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!

Studio Snippets

Today I thought I would share some images of some gorgeous Medieval inspired Costumes I Designed and Made Up a couple months ago. I think I am in love with quilting again, and intend to make up some Bolero Jackets and Spats featuring this rather elaborate technique…

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This is a technique I have employed before for Historical Costumes. Not only is it accurate (-ish, I do it by Machine), it is a cost effective trick to create a brilliantly elaborate piece!

I first made a Paper Pattern for the Doublet, then drew the Quilted Design on to it to make sure it would work, and that I liked it. It is very easy to become a little too intricate so drawing out the pattern is a very good exercise! I then- somewhat free hand- drew the Pattern on to the Jerkin with tailors chalk, making slight adjustments to ensure it matched both sides because there were to be eyelets and lacing down the front and a seam at the back.

I backed the Blue Linen with very thin wadding and a lining- cut about 10cm larger than the Linen as there is to be expected some amount of movement when machine quilting- then started in the middle with the circles and worked outwards. When employing this technique I use a medium large stitch on my sewing machine and just take it slow. The whole jacket took about 7 hours to quilt in full but I am so pleased with the results, and can’t wait to see pictures of it in action!

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Above is some fabric I created for a Dark Queen Costume around the same time as the Doublet. I made it up on to a Waspie for the Costume, which looked just fantastic.

I worked with some Black Coutil for the base, then placed two layers of Gold Lace, a layer of Matt Black Sequinned Lace on top. I then Machine Stitched in Gold to outline the Pattern of the Sequins. This looked simply gorgeous and I fully intend to create a full length, Victorian Corset using the technique. It only took a couple hours because tracing around the outline of the Sequin pattern was done semi-freehand.

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I think I am becoming a little ‘known’ for my Machine Embroidery techniques!!

This above is a sample of some freehand machine embroidery I created for Dark Queens costume. I adapted and echoed the pattern from the Sequinned Lace and added in my own embellishments to create this piece of fabric which was ultimately cut up in to little strips!

Whilst machine embroidery is a relatively quick technique- which is why I use it so frequently in my Costumes, as if done correctly it can look like Medieval style hand embroidery or Black Work- it can still take time and I think I spent about 20 hours Quilting and Embroidering for this commission! I was quite content though, and adore the out come.

If you like the look of Machine Embroidery, why not check out Bristol Sewing Club to learn? I am also working on a handy little Zine full of hints and tips for the budding Machine Embroiderer too. I think it is a wonderful thing to master and can be used so many different ways.

Happy stitching!