Sewing Stuff

And it’s been a while again. I’ve been keeping ahead of pandemic depression (and depression about pretty much everything else going on in the world right now) by doing excessive amounts of costuming.

And you know what? I actually made a lot of progress. I am officially finished with all of Carmilla’s undergarments! I finished a cool red petticoat, which was officially the last thing before starting on patterns for the dress. The corset could probably still use some fit adjustments, which I may go back and make, but for the moment, I’m really happy with how everything turned out.

Red petticoat
Red Petticoat

It’s also been really nice bonding with Usagi while I sew. Any time I head to my basement sewing room, she tags along to keep me company. And obsessively lay down on whatever I’m currently working on. But that’s just cats though. In her mind, she’s definitely helping.

Cat laying down
“I’ll just lay here, on top of this thing you’re putting pins into. That’s totally helpful, right?”

Work In Progress

I am finally finished making the undergarments for Carmilla! It’s taken me a few months to get everything in order, but I think I’m finally there. I have some adjustments to make to the corset and shirt. The shirt is a little big in the shoulders, and the corset is a little big in general, so I need to do a little work to see if I can pull everything in a touch. I also need to remake that lumpy bum roll, especially since my dumb ass didn’t realize that the red ribbon I used for the ties wasn’t color safe. Some of the inside of my corset and the bum roll itself is now a festive shade of reddish-pink. Luckily, I have the same ribbon in white, and enough leftover fabric that I should be able to redo it pretty quick. I also need to spot clean my farthingale to get rid of the last of my channel placement marks. The big blue lines everywhere definitely take away from the overall aesthetic.

My Elizabethan undergarments
Elizabethan Undergarments

Other than that, I may just add a few niceties. I may add some trim to the farthingale to hide the boning channels a little better, although I have to decide if the insane amount of hand sewing I’d have to do is worth it for a costume part that won’t be seen. I also want to add some buttons on the front of the corset to help hold the shirt in the right place. And I may add a little extra structure to the corset’s cups, just to keep everything… ahem… in the right place once the dress is on too. Although, for modesty’s sake, I think I’m going to end up taping myself into this dress regardless of what I do with the undergarments.

Elizabethan undergarments from the back
And from the Back

But, for now, I’m going to move on to patterning a petticoat, then mocking up patterns for the real dress. I’ll probably take a little break before I keep going, just to clear my head a little and give myself a chance to be happy with what I’ve accomplished so far.

Costuming Days

I’ve been working on some of the undergarments for my Carmilla cosplay, mostly to keep me sane while I’m wrangling work and childcare and not being super comfortable leaving the house. I’ve made some pretty good progress on my corset. I had to do two different mockups to get the shape I wanted. As much as I want this to be a historically accurate Elizabethan outfit, since Vampire Hunter D takes place in a sort of futuristic setting, I’ve been taking some liberties with the historical aspects of the corset design. Mainly, I added cups to the corset to maintain the right shaping (Carmilla is… ahem… well endowed). The straight lines of true Elizabethan stays won’t work with the dress, so I improvised.

Corset pieces cut out
All the pieces
My cat laying on fabric
Usagi is definitely helping

I also did more than one mockup because I found some perfect fabric in my stash, but had just enough of it to get by, and definitely not enough to make any big mistakes, so I had to make sure my pattern was good from the start. The main corset is three layers. The bottom layer is duck cloth for structure, the middle is white silk dupioni, and the top layer is a gold lace. I also made my own bias binding out of pretty cotton I had leftover from another costume.

Bias bound corset tabs in progress
Putting binding on tabs in four stages
Detail of bound corset tab
Detail picture! I love how the little flowers show up on the binding.

Now, I’ve got the lining attached to the main fabric, the boning channels sewn in place, the tabs attached to the bottom, and the bottom binding in place. I’ve got some hand sewing to do to finish binding the bottom edge, then it’s time to add boning and grommets.

Corset in progress
Getting there
Interior of a corsrt
The lining with all the boning channels
Cat in front of a sewing table
Definitely still helping and not trying to eat thread

Swatches and Sketches

I’ve actually been working on a cosplay again. I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d made an honest to goodness costume. 2011. So, you know, almost nine years ago. I’ve made stuff since then, but it’s mostly been original ideas for Halloween or fun fandom based outfits. There’s been nothing where I have to match reference images or figure out crazy patterning, and nothing that I’ve planned to enter a competition in. It’s really fun getting back into proper cosplaying again.

