Thursday, February 16, 2012

Elizabeth's Island Shift

Character: Elizabeth Swann
Costume: Island shift
From: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Made: 2006
Awards: Part of a skit that won Best Presentation (2006 San Diego Comic-Con Masquerade)

I made this costume for our 2006 Comic-Con Masquerade skit, PDQ Pirates, a retelling of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie in 3 minutes. (Lots more pictures, plus video, are available on that page!)

Elizabeth acquires this shift while on the Black Pearl and wears it under the plum dress, but I think it stands quite well on its own. In fact, Elizabeth is wearing only this shift during my favorite scene in the movie-- when she and Captain Jack get marooned on the desert island. ("But why is the rum gone???")

San Diego Comic-Con 2006 Masquerade and Photoshoot at the San Diego Maritime Museum
(thanks to Kel and Carolyn for the pics!)



Figuring out the construction of the shift was kind of a pain, but once I decided on a plan, it all went together pretty smoothly. The original shift, as best I can tell, has only side seams. At first I tried to replicate that, but with time running out (and since I'm not a little stick like Keira Knightley), I decided to hell with construction accuracy, I'd just go with something I knew would work and have the right look. So I once again turned to my old friend Simplicity 9891. I made a size smaller than I normally would, since I wanted it to fit me snugly, and because I knew that the sleeves on this dress were a problem (you can barely lift your arms if you follow the pattern!) I tightened the armscye by raising the bottom of the armhole about 3/4". (I've heard that the armscye problem has been fixed in newer versions of the pattern, but the one I had on hand was an older copy.) Then Keely, a draper at my workplace who was a total angel in helping me with my costumes, draped a new sleeve right on me. I just moved the seam from the underside to the top, and voila!


The dress is made out of this cotton damask from Verdaera suggested it-- thanks, Vera! The scrolling pattern isn't an exact match, but the open weave of the fabric is very similar. I tea-dyed it with regular Lipton tea to turn it ivory rather than white. It turned out a bit splotchy because I didn't have a big enough dyepot, but I think it just makes it look nice and aged. :) It isn't lined; I just serged the edges of all the pieces and did a machine hem. We had a machine at work that had an eyelet stitch programmed in, so I used that to make the eyelets down the center front and the sleeves. I used string that I had on hand for the spiral lacing. Also, the neckline really wanted to stretch, so at Keely's suggestion I made a simple bias tape casing on the underside and threaded another string through that. It's not accurate, but it keeps the neck of the dress looking neat, and since I'd already thrown accuracy out the window-- well. Maybe someday, when I have the time to drape my own pattern for the dress, I'll make a really accurate version.

This dress is a total bear to get into! The string doesn't slide through the eyelets that well, so I keep it laced and just loosen the string to get in. But it only loosens so far, so I have to do this really silly wiggle-shimmy to get into and out of it. Once I even slept in it, because I was so tired I didn't have the energy to deal with getting out. I almost wish I'd put a zipper in the back!

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