It amazes me to say this, but I am enjoying making a clown costume. Who knew?
I have been working on beading the sleeves, which are based off of the Phoenix sleeve from The Phoenix Portrait I posted in a previous post. The pattern is Margo Anderson’s, and it is going together beautifully. However, to reduce the amount of beads in the floral sections of the embroidery that I am covering up, I used bigger beads. Which are heavier. Which is making the overall sleeve very heavy, but no less pretty:
This necessitated a change in the undersleeve. Previously I was going to put simple boning into the sleeve (a la a farthingale) for support. However, I don’t think that will be enough. So I started trying to think outside the box, and trying to think Steampunk, and came up with a cooler option. This stuff:
It is copper coated strapping. It is pretty solid, but can be bent into various positions. Plus, it can be riveted together with a different colored metal. I am going to make shoulder farthingales out of this stuff, and also use it for part of my drum/wheel farthingale (the pattern of which I am using can be found here – Sabine’s site is amazing – I highly recommend it!). It will look cool enough on it’s own to be worn for Steampunk as well. Not sure how it will all attach. It might be attached to fabric, it might be strapped in place, still not sure. But I have the strapping and am going to see what I can do.
So the sleeves were coming along well, and so I started thinking about the Elizabethan style ruff. I liked the striped organza I had for the ruff, but it didn’t really say “Steampunk” to me, so I started trying to think of different options. Somehow it occurred to me that a metal collar would be kind of cool, so I started brainstorming different kinds of metals, and came up with mesh. In particular, copper mesh.
You can buy copper mesh from the craft store in tiny little squares (where it is expensive), or in big rolls for window screening (where it is CRAZY expensive), OR, you can buy it from Pest Control stores. Yes, you read that right. You can get a 100 foot roll of copper mesh for around $35 including shipping from DIY Pest Control stores online. It is stretchy and essentially 100 feet of copper sink scrubby material. It comes as a flat tube of about 6 inches wide, and is VERY soft and bendy. However, when stretched out and bent into shape, it makes a very cool looking copper ruff.
The stuff I got is called “Stuf-Fit” and is used to keep rodents out of your home, garage or shed. You cut pieces of various lengths and literally stuff it into the space you are trying to keep the rodents from entering. It cuts with regular scissors, and is ridiculously bright in color. You can buy it on Amazon here. You can get as little as 20 feet or as much as 100. I went with the 100 foot roll as I needed 7 or so yards for the ruff, and because I figured I would use it for other craft purposes. It is very sparkly and currently looks like this in my sewing room:
But the ruff alone wasn’t going to be cool enough. No sir, I needed something else. So I went a little nuts online at Fire Mountain beads and decided to make beaded trim.
The idea for the beaded trim for the ruff came from the crown I made for the pink wig. I wanted something sparkly and festive and that coordinated with the sleeves and knew that I would have to make something. So I Googled “How to bead a necklace” and found a basic pattern that looked like something even I could do. I printed it out, got out my Nymo cord and went to town with some of the beads I had purchased. The result looked like this:
And once it was sewn onto the wig, it looked like this:
And the close-up:
Elizabeth asked me if I has used vintage Christmas ornaments for this, and in looking at it it does have that look about it. But no, it was only Preciosa crystals, spectra colored beads and some giant gold beads with crystal inlays. I wanted it to look a bit haphazard, so I didn’t use particularly strong thread to make it, so that things wobble a bit on top.
For my first attempt at beading (which took me several hours to complete one evening), I thought it was pretty good. It thus inspired me to make beaded trim. I found an even more basic pattern and set out to make the trim. However, when changing sizes of beads compared to what is listed in the pattern you may underestimate the amount of beads you need. Therefore I only ordered 1,400 tiny copper beads and really needed 5,880. Which suddenly dramatically increased the cost of the trim. However, I had already done 81 inches of the trim and couldn’t really turn back at that point. So another order was sent to Fire Mountain Gems and I am continuing to tally what very well may be the most expensive costume I will ever make next to the Eleonora gown.
