June 9, 2015

Making of a Fairy Queen (Part I)

Blog posting resumes tonight with more fairy madness!  

As I've mentioned previously, for the final project of my costume internship at GCV&M, I was placed in charge of designing & creating the costumes for the new summer fairy camp.  The challenge included a fairy queen outfit (still in progress) as well as a pattern and example each for the young girl (DIY Fairy Tutu Tutorial) & boy (DIY Forest Tunic Tutorial) fairies in training.  However, after a few bumps and a super busy start to the museum season, the grand fairy queen costume was set aside...until tonight, when a little panic set in as I realized we are already into the second week of June.  I need to get a move on!  So, to start, I pulled out all of the supplies, made a quick schedule & am sharing my progress here to serve as a reminder.

The completed fairy queen costume will eventually include a puffed sleeve chemise, embroidered corset, bedazzled stomacher, and a petal & leave skirt with a full tulle underskirt.  After two months of off and on work in the shop, this is where I'm currently at with the project: 

Embroidered Corset: check!  Bevin's entirely hand-sewn corset - with beautiful embroidery I must add - served as the perfect starting point for the project.  In fact, I shaped my design and fabric selection for the skirt around this!  All I had to add was red satin ribbon (pulled from the stash) for lacing both at the shoulders and front.  

Stomacher:  check!  At the initial meeting & measuring, we discovered that there was around a four inch gap in the front of the corset.  So, turning to the 18th century for inspiration, I decided to remedy the issue with a stomacher.  This was the start of the themes for the project of complications and much trial and error.  After researching construction tips and trick on the computer, and a few mistrials, I finally reached success! 

The completed stomacher.

I drew up a quick pattern using the corset and the fairy queen's measurements, and then, played around with materials until the stomacher was stiff enough to hold its shape and support the wearer.  The stomacher is made from flat-lined forest green silk (lined with white muslin, inter-lined with two layers of lightweight buckram, lined on the inner side with white muslin, and "boned" with multiple cable ties.  

Measured and stitched boning channels through two layers of lightweight buckram and one layer of muslin.  Then, slipped the "bones" (aka cheap cable ties) in between the buckram layers and sealed the channels with another row of stitches.

Then, again drawing on 18th century inspiration (feel free to check out my Pinterest board on 18th Century Stomachers!), I played around with the design until I found the one that went best with the corset.  All of the materials came from the stash.   

Once the design finished drying - yes, hot glue is very 18th century, as are plastic gemstones - I bound the stomacher with handmade bias tape & whip stitched the back to the lining for a neat and clean finish.  

However, the best part came at the first fitting where the corset with its brand new stomacher fit the fairy queen absolutely perfectly!  It even looked great behind bright red lacing - problems solved!

Flower Petal & Leaf Skirt:  A work in progress...for the majority of the time spent on this project, I have been working on the skirt, which is still not quite finished!  Despite its many ups and downs, I am pleased with how it is turning out (my only hope is that it is finished soon). 

The skirt all laid out!  The concept idea was for it to literally look like an upside down flower - with a yellow center, red outer petals and green leaves.

I began by making a basic base for the skirt.  Using the measurements I took, as well as the skirt piece from an out of print Butterick pattern, I stitched together three wide skirt panels from a golden 100% cotton fabric.  Then, I applied a hem facing using a bright yellow, 1/2 inch double-fold bias tape (ironed flat).  

The skirt panels with zig-zag finishing.

Another neat trick I discovered from studying a skirt that Bevin made: using double fold bias tape, ironed flat, as a hem facing.  Ingenious!

Next, I spent way too many days cutting out stacks of petals from 100%, pure polyester costume satin...never again.  Each petal/leaf was lined with another satin or cotton petal - stitched right sides together, flipped and pressed flat.  Then, the top opening was zig-zagged shut (also to prevent further unraveling as satin is evil.) 

First, 10 golden petals...sparkly costume satin lined with even flimsier gold polyester:  

Second, 10 red petals...costume satin lined with either bright yellow cotton or mystery red knit fabric (never again): 

Then finally, 10 green leaves...costume satin lined in either light green, polka-dot cotton or a darker green cotton print:

Phew!  Once all of the petals & leaves were assembled, it was time to stitch them to the skirt.  The placement for each tier was carefully measured and marked.  Next, every petal was overlapped and zig-zagged in place.  And finally, the tiers, one by one, were pinned, basted and stitched to the skirt base.  One petal was purposefully left out of each color row to cover the back seam (aka the next step).   

Tier one: 

Tier two:

Next comes adding the final tier, gathering the skirt to a waistband, and attaching the tulle crinoline.  (The three layers of tulle and stiff netting are already gathered and hemmed - ready to be stitched into the skirt).  Oh, and, of course, decorating the skirt!  I am having a hard time deciding...

So many options!  Gems or no gems?  Flowers or no flowers?

Blouse:  next on the list to complete after the skirt.  Let's just say that my attempts at pattern making have been unsuccessful and I'm ready for a fresh start!  Just a picture of the blouse materials below:

So, in conclusion, this fairy queen project sure has turned out to be more complicated than I ever anticipated!  However, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how it all turns out - time to sew!


  1. Huzzah! Your Fairy Queen outfit is going to look so fabulous!! I am loving the whole look! Job well done on the stomacher for the corset! Your petal skirt reminds me of one that I made for myself years ago in dark pink, pale pink and ivory! I was the butterfly fairy...too funny! I can't wait to see this delightful outfit in the Fairy Queen!

    1. Thanks for all of the encouragement, Gina!! Hearing that you like the look is a huge compliment! I hope that there's a picture or two of your butterfly fairy costume on your blog (going to check now...) - I'm sure it was fit for a butterfly fairy queen! I'm making great progress, and, keep your fingers crossed, we may have a fairy queen yet! Anneliese :)