I’m saving the best for last – I loved the way this costume turned out! It is, by far, the most wack-a-doodle set of design decisions I’ve ever made. I really wanted to do a rather prim dress for the Countess, what with how she’s rich and all. At the same time, there’s only so much “prim” you can use around a Steve Martin script, and the character is fairly exuberant. So she needed a costume with enough detail to be lavish, enough joy to match the character, an olde-timey silhouette, and it had to come from resale. You know, no bigs….
The script is technically in 1904, if I recall correctly, so I shouldn’t have been throwing all the bustles in. But I like big bustles and I cannot lie, you other sewers can’t deny… Erm, yeah, missa, maybe you better stick to sewing….
So, once again from the Sally Army’s finest, I have:
A sad remnant of the 90s. ($3) I think I used to own something like this. It's wasn't a good look for me....
A rather adorable little wool jacket from a suit. ($6 for the suit.)
Before I brutalize this poor old thing, I had to document this: that's a right angle at the bottom of the princess dart. This was patterned and sewn by someone who is better than I am, and I respect that... It was an amazing piece.
To start, I've sort of sketched out the shape of some very simple corset pieces on some beige fabric that the theater had in a bin.
Yes, sometimes I just sight a corset and whack it out. I like drafting patterns (a lot), but I was sort of in a hurry. The actress is close enough to my size that I felt comfortable doing it this way.
It's an under-bust back-closing model. It went together pretty much like every corset does - make the layers, join the layers, turn it, add channels, bone it, finish the top edge.
The back-closing-ness of it is slightly awkward, because my next trick is to join it with the front-opening dress...
Ultimately, I put the corset on the form, pinned the dress to it, whacked off the shoulders, turned down the edge and started sewing.
The hand-sewing was taking too long, so I sent it through the machine with great care and greater speed. ;)
The jacket is about to be mangled down into a bolero. I've marked the cutting line, which curves into the front.
Per my usual habit, I've just cut it and zig-zaged the edge... I'll cover the ugly with some trim.
Someone was really getting me down that week, so I decided to get a little saucy with the back design to cheer myself up. This is a paper template.
I've traced the design and pined the layers together. I'm going to cut this shape out and seal the edges, then do some trim work...
The finished back trim work.
Here's where we are at this point: we have the bolero, we have the crazy little dress-meets-corset bit, and we have a plaid skirt that I found in a box at the theater. It's cool, but it lacks pizazz...
Here's my ren-faire roots showing again - if it needs pizazz, my first instinct is to trim it in gold.
So then I tottled off to ye olde Jo-Anns to find some fabric for the bustle. I ended up with a sheer leopard/tribal print.
I did what?!?
And I was completely confident in that choice?
Yeah. Oddly, it seemed like the absolute right thing to do. And that was the moment when I realized that I really have grown up into a Costumer. Right there, standing in the newly-redesigned Bloomingdale Jo-Anns store, planning what may be the wrold’s first, last, and only sheer leaopard print bustle, I knew I was finally, absolutely, incontrovertibly, a Real Costume Designer. Finally. (‘Bout darn time, right?) It wasn’t a researched choice, it wasn’t an act of premeditated cleverness, it was an on-the-fly design decision that I was totally confident in. The only second thought I had was, “Why am I not having second thoughts about this? This should be totally wrong.”
I felt pretty cool. :)
I bought three yards for a total of $34, making this the fabric splurge of the show.
So I took it home, split it in half widthwise for the first yard and a half, and made the side-drapes...
...and the bustle. There's a good sized tulle-sausage inside the bustle to give it some body.
It's kinda nifty from the side.
The line is somewhat more flattering on the actress, whose hips are similar than those on my form.
The finished costume, on stage during first dress. (Debbie Witt as the Countess, Daniel Scobey as Einstein)
Cost of build: 45$
Total Time: 7-8 hours