Monday, April 16, 2012

Hairspray Dancer

Character: Backup Dancer ("You Can't Stop the Beat")
From: Hairspray (2007 version)
Made: 2008
Awards: Part of a skit that won Judges' Choice in the 2008 Comic-Con Masquerade

I first saw the movie version of the musical Hairspray in spring 2008, and I absolutely fell in love-- the story, the songs, the costumes, everything was completely awesome. (I mean, giant production numbers. What's not to love?) I especially adored the last number in the show, "You Can't Stop the Beat," and the gorgeous dresses the dancers were wearing. Oh man, did I ever want one of those pretty pastel dresses with their big twirly skirts!

I got my chance when my friend Cordelia suggested a Hairspray-themed skit for the San Diego Comic-Con 2008 Masquerade. (A video of the skit, plus more pictures, are available on that page.) This has become my new favorite party dress-- I've worn it many times since I made it, including to the wedding of a fellow costumer and my work holiday party!

San Diego Comic-Con Masquerade 2008

Dragon*Con 2008 (Yule Ball)
(thanks to Maggie and Kathy for the pictures!)


The dresses in "You Can't Stop the Beat" are mostly pastel fabrics with circle skirts and a chiffon overlay. I really liked the dresses worn by the twins Noreen and Doreen, so I used them as my starting point and altered the bodice somewhat. I decided on a blue dress because 1) it's my favorite color, 2) I already had a blue crinoline, and 3) none of the other characters in the skit were wearing blue.


I had a hard time finding a flowered blue cotton that I liked; I was pretty particular about the size and spacing of the flowers. I finally found some cotton quilt backing at that fit the bill. As a bonus, it was 108" wide, so it was plenty big for the skirt! I found coordinating chiffon at a local fabric store, and for the sash I just bought a half-yard of Jo-Ann casa crepe in, I want to say cornflower? I don't actually remember.


I drafted the dress using flat patternmaking techniques. The underbodice (flowered cotton) is a basic two-darted bodice with most of the ease removed for that tight 1950s fit. (Hairspray is technically early 60s, but it's the same look.) For the chiffon overlay, I just converted all the darts to waistline gathers. I should have added some ease back in for the overlay, and done a slight inward curve on the V-neckline instead of a straight line-- live and learn! I flatlined the cotton and chiffon together, then constructed the bodice. The bodice is bag-lined with white muslin, using the underbodice pattern.

The flowered underskirt is almost a full circle; I knocked a little bit off to cut down on the fullness at the hem, since my crinoline wasn't as full as the ones in the movie. For the chiffon overskirt, I measured the radius and circumference of the underskirt, then cut a rectangle with those dimensions. The overskirt was evenly gathered all around and basted to the underskirt, then both were sewn to the bodice as one, and the bodice lining was handstitched down to enclose the waist seam. The overskirt is finished with a serged rolled him, which isn't accurate (you can see the large hem allowance on the actual dresses), but it was easier and faster.

The dress closes with an invisible zipper up the back. The sash is tied around my waist and safety-pinned into place; someday I'll get around to attaching it permanently. I think I might change fabrics to something that's thinner and holds a crease, too, if I can find a good color.

The crinoline I've had for years (okay, fine, well over a decade), ever since we did Bye Bye Birdie in high school. It's a square-dance crinoline that we found at Goodwill; my mom added a yoke to lengthen it. I just had to shorten the yoke slightly so it would hit just at my knees. See, this is why you never get rid of random costuming stuff!

Wig, Shoes, & Jewelry

The wig is the "official" Tracy wig that you can buy at Halloween costume stores; I got mine at I was pleasantly surprised by the quality; it's not fantastic, but certainly adequate. I replaced the original ribbon with a light blue ribbon that matched my dress. In the movie, a bunch of the girls start imitating Tracy's hairstyle, so I figured I could wear the Tracy wig and call myself a Tracy groupie. Plus, having the official wig makes me much more recognizable as a character from Hairspray.

The shoes are white character shoes that I've had since forever, and the pearls (which I got after Comic-Con) came from The Icing.

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