Thursday, January 19, 2017

Peggy's 2nd Season Promo dress

1 years ago today, Agent Carter Season 2 aired. This dress actually showed up at the end of the first episode of Season 1, but they used it for the Promo of Season 2, which is what I always associate it with. 

I wasn't originally going to do this dress yet, but then my roomie (the lovely DZ cosplay- go follow her!) for Starfury: The Ultimates decided to do the Dottie outfit from this promo shot. I mean, it would have been rude not to match! 

When I bought fabric for this dress, I was debating things with myself. I feel like this would be incredibly comfortable and flattering if done in jersey as a completely casual and enjoyable dress. So I bought blue jersey. But at the same time I wasn't sure that I'd be happy if the dress was so casual. Not that it wouldn't be lovely, but I wasn't sure that I wanted it to look like that. I was also eyeing up Peggy's high waisted blue trousers and so I bought a luxury poly crepe that would do for them plus some extra. 

In the end, because I knew we would want to try to recreate the Dottie/Peggy promo shot, I decided to make out of the poly blend first and I could always go back and make it out of the jersey at the later time. I honestly still might, as I completely love this dress.

I will say, that if you are looking to do this, and want it to look more accurate, the luxury poly crepe is probably not the best choice. It looks beautiful, feels beautiful, has a wonderful light sheen without being shiney. However, when trying to recreate the ruching on the front of the bust, I think a less thick fabric would work better. What I used wants to bounce back from the gathering and doesn't create the very tight lines without significant bulk being added. In the end I went with looser tucks, which still evokes it and works with the fabric I had. Gigi has said that this dress was made of rayon crepe, but whatever you use, I'd suggest that if you want tighter ruching use a much thinner fabric over a lining. 

As it happened, I already had a matching luxury poly crepe in red. The actual promo piece is coral IMO, but I didn't own any, couldn't find any, and have never actually cared for orange. While coral is more tolerable to me, I went ahead with the red as I felt it still worked with Peggy's palette and goes back to evoke the red, white and blue.

As it was, I constructed this as a lined garment, making the lining as my mockup as usual. It helped a lot as I ended up having to drape the chest ruching. I made a simple body block based off of a prior pattern that I made last year for the top. I modified it so that the darts on the side were parallel to the floor, and left in the front and back darts on the lining so it fit my upper body well. 

The skirt pattern I actually created from a skirt I own and love. It is a quarter or half circle skirt. Essentially, the front is one quarter of a circle, as is the back. This was a definite departure from the original as she clearly has the classic three-paneled skirt construction used in a lot of her dresses, but I have never shied away from a little volume, and just love the way that skirt swishes. 

I attached it to the bodice and decided it was a little more poofy than I wanted as it wasn't laying flat across my abdomen, so I shaved off some on either side and called it grand. I knew I couldn't do too much more on the mockup than that, so started in on the main event and began creating the banding.

I pretty much had to guess on the dimensions I wanted for the "ribbon" effect of the waistband. I know it was a Cumberland affair that clasped after the dress was on, but I wanted it to be a simpler zip-up-the-back dress so I decided to build in the banding. 

I basically made strips of the layered colors (red/blue/red). The red ended up being XXX inches wide, while the blue was slightly larger. I backed them on a piece of sew in stabilizer so that they were less likely to wrinkle up. I stitched along the seam allowance on either side so that I could fold them accurately and press a crease in the seam allowance.

For the ruching, I put the whole thing on the dress form, and ripped a piece of fabric that was almost the length of the bodice but the entire width of the fabric as I wasn't sure how much I needed for the rushing. Then I just pinned up the excess in the centre neck and centre bust (effectively from bust point to bust point) and laid it across to fit it to the rest of it. I actually hand-stitched the ruching so it would stay while I fit the darts in and cut to fit. Then I attached the banding across below the bust making it so that it fit from waist up.

I cut out back pieces that exactly matched the ones I had used for the lining, and sewed the darts in. Then I laid strips of the banding down, matching the waistline. With the pre-creased seam allowance, I could figure out where to pin it on both side, taking care to ensure the colour changes would match up in the back seam line. 

I stitched it together, sewed on the back skirt panels, and then put in an invisible zip, being extra cautious about those colour changes. It didn't end up perfect, but attempt number 2 was close enough I was happy. 

Because I wasn't going to attach the lining at the neck, I attached the lining right then to the zip. It made it so much simpler to try it on, and made sure the lining wasn't going to interfere with the zip working. It also made the draping of the chest so much easier.

The sleeves were hand drafted, but any poofy pattern would do. Those got attached and hemmed so the bottom of the sleeves stopped at the top of the banding like Peggy's.

