Thursday, November 28, 2013

Stuff Day - December Movies

Thursday is Stuff day.  Sometimes I'll review a movie.  Sometimes it'll be a book, or maybe a cool tool.  Sometimes I'll just tell you about something neat I've heard of but haven't had a chance to play with yet.  It's the stuff I'm excited about right now!

The Movies I'm Anticipating for December:

December is always Oscar bait month!  Lots of these will be limited releases, and I'll try and remind you when they go into national release.

The Hobbit

Another great Tolkien movie from Peter Jackson.  More elf costumes in this one, though.  Costume Design is by Bob Buck, Ann Maskrey (John Carter, Alice in Wonderland, and Star Wars Episode I, all as Chief Cutter), and Richard Taylor (Weta Workshop's effects supervisor).  Comes out on the thirteenth.

Saving Mr. Banks

Mary Poppins author meets Walt Disney during production of the movie.  Hopefully it will have great Mary Poppins costumes as well as tons of good period stuff.  Costume Design is by Daniel Orlandi, who co-designed the Da Vinci Code and The Blind Side.  Comes out on the twentieth.

47 Ronin

This remake of a classic Japanese tale looks to be going in quite a different direction.  Costume Design is by Penny Rose, who did Evita, all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and Prince of Persia.  Comes out on the twenty-fifth.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I have an article entitled "Art" in The Drink Tank volume 358.  Check it out here:

Monday, November 25, 2013


I have an article entitled "Pressure" in Issue #356 of The Drink Tank.  Read it here:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Aurora Celeste On Cosplay, Fan Art, and The Hugos

I have an article in The Drink Tank volume 355 entitled "Aurora Celeste On Cosplay, Fan Art, and The Hugos".  You can read it here:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bald Cap Tutorials

I'm going to be trying out a bald cap soon, so here's links to some of the stuff I've looked up:

Hopefully I'll get the stuff to try out my own soon!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Put on a Wig

Materials needed:
A wig
a wig cap, pre-stretched
bobby pins - the ones that are straight on one side, wavy on the other, and come tightly closed
hairpins - the ones shaped like Us with waves on both sides. I like the huge ones (yes, you need both)
hair gel (nice, not necessary)

Start with a pretty model like solan_t

Next, in the center of your forehead along your hairline make a big pincurl. Separate out 2 square inches or so of hair and curl around your fingers:

Then pin with two bobby pins shaped in an X. If you have really, really fine hair then you can gel the curl:

Repeat this step to create 5 pincurls at your *anchor points*- One in the center of your forehead, one at each temple right above and in front of your ear, and two in the back of your head at the nape, each one around where those long trails of hair go down your neck:

Next we're going to put the actual hair up. Start in one place on your head and gather the hair. Then, using your head like a big roller, swirl the hair around the head so that it all goes the same direction (clockwise or counter-clockwise) and lays flat against the head:

Then, still holding the hair against your head with one hand, put the wig cap on. Growing an extra arm or two is useful for this step. As you put the wig cap on tuck the band under the *anchor points*, it will take some of those wispy hairs with it and the *anchor points* will prevent it from sliding off. Also, if you have lots of wispies around your temples or in front of your ears, gel them, let dry a bit until gummy, then pull the wig cap over them to pull them back:

Next we put on the wig! The wig should go on from the front. I've seen people say to bend over then flip it on, but it seems to be a lot of work and messy for the wig, and as long as you carefully pull from the front it's not that much of a difference. To start, open the wig and find the two temple tabs. They are usually a sturdier fabric than the rest of the wig. These are going to go in front of your ears, and they're used to position the wig. To start, center the wig on the forehead. If you have two people, have the wearer hold the front of the wig into position on the forehead while you pull the two tabs down to in front of the ears. When the tabs are in position pull the back of the wig down to the nape of the neck. Then slide the front of the wig back until it is in a natural position, ensuring the temple tabs stay positioned in front of the ears.

