Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zotah Zhaan

Our final lady for this costume list is Pa'u Zotah Zhaan, a rebel priestess and healer for the zany crew of Moya on SciFi's Farscape.

Zhaan's costume is not for the faint of heart. I think it's pretty clear why:

Basically, I think if you wanted to really pull off Zhaan for a convention, you would have to plan on not sleeping for up to 36 hours.

Zhaan wears a number of costumes through her three-year tenure on the show, most of them in the blue/grey color spectrum (when she's meditating, she doesn't wear anything at all!) The simple robe with fancy collar shown below is probably the simplest from a construction perspective, but even getting the mottled effect of the fabric would be a challenge.

My favorite detail about Zhaan's dress aesthetic are the silver rings she wears on all ten digits.

But yeah, between the bald cap, full facial and hand/foot makeup, colored contacts, fabric dyeing, not to mention having to dedicate the hours just to don the thing... nope, I'm certainly not that dedicated!

Believe it or not, though, some people are. I tip my hat to them!

And with that, we are finished! Thank you all for following along. This has been a fun, enlightening, and at times exhausting exercise. I got a few new inspirations and I hoped maybe a helpful tip or two to anyone attempting these costumes.

Soon we will resume ordinary project-related posts. I have a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for YoSaffBridge

"Oh please, no one died last time."

I confess, one of the reasons I chose this for my Y entry was just so I could explain the name.

"YoSaffBridge" is a con artist from Firefly.

We first meet her in "Our Mrs. Reynolds" when she shows up on board the ship claiming to be the Captain's new "reward" wife, Saffron.

She manages to convince the entire crew of her identity, before she sabotages the ship and leaves it drifting for parts scavengers.

 Unnecessary photo, but it's one of my favorite frames in all of Firefly so I decided to include it. If there was any chance at all in a "YoSaffBridge" getting recognition at a convention, the 'Saffron' version would probably be the best bet. You might have to learn to crochet that sweater, though.

Later, Captain Mal runs into his ex-wife in the beginning of the episode Trash, and he's none to happy with her. In her latest ploy, she was going by the name of "Bridget" and posing as the wife of one of Mal's old war buddies.

I like "Bridget" best of the YoSaffBridge ensembles. The horizontal ribbing on that blouse would be an experiment in and of itself, but all in all, it's just pretty. I would wear this out in real life too.

Finally, our slippery gal convinces Mal & Co to help her on one of her cons, and in the process they run into the man from whom they're stealing, who she introduces as, you guessed it, her husband. This time her name is "Yolanda".

In a fit of exasperation, Mal calls her "YoSaffBridge" and the name stuck with the fans ever since.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xari

This is an extra-special post for me, because I can truly speak as an authority on our "X" character. Xari Oth'ilin is one of the main characters of the fantasy series that Laura Josephsen and I are writing together!

Xari is an orphan, and grew up shunned from a young age for her mixed heritage. She has a new family now, however-- an adopted father who taught her swordplay and a fairy guardian who awakened her to be a Speaker-- someone who can talk to four special species of animal. Of the twelve, Xari most especially represents the otter.

As a child, Xari was bitter and rebellious, but the friendship and counsel of Burin, her father, and Asheford, her guardian have smoothed her rough edges over the years. She is compassionate and dedicated, a talented fighter and a faithful friend. 

The picture below is a portrait of Xari that we commissioned for the Book One's release back in 2010. I love it so much! The artist is Jacob Grant.


Here is an excerpt from Book 1 of our series, which describes Xari's appearance:

Despite being at least a hand shorter than anyone else around, Xari knew that people were often wary of her appearance.  Her hair, which she had grown down past her waist, was kept in dozens of braids, and her right eyebrow was pierced, both in the style of the Westerlons.  She had learned much of the Westerlons in the past years, and was no longer afraid to look like one.  She didn't wear dresses as a proper young lady should--she found breeches much more practical for the work she had to do.  Here in Ithrin, strangers weren't scared of her, but they were oftentimes cautious.  They had only dealt with the occasional Westerlon warrior, and didn't have the fear that the people of Threnphol and Réol did.

So you can see, Jacob's interpretation of Xari is pretty in keeping with the book. The braids are highly important, at least if you want to do "Book 1" Xari. Also important are the swords! She fights with two. (For an eyebrow piercing, I would just do something fake-tattoo style. I am not that dedicated to accurate costumes!!)

If anyone is interested in learning more about our series, there are some helpful links to the side of my blog. Also, below is our book trailer, featuring the full extent of the artwork we commissioned from Jacob.

