Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Little did I know what we (the Monarch and I) were in for at last year's comic con. Neither of us had ever been, but were very excited. We had a mission, to hopefully meet Doc Hammer and ask him to perform our marriage ceremony.
I can't really remember how the idea started, but we thought it would make for a fun wedding. Our day started well before the break of dawn and included a 2-hour train ride into the city. We traveled half-dressed, and I finished assembling us while we waited on the line to get in.
I was a little nervous, I didn't see that many costumes at first, and people were just staring. Then the photo-taking started. Must have been the first of what seemed like hundreds for what followed.
Materials and Pieces:
Dress and pill box hat: lavender nylon spandex
Gloves and purse: white ponte
I started the hat in October 2007; I had very little millinery experience at the time. So with some research (thanks to my local library : )) and the help of a great millinery supply website (www.judithm.com) I was on my way. The first pillbox had frame I made was too big, so I had so start over. The hat was made entirely by hand over the course of the entire fall and winter when I got too bored or frustrated with the other aspects of other projects. Most of the information I used to make the hat came from vintagesewing.info which was just excellent for vintage pattern information, and I’m sure I will be using them again in future projects.
The dress I originally had planned for this lavender cotton fabric I had in my possession for years. But her dress is very form fitting and the woven cotton was not hugging the way I desired, also it was a little too thin and cheap looking. So I went back to my old friend in the garment district for some nylon spandex. It was difficult to get the closure and the collar on this dress just right, again a lot of that difficulty stems from fitting on my own body, but I am happy with the end result. I put white pearl shank buttons on the outside of the dress, and gloves, while the dress is really held on with snap tape. The white boots came from….can you guess…..ebay of course. They were not exactly what I had in mind, but I decided that it was similar enough, and definitely something that Dr. Girlfriend herself would not mind wearing.
The Mighty Monarch
Materials and Pieces:
Bodysuit and Cowl: Black knit polyester
Armor, Gauntlets, Crown and Boot Tops: Yellow spandex
Cowl face: Nude swimwear lining, pipe cleaners, fishing weights
When my fiancé Peat first showed me this cartoon, I was very confused, (why is that guy a giant butterfly, and why is his girlfriend a man, and are those two young boys retarded??) but after a few episodes I was hooked! Season 2 was even better and the eternal answer of what would be a great couples’ costume for Peat and I to wear was solved. Where we were going to wear this to was yet to be determined.
After plenty of sketching, pausing, scanning through the DVDs, decisions had been made, and soon I was bothering my poor monarch with fittings left and right. I believe I started monarch production early fall 2007, I started at the crown, and the cowl and worked my way down.
The crown has cardboard inside to make it stand up. The beard and eyebrows are pipe cleaners and attached to the nude swimwear lining, so we wouldn’t have to depend on attaching those accessories directly to his face. (I’m a sewer, and avoid big make-up jobs when I can)
The armor for the chest and shoulders is made out of the spandex and stiffened with some heavy interfacing. The symbol is vinyl and was attached with a heat press.
Again, with this costume for comfort and simplicity’s sake I made two pieces instead of a one piece bodysuit.
I purchased the yellow booties from a costume website and made thigh hi extensions out of the corresponding fabric. (There are a lot of pieces in this ensemble!) The gloves are just those black little stretchy gloves you can buy anywhere, because I forgot to make real ones, and ran out of time just before the con. The gauntlets are made out of the yellow spandex stretched over 6” lengths of ½” pvc pipe. I’m going to need to remake these too, because Peat gave them to Doc and Jackson 2008’s NYCC signing. (more on that in another post, I swear)
Those were difficult to make, because obviously I couldn’t put it in the machine after I got the piping in there. It was a pain, and the insides of them did not look so pretty, but the overall effect was what was needed. Peat was a disappointed they couldn’t actually shoot darts, but who knows, maybe the next pair. I have big plans for the next set, but I shall require some new hardware to achieve the new plans.
The wings were fun to make. First I started with a paper pattern so we could determine the exact size and shape. They are made out of cotton and stabilized with medium weight interfacing. I made the black binding in order to channel the plastic boning to help keep the shape. They are attached to the armor with a series of complicated snaps that I can barely remember the proper sequencing.
This was a truly a labor of love, and I had a blast making it. Little did I know the extent of what I had done, until we went to 2008 New York Comic Con.
Version: Batman: The Animated Series
Materials and Pieces:
Body, Cowl, and Gloves: Black and Red spandex
Collar: white ponte
This was another costume I had it in my mind to make for a long time. Many times I feel that I have to have a special affinity with a character to wear it, and while I was very fond of Harley, I didn’t think I could be Harley…….my friend Nikki on the other hand, she is Harley. She mentioned that she always wanted to dress up as her….and that was it, I was on the case. What’s more is Nikki had the same love for Halloween that I did, and she decided to throw a costume bash for her birthday in late November. I had a mission and I accomplished it quickly, I think I made this costume in about a week to 10 days.
Instead of making a bodysuit, I made her a bottom and a top. Bodysuits in general take a more detailed fittings, and this was on the clock. Also, the I-have-to-pee factor in the middle of a crowded party just begs for ease and simplicity, and few people I know would argue for the bodysuit over separates. The other thing I find is when I’m making something for a friend they are not nearly as particular to the details that I am. As long as the overall effect is achieved they are pleased.
