1795 Barn Owl Costume: Feathers At Last!

The half-finished, un-feathered robe has been sitting on the dress form for months with so little love given to it…until TONIGHT. (ok, well technically last night, but y’know…)

The base gown is complete except for the addition of the cap sleeves, and some minor interior finishing. This wasn’t enough to stop me from diving into the box-o-schlappen and begin sewing the rows of feathers on.

They are attached with a simple running stitch, as this worked best with how the feathers are already strung together. So while there are no problems with the feathers staying on the gown, the other problems began surfacing almost immediately.

I had noticed before that the strips of strung feathers varied in size within the strip, one end being long feathers, the opposite end being quite short. To solve this, for the first several rows (from the bottom), I cut the strips in half and used long ends all the way across. Then I started to, uh, run out of feathers.

I’m not sure if I miscalculated, since now it appears I will come out exactly on the feathered dot. It may have been more a hope to save some money, or just that the feathers were not uniform in width throughout the strip (that’s my best guess). I managed to just barely squeek up to where the taffeta ends and the broadcloth begins, though I count myself lucky. Now for the tricky parts.
What to do with the feathers at the top of the gown, where they needs to “end” in the dress without a sharp, ugly line of quills. The plan is to taper them up into the pleats, using a mix of leftover rooster bits, bleached goosefeathers, and real owl feathers sent to me by The Dreamstress.
The front of the gown is another challenge – there are pleats here too, but smaller, and knife pleats. I may need to get creative and fade the smaller owl feathers out of these knife pleats and into the body of the plumage.

If all else fails, I can blend in some taffeta “feathers,” cut from scraps, and hand sewn to the dress. I like the idea of this, and may use it anyway.

More to come!


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