make the motifs by hand embroidering them using satin stitches outlined in split stitches. I am using water solulable backing and an embroidery hoop. Each panel takes about a week so I will working on the skirt for the next couple of months. As of this post I have 3 of 12 of the panels done!

Feel free to ask me any questions about the draft or the construction of my skirt so far!

Until next time, happy sewing!

Costume Research-Cruella deVil

Hi All! 

For those who don't know, I have a younger sister who is CRAZY about Glenn Close, Maria Friedman, Julie Andrews and Gertrude Lawrence. She runs her own blog dedicated to these ladies and more over on Tumblr under the name LadyLizaElliott. She has some sewing experience, having worked with the University of Rhode Island's costume shop for a number of years, and having me as a sister :) She does not cosplay much, but she has always wanted to make one of the gorgeous costumes Glenn Close wore as Cruella deVil from the live action version of 101 Dalmatians. She decided to finally tackle making one of the costumes this year after my sister in law agreed to dress her two adorable daughters (1.5 and 2.5 years old) as dalmatians for Halloween if my sister dresses as Cruella. 

My sister had the chance to visit the Glenn Close costume exhibition on display at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the William & Mary University earlier this year. She was able to see a number of Cruella costumes up close, and came away with her own costume notes and was generously given one of the full sized cardboard cutouts of the tiger printed corset and cape. It now sits displayed in her closet in her room.

After much debate she decided she'd like to recreate the tiger printed outfit for her Halloween costume. She contacted me asking tips on how to construct the cape of the ensemble. As I began to break it down I decided to document my findings here for others to see!

The original costumes were designed by Anthony Powell and have a number of beautiful design details. There are a number of great promotional shots of Glen in the costume. Here are most of them:

The first thing I'd like to point out is the way the sleeves on the cape are constructed. The first two photos are the best for viewing how they are put together. Take note of the binding surrounding the end of the sleeve. It looks like the back of the cape is tacked to the front of the sleeve at a corner in the front. If you follow the pivot of the binding at the wrist towards the underarm or bottom of the armseye you can see that the binding ends under her armpit. Looking at the picture of the back of the cape there is no indication that the binding is attached to the back anywhere but at the wrist and underarm. To get a better idea of this imagine draping a towel over your arm with one edge hanging longer than the other. Then pinch the shorter corner to the part draped over the back. I think this is how her cape is constructed.

For the yoke portion of the cape it is pretty straightforward. There are some seriously padded shoulders happening, which is easy to recreate by adding shoulder pads between the outer fabric and the lining. The back of the cape has some interesting seaming, which can be seen in this lightened screenshot from the movie:

In this shot it is clear that there is a seam at center back on the collar and the center of the cape. There is likely a side seam at the collar in order to get that exaggerated curved shape. Take note of the binding at the side of the armhole. It does not continue all the way around the armseye, which further points to the idea that the sleeve just wraps around and tacks down under her arm instead of being sewn in as a traditional sleeve. 

There's one more picture I'd like to share and that's this one:

This is a shot of the costume from the movie that I lightened so you can see the cape better. Take note of the direction of the tiger stripes here. There is a distinct difference in the direction of the stripes from the sleeve portion and the center back panels. This indicates that there are seams down the back of the cape. It is likely that the cape is constructed in four pieces: two sleeves and two back panels. The seam connecting the back panels to the sleeves likely runs in line with the armseye seam along the back of the yoke. 

I did not do any research into the way that the cape closes since my sister got to see the costume up close and has a much better idea of the closure and the brooch that is at the neckline.

To try and illustrate all these details a little easier I did a very rudimentary sketch. This is by no means meant as a definite illustration of what the cape actually looks like, it is just my interpretation in order to hopefully make everything a little easier to visualize.

I also did a very basic sketch of what some of these patterns would look like. Again, this is just for reference and not to scale or the exact shape. These are just for visual reference.

That's all for now. I will keep updating with new information and progress as she works on her costume!

Anna Coronation Dress Part 1

This blog post was originally published on my old website and has been reposted here unchanged.

Well it’s that time of year again when school is done for the summer, ITAA projects are finished and turned in, and I’m itching for a new project. I have really important graduate school tests to take over the summer, so my goal with my new project is to provide me something I can work on in my downtime at night after writing all day. My project would double as my Halloween costume, so it has to be fun. I decided on Anna’s Coronation gown from Frozen since I love the movie, my sister in law is convinced I am Anna, and my 2 year old niece will love it. The embroidery will keep me occupied for most of the summer so it’s perfect.

Since Frozen is so popular I thought I’d document my process in an almost tutorial like fashion in case other cosplayers are interested in how my costume is made.

I’m going to start from the inside out (sorta) I’m starting with her petticoat, then skirt, bodice, wig, and then finally her bloomers.

Today I am starting with the petticoat.

Anna’s dress has a very distinct motion in the movie, and behaves differently than most ballgowns would. Her petticoat is frequently seen when she kicks up her legs, jumps, and dances.

It appears to be a cream color, with a scalloped hem and decorative stitching. The petticoat helps to poof out her dress somewhat, but is easily collapsible, suggesting that there is no built in hoop, no visible layers of tulle, just a single layer with enough body to stand out.

Since the scene takes place in summer, it is likely the petticoat is made of a cotton-like fabric. Cotton would be period accurate, and also very breathable.

