Author Archives: DK

About DK

Sewer, knitter, behind-the-wheel singer, once-upon-a-time writer, stickler for grammar, avid reader, lover of glue and paper, glitterphobic, appreciator of art and words and how the two can be used together or against one another, friend to animals large and small, undeniably short, alarmingly quiet, easy to love.

Angry Birds at the Renaissance Festival?

by Chelsey Barnes

It may be slightly specialized, but I can think of a number of reasons one might want to wear slippers with their costume: your costume is that of a little kid (or a costume for a little kid), your costume is themed around lounging (spa day, sick day, playing hookie), or you found some really kick butt Angry Bird slippers that would go great with your video game themed Day of Wrong.  However specialized it may be, I can think of at least twice as many reasons why: they get dirty outside; the bottoms would wear out on rough terrain; the soles aren’t thick enough to protect your feet from rocks, sticks, glass, flair pins that fell off someone’s costume; they easily fall off your feet; you could lose it during a conga line when you kick your foot out and it goes flying across the room; you could trip and fall down the stairs because your footwear is unstable.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Never fear: There is a solution to this conundrum, and that solution is what I affectionately call “Slipper Spats.”  And thankfully, it’s a surprisingly easy solution to boot.  All you need is one pair of slippers:

These are stunt slippers, photographed by Erin Schneider who, when asked to take a picture of them alone, returned to find them already purchased by some other lucky ducky.

On super puffy novelty slippers, you usually find a one inch thick (approx) foam base covered in the slipper fabric.  We want to get rid of this base.  Start by carefully ripping out the stitches that hold the head to the base at the opening of the slipper.  You will find that there are three layers of fabric here: the bottom/sides of the base, the top of the base, and the head.  Because it’s easier on the manufacturer, the head should be sealed shut and the stuffing well contained.  Continue ripping out stitches until the head pops off.  Repeat for second slipper.

Caw!

At this point you have a neat little stuffy to toss at structurally impossible “buildings” housing smug looking pigs, which you will then have a frustratingly hard time knocking down.  You will not, however, be able to just slap them onto your pumped up kicks and call it a day.

This is where the “spats” part comes in.  Much like the more “high-brow” item of the same name, these spats are worn over the shoe, attaching underneath and at the back.  For my purposes I used three thin pieces of elastic for each spat.  Measurements vary, but on the bottom of the spat I used a pieces just long enough to reach from one side to the other of the slipper head.  For the back I did a rough measure of the distance from one corner of the slipper head, around my ankle and back to the other corner, then chopped off an inch or so for tension. YMMV.

Next is a tiny bit of hand sewing.  Don’t be scared.  I hate hand sewing, and I still made it through this alive.  Simply hand tack the ends of your elastic pieces at strategic points along the bottom of the slipper head.  I’m sure I could have gotten away with one piece of elastic under the shoe, but I wanted to make sure it didn’t flop around.

And there you have it.  A simple way to be incredibly goofy and look great doing it.

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Sewing for Kids

by Chelsey Barnes

That is, sewing things for kids, not teaching kids how to sew.  If I ever get around to teaching a child how to sew, I may do a post on that, but for now you’ll have to settle for the ups and downs of making garments for children.

Now, due to the fact that I’m an 11th hour sewer, I dropped the ball on getting this post to you in time to inspire you to make a Halloween costume for your child.  However, while we here at the Minnesota Society of Costumes consider Halloween to be a bit of a holy day, we also offer family friendly events throughout the year.  Therefore, it’s really never too late to sew something for little Bobby Sue or Alexander (who I hear is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, so doesn’t he deserve a fun costume?).

If you’ve ever sewn a costume for yourself, you can sew for a child.  In some ways sewing for kids is SOOOO much better than sewing for adults.  For instance, if you’re like me and the idea of sewing a 3½ yard hem on an Elizabethan gives you hives thinking about the tediousness of such a long straight line, then you’re totally in luck.  Little kid hems fly by like a dream, and you’re done before you know it.  They also tend to be cheaper (unless you’re choosing to outfit your child in the finest laces, in which case, will you adopt me?) as there are far fewer yards of everything involved.  Ten yards of trim on Little Bo Peep here would translate to at least 20 on an adult.  And trim is expensive, y’all.