Jacob Grant's website (please do not redistribute any of his work, including anything from the Restoration series).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Walker, Sarah

Sarah Walker of the Nerd-tastic spy show Chuck is talented, deadly, beautiful, and assigned by the CIA to protect Chuck Bartowski. In Season 1 of Chuck she does so from across the street, where she can keep an eye on Chuck in his day job at the Buy More. Part of Sarah's cover is working at the Weinerlicious. Her uniform is pretty easy to make or collect, for those so inclined:

Skirt pattern - Simplicity 2368 (but there are many possibilities) Red fabric with white polka dots is pretty easy to find.


Buy it! - this is an example (link subject to expire) It's nigh on perfect but for the trim. And for that price, I might be willing to put up with the trim, to be honest. A basic peasant blouse is something that's pretty easy to find, though, depending on the time of year. Do some internet browsing or keep your eyes open at your favorite stores.

Make it! Here's a PDF with instructions how to draft your very own pattern without even needing to buy one.

Corset/waistband: Hey, lookie what I found!
Or there's a pretty good pattern for a wasistband-style corset here in Butterick B5371.  Hmmn, there's a lot of good accessories with that pattern. I might need to snag that one...

My friend bookwormprincess's version of Sarah's costume for Halloween last year

(I know I didn't spend much time gushing about Sarah. The truth is, since I have a huge fangirl crush on Chuck Bartowski, I have an irrational resentment of Sarah and her gorgeousness and ability to quell a rebellion with a spork). Have you ever seen Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella? The song "The Stepsisters' Lament?"

Why would a fellow want a girl like her?
A girl who's merely lovely?
Why can't a fellow ever ONCE prefer
A girl who's merely me?

Yeah.... that's kind of how I feel about Sarah.... 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Velma

"I would've gotten away with it too, if it hadn't have been for you meddling kids!!"

So anyone who watches even a single episode of Scooby Doo (since they all pretty much have the same plot) knows very well that the only member of Mystery, Inc. to actually solve mysteries is Velma.

This is a great and easy costume to assemble if you want something, well, great and easy. Personally, I see no reason to obsess over getting the cut and style of the sweater and skirt exactly right. Observe the slight differences in the two incarnations of Velma shown below:

There's a different sweater and also different shoes. The bottom sweater is more "cartoon" accurate, but I love both of them. Really, I think getting Velma right is more about colors, the haircut, and those unforgettable square glasses!

One at a time, search for the following online (or at your local store):

Orange turtleneck sweater
Red pleated skirt
Orange knee-high socks
Red Mary Jane shoes
Square glasses frames
Brown page boy wig

Yes, I cheated again, but I think it's only fair to have some options for people who can't or are disinclined to sew!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Umbridge

Do you like pink?

You won't after you meet Dolores Umbridge.

Okay, well, that's not precisely true. I've met Dolores, and despite her very best efforts, I still do like pink. But that is neither here nor there.

I actually think if I ever chose a Harry Potter costume to try, it might be Umbridge, for a couple of reasons. While I despise the woman, her costumes are pretty difficult to mistake, and they'd be a fun addition to HP costume groups. Also, they would teach me suit-making techniques.

I work in an office environment, and while we're not required to wear suits, I sometimes like to wear them all the same, just because they make me feel super grown-up and professional and empowered. Alas, because I only wear skirts, I have come to understand just how difficult it is to find matching suit skirts. Except at the Limited, which makes stuff that is beautiful, but only comes in the sizes models wear, and is usually so short I think the "professional" part of the appeal is lost.

I did manage to find a wonderful store called Kaspar which carried beautiful matching suits (pants, skirts, and even dresses all with mix and match coordinating jackets) but the nearest outlet is over 200 miles away.

So. That being said. Learning to make a suit would be worth my own personal time. At this point in my life I'm only interested in making costumes, not "real" clothes, so Dolores might be a good way to tuck suck skills away for such a time in the future when that proclivity would change.

If you've recovered from that first bout of nauseating pink, here's another:

While this is not a suit cut I would wear, it nonetheless uses suiting fabric, special pockets, cuffs, etc.

"Suiting" is, quite simply, a fabric used for suits. It's usually woven and has a very nice lie. Tweed could conceivably fall into this category. Do a search for "pink suiting" and you'll get lots of horrific Dolores choices such as this.

Vogue 1269 has a good short jacket pattern for Dolores. I'm also very fond of Vogue 1237 for that very "buttoned up" feeling that Dolores expresses in her manner of dress. This Butterick pattern (5690) has an amazing coat that could work. Really, there are endless mix and match possibilities!

Don't forget to take your Pink Overload protection pills, though!