On that note, I got an absurd amount of fabric swatches in the mail yesterday from Silk Baron. I love all of them, but I think I’ve chosen my favorites for Carmilla.

Costume sketch and many fabric swatches
So Many Choices…
Costume sketch and fabric swatches
My Favorites

I’m super hesitant to use velvet, but dang if I don’t love how that bright “Rose Petal” red velvet looks, so I’m doing it anyway. Also, I totally want to be able to call this my red velvet cake dress. The gold accents are really tough. I want the color to be bright and eye catching, but not so bright it looks cartoonish. I’m hoping the slight dotted pattern on the “Sovereign” color I picked will tone the color down just enough to give me the effect I want. The pink and black (sort of) accent colors are equally confusing. The reference colors from the anime aren’t consistent at all, but I’m thinking a coral-ish pink and dark purple together will pop against the red, and give a little richer color combination than using plain black. I’m not sure though. I reserve the right to change my mind, especially since it’s going to take me a while to make the absurd number of undergarments I need for this costume and even get to the point where I’m ready for fabric.

Cosplay Plans

I finally got this beauty into a condition I’m happy with.  

I wanted a way to keep all of my cosplay stuff organized, and although I like storing stuff digitally, when it comes to costuming, I do too many pen and paper sketches not to have some kind of physical planner for everything.  I picked an A5 size planner from Carpe Diem, since I have one that I used for organization on our trips to South Korea last year, and I love it. I had a bunch of stickers, dividers, and paper from their Reset Girl collaboration that felt perfect for a sewing book.  I’m happy I finally get to put them to good use.  

I also picked up a printable cosplay planner from Alice In Cosplayland.  I didn’t end up using all the pages from it, and I did make a few pages of my own, but the printable planner pages are awesome!  I finally feel like my cosplay and plans for future costumes are all in one place and neatly organized.  

And clearly, I have to have pictures of this insanity.  

The Front Cover
My To Do List for Carmilla
An Artistic shot of my “Current Projects” divider.
All my costumes ever. It’s weird seeing them all in one place.

Next on the list is retaking pictures of all my pattern envelopes so I can add them to this book.  I might need to wait until daycare reopens and I have a toddler-free day for that adventure.  

Something Old, Something New

Something borrowed, something… bright fluorescent red?  Yeah, that saying isn’t holding up.  

I started brainstorming how I was going to make the structure for my Carmilla project.  Namely, the undergarments. I’m trying for a historical-ish, Elizabethan style gown, so I’ll do the same for the underwear.  

I’d like to do a chemise and drawers, which are a little more Victorian than Elizabethan, but which would kill two birds with one stone.  One – those undergarments will help protect my probably-not-easily-washable gown from coming in direct contact with my skin, which will help the dress itself stay cleaner longer.  Two – I already have a chemise and drawers, made for a previous costume, so if I can reuse them, it would be awesome.  

The drawers are an easy reuse.  I made them for my Suiseiseki costume from Rozen Maiden, which I did as a historical, early Victorian/Civil War era gown.  I made them out of a heavy cotton fabric, so they’re machine washable on a gentle cycle.  Since the drawers were part of Suiseiseki’s costume, and she uses plant-based magic and has a kind of plant and flower theme to her, I added some lace trim with roses on it to the edges of the pant legs, and added a green ribbon into one of the trim pieces.  I can easily swap out the green ribbon to a red more suited to Carmilla. The flower lace is there to stay. I’m thinking that Carmilla would probably have been a Toreador if she existed in Vampire:The Masquerade, though, given her vanity about her appearance, so I’m okay with the roses being part of the theme.  

The chemise I have is… likely not going to work.  I’d love to reuse it since it matches the drawers in fabric and style, but with the neckline on Carmilla’s gown, it’s probably going to show.   I’m thinking I want some kind of front panel on the dress itself to make my life a little simpler and to allow me to wear some kind of corset under the dress, but I’d like that front panel to stop under my boobs so I can keep a better, more screen-accurate shape to the top of the dress.  I took a crack at designing a very specific chemise just for this dress, but it’s going to need the deepest of V-necks to work.  