They’re also a hundred times cuter, which makes them a hundred times more fun to see finished.  The cuteness also makes it a hundred times easier to disguise your mistakes (not that you make any).  No one is going to be looking at your hems and top stitching when there is an adorable young princess in their presence.  Incidentally, the costume you wear alongside the adorable young princess will also experience the same mistake-masking effects, however, it goes a little overkill in that it actually masks the entire fact that you’re wearing a costume.  So maybe that’s a con.  Haven’t decided yet.

Lastly, children are easier to fit.  They are not curvacious or bootylicious.  They are nearly perfect little rectangles that rarely require darts or fancy altering because, let’s face it, we don’t really want the garments to hug “just right” anyway.  Save “just right” for after they turn 18.  No, better yet, 30.

But lest I lull you into a false sense of security and cause you to rush out to your local Jo-Ann (where, if you were a paid MNSoC member, you would automatically qualify for 10% off EVERY purchase) and buy up every child sized pattern in all the land, I must give you a few words of warning.  Namely, freakishly small baby-sized arms.

I would urge you to do yourself a favor and only sew costumes that don’t require arms, but I believe the tube-top clad Bratz dolls are no longer in favor.  Instead, you have two options:

  1. Suck it up and plow through it, swearing constantly as you feed the sleeve through your machine inch-by-inch because the arm holes are way too small to fit around your machine.  Or
  2. Think far enough ahead to ignore the pattern instructions.  Construct and hem the arms BEFORE sewing the underarm and side seams of the top closed.  Then, when you’ve gotten the shoulder attached to the top, simply sew from wrist to waist in one continuous line.  It may not always result in the most finished-looking wrists, but glue on some trim and no one will be any the wiser (see also my previous “pro” about no one even noticing because OMG little Bobby Sue is so precious!)

A second, and maybe less-likely con, depending on the child, is that children are fickle beasts.  One minute they may say “Yes, Auntie, I do so love the princess dress you made for me, and I cannot wait to try it on,” and the next minute they are throwing an hour long tantrum over not wanting to be a princess but wanting instead to be a butterfly.  This is purely hypothetical.

Despite the possible downfalls, ultimately costuming for kids is just as rewarding as making yourself a beautiful gown or a steampunk waistcoat and top hat.  Kids make the most fun models, even if they can be trying at times.

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Costume Inspiration: Complete(ish)

by Chelsey Barnes

I bet you’re just dying to know how that Steampunk Circus costume turned out, aren’t you?

Well, I would have to say that, despite some minor setbacks, it was an outstanding success.  Here’s how it went down (bear with me… I am not proud of how I photograph, and will share the goofy picture so it appears that I look dumb in pictures on purpose):

Let’s start with the stuff I didn’t make, shall we?  First, there is the totally rad black and white striped button up shirt, found at a thrift store by a friend, and immediately snatched up by me because it was perfect.  Then I found the black and white striped tights on clearance (I assume, since they are not on the website, and I don’t pay full price for anything) at my local neighborhood Hot Topic.  But really, you can get striped tights just about anywhere; though, unless they are in a sealed package, I’d recommend staying away from any at a thrift store.  Lastly, the shoes were another thrifted item, again found by a friend, and pretty much a staple of all of my steampunk costumes.  A bit of advice:  If you’re like me and lack the thrifting fu (or, perhaps, the thrifting patience), always go with a friend.  Luckily, my friends have amazing thrifting fu.

Moving on, I’ll show you something I didn’t make, but did alter.

I truly have the world’s greatest daddy.  I’m sure 30 years ago when my dad was–I kid you not–a chimney sweep, he wasn’t thinking, “Gee, I’d better hang onto this top hat because someday I’m going to have a daughter that’s into costuming,” but it’s sure come in handy.  I cut a piece of my corset fabric as long as the circumference of the hat and about an inch shorter.  It’s vinyl, so it doesn’t fray, so I didn’t hem the top and bottom.  I did fold the sides in about 3/4″ in order to give stability behind the grommets.  A few black grommets and a length of black satin ribbon, and the hat was all set.  I would also like to thank genetics for having the same freakishly small head as my dad, because no one can steal my hat.  *mwah ha ha ha ha ha ha*

Okay, so what kind of real sewing did I do?  Plenty.  And I managed to con a friend into helping, in order to keep my mental breakdown to a minimum.