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tonks

Finally! Some Harry Potter!

Funny thing about Harry Potter. I like the films, but "visually" the books and movies are different for me, probably because more people are described as wearing robes in the books than they do in the movies. Is that just me? Not that I'm raising a protest. Robes are... well, less cool than what Nymphadora Tonks is wearing in the following two photos:

 I guess technically the pink thing could be a robe, but I'd call it a coat, myself.

In any case, as crazy and challenging as those two costumes might be, I wanted to use this space to talk about book interpretation versus movie interpretation. Most of the costumers I know and admire try to emulate something a professional film costumer has come up with, and that's cool. But you don't have to go with the above visions to be Tonks. In fact, I think she would be quite easy to pull off in a few simple, cost-effective steps:

Punk rock t-shirt
Brilliant-colored wig
Pig nose

(oh, fine, and throw in a robe, though I'm sure Tonks isn't the sort to wear her robe 24/7. Her father was a Muggle, after all).

All of these things combined will help you really stand out as Tonks, I think. JK Rowling gave us so many scrumptious little tidbits about her capabilities and personality.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Sybil Crawley

Downton Abbey is all the rage these days. And so too is Downton Abbey fashion! (In the costuming world, anyway). I watched the entire series to-date in the span of about a week. The letter "S" was a good opportunity to squeeze Downton period costume love into this month's tributes.

Lady Sybil Crawley is the youngest of the three daughters on the show.

Here they are all together: Edith, Sybil, and Mary (left to right)

One of the things that's especially neat about Sybil as the subject of an entry is that her costumes especially reflect her character. Sybil is a very progressive young women, interested in women's rights and new ideas. One of the most famous scenes is when Sybil comes to dinner in her new "surprise" frock and causes a minor scandal:

 Later, after the advent of World War I, Sybil exchanges her beautiful clothing for a nurse's uniform.

Here are the sisters again, decked out for a summer lawn party:

Although I am by no means a fashion historian, in preparing this post I have reinforced some things I vaguely suspected about a misconception surrounding the fashion of Downton Abbey. Namely, that people call it Edwardian, and it's not. Not really. "Titanic-era" is better, at least for the first season, since it opens with the sinking of the Titanic. "Pre-WWI" might serve as well. The truth of the matter is that this particular time period is the bridge between true Edwardian fashion and the famous "flapper" era of the 1920's.

Maybe we could officially call it "Downton Abbey" fashion from now on?

There are some great starter choices for patterns out there, and I'm sure as the show gains popularity there will be more cropping up in the next couple of years.

Simplicity 8399
Butterick 4212 (I'm not sure I'd pay the price this site is asking, unless further research proved it to be a super rare, hard-to-come-by pattern and you simply had to have it)
Past Patterns 1900-1920's Here you'd want to be careful to choose clothing from the 1914-1920 timeframe, more toward the bottom of the list. It's easy enough to see which ones are more 'Downton-esque' There's even a pajama pattern that would serve to make Sybil's harem pants!

Were I to want to make a Sybil Crawley costume... well, of all those shown in this post I like the lawn party dress the best, but the nurse's costume would be a fun slice of history to recreate.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Red Riding Hood

We began our A-Z series with Once Upon A Time, and now it's come 'round again.

This is also a good time to bring up the fickleness of a costumer's life, or at least of mine. I mentioned when I posted the Rosie Cotton write-up that I was definitely going to do Rosie for Dragon Con this year, but between the time I wrote that entry and now, my resolve has taken a slight turn

Now I'm going to do Red Riding Hood (or "Red").

Why? Well, first off, the two costumes have a lot of similarities: peasant skirt, blouse, and corset. I could actually wear Red's costume to the Evening in Bree party and pass myself off as a "generic" hobbit. Secondly, though, and more important, I actually kind of look like Red.

Our faces are pretty different, but she's really tall and she has long dark hair. There are so few 'tall girls' out there to cosplay that I just cannot resist. Plus, I already found a cosplay group to join for photoshoots and whatnot, so Red Riding Hood it is!

So far on the show, Red has two distinct ensembles, including two distinct capes. I'm going to be doing the first one, pictured above, but I thought I might post pictures and a basic breakdown of both of them.

 The first one is the one featured in Red's showcase episode "Red-Handed"

The hood is the most elaborate part of this costume. It's gorgeous red embossed velvet. Considering I have a much easier alternative, I wouldn't want to even think of trying this until I found some really great fabric to do it justice. And that's not all. The picture below gives a really great idea of the full spread of the cloak and why doing it accurately would mean even more of a fabric headache.

 There are layers.