Next, we're going to actually secure the wig. Starting at a temple take a hairpin and, pushing in slightly on the tines, push it through the fabric of the wig. After it's through the wig angle the pin to go under the wig cap and the pincurl beneath it. This secures the wig under the *anchor point*, preventing it from sliding around or the pin coming out. Repeat with the other temple, then the neck nape points. These four should be enough to secure most wigs. The center forehead point should always be done last. It's also incredibly difficult to secure if you have a wig that has a plastic skin top, so if yours does just skip making a pincurl here. If you have a really heavy styled wig that has a skin top but needs the security, add pincurls on the sides of the forehead right outside the skin top to prevent the wig from sliding back.

And there we go! You can wear a wig!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dyeing on the Stove Top

Tools needed:

A large stock pot - preferably steel
Fabric - not so much that it has to be seriously wadded up to fit in the pot. I'd say 2 yards is max.
Laundry Detergent - dye and scent free. Synthrapol is the best, because it leaves no residues, but you can substitute any other.
Cup - glass or steel to mix the dye in
Spoon - short tablespoon
Long-handled stirring spoon for the pot
Steel Tongs - nice but not necessary

Important to note - anything you start using for dye should forever more be a dye receptacle. Don't try eating out of something that's been used for dying. It's unsafe. Dye is a chemical, and it can be very dangerous.

First you need clean fabric. Clean and wet. To prevent tangling and danglies I usually serge both cut ends. Then wash it in the washer on whatever cycle you would normally wash that type of fabric. Use the dye and scent free detergent. When the cycle finishes just leave the fabric in the washer. We need it wet.

While the washer is going start your dye water. Fill the pan about 3/4 of the way full and start it on high. We don't want it to rolling boil, just the boil stage where little bubbles are forming everywhere. Add salt while you're at it. Usually for my 4 gal. pot I use about 1 1/2 cups. There shouldn't be salt on the bottom when you're done. I use the cheap table salt you can get for 30-50 cents a can, but you can use whatever's cheapest. Just make sure whatever you're using will dissolve (kosher and block salts take longer to dissolve than finely ground stuff). The salt will decrease the surface tension on the water and change its ph, making it easier for the dye to penetrate the fibers.

While that is going work on the dye. It needs to be worked into a liquid form without getting all over, or worse, into your lungs. Measure out the dye into a separate cup (I have a separate dying glass pyrex measuring cup I use for this). Carefully pour a tiny bit of water over top of the dye. Don't pour too roughly, you don't want the dye powder to become airborne. After there's about 1/2" of water in the cup use the spoon to mash the water into the dye. Don't stir - that will cause the dye powder to become airborne. Just mash, getting the dye thoroughly wet and getting rid of lumps. If necessary add more water, a little at a time. When you've got a good dye paste mixed up with no lumps you can add more water and start stirring. Take care not to leave a sludge of dye at the bottom of the cup. When the cup is about half full and the water is at the barely-bubbling point pour the dye in carefully. Stir it around until the water is all the same color and the dye is thoroughly mixed in.

Now it's time to add the fabric! Again, make sure the fabric is damp. Having the fabric already wet helps prevent surface tension from forming in little air bubbles in the fabric. Surface tension will cause spots and uneven dying. So put the fabric in, submerging it as fast as possible without wadding the fabric or causing splashes. Use the spoon and/or the tongs to push the fabric entirely under the water. While you are pushing stir the fabric around so that all parts get into contact with the dye.

Now comes the guessing part. If you did test samples (do them the same way, but in smaller batches), then you know how long to leave the fabric in. If not, then you'll have to just stir it around and pull a corner out occassionally until it looks dark enough. Remember that wet fabric is going to be darker than dry. If I haven't done a test batch but still don't want the fabric too dark then I will cut up a few samples and throw them on top of the fabric. Every few minutes I'll pull out a sample, rinse it, and iron it to quickly dry it so I can see the true color.

When the fabric is the right color then take the pot off the stove and pour it into the sink. Turn on the hot water and rinse the fabric until the water runs clear. This will take A LONG TIME. Every once in a while I'll fill the sink and stir it around to release more dye, then drain and start over again. You can use some soap as well (any soap, even dish soap, is fine), just be sure all the dye is gone. When the dye seems gone I usually switch to the washer just in case. If any dye is left in the sink bleach it out (I have diluted bleach in a spray bottle for this purpose). Same with the washer, when you're done run a load of just bleach water to make sure all the dye is gone. When you're finished washing, dry your newly colored fabric and sew away!

