Sunday, March 22, 2009

, ,

Design Sketches

Because of the nature, and cost, of this project, there must be much planning, sketching, and thinking before anything ever gets cut, stitched, or glued.  Here are a few more design sketches from my costume journal. I use my costume journal to figure things out, such as the way a gown will close, or what the pattern pieces might look like. I also glue, tape, and staple in fabric swatches, bits of trim, or inspirational photos, fashion plates, or drawings. Some pages are nothing but numbers, while others are just notes with scribbly drawings. These sketches are further along towards what this gown will (hopefully) actually look like, as opposed to the first design sketch at the beginning of this blog, which was the initial idea. Still, the drawings in this post are still not quite what it will all be in the end - it's materializing in my head more and more each day...and then there's what will happen along the way!
Read More

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Feather Fund

The feathers I want to use - the "Natural Cream & Ginger" Schlappen from - are $8/foot, so I've attempted to do some preliminary math to make an educated guess at how much the feathers for this gown will cost me.

The pattern of the robe, which I have not begun, will determine this number much more accurately, and it will be an excersize in draping the pattern to use as little yardage as necessary and still maintain the look I want.

My estime, however, is that I will need approximately 26 feet of feathers, to overlap in 3" rows all the way down the skirt, which I estimate will be 28" long, with a 10" deep hemguard. The skirt flares, from approximately 1 foot at the waist (really guessing there! - waist/2 is 14") to possibly 4 feet at the bottom, though I will try to make this width as little as possible.

I'm not the best at math, but I've come up with $208 as the amount I will need to buy the feathers. I'm, obviously, hoping that this number will be smaller, but I have the suspicion that I will need more feathers than I think! This price is if I decide to use the Schleppen all the way down the skirt. I was unable to run a row of feathers through my sewing machine recently, so the idea of stringing my own feathers with that method is out. I'd still like to use the Rock feathers, but I'm not sure how to attach them at this point - gluing to a ribbon seems like a lot of work with the high probability of shedding feathers throughout the night.

So Schleppen it is. I've decided to start "The Feather Fund" to set money aside just for this project. The plan is to save $20 per week (or $40 every two week pay period), for 10.5 weeks. This will put us in mid-May before I can think about purchasing the feathers, still a good 5 months before Halloween. Given that I can't run the feathers through my machine (darn!), I will need to hand sew each row on, and that, my friends, may very well take 5 months!
Read More

Monday, March 9, 2009


About Feathers

The feathers will obviously be the most important part of this gown. They are the statement, and need to be done well in order to get the right look. I've considered other ways to do "feathers," by using fabric, or some other kinds of fringe, but none of those options would end up looking enough like real feathers, or would be so time-intensive that I might as well just spend the money on the real thing!

Real barn owl feathers are not available, of course, so I am approximating them with rooster feathers, specifically schleppen, which are a kind of feather from the tail. These are long, with a lot of movement, but most importantly the color is correct. They come in all different colors and can be dyed, but the tawny with speckles is what I'm looking for. Also, rooster feathers are stiffer than ostrich, which would be too floaty for this gown.

Rooster feathers are not quite the right shape, so I am planning to fade from the thin feathers at the top to a thicker feather at the bottom of the skirt. This feather will be barred rock feathers (I guess that's a kind of bird) that can be dyed to the tawny color I'm looking for. Whereas the schleppen comes strung into a trim already, the rock feathers come individually, and I will have to string them myself (eek!).

Feathers are expensive! The rooster and rock feathers are the cheapest of the feathers I've found to work with - about $8/strung foot for the schleppen, and $5.50/35-45 rock feathers. The ideal feather would be goose, but that comes in at $6/3 INCHES. Yikes. Just how many feet of feathers I will need is not known right now, but I plan to make the robe as simple and NOT full in skirt as possible, to avoid insane costs. That black hemguard at the bottom may be getting deeper and deeper!

The method I will use will be to lay the strung feathers across the gown horizontally, stacking the lines from bottom to top, so each row overlays the previous. This should give a natural look, if the rows are spaced close enough together. Depending on the length of the schleppen, this could take A LOT of rows, or fewer than I think. It will be a matter of careful measuring and economic cutting.
Feather images and prices are from Lamplight Feathers.
Read More

Sunday, March 8, 2009

, ,


A friend and I have been planning our Halloween gowns. A little early, yeah! She had an awesome idea of being a fox, interpreted as a Victorian bustle gown with four parts (yikes) - evening bodice, skirt, apron, and detachable train. Insane, yes, so I've decided to also do a complicated and insane costume. She's a fox...I will be an owl. A barn owl, specifically. There will be two pieces to the costume, done in late 18th c., as a chemise dress (gaulle) and a robe over that. The chemise dress is straightforward, but the robe will have an enormous, slightly trained feathered skirt. Completely feathered. And when I say completely feathered, I mean COMPLETELY. I've seen people do peacock dresses or other bird-inspired dresses and not put enough feathers on them and they just don't look right to me. If you're going to do feather, do it all the way. I can understand why people don't do this - A) it's not so easy working with feathers, and B) it's COSTLY. Feathers are not cheap, especially if you need literally thousands of them.

The robe will be a combination of schleppen feather trim (rooster tails, basically), and banded rock feather trim (longer and fatter than rooster, to use more towards the bottom). By trim I mean the feathers have been attached to a band of some sort and can be sewn on in strips instead of one-by-one. If I stack it correctly, the feathers should look somewhat natural. The feathers will be sewn onto a base of probably broadcloth or some other lightweight, inexpensive cotton fabric, and the skirt twill be lined with something sortof nice. The bodice of the robe will be silk or something like, in a cream color, and the feathers will "emerge" from the box pleat openings at the waist.

The idea is that it won't look ridiculous, but graceful, beautiful, and impressive. The color palette is muted and natural, and I want to maintain the proper silhouette. The lines of this dress are very important. As for actually wearing the thing, I'm not too worried about weight, but it might be difficult to dance in. I will have a loop at the hem, for dancing, and of course I can take it off and have the chemise dress underneath, which ought to keep me cool enough. I will need to spend time on the owl mask and also find a wig and get it all huge.

I won't be starting on this gown for some time, although the chemise dress might become my next project. I can wear it for other events. I will need to work on the feathered robe for a long time, so starting it within the next couple months is not a bad idea. It took me 1.5 years to get my Halloween bustle gown done! (but primarily because I didn't have anywhere to wear it the first year, so I just didn't press myself to finish it.) After the chemise dress, I'll start on draping the robe and getting the pattern exact, as well as figuring out the particulars on the feathering, and how exactly this is all going to work. :-).

For now, I have a lot of voile to order.
Read More