Monday, January 16, 2012

Dreamgirls Leia

Character: Princess Leia
Costume: Sparkly diva senatorial robes!
From: Star Wars by way of Dreamgirls
Made: 2007
Awards: Part of a skit that won a Lucasfilm company award (2007 San Diego Comic-Con Masquerade)

I made this costume for our 2007 Comic-Con Masquerade skit, "Rebel Dreams," a Star Wars/Dreamgirls mashup. (Lots more pictures, plus video, are available on that page!)

We had quite a lot of discussion on how to best Dreamgirl-ize the Leia costume. At first we thought of doing three different Leias, one from each movie, but then decided it would work better if we all did the same outfit, and of course Senatorial Leia is the most recognizable. Gentle Giant has a cool animated Leia maquette that provided some good inspiration, but we worried that the sleeves might not work with the choreography, so Kel and Corli came up with the halter-top-and-gloves idea. We each "claimed" a different Dreamgirl-- I was Deena, by virtue of being the shortest!

San Diego Comic-Con 2007
(thanks to grimreaper4u, Kel and Corli, red_tzar, and Eurobeat King for the pics!)
Dragon*Con 2007
(thanks to Michelle and Kathy for the pics!)


We wanted the dresses to be super-crazy sparkly, so Kel and Corli checked out their local "sparkly fabric store." They found a white stretch fabric covered in silver glitter that was perfect-- it was really sparkly, but still read as white rather than silver. They also found a shiny white swimsuit fabric to use as a lining. My machine did not like the glitter fabric *at all,* prompting a panicked July 4th phone call to my dear friend and costuming mentor, Kimmerie: "Help, the thread keeps breaking and skipping stitches and I thought I was doing all the right things for stretch fabric, what do I do!?!?!" Sew over a piece of wax paper, she advised me, which worked perfectly.

Since I was "Deena" Leia, I decided to make my dress in more of a form fitting "diva" style. It proved much more difficult than I expected to find a pattern that worked, because I was basically using stretchy fabric to make a (mostly) non-stretchy dress. After many mockups and much hand-wringing, I arrived at a combination of New Look 6655 for the bodice and Butterick 4343 for the skirt. I altered both of the patterns substantially, taking in and letting out seams and changing the underbust darts to gathers, in order to make the dress as close-fitting as I wanted it.

I started by putting together the bodice and its lining separately. Then I attached them around the armholes and turned it all right-side out. I next stitched the two layers together at the top and bottom so I could treat them as one when I attached the bodice to the collar and skirt, respectively. I ran two lines of machine gathers at the front neck and under the bust. The next step was to put the skirt together-- as with the bodice, I constructed the skirt and its lining separately, then stiched them together at the top. Using the stretch stitch on my machine, I attached the skirt to the bodice, pulling up the bust gathers to fit. I used a stretch stitch because I didn't want to have to insert a zipper; I just wanted to pull the dress over my head.

I had to alter the collar pattern as well, since in the original pattern it tied around the neck. Basically, I measured how long the collar needed to be (my neck, plus ease), then worked out where the notches for the front and back bodice pieces needed to go. I positioned the closure at the left side back-- in retrospect, I should've put it on the non-slit (and thus non-photo) side. Oops! Anyway, the actual collar construction was about as normal-- fashion fabric, iron-on interfacing, and lining.

The hood was the largest rectangle of glitter fabric I could manage with what I had left, self-lined so there wouldn't be any "wrong" side. I gathered the ends of the hood as tightly as possible, then pinned both the hood and the dress to the right side of the collar and sewed it all down at once. I sewed over the seam multiple times, since the whole weight of the dress hangs from the collar. Then I just hand-stitched the lining down and added flat hooks nad eyes to the closure, with two extra snaps for security and neatness.

With the collar finished, I could try on the dress to work out the slit and hem. I'd left the slit open to the mark given on the pattern, but that was way too low, so I ripped a few stitches at a time until I was satisfied with the height. Then I stitched the fabric and lining together from the inside. Finally, for the hem, I just treated both layers of fabric as one and did a standard twice-turned hem (1/2", then another 1") and machined across the top.


Our belts were all vinyl-- white from JoAnn and sparkle silver from Hancock's (I think), put together with E6000 glue. We wanted them to site more on our hips, rather than our waists, so the dresses would drape nicely. Corli did all the legwork in figuring out the shape of her belt, and I just copied hers.

Corli and Kel, being total angels, did all of the construction work on my belt. Two layers of white vinyl were glued together, then the silver shapes glued on top. For the circles, they traced around a nickel with black Sharpie and then left a thin line of black when they cut them out, so you could see the circles on top of the other shapes. My belt closes with sew-on Velcro. And then of course the whole thing got a coat of silver glitter spray.


We all bought the Pintuck color guard boots from in white, then sprayed them with silver glitter spray. They're quite comfy! Our gloves are the 18-button length shiny stretch satin gloves from, also sprayed with glitter. (Sensing a theme here?) Corli made our bracelets from some silver sequin trim.


The idea struck me that it would be really funny to do Diana Ross-ish "Leia puffs." So I bought some "large" size afro puff hairpieces on Ebay, which turned out to be perfect, except that they were too dark. I sprayed them with Streaks 'n Tips "burnt brown" temporary color spray (from Sally Beauty) and then used the same spray on my own hair. It mostly worked, but the buns still look darker than my own hair in photos. Maybe if I spray my hair black, then brown? And of course we doused our hair in bronze glitter.

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