My goal with making this petticoat is to try and mimic the movement of the dress while maintaining the body the dress has while she’s standing still. In the screenshots there is no visible vertical seam lines. If the skirt was made with a single length of fabric I would be limited to 120” of fabric. I don’t think this will be wide enough so I’m going to add vertical seam lines. There is also no clear line where the facings of the scallops would be, implying the dress is lined up to the upper edge. I think a double layer of cotton would be too heavy, so I am opting for a faced scallop hem instead which will correspond with the horizontal line of decorative stitching shown in the above photos.

Lastly since the transition from her bodice to her skirt is fairly smooth, the fullness of the petticoat cannot interfere with the smoothness of this line. For this reason I will be making a yoke to stitch the petticoat onto which will then be tied at the waistline. If I wear a shaping corset underneath the bodice and over the petticoat, this will create the smooth line I am going for.

This is roughly the look I am going for. This is a crude rough sketch just to get an idea of the shape and pattern pieces. There will be a small slit at center back that will open for the drawstring. I haven’t decided how I am going to do the scallop embroidery yet but I will get to that in another post. For now I will just post about my progress so far.

I decided to flat line the cotton fabric with a thick nylon crinoline material to help give the fabric some body. I picked a crinoline in a color that is very similar to the outer fabric in the hopes that it will blend in well. The crinoline came in 54” wide bolts so I decided to make flat lining easier with little fabric waste I purchased 108” wide cotton muslin and cut it right down the middle.

I cut each of the large skirt sections in 36” long pieces. The rest of the length will be made up of the yoke section. If you are going to be doing this method always remember to check that the grain of your fabric is laying straight. I snipped and tore my fabric so I would end up with exact lengths, but check out how much my fabric was off grain straight off the bolt! With some stretching I got it pretty close to straight. Straightening the grain line of your fabric is important no matter what project you are working on!

Once I had the pieces laying straight I overlaid the crinoline on the top and pinned it all the way around the outside as flat as possible. At this point I serged them together along each side. If you don’t have a serger you can just straight stitch them together and do your seam finish when you go at attach the sides.

Once I had one panel serged together I threw some temporary gathering stitches to see how tight I could gather the material up. This allowed me to see how many panels I could theoretically stitch onto a yoke roughly 1.5x my waist. I ended up deciding to use five panels.

Once I had all five panels serged around the edges I stitched them together end to end until I had one long panel. Then I measured the length of my bottom edge to help figure out how long of a facing piece I’d have to cut. This also let me measure how big I wanted my scallops to be. I then created a pattern for the scallops that I will be transferring to the facing piece.

Next post will be about stitching the scallops and testing the embroidery!


Revisited: Legend of the Seeker Kahlan Costume Research: The Corset

This blog post was originally posted on my original website back in February of 2010. I am reposting some of the original content and adding some new information that was not originally available. Enjoy!

Hi All,

I’m planning on making Kahlan Amnell’s costumes from the television series “Legend of the Seeker” later on this summer. I’ve been researching the costumes for about 6 months now, and I decided to document my findings for others to reference. I’ll be going through my research first, and after I finish my other sewing projects, I’ll be posting progress images on my own construction of the costume.

I’m going to break down all the parts of her outfit little by little, with hopes of getting every piece replicated as close as possible. I do this by looking at many hi-res reference images, watching behind the scenes footage, and of course, watching the actual episodes.

Anywho, onto my first part of Kahlan’s costume, her corset.

Reference Image:

The corset is an overbust corset with bra cups and straps. The corset laces up in the back through grommets. Season One had Kahlan wearing one version of the corset, which had a panel at the hips and grommet lacing in the back. There was also a band underneath the bust in the season one corset. The first image is a screenshot and the other images are from the Shed 11 Costume auction. 

The season two corset does not have the hip panel, the underwire casing under the bust, and the back laces with boot laces rather than grommets. These photos are all from the Shed 11 Costume house Ebay auctions of the actual costumes from the show.  

The Fabric

The body of the corset is made out of soft dark olive leather. The binding on the bottom edge in the Season 2 corset is the same fabric as the cups. The season 1 corset is bound in leather. The top edge of the corset, and the straps, are leather. The bra cups have a pleated sateen fabric on them. The Shed 11 costume auctions described the corset as "The spiral boned corset is constructed from dark green leather and attaches to a bra cup covered with pleated cotton sateen fabric in the same dark green. The metal decoration is silver and was handmade by the Legend of the Seeker costume department jeweller." 

You can make out some of the fabric notes written by the costume designers in their detailed notes. This binder went up for auction on Ebay and I've yet to contact the buyer about possibly providing more information about it. 

Some construction notes:

The corset has decorative stitching that is applied before the boning channels are sewn in, which would mean the boning channels on the inside of the corset use boning tape and the boning is not just stitched in the seam allowances of the corset. The boning is applied along all the seamlines, including center front.

The metal swirls on the edge of the bra cups are made of one piece of curled metal layed over itself in different directions.

Detail Shots

Thanks to Mr. Gracie, one of the winners of one of the season 1 Kahlan costumes we can now see the inside of Kahlans corset. He was nice enough to take photos of the corset for me so I could see what the inside construction looks like.

Thanks to another Ebay buyer, I also have these close up images of another of Kahlan's Season 1 corsets.