Party Costumes: When at First You Don’t Succeed

As you have already heard from this blog, Kat and I have been invited to a “Gangster and Moll” birthday party.  My character will be Blanche Barrow, the sister-in-law of Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame, and her style dress shall be different from that of Bonnie Parker, Kat’s character.

Now like my sister I do not want to go in the expected costume of a 1920s “flapper”, dressed in masses of fringing or sequins.  It is just not my style.  Instead of going out to hire or buy a party costume, I have created a unique costume by combining key pieces from my wardrobe in a way that reinterprets the silhouette of the period.

The Costume

For this occasion I have combined a blue, floral patterned velvet cardigan over a plain maroon ankle length skirt.  To accentuate the skirt and hips I have wrapped an Indian velvet scarf, around the top of the skirt and pinned it together with an oval brooch at the front to form an overskirt with two overlapping floral panels.   For my jacket I have been inspired to select one from my collection of Japanese haori.  It is a soft pink/violet with a small, stylised floral pattern of white and grey flowers.  The kimono shape was fashionable during the 1920s and early 1930s.  To bring it all together I have accessorised with a violet, embroidered floral shoulder bag to match the skirt.  I have also made a headpiece using ribbon, diamantes and feathers to truly get the look of the period.

The Headpiece, Plan A & B

It seemed like such a simple task. Make a small headpiece to look like a 1930s lady dressed for a night in a speakeasy.  This was my chance to be creative.  I could make the headpiece from materials that I already had and would not need to spend a lot of money.  Just in case I did not have the correct fixings at home I went to a large chain store specialising in sewing and haberdashery items to buy some basic construction materials.  I was playing with the idea of making a small rosette or panel on which I could fit some sequins or beading and feathers.

I purchased a headband with a woven straw disc, a fancy diamante trim to make the headpiece “sparkle”, 2 packets of white feathers, some circular fabric discs to fix the feathers to my selected base and some metal hair clips to fix it to my hair.  At home I found some pieces of scrap material, blue taffeta silk and a patterned floral silk in blue, pink, green and white.  These would match my costume.  I also had some interfacing and Tacky Glue.

I soon realised that the headband and the round straw disc were the wrong shape for the diamante trim and too big for my hair.  I decided to move to Plan B.  Six layers of interfacing were ironed together and cut in an oval shape slightly wider than the diamante trim.  The floral silk was cut larger than the oval base, centred and glued to the back of the interfacing.  I then sewed a line of stitches around the outer edge of the loose fabric and gathered it in the centre to form a ruche on the front of the disc.  Decorative ruching was popular during this period.  Next I stitched a metal hair clip to the back of the oval panel.  I glued the white feathers together using between two of the white fabric discs as I planned to glue them to the front of the fabric then attach the diamante trim on top.  Before doing these final steps I experimented with how it would look in my hair.  It did not work.  It looked terrible.  My hair is too curly and wild and it would not stay in place.  I decided I needed another solution and not waste any more time on this idea.

The Headpiece, Plan C

Back to the notions box in the studio and with much rummaging I found two violet satin ribbons in a paper bag.  They were good quality and already were tied in bows.  I think I must have saved them from packaging, where sheets or linens were tied up in pretty bows.  After trying one ribbon on my head to see if it would fit, it did, I found the size of the bow was perfect to fit the feathers and the diamante trim.  I first sewed the fabric disc holding the feathers to the front of the bow, with the diamante trim sewed over both the feathers and the bow.  Voila!  Finally I had the perfect headpiece for my costume.

Making this headpiece reminded me that there is more than one way to be creative.  You can carefully plan your project from the start, so that you have everything worked out so that you save time, money and effort.  You can also work more freely as I did and make it up as you go along.  The important point with both methods is to recognize when an idea is not working and that you sometimes need to go through the design and construction process and fail before you can find the right solution.

My costume is now complete.

Ellie

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