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Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo Cosplay at Silicon Valley Comic Con

Last weekend at Silicon Valley Comic Con I premiered my Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo cosplay. I had a great time wearing this costume from Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

Although I’ve been planning this since last year, I only had a few weeks to sew it because I was busy with other events. I will have a follow-up post with more information about the construction, materials, tips and tricks, and a materials list, but for now here are some pictures from the event!

This was taken in the lobby of the convention center, not long after arrival.CMEY9799

However, before SVCC, my friend Chris Weiner took a few photos in his back yard with his superior camera!9N6A3090

The back drape of this dress is what made me fall in love it when I first saw a photo of Lauren Dern as Amilyn Holdo in Vanity Fair Magazine.9N6A3096

There were so many great Star Wars cosplayers at SVCC! I met Praetorian Guards, Stormtroopers, and Darth Vader!IMG_7881IMG_7957IMG_7958

I also met Kylo Ren, who bowed to his Disney overlords.

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I was delighted to meet another Holdo. Double Holdo, double trouble!IMG_7858IMG_7860

I also encountered General Hux, and we had a stare-off.IMG_7930IMG_7931

Lego Obi-Wan was a delight!IMG_7822

I even found and ate a stormtrooper macaron cookie.IMG_7740

And it was an honor to be one of the cosplays featured on Business Insider!Business Insider

Business Insider Melia Robinson

Photo by Melia Robinson of Business Insider

My friend Adrienne took this video of me so you can see how the dress moves as I twirl.

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SVCC was a lot of fun; I’ll be sure to be back next year! See my Flickr album for more photos from the event.

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A Regency Couple at a Winery Plus Costume Hack: How to Upcycle a Men’s Regency Outfit Using Thrift Store Items

My husband and I attended a Regency-themed event called “Wine and Peace,” hosted by the Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild at Wente Vineyards. My husband is not a costumer, but agreed to dress up when lured by the prospect of wine tasting. Thus, although this post contains some nice photos of the both of us, the real point is to show how a panicked person can put together a passable men’s regency outfit when time is too limited to make one from scratch.

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He certainly looks like he enjoyed himself!IMG_7454

It was too cold for me to take off my pelisse, so you can read about the silk gown I wore underneath in my previous post. The pelisse and bonnet are not new, although I’ve only had the chance to wear them once before, and you can read about those items in an older post.

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My husband’s outfit consisted of a navy blue coat, a green waistcoat, a white shirt and neck tie, ivory trousers, and black boots.IMG_7375

It is not completely historically accurate, especially the back where I had to fudge it a bit, but it did just fine for a quick outfit!IMG_7370

The coat is up cycled from a double-breasted woman’s coat. (Women’s military-stye coats are longer than men’s).  I made a number of changes:

  1. I cut an upside-down U shape out of the front of the coat to mimic the high waist of a man’s regency garment.
  2. I used that extra fabric to make cuffs, thus lengthening the sleeves for my husband’s long arms.
  3. I also used that extra fabric to make false pocket flaps for the back of the coat.
  4. I split the bottom back of the coat open to mimic a tailcoat, and added some more of the extra fabric in between the split to hide a gap.
  5. I changed the plastic buttons on the front of coat to ones that matched my own coat.
  6. I added the same buttons to the back, next to the pocket flaps.
  7. I changed the plastic buttons on the sleeves to small gold-colored ones.

Before and after: IMG_7250MMUF8222

I recommend looking for a coat like this during the winter. When the weather warms up you may have to go shopping at several places to get one!

I also recommend making sure your subject isn’t slouching or looking down when you mark the cutting line in the front of the coat. When I sewed it up I realized it was cut a little higher than I intended. The look is accurate and fashionable for the time period, but I had planned on a little more coverage.

The waistcoat is an even easier upcycle. Modern vests have pointed fronts while Regency period waistcoats have flat fronts. If you can find a vest with a nice pattern in the fabric, just fold up the front points and tack them to the inside of the vest. (We already had a vest for my husband, made by our friend Kim for our wedding in 2010).

