Thursday, April 7, 2011

Salty Wenches - Giselle

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

I started Giselle back in September of 2008, right after seeing a bunch of my friends' photos from Dragon*Con. They all looked like they had such an amazing time in Atlanta, and I really wanted to become a part of that. A friend of mine - Katy - and I were both huge fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and in particular, the two floozies who smack Jack Sparrow around, Scarlett and Giselle. I knew I wanted to take more than one or two costumes to Dragon*Con, and once Katy agreed to go along with me, I knew which two costumes were going to be at the top of my to-do list. 

I had all of Giselle's fashion fabrics in my stash. 8 yards of pale yellow silk that I overdyed to make the color a bit brighter. 6ish yards of a brocade-like linen blend.

That meant the only things I had to worry about were the strength and lining fabrics in the bodice, the notions, and the trims.

For the bodice, I bought some lace, thin knotted trim, and gray fringe for the neckline, 2 wide laces for the sleeves, and a ton of individual white appliques for the front of the bodice. 

The fringe I sprayed with paint to dull it, then pulled out single strings at random and knotted sections to match the fringe on Giselle's dress.

I started by making the petticoat, and I used up every last bit of yardage I had. I gathered up a big tube of fabric and sewed it right into a waistband, leaving openings at the sides for some false pockets. The ruffle is about 11" wide with two satin ribbons along the bottom.

Giselle actually wears a very simple petticoat with a beautiful chintz paisley apron over top. I decided to forgo the apron and just use the fabrics I had in my stash, since the swirls on the linen provided a great deal of interest.

After the petticoat, it was time to start on the silk robe anglais.

I began with the simple task of knife pleating the skirt and pinned that to the dressform so that I could see how it would look when combined with the bodice.

I used a store-bought pattern for the basic shape of the bodice, made a muslin, and then started reshaping the neck- and waistlines.

Since views of the back of Giselle's dress showed that it laced up the back, I decided to make the bodice as structured as it would be in a theatrical build, rather than a more period-accurate costume. That way, Katy and I wouldn't have to wear layers and layers of period undergarments during a hot Atlanta summer.

I built the bodice with a layer of coutil and a layer of muslin along with the silk fashion fabric. It's fully boned with flat steel boning, and like the film costume, laces up in the back. 

It took me no less than 6 sleeve builds before I was happy with the fit and range of motion. It could still be better, but it suits its purpose.

I made patches out of silk remnants to sew onto the armsceyes of the dress, and put those directly on the sleeves and bodice before stitching the sleeves to the bodice.

Before adding the fringe, I painstakingly cut up the appliques, matching the pattern as closely as I could to the screen-worn costume. Since the appliques are polyester and therefor wouldn't dye well, I decided to paint them with watered-down acrylic paint. After they'd dried, I spent hours hand-stitching them onto the front of the bodice.

Finally, I added the bows, fringe and the sleeve flounces, and attached the skirt.

And then, after everything was perfectly new and put together... I began the terrifying process of distressing the costume.

I'd spent the summer before assisting a designer on the show "Big River", and we'd spent A LOT of our time distressing everything, so I wasn't quite as scared as I would have been if I undertook this on my own with no prior experience. 

I used a combination of sandpapering and spraying with watered-down acrylic, then went back in and darned some areas so it would look like the characters had made an attempt at maintaining their best dresses. I focused primarily on high-stress areas like the armsceyes, shoulders and around the edges of the bodice to match how it looked in the film.

I bought a blonde wig and colored in the roots with a dark brown color, then passed her along to a hair stylist friend of mine, who was awesome enough to restyle a very blah basic wig into a gorgeous 18th-century replica of Giselle's hair.

The shoes aren't anything special: just a pair of "BC Footwear: Mic Check" in clay.

I found a pair of crystal and gold clip-on earrings in a cheapo costume jewelry store that were a very close match to what I could see of Giselle's jewelry in the film.

Scarlett and Giselle made two appearances at D*C: in 2009 and 2010. The first year, Katy wore Giselle, and the second, my friend Cassandra put on the yellow dress!