This is also the method I use to dye or tint synthetics. Instead of simmering for a few minutes, I'll simmer for a few hours, making sure that the water level stays high enough to cover the fabric and adding more if necessary. After at least 4 hours (6-10 is better) I'll turn off the stove and cover the pot with tin foil, then let cool overnight (honestly, I usually forget for a few days and there's never been any harm). Then pull it out and wash as usual. Whether or not this will actually work depends on the type of synthetic, what it's blended with, what the proportions are of each fiber, and the weave. I swear it also depends on the phase of the moon and the tidal pull, how many fishes are swimming east, and other completely intangible effects, because they can be pretty random, but IMO it never hurts to try.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Costuming Golden Rule of Three

Sewing and costuming have a lot of rules that are bendable, breakable, or moldable under different circumstances. But in all of costuming there is one golden rule that can never be broken: You can have something cheap, you can have it quick, or you can have it quality, but never all three. This rule works for both making costumes yourself or buying costumes from someone else.

So what do we mean by these? First is cheap. Cheap means for a small amount of money. If you have lots of time you can wait for sales and coupons, scour thrift stores and garage sales, and get rock-bottom prices. If you need it cheap and fast, you can always find passable knock-offs of expensive stuff. Next is time. You can either have something now, or you can have it later. If you need something now for cheap you will be making out of available, cheap, low-quality items. Think pre-made Halloween costumes and how they are only passable resemblances of movie costumes made out of tissue-thin materials. Finally is quality. Quality refers to both the quality of the materials chosen as well as their suitability to the project. For historical costumes quality also refers to the authenticity or "periodness" of the materials used. For reproduction movie, tv, and anime costumes quality can also refer to the accuracy of the materials and how closely they resemble the original costume/outfit. A quick but accurate costume is going to cost A LOT of money because there is no time to search for good bargains; top dollar must be paid for the correct materials. An accurate and cheap costume needs time to research the correct materials and then time to wait for them to go on sale, find low-price substitutes, and collect coupons.

From, an awesome illustration of what we're talking about.

In very extreme cases you may have to pick only one correllary and forget the other two. For instance, if you want your costume NOW it will probably be both expensive and inaccurate. The cheapest costume is going to take lots of time and will also make some accuracy sacrifices. Finally, the most accurate costumes were neither quick nor cheap; lots of time was spent researching the correct materials and much money was spent to get them, even on sale correct materials can cost quite a bit of money.

Even when you are looking to buy a costume this rule holds. The seamstress you are buying your costume from must follow the rule, and you're paying for his/her time and work. So be sure to make it clear to them what you want and what is most important.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Stuff Day: Heavy Duty Wonder Under

Thursday is Stuff day.  Sometimes I'll review a movie.  Sometimes it'll be a book, or maybe a cool tool.  Sometimes I'll just tell you about something neat I've heard of but haven't had a chance to play with yet.  It's the stuff I'm excited about right now!

Since I'm still working on appliques for Ai, I thought today's stuff should be the product that makes it all possible.  Heavy Duty Wonder Under really is the key to great appliques.  It holds nicely, doesn't ripple, and fuses all the way to the edge to make a smooth bond that holds tightly.  It's the only kind of fusible I'll buy for appliques.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Costume Research

I got to the costume research point on my 15th century project where I'm sketching out everyone's costumes.  I love this phase of historical costuming because it's the first point where everything seems to come together.  I love being able to take bits and pieces from sources and put them together in a way that is reminiscent and possible in history but also fits my vision and ideal for the character.  I guess that's why a lot of people get a Jones for original design, but for me it comes out of having found a bounty of right answers and then picking the best fitting one.

The sketch of my 1872 Bustle Gown

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

PhilCon 2013

Even though I spent the weekend sick, I still had a great time at PhilCon.  Here are some pics:

 My Daniel Deronda dress from the PhilCon Masquerade.  I won Best in Show Workmanship and Most Historic Master!