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If the fellow doesn’t plan to take off his coat, very little of the shirt will show except the collar.  Find a nice dress shirt with a good stiff collar that will stand up. This will not work so well if you have a floppy collar that is not interfaced.IMG_7180.JPG

Flip the collar up, cut off the points, and hem nicely. The modern sleeves and buttons will be hidden by the coat.IMG_7270.JPG

The button at the throat will be covered by the neck tie, which is simply a long rectangular piece of cotton fabric. If you don’t have fabric around your home, you can cut up some textile from the thrift store. You will want the cotton to be thin, to make wrapping and knotting easy. In this case, a cheap bedsheet or semi-sheer curtain is better than a nice tablecloth that will be too thick. The neck tie I made for my husband is 2 yards long and 8 inches wide, made from cotton voile. IMG_7269

Hem the edges and taper the ends a little. IMG_7268

The trousers were a a tricky part of the outfit because of the fall-front, which is not seen in modern men’s fashions. I found a number of high-waisted sailor pants, but they were generally women’s pants in the wrong materials or cut. I then considered making them myself, but after pricing out a pattern from Laughing Moon and buying nice fabric and buttons, I realized it would cost me at least $50 to make and about $70 to buy them. Thus, the trousers were purchased from Historic Emporium. The lesson here is sometimes it’s worth buying and being done with it! (The pants come long enough for you to hem into breeches or keep as trousers).

007238_00The boots were Ovation rubber riding boots (affiliate link) purchased from Amazon for about $40. They weren’t real leather, but still looked pretty nice, and can be reused with other costumes in the future. If you are lucky, you may able to get some nice boots locally. Don’t forget to look in the women’s footwear section for larger boots! There’s a lot of “riding boot” style women’s boots sold during the fall and winter that could work with Regency.Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 8.19.26 AM.png

I hope this post was useful, and now you can keep an eye out for the right kind of coat and other items to upcycle into a Regency men’s outfit!QVLO1071.JPG

A “Quick” Regency Silk Gown

I’m calling this a quick regency dress because there wasn’t a lot of planning ahead or blogging during steps, fitting was easy because I’ve used the pattern before, and the event I’m wearing it to is next week!IMG_7216

The pattern is Butterick B6074 view B, with minor modifications. The fabric is a printed silk taffeta from my stash.IMG_7222

The bodice is gathered in the front, and the stiffness of the taffeta gives the bust more fullness than I have in real life. 😉IMG_7217

The pattern has drawstring closures at the neckline and waistline, which is period, but I prefer hooks and eyes when the fabric is not a soft cotton.IMG_7220

If you’re curious about how to put in hooks and eyes to minimize gapping, I have the hooks away from the edge, and the eyes sticking over the edge. (Some people also alternate hooks and eyes on each side. I am lazy, and also wanted to use up the last few inches of hook and eye tape that I had).

I serged the armscye and bottom of the bodice to keep them neat. The shoulder straps are sewn in by hand. Here’s an inside look at the dress.IMG_7228

I have a pelisse that I will be wearing over this if the weather is cold, so I admit to be a little sloppy in some of my construction, but eh, I find most people are too distracted by pretty fabric to care. =)

I also made a matching reticule, with my leftover fabric and lining. I made the tassel out of some thick thread.IMG_E7254.JPG

Project costs:

  • 5 yards printed silk taffeta: $38 including shipping from a destash group; I have about 2 yards left over
  • Pattern: $0, already used for another dress
  • Bodice lining: $0, scraps from another project
  • Skirt lining: 2 yards cotton voile: ~$13 with tax and shipping (purchased with other items from Dharma Trading Co.)
  • Thread, lace scrap, and hooks and eyes: ~$5 from stash
  • Silk ribbon: $0, left over from another project

Total: ~$56 (even less if I sell the leftover 2 yards of taffeta to recoup some costs). Not bad for a silk dress!

