Sunday, August 12, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Daphne Blake - Completed

This is a project I've had on the back burner more or less for quite a while.  I kept considering it and then putting it off in favor of other projects or busy schedules.  When I worked out that I was going to try to take three costumes to Comic-Con, and I was already dying my hair red for the other two, I needed to come up with another redheaded character.  Jessica Rabbit was my first choice, because I already had pretty much the perfect dress to use as a pattern and I have the right, erm, physicality.  But while I was in the research stage for that costume, I started doing some research for Daphne on a whim and then found the perfect dress and kind of fell into the construction process.  So Jessica was out and Daphne was in.


It really started by finding this on eBay from trendyhipbuys during one of my "just out of curiosity" searches: 
Photo by trendyhip buys at eBay.
It's an authentic 1960s vintage mod dress, which I love because that means it suits the character and fandom in just about every way.  The color was perfect, as was the high collar and sleeve length, and the only necessary adjustments were taking up the skirt and adding the light purple bands to the skirt and sleeve cuffs.

For the trim, I happened upon an old light purple shirt that I had saved for just such a use in a sewing materials box.  I estimated the height of the bands from looking at reference photos, then measured them out, taking the flare of the skirt into account.  This was the most tedious and time-consuming process, just because I hate the ordeal of measure-twice-cut-once (even though it is a good rule) and because there were just a lot of different measurements to take and transfer over to the patterns and then the fabric.  The sleeves of the dress were just a little short for the costume, so I used the cuff trim to lengthen the sleeve, allowing the trim to extend about 2" past the edge of the sleeve.  Because the fabric was a very lightweight knit, I lined the cuff trim with some scrap coutil to stiffen the new sleeve edge and prevent it from crumpling or rolling back up on itself.  I covered a plain black plastic headband with the same purple fabric using hot glue.

I already had some lime green chiffon in the form of a curtain panel that I got as a hand-me-down of sorts a while ago.  I had no intention of using it for interior design - it's a really ghastly neon shade of lime and that is definitely not my style.  But it's perfect for Daphne's ghastly neon lime scarf.  I had a large square headscarf that I used for the pattern.  Maybe because I was really tired of measuring after doing the dress trim, I didn't mark or measure anything: I just laid the headscarf on the fabric and cut around it with a rotary cutter. 
The edges were finished off with a rolled hem.

The shoes were just some old tan suede pumps I already had, which I originally bought at a thrift store for a hypothetical early-20th century costume I thought I might make someday (but haven't yet).  I painted it purple with Jacquard Textile Color in 110 Violet.  They turned out much darker than I intended or would have liked - Daphne's shoes are the same color as her headband and dress trim, so I should have thinned out the paint.  But it didn't detract too badly.  Of greater concern was the fact that they were really uncomfortable to wear all day.  Wearing the equally uncomfortable Ruby Slippers Prototype the day before before kind of set me up for disaster with the Daphne shoes.  So like Dorothy with the Ruby Slippers, Daphne carried her shoes and went barefoot for a good portion of the afternoon.  The pale pink tights were pretty much impossible to find in an adult size in any store I went to, so I ordered some basic dance tights from Capezio via Amazon.

The finished product was this:

I wore it to SDCC 2012 on Friday, and though a lot of people took my photo, I haven't really been able to find any online.  One photographer I ran into a few times was nice enough to e-mail me some he took of me on both Thursday (when I was Dorothy) and Friday. 
Photo by Brent Allen Thale at
Not my most attractive photo, but the highest quality one I have of this costume for now.

Danger-prone Daphne strikes again!

*All photos are property of their respective owners.
*My use and opinion of the products listed is by personal choice and availability.  I am not paid to use or endorse them.

Comic-Con International: San Diego 2012 - Costume Recap

So I originally meant to do something like this last year after my first experience at SDCC, but it was something I just never got around to.  Once I have access to those photos again, I might eventually do it just to be thorough and all caught up.  Until then, I can at least recap who - and what - I saw at SDCC 2012.  (Just a warning now, this is quite long and very image-heavy.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ruby Slippers Prototype - Completed

And the final result:
Photo by MSN
Photo by Brent Allen Thale at
Photo by Chuck Cook.
These were all taken at SDCC 2012.  The first photo is by me, the others are by various photographers we met throughout the day who were nice enough to give us a link to view the photos online or send us the photos after.  (I'm planning to do a proper photo session of the second version pair sometime in the fairly-near future, which will not only yield better and more photos overall, but finished photos of the higher quality pair.)

As for some retrospect on the process itself, I'm glad I waited until I had a long span of interrupted time to do it, because the sequin-gluing alone probably took about 10 hours or so (or about that many episodes of Firefly) including a few breaks.  That part isn't really a start-and-stop project that can be done between other chores or amidst a busy schedule, at least not for me.  It seemed better to just be able to sit down and do it straight through, stopping for a break only after completing a side or a whole shoe.  It gets a little tedious - even with background music or movie - and a little hard on the back and hands towards the end, but I think consistent results make up for it.  The painting and bow-making was more easily a start-and-stop process, so was spread out over bits of free time during a few weeks.

For what I got in the end, I think the shoes ended up being pretty nicely cost effective.  I still have some sequins left over.  Not enough for another pair of shoes, but still a good amount to trim something with in the future.  From the original bead orders I did, the two orders of 50 rose montees was just enough for one pair of shoes, but I had enough bugle beads and rectangle faux gems for both the prototype and second version of the shoes (so four bows in total) and I still have some left over.  The final cost for the prototypes was about $23.  That doesn't include the supplies like the glue gun and acrylic sealer that I also use for other projects, but it does include the extra beads I used on the second pair.  So really, taking into account that the cost of the bugle beads and gems covered 2+ pairs, the real cost is lower.  Not bad at all for the final result and my first attempt at it, I think (especially considering that most ruby slippers run from the $20-30 commercial shoes that are only recognizable by being red and sparkly, to the $50-100 custom creations of varying quality and accuracy). 

