Swan Lake Tutu

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It was about this time last year Midnight Costume Services were commissioned to create a Swan Lake Tutu as part of a larger block of commissioned Costumes for an entertainment Park.

Swan Lake has always held a special place in my heart, I have seen it performed countless times- the best? At The Royal Albert Hall with 60 Swans!!- and every time I fall in love all over again with the music, performance and costumes.

Due the the volume of other Costumes needed for the production, we had a small budget to create this Costume and even though there was just Odette to be created however; I knew we simply had to have a traditional Tutu with some feather detailing and the above illustration was my starting point.

There are 14 layers in a Traditional Tutu, ranging from 3cm to 32cm… over all over 40m of Net and all layers- once cut and pieced- needed to be snipped and cut to create the classic Swan Lake zig-zag edging.

Once snipped, each layer is gathered and sewn on to the Basque. This process takes one worker over 10 hour to accomplish and can get fairly intense!! The Basque will start to curl about half way through and it is about at this point that you think you wont win, but win you do and a few hour later you have the most wonderful sight… a fluffy, untamed Tutu!

Glorious, isn’t she?

Tacking stitches are inserted in a very specific order to tame the beast, the Bodice is made up and decorated and all of a sudden, a weeks worth of work looks so beautiful you can almost… almost… forget the pain of all that gathering!

And finally, a shot of the inside!

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Happy stitching!

Hail to the King!

Midnight Costume Services is finally at the end of a long run of Costumes for an Entertainment Park, and this job comes to a close with a Panto! Dick Whittington… and I thought I’d share the process of making some of the pieces, like King Rats Tail Coat!

Easily my favorite Costume to make so far, I decided to loosely Hand Tailor the Tailcoat to support a couple of incredibly dramatic Shoulder Pads. To get the right look I played about with layering existing Shoulder Pads and felt but in the end- even though it was more work- I had to resort to a more traditional technique and ended up layering the felt in decreasing sizes to build up a pointed, exaggerated Shoulder. As you can see in the first picture using the existing Shoulder Pads looked super clunky!

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Using a mixture of hand stitching, machine stitching and a little bit of glue, each Shoulder Pad has about 20 layers of felt and is quite malleable, allowing me to gently sculpt a curve. I haven’t some this in a while and I was super pleased with the results!

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I found some (pretty disgusting, but amazing for the purpose!) quilted fabric which I thought looked a little like Bin Bags… it’s the kinda thing I thought the King of Rats’ would have a tailored jacket out of!! In a concession to the performers I created the sleeves from a stretch Leather- which is why they look a little like they’re pulling- but means the Jacket will fit multiple performers and wont restrict movement.

The mannequin this is pictured on is a little too large, but I think it still looks majestic!

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I find Panto a difficult beast to design for, I want to do character analysis to find their motivation and design around that, which doesn’t really work here. It’s all a bit too tongue in cheek, shiny and primary coloured for me but in starting with King Rat I helped myself a lot! Deciding that as a character he would have had quilted and embroidered bin bags fashioned in to a Tailcoat got me on my way.

I also fashioned medals and ribbons for the lapel, because of course he would be decorated!, and used lace and matt black sequins to applique and embroider detailing in the lapel and jacket. With a final sprinkling of darkly glittery hot stones and a Top Hat I think he turned out to be quite the dandy!

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The hat was hand stitched and created using strips and fragments from the Tail Coat machine embroidered on, with layers of sparkly net and sequins overlayed. Slightly battered- he does live in the sewers after all!-the ears were made from faux fur, a lot of dye and sprayed dye.

As I have a commission to create a White and Gold Louis XVI Sun King Tail Coat I am really pleased this turned out so well. The Sun King Tail Coat will have to be much more viciously tailored to create a base for a spectacular Gold Feathered Shoulder Piece, and I can’t wait to share it!!

Happy stitching!

Ding dong, the Witch is… sewn up neatly and shipped off in time thank you very much!

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I present… Elphaba! These photos were taken whilst we were constructing her (no sleeves!), and it took three of us about a week to make her… with a LOT of discussion, pinning, unpinning, more discussion and lots and lots of sewing!

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The Bodice was pattern cut, the pieces embellished with strips of sequin, lace, and other oddments in quite an organic way. It took time to place the layers in a way which didn’t add too much bulk to the costume- and therefore make the across look like she’s been eating all the pies!-  and there’s quite a few layers. Maya did the main bulk of the sewing for this section and I had to admire her patience!

We wanted to emphasis the ‘tornado’ effect, because of the character of Elphaba, which would pay homage to the original Broadway design but be a little different and put a Midnight Costume Services twist on it!