I plan to wear this dress with my Pemberly slippers from American Duchess, and some beautiful new grape earrings from The Lady Detalle.IMG_7106.JPG

I look forward to wearing this print! Simple, but cute. IMG_7115.JPG

18th Century Costumes at the Legion of Honor

Yesterday I saw the “Casanova, The Seduction of Europe” exhibit with the Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. It was full of incredible artwork, and even antique garments on display. I highly recommend it! I spent the last few weeks working on a new outfit to attend the exhibit instead of blogging about it, but it I will post more about the construction details once I get the last bit of trim on (which did not arrive in time). I wore my new mauve silk Italian gown pinned shut, as is historically correct, but will be changing it to a hook-eye-and opening. (I was paranoid about marking up the silk so I wore it a bit loose).

Many of the photos in this post are used courtesy of John Carey Photographic Imagery. Thanks John!

I love how this photo reminds me of candlelight!

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Photo by John Carey

This one is outside the museum.

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Photo by John Carey

Here’s a few full-body shots from my phone:IMG_6848IMG_6850

My shoes are 18th century black wool Dunmores from American Duchess (affiliate link) and the earrings and necklace are from In the Long Run Designs. My fan is an antique. IMG_6852

There was much gossip and court intrigue with my fellow Taffeta Sisters, Kelsey and Natalie.IMG_6955

Some of it was of a highly shocking nature!IMG_6868

There were many gorgeous costumes in attendance.

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Photo by John Carey

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Photo by John Carey

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Photo by John Carey

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Photo by John Carey

 

There was unavoidable 18th century rump shaking.

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Plus other silly shenanigans.

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We enjoyed the stunning artwork, costumes, and artifacts on display.IMG_6814.JPGIMG_6829IMG_6805

I felt quite at home with the paintings. =) Many more photos have been uploaded to my Flickr account so please take a look!

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Photo by John Carey

Steamtorium Undercorset Belt and Teacup Holster (Steampunk Project and Pattern Review)

My most recent project is a steampunk utility belt with swivel hooks that accessories can be attached to: a teacup holster, a pouch, a fan pocket, and some skirt lifters/chatelaines. These items were made with two patterns from the Steamtorium Etsy shop: the under corset belt (which includes the pouch, fan pocket, and chatelaines) and the teacup holster.IMG_6440

And here it is without the teacup and fan.IMG_6442

Although this was designed to be a steampunk accessory, which would probably work quite well for a Wild West event I have this year, I think it would make a great sewing utility belt too!  I might wear this to a workshop some time. The fan pocket can be used for scissors, various tools can be clipped to the chatelaines, the pouch would hold small items, and I have to stay properly hydrated while sewing, of course. =) My favorite item is the teacup holster!IMG_6411

There’s a pocket for your saucer, a pocket with a secure snap strap for your cup, a pocket in the back for teabags, and some loops on the side for your spoon.IMG_6410

My first thought when I got these PDF patterns was “Wow! Step-by-step instructions clearly illustrated by color photographs!” The pattern is not a difficult one, but has a lot of steps and small parts, so the pictures help a lot, especially if you are a visual learner.

The belt pattern is multi-sized for 27-45″ waists, and the fan pocket comes in 2 sizes, while the rest of the accessories come in one size. Here’s some more examples made by the pattern-maker:

All the accessories are detachable and can be moved around because of a swivel hook and D-ring system.IMG_6429.JPG

You can wear this at your waist or hips.IMG_6439

Tips for easier sewing:

  • Don’t use a fabric that’s too thick! I used a heavy upholstery because I liked the pattern, but some of the straps are narrow and very difficult to turn if your fabric is thick. If I made this again I would use a lighter brocade or twill.
  • Read all the instructions carefully first before cutting out the pattern pieces. I ended up cutting some extra pieces that weren’t needed. (For example, if you make the teacup holster to be worn with this belt, and not your own, you will make small D-ring straps, instead of big loops, but both kinds of attachments are provided).
  • The pattern instructs you to sew ribbons to each end of the belt to tie it together. If you want to be able to swap the ribbons whenever you like, you can put eyelets or grommets into the ends, like I did. (This is the only change I made to the pattern).
  • Get sewing clips. Some parts of the project requiring sandwiching together many layers of fabric, and it’s much easier to clip them together instead of pinning.IMG_6352.JPG