My Ladies' Night costume, finally got a picture of it!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Guest Post - Helene Cooper on Rio Carnival Costumes

A time line of Rio Carnival costumes

The first carnival set in the magical city of Rio de Janeiro dates back as far as 1723, although there are earlier references of similar festivities. Throughout the 1800s the concept of carnival changed dramatically, and so too did the costumes, with many symbolising the political voices of the people. During this time celebrations were aimed towards the upper classes; organised parties for elite societies were popular and even attended by the Emperor of the time, along with aristocrats. Masquerade balls where attendees could show off their wealth through luxurious costumes and masks became popular in the 1840s with waltzes becoming the dance of carnival.

However, by the late 1800s it all changed; carnival became a festivity for the working class and samba became the chosen dance. People began to wear costumes that symbolised their displeasure with the government; during the year of military censorship, costumes were worn to represent political frustration and reflect the people's desire for freedom.

Throughout the 1900s to this day, the costumes have become more elaborate and the carnival has become a festivity that is celebrated by all, no matter your social stature. Below is a timeline shows how Rio Carnival costumes have changed through the decades: 

The '20s was the decade of samba schools, with the first, Deixa Falar forming in 1926, before later becoming known as Estacio de Sa - the name they parade under to this day. Samba school Mangueria shortly followed suit, forming in 1928 Deixa Falar, wearing their colours red and white, paraded on Praca Onze for the first time in 1929, winning the contest for two consecutive years. Costumes throughout the '20s were elaborate and often took on the theme of death,  Maharaja and Rajah, amongst others.


Since the '20s more samba schools were formed, which led to the first official parade of samba schools in 1932. The price of material and ornaments skyrocketed during the '30s, which had a significant impact on the costumes displayed at Rio carnival. Light coloured materials were often used for costumes to help combat the Rio heat.


Freedom of movement and showing off female form became a focus when it came to dressing for the Rio carnival.  Slowly women began to show more skin and often opted to wear a two piece swimsuit.  Men were also more inclined to go bare-chested during the festivities.


Oscar Niemeyer designed the Sambodromo which has been the centre stage for carnival parades since 1984
In true '80s form costumes became more colourful and bigger than ever, boasting sparking embellishments wherever possible.  The Rio carnival was split into two days of celebrations in 1984.  The Gay Costume Ball was introduced, allowing Rio's gay communities to cross-dress and show off their elaborate costumes that boasted feathers, sequins and bright colours.


Costumes were replaced with body paint, metal covers and pasties (patches that cover a woman's modesty).  With less clothing worn at Rio carnival, masks abandoned and light coloured costumes discarded, it was made clear that full nudity was strictly forbidden; a rule that remains today - any offending performer may have their school disqualified.


Viviane Castro wore Rio carnival's smallest g-string in 2010. The model, who was completely naked bar a 4cm pasty, paid the price for breaking the rule “preventing the presentation of people displaying their genitalia, decorated and/or painted”, costing her samba school, Sao Clemente, vital points.

Helene Cooper is no stranger to the magic of South America, having explored Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentine, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. Rio Carnival is one of the biggest parties held in this glorious continent and something that Helene loves to talk about. Helene is currently working for adventure company, Dragoman.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Stuff Day - Fashion Book

I was so excited about my shoes yesterday I completely forgot it was Stuff Day!  To make up for it, here's Stuff Day a day late.

I recently acquired a copy of this book, and it's great.  It follows a history of fashion through the centuries with primary sources, not redrawn pictures.  The information points out great details in the clothing that you may have missed that can make a costume truly authentic.  It's not as inclusive or detailed as Boucher, but it's also not as expensive.  It's a great book to add to a costume history library!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shoes - Almost Done!!!

What have I done so far?  I painted 8 coats of silver on the body of the shoe, two coats of black on the toe and top heel, two coats of black points on the heels, 3 coats of silver on the heels, a sealer coat of matte seal, and glued on rhinestones to the heel.  I need to go out and get more rhinestones tomorrow (I grossly underestimated how many I'd need) but in all I'm pretty excited about the result!  Come see them at the KC party Friday at PhilCon!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Knowing When to Quit

I've decided that I won't have Ai done for PhilCon this weekend.  It's not because it's going badly.  In fact, it's going very well.  So well that I love how it looks and I want to take the time to finish the project carefully, not hurried.