The bodice for Ensemble #1 has long sleeves and a small "skirt", plus a tan-colored leather belt.

You can kind of see the lower part of the jacket here. You also get a rough idea of how her skirt is constructed. There's an underskirt with a design, gathered up slightly on one side (I don't yet know the technique to accomplish this look), and a sort of skin tone/orangey light brown skirt around the outside.

Don't you just love the "Snow White, Rose Red" imagery here?
(This is my fave ep of Once Upon a Time to date)

 This was the best picture I could find of the underskirt for design reference. It's an oatmeal color with little earth tone flowers. (In this picture she's swapped cloaks with Snow White for plot purposes)

 The second Red Riding Hood ensemble is the one I'm going to try and make. It's the first we see her wearing in order of episode air, but the second of her two outfits chronologically in the story.

This is a good head-to-toe reference. I could have sworn at some point that her skirt was made of vertical stripes in two subtly different shades of red, but I 'm not at all certain now. I was probably just glancing at it too fast and mistook the gathers for stripes.

The cloak is plain red wool, but with an interesting border of what looks like purple, pink, and red feathers (or feathery material) pressed down flat along the edge to give it some texture.

The corset has beautiful garment clasps, which I can't wait to play with.

Since I'm going to be working on this costume later in the summer, I'll worry about relaying costume and fabric specifics until I discover them step by step. For sure I've already got a pattern for the skirt. I also have a cloak pattern, but I'll have to determine if the hood is big enough. I do have a corset pattern, but it has a squire neckline and doesn't come to nearly as acute a point at the bottom as Red's, so it remains to be seen whether I'll try to buy a closer pattern or just play with the patterns I already have on hand. Rapunzel did give me exhaustive bodice experience. One of the hardest things, I think, is going to be fitting the corset just right to where the garment clasps leave that nice narrow open space down the front.

Stay tuned for our Red Riding Hood journey, coming later 2012!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Qorra

I enjoyed the movie TRON: Legacy (though I had to do a bit of quick "catch-up" since the entire Tron franchise was new to me as of that year). I especially enjoyed the character of Qorra, a computer program in the digital world who is more than what she seems. She has a combination of competence and innocence that makes her very endearing.

Like all folks in the TRON world, she also has a pretty interesting costume, one of TRON's famous "light suits"

First off, like many costumes I think about, I wouldn't wear it "as is" because of my personal dress standards. It's much too skin tight and though I don't think I've mentioned it in this series so far, I only wear skirts and dresses out and about. So some costumes are flat out.

However, if I really, really wanted to do Qorra, I know what I would do to pull it off. Have a closer look at the photo below. Note the bottom hem of her tunic, how it slopes down asymmetrically. If I were adapting the costume I would simply turn this into a knee-length skirt. And also make the entire thing a wee bit less form-fitting. Problem solved!

The real reason the idea of a TRON costume is so much fun is because of the white stripes. By using reflective fabric or safety tape for the white stripes (such as construction workers, or police officers sometimes wear) you can make it so the costume actually "glows" in certain lights. And then go find a party with a black light. LOL

Don't forget your disk, either (exhibit C below).

Fabric: Well, I'm not wearing actual leather. Pleather, I suppose? I've not delved exhaustively into this fabric class. The aforementioned reflective tape, of course. Black leather knee-high wedge heel boots are easy enough to find too, though finding something cost-friendly might be a little trickier. Gloves. A short black wig to round things off.

.... this costume would get expensive really fast.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Padmé

Padmé Naberrie is the one-time Queen of Naboo and the all-time Queen of Intergalactic Fashion. How could any fangirl's "dream" costume list be complete without something from her exhaustive collection of breathtaking ensembles?

There are SO MANY to choose from, but thinking on the matter for the purposes of this write-up, I decided that the Padmé dress I would most like at this point in my life is her initial Senatorial gown from Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

Renaissance meets Africa. Only in Star Wars! Gotta love it.

The Good News: The costumes is awesome.

The Bad News: The costumes is expensive and complicated. Once again we butt heads with the infamous Trisha Beggar, Star Wars prequel costume designer. Darn her!

 View from the back.

The REALLY good news (for me) is that because this is a Star Wars costume, it means that a bajillion people out there have already done the work and documented their efforts handily on the internet. In the case of this costume, I found the mother lode. So I defer to the following post for any and all commentary, suggestions, and tidbits regarding Padme and her gorgeous, nightmarish clothing:

Super Crazy Helpful Brilliant Extra Detailed writeup by Kay Dee

Index of other costumes she's done write-ups for

Seriously, this sort of thing makes me want to just hide in a hole and never look at a sewing machine again. I'm not worthy!!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Osiris

The second "NO" lady is Osiris.

