Apr 27, 2015

Mara Jade Updates

I managed to finish all of the sewing parts of my Mara Jade costume over the weekend, which is awesome because I have a super busy schedule this week and our May the 4th party is this Saturday. There is one more part I'm 99% sure I'm going to have to sew for this costume but won't be getting to before the party, and that's the gloves.

I'm really excited about this costume because it's really an awesome costume and also Mara is one of my favorite Star Wars characters from the books. When I tried it on it felt very Han Solo-ish (in a good way). It's going to be such a fun costume to wear!

Here's a sneak peek of the costume so far...

I had originally planned on using an invisible zipper but I realize (thankfully before I actually sewed it) that I needed a separating zipper for the vest. I got the zipper in no problem but something that is very special about Star Wars costumes (and this came from George Lucas himself) is that there should be no visible closures, particularly zippers, seen on any of the costumes.

As you can see, the zipper is in plain sight here. I have something I want to try to hide the zipper, but I'm not entirely sure it will work... But I'll find something.

I've started working on the belt, and so far I've dyed my belt blank and started working on the buckle pieces which I've made from polymer clay. I've been trying to film or take pictures for tutorials for most of this costume, so stay tuned!

Apr 26, 2015

Q&A With Kaedra from Enchanted Sea Studio

Today I have a very special Q&A with one of my favorite costumers, Kaedra. Kaedra is an amazing costumer and runs her own costume business, Enchanted Sea Studio . She's best known for her fantastic Phantom of the Opera costumes, in particular the Wishing Dress and the Star Princess , which are both amazing!

Her work inspires me with the amount of detail she puts into each costume and the accuracy in each one. Her work is really phenomenal! Please check out her website, Enchanted Sea Studio.

"Star Princess" Costume from the Masquerade scene in the stage production of The Phantom of the Opera.

When and how did you start making costumes?

I was always a fan of watching people sew garments on Project Runway.  I first started sewing in 2009 after I saw other Phantom of the Opera fans online making replica costumes.  After I saw their work, and started studying the costumes from the show in detail (thanks tohttp://potocostumes.webs.com!), I was so inspired to make them myself.

I started teaching myself with easy sewing patterns, and learning new skills.  If I had questions, I asked other seamstresses online for help.  The first “finished” costume I ever made was Christine Daae’s dressing gown.

From then on, I kept teaching myself from trial and error.  I also volunteered at a local theatre (Actors’ Summit in Akron, OH), and learned a lot of tips and tricks from the head seamstress.

Christine's Dressing Gown

You recreate so many amazing costumes from Phantom of the Opera. When did you get interested in Phantom and making costumes from it?

The first time I was exposed to the world of Phantom was actually the Yeston/Kopit production I saw in 2002 at a local dinner theatre!  A few years later I discovered the Andrew Lloyd Webber version.  Phantom was the first musical (and fandom, I suppose) that really touched me and stayed in my heart for a long time. 

I connected with a lot of other fans on online message boards over the years.  As I mentioned before, coming across other talented ladies making replica Phantom costumes really inspired me to start.  So I suppose Phantom and sewing went hand in hand for a very long time.  At first I was only interested in creating replicas from Phantom, which is why I have so many under my belt.  But my interests soon branched out into other movies, shows, and even making my own original costumes.

What's your favorite costume you've ever made?

I’m torn between two of them.  For replica costumes, I would probably say the UK Wishing Gown.  It was a huge challenge and I used so many techniques (and learned new ones) while making it.  Embroidery, custom trims, dyeing, pleating – this costume had it all.  Cutting the fabric was the most difficult part, but was so satisfying when I got it right.  For an original costume, it would be my Elvira from Blithe Spirit.  The dress was flowy, mystical, and unearthly – and I had my actress in a gray bodysuit, makeup, and wig.  She was the most beautiful ghost I’d ever seen.

Christine's Wishing Dress

Who inspires you in the costuming world?

The person I credit for first inspiring me to sew is my good friend Anéa (many people may know her as Operafantomet).  Her website was a continuous source of inspiration and help – from all of the reference photos and information on the original phantom costumes, and her detailed journals of her own sewing adventures.  Without that resource (and her encouragement), I don’t know if I’d be where I am today.

Naturally Maria Bjornson, the woman who designed all of Phantom’s costumes, is a huge inspiration.  I am a lover of detail, and Maria’s costumes (and other work) are exceptionally luxurious and intricate.  They are well thought-out pieces of art that inspired the beginning of my career.

The head of the costume department (and co-artistic director) at Actors’ Summit Theatre, Mary Jo Alexander, was a huge influence on me.  She taught me a lot of construction tips and shortcuts that are extremely helpful!  I also learned a lot about alterations, as we had to alter many costumes for a variety of actors.  Budgeting, repurposing costumes, and being creative with materials you already have are also things I took away from working there.  I loved working in that theatre so much!