The corselet is the “tall” version of this Truly Victorian pattern.  Honestly, it’s one of the easiest patterns I’ve ever used.  Ever.  I need to make like 900 more of these, because not only are the easy, they’re amazingly comfortable.  The fabric is a custom order “Signature” vinyl from Jo-Ann Fabrics.  It’s not on their website, sorry.  It’s lined with muslin and duck cloth.  The boning is the Wench Posse standard: cable ties.

The black sticking out is a petticoat roughly following these instructions at Sugardale.  My dearest friend in the whole wide world (who kept working on this even after I accidentally stole her fortune cookie) did 99% of the work on this, gathering up and layering 4 yard, 6 yard, and 8 yard lengths of polyester lining fabric.

The skirt is a decadent 100% silk that I got for some ridiculous clearance price like $2.50/yd.  Go ahead.  I’ll give you a moment to curse me for snatching up super-cheap silk before you could.  Better?  Let’s move on.  The skirt was not supposed to be that particular skirt.  That skirt was born at the 11th hour.  The, let’s say, 5th hour skirt was a red/black two-tone taffeta with black lace on top.  Problem 1: It was way too heavy.  It made this teapot (short and stout) look horrible.  Problem 2: the layers were a pain to work with, mostly by my own fault.  So I scrapped that, took my silk and cut two lengths selvedge to selvedge.  I sewed those together up one set of selvedges and gathered them onto a waistband.  An invisible zipper later, I was sewing up the other set of selvedges.  I did a rolled hem on my serger to get myself out of actually hemming.

The next step is to work on accessories.  Which is, admittedly, my weak spot.  I certainly welcome suggestions, but I do know I will be including a pocket watch and little photos of ferrets.

…to be continued…

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Costume Inspiration

by Chelsey Barnes

I would say that for most costumers, their ideas come from something else–a movie, book, another costumer, a painting…  A year or two ago, shortly after getting into the whole Steampunk thing, a friend of mine sent me a link to someone’s facebook photo album from a party that had a Steampunk Circus theme.  I was immediately hooked and decided my next Steampunk costume would be circus.

The “whos” and “wheres” of the party are long since lost, so I can share pictures of my actual inspiration, but a Google Images search turned up a few pictures that are reminiscent of the details ingrained in my memory.

Artwork appears to be by Glenn Arthur

The underbust corsets, the little hats, the ruffles, the “big top” stripes.  Circus isn’t generally what people think of when they think Steampunk, but I think these images fit well, showing a dark, dystopian side of the circus, which fits well with Steampunk.

Photo: Mizzd-Stock

Should you Google “Steampunk Circus” in images, this delightful lady comes up more often than most.  She’s a little closer to my vision of my Steampunk Circus costume, in that she’s very scamp-like.  How did I come to a more scamp-like vision?  Boredom, mostly.

A coworker and I were doing a menial task one day.  To bide our time, I asked her to make up a story using the idea of Steampunk Circus (after explaining Steampunk to her).  She successfully came up with a better back story than I could ever have dreamed:

Ilana was born into poverty in Chicago, learning the ways of the street at a young age. When she was 6, her mother disappeared–a chapter in her life that remains unanswered to this day. Armed with her skills in pickpocketing and swiping food, she heads out on her own.

One day she finds herself watching some street performers and notices that not only is their ferret act entertaining the crowd, the ferrets are also trained to take valuables from the onlookers. The leader of the performing troupe, Christopher, notices that she is on to them and attempts to punish her. When she outsmarts him, he realizes she would be a natural performer and thief. He takes her in as a daughter and teaches her everything he knows about performing while they build up a legitimate circus. When he dies, he leaves the circus and position of Ringmaster to Ilana.

Ilana continues to run the circus with her mate Emilio, who also grew up in the troupe. When times are tough for the circus, she and Emilio return to the streets with Emilio’s trained ferrets. Emilio’s father was Christopher’s ferret wrangler, and his father before him was a ferret wrangler and so on and so forth. One might say he comes from a long line of ferret wranglers.

Fin.

Armed with this story and my inspirational images, I will set out to create a look that does both justice.  A look I will eventually chronicle here.

…What to see how it turned out? Click Here

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