Friday, September 12, 2014

Dandelion costumes that won't make you sneeze (much)

Screen shot of dandelion
These dandelion costumes were inspired by the animated movie Epic. They were not a major part of the movie so it was hard to get a good screen shot. I made these to wear to DragonCon in 2013. I made three costumes so my sisters and I could be a fun pack of weeds. I started experimenting with materials and methods in June, although I had been researching and saving ideas for a while. I finished these costumes in the hotel Thursday night at DragonCon. (Familiar story, right?)

Pack of weeds

The full costume consists of 1) purchased hoop skirt, 2) 2-layer petal skirt, 3) underbust corset with petal "peplum", 4) undershirt with elastic neck and arms, and 5) dandelion hat. I built the hats first, since I knew they were going to be the hardest. I will discuss the hat construction in the next post. The base costume was made from Kona cotton.

The skirt includes a simple upper base where the lower leaves attach, and one additional layer of leaves that attach at the waist. There are a total of 3 layers of fabric leaves that decrease in size and length from bottom to top. (Two layers in the skirt and one layer from the bodice.) I added a pocket in each side seam of the skirt, which hides nicely under the other layers of leaves. A simple drawstring waistband was added for adjustable fit.

Base skirt with lower layer of leaves
Two-layer leaf skirt

I made three leaf templates from craft paper for each layer of the costume, varying the total width of the leaf and shape of the jagged edges so they didn't all look the same. There are 3 different leaf shapes for each layer for a total of 9 paper templates. 

Templates used to cut fabric leaves
I decided to use craft paper since I had to make 3 skirts with these patterns and didn't want to risk ruining delicate pattern paper. (Some of us are not always very accurate with scissors.)  Since the craft paper is much stiffer than pattern tissue paper (thus no pinning the pattern to the fabric) and I didn't want to cut into the templates while cutting all those curves, I traced the shape of each leaf on the fabric before cutting.

Traced leaf pattern
To make a more natural edge and to keep the cotton from fraying, the edges of each leaf were “painted” with a fabric glue and hand “rolled” while wet to give them some depth with a curled edge. A center vein was added to each leaf by using a satin stitch over a piece of yarn. I used wooly nylon thread so I could cover as much yarn as possible with the longest stitch length. If the stitch length was too short, the fabric bunched in too much near the yarn. 

Wooly nylon thread over yarn for the leaf vein
The bodice is an underbust corset pattern (Simplicity 1819), modified with a layer of leaves on top that extend over the skirt. Steel boning was used in the corset since I wanted this costume to last a while. I also made bias tape from the cotton fabric to bind the corset layers. 

Back side of corset before lining was attached
The leaves are attached to the bodice only at the top, so they hang down past the waist. I used fabric glue to keep the corset leaves in place since I didn't want any stitching to show or the under part of the corset to show. 

Fabric glue used to keep the top leaves in place
The shirt is a simple ren-style blouse with elastic around the neckline and bottom of the sleeves. I set the elastic about an inch or more from the finished edge to create the ruffled look.The total fabric yardage for skirt, leaves, undershirt, and corset was around 5 yards.

I bought really cheap hoop skirts to go under the skirts. Really cheap. The bottom of each hoop skirt was painted with matching green acrylic paint mixed with fabric medium. The fabric medium keeps the cheap hoop fabric from being stiff and crunchy. I only painted the lower portion of the skirts, so white still shows through sometimes when we move around. I found that the leaves needed to be tacked together to keep from fluttering. Although a little bit of flutter is pretty neat.

For a little added flower power, we wear white feather eyelashes purchased from Amazon. We add white and/or green eye makeup if we feel like it. The eyelashes get almost as many compliments as the hats!
Funny sister face

The finished costume is fairly comfortable (aside from the hat). Stay tuned for details about the dandelion hats.


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