"But wait!" you may be saying if you're a student of Egyptian mythology. "Osiris is the Egyptian god of the afterlife and he's male!"


He's also a Goa'uld who took a female host by the name of Sarah Gardner about five years after the Stargate was uncovered on Earth.

See? Now he's a she. And like all Goa'uld, ostentatious doesn't even begin to describe her dress sense.

Osiris doesn't think much of you. But you've got to be impressed with that necklace!

The Jaffa are quick to compliment her outfits. 
This one's a bit to risqué for my tastes, but I wouldn't tell that to her face!

All of these outfits are fun, and varying levels of complicated. I really do love the necklace on that second one, but were I to ever tackle our disgraced System Lord, I'd go with her white "Egypt" outfit. It's the easiest, and also probably the most recognizable amongst Stargate SG-1 fans.

All the screencaps below are taken from the climactic episode of Season 4 called "The Curse" in which Daniel Jackson learns the horrible truth-- that his former girlfriend and colleague Sarah has been taken over by the long-dormant Goa'uld Osiris. She makes her escape before Daniel can rescue Sarah, now a prisoner in her own body.

The scene is beautifully filmed, especially the lighting, which puts this beautiful costume to great advantage. There's a refreshing, regal, timeless simplicity to the white linen, and I love how it seems to reflect both the masculine and feminine influences in Osiris's new manifestation.

Quite simply, we have a matching set of loose pants, tank top, and light coat with a hood.

If you look closely, the linen is ribbed. The fabric is the same for all three pieces.

The great thing about these pieces? They're super easy to find patterns for. I've posted the first three I found to be acceptable below, but I'm sure even more browsing will yield a wide range of optional patterns. Heck, maybe you could find one with all three together!

Coat: Simplicity 2208 jacket with hood (Just make it longer)
Tank: New Look 6950
Slacks: Simplicity 2703

The other thing I love about this (from a costumer's perspective) is that the necklace would be quite easy too. Plain silver band chokers with black and pearl beads.

And if you don't have short, blond, curly hair? A wig, definitely a wig.

Tomorrow we're back to the good guys for a while!

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nimueh

The "N" and "O" posts, back-to-back, feature a pair of truly stylish villainesses (which is, apparently, not a real word). I find this hilarious, since, well, together they spell "NO"

Just say NO to evil, kids.

But by all means, say yes to evil's dress sense.

First up: Nimueh


Nimueh isn't always evil. It depends on what school of Arthurian legend one subscribes to. Most usually she's Merlin's lover and downfall, sometimes rival, sometimes good, sometimes evil.

In BBC's Merlin, which we introduced in our Gwen post, Nimueh is a first season nemesis to Merlin, and they most certainly do not fall in love. She is played by the superbly beautiful and talented Michelle Ryan, whom I would love to see more of in general. This Nimueh is one of my favorite characters because, as an antagonist, she has many layers, and substantial motivations for her evil. Truly, sometimes her attitudes are downright sympathetic, though Merlin does take her down in the end.  Too bad-- she could have taught her successors in the evil sorceress dept a few things about nuance in villainy.

Her skirt must have taken lessons from her personality, because it too has many shifting layers:

 Oh, man, I love this dress so much.

 Though she looks very cold, doesn't she?

 Here's a good close-up to get a better idea of the texture on the bodice.

Okay, so down to business. For starters, I'd construct the dress with two different kinds of fabric. An underdress in something with a good, flattering drape (like rayon). For the overlay, experiment with organza or tulle. I probably wouldn't kill myself getting the perfect "tattered" look like hers, though if anyone has any ideas, by all means, elaborate in the comments.

To me, the mulberry color is crucial in recreating this costume. I would go the extra mile and dye it if I needed to to get it right. I'd probably mix in some purple in the overlay as well.

And of course we need a pattern. For once I found something that will serve nicely: Simplicity 3632
It has variations for the sweetheart neckline and sheer fabric overlay. After sewing the longer length, it would be a simple matter indeed to hack the skirt in pieces to the knee or mid-thigh and use liberal amounts of fraystop to finish them off.

But wait! That's not all.

Let's not kid ourselves. Her hair is just as awesome, if not more, than her dress. I mean, come on:

 Oh yeah. Doesn't she know it?

 A good view from the back.

Clearly she has a magic hair gel spell in her bag of sorcery tricks.
The best part? It would take me about two hours, but I could totally manage that.

I think I might have talked myself into trying this costume next year, just from doing this write-up. I'd like to thank Becky at sew and sew for her invaluable input.