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I have the coolest job EVER…

I know, I’ve said it before, and it probably sounds like I’m gloating a little bit. And I’m not gonna lie – I kinda am. Not only is it the coolest job ever, but my boss says I can use my exploits in the costume shop as blog fodder. Tee hee….  The downside is that I don’t really have any excuse to use a computer at work, so the actual physical reality of being at work sort takes me off the interwebs. That’s why missa hasn’t been around as much lately. But now I’m back, and I thought I’d share some more of the crazy things I actually get paid to do…

We were costuming the spring dance recital, which has student choreographers who come up with some pretty darned creative concepts sometimes. My fav was a piece based around all those terribly uplifting songs of love and devotion from back in the day – particularly, the ones where the object of the singer’s affections is somewhat inconvenienced in the pulse department. (Think Leader of the Pack here.)

Oh yes… I got to make zombie prom kids. And through a rather odd twist of fate, I got a lot of artistic input into just how they died. (I had a lovely conversation with another costumer – it went along the lines of, “Oooh, what if she slit her wrists?” “That’s good…. She does a lot of arm action.” There aren’t a lot of professions where you sit around trying to figure causes of death that are visible enough for a large stage.) We’d gotten a request for a drowned girl, offered the idea of a hit-and-run sitch (the girls all nominated one of their own for that one – slightly freaky), and then added multiple gunshot wounds and suicide.

The catch was that they all had to change quickly. So much for makeup… Oh, right, and that we might someday need to return the dresses to their original “pre-dead” state. Well. I do love me a good challenge….

I didn’t get a picture of our little kelpie drowned-girl-dress, although it turned out rather cool. (One of the student aids for the shop did all the painstaking hand-sewing of faux-kelp. I couldn’t thank her enough, since we ended up with a day to dead up all the costumes and I was the only one working on it for a lot of that… Yikes! Seriously, you try to kill off six prom kids in an 8 hour day…) I do have pics of:

Miss Roadkill, 2011
I call her Miss Roadkill, 2011. We decided that the Basic Law of Irony required the bow to stay pretty and perky.

I cut a tire-trac stencil, and sponged the track on to light-weight pellon with acrylics. The pellon is thin enough that you can see the taffeta through it (more so with better light). Then I tacked the giant pellon applique down to the dress while it was on the form. I cut it away at the curves of the body, so she wouldn’t look so much like a refugee from the land of flat.

closeup of top of dress
Because the pellon has some body of its own, I can make the tire-track go over the chest a bit. The pellon is tacked to the strap of the dress.

It’s stupid-cheesey, but I was kinda proud of it.

a slit-wrist gauntlet
The "slit wrists" were gauntlets made of old panty-hose. The blood is acrylic paint.

If you’re planning on making a set that will be seen up-close and personal, try to match your skin-tone a little better. ;) These are super-easy. I wear them while painting them, so I can get the slash lined up correctly. (I seem to have put it back on a little twisted.) Be prepared for your arm to look a lot-a-bit like you actually did do something horrid to yourself when you take the nylon off. If you’re doing this sort of uber-cheese-tastic blood effect, it’s good to use two different reds. Use a darker base so you’ve got some good visual crustiness going on – this will also be your color for any smears of blood. Use a bright color to indicate new blood oozing forth. I made little cardboard bits to hold the nylon stretched while it dried – I slid the cardboard between my arm and the nylon to move them. Ultimately, my boss had me add bits of red ribbon to make the whole thing more dramatical on stage. One of the guys got the remainder of the tire-track applique across the back of his jacket. Another pair of them got gunshot appliques.

For another piece, I got to play with this gorgeous little vintage number. It was nothing major; it just needed a new zip and some re-tacking at the neckline. But the neckline is amazing!

vintage neckline detail
Isn't this neckline fab?
closeup of neckline detail
Each of the little applied leaves has three little pintucked veins - they're a great detail, and they give the piece body.

