Self indulgence through sewing.

Steamcon 2013 Work In Progress

I meant to update sooner, but I was so scared of my deadline (less than two weeks from idea to convention) that I just got started working right away and haven’t had time to write up any posts.

But now that I’m a few days away from the convention, I feel like I’ve made enough progress to take some time to step back and breath a bit and show off my progress.  🙂

This year’s Steamcon theme is “Around The World” Their website proclaims:  “This year Steamcon takes you on a journey to exotic locales! Meet Peshawar lancers, and Japanese automaton geishas, ride mechanical elephants and hot air balloons, see what steampunk is like on the other side of the globe!” How cool is that?  🙂  I was getting a little bored with European Victoriana anyway this year, so an excuse for a change of pace was really refreshing.  🙂

In my last post, all I had was an awesome hat and some fabric samples from stores around Seattle. So, starting from there, I shamelessly traced over a Simplicity pattern to plan out my ideas, and came up with this concept for my costume:

My planned costume for Steamcon 2013

Not bad, eh?  Well, I hope not anyway since what I’ve made by now is pretty close to my original drawing.  😉

I wanted to go with a Pan-Asian look and feel to match my lovely hat of un-traceable and questionable-authenticity. (Seriously, does anybody know where or what this hat might be? I’ll be the first to admit that before I started this project I was not very well versed in anything other than European historical costume, but I’ve been keeping my eyes open for 2+ years and the closest I’ve found are some fabric Chinese Bridal Crowns/Phoenix Crown… but saying they were “close” is a massive overstatement…There MUST be something closer.)

I was also under a very tight deadline, so I had to make due with altering pre-existing patterns. No fancy-pants drafting or muslin alterations for me this time around!

I figure if anyone asks for the origin of my costume I’ll just say my hot air balloon lands where it lands, and I have no idea which countries I’ve traveled to.  😉  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

The jacket would be based off of Simplicity’s 2159 “Misses’ Belly Dancer ghawazee coats and belts costume sewing pattern.”

At the time I drew up my concept, I thought this pattern included some sort of top/bra/bodice like what was shown in the sleeve art, but SURPRISE! that was a separate pattern (Simplicity 2158 for those interested.) And in the end I really didn’t want to pay for a third pattern (did you know Joann wont apply any coupons to their patterns? I did not realize until this project. Hrmph.) So, I ended up cobbling together my own bodice pattern for this costume. So much for not wanting to draft anything myself this time around, pfft!

Simplicity 2159

The pants and skirt would come from Simplicity 5359:

Simplicity 5359

A little note to myself in the future if I ever re-use this plan: 8 yards of fabric is WAY more fabric than this skirt requires, especially if it’s all done in one fabric rather than two as the pattern specifies. I probably could have managed with 4 or 5 yards with fabric to spare. Now I have a ton of teal fabric I don’t know what to do with.

At first I worried I might have to make this pattern’s little corset/waist cincher too, but I realized I had an elastic belt in my closet that matched my plan perfectly, so I drew that in instead.

I’ve had a lot of accessory luck with this costume so far.  🙂  I have a pair of black and gold Jutti I bought at the same time as my hat that I’m trying to break in before Steamcon, and I’ve got some brassy jewelry that will go well with this costume, too.

My (almost) final fabric selections:

Fabric Selections

From left to right, the patterned teal is my existing hat fabric I was trying to match. The brown “Copper Shimmer Satin” would be for the jacket bias binding, the jacket lining, and the harem pants (though I would later regret this decision.) The teal satin (“Shimmer Satin” again) would make up the bodice and skirt, and the silver fake dupioni would make up the main body of the jacket.  The pompoms were my first pass idea for the trim, the brown rougher woven fabric was a runner up for the harem pants, and the beautiful copper silk chiffon would make up the sleeves.

At first I was so excited to find that blue and brown pompom trim, but after drawing up my concept I realized that everywhere I wanted to use the trim it would be backed with either teal or brown fabric, making it practically invisible. Not good. I ended up going back to Pacific Fabrics a few days later to find a different trim that would have a higher contrast against my fabrics.

Picking out a trim

My choices were:

A) White/gray. I thought this would be the winner as it was the closest to the white pompoms in my original concept, but in person they just looked SO bright and artificial. They were also the “messiest” in terms of tassel drape.

B) Golden. Mmmm beautiful trim, lovely smooth tassels, ornate woven banding, and the most expensive option out of all three. When you’re buying 110″ of trim, costs start to add up.  😦

C) White/brown. I really liked this one in the store as I thought it got me the white of my original drawing while not being so artificial looking as Option A. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough left on the bolt for my purposes (there was only about 40″ left) so if I were to use it I’d have to remove about half of the trim I was planning on using. And that was after I’d already edited out the trim around the ankles. Bummer.