The last thing I felt I needed was the neckline. I made a small piece of bias for the neckline out of the red. But before I put that down, I had to lay down some flat blue in order to get the neckline looking like Peggy's. The original does not have the ruching starting at the red, there is a blue band there. 

So, because I was insane, I did that. It would have been much easier to do it without this, but I felt it bulked out the neckline more than I wanted. I stitched in the ditch to attach the red with time running out before I was due to fly to Starfury and called it done. 

Shoes, sunglasses, and hat have all been repurposed from other Carter looks. Peggy never wears it with a hat, but having worn the outfit at a couple of cons, I find that more people recognise me if I wear the hat.

In the end, I wish I hadn't made the banding separate on the front and back. Getting them to line up on the sides with the slant I have in my waist was a nightmare and it means that the bands seem to go up a bit more than the down I feel is there in Peggy's. However, I don't think it would look quite as good as I do otherwise as a straight up and down band wouldn't fit me as nicely. 

Photo by Ricardo Silva
This is definitely my favourite Peggy dress to wear now, though. I love it, and while I wasn't gone on it in Season 1, I'm glad they brought it back for the promo shots or I might not have done it. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Photographing Costumes for Reference

Last week I mentioned I was going to go see the Rogue One costumes at Star Wars Celebration. Several weeks ago on Craft Hackers, I mentioned what you should be looking for in terms of references. Today, I’m going to talk about how to shoot photos of costumes that are ideal for references. For your enjoyment, I’m going to be using the Rogue One costumes to illustrate my points.

Meet Director Orson Krennic from Rogue One
The modern world has started to give us costume people more and more information. These days, you can buy books on favourite tv shows and movies that often have pages devoted to high quality photos of the costumes and, if you’re lucky, interviews or tips from the costuming department. If you’re really lucky, they may release sets of the design photos with notes to help along the way. However, nothing really beats being able to see it with your own eyes.

 If you have the opportunity to see a costume in person, then it is worth your while thinking about what and how you need to photograph it. First off comes general photography skills.

Make sure your photos are in focus

You want sharp pictures. Slightly blurry photos will end up with you furrowing your brow, trying to decide if its just a fold or an actual pocket for hours later on.
Second one is still not perfect, but you can see the details much better.
I actually tend to delete anything that isn’t 100% sharp simply to avoid this. This does mean you may need to check your photos as you take them so that if you only have one shot of the back and its out of focus, you can take another.

Try to represent the colour truthfully

Colour can change depending on a lot of factors, including some that are out of your control like the lighting that is on the costume. However, the biggest changer of colours is flash photography. If you can get non-flash photos, you will have a truer representation of the colour. Of course, this can be compared to images on screen, but remember that those may also have been colour washed or filtered by the video department and may not be accurate either.

Get top to bottom shots

Most people already do this, sort of. Most images you see are of about 3/4 of the costume.
Another photographer demonstrating the photo most people take in front of what you need to take.
But you need full length. There’s nothing worse than realising that you’ve photographed everything in detail, but now you’re home and realise you have no idea what those shoes looked like.

Get close up detailed shots

I actually go ahead and use my zoom lens. Yes, it is designed for making that person who is an auditorium away a lot closer, but you know what? It makes those details really pop.

First one is what people usually take for detail shots. In this case, at that distance, it almost looked like a USB port on the bottom of the gun, but with closer detailed shots, you can see that is not the case. 
This is your best chance to really find out the details of a costume, so take it. Is there stitching? Take photos of it. Is there a funny looking panel? Take photos of it. Is there what appear to be cape slits? You know the drill.

Get shots from different angles

The simple fact is you can’t see everything from just one angle. If you only take photos from one angle, you will miss details.This is especially true if you’re trying to figure out how something works.

This is a series of shots I took just to figure out how the slit in the back of cape worked. You can’t even really see the slit from the first picture, but by the last its pretty obvious. Is it crazy to take 8 photos of the same thing? Not if at the end of them you have a good idea how it all gets put together and works.

Take as many photos you can, in as high a resolution as you can.

There really is no such thing as too many reference photos. Sometimes the camera focus will change slightly from one to the other and you’ll notice something. Higher resolution photos mean that you can zoom in later on to answer questions.

And if they are nice enough to give you a blurb about the costume, photograph it. Trust me, you won't remember the exact combinations without some kind of reminder, and a photograph is faster than writing it down.

The best way of thinking about this is as a puzzle. How is this costume put together? How does it all come together? What are the proportions like? The more photos you have, the easier you can put it all together later. Hopefully, by the time you’re done taking photos, all your questions will be answered. 