A chemise and drawers on a dress form
The fanciest underwear I’ve ever made

Then, a corset.  I definitely want one.  I do not have the trim waistline of an undead royal, so I’m going to need some help in the form of steel boning.  Again, with that damn open front, I’m going to have to get creative with the design of any corsetry, but I think I can manage it.  I’m going to try to split the difference between an Elizabethan corset and a sort of fifties style shaping garment with cups. I’m going to need to do about ten mockups to get that right.  I’d also like to make a farthingale for the skirt. I don’t think a farthingale requires additional petticoats the way a Victorian cage crinoline needs them, but I need to do a little more research.  Elizabethan costumes aren’t really my area, and most of the costume reference books I own are based on Victorian era styles. Since the apocalypse is nigh, and all of the libraries are closed, I need to find some alternate research resources.  

Once again, I spent a little time doodling how I want things to look.  The little circles around the waist are points where I plan to tie the farthingale to the corset.  I have a pattern for the farthingale which will probably work just fine, but I’m likely going to need to pattern the corset and chemise myself.    

A sketch of costume undergarments
Yet another planning sketch

Designing For Confusion

I finally started looking at what making Carmilla’s costume is going to entail.  Her dress is going to be… challenging, to say the least. Her outfit defies both logic and physics in ways that only an anime dress can.  I’m willing to give this one a little more benefit of the doubt, as Carmilla is technically the ghost of a vampire who specializes in creating psychic illusions.  Since she’s got two types of undeath working for her, plus illusion magic, I suppose her clothes are allowed to be weirdly put together. But trying to make that work in reality is going to be entertaining.  

I also want to add a historic element to the dress.  Carmilla is very loosely based on a real person named Elizabeth Bathory, known as the Bloody Countess.  She lived during the late 1500’s and early 1600’s, and is alleged to be one of the most prolific woman serial killers in history.  The exact details are a little hard to sort out now given how long ago it was, but either she was a terrible murdered who tortured young women for fun, or her political rivals made up the story to assure she was locked in her castle and unable to protect her assets.  Bloodlust leans in hard to the first story, and made Carmilla, the Bloody Countess into a monster that even Dracula thought was excessive.  But given the vaguely historical reference for the character, I’ve decided to make Carmilla’s gown in a pseudo-Elizabethan era style.  I say pseudo-Elizabethan, because there are some decidedly not-historically-based aspects to her anime design. Namely the shoulder and hip guard pieces and the entirely open front of her gown.  Pretty sure that open section would have people of the Elizabethan era fainting on the spot at the sight of it.  

But the skirt shape and general style of the gown (minus the above issues) can probably be adapted to an Elizabethan design.  I took a crack at drawing what I want my gown to look like. I had to take a few liberties with the design, as there are not a lot of images of Carmilla available.  Even with my old school Bloodlust DVD, I couldn’t get more than a handful of screen captures of the dress, and none of the dress without the train… sleeve… thingy involved, which means you can’t ever see the back clearly.  

My sketch of Carmilla’s gown without the train, based on limited reference images and my own imagination

And the train… sleeve… thingy.  That is going to be a nightmare.  That’s one of those pieces that can exist when it’s drawn on paper, because it doesn’t need to make physical sense.  In reality, that is going to be an M.C. Escher like monstrosity. The train is definitely attached to the long sleeve section, but then the sleeves also behave kind of like a wrap draped down around Carmilla’s mid-back.  Which is also where the train starts, and is kind of tied into/bustled with the gown itself. Although, that also depends on which shot in the film I use as a reference, because it definitely changes from one scene to the next.  I drew a couple images to try to make sense of it, and I think I have a solid plan. The train/sleeve wrap will be two pieces, with a seam at the line where it hits the dress at mid-back. It’ll almost be like a cape folded over on itself, but with arm holes.  I’m sure that description makes no sense, but that’s why I made pictures.  

The logic defying sleeve train combo
The nightmare train from the side, still just as confusing

Doing the costume sketches helped me visualize some of the trickier details of the outfit, and gave me a chance to plan things like where seams are and how stuff will be attached.  I’m still going to have to do a lot of mocking up with muslin to figure out exactly how this beast is going to work, but before any of that, I need to figure out how the undergarments are going to work.  That’ll be a topic for tomorrow.