22 October 2015

Merida goes to NYCC

Phenomenal photos by EMCP, who I hope to work with again in the future!

Long time no write!  I know I say that almost every time, and you'll probably hear it again at least a hundred times...but hey, I'm here now!  Last time I wrote about how Holo won second place craftsmanship at Anime Boston, at which point I disappeared to Colorado for three months to make costumes for a theatre there.  Those who follow me on Facebook have seen photos of the progress I made on Elinor (you know, Merida's mother) while I was there, including my lucky score of the perfect fabric for her dress.

But that's for later.  This here post is for Merida, who you haven't seen hide nor tail of since, what, May?  I am happy to announce that she is close to completion and has in fact already been debuted at New York Comic Con 2015.

Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

I drafted Merida's dress based on a bodice from The Tudor Tailor.  Her patterns are all based on measurements very close to mine, so I almost always use her as a starting point for anything pre-1700s.  Merida doesn't have a waist seam on her dress, which is a little atypical for any time in history, but it is what it is.  The fabric I chose is a blue silk dupioni with a bit of turquoise and gold in it.  Merida could be wearing wool, but as a princess silk seems more likely.

How many layers go into one of these puff sleeves?  The answer: a lot!  The innermost layer is a lining into which we insert four pieces of bone so the finished sleeve will hold its shape.  On top of that is the "puff" fabric, and on top of that are the panes.  There are six panes in each sleeve, piped and then gathered along with the puff to fit the lining.

It's not an easy thing to put together!  So many layers of fabric and my sewing machine coughed and threw needles at me, so this all went together by hand.

At this point the dress sat until September, and I completed in in a whirlwind in the run-up to NYCC that I forgot to photograph.  The basics of what happened included the assembly of the sleeves, stitching down seam allowances, facing the neckline and skirt, and then lacing together the various pieces of the sleeves.  All of this is visible in photos, a better descriptor than I could ever give verbally!

Fabric elements out of the way, which was really the part of the costume that I actually understood based on previous experience, I decided to try my hand at the worbla thing.  Merida's bow and belt buckle seemed likely candidates for this technique, so I got started.

First layer is craft foam.

At this point I covered these with worbla and tooled them with an awl to get sharp line over top the craft foam pattern.  The piece below on the right has been pulled over a spherical shape and will eventually be attached to the top of Merida's bow.

Craft foam didn't seem an option for the bow due to lack of rigidity, so this here is four layers of foamcore glued together with rubber cement and then carved with a box cutter into the shape of a bow.  The result is a lightweight though still somewhat bendy armature for the worbla.

Aaand all done!  Well, mostly.  I made these in such a hurry that there's still a good amount of work to be done on them.  I'm done with the bow itself.  Those designs are etched into the worbla with my awl.  Afterwards I painted the entire bow with dark brown paint and sponged it off so that it stayed in the design and other textural flaws.  While I liked the feel of the leather grip on the bow, I don't like how it looks and I'll probably replace it with worbla for durability and aesthetics.

Final battle was the wig.  Arda has a good base for Merida, which saves a lot of time on styling, but it has a horrendous straight hairline that won't be seen on one of my cosplays.  To fix this I made a lacefront to sew into the wig for a natural hairline.  What you see here pinned to my wig form represents about six hours of work.

Wefts used for lacefronting arrive straight and must be curled.  Once I had the lacefront sewn to the wig I wrapped them around a large-barreled marker and steamed them in place.

In the end, that gave us lots of curls and lots of volume!  I can't wait until this thing turns into a rat's nest...if I'm lucky I'll get through Arisia and their masquerade before I have to face that.  Now on to Elinor!

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