But the results so far have been so cool:
And after beading this much of the trim I also realized another thing: the trim was going to be VERY HEAVY. And the copper mesh was not going to be strong enough to support it. Which meant I was going to have to make a very strong supportasse and likely attach the ruff to it.
Luckily it is the holiday season and there is no shortage of gold, silver and copper ribbon, wire and other festive bits in the stores, so I have purchased what I think will work for this. It remains to be seen if the end result will look good. It will certainly look sparkly, that is for sure!
Somewhere along the line I had ordered something called “Copper Deco Flex Tubing” from Amazon. I’m not sure WHY exactly I ordered it, and it arrived the other day. It is very cool, from a Steampunk perspective:
I posted it to FB asking if anyone in my sewing group remembered why I had purchased it, and no one did. Still not sure what I am going to do with it, but the Cheap Chick suggested it would make a cool wig. So it may need to be put aside for later.
Then last weekend I took a day trip to Hobby Lobby and various other points of interest with a few buddies. I was looking for sheets of metal to use for my key for the wind-up part of my back.
When I was deciding on the idea of the design for the key I knew I wanted something that evoked “clown” but that also evoked “royalty.” I didn’t want a typical Steampunk key covered in gears and wings. So I knew I wanted a crown of some sort. While searching clip art I saw a Jester hat and had an “A Ha!” moment. Then it was just a matter of finding the right one. I found one on this blog and emailed the designer to ask if I could use it as the basis of my key. She was very enthusiastic and was kind enough to allow me to do so.
I sent the drawing to my buddy Steve, the swell guy who made the base of my White Queen Crown (using engineering and math and perhaps even a little voodoo to arrive at the perfect dimensions) and he did his magic to it. We added a stem for the key, removed the balls from the tips and the result was this:
He gave me 3 of them so I could practice the design I wanted, which was very nice. They are individually fairly light, but when held together are kind of heavy, and a little bit sharp. I am trying to decide if I am going to use 1 or 2 and trim out the edges.
After much discussion with my friends, I decided to nix the idea of layering more pieces of metal on top, and instead decided to cover the whole thing in copper leaf, and outline the individual lines of the hat in rivets that will be glued in place. I initially had planned to glue large round faceted crystals on the tips, but instead went with large gears when I changed the design plan. Those gears will ACTUALLY be riveted in place, and will hopefully then be able to spin.
As to the motor for the key, my Dad has come up with A Plan that works with my design, and we are heading out to Ax-Man and the hardware store this Sunday to purchase the necessary supplies. I am also looking for flat pieces of copper for the key to be inserted into and for the stomacher piece in front, so I can etch them.
Lastly, I have decided that I am not going to have the skirt spin around. With everything else going on, that is going to be way too complicated. Instead, through use of a double traverse curtain rod that will be attached to the front of the farthingale, I will instead have 2 little tassels that when pulled will open the front of the skirt like curtains. I may or may not have the underskirt also rise up into a pleated apron through use of roman shade tape and rings. It depends on how that will look with the top of the farthingale. Otherwise I will just have it open in front, revealing the copper strapping farthingale and my bloomers and spats.
THE SPATS! I almost can’t wait to work on them. I was having a seriously hard time trying to come up with a decent design. I considered cut-work leather, riveted metal harlequin pieces, fabric, etc. I knew I was going to use a pair of thrift store shoes as the base that I would paint, but the spats themselves were giving me fits. I wanted it “circus-y” and yet still Victorian/Steampunk.
My husband was the one who came up with the final plan. He suggested I make them look like different circus animals were wrapped around my legs. I could applique leather (which I have done before) and use other metals to define their features. So at this point I am going to have a monkey with a Fez and little vest on one boot and a lion with a copper mesh mane on the other. I am using plaster tape to curve up the toes of the shoes to make them more comical and clown-like, and am going to have something (as yet undecided) on the tip. I just need to make sure they curve up, and not out, or I will be falling all over myself.
I am just so happy with how things are progressing and am really excited about the costume. And as my friend Lis said about the progress thus far: “This is turning out way too pretty to be a clown! It doesn’t terrify me at all. I never thought I’d have clown-costume envy.” Hee!