I made the cowl out of my standard hood pattern with some modifications to make it fit very snug. I stuffed the ‘arms’ with fiber-fil to make them stand out, and still be light. I added bells at her request which she jingled around all night and drove everyone crazy. I put bells on the collar too, which was held closed with Velcro (more ease and simplicity).
The gloves were not as detailed because I was using the oh-so-forgiving stretch of spandex and that is when you can get away with making glove patterns out of someone’s traced hand.
Then there came the question of Harley’s shoes. Harley appeared to wear different colored elf-like booties and I did not know where to get those on such short notice. Nor did I want to begin trying to figure out how to make them while short on time. I thought about Nikki, she was playful and always had a lot of sneakers, not just sneakers, but adorable playful converse sneakers. I asked Nikki if she had an old pair, so she painted them red and black to complete the ensemble. She found the “bang” gun on ebay (thanks again ebay!) and we were set for the best party any of us had ever been attached to.
Version: X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)
Bodysuit- Yellow and Green matte nylon spandex
Jacket and Belt- Olive moleskin
“X” symbol- Black and Red felt
Version: Batman Returns 1992
Materials and Pieces:
Bodysuit, Mask, Gloves: Black polyurethane coated spandex, white embroidery floss,
black polyester zipper
Corset: Black vinyl, plastic boning, metal eyelets, shoelace
I wanted to make a Catwoman costume from the moment I saw advertisements for Batman Returns. The first attempt for the costume was in 4th grade when my mom bought me a black cat costume from one of those crappy Halloween stores that’s open for 40 days a year at the local mall. The entire thing was made out of polyester and the seams were falling apart from the moment I opened the package. I needed white fabric paint to replicate the stitches, but for some reason the fabric paint I had did not come in usual small squeeze bottle with the easy-to-apply tip, instead it was a fat cumbersome bottle with a wide opening. Needless to say the painted-on stitches were a mess and the whole costume looked like a giant polyester sack with white goo spots. The days before the big Halloween party at my elementary school I had a nightmare that a girl I didn’t particularly like attended the party in the officially licensed expensive costume that looked oh-so-close to the movie. Days later, the party came, and that is exactly what happened; I fought back tears as I ran to the bathroom to try and safety pin the crotch of my costume back together. I think it was at that moment that I was determined to have only better quality costumes from then on.
The next attempt was in 7th grade as I took an old turtleneck and stretch pants and hand-embroidered stitches all over it, including spelling out “cat woman” because I was annoyed at people never knowing who I was when I went trick-or-treating, and yes, I went out getting candy from strangers until I was about 16! (I heart candy) I made the mask out of an old executioner’s mask I found in a box of old Halloween costumes in my attic. I cut the tips off of old knit winter gloves, embroidered them, and wore plastic black claws that slipped around my fingertips. I topped off the whole thing with plain black sneakers and had one of the warmest and most comfortable Halloween costumes I’d ever worn. I reused that particular version of the costume (with added leg and arm extensions to accommodate my growth spurt) again in high school.
During college I was determined to make the actual costume of my dreams. I was able to purchase the black shiny polyurethane coated spandex in the garment district on one of the last days of my hellish internship. My usual fabric sources were limited to retail-chain craft suppliers that sometimes come in handy- but generally do not have the specialty fabrics I require.
The corset I had actually made several months before the bodysuit, because by this point I had more experience with corsets than bodysuits. I found some faux leather from a local source, and actually made two corsets, because I was so pleased with the first one, I couldn’t bear to embroider it and limit it to just being used for the costume. At this point in generating costumes I was still over-buying fabric by a lot so there was no issue in loss of materials. I used an actual bustier for a starting point while making the pattern. The difficulties I were caused more by the fabric that the design itself. The vinyl that I was using was flannel backed, but because of the thickness would not feed through the sewing machine smoothly. I had to do a lot of testing before I was able to find away to get it through the machine, and even then it was not easy. Also, I could not pin the vinyl while sewing because it would leave unwanted holes, so I had to use tape. Normally I would line a corset, but the vinyl was so think and stubborn that I didn’t bother. The corset has survived a several years and it has not required any repair. I did run into a problem with loss of material came at the last step of the corset, attaching the eyelets. I had been buying Dritz eyelets that came in “fashion colors” (fancy way of saying every color in rainbow) but of course the company discontinued that item and Catwoman ended up being short a few black eyelets for the corset, and some purple and blue ones needed to be painted to make up for it. I ended up using an old shoelace to lace the corset, since it’s durable and easy to lace.
The bodysuit was a greater challenge than I anticipated. After finishing the corset I made a mock bodysuit out of scrap fabric and tried to prep that pattern (made from commercial separates) the best I could. Months later I was out of my typical workroom set up, instead working in a sweaty room in an uneven, crooked sublet above an Italian deli in
The mask was no treat either, but I managed. The good thing about particular style of Catwoman is the costume lends itself to a “loose style” (that means messy). After the bodysuit, and the mask was complete it was time for the fun part, the hand embroidering, I joyfully did this while sitting on my sleeping bag listening to the radio trying to beat the heat. I had barely enough fabric to complete the whole ensemble, one of the gloves is actually smaller than the other, but again that “loose” style makes it work. One cannot even tell when the whole thing is on. The whip I got at an adult shop, and the boots I got from eBay, basically the place I turn to for hard to find accessories that I do not plan to make.