I had nothing to do with making this particular dress, but the details seemed worth sharing…

This is the glory of my job – some days, I sew pom-poms to leotards or make shoe hooters, some days I repair shattering vintage dresses, and some days I make zombie prom-kids. That level of variety works out really well for a little ADD Wonderbunny like me…. :)

Another class did a hip-hop piece that they wanted to have all shreddy tshirts for – but cool/fitted/sexy shreddy, rather than hippy-trippy shreddy, as we eventually found out. I turned out some of my best T-shirt-foo for this one…

faux-knit shirt
I think I need to make myself one of these...
closeup of side
The faux-knit detail continues over the hip and up the back.
faux-knit closeup
It really is a single line of knit stitches, and it's super-easy to do...

I sliced the tshirt up with a rotary cutter to make a bunch of strips that go through both the front and back, starting at the shoulder and heading towards the hip. They change angle a little as they go, so they’re horizontal at the shoulder and nearly vertical by the hip. For the knitters in the audience, this will make total sense: treat the strips like a dropped stitch that you’re fixing. For the non-knitters, you want to pull each strip up over the strip before it. After the first strip, you’ll have a little loopsy. Pull the next strip through that loopsy, and you’ll have a new loopsy. Lather, rinse, repeat. You’ll need to tie the last loops to anchor it, or the whole thing will unravel.

It goes really fast. It took me less than 20 minutes, start to finish (including the “reach into the mental archive for something more interesting than a bunch of slits” part). This is the nice thing about costume compared to fashion. Fashion people are constantly being cautioned not to over-think designs. Costumers don’t have time to over-think. It’s often more of a grab-the-first-idea-you-have-and-go sort of sitch.

variation on the faux-knit
Easy variation: if you twist each loopsy before you pull the next strip through, the stitch stays tighter. That's how I got this oddly skeletal effect...
closeup of twisted stitches
Here's a closeup...
patterned cuts
Some of them I did with patterns of vertical and horizontal cuts.

Obviously, these are laying pieces. Also, the rotary cutter I was using had a knick in it, which made for some sort of groovy randomness. You know, if I had had skills like these in the 80s, I might have been a cool kid… Heh. Oh, well. I think most of the kids dancing in this piece weren’t conscious of the 80s, so this was like, the coolest tshirt-foo they’d ever been exposed to. So at least I got a little taste of what it might be like to be cool…  ;) Also, I truly feel I need to do up a couple shirts for when I’m gardening, just for the tan lines. Tee hee…. I’m sure my sister will just love it if manage to tan myself tabby or zebra-stripey for her wedding. *snork*


  1. Jen Thompson
    Jen Thompson April 24, 2011

    That is probably the coolest costuming project that I’ve ever seen in my life. You are a genius! LOL!

  2. Laura
    Laura April 24, 2011

    SO cool. Love the perky zombie bow. Have to tell Erin about this. She has an unhealthy love of Zombies. You really do have the coolest job ever.

  3. missa
    missa April 25, 2011

    Laura – Is there such a thing as a *healthy* love of zombies?
    Jen – I dunno, hon, it was more an act of desperation…. ;) And you’re still one of my personal costuming goddesses.

  4. Monique
    Monique April 26, 2011

    Fantastic work! I love the little vintage piece too. It’s all about the little details for everything, isn’t it? Without them, costumes would look just too plain and not very costumey :) [spell check says that’s not a word, but I think it is!]
    I’ve got to crank out my daughter’s prom dress this week! Couture 1952 gown. Well, more like Mo’ture hehehe. Good Grief! Prom’s 5/7/11…Mo.

  5. Jen
    Jen July 29, 2011

    The close up of your t-shirt strip knitting looks for all the world like a spine with ribs jutting out from either side. It instantly had me planning one of these that would end up looking like the torso of a skeleton.

    • missa
      missa August 3, 2011

      *laugh* Actually, a spine and ribs was the inspiration for it! It’s always nice when things get where they’re going without being so totally literal that it’s like, ‘Gee, wow, put down the sledgehammer, missa!’ Thank you! :)

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