So, what to do when you don’t know what to do?  Go home and think it over. That night when I looked back over the photos I’d taken, I realized that Option B was my favorite, both in terms of how it looked in real life and how it photographed, but I still couldn’t get over the price. And then I checked my email and saw that Pacific Fabrics was having a 40% off Columbus Day sale the next day. Hurray! That trim was coming home with me, me me ME! I think this costume is charmed, I’m usually never this lucky. 🙂  Maybe the sale helps to make up for all the extra fabric I ended up accidentally over-buying for this project.

Pattern pieces on the floor

The best part about sewing in a construction zone?  Lots of room to lay out pattern pieces.

After the first 3 or 4 days, I had the teal under dress and harem pants (made of the copper shimmer satin) about 90% done. It was at this point I realized I looked like a giant satin monster, and so there are no photos. I was making good time though, and I resolved to move on and work on the jacket with the plan that if I had a day or two left by the time the jacket was completed, I would return to the satin harem pants and re-make them in the rougher material at the end of the project.

On to the jacket! I really wanted to incorporate some of the swirl motifs from the hat into the jacket, so I decided it was time to bust out the Heat’n’Bond and do some appliqué.

Jacket Applique using Heat'n'Bond

Lookin’ good so far. To get to this point, I drew out my pattern in Photoshop, printed it out at the size I wanted, cut out the shape from my printed copy, ironed my fabric onto the heat and bond, traced the pattern onto the heat’n’bond paper backing, and then cut out the pattern on the fabric. I could then remove the paper backing from the fabric, and iron the design onto my jacket pieces. The heat of the iron activates the glue.  🙂

Then it’s just a matter of topstitching over the pattern with decorative thread, and you’re done!

Rrrtttttt!! *sound of record scratching*

Um. Well. Sorta. That’s how it was SUPPOSED to go anyway. In reality, after I followed all of those steps I got a great big pucker-fest.

Puckered Fabric

Needless to say, I was not pleased. The puckers wouldn’t iron out. Good thing I did the back piece first. No time to re-do, so hopefully nobody will notice. And if they do notice, I’ll already be walking away. Ha!

So EVEN THOUGH Heat’n’Bond says that it’s it’s own stabilizer and nothing additional should be needed, I went out to Joann’s the next day and got some heavy-duty tear-away stabilizer for the front panels. (So heavy duty I couldn’t actually tear it all away, I had to just cut pretty-close. Sigh. I’m not good at finding middle grounds it seems.)

No more fabric puckers!

Ta daaaaa!

Mmmmmm so smoooooth.

You can also see the gold thread stitching detail I used to hold down the applique in this photo. It reminds me of a Mandelbrot Set.

At some point during the last week (my memory is getting a bit fuzzy) my buddy Jean came over to help me make yards and yards of bias tape and a big ole’ fluffy braid hair extension to hide the fact that my hair doesn’t touch my shoulders. She was a very welcome guest, and I think she contributed mightily to me not burning out halfway through last week. Of course, this distraction also means I completely forgot to take any photos, and then also haven’t documented any additional progress up until now.

So, with the magic of the internet, let’s just fast forward to last night’s progress!

Steamcon 2013 Costume Progress!

The teal Franken-dress is done! (well, besides for taking up and finishing the hem. I call it the Franken-dress based on how many pieces I had to cut up and modify to get the bodice fitting me passably correctly… guh. My dress form is made to fit my corsetted form, not my natural form, so every alteration had to be made by myself while I was wearing the damned thing. At least it’s all hidden under the jacket so no one can see my shame. (Except for you dear reader, reading this now. You now know my shame.)

And the jacket is done! (Er, well, I need to add some hooks and eyes… but that’s like, practically nothing in the grand scheme of things!)

And YES! ALL THAT TRIM IS ATTACHED! (I had to sew it all on by hand… and it was THICK stuff to get through, lemme tell you.)

And the slippery expensive chiffon is attached to the sleeves and hemmed! (THANK YOU narrow rolled hem function on my serger!)

And I still have 3 days until Steamcon! Which means I can re-make my harem pants in the rougher textured fabric, and maybe even take a trip down to Sephora to get some new eyeliner and make-up tips.  🙂

I hope I’m not jinxing myself (since technically I still want to make that second pair of harem pants and you never know what could happen between then and now,) but I think this may be the first convention I’ve made a costume for where I haven’t been sewing right up until the morning of.



3 responses

  1. Looks so awesome! Wish I was gonna be at this con, but I eagerly await pictures! (and yeah, I always over-buy fabric also)

    October 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

  2. Your headpiece looks similar to the Russian kokosnik. Many of them are in white lace, but in looking around the net, I’ve seen them in other fabrics.

    Your costume is GREAT.

    October 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    • Ah, thank you! Those were the other closest-resemblance I was able to find but they slipped my mind when I was writing this post, and I’d forgotten the actual name for them. 🙂 Even more reason for taking a pan-asian approach to this costume. This whole costume has just made me have such hat-envy. There are so many beautiful hats in the world!

      And THANK YOU! 😀

      October 22, 2013 at 11:09 pm

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