If you’re interested in more photos of Director Krennic, you can see them on Facebook or for super high quality photos on my Flickr. Other costumes from Rogue One will be uploaded later this week.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


This post was originally posted on

It is Star Wars Celebration this weekend!! Well, for those of us in Europe and those who care to make the trip to London, that is. This is normally a crafty blog, but today its going to be a trip through nostalgia lane.

If you don't know Star Wars Celebration, it began on a slightly rainy weekend at the end of April in 1999. I remember, because I was there. I was in college in Nebraska at the time, and myself and a group of fellow Star Wars fanatics drove the 6 hours to Denver, camped on a friend’s parent’s floor, ate too much fried food, and ruined one of my favourite pairs of shoes in the mud. It was one of my favorite weekends.
Because, yes, I am a big kid on a bouncy castle excited about this

Because, yes, I am a big kid-on-a-bouncy-castle excited about this
Celebration was made for the fans, and as a fan I could not have asked for anything better. It was at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver, Colorado which reminded me of nothing more than a large high school gymnasium, probably because I barely got in past the panels going on in the marquees outside.

Back then it was small. Panels were maybe 100 people in a room, and even then it wasn’t always full. I watched Anthony Daniels become C3PO without the costume, Ray Parks do some phenomenal stunt work, and then drooled over every last one of Padme’s costumes. Skipped out on Aerosmith tickets to watch it all some more.

At this point, we had no idea what would be in the movie, but I loved every minute of it. In ways I miss the allure of not having everything mentioned, everything spoiled before we get to release. I haven’t quite gotten the bug to hear creators speak about everything in as vague ways as possible, nor do I need 5 trailers to keep me interested.

This weekend though, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the Rogue One costumes. It was what I loved most about Celebration in 1999, and I’m looking forward to it again. These kinds of exhibitions are gold mines for those of us who love to create costumes, and I am so happy that more and more exhibitions of this kind are happening. You just can’t really get a good sense of some of the delicacies of these costumes with what gets seen on screen.

The detailing done in costume shops across the globe produces some amazing pieces of absolute art. Museums are starting to cop on to this and there are some that specifically have been bringing costume exhibitions in, but fabrics can be difficult to preserve for posterity and there is always that worry that something will damage it. So if you ever have a chance to see one of these exhibitions, I highly recommend it.

The modern con scene has grown somewhat since 1999. This year’s Celebration is going to be nothing like what I experienced in Denver except for two things. Firstly, everyone there will love Star Wars. There is something about being surrounded by people who adore the same fandom you do. It infects the air, and becomes a sea of in-jokes, fun, and the occasional squabble over canon. But generally, single fandom groups tend to have an excitement about them that can’t be matched by big everything-under-the-sun cons. Secondly, it is going to be a weekend full of fun. Lightsabers everywhere, Stormtroopers ahoy. I’m looking forward to it already.

If you’re going to Celebration with me, have a wonderful time. If you’re not, tickets are out for next year’s already!
~ eliste

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Peggy Sunnies

Of all the things I thought I'd learn to deal with while making Peggy costumes, car wrap vinyl was not high on my list. However, in my quest for closer to screen accurate sunglasses, that's what ended up happening.

I can't take credit for having figured this out. I got the idea from the very talented Adria in the Agent Carter Cosplay Community, but I still had to figure out how to do it. I used the guide here, which happened to be quite accurate. Since I wasn't doing an area too large, it worked really easily. To recap:

I took one set of not exactly SA, but better than the other pair I owned, sunglasses that had nasty polarised lenses together with a light smoky car headlight vinyl tint.

First I cleaned the lenses.

Then I peeled the two coverings off of a piece of the vinyl that was large enough to cover the lenses with a bit of excess.

Both the lens and the sticky side of the vinyl got sprayed with water. This helped the vinyl go down with less bubbles.

Then I kind of squeegeed the water out from between the two layers after I put the sticky side down on the lenses. I found that I had to hit it with the hair dryer to get the vinyl to hug the curve of the lenses. I took an X-acto blade to carve the excess vinyl off of the lenses.

In the end, I actually went for two layers of the vinyl as I thought the polarised finish was too obvious with just one layer of the vinyl. If I'd bought a darker vinyl, I might not have needed the second layer. This was slightly more difficult, but not significantly.

Actually the hardest part was getting the lenses back into the sunglasses without the vinyl pulling back. I had hoped to push the lenses in from the back, which would mean I wasn't pushing the vinyl up at all, but despite heating the frames it just didn't want to work. So eventually I had to push them in from the front which meant that a little bit of the vinyl pushed up at the edges.

It ended up being just fine as I took out the excess with cautious x-acto cuts.

In the end, I was pretty happy with how they turned out.