Lastly I’d say that Colleen Atwood is a major inspiration.  Her costumes are so unique and well-thought out.  I think she inspires a lot of people and gets them excited about costumery.

What's your favorite part of making a new costume?

The very beginning, and the very end. I love shopping for all the materials and seeing them all together!  I also love seeing the finished product on the mannequin or the person it’s made for.  If it’s a costume in the theatre that I’ve created or had a part in making, I get chills seeing it on stage the first time.
As for the middle time period of actually constructing the costume – I really like hand-detailing.  Beading, embroidery, etc – hand sewing relaxes me and I just love intricate details.

Phantom of the Opera, AKA Erik, ensemble

What's your favorite costume from Phantom?

Aminta, hands down. I love all things with a Spanish flair, and the color combinations are so romantic and fun.  I particularly like the versions with a lot of red mixed into the black and peach (like the European ones).  I think the classic ones with lace instead of embroidery are also my favorites.  It’s a sexy, spunky, and passionate costume.

What's your all time favorite costume? It could be from a movie, stage production, or even something you designed yourself.

That’s a hard one! Aminta is one of my top favorites, but I have others. I’m in love with Emma’s light blue “Swan” ball gown from Once Upon a Time and Khaleesi’s wedding dress (Game of Thrones). The first time I think I ever noticed costumes/wigs/special makeup was the mermaid scene in Hook – I love those mermaids and they’re also in my favorites!

Favorite costume design as a whole for movies would be Moulin Rouge, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, TitanicThe MummyGuardians of the Galaxy, The Prestige, The Hunger Games and Hook.  For TV it’d be Carnivàle, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time, and Downton Abbey

Ariel's end dress from Disney's The Little Mermaid

You do a lot more than just make costumes, you also make jewelry, do stage makeup, set design and more. How did you get interested in all that?

Before I started sewing, I took a lot of professional art classes starting at age 13.  I did artwork as a hobby, but this helped me out a LOT later in life:
All the theatrical things that I do started when I began my theatre education.  I had already been in college for 3 years getting a computer networking degree, but after getting my Associate’s, I switched into a theatre program at The University of Akron. 

Little Red Riding Hood from Once Upon a Time

Our theatre program was very small, and it was a generalized theatre degree (Theatre Arts).  We could have an emphasis in the degree (sort of like a minor), but all students had to take a variety of theatre classes.  Actors had to take technical classes, and technicians had to take acting & movement classes.  Everyone was very well-rounded in our program.  It exposed me to a lot of different facets of theatre.

I had a technical/design emphasis for my Bachelor’s degree, which meant I took many great classes like scenic design, stage lighting design, stage makeup, costume design, and set construction.  The funny thing is that we never had an actual sewing class, but I continued to sew in my free time.  I fell in love with everything I learned in that program.  I had incredible professors and wonderful classmates.  It was easily the best time of my life!

You can see her full portfolio at kaedralynn.com and her costume-specific stuff  at enchantedsea.wordpress.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with me, Kaedra! It was really fun to get to know a little bit more about you and your costuming journey!

Apr 7, 2015

What Exactly is Couture?

Earlier this week at work the subject of my 1871 dress came up. My boss asked me how it went since I mentioned the week before that I had just received 12 yards of fabric for it and was planning on spending my weekend working on it.

I told her that I spent the weekend cartridge pleating the skirt and since most people aren't familiar with these strange terms us costumers use, I offered to show her a picture. I also mentioned a little bit of the process with it all being stitched by hand and she said "oh, well doesn't that make it couture then?"

The cartrige pleating on my skirt thus far. The waistband is about 90% done.

Besides knowing that couture is high end and expensive, I don't really know what classifies something as couture. So I decided to do some research. What exactly does make an item couture, or haute couture? That's what this post is about.

Haute Couture is French for high fashion.  A couture garment is typically sewn completely by hand and draped specifically for the person wearing it.

I think one of the most noticeable things to me about couture is the way the fabric on some dresses is manipulated and draped. It's just so amazing to see how many different ways a single piece of fabric can be shaped, and how unique each and every piece of clothing is. It's really remarkable.

One of my favorite couture designers, Elie Saab.

The types of fabrics used are generally the highest quality natural fibers. Fabrics such as silk, cashmere, fine wool, leather, and furs are commonly used.

Prices for couture garments can be anywhere from $20,000 to over $100,000 for a single item. Sure that's expensive, but for the people who can afford it it means getting a one of a kind garment made specifically for them. Today there are only around 2,000 women in the world that actually buy couture clothing.

No couture collection is complete without a Christian Dior.

In conclusion, haute couture is a simple idea but it's all in the details that makes it special. I suppose that you could classify my dress under couture if you wanted to, but I feel like that's a little misleading. At least at this point in my costuming journey.