The only bad thing was the fit.  Very unexpectedly, they were horribly uncomfortable to wear around during the day.  So much so that at one point I finally gave up and walked around in socks, just carrying the shoes in hand and enduring the good-natured teasing of the other Con attendees.  They fit well to begin with and were comfortable wearing around the house, but I bought the socks I wore with the costume only a few days before the convention and didn't really test the shoes with the socks before costume day.  The socks ended up being surprisingly thick, which made the balls of my feet feel great but made the toe area too cramped inside the shoe.  So I haven't decided yet what to do about that: try different socks or find better quality shoes to begin with.  That's definitely something I'll consider whenever I (inevitably) get around to making another pair.  I may also make a higher quality non-wearable replica pair for display using vintage shoes and authentic materials.

I might be making a few pairs of these to sell at some point - though with the improved techniques learned on this pair and applied to the second version - and if that happens, I'll post further information on that later.

*All photos are property of their respective owners.
*My use and opinion of the products listed is by personal choice and availability.  I am not paid to use or endorse them.

Ruby Slippers Prototype - Bows

After finishing the sequins, the next and final steps were painting in some black areas and making the bows. 

I already had some red acrylic paint from years ago, which admittedly is probably too old, but I wanted to use materials I already had as much as possible to cut down on the final cost so I used it anyway.  The color is Christmas Red, and it's by DecoArt.  The sealer is a matte spray for acrylic paint by Plaid (the Patricia Nimrocks line).  The bow materials are sheet plastic from a bottle and organza curtains, both of which I already had; and 5 grams of size 1.8mm x 4mm silver-lined red bugle beads, six size 10mm x 8mm red rectangle sew-on plastic faux gems, and 100 size SS16 light siam rose montees.

I began by painting in the back of the heel, the part of the sole which shows when standing, and those little black areas showing through the sequins and at the top of the shoe. 

For a more accurate display replica, I might add the red felt to the sole, but I didn't want anything interfering with my coveted no-slip surface.  For the same reason, I didn't paint that part of the sole either.  After the paint was dry, I sealed it with the matter spray (I chose spray because it seemed easiest to apply, but by its nature it also comes in contact with parts of the shoe I'm not sealing, in this case the sequins.  I did a test on an extra piece of sequin string ahead of time just in case, and it was fine).

For the bows, I did essentially what the original costumers did, but downgraded a bit.  Leather being out of the question for these particular shoes, I first considered using cardboard for the bows.  I later decided that I wanted something waterproof, however, just in case (I don't intend to get these shoes wet really, but I was thinking of incidental rain and moisture).  I experimented with several different plastics, mainly from the kitchen.  I finally used a ranch dressing bottle: the front and back were both flat, and the plastic was thick and sturdy so it wouldn't necessarily need a second layer.

I was able to get four bows from one bottle (enough for one pair of shoes if doubling the plastic layers, or two pairs of shoes using single layers).  I poked two holes in the center of each to turn them into buttons of sorts for stitching on to the shoe.   

For light use or display, the stitching might be overkill, but walking in crowds all day I didn't want to risk the bows popping off and getting lost.  Then I painted each red with acrylic paint and sprayed it with acrylic sealer, and after they were dry stitched them to the shoes.
For the fabric, I didn't have any red organza, but I did have a single off-white organza curtain.  Using the same red acrylic paint from the soles, I very lightly painted the fabric in a test area, just using enough paint to make the fabric red but not really saturate it.  After it was dry I sealed it with, again, the same spray acrylic sealer.  After the sealer was dry, I got the fabric wet and prodded it a bit, and the color held nicely.  (The unsealed paint comes off with water, and the sealer itself says on the instructions that it's not meant for fabric which will be washed, but for basic contact with water it seems okay.)  Both the paint and sealer also stiffened the fabric a bit too, which was actually helpful.

Once past the test process, I drew the bow shapes onto the fabric first so I wouldn't end up painting more fabric than I needed to. 

Then I repeated the paint and seal process, coloring outside the lines.  To help spread the paint and take up the excess, I dabbed at and wiped it with some makeup pads.

Before cutting anything out, I put the whole piece of fabric in an embroidery hoop to bead it.  Again, in some cases gluing the fabric to the bow and then gluing the beads might be okay, but I wanted extra strength.  (No photos of this process, because it was very long and drawn out and there were a few times I worked on it that I wasn't in a position to get any photos.)  For layout, I just directly followed the beading pattern on the original shoes, adjusting it slightly for the dimension of my bows.  Then I cut the bow out, but slightly outside the lines I drew, for the same reason I painted outside the lines: when I glued the fabric to the plastic, I could wrap this excess around the edges and glue it to the bottom of the plastic to make sure it was secure and nothing underneath would show.  

When it came down to gluing the organza to the plastic, despite being fairly thick the plastic of the bows warped very easily under the heat of the hot glue.  I learned quickly - and the hard way, unfortunately - that it was better to apply the glue directly to the fabric and wait a few seconds before sticking it down to the plastic; and then hold the whole bow against the shoe to forcibly preserve its shape while it cooled.  Hence, on the prototype pair one bow is a little wonky but the other looks better, and I applied the improved technique to the second version of the shoes I made so they look okay.  In future, I would definitely use a different material for the bow base and test it with heat ahead of time or use a different glue.

Next: the final result.

*All photos are property of their respective owners.
*My use and opinion of the products listed is by personal choice and availability.  I am not paid to use or endorse them.