Archive for April, 2011

Aaaaaand we’re back.
One new sewing thing I did was make a muslin.
I resisted sewing for a very long time.  Part of that was not believing in the process of sewing.  My early forays into sewing included such time savers as “Why take the time to pin these things together when I could just hold them while I sew?” and “Patterns are for jerks and lesbians.”  These pretty much defined the term “false economy” and after finally using a pattern and going “OMFG this is SO MUCH EASIER!!!!” I’ve learned that perhaps people have learned something in the couple thousand years we’ve been sewing and I don’t need to reinvent the goddamned wheel every time.
I’ve never made a muslin before because I still kind of hate sewing so the idea of sewing a practice version of a garment before sewing the actual garment was unappealing to me.  BUT even more unappealing was trying to find a pattern for the garment in my head.  Yes, it was probably out there, but was it worth rifling through all the damn patterns in NYC to find it?  This isn’t the suburbs.  I can’t just go to joanne’s where they have ALL the patterns and they’re filed away in a reasonable fashion.  In NYC you have to find the stores that sell patterns and when you do it’s usually about 50 patterns in a big fucking pile some of which are repeats or childeren’s costumes or freaking curtain patterns.  Making a muslin was cheaper and would probably save me time since I had a pattern for something similar(ish) but it was made for a dude.
I am SO glad I made a muslin for this because it needed a buttload of alterations.
Sorry about the horrible photos.
I pinned away all the excess and drew on where the new seam lines should go.
And in certain parts I needed to add some extra space.
What was awesome about making this muslin was that I had pretty much total control of what the jacket would end up looking like.  As long and frustrating the process was, it was also really freeing to know I was making exactly what I wanted.  I don’t recommend doing it all the time but if you’ve got the time and you want to make something really unique, this is the way to go.
Once I’d driven myself crazy by modifying the hell out of this pattern I realized that I had one more hurdle to deal with:  Stripes.  The fabric was striped and this new “pattern” didn’t have those handy dandy lines the let you know how to line the patter up with striped fabric.  But I think I came up with a rather elegant solution.
Tape.  Is there anything you can’t do?
It turned out pretty damn well.  Or, rather, it will once I’ve finished sewing on the buttons and such.  Here’s a photo of the not quite finished product.
This dressmaker’s dummy is hands down the most useful gift I’ve ever gotten (thanks Mom!)
Then I had to make this
It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be but nothing ever is.  For this I modified a pretty normal shirt pattern.  Since it was printed on tissue paper and not newsprint I couldn’t just cut it up and tape it back together so that was probably the hardest part.  That and making the sleeves bell out because I really had no fucking clue how to do it.  It came out pretty well though.  I wish I’d traced this into it’s own pattern because I think it looks pretty hot and I’d like to make more.
I wanted to modify my pants pattern to make booty shorts but I couldn’t find my pants pattern.  (One day my house will be organized.  It will be magical.)  But while I was looking for my pants pattern I found these.
They were a pair of pants I bought at the salvation army before I became too afraid of bed bugs to shop there.  I’d bought them with the specific intention of turning them into booty shorts and then kind of forgot about them.  This broke my “Make everything” rule but I wanted them dark red anyway so I was ok with them getting stained with blood  Compared to everything else, these were pretty easy to make.  The fact I was making them ripaways made it easier to take them in, too.  The hardest part was figuring out how short to make them.  You can only roll them so much.  Still, I think I did a pretty good job.
I also learned that it is not easy to take photos of your own ass.
I also made a vest but I don’t have any photos of it.  It was a vest.  They’re pretty easy.
Finally I made a “Cameo” for the front of my corset.  It took me a while to figure out how I wanted to do it. but eventually I settled on ironing fabric onto fuseable interfacing and cutting it into the proper shapes using a printed image as a guide.  Then I used fabric glue to put them together.  I’m pretty happy with the end result.
I added a ruffle around the edges but I don’t have a photo for that so you’ll have to wait to see the finished product.
The panties were the one thing that I knew would be SOAKED in blood so I wanted them to be made out of something stainproof.  But I haven’t had much luck with making panties.  I also wanted them to not show up very much but there was no way a merkin would hold under TONS of fake blood.  This is why I’m not wearing pasties in this act.  BUT I’m not going full monty for a number of reasons that really deserve their own post.
So I brought in a professional.
My friend is the creator of Vengance Designs and she had recently made herself a translucent latex thong with a heart covering the necessary bits and I thought “YES!  That’s what I want!  With one minor change….”  So I sent her this mock up
She gave me a great price and, thank the lord, I had one less thing to worry about.  They look fabulous but you’ll have to see the show to know for sure.
Finally, I had to make razors.  Why make razors?  Because I want them to squirt blood.  Remember?  This is the blood gushing show.
These were the materials I used
Hair shapers, fimo, pasta maker, squirting flowers, metal powder and ear syringes.
I started with hair shapers, which are pretty much the same shape as straight razors but they’ve go this handy dandy little channel in them.
The bulbs from the squirting flowers were too big to hide in my palm so I used ear syringes instead and sealed the joint between them and the tubing with caulking  (I haven’t tested it yet so I hope it works)  Then I threaded the tube into the aforementioned channel.
And then the bulb gets hidden in my fingerless gloves.
Then I had to make it look more like a razor.  Hence the Fimo and metal powder.  The pasta maker rolled the fimo into a thin flat sheet for me, I folded it around the hair shaper handle and worked it into shape.  Then I dusted it with the metal powder and baked it.
The handles melted in the oven and I’m not totally satisfied with the metal finish.  But it’ll have to do because I am seriously running out of time.  If the week spontaneously sprouts another day before friday, I’ll try silver leafing them.
In the mean time, if you’re in the NYC area and want to see these costumes in action along with burlesque rendtions of Psycho, The Decent, American Psycho, A Clockwork Orange and Bambi (Seriously.  Bambi.) come on down to The Tank (354 W. 45th St. (btw 8th/9th Ave.) this Friday and Saturday at 9pm.  We have a tendency to sell out so order your tickets in advance here

