Friday, June 2, 2017

The Velvet Beast

I didn't blog about this project while I was working on it, partially because I was somewhat unwilling to commit to actually making it, and I've been slowly working on this post since mid-April.  Do you ever have certain blog posts that are just much harder than others to write, for whatever reason?  This is one of those.

However, I am proud to say that I recently completed and wore my own version of Padmé's Green Velvet Gown from Star Wars:  Revenge of the Sith.

Photo courtesy of padawansguide.com
The event was Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, April 13-16. Brian the Engineer and I attended on Friday and Saturday.  It was his second Star Wars convention, and my third.  I'll do a separate post about the con later, but for now here are my making-of photos and the completed costume.  

My fabrics, counter-clockwise from top left - Olive Green Silk Velvet, Olive Dress Taffeta, Plum Dress Taffeta from Sy Fabrics, and purple poly satin from JoAnn's:  

My hand is in the photos for proper color balance - without it my camera reads the purple as blue.
Although I procrastinated a LOT on this project, I actually started it back in February.  I needed time to order the fabric, but first I needed to know how much I needed.  I started by making a mock-up from the purple poly satin.  The pattern I used was Butterick 4050.


First I had to tape the pattern pieces together, as they were too large to be printed on one piece of tissue paper:  

I made the mock-up of just the basic robe pieces, and tried it on over a purchased hoop skirt (I believe I bought mine on Amazon).  I found that it was too long and the armscyes were too large, so I took it up at the shoulders about 2 1/2 inches:

I took up more in the front than the back, which made the bodice fit better on me.
This also raised the widest part of the hem to the widest part of the hoop skirt, so the whole thing lay better.  I don't have any before pictures, but here is the after:


I planned to gather in the waist at the back, so I pinned it roughly in place on the dress form:



I also folded back the neckline to where I wanted the V-neck to lay, and marked it to trim off at that line.  I played with some wide satin ribbon to mimic the sash on the final product:


Back to the pattern, I altered the sleeve pieces to make them narrower and longer.


I used the original pattern pieces to cut a mock-up from muslin.


The sleeve mock-up took much tweaking to get the shape and hang right, and I don't have any photos of the process.  It was a lot of trial and error, but I eventually got something I liked.  I pinned it to the mock-up/lining armscye:



Here are some shots of the sleeve with an arm in it:



Next I created a quilted petticoat to wear over the hoop skirt so that the hoops would not show through the skirt.  I bought pre-quilted cotton yardage at JoAnn's and sewed two full widths plus a 22" wide strip into an enormous tube that fit around the lowest hoop of the hoop skirt.  Then I pinned in large darts up the sides to bring it in to a cone shape around the hoop skirt:


First I had pinned the lower edges together to keep everything straight:


I also pinned it at the waist, at the centers and seams of each panel:



I left an opening at one side seam, for getting into and out of:


I stitched up all of the darts I had pinned, trimmed away the excess, and tried it on over the hoop skirt:


It's not the prettiest undergarment, but it's functional.  I added a drawstring waistband from wide bias tape, and bound the hem with blanket binding.

Now it was time to cut out the real fabric!  I took my mock-up/lining apart (after trimming off the seam allowances at the new shoulder seams and the lowered neckline) and used the pieces as my new pattern:


I didn't want to leave anything to chance, so I pinned every piece down before cutting anything out.  This involved moving the pinned pieces off of the table to make room for new ones, as clearly all eight yards would not fit on my dining room table all at once:


I also added 3" to the hem of the main body pieces, because I wanted the velvet to be longer than the lining.


This required me to be extra careful in my layout, and I had to re-do it several times before I got everything laid out and going in the right direction (because nap very much matters with velvet!):


When it was finally time to cut everything out, I used my clear plastic ruler to add the 3" to the bottoms of all the main body pieces:


When it was all cut out, I had many large scraps left.  Not wanting to waste any, I decided to make it easier for Future Chelsea to use these scraps for another project.  I marked the same end of each scrap with a bit of white thread so I would know which way the nap went:


The leftover scraps more than covered my kitchen table, with all of the overlapping:

I haven't entirely decided what to make from the scraps, but I'm leaning towards a Regency spencer jacket.
Here are all of the scraps folded up together - scissors for scale:

I am not used to having this much fabric left over!  
Anyway, back to the task at hand!  Having worked with velvet before, I knew how much of a bear it can be.  Silk velvet seems to be especially slippery - and pretty much all of the seams are on the bias - so I decided to take preparatory steps to make it easier.  First I pinned every inch along the seam:


Then I hand-basted roughly 1/4" from the edge:



Now it was a simple matter to machine-stitch between the basting lines:


Look how smooth!
Here's how the technique works in action.  You can see a slight pucker forming on the left line of basting:


The presser foot catches it at a stitch:


And slides over it:


Instead of continuing to pull the top layer of fabric along, further exacerbating the issue:


The basting stitches keep these minor tucks from becoming true tucks at the stitching line, and kept me from pulling my hair out!

After constructing the body, I cut out the hood from the remainder of my velvet and from my taffeta lining:


I made the velvet layer larger than the lining, because I wanted the velvet to turn in at the front edge of the hood:


This gave me a nice deep velvet inner edge:


I cut the sleeve linings from the taffeta, as well:


These were also difficult to lay out, as I couldn't fit both pattern pieces on the table at the same time:



But I had plenty of taffeta to work with, and it was cheap.  I still made the best use of the fabric that I could, but I wasn't as careful with the layout as I would be with more expensive fabric.

I constructed the sleeves and hood using the same double-basting technique, and also added re-constructed the purple poly satin lining.  I attached the lining by stitching the hems of the two bodies together, then turning the lining to the inside and lining up the neckline.  I then attached the hood, pleating it into the neck, and pinned the lining over it, right sides together.  I pulled the seam out through one of the sleeve holes in order to stitch it on the machine (no photos of this, sorry) and then turned it right side out again to create a nice finished neckline.  I hope that makes sense.

Now I basted the armholes of both the velvet and lining together with wrong sides together, and treated them as one when attaching the sleeves - which I had previously sewn with the velvet and lining hems together and turned right side out and basted along the top edge.

Finally, I quickly ripped two lengths of my purple taffeta, stitched them together, and sewed up a very simple sash.

And it was done!  This was...  I think 3:00 AM on the day we were planning to leave for Florida?  We were getting up at 4:00.  :p  So I got no sleep that night, but I napped in the car on the drive down.  And again, hard-core, when we got there Thursday afternoon.

Friday was the convention!  And I promise I will blog about it... at some point.  But for now, very patient reader, here are photos of my completed costume:













I need to talk about this awesome wig for a moment.  I rented it from Custom Wig Company, and I can HIGHLY recommend their work!


It was so lovely, so easy to wear, and so natural-looking!


It really completed the costume.  I wouldn't have felt quite like Padmé without it.  Plus I didn't have to dye or style my own hair, which was definitely a bonus!  It made getting ready for the convention so much easier.


So that's the Velvet Beast!  I really felt like I conquered it, and I was happier with the results than I had expected to be when I was working on it.  Of course, I needlessly time-crunched myself.

According to the date stamps on my photos, I put the whole thing together in a week!  I had done the mock-up back in February, but by the time I actually got to work on the quilted petticoat and the actual garment, it was only a week before we left.  *smh @ Past Chelsea*  Perhaps next time I will do better.

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