Pros and cons:

  • Great, detailed instructions!
  • There are a lot of pieces. This not a difficult pattern, but it can be time-consuming. Don’t do this the night before a convention! I would recommend pinning the pattern to each fabric piece you cut out so you can keep track of all the small pieces.
  • Related to above, there are a lot of materials, and give yourself time to source all of them. In addition to your fabric you will need swivel hooks, D-rings, O-rings, foam batting, fleece batting, interfacing, ribbon, and thread. There’s a detailed materials list in the pattern.
  • The belt is made of 6 pieces of fabric (3 on the front and 3 on the back). I suspect this is so that the pattern pieces can fit on an 8 x 11″ paper, and so you can save some fabric yardage. However, if you have thick fabric you will have bulky seams, and it’s hard to match patterns. I think having an option to tape the paper pattern together to make one larger pattern piece to cut the belt out would be nice.
  • Very responsive customer service! I found a small typos/omissions on some pattern pieces, but Sherry, the pattern designer, said she would fix them right away. I think by the time you read this review the version in her Etsy shop should have all the updates!

Project cost: I normally provide a tally of the costs, but it’s a little hard in this case because a lot of the items are from my stash, or you use small pieces of it (like the foam interfacing),  and some of the hardware is sold in a large pack. (For example, you only need 1 snap, and it comes in a pack of 10). I’d estimate that if you were to buy everything from scratch it may cost $30-40 depending on the fabric and the type of hardware, and you would still have a lot of materials left over.

Final thoughts: This was a fun project to make, the patterns are good with clear instructions, and I recommend them!

Note: I was offered this pattern for free by Sherry Ramaila of Steamtorium, but I wasn’t paid for this post. All opinions are mine, and I used my own fabric. Thank you Sherry for the pattern!

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2017 Costuming Year in Review

Looking back, 2017 was a busy sewing year!

My biggest project was my Napoleonic court dress, train, and diadem, worn at Costume College. I spent much of the first part of the year working on it.IMG_3396-(ZF-3567-92908-1-002)

My 1660s Cavalier gown was also a big project. I made a bodice, skirt, chemise, bum roll, and jewelry. I’d like to revisit this to fix a few minor issues, or possibly retrim it with metallic lace.IMG_4216-(ZF-7662-83598-1-001)

I also made an 18th century plaid dress and wool petticoat for an Outlander-themed dinner party in May. Although the dress and fabrics are simple, I found it very flattering because of the fit (and the giant bum pad!)IMG_2037

I made some 1930s beach pajamas, which were really fun! I’d like to make another one in a nice print some day.IMG_4445

Although I technically finished my Tudor kirtle and smock last year, I didn’t get a chance to wear it until this year.IMG_4336

I also made a Crimson Peak-inspired ensemble for a spooky Victorian Halloween tea party. There are a few little more things I want to do with this costume before it’s really “done” and I take some better photos.IMG_4696

I made a 1940s blouse using a Wearing History pattern, and started some other vintage projects that I haven’t posted about yet.IMG_3702

I up cycled a 1990s dress into a steampunk 1890s blouse, and I’m in the process of making a matching skirt!IMG_5696

My final project of 2017 is a lace 1920s dress, plus a silk slip to go with it, that I made right before New Year’s. I haven’t blogged about it yet, and didn’t do any progress posts because it was a quick project! I have a post planned with a pattern and tutorial for both the slip and the dress, so stay tuned!IMG_5929.JPG

Wow, when I list everything out it was a busier year than I thought! I already have plenty of ideas and events planned for 2018. Happy New Year everyone!