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The skirt was where we ran into some difficulties. We didn’t have enough time for this costume really, and we needed to some up with a solution which would look awesome, not use too much fabric and be quick… yeah, it was asking a lot, I know!

In the end we cut and alternately pleated and gathered strips, onto the panels of the bottom section of the Skirt. The top we stitched to match the bodice so it would ‘fish tail’.  The bottom of the skirt started to look do a really good impression of Madonna in her Material World phase and after panicking for a few minutes we discovered that sewing each layer down, and trapping some sequin trim as we did so, solved this issue whilst looking brilliant at the same time.

With a Crin underskirt, sleeves, lace tatters and some incredible Red Diamante Hot Stones which glittered brilliantly  we were finished and I promise to share pictures as soon as we have them!

Happy stitching!

Adventures in Showgirl Corsets.

Using commercial patterns in Costuming feels like cheating, I don’t know why, but it does! However; ever since Yaya Han released her Corset Pattern I have been dying for an excuse to use it… which I know is super weird as I am not only a pattern drafter and cutter, I have my very own Corset Pattern for sale!

M7339, Misses' Overbust or Underbust Corsets by Yaya Han M7339, Misses' Overbust or Underbust Corsets by Yaya Han

I guess sometimes I just want to join in with the cool kids, the those CosPlayers are some pretty damn cool kids! Any hoo, I needed to make three Showgirl Costumes and, because this Pattern has a range of Cup sizes I thought it would be perfect, and save me the time of drafting my own. Win!

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These bad boys needed to be spangly, so after much hunting I finally decided upon this gorgeous (and very hard to locate!) Gold Sequin and Pink Sequin fabrics. Each had to be backed with matching Silk Habotai to ensure the sequins reflected as much as possible, and they were both lined with Coutil. They are fully boned with Steel Boning and have a quick rigged,open ended zip at the back because of quick changes.

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Offset with some gorgeous Indian Beaded Trim (eye wateringly expensive and used sparingly because no more could be ordered if there was a mistake as it takes about three weeks to arrive!), in the ‘V’ of the cleavage they shimmer gloriously in the studio, and look amazing on stage.

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Matching shorts were also made- in the Gold here, but also in Pink- as they are used in several different styles of dance including the Can-Can.

I think I did Yaya Han proud, and I am super impressed with her Pattern. I didn’t really use the instructions because we made these up a little differently that they would be for personal use. Here each panel is made and neatened separately in case of alterations, the cups are kept in alterable separate pieces and all of this makes the insides look a little messy as you can see all of the Overlocked channels. They aren’t laced, as the performers had a quick change, instead they zip up which in real life looks a little clunky but can’t really be seen from the stage when they’re performing.

All in all I’m really happy, and they fit great.

If you are thinking about sewing your own Corset this Pattern can be found here, and the Eventide Corset Pattern from Laura After Midnight can be found here. A full Sew-Along for the Eventide can be found here, and discusses many of the techniques used to make these up.

Happy stitching!

A week in the life of a Costume Maker!

The last week has been incredibly hectic, with not one but three huge Costumes being made in the Studio. The first was another for Celebrity Cruises who wanted the Evil Enchantress Costume I made up earlier this year in Blue…

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The Collar was again constructed by hand using layers of Crin, Net, Calico and Blue Lycra (the base fabric of the Costume) with the addition of those fab Laser Cut Butterflies.

Each Butterfly is individually sewn on, which as you can imagine take quite a while. Indeed, I had someone just on Butterfly duty!

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Front, side and back of the final Costume. The Skirt is separate for ease and a Quick Change. I’m not sure, but I think I like the version better than the Black one!

In total this Costume took about 100 hours and three people to create however; we only had three days so you can imagine how quick we were stitching!

The second order was two Georgian Dresses for a Media Ball. Again, a little bit of a rush job but with myself and my trusty seamstress assistants we just about managed it.

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One was a delicate and flouncy affair, with Silk Ribbons, gorgeous Linen Toile du Juoy Underskirt, delicate silken Pinked and Scalloped Ruffle and Satin Bows.

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The second was a darkly Gothic creation made from lovely, heavy striped Velvet with a dark Purple line which inspired the dark Purple Silken Pinked and Pleated Ruffle with Black Satin Bows and Black Lace detailing across the Bodice and Front of the Skirt.

With over 10 meters of Boning in each Bodice, over 20 meters of trim in each and taking about 80 hours to create these were managed in a 2 and a half day period as a last minute order. We stitched until the last possible moment, but these fair ladies made it to the Ball!

After a few days off to look after my Husband who has just had an operation I shall be back at the Sewing Machine on my next order… but also at the drawing board for a huge Costume Design Commission I will be building in the new year, eek!

Happy stitching!