It's important to know when to kill yourself and when a costume is a lost cause.  Giving up on a costume you've set your heart on is never easy.  Sometimes you can give it a huge last-minute all-night push and turn out something amazing.  Sometimes, though, you're too tired, or the con is too important, or the costume is too important to rush and you've got to push things back.  That can be heartbreaking, especially when other people are involved.  In that case the decision really must be a group one.  Sometimes there are things that can be done to fix the situation so the show can go on.

Military Dawn.  My corset is purchased because I spent too much time concentrating on Navy Dawn and not enough time on my own outfit, so the last-minute compromise was my corset didn't get made and I purchased one at-con.
Sometimes, though, you've got to let go.  That can be hard, but there can always be a next time for a costume.  It may not be an "optimal" time, or with a group, but there will be other cons and other photoshoots and other events.  The only time I don't think you can count on a "next time" is a wedding.  Kill yourself for those ;)

Laura's wedding dress.  Killed myself for this one because an ice storm meant I flew in days later than I should have for a final fitting and hemming.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Philcon Progress

I've been busy appliqueing away today:

My tips for iron-on appliques:

  • Use heavy-duty wonder-under.  It really makes a difference in smooth look.
  • Use sharp scissors for a clean line.  It helps with the not fraying.
  • Warm up the piece with an iron right before trying to separate the backing from the piece.  Don't make it hot, but a little warmth will help it not stick to the backing.

Want more info?  Watch my video on appliques: 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Progress Update: November 4th

This week I finished Halloween costumes, started my PhilCon costume, and painted shoes!

 Thing 1 in her Twilight Sparkle princess dress.  Ears and horn from

Sir Ally Saur in his dinosaur costume.

My 23 Skidoos, now painted silver and black.  Only a few more layers of silver on the heels and I can bling them out!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Philcon Schedule

I'll be at Philcon this weekend!  Here's my panel schedule, it looks like most of my stuff is on Friday night but I'll be (hopefully) competing in the Masque on Saturday and hanging around on Sun, too!

Fri 6:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

 Panelists: Elektra Hammond (mod), Aurora Celeste, Byron Connell, Raven Stormbringer, Laura Kovalcin

Masquerades at science fiction conventions began in the 1950s--how do they differ from the Cosplay competitions at anime conventions? A lively discussion to dispel myths, clear up confusion and help integrate two compatible groups

Fri 7:00 PM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

Panelists: Rebecca Robare (mod), Gil Cnaan, E.C. Myers, Christine Norris, Aurora Celeste

Dystopias have long been a part of science fiction, dating back to Huxley, Orwell, and other classic authors. In the 1980s, Young Adult authors like H.M. Hoover and William Sleator explored dystopic futures. Today, with the recent explosion of Young Adult science fiction and fantasy, dystopia is all over, from Scott Westerfields "Uglies" to Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games." This panel will explore the use and meaning of dystopia and its special role in Young Adult fiction

Fri 10:00 PM in Plaza III (Three) (1 hour)

Panelists: Byron Connell (mod), Diane Kovalcin, Susan Toker, Vicki Warren, Kyle Williamson, Aurora Celeste

How can you get involved in costuming even if you don't know how to sew or create costumes

Sat 11:00 AM in Plaza II (Two) (1 hour)

Panelists: Aurora Celeste (mod), Pam Smith, Matt Black, Kyle Williamson, Stephanie Burke

Sure, everybody loves it when a character looks like they just stepped off the page or out of the screen, but what about those who have done an amazing job on a non-traditional take

Saturday, November 2, 2013


This week I decided to use American Duchess' Paint your Shoes tutorial to make my 23 Skidoos Silver and Black with rhinestoney heels.  In this picture I've got a layer of silver painted on, and after 2 days I've been able to add 6 more silver layers on top of that.  Soon I'll be able to start the black and the blinging!

I think I'm going to try and copy the first heel on the left top on this picture:

KCI, 1925, stolen from American Duchess' tutorial linked above