Sunday, October 25, 2009

The swan dress

Do you remember the dress Bjork wore to the Oscars when she was nominated for best song in Dancer in the Dark? If not, here's a refresher:
Now, why am I thinking of Bjork's swan dress? Not only is it awesome, but it's a great Halloween costume. Every year for Halloween, I wait until the day of whatever party I'm invited to before I figure out what I'm going to wear. It's partly that I don't really want to be that person who has all the free time in the world to compose an elaborate costume. I'd rather do something creative and cheap. Last year, I painted my face and neck black, wore all black and a borrowed iPod to be an iPod dancer. This year, however, Lee and I are invited to a Big Deal of a party. Big Deal as in it involves a rented venue and is combined with a farewell-for-now for one of his closest childhood friends, and we are traveling to attend it. I can't put off the Halloween costume to the last minute. It took me a while to figure out what I'd be for Halloween, and decided that being Bjork in her iconic swan dress would be fun.

It turns out that it's also a lot of work. As you can see, Bjork is wearing an illusion net body suit with rhinestones with her dress. I'm not about to make a body suit, but I figured I could come close to approximating her look. I made a crossover front close-fitting dress from the 5/2006 Burda issue using white gingham and illusion net for the sleeves, one half of the front, and the back.
Then I gathered 10 yards of fine net tulle and 5 yards of wire net tulle. This took FOREVER. Tulle is a royal PITA to cut because it's not easy to see what you're doing, and cutting long strips up to 10 yards long takes forever. Then when you try to gather it on the machine or machine stitch it to another piece of fabric, you discover that there are a million little hooks around the needle area that will catch on the tulle... which is easy to do because tulle is full of little holes! The other thing about tulle is that it's voluminous, huge, giant, fluffy... and after the first few layers it's like having a tulle pillow stuck to your machine. In fact, after this experience, it will be FOREVER before I sew tulle again.

The head and neck are made from more of the white gingham, the beak and eye detail are felt. The whole piece is stuffed with fiber fill and the end was insert into the right shoulder of the dress. I originally thought to put a wire into the neck to pose it, but it wouldn't sit on my shoulders. Instead, I whipstitched the neck to the dress neckline.

I took one photo outside to show the tulle layers accurately. Yes, it is scandalously short.

The other photos are indoor because... I don't have Bjork's beguiling charm, and I'm not just talking about taking a Marilyn Monroe-esque pose. I just didn't want my neighbors to take notice that I was wearing about 2 lbs of tulle!
From the right side. I safety pinned the head to the net illusion bust piece. If I had sewn it to the piece, I would not have been able to shimmy into this dress. I suppose that now would be a good time to mention that wearing this much tulle is really hot. Perhaps that is why Bjork is playing with her skirt in the above photo; she needs to cool off! I will also say that with all this tulle sewn to the dress, and the swan's neck sewn to the dress neckline it's tricky to get in and out of. This may be a one time garment!

A view from the back. My hair is covering it, but the swan's neck is stitched to the neckline.
Now I just need to get some fake eyelashes and figure out how to squish it into a carry-on suitcase!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Simplicity 2603

The last month has been a rush, going out of town for another wedding, having friends in last week (and then seeing them go, which is always sad), and going out of town again this week for 4 days of conference in San Diego. Allow me to whine: who in their right mind starts a conference during a holiday weekend (because I work for a school, I get Columbus day off)? how am I going to dress like a grown up for 4 days? I don't really have a suit, and am going to try to get by with wearing the same skirt or dress every day that I'm there. The problem boils down to a few things:
  • I'd rather sew something that I wear daily, i.e., jeans, shirts, jackets.
  • I'm not very good at sewing formal wear.
  • I don't really have the lifestyle that calls for regular suit wearing.
  • I am really hard on my clothes. I had 2 skirts until I clumsily stepped on the zipper of one of them, breaking the zipper and tearing the fabric irreparably.
So, when I had to go to the Canadian outdoor autumn wedding I was kicking myself for never having made a good pantsuit (this doesn't include the pant suit that I pulled out of my butt for my Defense, which still has safety pins holding the pants closed.)

Now I'll stop whining: I'm lucky that I can sew and whip up something like this the night before going out of town for an evening outdoor wedding north of the border. This was perfect, and I was warm all night. I made mine in black cotton-rayon jersey. The fabric doesn't ravel, but because I'm paranoid about knit fabric stretching out of shape, I zig zagged the edges to reinforce them, since the different arrangements call for lots of knot tying.
It's like a snuggy, but better. I'm taking it with me to the conference, you can wear it so many different ways nobody will know I'm wearing the same thing every day. I'm not sure how the picture hosting works, but I think if you click on the photos they get bigger.

Here it is, left open. Initially, I was worried that because I'm so short that the shoulders would be too wide on me and the front too long. But it seems to work.
These are two easy ways to wear it, that I especially like. You tie a little knot in the front piece and pop it over your head so that the fabric drapes in the front. It's fun to play with and whenever I've worn it I'll sometimes change it up over the course of the day.