Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Hips Don't Lie

So I'm finally able to get back to where I started with this blog - my competition costume for Costume-Con 31! I started to blog about the whole process, but then thought that I shouldn't reveal everything before the convention.

Now the convention is over, so here it is:

It's all hand-sewn using period techniques. I won best workmanship for the Journeyman category and an honorable mention for my documentation. Nothing for presentation, though. Phooey! (pout)
I guess I know what I have to work on now, huh? Although I did get a couple of really big laughs. I came out and started dancing to harpsichord music. After about 30 seconds, disco lights started flashing and Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" started playing & I boogied down. :-)

That's where the title of this post came from - it was the name of my entry in the competition.
I thought it was appropriate given the hoops. There were 2 other women in the competition with even bigger panniers, though.  Mme de Pompadour's gown was more elegant and Marie Antoinette's was more over-the-top, but I think my dress was prettier. (I even did the "pretty, pretty princess" dance the first time I put it on.)

And, hey.... check out the hair!!!:

 It took about 45 minutes to get my hair up in that style. Another lady in the competition (the Marie Antoinette) had a similar style. Hers was a wig, but it was even taller than mine! I was limited by the length of my hair, but I honestly don't think that I could have gotten it any higher by myself. I could have had longer hair, but my arms couldn't have reached any further. (grin)

Over the next several blog posts I'm going to detail the whole process of the costume from start to finish, so I'll talk more about how I did the hair later.

(BTW, the convention had a great photographer so I got a lot of good professional shots of most of the costumes that I took. Check him out at

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sweet Lolita, or Anime Convention day III

On the third day of the convention, I did a green and white sweet lolita style.
Sweet lolita is the most popular and well-known of the lolita styles.
Think Madame Alexander doll dresses on real girls.

Sweet, young, lacy and pretty.

I didn’t need a pattern for the skirt. A simple circle skirt would do. But what about a top?
I looked through my stash of patterns and found this one from Simplicity - 

I used a pretty mint green & white cotton to make the version shown in blue above.

I had some various white cottons at home, so I cut out a circle skirt the length of the petticoat I had purchased on line. I found some fabric made of alternating strips of lace and eyelet, so I made an under layer around the bottom. Then I pinned the top layer up in swags, sewed them in place and trimmed the whole thing with a green ribbon to match the sleeve bows.

Then I made an Alice bow out of the mint green fabric, some lace and the emerald green ribbon. Sewed it to a headband & voila!

Oh, I also wore my early 18th century reproduction shoes (the style is called "Pompadour") from American Duchess. They are painted green and white.

And I didn’t even remember until a few days before that it would be St. Patrick’s Day when I was planning on wearing it. Happy accident with the colors!
Sorry there’s no professional shots of this one. The photographer wasn’t there the day I wore it.

 I got professional photos! I wore the outfit to Costume Con 31 this weekend and was able to get pics. (From FantaScenes Photography...great guys!)


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Madam Red, or the anime convention day II

I decided that I wanted to make one really elaborate costume for the convention. I spent days scanning anime on Netflix and requesting manga books and anime DVDs from the library. As I was watching an episode of Black Butler, I gasped and stopped the DVD.

I had found my costume.

Black Butler is a series set in Victorian England in the 1880s (or thereabouts. Anime is not too terribly big on historical accuracy.)
This particular episode showed the main character’s aunt, widely known as “Madame Red”.
YES! I could do a Victorian/steampunk costume and it would still be anime!
And since I’m planning on going to Teslacon later this year, I could actually wear the pieces again.

I already had the Victorian underwear - a corset, petticoat and chemise - so I could just concentrate on the outer layers.

Here’s the character:
 (I’ve seen this image all over the internet, but could someone PLEASE tell me who it belongs to so that I can attribute it appropriately and ask permission to use it? I hate copyright infringement.)

I adapted this Simplicity steampunk jacket pattern:


I had to make it double breasted and redraft the collar and hem, but it had the same basic shape.  I made it just a tad too short, though. Seems to be a habit of mine. Oh well.

I didn’t really have a skirt pattern. I just went through my books on costume history and adapted some of the pattern shapes to create the skirt. The fun part was the pleating!

Yes, I know that I am weird. I actually think pleating is fun.

Do you know what the secret is for long-lasting pleats?
Natural materials & vinegar.
Synthetic materials don’t take pleats very well. You really have to use natural fabrics to get that nice sharp crease. And if you spritz them with a vinegar/water mixture while ironing, the pleats will stay through just about any wearing.

I had the right boots already. I just made some spats for them based on a Youtube tutorial I saw years ago.  Found a red hat on line & trimmed it up. Made a white cotton and lace ascot.

I found a good red wig on ebay.  And then I found that cutting a wig is hard. The bangs especially And it’s not something that I really want to do again. But it came out okay this time.

And finally…the pics from the professional photographer!

Monday, May 6, 2013

What the heck am I doing at an anime convention???

I’ve seen a few animes and read some manga, but I am far from a big fan. So why would I go to an anime convention?

The costumes, of course!

A friend of mine in the local costuming guild got put in charge of the cosplay part of a local convention called Naka-kon. She asked me to help judge hall costumes. I thought “Sure. Why not?”

Then I realized I don’t own any anime costumes.


What am I supposed to do? I’m NOT going to be judging costumes in regular clothes!
So I put my historical costuming on hold & frantically started researching the kinds of costumes that I could expect to see.  I figured that I had enough time to make one elaborate costume and two simpler costumes to see me through the 3 days of the convention.

I looked at the Naka-kon web site and found that it was also a con that promoted and taught Japanese culture.

Aha! Lolita!

I have always wanted to deck myself out in lolita-style clothes but never had an excuse. Well, I had an excuse now. Woohoo!

So I researched lolita style and found out that it’s actually segmented into a number of sub-styles. Check out this page for some of the different ones -
 I liked the “sweet lolita” style, but there’s way too much trim for me to sew two dresses in this style. I wouldn’t have time. So I decided on one sweet lolita.

What else could I do for a simpler, quicker costume?
Well, I had a kimono that I made a few years ago. So I decided to cut it down into a top and do a wa lolita outfit. (Wa lolita is one that has Japanese traditional elements like kimono tops.) I also had a couple of accessories and some Doc Marten boots that I could combine with it. So I ended up with a wa/punk lolita combo.

There was a professional photographer (Ron Berg) there the first day, so I actually got pro photos of this one!

My favorite part is the fabric of the skirt. It's kind of "shabby chic" ribbon roses. But when I cut it out, I found that I made it too short! So I rushed to the store & found a pretty white trim of very similar style flowers. Sometimes it's the mistakes that end up being the best things, creatively speaking.

By the way, you can see in these photos how long my hair really is. Compare that to the very short curls in the post about the hedgehog style!