Friday, March 25, 2011

There's no business like show business

Ah, the theater. The fantasy, the excitement . . . the challenge of making costumes out of thin air when the budget runs dry.

Some of my theater sewing experiences have been just that, but not this time around. The design for my friend's gown for the upcoming production is lovely, and the pattern I was given (Butterick 4571) isn't that far off, but once again, funds were lacking. So my friend came up with an idea - what if she supplied the fabric? And then got to keep the costume at the end of the run?

I thought it was a fabulous idea. I've made a lot of costumes that looked great on her but (a) weren't of a fabric that would last for long beyond its intended use, and (b) they went into the theater's costume stash and she couldn't have them anyway.

This plan would give me better fabric to work with, she'd be costumed for the production (to the designer's specifications), and she'd get the gown at the end. Win-win.

We went to the South Philly Jomar on Thursday night - two Jomar runs in less than a week! be still my heart! - and found what we needed. The body of the dress is an off-black brocade, with a nice visible texture. It won't look dead black onstage, and it will photograph well. The contrast is an ivory brocade. I'm doing a separate underskirt, instead of just a contrast panel, but because the ivory brocade was more expensive, we went with a yard of that for the visible panel and the rest will be made out of a high-grade white muslin that they had for $1.99 per yard.

There are only 2 major changes to the pattern. The designer eliminated the back lacing (thank you!) but added a curve to the overdress in the front that laces, or at least appears to lace, at the waist. For the back, I can get away with an invisible zipper. For the front, I didn't want to do any drastic re-drafting, and because of the color I can get away with what I've come up with. I drafted an extension piece that fits into the princess seam from below the bust to the waist.

I know there's nothing historically accurate about princess seams, but they do get the job done.

We also picked up a dull-finish ivory satin for the lining of the sleeves, and several yards of an embroidered ribbon trim.

Tonight I put the muslin together. It went smoothly, and I have hopes that when we do the fitting on Sunday, there will be minimal changes to transfer to the fabric. She's a good bit narrower than me through the back and a bit smaller in the waist, so this should work. I cut a 12, which more or less matches her measurements, but I've always had to take her costumes in before. I'm so used to Burda and their more minimal wearing ease; Big 4 patterns with their spacious drafting don't make sense after a long stretch of Burda.


luckylibbet said...

Looking forward to how this turns out. Your forays into costuming are always interesting.

Anonymous said...

Sounds lovely! What's the show and where will it run?

The Slapdash Sewist said...

Love the idea of such a luxurious costume!