When I was a little girl my mom told me the story of Sweeney Todd.  I’m not sure why.  I couldn’t have been more than six.  But my mom did this all the time.  A certain play or movie would come up in conversation (as often happens in a theatre family) and she would tell me the story as if it was a fairytale.  Of the stories she told me when I was really little I only remember Sweeney Todd, a Streetcar Named Desire and Phantom of the Paradise.  And I’ve been obsessed with all of them since (despite the fact that even I can’t deny that Phantom of the Paradise is a horrible movie, albeit one with a good story and a great soundtrack.)

But back to Sweeney Todd.  I knew it was great because my mom said so, and the story sounded pretty badass.  When I was 10, my family went to England and I insisted that we go to Sweeney Todd’s barber shop.  My favorite song on the Forbidden Broadway Volume 2 tape we had was their send up “Teeny Todd.”

I have no idea why it has pokemon illustrations.

Strangely enough, I never actually saw the play.  I never even really heard the soundtrack since my parents only had it on vinyl and we rarely broke out the record player.  So for most of my life Sweeney Todd was something that just existed in my head.  I never saw the reality until the movie came out.  Needless to say, I fell in love.

Nothing in my head can compete with Johnny Depp.

Cut to last year:  The cast of Epic Win is drinking after having a totally awesome Star Trek vs Star Wars show and someone (I think it was Schaffer but my memory is not to be trusted) said we should do a Rated R for Violence show.  And we went NUTS.  Seriously nuts.  In nearly an instant everyone had act ideas and BIG plans about GIANT gushing rivers of blood all over the stage.  It would be a bloodbath.  Kinda like this:

But with more nudity.

I actually would have done exactly that scene with more nudity if I had the time, money and know how.

Since I couldn’t do the Addam’s Family scene, it’s no surprise that I opted for Sweeney Todd. At first I wanted to start as Mrs. Lovett and strip down to a Sweeney costume and further strip down to, well, probably meat pie pasties and merkin.  BUT then I realized that it was probably not humanly possible to do that (or at least do it well) and if it was possible it was at the very least beyond my current skillset.  If I had all the money ever,  and could hire professional wig and costume makers I think I could do it.  Hell, if I had all the time and a good amount of money, I could probably do it myself eventually.  But I have neither of those things, so I cut back to just dressing like Todd.  And that proved challenging enough.

The only problem with an onstage bloodbath is, well, the blood.  As a second generation costume designer I have been raised to hate and fear fake blood in all it’s permutations.  Whatever the hell you make it out of, it has to have *some* kind of red dye in it and that dye is going to stain the hell out of your costumes, YOUR PRECIOUS PRECIOUS COSTUMES!!!!

Nelson Lugo has a recipe that he swears up and down won’t stain and he’s probably right.  I went to the Evil Dead Musical wearing a white shirt specifically bought to be stained in the splash zone and it didn’t stain at all.  They probably used this stuff.  My costumes probably won’t get stained.  HOWEVER we have to do two shows consecutively and my paranoia is lifelong and DEEP.  So I had to make sure that everything I wore was made from synthetic fabric.  Which meant I had to make everything myself.  Thank, freaking, God I went with the “simpler” concept.

Since Sweeney Todd is more than the movie (it’s been numerous productions, short stories, movies, a ballet etc) I decided not to slavishly copy the costume in the film.  My design is still heavily based on the movie but I took a lot of liberties to make it my own.

I started with an idea board on

I really dig on polyvore for this.  I don’t really know or understand what other people do with it, but it’s great for designing costumes.  Then I did some rough sketches while choreographing/designing the number in my head.  This is probably the first time my costume and act have evolved alongside each other.  Usually I have the act figured out pretty quickly (usually within a few times listening to the song) but this time they informed each other and grew together.
Once I had an idea of what I wanted, I went through my fabric stash, which is massive.  I get annoyed at myself when I buy fabric these days because I literally have PILES of it and I need to run through it before my mom dies and I inherit all of her fabric (which no one could ever possibly hope to run through.)  I tried to keep my ideas kind of open ended and sketchy so that I could use as much stuff I already owned as possible.  I did pretty well, I only bought one piece of new fabric.  Of course, I bought too much so it’s now been added to the piles.
This post is already long and there’s A LONG way to go so we’ll break it up into a few posts.  Coming next:  Adventures in Sewing!

Let's take a break...