It’s Not Necessary to Be Mean: Snark in the Costuming and Cosplay Community 

I have been sewing for 15 years, and the vast majority of people I’ve met in the costuming and cosplay community have been kind, enthusiastic, and helpful, so for the most part I may be “preaching to the choir.” This post is directed at the small minority of people who might need a little help recognizing that some of their behaviors may have been unintentionally unkind, and to offer suggestions to people who want ideas on how to be more welcoming. This post is also directed at newcomers; I hope you will not be too intimidated to join us and have fun!

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCED:

You can always find something nice to say:
Even if it’s not an outfit you’d wear yourself, you can say “What beautiful fabric!” or “That’s a lovely color on you!” If you can’t think of a compliment, ask a question, such as “Did you use a pattern?” or “Have you been here before?” Show an interest in someone you don’t know because . . .

We need fresh blood:
Communities and hobbies die without new members. Don’t scare anyone away; it will ultimately hurt you in the end. Socializing exclusively with a small elite group might sound appealing, but it’s hard to rent an event hall or host a convention on your own.

Authenticity goals vary:
You may only hand-sew everything in period-correct fabrics such as silk and wool. That is great! I am genuinely impressed! However, some people may machine-sew in natural fibers or synthetic ones due to time, budget, or personal preference. Someone might have hot-glued an outfit together because they heard about a Halloween party last-minute. None of this is “wrong.” Everyone has a different goal, and don’t assume theirs is the same as yours.

Recognize the difference between individuals and entities:
Costuming snark for educational reasons, directed at movies put out by big-budget studios, such as that done by the hilarious ladies at Frock Flicks, is fine! Snarking at an individual person just to be exclusive is not fine; it’s snobbery.

Don’t offer unsolicited advice:
Would you approach a stranger on the street and tell them their shoes don’t go with their outfit, or that their jewelry is wrong? Hopefully not. So, why would you do that at a convention? (Telling someone nicely that their skirt is flipped up and their petticoat is showing is a different matter; that should be welcomed because it is something that can be fixed right away).

IF YOU ARE NEW:

Nitpicking is not about you:
Some people like to nitpick, and it reflects more on themselves than your work. Don’t take it personally. Turn a negative into a positive! For example, I once had someone criticize a 1 cm-wide area on the back of an elaborate outfit, and I took it as a compliment. If that person had to dig that deeply to find something negative to say, I must have done a good job.

Shyness is not snubbing:
There are a lot of introverts in the community. Someone may be aloof because they are shy, or experiencing sensory overload. They may also be “famous” and overwhelmed by the number of people they’ve had to meet and greet that day. Just because someone doesn’t engage you in conversation does not mean that they’re trying to be rude. If people aren’t being obviously mean, don’t take it personally.

Photos are not real life:
Just remember, most people don’t post bad pictures of themselves. Photos are carefully curated to show the best angles and flattering light, with nothing out of place, or even photoshopped. Don’t feel down if you have wrinkles in your sewing because everyone else looks “perfect.” In real life, fabric wrinkles because we have to be able to move.

Photos are not always representative of an event:
I’ve seen comments along the lines of “I can’t go to (random event)! Every single person there is dressed incredibly well!” It’s normal for flashy costumes to be photographed and posted more. An “epic” costume going viral doesn’t mean the rest of the crowd is dressed on the same level. Most wedding pictures feature the bride. Does that mean all the guests were wearing big white dresses?

Not everything has to be silk:
Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed for using polyester. Even though I make and love silk dresses, some of my best-received costumes have been made from dead dinosaur. Sometimes it’s just the right fabric for what you’re trying to make. Fit and styling are just as important as materials.

FOR EVERYONE:

Cosplay is not consent!
Don’t touch anyone or their stuff without permission. It’s a violation of personal space, and props and fabrics may be delicate. Many people will be obliging and let you pet their pretty fabric if you ask first! Costumers are makers and many are happy to discuss their project with you. Also remember, just because someone is willing to pose for a photo with you does not mean they have agreed to let you put your arm around them, or touch another part of their body. Always ask!

The bottom line is don’t be a jerk! We all had to start somewhere.image1-3.jpeg